Full text of apologist and bestselling author Ravi Zacharias’s sermon titled “Why I Believe Jesus”
Best quotes from this sermon:
“Take a look at your heart. You know why? On the day you see your heart is desperately wicked in need of a savior, you could become an answer rather than just another question.”
“Time is the canvas on which you present your portrait. Eternity is the key hole that takes you into the gallery that gives you the whole story.”
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Ravi Zacharias – Apologist & Bestselling author
And when you look at the story of Jesus and encounter with Pilate in John 18, Pilate asks him the most important question he could have ever asked. He said “What is truth?” And walked away.
Imagine that, imagine that, standing in front of him, who claimed to be “The Way, The Truth, And The Life.”
And Jesus had said to him, “They that on the side of truth, listen to me.”
And so to you this afternoon, I want to present a message within the time that I have allocated here. And the message is: Why do I believe Jesus Christ to be The Way, The Truth, And The Life?”
I have written a lot on the subject. I’ve written a book on this called Jesus Among Other Gods. I’ve written one called Why Jesus? — none of that material am I bringing to you here today. I’m just taking some existentially relevant ideas that I hope will form the impetus within your life to carry this message everywhere you go.
You see, truth is generally measured, tell us the philosophers in three ways: logical consistency; empirical adequacy; and experiential relevance. Is what you are saying logically consistent? Is it empirically verifiable? Is it experientially relevant?
So there’s consistency, verifiability and relevance. May I just take the third of these on the relevance of the message of Jesus and talk to you little bit about it.
Number one: Is this description of the human condition? No one, no one describes your heart and my heart more accurately than the person of Jesus Christ.
You know, it’s yesterday; I was talking to a young woman who comes from a completely different faith from a different part of this world. And as she was talking to me, she said to me, I never believed in God because of my faith in the icon that I believed in before. She said, now, all of a sudden in following Jesus Christ, I have seen my heart in a way I have never seen it before.
It was in the 1980s during the Cold War that I had been invited to Warsaw, Poland. It was grim, cloudy; it was cold. The Soviet presence already there very much so in the early eighties. And I was taken to another city where I was speaking to the Polish gathering.
And one day, a man by the medical doctor said to me, “Ravi, have you ever been to Auschwitz?”
I said to him, “Yes, I’ve been to some concentration camps, Buchenwald and Dachau?”
He said, “No, no, no, no, this is a death camp. Have you ever been to a death camp?”
I said, “I don’t think so.”
He said, “Let me take you there.” So we drove.
Emotionally I was totally unprepared for what I was going to see. Totally unprepared, because Buchenwald, Dachau and all, as much as they show you something, doesn’t show you what Auschwitz does.
And as I walked in there, from room to room, the only response — the only response is pin drop silence. You see the pictures of young boys that had been castrated by Mengele, standing there as twins, photograph like this with skeletons and their skin tied, taught around them, vacant, empty eyes.
And you look at what the most educated generation then did to humanity. In one room, there was 14,000 pounds of women’s hair stashed behind glass. When the women were taken into the gas ovens, they were stripped of their hair, which was then put into sacks and sold in the marketplace to make money out of all of this — 14,000 pounds of that hair still remained behind glass.
They were being exterminated in Auschwitz at the rate of 12,000 every day. They’d be stripped naked and taken into the gas rooms, which they were told were actually their showers. And they’d be so tightly packed against each other flesh to flesh already, just skin and bones. And they would not know what was coming. They were told they were going to get their first shower and all this while — shaven, bald, standing shoulder to shoulder and the spigots would be turned on, and the gas would start to descend and somebody would scream, “Gas!” Another 12,000 shoveled out of there.
And I remember walking out of there thinking to myself: This is what we are capable of — even listening to the best music under the world and going to the highest educational system.
But I missed something in that. You see ladies and gentlemen, the problem of evil is not so much that it’s so pervasive and so strong out there, but the fact that it is deep inside your heart and mind too.
Viktor Frankl who served twice in Auschwitz as a prisoner says this: “If we present man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of heredity and environment, we will feed the nihilism to which he is already prone. I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazis liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’” — Listen to the statement – “I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”
The Theory of Relativism today is being presented in the highest institutes of our learning, producing a whole generation of young men and women who no longer believe that there are absolutes. That’s where it’s happening.
The early stages of corruption may be behind lecterns, the end stages is the devaluation, the dehumanization, the denigration, and ultimately the desensitization of your conscience of mind.
One of my great heroes was a man called Malcolm Muggeridge. In the early days of my conversion, I started reading Muggeridge because he was a brilliant user of language in a way I had never read anybody else. Muggeridge himself was a late comer to Jesus Christ, possibly the greatest British journalist of the 20th century, a toss up between him and GK Chesterton. Both of them who ended up becoming moralist philosophers.
I had the privilege of being with Muggeridge just a nine months before he died at his home in England and spending one of the finest afternoons I’d ever spent in my life. As he talked of his younger days and his own wanderings, and we talked about the incident I’m not going to mention to you.
