Evidence You Never Knew Existed: Why Jesus and the Bible Can Be Trusted — Chapter 1
"The Bible must be the invention of either good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God. (1) It could not be the invention of good men or angels, for they neither would or could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, 'Thus saith the Lord,' when it was their own invention. (2) It could not be the invention of bad men or devils, for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell for all eternity. (3) Therefore I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration" (Charles Wesley).
I suspect all of us have a "Bible" by which we live, whether we are aware of it or not. The "Bible" I personally lived by was an arbitrary collection of my own wisdom and that of others. These sources — books, sometimes famous scientists, psychologists, professors and my own conclusions — often were uncertain, prone to error, and speculative. All of the sources for my ''Bible" were cluttered with mistakes and full of naked opinions. My ''Bible" was unsure about the origin and purpose of life and man's destiny. If this is true of others also, my heart cries out for my fellow travelers on the road of life. In the love of one who is now my Saviour, I ask, ''Is this true of your 'Bible'? Have the sources you may be depending on ever made mistakes? Do they have final and absolute knowledge? Do you? Will you risk your life, your eternal destiny, on wishful thinking or opinions?" Dear reader, you and I know this is not the measure of truth.
By contrast, the Christian's Bible is God's Word — certain, infallible and proven in a thousand battles.
The Bible claims to be the Word of God. Some 3,800 times, phrases including "Thus saith the Lord," "The Word of the Lord came to me," and others express these claims. 2 Timothy 3:16, for example, tells us that, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."
Consider a number of key areas in which the Bible has proven itself reliable. Each of these proofs is impressive, but together they provide unshakable evidence for its authority as the revealed Word of God.
Imagine forty men, separated in time by centuries, coming from many different cultures, towns, cities, and backgrounds. Imagine that they are working independently on a statue of Jesus. Each has a particular part of the statue to carve: one, a toe; one, an ear; another, the neck; another, the chin; another, a leg; yet another, a shoulder blade; and so on. After hundreds of years, all of these carvings are brought to one place and put together. Incredibly, they all fit together perfectly, and form a beautiful statue of Jesus. Impossible, by chance. Possible only by the superintending act of a supervising God.
Yet this is exactly what we have in the writing of the Bible. Some forty authors, working over a period of nearly 1,600 years, writing sixty-six books, came up with a perfectly unified book portraying one perfect person — the Lord Jesus Christ!
More than 25,000 sites have been excavated verifying the existence of cities, kings, kingdoms, events, officials, etc. proving the historicity and incredible accuracy of thousands of Biblical references. Archaeologist Nelson Glueck has said, ''It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference."
Fantastic! ... in a book thousands of years old! Since we can trust the Bible in the things we can see, we know we can trust it in the things we cannot see.
Although skeptics have claimed that the Bible contains scientific errors, none of the allegations have been proven. This is true of no other ancient religious book. In fact, many times science has been proven wrong and the Bible right. Science textbooks are changed frequently and often hopelessly contradict one another after a few years. The Bible never has to be changed. It is accurate where it touches on science. For example, in a day when most people thought the earth was flat, even up to the voyage of Columbus in 1492, the Bible stated in Isaiah 40:22a, ''He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.'' The word for ''circle'' is the Hebrew word meaning ''round'' or ''sphere''. In other words, the Bible revealed that the earth was a sphere about 2,200 years before man found it out, even though Marco Polo had made some strides in that direction a few centuries before Columbus. But Isaiah wrote about 700 years B. C.! How did Isaiah know? He didn't, the word came from God!
Deuteronomy 28:25, 26 tells us of the future suffering and scattering of the Jews, and Deuteronomy 30:1-6 adds to this prophecy, which had indicated that the Jews would be scattered among all nations, but would someday be regathered to their own land. These prophecies were given centuries before the fulfillment. Yet God had given very literal prophecies concerning the inheritance of the land of Palestine to Abraham and to the Jews. Leviticus 26:31-33, given about 1400 B.C. adds to this prophecy, as does Ezekiel 36:33-35 and Ezekiel 37. Luke 21:23, 24 reasserts these prophecies. It was also predicted that Jerusalem would be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled.
From these and other Scriptures let us give a brief summary of what God's Word says the future held for the Jews. (1) Scattering, worldwide among all nations. (2) Intense persecution and suffering. (3) Other, mightier nations around them would be destroyed, but they would never lose their identity as Jews, and a remnant would always survive. (4) They would someday return to their own land and reestablish their own nation.
