The True Freedom
March 21st, 1976 @ 10:50 AM
THE TRUE FREEDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-21-76 10:50 a.m.
And once again, welcome to the thousands of you who are sharing with us this service on radio and on television. I am the pastor of the church, and the message this morning is one of a quadrant, four messages concerning the life of our American people and our destiny in the Lord. The messages are based upon a text to which we have come in our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah 51:1-2:
Look, look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn,
and to the hole of the pit, to the quarry, from whence ye are digged, out of which ye have been cut.
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you.
This call of the prophet to the people of God to remember their forefathers and from whence they came is oft repeated in the Word of the Lord. And we are doing that this year, the bicentennial celebration of the birthday of our nation.
The four messages prepared, two of which have been delivered: the first, The Christian Martyr; the second last Sunday, The Struggle for Religious Freedom; the message today, The True Freedom, a freedom forever. And the fourth and the last message this coming Sunday, Christianity and Communism: the most formidable foe, the most implacable that the Christian faith has ever faced, we face now and today, that will be the message next Sunday. The message today is entitled The True Freedom, the freedom forever.
There has always been a basic and fundamental drive in human nature, and that is the passion to be free. One could almost describe the entire history of the human race as a struggle toward liberty and freedom. We have but to recall the groaning of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, when God said, “I have heard their cry, and their groaning has come up unto Me” [Exodus 2:23-24, 3:7]. And he sent Moses, the great lawgiver and liberator, to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt [Exodus 3:10]. Eleven centuries later, we are thrilled by the story of Mattathias and his five Maccabean sons who struggled for liberty against Antiochus Epiphanes.
All of us are cognizant of one of the great battles of freedom in the annals of history: that of Marathon in 490 BC, when Miltiades with ten thousand Athenians faced the invading Persian Darius with one hundred ten thousand soldiers, and when Pheidippides ran the twenty-seven miles to Athens to proclaim to the rejoicing city the victory won on the plain of Marathon. And in a few years thereafter, we remember the address of Pericles, one of the great Greek statesmen of all time, addressing a grateful and a hushed people and saying this sentence: “Remember that prosperity is a gift to the free, and freedom is for those who have courage to defend it.” That is why now, and a thousand years from now, the Soviet Union will be still struggling with the proposition how to make a nation of slaves prosperous.
Through the passing of the years, in 1215 at Runnymede, just about fifteen miles west of London, the barons of England forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, an instrument of basic human rights and liberties. And finally, we come to the story of the 1700s and the representatives from the thirteen colonies on the Atlantic seaboard, hammering out the greatest instrument of freedom and liberty the world has ever known, the Constitution of the United States of America, with its first ten amendments, called the Bill of Rights.
These are just some of the great mountain peaks in the struggle of the human race for liberty and for freedom. We have lived to see in our day and in our time a vast reversal of those rights and prerogatives that were bought by the blood of the martyrs and by the sacrifice of those who have lived before us. Instead of the bright, shining dawning of a new day of freedom for the whole world, the whole world seemingly is entering into a dark eclipse, a dark eclipse of slavery and of oppression.
I could hardly illustrate that better than something that happened in 1947. We were going down south from England to Italy and then turning north to the heartland of Europe, to Denmark. We were in a Swedish bus, driving from Switzerland to Denmark, through the heartland of Germany. The bus, owned by the Swedish government, had three Swedish citizens, two men who were drivers and one young woman who was the stewardess. That night in the tavern town in the heartland of Germany, we were to stay in Witzenhausen. But we were late, very late. And the setting sun began to cast shadows across the heartland of Germany. It was decided by the driver that he would leave the Autobahn and take a shortcut to Witzenhausen. As we were driving, they stopped. And I could tell by their excited conversation that they were fearful of something. It soon became apparent. They had lost their way, and they were in the Soviet Zone. Fearful, they finally asked a kind German man to board the bus who knew the dirt back roads by which they could travel unobserved to their destination in Witzenhausen. And I thought, what has come upon our world when a bus that has lost its way is filled with terror and consternation because they had wandered into the Soviet Zone? For tyranny, and oppression, and confiscation, and imprisonment bring terror to any heart. In the goodness of God, that kind German led us out into the British Zone and to our destination. A like thing ten thousand times over; billions of people and over uncounted millions of square miles is the story of the slavery of the modern, global world.
I went through “checkpoint Charlie” that opens the wall between free Germany and slave Germany. You have never witnessed anything in your life like that Berlin Wall, nor will you ever experience anything comparable as going through checkpoint Charlie into the slave portion of Germany. On the other side of the world, I stood on an eminence and watched those border guards in Macao—that is the entrance into Red China. And looking at those guards, I thought of the millions and the millions and the millions who are beyond them in slavery and oppression.
