(un)Apologetic Week 5: Confident Faith – Part 2

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Did the Jesus as described in the Bible actually exist? How can a loving God send people to hell? How is it possible that God has no beginning and no end? Why would God create the devil if He knew he’d rebel? What really makes Christianity better than all the other religions? Does the Bible really decide ethics and morals in your daily life? If God is real, why is there so much war, sickness, death? Christianity is exclusive and judgmental. Everyone should determine truth for themselves.

So, why was God okay with slavery? Why does He seemingly allow wars? Where was God when I needed Him? If God is loving and all powerful, why is there evil?

[Garbled/overlapping questions]

[End Video]

Well, welcome for the continuation of the series on Unapologetic. I’ve got to tell you, for me, it's awesome to be back in Sarasota for a second week in a row for two reasons. The first one is this time I got to bring my wife, Heidi, and my daughter, Emma Jean. Wave or stand up. Yeah. Stand up. Come on. If you want to meet them, they’ll be in the back with me there, afterwards, as well. But it's great to have them with me. The second reason I want to say it's so great to be back, I mentioned last week that the weather has not been great in Colorado. Well, it got worse. I flew back on Sunday night last week, and Monday — get this. Monday night, we had record low temperatures. And more than that, it had been green there. I had mowed my lawn the week before, and then I wake up Tuesday morning to — I'm not making this up. This is the view out the back, behind our house, Tuesday morning. Do you see how thick that is?

We had over a foot of wet snow in late May. I mean, I like this at Christmas, but not in late May. Right? That's just wrong. And so, here we are, back in Sarasota, celebrating warm, sunny weather. This is just awesome. So, anyway, it's great to be back. We're going to dive right in. I've got a lot of stuff to cover, so I'm going to dive right back in. This is part two of my talk on Confident Faith where I'm giving 20 arguments, 20 reasons, or what I call 20 arrows of truth that point to the reality, the truth, of the Christian faith. And it's based on my book, Confident Faith, which, again, we're going to go way too fast today. So, if you want to read the details of that, it's in the book that's available afterwards, in the back.

Last week, I covered five reasons from science, and you can read about those if you missed it. It's online. You can get the messages on the website for the church. But again, you can read those details in the book, along with the other book, which is called The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask: (With Answers).

So, we've got both of those available, if you'd like. And maybe you've thought of some other people in your life, some young people, perhaps, who need that information. Well, I hope that'll serve you, and I'll be back there to talk afterwards as well.

Let me just draw this picture again. What we're doing is showing how these arrows of truth point somewhere. And we're not claiming we have absolute proof, like test tube, absolute certainty, but what we're saying is that we have overwhelming reasons to say the truth is in here somewhere. And at the end, I'm going to draw some pretty clear conclusions of what that truth is. And as I said last week, what we're kind of showing is that we have the preponderance of the evidence pointing to the truth of the Christian faith. And I think you'll see as I go through that that's really true.

Now, let me just jump in. This is reason six. Again, last week we’re the first five. We’re turning now not to science, but more to history and the things related to scripture and the life of Jesus, His ministry and so forth. And I think this is more familiar territory, which is why I can go through 15 points this week and only 5 last week. So, get ready for another fire hose of information.

Let’s go right to this first one. Pretty simple point, but I think pretty powerful as you think about it and as you dive into this one. Reason six says, “The Bible is a uniquely consistent religious book.” And to really understand this point, I need to remind you that it's really not a book. It's a collection of 66 books, and these books were written over a period of 1,500 or so years, by multiple authors, in multiple languages and in multiple cultures. And in spite of all that time span and all that diversity, there's one unified message that threads throughout the entire Bible. And, basically, if I was going to sum up the message, it’s that a loving creator made us — we talked about that last week. We rebelled against Him in sin. We fell, morally. We need a savior. The whole new testament message is the savior came and salvation is available through faith by grace. That's the message.