Now consider these well known facts. The Jews were surrounded by formidable and warlike people, some of them more numerous and more powerful than the Jews. Hittites, Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, etc. Dear friend, when is the last time you met a Hittite? A Philistine? They have long since passed off the scene. Yet the Jews remain! They were persecuted horribly, six million dying in Hitler's horrendous Holocaust. For 2,500 years they were without political independence, and for almost 2,000 years (from the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 to 1948) they had no land of their own. They were scattered worldwide, but they were not assimilated like the Anglos, Saxons, and Jutes, or the Goths or Visigoths. Nor were they exterminated like countless others, and miraculously they retain their identity today! In Hungary, there are Hungarian Jews, and there are American Jews, Soviet Jews, English Jews, Polish Jews, etc. No other nation has ever returned to life after being so persecuted and dispossessed, but God said the Jews would! They did, another proof that the Bible is God's Word!
Individuals like Increase Mather saw this truth in the Bible and preached that the Jews would return to Palestine and reestablish their own nation again, and he preached it in 1669, as reported by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth. This is no ''after the fact" application of some vague generalities to a historical event, but a precise fulfillment of prophecy people of God had been expecting for centuries. Suddenly, it happened! During and after World War II Jews began returning to Palestine, fleeing persecution in Germany, Europe and Russia (at one point, the Jewish population of Palestine had shrunk to about 10,000). They were joined by many affluent Jews around the world, some from America. Imagine that! Why? This inexplicable urge of many to return to a ''homeland" after 2,000 years was not because they believed in the Biblical prophecy. However, the return of the Jews to Palestine fulfilled exactly what God said would happen. The British, in charge of Palestine at the time, put their gleaming warships in the way, but did not know what to do with unarmed men, women and children in merchant ships. Finally, the Jews were allowed in. Miracle of miracles, they declared themselves a nation on May 14, 1948! With heavy odds against them, they were attacked a week later by neighboring forces. They were heavily outnumbered, but they survived and conquered. They survived again when they were attacked in 1967 and in the 1970s. The Arabs had controlled Jerusalem, but now that city too is under Jewish control. (See Luke 21:24.) God's Word continues to be fulfilled and will be!
It would take far more faith to believe that this all happened by chance, than simply to believe that God gave us His Word, the Bible.
Jesus Christ — God's Living Word
" ... and the Word was God.'' John 1:1-3, 14
The Bible claims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The Bible also claims that the Son Himself is God, who took upon Himself human flesh, and visited earth on a dramatic rescue mission to save us from sin, death, and Hell. Isaiah 9:6, for example, says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 1 Timothy 3:16 states, "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body,was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." The Bible speaks of Jesus' Second Coming as ''the glorious appearing of our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ'' (Titus 2:13).
Jesus Himself claimed to be one with God. ''Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus is also called the Creator, the Resurrection and the Life, the Alpha and Omega, and possesses the names, attributes and titles of God. The apostle Thomas recognized Him as his Lord and his God (John 20:28). Jesus was worshiped as God. He performed miracles that only God could perform.
As C. S. Lewis wrote, ''A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else the Devil of Hell. You must take your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Consider the Miracle of Jesus' Life
Never was a man born like this man. As was prophesied approximately seven hundred years before His birth, He was born in Bethlehem of a certain tribe and family of the Jews (Micah 5:2), born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), and born at the exact time in history that the Scriptures said He would be born (Daniel 9:25, 26). An entire nation awaited His birth, something that never happened before or since to any other person in history.
Never did another man live like Him. Christ's whole life was foretold in detail: His birth, purpose, life, method of death, ministry, and resurrection. He lived the only perfect life that anyone has ever lived. All the good characteristics of all the great men that ever lived combined, could not make one Jesus. He and He alone was absolutely flawless, without sin. He asked those who hated Him to identify one sin He had committed, but they could not.
Never did another man make such stupendous, specific claims. He claimed to be the ''gate" (John 10:9), and ''the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), the only way to heaven, to the Father. He claimed to be God in the flesh (John 8:58), forgave sins as God (Matthew 9:2-8), and accepted worship as God (e.g., Mathew 28:17).