What does that matter to us today? And why should we be concerned today? And why should I speak of it in this message? For one reason, I offer Christian sympathy for those who suffer and die in slave worlds. Between Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, and East Berlin, enslaved Eastern Germany, I made the friendship in the trip of a fine East German couple, a man and a woman in middle life. And when I came to East Berlin and bid them goodbye, with many tears, they waved me farewell as I entered back, re-entered the free world, and they were left in the slave world. And with words of longing—how they wished they also could be free—I left them behind, just two out of millions and millions.
How is it that we are concerned? If I lived a thousand lifetimes, I could never forget weeping for a whole Lord’s Day in the services of the Baptist Church in Leningrad, as those dear people cried and prayed and wept before the Lord. Though I could not understand any word that they said, I cried and wept with those oppressed people. Nor could I forget in a thousand lifetimes being in Hong Kong and listening to the refugees as they poured out of China, escaping the pressure and the conquest of the then rampaging Red Army. And as I listened to those refugees, speaking their stories of martyrdom and of enslavement, I could never forget the deepest sympathy that welled up in my heart for those who were left behind.
But there is something more. Not only in sympathy with the millions and the millions—and now approaching two billions—who are enslaved in this present world, but I also tremble before God for our own and beloved America for several reasons. Number one: the possibility—and I think, the certainty—of a nuclear military attack against our country. I think when they think that they can succeed, they will attack. They have no love and they have no respect for us and our liberties and our freedoms. It is their purpose to destroy us from the face of the earth.
In these years, and now centuries past, we have been protected by the great oceans on either side. They are no longer barriers to a military confrontation, for the next war will be fought by missiles through the air, and it will be fought by submarines under the sea. From the Gulf of Mexico, a submarine, deep down and submerged, can now launch a nuclear war-headed missile and pinpoint it above our great and beautiful city of Dallas. There are many, many learned prognosticators who predict such a war between now and the year 2000. I think they are correct. We stand in the way of a nuclear holocaust, and it will come without announcement; without harbinger. It will come when they think that in one great, gigantic, devastating blow they can so cripple us that we will never be able to rise again.
Why am I concerned? For the second reason: because of the global revolution that is simply destroying the free world. Little by little by little, the free world is lessening and is being destroyed. And the millions and the millions of the nations of the world are being added to those in slavery and in oppression. I need not speak of Asia. All of those countries over there in Asia, one by one, are falling to the oppressor. This very week, what few men we have in Thailand to help that government remain free are being urged and are leaving. In Africa, one by one, those nations are being added to the communist world. And the millions that follow after, they are known but to God!
In this week’s news, the Italian government and the French government are asking the United States to remain as their allies as they take into their cabinets, into their governments, communists. That is the same thing as if you took a tiger or a lion in the house for a household pet. There’s not been any instance but that when they come, they come with a purpose, to seize power, to seize the government. And they’re not content with a part, with this portfolio or with that. It is their purpose to overwhelm the whole nation, and we’re seeing that come to pass in France and in Italy today.
Not only that, but we face an ideological warfare against those great Christian principles that have made America free and have made it great. There is an ideological warfare against the free enterprise system and the profit system in America, that every man ought to have the right to advance just as far as he can, to work as much as he pleases, to grow as much on his farm, to do as much work as he would like, to save everything that he would love to save, to do, to build, to achieve—that has been the glory of America!
An ideological warfare is waged against that free enterprise system by day and by night. And they are succeeding! A great historian says the story of the human race and of nations is always the same. It is from slavery to struggle, to freedom, to dedication, to prosperity, then to indolence, and indifference, and debt, and default, and dole, and scarcity, and poverty, and back to slavery! And we’re seeing that cycle today in our own and beloved America.
There is a disintegration and a devastating attack against the free system that has blessed our forefathers, for which they paid their life, and has blessed us and brought us to a prosperity beyond any which the world has ever known. And we are departing from those principles, and are now looking with favor upon the coercion of the individual and upon the building of a socialist welfare state, and upon the concentration of power in the hands of the few who are far, far, far away.
There are concomitants and there are corollaries that inevitably follow. Number one: that is the way to what you would call, politically and governmentally, the totalitarian state. That’s what it is, and that’s where it comes from—when the people are no longer free, but are slaves and servants of the state. They tell you what to do. They assign you what to do. And you are circumscribed in what you can do. And your life is controlled by men and by agencies and by bureaus whom you don’t even know and have never seen.
I am old enough to remember the address of the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, who, as we were involved in the First World War, called our country to arms to, quote, “Make the world safe for democracy.” And instead of making the world safe for democracy, we saw the rise of the totalitarian state; fascism and communism, of which communism, the fiercer of the two, remains as an engulfing agent to seize the whole earth.