But the question is how could it be so unified over all a millennia and a half? And the answer is it wasn't just human authors. I mean, they were human, but they had the Holy Spirit speaking through them. Peter describes that. He says, “Don't think of scripture as just the words of mere men, but realize that the Holy Spirit moved these men...” — including Peter — “...to write what they wrote as God's Word.” Now, if you doubt that that's true, I would just urge you to read it for yourself. You know? Give it the taste test and just read. Open your heart and say, “Does God speak to me through this?” And I think, as most of us know already, if you'll do that with an open heart, I think God will speak to you and you’ll realize this is a unique book. This is one that God speaks through.

So, that's the first Arrow that I wanted to add. Now we've got six. Let me go on to number seven, which says, “The Bible is a uniquely historical religious book.” And I'll add another arrow to our diagram. But let me talk about this. And again, the emphasis is on the word historical. And, you know, a lot of people think all the religions are the same, they kind of say the same thing and they have the same basic basis, which a lot of people think is none. And so they just kind of lump them all together.

I want to tell you there's a big difference between various religions, their claims and what they teach. And on this area, particularly on the historical question, there are belief systems that have no real historical claims, or if they do make claims, they’re often wrong. An example of one without historic claim. Here's an extreme example. Greek mythology. You know, it's like watching a marvel movie. Right? It can be entertaining, but no one says, “Here's when Zeus appeared. It was the year 8,000 BC or something.”

No. It's not a historical idea. But do you know what? Hinduism is very similar. Hinduism has all kinds of writings and stories, but like, who was Lord Krishna? When did he live? Where was he born? And there's all kinds of debate of when, where, what century or was he even real? But there isn't a clear historical claim.

And I’ve just got to tell you, back a number of years ago when I was leading the evangelism area at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, I had a bunch of people that were studying this kind of stuff, Christian apologetics, together. And one day, we rented a big yellow school bus and got about 40 of us on this bus. And one day, we visited a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, and a mosque. And it was a really interesting day. Let me just be clear, we were not raiding these places. We weren't picketing or being obnoxious. We were going as their guests. We call the head and said, “We're a group of Christians studying religions. Could we visit?”

“Oh, yeah. Please come and we'll show you around.”

So, it was great. Really nice people. But I'll tell you, we got to the Hindu temple, and before we went in, we meet our tour guide; a young, sharp, friendly Hindu man who was all excited to show us where they worship and what they believe. But it was so interesting. Before we went in, he said, “Let me just tell you something: Part of why I'm excited about the Hindu faith is it's the oldest religion in the world.”

Now, we can debate that claim, but what he said next is what caught my attention. He said, “In fact,” — and he's enthusiastic about this. Like, “This is great. In fact, it is so old, we don't know where it came from.”

“Well let’s sign me up.”

Right? I mean, I don't know about you, but I like to know where things came from. You know? I'm at a restaurant and I don't want the waitress to come by with something on a plate and go, “Do you want to eat this?” And you go, “Well, maybe. What is it?” And she goes, “I don't know. I found it.”

I don't want to eat that. I like to know what things are and where they came from. So, you know, I like a religion to have a historical basis. Now, I'll give you one other example. It was our last visit or that day and it was the mosque. Again, very friendly people. They brought us in. In the Islamic faith, I'll tell you by way of introduction, makes a lot of historical claims, and some of them are verifiably wrong, especially when it relates to the life of Jesus.

And here's what happened. They brought us in, they had us all take our shoes off and had us all sit in a semicircle inside the mosque, and then they had a little table set up, kind of like we're in here right now. And the imam, which is what they call their teacher in the mosque, came out front, dressed in white, and he was all ready for us. And he spoke to us with great boldness. I mean, this guy was confident in what he believed. We had asked him just to kind of give us the basic tenants of Islam, so he did. He talked about the five pillars of Islam, and the major beliefs of Islam. But then I think he kind of got carried away. It's like, “I got all these Christians here. This is a good chance for some Islamic evangelism.”