When he was a young professor of journalism in India, he loved the Indian people. He stepped out of his quarters one morning and went into the river to swim. And as he was swimming at dawn way out in the distance, he saw the silhouetted figure of a woman getting into the river far away from him.
And he was a lustful type of individual. He decided he would make a go for her. Started to swim in her direction. And he said “In his heart, there was a voice telling him, ‘no, don’t; no don’t’.” But he said, “I smothered that voice and swam as hard as I could in her direction. And as I came closer and closer, the woman herself, of course, probably by this point, stunned that someone was invading her privacy, especially as she saw a white man emerged from the waters.”
And as he shook the water off his face, all he could see was a woman covering herself like that. And he said, “I was shocked that I was looking into the face and the body of a woman with leprosy.” Her fingers were gone; her nostrils were gone. Her lips were gone. Arise, looked almost like a gargoyle pairing out of a wall somewhere. And Muggeridge said, I was on the verge of saying, ‘what a horrible, ugly woman’, till he said, I paused and realized, no, I’ve got this wrong.
It wasn’t a horrible, ugly woman. It was this horrible, ugly heart with which I was living.
Take the whole issue of pornography today, making its billions with supposedly the most beautiful human beings on the face of the earth, stirring up within you the ugliest passions you can ever have. Passions that no human being can never fulfill; no human being can ever fulfill because it takes away the possibility of the impact of a person and puts in its place a feeling, a desire as the supreme pursuit, to which you go, which no person can ultimately satisfy.
That’s what the Bible talks about: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life. Jesus describes your heart and mind perfectly when he says the heart is sinful and desperately wicked above all things.
Do you know when the philosopher Nietzsche in 1900, before he died at the age of 54, said, “God is dead in the 19th century.” And then he went on to say, “a universal madness will break out in the 20th century. And the 20th century will become the bloodiest century in history.” He made the pronouncement, both of which took place. He took the first step in the last 13 years of his life: he spent insane.
And in the 20th century, we killed more people on the battlefield than the previous 19 put together and the weapons of warfare are piling up.
Take a look at your heart. You know why? On the day you see your heart is desperately wicked in need of a savior, you could become an answer rather than just another question.
Description of my condition, the provision for my malady. This is the only answer in the world that offers you a savior. The only answer in the world that offers you a savior.
Some years ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the United Nations Prayer Breakfast. They asked me to speak on the search for absolutes in a relativistic culture. Now that’s a tough subject for anywhere. And especially in the early hours of the morning, just about before breakfast, to speak to people from so many countries and walk, very cautiously it was a toughie. You can’t come in your face. You have to take about 16 minutes or so, 15 minutes to talk in terms of general understanding. And the last two to three minutes, bring an answer from the Christian perspective.
So I said this to them. I said there are four areas in which you look for absolutes: evil, justice, love and forgiveness. Evil, justice, love and forgiveness.
I said, you talk about evil empires when you get together here, what do you mean by that? You look for just society. What do you mean by justice? You leave your loved ones back home, and you are here and you miss them. You know what love is all about, especially when you miss your loved one so much, and then you are going to — some of you are going to blow it, you’ll make mistakes and you’ll want to be forgiven — evil, justice, love and forgiveness.
They were listening at the edge of their seats. I said, I have just two, three minutes left. I want to ask you this question: Where in the world that these four converge at a moment in history? Where did evil, justice, love and forgiveness converge at a moment in history?
I said, “Can I take you to a hill called Calvary and show you the person of Jesus Christ who shows you the evil in your heart and mine, who was just, and the justifier, who loved us so greatly to give himself for us.” And he said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” The person of Jesus Christ.
You know what? When I finished that talk as the ambassadors lined up, one of the ambassadors came to me and he said, “Mr. Zacharias, I come from an atheistic country. I don’t want to be here. My president commanded that I come here and every day I wake up and I wonder, what am I doing here? Why am I here?” He said, “Today, I have found my answer. I came here to find God and to find Jesus Christ in my life.”
One more, one more simple illustration — years ago, I had the privilege of being at a gathering in Ramallah, in Jerusalem, talking to one of the four founders of Hamas. I was taken by some friends and he was agitated. He’d served years in prison, solidly built guy. He’d lost several of his children. And at the end of it, one of the leader — the leader of our group asked if each one of us five had a question for him — because it was some private meeting I won’t tell you what my question was. And nor will I tell you his answer.
But when he finished answering, I looked at him and I said, “Sheikh, I don’t like your answer. I really don’t like your answer.” I said, “But let me tell you something. And you and I may never see each other again, not far from where you and I are sitting is a hill. 3000 years ago, a man by the name of Abraham, took his son up that hill. Please let’s not debate right now, which son it was.”
And he just looked at me.
I said, “We know he took his son up that hill to offer him as a sacrifice of his faith in God. And just as the ax is about to come down, God says, ‘stop, stop, I myself will provide.’” I said, “Do you remember that story?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “We are sitting very close to another hill. 2000 years ago, God took his own son up there and provided what he promised He would. Sheikh, my comment to you is this: until you and I receive the son that God has provided, we will be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for position, for power and for land and for prestige?”