Never did another man die as this man died. As was foretold in the Bible hundreds of years before the fact, Jesus died pierced on a cross. This was an unknown method of execution when the predictions were given (see, for example, Psalm 22:16). Over three hundred predictions were literally, precisely, and perfectly fulfilled in His birth, life, death and resurrection; and about thirty of them were realized on the very day He was crucified. Some of the predictions fulfilled on that day were that He would be pierced, wounded, and bruised, that He would be given vinegar to drink, that soldiers would gamble for His clothing, that He would die with transgressors (thieves, criminals), that He would be buried, nevertheless, in a rich man's tomb, and that not one of His bones would be broken. Incredibly, every prediction was completely fulfilled! As Dr. Peter Stoner has shown in his dynamic book Science Speaks, this is powerful, irrefutable evidence. Using just eight detailed prophecies about Jesus, he shows that the chance of them being fulfilled in one man by chance alone has about the same mathematical probability as covering the state of Texas two feet deep in silver dollars with just one of those dollars marked, and then having a blindfolded person pick out the marked dollar in just one try!
Never did any other man die for such a purpose as this man. As God's Word in the Old and the New Testaments makes clear, Jesus came to die for us, to take our place, to shed His blood on the cross for us. Through His tears and His pain on the cross, Jesus said,''Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34). No one ever loved us so, and if we cannot trust Jesus, who died for us, who can we trust?
No other man ever rose from the grave, conquering death. The founders of the world's religions, Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, are all dead, their bodies have long since decayed. Only Jesus Christ arose from the grave. Only Jesus had power over death. His tomb is empty!
Arguments Against the Resurrection
Consider briefly various arguments given by some of the world's most intelligent people who have tried to deny the resurrection.
"The disciples stole the body." In truth, however, the chief priests and elders bribed the soldiers with money to say that the disciples stole the body while the soldiers were asleep (Matt. 28:11-15). The frightened disciples had fled the horrors of the cross! Would they then defy the power of Rome for a dead body? Would all the soldiers have slept simultaneously knowing that their very lives would be at stake if this had truly occurred? How could the disciples have moved among them and moved the huge rock that sealed the tomb without awakening the soldiers? Besides, if the soldiers had been asleep, how would they have known that the disciples stole the body?
''The soldiers stole the body." Why? To risk their lives? Absurd. These tormentors and persecutors of Christians could have demolished Christianity and the disciples' claims about Christ's resurrection simply by producing the body — if they had stolen it. And, if true, why would the disciples lie about the resurrection and even risk their lives for something that never happened?
''Jesus swooned, was put in the tomb while yet alive, revived, pushed the stone away, and came forth." Jesus was killed, pierced, and mutilated with a spear thrust through His side to His heart, so that the blood and water ran forth. The Roman soldiers did not even break His legs, as they did the legs of the two thieves, because He was already dead. So how could Jesus, mortally wounded, freely bleeding, and left alone for three days in a tomb, remain alive? How could He walk on nail-pierced feet, or move a huge rock with wounded hands and stagger past the soldiers without disturbing them? How could Joseph of Arimathaea, who wrapped Jesus in a clean linen cloth, not notice that He was alive? (Nicodemus and Joseph had wrapped one hundred pounds of spices around the body of Jesus in the wrapping cloth, which tended to glue and harden, so escape would have been impossible [John 19:38-42]). It takes far more faith to believe nonsense like the swoon theory, than to simply believe the truth. Jesus arose from the dead!
''The disciples suffered from hallucinations: they wanted to see Jesus so much that they had a vision of Him." In that case the soldiers must have had hallucinations also. Otherwise, how can one explain the angels and the empty tomb? The fact remains, the body of Jesus Christ was gone! Besides that, imagine five hundred people having the same hallucination at the same time in broad daylight (1 Corinthians 15:6). For people prone to hallucinations, the hallucinations usually increase in intensity and frequency, but the very opposite happened when Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after appearing to His disciples. The fact is that the disciples saw the risen Christ, and went forth to tell the good news. They were freed from doubt and fear of death and rejoiced to suffer shame and even death for Jesus Christ. Nothing can account for the dramatic sudden change in their lives except the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Several other speculations attempt to explain away the resurrection, such as mistaken identity, the body dissolving into gas, and the disciples going to the wrong tomb. But these efforts are futile, foolish, and factually unfounded.