Right? “So, let’s go for it.” He got going on really attacking our beliefs. He said, “You know, furthermore, I need to explain to you that God is not divided,” which is kind of code word for saying, “There is no trinity, so you've got to let go of that idea.” And he went on. He said, “Because Allah does not have a son. God is not divided. And Jesus was a prophet, but He never claimed to be the Son of God,” which was news to me. Probably news to you too, right? I'm just pretty sure I read him saying that a few times. But no, He never said it, according to the imam.

And then he went on. He said, “And you believe He died on the cross? Let me tell you: Allah would never let his prophet suffer in such a shameful way. Jesus did not die on the cross.”

They believe, and there's a verse in the Quran that indicates, that people thought it was Jesus, but God put a substitute in there. And a lot of Muslims believe it was Judas on the cross. I don’t know how they get that, but that's what a lot of them believe. So, Jesus didn't die on the cross. By the way, I'm sitting there going, “Okay. Jesus is not God’s Son? So much for God, Emmanuel, Christmas. There went our Christmas holiday. And now He didn't die on the cross? There goes Good Friday.” And then I realized that if you don't have Good Friday, you don’t have Easter either. I mean, our holidays are just getting wiped out here in one little speech from the imam. You know?

But anyway, he went through that, then he wrapped up his talk and he said, “Okay, any questions?” And we had some questions. We have, again, about 40 people. They asked a variety of questions. Some kind of surfacey and some more deep. A variety of good questions. But I finally realized no one was really getting to the heart of this big claim he made about Jesus, and whether it was historical or not. So, I'm the leader in the back, but I finally raised my hand. I said, “I’ve just got to ask you something.”

He said, “Yes?”

I said, “You made some real big claims there. You said that Jesus is not the Son of God, that He didn't die on the cross. And you didn't mention it, but if He didn't die on the cross, you don't believe what we celebrate at Easter either — that Jesus rose from the dead.”

He said, “Of course not.”

I said, “Here's my question: What is your historical basis for saying all those things? And before you answer, let me tell you that we, as believers in Christ, as Christians, we believe all three of those things for historical reasons. Specifically, the guys who walked and talked with Jesus for three years, and knew Him personally, wrote down records of what He did and said. And they claim repeatedly that He claimed to be the Son of God. More than that, some of them were there personally and saw Him crucified. They saw Him on the cross. And when you say it with someone else, I’ve got to tell you that some of the records say Jesus’ mother was there. She would have known, “That's my son being crucified.” She knew. So, this idea that it wasn’t Jesus on the cross is not according to the historical records. That's wrong.”

I said, “Finally, you know, the fact of the resurrection, the eyewitnesses said that three days later He came back to life, they talked with Him and they spent time with him. They touched him and they even had meals with Him. And they wrote all of this down in historical books that we have today, and that's our basis. What I'm asking you is do you have any historical data denying those historical realities, or...” — and I did say this because this is the basis of what Muslims believe.

I said, “Or do you base everything you're saying to us on a guy in a cave talking to an angel 600 years after the event?

Well, I’ve got tell you, he didn't like my question very much. He kind of glared at me, but then he just said one line. His answer was, “I choose to believe the prophet. Q and A is over.”

That was it. Now, when he says, “I believe the prophet,” he's saying, “I believe what Mohammed said. Don't confuse me with historical facts. And to be fair to this man, that's all he could say because Islam does not have any historical data. It was an idea that came based on a guy who claims an angel talk to him in a cave. An angel the he was afraid of. He thought it was a demon at first. I mean, he was freaked out — Mohammed was when he first had those revelations that he claims were from an angel. He didn't know what to think, but he later became convinced it was true, and for the rest of his life proclaimed what he learned in the cave.

But this was literally six centuries after the events. And, you know, my question is what's real history here? A guy in a cave 600 years later or people who walked and talked with Jesus and wrote it down in books. I'll go with the historical data. I just want to assure us all that as a Christian, we're accepting things that were written down by eyewitnesses — people who were there who wrote it down at that time. We have great reason for confidence as we believe those things.

