In recent weeks, many young people have experienced the joy of completing another milestone in their education. At countless high school graduations, thousands of students have heard commencement addresses and valedictory speeches. Such speeches from students sometimes include reminiscence about the time together with a hint of sadness at its coming to an end, while the overwhelming focus of the speeches is upon the bright future ahead and the excitement of newfound freedom that comes with the next phase of life.
But what is meant by this freedom? For many, it is the freedom of going to college and living on their own away from home. For those who recognize that with greater freedom comes greater responsibility, it can be a time of great growth in maturity. But for others, who view it as the freedom to do whatever they want or the freedom from any moral restraints, it can be a sad time of self-destruction.
Forty years ago in a commencement address at Harvard University, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn warned against this abuse of freedom: “Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.”
Solzhenitsyn’s words point to humanity’s deepest problem and our greatest need. We need not merely to be freed from tyranny from without, but from the raging tyranny within each of our hearts: the tyranny of sin within. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin through their disobedience in the garden in Eden, humanity has been enslaved to evil desires, even from birth. As the psalmist declares, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). These sinful desires develop into sinful attitudes and actions, which have enslaved us all. As Jesus says in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
But the glorious news is that Jesus Christ has come to meet our greatest need and to bring us true freedom! As Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth is that we are all born with wicked hearts of rebellion against God, and we all have committed evil sins against him and deserve eternal punishment. But Jesus has come not only to take the penalty that our sins deserve, but to free us from the tyranny of sin in our own hearts by giving us renewed hearts that love him, that are truly free. For true freedom is not the freedom to do whatever we want, but the freedom to want to do what is right and true, namely, what is pleasing to God. Do you have true freedom?
Grace Baptist Church