What is the other concomitant? Politically, governmentally, it is totalitarianism. The second concomitant is the disintegration of the moral fabric of the life of the people. You’re old enough now to remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When we were plunged into the Second World War, our president said, “We are marching and we are building and we are striving for the great four freedoms of the world: freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of the press and of speech, and freedom to assemble and to worship God”; the great four freedoms. God blessed our men and God blessed our struggle. God blessed our efforts. God blessed our armies and our navies and our air force, and God blessed our people in prayer and in intercession. God crowned us with victory against overwhelming odds. And God gave us a free nation, a free church, and a free people!
What has happened to the moral fiber of America since God gave us those marvelous gifts of liberty? Freedom from want? We are slaves to every appetite carnal nameable. Freedom from fear? We are a nation down on our knees, cringing before those who have the rule over us. Why, there are not more than two sheiks, two sheiks, there are not more than two of them who can plunge America into the most awesome, debauched, cringing, cowardly begging that the world ever saw. An economist last week wrote, saying, “You think it was bad in the oil embargo of a few months ago. That is a picnic compared to what will happen to America if the oil embargo is ever employed as a weapon again against us.” Free; when two men who are Muslims can bring our whole nation down, begging and in cowardice, to its knees—this is the freedom of modern America; freedom from fear?
Freedom of speech and of press; did you ever see or hear or dream of in your life that the day would come when on television they use words of cursing and dirt and blasphemy? That’s in your living room for your little children to see and to hear. Did you ever think that the day would ever come when down here in a dirty, filthy place, advertised on a city street in Dallas, any boy, any girl, can go in that place and buy pornography by the armloads? And the distinguished Supreme Court of the United States of America says, “We are unable to know or to define what pornography is.” There’s not a child in the elementary schools but could go to that place and buy that filthy stuff and not know that this is pornography! This is filth and dirt, and excites lust and evil and immorality. But the Supreme Court of the United States says, “We cannot define pornography. We don’t know what it is.” There is something that has happened to the great, basic, moral foundations of our nation, and it reached from the top office down to the janitor in the Capitol Building.
Freedom of assembly, freedom to worship God, freedom not to worship God; as with the whole free world, America constantly is turning away from loving God and praising the Lord and assembling in worship on God’s holy day. “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged” [Isaiah 51:1]. We must look once again to our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us these great, basic principles of life, and of liberty, and of freedom. In the Book of John, in the eighth chapter, He was discussing with His compatriots freedom and liberty. And our Lord said:
Verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin.
And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!
The true liberty is always of the heart; it is of the soul. It is of the character; it is of the man as he is inside of his heart. True liberty is a gift of God to a man made in the character and the image of the Almighty God! Look, do you remember this stanza?
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were [yet] 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.
[adapted from F. W. Faber, “Faith of our Fathers”]
True liberty is liberty of the heart. It is liberty of the soul. It is liberty of character. It is liberty in God! And when that is taken away from us, we are a nation and a people of cringing slaves. But if God is in our souls, and the image of the Almighty is in our characters, we are free. The true freedom is a gift of God.
Tell me, what makes a nation great? If resources made a nation great, some of these nations in Africa would be the greatest nations of the earth. If great 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 an ancient civilization made a nation great, China would be the greatest nation in the world. What makes a nation great? The character of its people; the godliness of its citizens! Like Lyman Abbott said, “America was a great country when Columbus discovered it, but Americans have made of it a great nation.”
Our liberty, our rights, our freedoms are founded in the character of Almighty God. And it is a gift from His gracious hands. But a nation does not repent if I do not repent. A nation does not believe unless I believe. A nation is not saved unless I am saved. A nation is not baptized if I am not baptized. If the nation is to be free God must make me free. And in commitment of that devotion and dedication to God, I have asked God to write my name in the book up there in heaven, the Book of Life [Revelation 20:15, 21:27]. And I have asked the church to inscribe my name among those who call upon the Lord and who belong to the household of faith.
I am not an infidel. I am not an atheist. I am not an agnostic. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and my hope of life, and of freedom, and of salvation, and of heaven lies in Him. And it is that incomparable gift that our Savior brings to you today wherever you are—in the house, in the home, in the school, in the assembly—where many of you gather together to listen to these services in little assemblies. I ran into one way, way, away. Every Lord’s day, in a country club, in the ballroom before a big television set, all the neighbors come and they there worship God with us on this television.
Wherever you are, from one side of this continent to the other, today, this day, would you look in faith to the Lord Jesus? “Lord, make me free. Forgive me my sins. Write my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Number me among the people of God.” Do it now. Make it now. And the great throng that fill this vast sanctuary today, in a moment when we stand up to sing, coming down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles, “Pastor, today, I decide for Christ and here I am.” Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment, when we stand to sing, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle, “Pastor, I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart to God and here I am.”
May the Lord bless you as you come. May the angels attend you in the way as you come; a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, make it now. Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.