Reason number eight: The Bible is a uniquely preserved work of antiquity. And we'll add another arrow to are a compilation here. What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, I'm trying to counteract the idea that some people will say, “You know, you can't really trust this book because it's been retranslated so many times. You know? It was written 2,000 years ago. So many things get lost down through the corridors of time. You can't really trust this book.”

They're making a few claims. One of them is this idea that it's been retranslated so many times that you can't trust it. So, sometimes, I'll just ask them very simple question. I'll say, “What do you mean when you say that?” And that wipes out about two thirds of the people because they don't know what they mean. It was a cliché they heard in college or read on the internet somewhere, so they just are repeating what they've heard. When you really ask them to articulate what they mean, they don't know. Now, some people do know what they're claiming and they'll say, “Well, you know, it was written in Greek and Hebrew, and then someone translated it from those languages into Latin, and then Martin Luther took the Latin and put it into German. And then some guy named King James took the German and put it into English. And then some guy named NIV guy took old English and put it in new English. But it's like the children's game of telephone. Each time you get the story further around the circle, you're losing stuff. And by the time it comes back around, it's nothing like what was originally written.”

My response to that is if that's how we got it, I would have concerns too. But that's not how we got it. Because good translators, Jerome who put it in Latin, went back to the Greek and Hebrew. Martin Luther, who put it into German, went back to the Greek and Hebrew. So did King James. So did the NIV guy. You know? By the way, it's 100 scholars that did that in most modern translations. So, they go back to the originals. And, in addition, I should add that we keep getting and digging up more and more originals, so we have more and more of a basis. And we keep learning, linguistically, more and more about the idioms and language of the day, so we understand that better.

The real truth is the translations have gotten better and better. So we have great reasons for confidence here. But the other claim that is being made, “It was so long ago. How can we really trust some writing that’s that old? How do we even know we have the right copy?”

A lot of people don't understand this, so let me just give you really exciting news. The manuscript evidence for the New Testament blows away every other ancient writing. I mean, in terms of strength. And let me explain what I mean. Here's how it worked in the ancient world: They would write it down on materials that they knew would not last forever. They knew that even then. That's why they would make copies, manuscript copies, of the original because, eventually, this would turn to dust. But if this is a timeline across the stage here, this crumbles to dust. But then, if we have good copies, we've still got things to know what was originally written. The question we have — and by the way, all ancient writings have crumbled to dust, including biblical ones and every other ancient writing. We don't have any of what they call the autographs, the originals. So, the question always becomes, “How many copies do we have? How early are they? How good are they?”

And here's what becomes interesting. On average, you have the original writing — of non-biblical documents, you have the original writing, then it crumbles to dust and then you go a century, we don't have any copies. Another century, no copies. Century, no copies. Century, no copies.

On average, the ancient writings go at least 500 years, and some of them were 1,000 years, 1,200 years before you even have a copy. On average, with ancient writings, we have about 20 copies that start, on average, around 500 years later. And yet they say, “Well, now we have Plato. Now we have Aristotle. Now we have the record of the Gallic Wars or whatever. Here it is. We've got that information.”

Okay. Good for you. Let me compare it, now, to the New Testament. We have the original writing here and we have the earliest copy here. Do you get that? Some of you weren't watching close enough. Let me step back and do that again. Original writing here. The first copy is here. It's not 500 years later. It's about 35 years later. It's the John Rylands Papyrus found all the way over in Egypt, and it's a fragment of the Gospel of John. Just little, tiny little gap of time. It wouldn't even — it's like nothing. And that's just the first copy. Then we have copies, copies, copies, manuscripts. We have fragments. We have whole books. We have collections of books all throughout history. No big, huge time gap, and not 20 copies. Guess how many? In Greek alone, how many manuscripts do we have of the New Testament?

