The True Freedom
March 21st, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
THE TRUE FREEDOM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
3-21-76 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are listening to this hour of preaching, and praise, and prayer, and song, and worship over the radio of the city of Dallas, WRR. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church bringing the message. It is one of a quatrain of sermons. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah we have to come to chapter 51, and it is a reflection of the attitude of the people of God who call the disciples of the Lord to a remembrance of the days past and the blessings of God upon their forefathers. The reading of the text, which is a background text for the message, Isaiah 51:1-2:
Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit, to the quarry from which you were cut, from whence ye are digged.
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah your mother.
In this series of four messages, the first was on The Christian Martyr. The second was on The Struggle for Religious Liberty. The one today is The True Freedom won forever. And the one next Sunday, the fourth and last one, will be Communism and Christianity, the greatest foe, the most formidable that the Christian faith has ever faced, the one we face today and the one before which we are gradually being defeated in this world.
The title of the message today, The True Freedom: the passion and the drive to be free is one of the great basic drives of the human race. You could almost say that the story, the history of humanity, has been a history of that struggle of the race to be free. When I mention the cry of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, I also mention the word of the Lord when He says, “I have heard their cry. I have seen their agony. And I have sent you, Moses, to deliver My people” [Exodus 3:7-10], the struggle to be free. Eleven centuries later Mattathias, the father of the five Maccabee sons, entered a like campaign against Antiochus Epiphanes, the struggle to be free.
In 490 BC was fought the battle of Marathon, Miltiades with an Athenian army of ten thousand struggling against the Persian invader Darius with an army of one hundred ten thousand. And Phidippides ran that marathon race to Athens to describe the battle of victory and in the exhaustion fell prostrate and dead.
A while later, Pericles, the glorious crown of Athenian law and culture, Pericles said to a grateful and a hushed people, “Remember that prosperity belongs to the free, and freedom is a possession of those who are willing to defend it.” That’s the problem of Russia today, and it’ll be a problem of the Soviets a thousand years from now—how do you make a nation of slaves prosperous?
In 1215 at Runnymede, about fifteen miles west of London, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, which is an instrument of the basic rights of humanity. And in the 1700s the United States Constitution was hammered out by representatives from the thirteen colonies on the Atlantic Coast. And the ten amendments were first adopted, which we refer to as the Bill of Rights. And a free nation was born with a government of the governed, and by the governed, and for the government based upon the great principles we learned at the feet of Jesus.
Today in our lifetime we are seeing a vast turn and a tragic reversal of that struggle to be free. For the first time in thousands of years we are witnessing an increasing slavery of the nations and peoples of the world. A good example of that happened in something in which I shared in 1947. The Baptist World Alliance was meeting in Denmark and having gone through Europe down into Italy and then turning back, we were on a Swedish bus driving through the heart of Germany from Switzerland to Denmark. The bus was driven alternately by two Swedish men, and on the bus was a third, a Swedish girl referred to as the stewardess.
We were driving hard that day to go to a little town, a tavern town in Germany called Witzenhausen, to spend the night. And we were much delayed and much late. And as the sunset began to cast shadows over the heartland of Germany, those Swedish drivers decided to leave the Autobahn and to follow a back road into Witzenhausen that would save time. As they were driving they stopped, and in the excited talking of those three Swedish people, I knew something was desperately wrong. I soon learned what it was. They had lost their way and were in the Soviet zone. They were terrified, and a kind German was taken on board, and in a devious way through dirt roads we finally came out into the British zone and into Witzenhausen. Why the terror of those three Swedish citizens when they found themselves in the Russian zone of Germany? Tyranny, and oppression, and imprisonment, and confiscation, the denial of human liberties, and I see it poignantly all over the world.
I went through checkpoint Charlie one time, through the Berlin Wall that separates the free from the slave world. You would not believe such a thing exists as exists today. And on the other side of the globe, I stood on a prominence and watched the guards beyond Macao who were checking those who sought to go in or out of Red China. And looking down there at that one little point where you could enter Red China, I thought of the millions and the millions and the millions that lie beyond in slavery.
Why should this be of any moment or any concern to us? And why should I speak of it in this pulpit? Number one: I cannot be helped but be moved with Christian sympathy for the millions and the millions and the millions, and now the billions of the world who suffer in slavery. I think of a sweet, dear German couple with whom I rode from Prague of Czechoslovakia to East Berlin in Communist East Germany. And when I left them they cried, left behind in a slave world, and bid me Godspeed as I re-entered the free world.
In a thousand lifetimes I could never, ever forget the whole day that I wept with the little Baptist Church in Leningrad, Russia. Nor could I ever cease to remember the stories of the Christian martyrs as I listened to the refugees who were coming out of Red China before the advancing Red Army; being in Hong Kong, and watching and listening to those people as they fled before those marauding and devastating hordes of Red soldiers.
