On April 1, Franklin Graham held a unique evangelistic Festival—in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Franklin and his father, Billy Graham, have told millions around the world how to find freedom and new life in Jesus Christ. The following message, given in 1980 by Billy Graham in Edmonton, Alberta, speaks to the need we all have for true freedom.
We have a world filled with liberation movements. Freedom and liberation are popular words. There’s a thirst for freedom in everybody’s heart. Many people are not free–they are imprisoned, and they need to be set free. Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34, NKJV). Think of the habits that imprison people today–prisons such as drug addiction. A university professor who started using marijuana in college had to resign from his position at the university because his mind was affected by drugs. Prisons of alcoholism. Think of the thousands of people who are gradually slipping into alcoholism.
Prisons of lust. An elderly man came to talk with me some time ago. He said, “My mind is filled with sexual fantasies and lust. What can I do to free myself? I’m a slave to my thoughts and imagination.”
Prisons of speaking evil. Some people cannot speak without cursing or spreading rumors or telling lies. They seem to be in the grip of a supernatural power: sin.
And there are prisons of fear, prisons of insecurity, prisons of boredom.
You may be imprisoned by these, and you cannot loose yourself. You want to be free–and you can be free. There is freedom for you. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, KJV). What is the truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, KJV). Jesus is the embodiment of all truth. He can free you. He can open those prison doors and let you out, if you will let Him.
Perhaps you have tried and have found that you are powerless to get free, though you have a thirst to be free from those things that enslave you. That’s because God created you for Himself.
What a tragedy to go through life with a thirst for freedom and never be satisfied. And what a tragedy to go into eternity without knowing the One who promises freedom!
The Right Kind of Freedom
But we must have the right kind of freedom. You see, many people are screaming freedom, and they think that if they can change their situation, they will find freedom. But the real freedom, the eternal freedom, comes in knowing Jesus Christ. He is the true Liberator. He is the only One who can make us totally free.
If you are a slave to sin and you want to be free, you can find freedom only in Jesus Christ. You must come to that freedom in Christ by way of the cross. The Bible says we are all sinners. We have broken God’s Law, and we have to come to the cross to find our forgiveness because we’re all slaves to sin. When we come to Jesus Christ, He sets us free. He opens the prison door.
How can you come to Christ for freedom? The Bible says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, KJV). You have to have faith. That means total commitment to Jesus Christ. And how does that happen? When you hear the Word of God, Christ will come into your heart if you will say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, come in.” He will free you and give you spiritual liberation. The Scripture says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV).
You can’t work or pay your way to heaven. Salvation is free because of what Christ did on the cross. He died for you. Through Christ, God has a way to justify you as though you had never committed a sin. The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, offered Himself on the cross. He said, “To this end was I born” (John 18:37, KJV). The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28, KJV).
The Great Emancipator
To many people this seems foolish. The Scripture says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, KJV). It sounds foolish for me to tell you that you can be free and that you can have a complete renewal of your life and a change in the direction of your life because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Paul said it would sound foolish. And it sounds ridiculous to modern ears, too.
But God can forgive you and transform you and give you eternal life. You must come to Christ by repentance, and you must come by faith. Repentance means a change of attitude, a change of mind, a change of lifestyle, a change of your pattern of life. Faith means a total commitment to Christ not only as Savior, but also as Lord. Jesus said, “I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24, NKJV). You are a condemned prisoner, condemned to eternal death. But Jesus said, “I can give you life. I can free you.”
Jesus also said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father … draws him” (John 6:44, NKJV). You have to hear the Word of God, and then you must be drawn by the Holy Spirit. You must be convicted, you must be made uncomfortable. The Holy Spirit prods your conscience; He prods your mind; He prods your heart. He says, “You need Christ.” That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Without that work you cannot come to Christ. So salvation, the Scripture says, is of God.
If you know Christ personally, you know you are going to heaven. When you die, you are going Home. What a wonderful time it will be when we get to heaven. The Bible talks about heaven as a holy city. The Book of Revelation pictures heaven as the “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 3:12, KJV)–a perfect environment in which a perfect society dwells. Revelation 21 and 22 tell us that heaven will be a place in which its inhabitants will be freed from the fears and insecurities that haunt us in the present life.
Jesus Christ is the great Emancipator. He alone can set you free from your doubts and guilt and failure and give you eternal life. Jesus Christ frees you not only for eternity, He frees you for the here and now. He is able to free you now from the guilt and power of sin, which are not to have dominion over you. For those who come to Christ, Scripture says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14, KJV). Sin is no longer the slavemaster. From the moment that you come to Christ in repentance and trust, you receive His gift of salvation and you are no longer a slave to sin. You may make mistakes, but you won’t be a slave to sin. You won’t be habitually and deliberately sinning. Jesus Christ frees you from that terrible slavemaster called sin.
Are you free? Are you sure of it? You can be free. Repent of your sin, and by faith submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He went to the cross for you and was raised again. He is not dead; He is alive. He is coming back as the future world Ruler. But you must receive Him as Lord and Savior. Come to Christ and find your true freedom.