It's now over 5,800. So, average of 20 compared to 5,800. I like what Daniel Wallace, a scholar from Dallas Seminary, says, who has given his life to studying the manuscript evidence. He says, “By comparison to other ancient writings, we have an embarrassment of riches.” He said, “Because, on average, compared to other Roman-Greco writings, we have about a thousand times as much manuscript evidence.”

So, the conclusion of this is you can trust the Bible, you can trust the New Testament. And if you say, “Well, I'm not going to trust the New Testament,” then you can't trust any ancient writing because we have so much more evidence for this than they have for any of the others. So, this is great reason to say we can trust what has been written. And that doesn't prove it's God's Word, but it gives us a lot because then you can say, “What does it reveal about Jesus, who He was, what He did and how He substantiated his claims?”

Let me go on to number nine. It says, “Archeology shows that the Bible is a powerfully verified book.” See, it's easy to write a book and make a bunch of claims on history, but if there's no substantiation, then people start to doubt it. An example would be the Book of Mormon. It makes all kinds of claims about the Central Americas, but there's like no archeological backup. They haven't dug any of that up. They can't find it. So, you start to go, “Maybe this was fiction,” and I think it was. But compare that to the Bible where thousands and thousands of times they've dug up evidence that backs up the claims.

Let me give you an example from the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament — this is going back a number of years. There were a lot of critics of the Bible that would say, “You know, it has all of these writings that talk about the Hittites in the Old Testament. We've never dug up any evidence of the Hittites. We think that's Old Testament fiction.”

And then guess what happens? Oops. Someone dug up the Hittites. And now we have overwhelming archeological evidence for the Hittites. No one doubts the Hittites anymore. So, those critics are forced to kind of go,” Okay, well, you know, I guess the Bible got lucky that time, but here's another thing we doubt.”

And then that gets dug up. Oops. This just happens thousands of times. And, by the way, if you want to bet against the Bible, my advice is stop. You're just not going to win because this is a record of what really happened, and it gets stronger and stronger with digs and digs and digs from archeologists. So, let me give you the New Testament example. A lot of people, for a long time, said this guy Pilate — you know? You've seen him in the Jesus movies and stuff. He tried Jesus, washed His hands and all that — didn't exist. “We don't have any evidence for Pilate. There's no reason. That’s New Testament fiction.”

Oops. They dug up the Pilate stone, literally in Caesarea where he had served. They dug up a stone and it had his name, inscription — you know? Like, “This is the guy, Pilate.”

They go, “Oops. Okay. New Testament got lucky that time.” And this process just continues. In fact, there was a Cambridge skeptic, an agnostic named Sir William Ramsey, that scoffed at the writings of Luke, which is the gospel of Luke, and the book of Acts. He said, “He made a mistake. If you're going to write fiction, you don't give all these names of cities and places and details because it makes it easy for guys like me to disprove it.”

And then he set out to do so. Thirty years later, Sir William Ramsey said two things: One, “Luke, is a first rate historian because I've dug up so many of the things that he said were there, and they were there.” Number two: “I'm now a follower of Jesus Christ.”

In fact, recently, for one of Lee Strobel's birthdays, I gave him a book from Sir William Ramsey talking about all the ways that his archeological digs substantiated New Testament claims. So, again, archeologists give us a lot more reasons for confidence in what we believe. That's why we added another arrow there.

And then I'll go on to number 10: The Bible is a uniquely honest religious book. Here's what we mean by this: Historians, when they're trying to figure out if something written is true, one of the things they use is what they called the criterion of embarrassment. And the question is, “Does it include embarrassing details that would even embarrass the writer himself, his clan, his group, his country?”

The ideas is if it includes stuff that's embarrassing, it's probably true. Because if you're making up a story, guess who's going to be the hero? You. Right? I mean, why make yourself embarrassed? So, you wouldn't make that kind of stuff up. And yet, the Bible, I'll just tell you, if you haven't read it, it's full of embarrassing details. Just read about Noah in his tent. You know? Read about Abraham lying. Read about David on the roof looking down at Bathsheba. You know? Read about Judas betraying Jesus, or Peter, the chief apostle, denying Jesus.