But I have another reason why it concerns me and this pulpit, for our very destiny and life as a nation hangs in the balance. Our people are lulled into false feelings of security. That’s why I mention it. Why should we be concerned about the millions and the increasing millions who are enslaved in the modern world? Number one; there is the possibility always of a surprise military attack, and when they think they can succeed they will—without pronouncement, without harbinger, without advertisement, they will launch that attack.
In these generations past we have been protected by the great oceans on either side of us, but they are protection no longer. Missiles through the air can seek us out. And submarines underneath the sea can find us. And from a submerged submarine in the Gulf of Mexico, an atomic warhead can be launched that is pinpointed over the very heart of the city of Dallas. And there are many prognosticators who say that by the year 2000, such a confrontation—nuclear—will come to pass. I think they are correct. When they think they can succeed, they will.
Why are we concerned? Number two: because of the success of their global revolution. When I was a youth there was not a communist land, or a communist people, or an atheistic government in the world! Today, there are millions and now billions who are under their control. And the great vast landmass of the face of the earth is under their control. And we see the free world shrinking, and shrinking, and shrinking every day. They are grasping governments in Asia. Yesterday, I read where even the little group of friends that we have in Thailand are being told to leave, and in Africa they are seizing those nations one by one. And their ships are prowling the seas, and we are shrinking like a group of cowering cowards. They are gradually possessing the whole earth; it is global revolution. Is that not what they said, “Communism cannot succeed in one nation unless it succeeds in all the nations of the world.” And our country is gradually becoming isolated.
And even in the free world, to my amazement, this week I read where the governments of Italy and of France are making overtures to the United States that we continue their friend when they take communists into their government. That is the same thing as taking a tiger or a lion into the household for a family pet. They have never been included but that it finally means the disintegration and disorganization of the national government. It is their purpose to seize it and to take it.
Why am I concerned? A third reason: because of the ideological attack against us, and our Christian faith, and our free enterprise system, and our self-government, and the right to support ourselves and to work and to possess things for ourselves; the ideological attack. It is their purpose to take from the people their children, their homes, their properties, their possessions, their rights, their liberties, their life and to concentrate it in the hands of tyrannical totalitarian rulers. That is their purpose. And I see it more and more coming to pass in the world. And I see it enter into the ideological responses of the American people.
One of the great historians said that, “The story of all civilization is slavery, then struggle, then freedom, then dedicated work and prosperity, then apathy and indifference, and the dole and the debt and the default, then scarcity, then poverty, then back into slavery.” And I’m seeing that happening in America today. And it lies because of the ideological assault upon the great Christian principles upon which this country was found.
We are gradually being led to abandon our free enterprise system, and to abandon our free government, and to abandon our personal liberties in favor of the coercion increasingly of the individual, and the establishment of a socialist welfare state, and the concentration of power over our lives in the hands of a few who live far, far, far away. I see it daily and on every hand.
And now the concomitant, the corollary, what are the results of this ideological attack against the Christian faith and the American system? Number one: it has a governmental and a political overtone. It leads into governmental regulation and totalitarianism. It inevitably does. When you deny rights and liberties to the people, they are assumed and seized by the state, and the state grows, and it grows, and it grows, and it grows until finally the people are servants and slaves of the state!
I can remember when Woodrow Wilson, the president of the United States, called America to arms in the First World War, and said, “We are fighting this war to make the world safe for democracy.” And that was the theme, and the legend, and the aegis, and the logo of our first world conflict, to make the world safe for democracy. And instead of making it safe for democracy, it was after that First World War that these great totalitarian systems came into being and to the birth; fascism and communism.
Whenever we listen to the siren voice that the government will take care of us, and will clothe us, and feed us from the cradle to the grave, the government has nothing but what it takes from the people. It generates nothing. It creates nothing. It produces nothing. It has nothing but what it seizes from the people. And when the government begins to take care of the people, soon and soon and soon they become impoverished and slaves of the state.
Why, I read on every hand now that the day is soon coming when it will be impossible for a man to own a house, to own a home in America. They will gradually be beyond what the man can own. So we’ll all be herded together like cattle and driven like dumb beasts, cannot even afford to own a house. That, the economist says, is soon coming to America.
What is the second corollary and concomitant of this ideological attack against the Christian principle of liberty, and free enterprise, and self-sufficiency, and hard work? The second one is, and it always follows, the disintegration of the moral fabric of the people. Look at America. Many of you can come along with me now and remember the great idealism that plunged our country into the Second World War. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president of the United States, said, “We are fighting for the great freedoms of freedom from want, and freedom from fear, and freedom of speech and of press, and freedom of worship and of assembly. We are marching, and fighting, and building munitions, and sending our men in order to preserve for us these great four freedoms.”