Let us carefully consider a few more facts about the resurrection. Jesus Christ was undeniably dead. The Roman centurion was an expert on death. He was made a centurion not only for his bravery in battle, but also his effectiveness in killing the enemy, as well as his astuteness. One of his tasks, as pointed out by a lawyer-pastor friend, Dr. Bob Topartzer, was to check on the dead after a battle to see if they were really dead, or just feigning death. In Mark 15:44, Pilate, recognizing this expertise, asked the centurion about how long Jesus had been dead. The centurion had examined Jesus. He knew He was dead. The soldiers knew Jesus was dead. They did not even break his legs. (And thus unwittingly fulfilled prophecy! Not a bone of Him was to be broken! — see Psalm 34:20.) Remember, as we pointed out previously, one soldier had thrust a spear into His side, rupturing the heart sac, and blood and water had run forth. The disciples knew He was dead. They had heard Him say He would die and rise again, and the horror of His death had begun to cause them to despair. The women, including Jesus' mother, knew He was dead. Later they brought spices to embalm the body. Pilate knew He was dead, as did the Jewish officials. They demanded a seal for His tomb. Joseph of Arimathaea knew He was dead, as did Nicodemus. They are the ones who took the body and wrapped it in linen with 100 pounds of spices, and put it in Joseph's tomb. Jesus was dead.
Jesus Christ was undeniably buried in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathaea. Joseph knew Jesus was buried — it was his tomb. Nicodemus knew it. He helped Joseph of Arimathaea bury Jesus. The women knew it (Mark 15:47). They watched His burial. The soldiers knew it. Their very lives depended on the body staying in the tomb. It would be exceedingly naive to believe that they did not thoroughly check the body before they sealed the tomb. Jesus was buried.
That leaves only one real alternative. Resurrection. The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The tomb was empty and it remains empty today!
Think of it! The disciples were proclaiming the resurrection of one condemned as a criminal. They proclaimed this at a time when Jerusalem was believed to be crowded with up to a million people. They grew bolder and bolder in declaring the message, especially after Pentecost. Bible scholars estimate that at least 125,000 Jews were converted to Christ in Jerusalem the first year after the resurrection! The evidence, the empty tomb, was right there!
The disciples knew all Jerusalem was thoroughly aware of the crucifixion of Jesus and His burial. By publicly declaring that He had conquered death and had risen from the tomb, they virtually dared any skeptic, anyone, friend or foe, to walk the short distance to the tomb and see for themselves! No one could deny that the body had been in the tomb. No one could say that Jesus Christ had not been dead and buried. No one, even the most bitter enemies of Christ, tried! They would have been branded as fools. Jesus had been dead. He had been buried in the tomb. Now the body was gone. The tomb was empty. Both the friends and enemies of Christ agreed on this. They had no other choice. It was an established fact. Thousands could verify it then. Millions can and have since. The tomb is still empty.
The appearances of Jesus Christ, again and again, to the disciples, to the women, to over 500 people at once, solidified the evidence.
Over 500 people watched the ascension of Jesus Christ into the clouds (compare Luke 24:33 with Luke 24:50-51, 1 Corinthians 15:6 and Acts 1:9). This event had to have happened or it would never have been included in the scriptures. Many of the disciples, many of the 500 who were there were still alive when these scriptures were written. They would have denied the ascension of Jesus and destroyed the credibility of the Bible, had the event never occurred. They knew. They were there!
The event foreshadowed and predicted in the Old Testament hundreds of years before had come to pass. Not only the death, but the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Among many other things, it was foretold in Isaiah 53 that Jesus would die in intense suffering for others, but in other scriptures it was plainly declared that He would reign forever. Impossible ... without the resurrection, which is exactly what was being predicted. In Leviticus 14:1-7, God directed that a bird was to be killed in sacrifice, picturing Christ's death on the cross, and the blood of that bird was to be sprinkled on a living bird which then was to be set free! The living bird symbolized Christ's resurrection! This was a picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Then Jesus Himself told His disciples that He would die and rise again the third day. He did.
Another tremendous testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is found in Leviticus 23:9-11 as explained in 1 Corinthians 15:20. In Leviticus God instructs the children of Israel to remember that when they begin to reap the harvest, they are to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest to the priest. The priest was to wave the sheaf of firstfruits ''on the day after the Sabbath" (Leviticus 23:11), to be accepted as an offering for them. 1 Corinthians 15:20 informs us that the firstfruits is Christ. The Jewish Sabbath was Saturday! The ''day after the Sabbath'' is Sunday! It was God's way of introducing a new day honoring the resurrected Christ! God had given very specific instructions to the Jews concerning keeping the Sabbath. It was part of the covenant with God, of the whole Sabbath structure involving letting the land lay idle one year out of seven. This included the Jubilee year, measured by seven times seven, or 49 Sabbatical years. Debts were rescinded, houses and possessions returned, servants set free in this glorious fiftieth year. The loss of any part of the structure decimated the whole. The Sabbath was given particularly to the Jews. Death could be the penalty for breaking it, or not observing it. The fact that converted Jews risked their lives by celebrating Sunday in place of Saturday is a strong witness to the resurrection of Christ!