These are embarrassing details, but they point to the fact that this is a book that tells the truth, even when it's embarrassing. Even the fact that we are all sinners who fall short of God's standard, who makes that stuff up? Aren't we pretty good? Don't we have a spark of divinity? The Bible says we're sinners who need a savior. Another earmark of truth. So, there's Arrow number 10.

Reason number 11: Miracles back up these claims. And I just want to talk especially about Jesus. You know, Jesus did His ministry on Earth for about three years, and He had critics that just followed Him around looking for flaws, looking for anything that wasn't trustworthy, real, morally sound or whatever. They wanted to defeat Jesus. And, you know, if you read the New Testament, He did miracles left and right. And I’ve just got to tell you, if they were fake miracles, they would have found the wire.

You know? If these were magic tricks, they would have found that. They would have found ways to argue with it or discredit him. But what happened is the opposite. He would heal blind people and they could see, and all of a sudden they knew. Everyone knew the guy had been blind and how he could see, or had been unable to walk and now could walk. Or, in the case of Lazarus, had been dead and now is alive.

But here's an example: In the synagogue one day, there's a guy in the front row who has a withered hand. And they're all watching Jesus, like, “Is He going to heal this guy?” because they wanted to use it against Him. Jesus says He had compassion. He heals the guy. All of a sudden, this guy whose hand had been like this is like this. It's a miracle. So, what are the critics do? They go, “You did it on the wrong day, Jesus. You did it on the Sabbath. That's a no-no. You ought to know that.”

They're trying to catch him on a technicality. But do you realize what they just did? They've just acknowledged that He did a miracle. They've admitted it. This happens over and over and over. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “If you don't believe my words, then look at my works. Look at my miracles.” It was evidence that He was who He claimed to be, and it's evidence that stands today. So, there's another Arrow.

Reason 12: Fulfilled prophecies point to the Bible as inspired and Jesus as the Messiah. And we'll add another arrow there. We could do a whole series on this — just fulfilled prophecies. Let me just give you a couple. Micah predicted the very town, little town, where the Messiah would be born, and he named it Bethlehem. Well, Bethlehem was a little village. Here's Micah, this prophet, saying the Messiah will be born there. And you go, “Is that a big deal?” Yeah. Because it was 400 years ahead of time. He wasn't hedging his bet by going, “I think it will be Jerusalem because that's the biggest city.” No. He picked a little, tiny village. He said, “Even though you’re tiny, you'll be the birthplace of the Messiah 400 years later.”

You know the Christmas story? “Here's the Messiah born in Bethlehem, in a manger.” That's God writing history in advance through Micah. Here's another example: Isaiah 53. You probably know that passage. It talks about the coming suffering Messiah who would be thought to be a sinner, but He would bear our sins, our iniquities. By His stripes we would be healed, it says. The most interesting phrase in there is it says, “He will be pierced for our iniquities.”

Do you know what's interesting about that? Well, first of all, it was written by Isaiah 700 years before the time of Christ, and it was written hundreds of years before crucifixion had even been invented. I imagine Isaiah writing, “He will be pierced for our iniquities. What does that mean?” It's like, “Okay. The Holy Spirit is leading me to write it. I can't even picture what that's about.”

Well, we can because we live on the other side of history. We've seen the pictures, the movies and the story. We know He was pierced for our sins on the cross when He was nailed to the cross. I mean, this is astounding stuff. People have come to faith in Christ just through the prophecies. It's powerful.

Jesus' sinless life points to his claims to be the son of God. It's another argument. Do you know what? Muhammad did not live a sinless life. He needed a Savior. Joseph Smith did not live a sinless life. Other religious leaders, we're all fallen sinners who need a savior, and the Savior came and lived a sinless life — evidence He was who He claimed to be.