So God blessed us in prayer, and in supplication and intercession, and crowned our efforts with victory. And what has happened to us? Freedom from want, and we’re increasingly becoming slaves to every kind of carnal appetite. Freedom from fear, and we are increasingly a nation of cowards dreading what may come to pass. Why, there are not more than half a dozen sheiks over there in the Middle East, there’s not half a dozen of them, there are not two of them but before which the whole United States’ government bows in fear, and in dread, and in foreboding. Listening to one of our economists yesterday, he said this last time, when there was an embargo on oil, will be a picnic compared to the next time we go through such an oil embargo. America is down on its knees, begging like slaves before maybe two Muslim sheiks; freedom from fear.
Freedom of speech and of the press; even the United States Supreme Court says, “We cannot define pornography.” These men who parade themselves as being the custodians of the morals and the liberties of our nation sit there on the bench and say, “We cannot define pornography.” There’s not a ten year old boy but that could go down to that sorry, stinking, dirty place on a certain street here in Dallas and buy by the carload filthy literature and not know that every piece of it is pornographic. Yet the Supreme Court says, “We cannot define pornography.” And the whole world of America is buried beneath the filth and the dirt. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech? Even on television now they use dirty language and dirty words. And it’d be an unusual novel published today that is not filthy in its content and filthy in its language.
And freedom of assembly and of worship, that is freedom to be in the houses of entertainment, and freedom to leave the worship of God, and freedom to forget the great Creator and Maker of our universe [Genesis 1:1; Psalm 102:25]. More, and more, and more, and more, and more do we see the whole free world turning away from the worship of God [Hebrews 10:25]. That’s why I am in prayer and bowed before the great God of heaven. “Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you” [Isaiah 51:1-2]. We shall look, look, look.
In the life of our blessed Lord there came a discussion about freedom and liberty. And our Lord said, “Verily, I say unto you, Whosoever sins, whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever”—his day is limited and past—“but the Son abideth for ever. If I the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” [John 8:34-36].
The true liberty and the true freedom is found in the heart, and in the soul, and in the character of our people. What makes a people great? What makes a nation great?
If resources made a nation great, some of these in Africa would be the greatest in the world. If vast population made a nation great, India would be the greatest nation in the world. If great expanse made a nation great, Siberia would be the greatest nation in the world. If ancient civilization made a nation great, China would be the greatest nation in the world. What makes a nation great? It is the character of her people. It is the moral strength of their lives and of their homes.
As Lyman Abbott said, “America was a great country when Columbus discovered it; Americans have made of it a great nation.” Freedom lies in the soul, and in the heart, and in the moral character and commitment to God. Do you remember this stanza?
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free;
How sweet would be their children’s fate
If we, like them, could die for Thee.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith.
We will be true to Thee till death.
[Faith of Our Fathers, Frederick W. Faber]
Freedom, true freedom is of the heart. It is of the soul. It is of the character. It is of the moral fiber of the man. It is of God. “If I, the Son, shall therefore make you free, ye shall be free indeed” [John 8:36]. The true freedom is a gift of God. It is the Son of God who lives in our hearts [Ephesians 3:17], and in our homes, and through us in our city, and in our state, and in our nation; “Blessed is that nation,” says the Book, “whose God is the Lord” [Psalm 33:12]. “Blessed is that nation whose God is Jehovah.” And that means blessed is the home, and blessed is the heart, and blessed is the life, blessed is the child, blessed is the youth, blessed is the business, blessed is the corporation, blessed is the farmer, blessed is the people whose God is the Lord [Psalm 33:12].
And that is our appeal to your heart this morning. How can a nation repent, if I do not repent? How can a nation believe, if I do not believe? How can a nation be baptized, if I am not baptized? How can a nation be saved, if I am not saved? It must begin in me. It must begin in us, in our commitment, in our repentance, in our faith, in our trust, in our devotion and dedicated dedication to the blessed Lord.
And that’s the invitation we share in our Savior’s name with our people today. There have been many thousands of you who have listened on radio. Where you are, would you bow your head and give your heart to Jesus? “Lord, I open my soul upward and heavenward and Christ-ward. I am not an infidel, I’m a Christian. I am not an atheist, I’m a Christian. I am not an agnostic, I’m a Christian. I am not a secularist or a materialist, I believe in God, and I accept Him through Jesus Christ my Savior. I am a Christian” [John 14:6].
And in the great throng of people in the Lord’s house this morning, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, give your heart to Jesus. Look in faith to God. Put your life with us in the fellowship of this Christian church. If the Lord presses the appeal, would you answer with your life? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I make it now. May God write my name in the book up there in heaven among those who trust in Jesus [Philippians 4:3]. And may the Lord see as I walk down that aisle, openly and publicly before the angels and before men, confessing my faith in the Lord Jesus” [Romans 10:9-10, 13]. Bless you as you come. God speed you in the way as you come. Angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.