Special celebration days have historical significance. We celebrate July 4 in honor of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. July 4 celebrates a historical fact. So it is with other special days. As Josh McDowell correctly points out, ''Sunday is the only day that celebrates a historical fact 52 days a year!" That fact is the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
As we have said, one of the powerful testimonies to the fact of the resurrection of Christ is that thousands of Jews, at the risk of all they owned, even of their lives, began to worship God on a new day, Sunday! Jews were the first converts. Imagine the courage and conviction it took for them to step out and change their day. This was done in spite of centuries of Sabbath keeping, in spite of families and loved ones, in spite of certain loss. Nothing can account for this change but the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All of this brings us to the indisputable fact that the disciples were transformed from mice to martyrs by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Does it make sense that they suffer the loss of homes, families, and careers for a lie? Why would they suffer loneliness, hunger, cold, and torture and death, for a lie? Why would they even rejoice in their losses, and die rejoicing? They had everything to lose, and nothing to gain, unless the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fact! Nearly all, if not all, of the disciples of Jesus Christ died a martyr's death. They knew the truth about His death and resurrection. Since then, it is estimated that some 66 million Christians have been martyred for Christ.
The fact is the disciples saw the risen Christ, and flamed forth to tell the good news. They were freed from doubt and fear of death and rejoiced to suffer shame and even death for Jesus Christ. Nothing can account for the dramatic, sudden change in their lives except the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ! They saw Him. Jesus conquered death. His claims are true!
The Miracle of Changed Lives
No man can change lives like Jesus Christ. ''Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Saul, the religious bigot and murderer, became Paul, the mighty missionary for Jesus Christ as a result of an encounter on the Damascus road with the risen Christ. This same life-changing conversion has happened to millions since; to those who have put their trust in Him. I have never met a prostitute, or an alcoholic, or a drug addict who has said to me, ''I met George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln, the other day, and he changed my life!'' But I have met many in these categories who have said, ''I met Jesus Christ the other day, and He changed my life!'' Why? Because He is alive!
One night in Anchorage I counseled Ed Perry. Ed was a very heavy drinker, a rough, ungodly man. A professing agnostic, he was embittered by a physical tragedy in the family. He was also a former semi-pro football player. When I finally got an opportunity to talk alone with him he firmly resisted the Gospel.
To Ed's and my surprise, I abruptly interrupted our verbal sparring and said, ''Ed Perry, you are going to be saved in five minutes." I marched over to his side, opened the Bible, and showed Ed how to become a Christian. Ed was saved, his bitterness gone forever, and his whole pattern of life radically changed. If you find this story hard to believe, ask the Rev. Ed Perry, now a pastor in Everett, Washington. Ed could add many other things to this story. His life was sick with sin and shame until Jesus delivered him. What else or who else can change a man like that but Christ!
Consider another miracle: Josh McDowell was a brilliant young man. However, he had a very sad childhood and was an unhappy young man. His father was a town drunk. His friends laughed at his father's drunken escapades. When Josh's friends came over, he would even take his father out to the barn and tie him up. Then he would park the car near the silo and tell his friends his father was not home! While laughing on the outside, Josh cringed on the inside. In a small town, few things are worse than having your father be the town alcoholic.
Josh was generally an angry young man, but he especially hated his father. On one occasion he had seen his mother lying in the manure behind the cows in the barn. Josh's father had beaten her so badly that she could not even stand up. One can only imagine the rage and hate that filled Josh's heart.
Slowly the years passed. Josh went off to college and met some genuine born-again Christians. He saw in them something for which his hungry heart longed, yet his intellect was not ready to accept. So Josh purposed to ''intellectually refute" Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He dug determinedly into the evidence. The battle for his mind and heart was monumental. Finally, convinced but still reluctant, Josh did what he felt was the only honest thing he could do. While alone in his room, he invited Jesus Christ into his heart and life on December 19, 1959 at 8:30 p.m. It was a quiet unemotional conversion, based on evidence and the reality of the risen Christ. But what began as a relatively uneventful conversion, later became an explosive transformation. Josh tells of debating the head of the history department at a midwestern university when the professor challenged him to name some concrete changes Christ had made in his life. Forty-five minutes later the professor asked him to stop!
Some of the changes that Jesus Christ has made in Josh McDowell's life include taking away his fierce temper and giving deep peace to his restless mind, and replacing his insecurity with assurance. God also gave Josh a passion to reach other people for Jesus Christ.