Jesus resurrection. This needs a whole sermon by itself, too, but this one's huge. In fact, in our arrows, it's got to be one of the big arrows, the fact that the tomb was empty. You know, Jesus claimed He would prove His claim to be the Son of God. He said, “I'll die and, three days later, I'll rise from the dead.”

I’ve just got to say, if you're going to follow a religious leader and you have all these options, and one of them says, “I'll die and come back three days later,” he and does it, I'd pick that guy. Right? And Jesus did it.

The tomb was empty. The eyewitnesses saw Him. They wrote it down. And my buddy Lee Strobel, the atheist who wanted to disprove this study, the evidence for the resurrection, for almost two years, he reached a point where he said, “It would take more faith to maintain my atheism than it would to just become a Christian because the evidence points to Christianity.” And he gave his life to Christ and became a great defender of the Christian faith because of the evidence for the resurrection.

The next one, number 15, is related to that. It says, the emergence of the Church in Jerusalem points to the truth of its message, and here's why: The church was born in the very city where Christ was crucified. On the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, Peter preached that this Messiah they had crucified had raised from the dead. If he wasn't right, they would not have said, “What do we do to be saved?”

They would've said, “What are you talking about? You're crazy. Get a wheelbarrow. Let's put this dead messiah in the wheelbarrow. Here's your rotting grave of a messiah.”

Christianity would have been dead. But instead, 3,000 Jewish people said, “We know the tomb is empty. We know the claims. It makes sense. We've seen the evidence. What do we do to be saved?” and 3,000 were baptized in the Church in one day. The birth of the Church in Jerusalem is evidence that it was true. It's another arrow.

Number 16: The changed lives of early skeptics affirm the claims. I'll just give you one example. How did the greatest persecutor of the Church, named Saul, become the greatest missionary for the Church, named Paul? I can only think of one thing that could turn a guy like that. I mean, it's like Richard Dawkins becoming an evangelist. It’s just like — it's going to take a miracle. Well, Paul had a miracle. He saw the risen Jesus. It turned his life around. And I can't think of anything else that could have done that. I just think Paul was telling the truth, and it's great evidence for what we believe.

Number 17: The willingness of the disciples to die for what they knew to be true is powerful evidence. Now, some people will say, “Lots of people die for their religious claims.” Here's the difference: People that blow themselves up for their faith might sincerely believe what they have been taught, but they’re not in a position to know if it's true. They're hoping it's true, and unfortunately it's not. But the disciples were in a position to know whether or not they had really seen, talked with and eaten with the risen Savior. Knowing what was true, they were all willing to die for it, and some of them did. And here's the point: No one willingly dies for what they know is a lie, and the disciples were willing to die for what they believe to be true. And they were there to know. It's powerful evidence. Number 17.

Number 18: The changed of minds of modern skeptics support the point. The idea here is it wasn't just good evidence 2,000 years ago. If you study it today, with an open mind, you'll probably become a Christian. Lee Strobel. Read The Case for Christ. Watch the movie. Great example. Josh McDowell's another one. Simon Greenleaf. I can give all kinds of stories. Smart people that look into it with an open mind reach the point of saying, “I can't fight the evidence. I’ve got to go with where it points, and it points to the middle here.”

Reason 19 is where we all come in. The changed lives and the testimonies of millions of believers today, who say, “You know, I don't just have a bunch of history and a bunch of philosophy and science. I met with God this morning. He speaks to me. He guides me. He redirects me. He blesses me.”

Some people have the testimony, “He healed me.” I bet we have stories in here of that. And I just would say let's not ignore millions of people who've experienced God, including probably most of us, as powerful evidence. So, there's number 19.

Number 20: Jesus said so. Here's my point on this one: Almost everyone respects Jesus. Muslims call him a prophet. A lot of Jewish people say He was a good teacher. My response is, “If you think He's a good teacher, listen to what He taught.” If you think He's a prophet, read, absorb and follow what He prophesied, including when He claimed to be the Son of God, died on the cross and rose from the dead. Pay Attention. Let Jesus speak for Himself. And when He does, He substantiates what we're talking about here. He supports it.

