July 1, 2002 - People today are the same as people who lived years ago. We all want freedom: political freedom, intellectual freedom, moral freedom. We want freedom from prejudice, freedom from ignorance, freedom from poverty. And we even search for religious freedom.
A Message by Billy Graham
In the United States some people want to throw out all Christian emphasis, all religious symbols. They want to be free from such "bondage." They say, "Do away with the recognition of God in national life."
Our forefathers did not feel that way. They desired that we should have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."(1) If we push God aside, may God have mercy upon us.
Today we live in a pluralistic society, and secularism has been growing rapidly, with its tireless adherents who work for it day and night. They believe that if we can be freed from religions, we will be a happy people.
Yet the Scripture teaches that the only truly free people in the world are those who have made Christ their Savior and Lord and Master. Jesus Christ said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."(2)
What then is truth? Men seek for that too, as they seek for freedom. The scientist seeks truth about the physical universe. The philosopher tries to discover truth about human existence. The psychologist looks for truth about the action and reaction of the human mind.
Contrary to that, a Man, a giant among men, said, "I am the ... truth."(3) This man stood before His neighbors and friends and asked, "Which of you has ever seen me commit a sin? Why don't you believe Me?"(4) They had never seen Him commit one sin, and they could not answer Him.
This Man claimed to be the Truth.(5) What an astounding claim—to be the secret of all truth—all psychological truth, all sociological truth, all scientific truth, all philosophical truth, all religious truth.
The Secret of the Universe
The Scripture says that "by him were all things created"(6) and "by him all things consist."(7) There is something that holds matter together, and the scientist cannot tell you what it is. I believe that some day we will learn that the secret of it all is Christ. He is Truth, ultimate Truth!
You can reject this Truth and think that you are free. You can say, "I have rejected Jesus Christ, I have rejected God, and now I am going to live it up." But you will find yourself in a bondage that is far greater than any other that you have known. You end up with inner conflicts, guilt complexes, inferiority feelings, fears and neuroses, and your so-called freedom is a bondage.
Christ said, "I am the ... truth."(3) He was either telling the truth or He was lying. Which is it? That is a decision that each one of us has to make. Each of us has to decide if Jesus Christ lied or if He was who He claimed to be: God manifested in the flesh, the ultimate reality and truth in the universe. If He is God and if He is the truth, and He tells us to follow Him, we are fools not to do so.
We are all interested in truth, and Christ is the Truth. When we give ourselves to Him, He opens the doors of our minds in the most glorious way. We see a new dimension of life to which we previously were blinded. When we open our lives to Christ, to the Truth, we light up. Our inner lives glow, and we have a peace and a joy and a security that only He can give.
But God demands a decision, a commitment, a surrender, a conversion. Jesus said, "You must be born again."(8) It isn't optional. It isn't something that we ought to do. He said, "You must be born again,"(8) before you can get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
But salvation is of God. It has to be done by the Holy Spirit. When we are willing to bend our wills, the Holy Spirit does the rest. He is the One who regenerates us; He is the One who changes us; He is the One who gives us the elements for growth. And what a wonderful thing it is to relax in Him!
When we come to Christ, He gives us a freedom that is real: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."(9) What is this freedom?
Freedom From the Penalty of Sin
First, He frees us from the penalty of sin. We know that we have sinned against God. We break His Laws; we fail Him; we fall short of His requirements; we are sinners. And this sin has alienated us from God. Our sin comes between us and God, so that He has to hide His face from us and will not hear us. We may laugh at this and say that our sins are small and do not amount to anything. But God is pure and righteous and holy, and in His sight we have caused offense. We are separated from God. We can try to cover up our sins, but God says that we cannot get away with hiding our sins.
But here comes the glorious part: Christ took the penalty of our sin. That is what the cross is all about. He died on that cross for people like you and me, sinners who had failed Him and had broken His Laws. On that cross God took all of our sins and laid them on Christ, so that He became sin for us. He took the judgment of our sin; He took the hell of our sin. And the moral accountability that we ordinarily would expect to face at the Judgment, we will not have to face if we have Him as our Savior.
Why? Because on the cross the Lord Jesus Christ took the accountability for us. He took the sin and the judgment for us. That is the grace and mercy of God that we can't understand.
Oh, the depth of God's grace ... the height of God's mercy ... the breadth of God's love ... that He is willing to say to you and to me, "I forgive you." And you can go to bed and sleep a new kind of sleep. You may find the past haunting you, but you are free. The full penalty has been paid. The Judge will never say, "I pronounce sentence on you," because Christ accepted that sentence for you. In Christ you are free. Accept it by faith.
Freedom From the Power of Sin
Second, He frees us from the power of sin. Jesus said, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."(10) Are you a servant of sin? Are you in bondage to jealousy, to pride, to selfishness, to immorality, to gambling, to narcotics, to sinful pleasure? Is sin your master?
You may say, "I don't want to commit this sin. I do not want to tell this lie. I don't want to get drunk. I don't want to be involved with that person." But if you yield to the temptation of sin, you are a slave to sin. The very thing you say you will not do again, you do.
But when we know the truth, the truth makes us free.(11) How wonderful! As we daily, moment by moment, yield our lives to Him, He orders our lives. Satan no longer has power over us. Sin no longer is in command. Oh, to be sure, we may slip and fall, but Christ is there to pick us up and to love us.
Blackmailed by a Dead Duck
Years ago I heard about a boy, Johnny, who went with his sister, Mary, to visit their grandparents at their farm. The grandmother had a pet duck of which she was extremely fond. It was a handsome duck, and one day, as Johnny was playing, he aimed with his slingshot at the duck and hit the duck right on the head. The bird toppled over, kicked a few times and died.
Johnny was frightened. He looked around and saw no one, so he grabbed the duck and ran into the woods. He dug a hole and buried the duck, and then he went back to the house. No one seemed to have noticed.
Johnny and Mary always divided the chores, and that evening it was Mary's turn to do the supper dishes. But after supper Mary turned to Johnny and said, "You do the dishes tonight."
"No," he said. "This is your night. I am going out to play."
Mary said, "I saw you kill that duck. If you don't do exactly what I tell you to do, I will tell Grandma what you did. And you know what that means. It was her prize duck."
"All right," said Johnny. "I'll do the dishes."
The next time that it was Mary's turn, the same thing happened. This continued for two weeks. Every time that Johnny complained, Mary said, "Johnny, remember the duck."
At last Johnny could stand it no longer, and he went to his grandmother. Johnny stood around and twisted his ear and bit his nails. Finally he said, "Grandma, there is something I have to say."
"What is it, son?" she asked.
"It's the hardest thing I have ever had to say, Grandma," he said. "Two weeks ago I was playing with my slingshot, and I shot at your duck and killed it."
Wiping a tear from her cheek, the grandmother reached out to him and said, "Come here, son." She put her arms around him. "I was sitting upstairs by an open window, and I saw you kill the duck."
Then she said, "I wondered how long you were going to take this bondage to Mary. I've watched her give you orders for two weeks, and I wondered when you would come to me."
Our heavenly Father has seen everything that we have done. He is waiting for us to come and confess our sin, to acknowledge it and to say, "God, here I am. Forgive me. I want to be free. I want a fresh start. I want a new beginning. I want a new birth. I want to be Yours from this moment on."