Josh experienced another astonishing change after he had accepted Christ. Slowly but surely God began to replace the burning hatred in his heart for his father. About five months after receiving Christ, the love of Christ so overpowered Josh that he looked his father in the eye and told him, ''Dad, I love you!"
Sometime later when Josh was at home his father came into his room and asked Josh how he could possibly love a father like him? Josh told his dad that just six months earlier he had despised him! Then Josh told him how Jesus Christ had come into his life. He told his dad that Jesus had turned his hate into love, and that now he truly loved his dad. Forty-five minutes later, Josh experienced one of the greatest thrills of his life. His father, who had known Josh and his hatred, simply said, ''Son, if God can do in my life what I've seen Him do in yours, then I want to give Him the opportunity." Then and there a miracle occurred. Josh's alcoholic dad prayed with him, and trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior. The life of Josh's father changed from night to day. No longer was he an alcoholic. He was truly a new creature in Christ.
Since then Josh McDowell has become internationally famous. Some of his books such as Evidence That Demands a Verdict and More Evidence That Demands a Verdict are classics and contain a mass of historical evidence of the Christian faith and Scriptures. Josh has spoken in more than six hundred universities. He has debated skeptics, atheists, and unbelieving religious leaders all over the world.
Herbert VanderLugt shares another thrilling story of the transformation Christ can make in a person's life:
I had no idea what my grandson meant when he told me he wanted a Transformer. Then he explained that it is a toy that can be changed from robot to tank to truck and back to robot again. Seeing one helped me understand how it got its name. But it also made me think about life's ultimate transformation — the one that Jesus Christ produces in the lives of all who trust Him. Oscar Cervantes is a dramatic example of Christ's power to transform lives. As a child, Oscar began to get into trouble. Then as he got older, he was jailed 17 times for brutal crimes. Prison psychiatrists said he was beyond help. But they were wrong! During a brief interval of freedom, Oscar met an elderly man who told him about Jesus. He placed his trust in the Lord and was changed into a kind, caring man. Shortly afterward he started a prison ministry. Chaplain H.C. Warwick describes it this way: "The third Saturday night of each month is 'Oscar Night' at Soledad. Inmates come to hear Oscar and they sing gospel songs with fervor; they sit intently for over 2 hours; they come freely to the chapel altar ... What professionals had failed to do for Oscar in years of counseling, Christ did in a moment of conversion." In Mark 5 we read that Jesus Christ turned a raging, demon-possessed maniac into a docile, normal man. The same power that changed the maniac and Oscar Cervantes is available to all who trust Jesus. He is the Master Transformer. Has He changed you?
As Josh McDowell has pointed out in his dynamic book, More Than a Carpenter, Jesus Christ had to have been either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord God. It is impossible that Jesus Christ was a liar. He was the epitome of honesty, and demanded that people be honest at any cost. Everything He said came true. He gave His own life for what He said was true.
He was no lunatic. Rather He was the essence of sanity and tranquility under intense pressure, false accusations, persecution, and death. His impeccable character and serene demeanor negate this possibility.
The only other viable alternative? Jesus Christ was and is the Lord God! Tens of millions have testified that Christ has changed their lives, answered their deepest needs, satisfied their longings, and given them peace. These transformed individuals include former White House special counsel Chuck Colson, scientists Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. Duane Gish, pro football players Steve Largent and Roosevelt Grier, former Dallas Cowboy head coach Tom Landry, ice skater Janet Lynn, pro basketball player ''Dr. J." Julius Erving, scholar Josh McDowell, some sixty-six million martyrs who have been tortured and slain for Jesus, and millions of other ''ordinary" people. From them and others the cry of praise goes up, ''Jesus died for me, and I love Him, and He is alive. He loves me, He has saved me, He dwells in me, and He has changed my life!" Has He changed your life?
D. L. Moody was a powerful evangelist for the Lord Jesus Christ. God used him to rock two continents for Christ. Once he was asked if he had ''dying grace." Moody replied that he did not. He said in effect that he had living grace. But he added that when the time came to die, he would have dying grace. Indeed he did.
Many years later, as Moody began to die he said triumphantly, ''Heaven is opening ... earth is receding ... Jesus is coming."
Dear friend, which way do you want to die? With Jesus Christ, life can be beautiful, and death ushers in a glorious new world for you. What does death hold for you?