And so, let me conclude by just drawing a very important conclusion. And that is what I said at the beginning. You know, this isn't absolute proof, but the evidence sure seems to be pointing somewhere in here. And I’ve just got to say, if you're visiting, you have a different belief system, you're from a different religion or you're an atheist and you believe X out here, I support your right to do so. We believe in religious freedom, love it and support it. And I'm happy to agree to disagree. Not really happy, but I’ll support your right. But I want to talk about it and I want you to tell me your reasons for what you believe over here because I’ve got 20 reasons over here. And there are more I thought of since I wrote the book.

So, we’ve got a lot of reasons over here. Let's have an open dialogue without hating each other or condemning each other. But let's talk openly and point to what we think the truth is. And I think the preponderance of the evidence points here, and the question is what does it point to it? Some people say, “Well, the existence of God,” and my answer is, “That's part of it. Yes, it points to the existence of God, but not just any old god; to the God who so loved the world that He sent His only Son to become one of us, to live among us, to teach us and to show us what it means to live in God's will and in His family. But the more important part is that person who came, Jesus, the Son of God came and lived the good life, but then He spread out His arms and died a good death. He died in our place on the cross to purchase salvation for you and me.

Friends, the reason I get so excited about all these reasons and evidence and science and logic and philosophy and history and so on is because it ultimately supports the most exciting message in the universe, and that's the Gospel story that Jesus loves you and me, that He sacrificed Himself to give us new life, and it's a free gift by grace — the very word this church is named after. This affirms the message we sang in the song at the beginning of the service, that it's through the blood of Jesus shed for us that we can have new life.

And the last thing I want to say is it's not enough to just agree with what I'm saying. You can nod your head to this, you can take notes and kind of check each box. “Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. Okay. The guys right.”

That doesn't make you a Christian. Here's an example. I'm flying, with my wife and daughter, back to Denver tomorrow. It's not enough to believe that airplanes fly. We can sit in the terminal of the airport watching airplanes taking off, going, “That one flies. That one flies.” You know? I could read a book on aviation and sit in the terminal. It doesn't get me home. The only way I get home is by putting my faith or trust in the right airplane and getting on board. Then I fly home and I'm home.

Spiritually speaking, it's not enough to nod your head and say, “I believe He's the savior of the world.” You have to get on board with Jesus and make Him your Savior.

I’ll take that to mean most of you agree and have done this. For you, I urge you to share the good news. Share this information with the people you talk to. But for anyone who's like, “No. I'm not sure I can clap. I'm not sure I'm there yet,” I just want to close the service with a prayer. This is your chance. I like what Chip told me, what he often does. I want to do it here.

Just to say if you would like to receive that, that amazing grace, undeserved favor and forgiveness and new life from Christ, put your hand on your heart and just pray with me in your own words. Repeat what I'm going to pray now. Let's just pray together. Father, I thank You for this day, this church and this service, and to everyone who came today. For any that aren't sure that they know You yet, or are sure they don't, but want to, I pray that You would lead them to You right now.

I just ask all of you who are in that situation to say, “Lord, thank You for Your truth. I agree with what I've heard, and that includes that I need You as my Savior. Lord, please forgive my sins. Lord, please change my life. Take control and lead my life, now, from this day forward. And Lord, I trust You to be my Forgiver, my Leader, my Savior, my Lord. I will go forward from this day following Jesus.”

Friends, if you did that, please — and this is the most important decision you could ever make. I would just urge you, don't leave today without telling someone, anyone with a name tag, any of the leaders — or tell me. I'll be in the back. Please talk to someone and learn what it means to follow Christ in your life. And, again, it's the best to know and follow him. So, God bless. We’re dismissed. I'll see you in the back.

Chris Pedro