We have appealed both to your heart and mind. We can do no more. We cannot possibly verbalize the glory and wonder of Jesus Christ, but if the Holy Spirit of God takes this stumbling effort and reveals the reality of Christ to you so that you want Him, we will be happy beyond words. Only God's Spirit can reveal Christ to you, and then only if you are willing to see. Jesus warns, now is the day of salvation. Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Perhaps, as you read you felt either vaguely or acutely uncomfortable. You may have felt ''pressured." It is hard to do a ''soft sell'' to awaken your wife and child when you know the house is on fire. Paul Revere had little time for social chitchat on his wild night ride, however less offensive it might have been. The message was urgent, and far more so is the message of the Cross.
When I was in the Navy and suicide planes were attacking us off Okinawa, I noticed a peculiar reaction, much like that of Pavlov's dog. We had a buzzer which signaled the alert for action time and time again. After awhile, we sailors experienced knots in the pit of our stomachs, dry mouths, and intense reactions when the buzzer sounded, usually long before planes were sighted. We began to actually resent the buzzer! Yet had we put ear plugs in our ears, or ignored the buzzer we would have been killed. Many times our instant response to the buzzer got us in position to defend our ship and our lives before the enemy came. The buzzer was our best friend and actually startled us into saving our lives.
The gospel shocks one out of his mental or moral apathy. One can then either apply ear plugs, ignore the alarm of conviction, the nagging uneasiness, or quickly respond and honestly confront and accept the risen Christ, who secures us against all enemies. Sometimes there is but one alarm, and it may be but faintly heard amidst the strident clamor of the world. Please don't ignore the alarm.
No one ever cared for you like Jesus! Religion won't do. I've led Bible teachers, Bible School graduates, even missionaries, to Christ or to assurance of their salvation. Only knowing Him will ever really satisfy and suffice.
In a way, it's much like the little boy who was being derided by an atheist because he was so happy that his alcoholic Dad had accepted Christ. The atheist chided the boy for being so naive as to believe the myth of the Bible and that old-fashioned stuff about being ''saved." He closed his statement by exclaiming, ''Boy, you're dreaming!" The boy replied aptly, ''Sir, Dad used to come home and beat and kick me. I'd hide in terror when I heard him come staggering home. He cursed and beat my dear Mom and we were often cold and hungry and short of clothes, and Mother cried a lot. Now Dad buys nice clothes for Mother, and kisses and hugs her. He takes me on his lap and tells me stories and tells me he loves me. Our home is warm and snug and we all love Jesus. Sir, if I'm dreaming, please don't wake me up!"
Friend, Jesus frees us from enemies more subtle and deadly than alcohol, doubt, insecurity, hopelessness, dread, fear, anguish, purposelessness and uncertainty. He frees us from sin and Hell. Through Him you can know and experience abundant life.
In writing this book I have one desire — to point you to Jesus now! It was His heartbeat you felt, my friend, and from the bloody cross, the empty tomb, and now at your heart's door He pleads with you. Eternity — one heartbeat away — so long, so endless. ''Let me into your heart and life. I, Jesus Christ love you!"
Just in case it is still not clear exactly how to be saved, how to accept Jesus, to genuinely believe on Him, and know for sure that you have been saved, please read the next chapter, Acting on the Evidence.
One Solitary Life
Nearly two thousand years ago in an obscure village, a child was born of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village where He worked as a carpenter until He was thirty. Then for three years He became an itinerant preacher.
This Man never went to college or seminary. He never wrote a book. He never held a public office. He never had a family or owned a home. He never put His foot inside a big city nor traveled even two hundred miles from His birthplace. And though He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness, throngs of people followed Him. He had no credentials but Himself.
While He was still young, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His followers ran away. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was sentenced to die on a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth — the simple coat He had worn. His body was laid in a borrowed grave provided by a compassionate friend.
But three days later this Man arose from the dead — living proof that He was, as He had claimed, the Savior whom God had sent, the incarnate Son of God.
Nearly twenty centuries have come and gone and today the risen Lord Jesus Christ is the central figure of the human race. On our calendars His birth divides history into two eras. One day of every week is set aside in remembrance of Him. And our two most important holidays celebrate His birth and resurrection. On church steeples around the world His cross has become the symbol of victory over sin and death.
This one Man's life has furnished the theme for more songs, books, poems, and paintings than any other person or event in history. Thousands of colleges, hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions have been founded in honor of this One who gave His life for us.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the governments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned have not changed the course of history as much as this one solitary life.
Over the centuries millions have found a new life of forgiveness from sins and peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Today He offers this life to all who will believe. ''I am the way and the truth and the life," Jesus said, ''No man comes to the Father, except through me." 'I tell you the turth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 14:6; 5:24).
Has the Lord Jesus Christ changed your life? Ask Him ... Trust Him ... He Will!
Weighing the Evidence
We have briefly stated some of the compelling evidence for the Bible and for Jesus Christ. Can we identify Jesus Christ beyond a shadow of a doubt as being who He claimed to be? Please consider the evidence one more time. God will not force you to believe. You must make that final choice. But to fail to act on that evidence will haunt you for a billion years in Hell, and that breaks my heart for you.
When I was a sailor, I had several ''blind dates.'' Suppose for this particular blind date, I agree to meet her at the Greyhound Bus Station, 464 Liberty Street, tonight at 8:00 p.m. She tells me she is one-legged, and wears a peg-leg on her left leg which she has painted florescent yellow with a blinking red light built in it to keep folks from stumbling over it. She also has a matching florescent yellow patch over her right eye which she lost in the same accident in which she lost her leg. Also, she is missing the little finger on her right hand. She will wear a pink stocking on her good leg and a maroon and white saddle oxford on her one good foot. She will wear a green hat and a lavender dress and will carry a purple purse. She says she is five feet tall and weighs about 200 hundred pounds. Do you honestly think I would have any trouble identifying the right girl at the Greyhound Bus Station at 8:00 p.m.?
Remember, the time of Jesus Christ's birth was foretold centuries in advance (Daniel 9:24-26). This does away with the otherwise possible objection that is sometimes made that one could make any prophecy and something would eventually occur which could be labeled as the fulfillment of that prophecy. The time element destroys this objection.
I gave only 13 or 14 identification marks concerning my blind date. However, the chances are millions to one against there being another girl with these same identifying characteristics in that particular bus station at 8:00 p.m.! God gave 333 marks of identification for Jesus, concerning His birth, death and resurrection. Each mark of identification was fulfilled perfectly in Jesus, so there could be no doubt about identifying Him when He came, and verifying His identity now that He has come! Remember, everything Christ said came true. He said Hell was real and forever, just as Heaven is. A million years from now you will be somewhere. Will it be in Heaven or in Hell?
Every prophecy of the Bible is always accurately, literally fulfilled. To get the full impact of this, suppose some prognosticator predicted 100 things that would happen to you in the coming year. Many of these predictions are very detailed. The first prediction is that you will stub your toe on a chair leg on January 1st at 12:35 a.m., just past midnight. You will fall on a glass on the kitchen table, which will shatter and cut a U-shaped wound in your chin. This jagged wound will require 13 stitches. It will be sewn up by a new doctor in town named McGuire, your doctor being unavailable at the time. To your chagrin and amazement, when January 1st comes, this is exactly what happens, right down to the smallest detail!
Then, throughout the year, 99 of these prophecies are literally, actually, perfectly fulfilled in every detail; 99 of the 100, with one more to go! This last prophecy is for the last day of the year. It declares that if you drive downtown to Fifth and Main at 5:00 p.m. you will be in a fiery car crash that will leave you blind and crippled and badly burned. You will be in excruciating pain. You will be hospitalized for six months and then die.
Tell me, would you deliberately drive down to Fifth and Main at 5:00 p.m. on the last day of the year if you had a choice? Would you consider it a safe, sane, intelligent risk when 99 prophecies have come true without a failure, which would be virtually impossible mathematically by chance alone?
Let's round the Bible prophecies off to 100, 99 of which have already been perfectly fulfilled. The 100th prophecy is that if you ignore or refuse to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you will die without hope and spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, spoken of in Revelation 20 as the destiny of the lost. A billion years from now your agony and despair and lostness from His love will have barely begun. Since all the other Bible prophecies have come true in literal and absolute fact, would it be intelligent to gamble your destiny forever that this last and final prophecy will not also come true?
Dear friend, it is so good to have Jesus and His abundant life and peace even now, in this life, as well as settling your eternal destiny forever to be sure of being in Heaven with Him! How unutterably sweet it is to have your sins forgiven, to be saved and know it, to lay your head on your pillow at night absolutely sure that you will be in Heaven with Jesus forever.
Jesus loves you so much. He proved it on the bloody cross when He died for you and me in our place. Read the next chapter very carefully in order to know how to be saved forever and to be sure of it. Do it now! Nothing in this world is so urgent, or so important. Turn now to chapter two, ''Acting on the Evidence.''