He just looked at me, and the Archbishop who was leading the delegation figured it was time to go.
So I was walking away about to go down the stairs and the Archbishop put his arm around me. He said, “Ravi, I thought, Oh, here it comes.” He said, “That was of God.”
I said, I sure hope so.
And we walked out, and since the Archbishop was the guest of honor, the Sheikh was bidding goodbye to him. But suddenly I saw him running towards me and he turned me around — solidly built guy. And with two titanium rods in my back, I figured I was going to be history. He patted me on my face, kissed me on both sides of my face. And he said to me, “Mr. Zacharias, you’re a good man. I hope I will see you again someday.” And I saw him wipe that tear away.
Do you know what’s going on in the Middle East today? A lot. Can I simplify it to one statement? It’s 3000 years of history and the logic of unforgiveness. 3000 years, or more than that, 5,000 years of history and the logic of unforgiveness.
And what I want to say to you is this: Forgiveness is so easily spoken of. You ask a Buddhist or a Hindu: what do you know about forgiveness? You know what they’ll say to you… karma, karma, karma. I pay my debt. I have to pay.
You ask a Muslim: Do you know you’re going to enter Paradise? He will say, no, I’m never certain; my good deeds will have to outweigh my bad deeds.
These are not pejorative statements. These are doctrinally legitimate statements of what they believe: you pay; you pay; you pay.
Christ offers you forgiveness by paying the penalty himself. And so the elementary school teacher writes this:
He came to my desk with a quivering lip
the lesson was done.
“Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted
and gave him a new one all unspotted.
And into his tired heart I cried,
“Do better now, my child.”
I went came to the throne with a trembling heart;
the day was done.
“Have you a new day for me, dear Master?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
He took my day, all soiled and blotted
and gave me a new one all unspotted.
And into my tired heart he cried,
“Do better now, my child.”
God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is his provision for you and for me.
Thirdly, his equipment in suffering. His equipment in suffering. I wrote a book along with my colleague from Oxford Vince Vitale, it’s called Why Suffering. And one of my chapters included how the various other worldviews deal with suffering. There are no answers there; there are no answers there.
But you turn to the gospel writers and you turn to the teachings of Jesus who reminds you and me that he took our suffering, took our wounds, took our transgressions. And not only that, how he equips us, how he empowers us, how he indwells us in order to be able to walk through this lonely life and through this journey.
You may be feeling some pain today. I don’t know what it is. It may be a relationship that is just broken. It may be lines you have crossed. It may be physical maladies that you’re nurturing. It may be financial struggles. It may be your home that you’re weeping over and struggle to find some positive responses in a time like this.
Suffering is a real part of life. We feel it again and again, and again. Prior to my first back surgery, after I injured my back, I remember the days I would sit in my car and pull over into a parking spot and put my head on the steering wheel and just cry my heart out with the agony, with which I was having to live and traveling wasn’t helping me any.
Pain is a terrible thing. And you take that pain into your heart, it becomes almost unbearable at that point. And life is punctuated by suffering.
But I want to tell you something that no other worldview will give to you this response. I want you to listen to me very, very carefully. This is written by James Stewart of Scotland. Brilliant thought.
“It is a glorious phrase that our Lord led captivity captive. The very triumphs of his foes, it means he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to subserve his ends, not theirs. They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act, they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne. They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that at that very moment, they were lifting up all the gates of the universe to let the King of glory come in. They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men, the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had God with his back to the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated. They did not know it was God himself who had tracked them down to that point. He conquered not in spite of the dark mystery of evil; He conquered through it.”
He conquered not in spite of the dark mystery of evil, He conquered through it.
Through the process of suffering, you realize how finite you are and how desperately you need the very presence of God to carry you through.
The hymn writer, Annie Johnson Flint, who was orphaned early in life. And then later on had rheumatoid arthritis, lost control over internal organs, became incontinent, blind and cancer invaded her body. Her biography is called The Making of The Beautiful – orphaned, incontinent, arthritic, cancerous, blind. She wrote many hymns. One of them was this:
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundaries known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again
As I talk to you, there’s a gentleman who may be listening right now, stunned a few days ago to find out he has got a tumor in his brain that may be an operable with his young family. And I was talking to him on the phone just two days ago. And as he wept, he said, Ravi, I’d love to live a little longer. I really would love to live a little longer.
But as I’m here talking to you, I want whatever God wants for me and want him to walk through this valley through this shadow as I walk through these dark days.
I don’t know what you’re going through, but I want you to know Christ in you is that hope for glory, Christ in you that can turn the darkest disappointments into his appointment to conquer, not in spite of it, but to conquer through it.
So here it is, he describes your condition, provides for your malady, provides equipment in suffering, fourthly, and quickly: How He bridges time.
Please listen to me, because my final point is on the verge of starting and it will be important: How He Bridges Time. The existentialist lives for the moment, the traditionalist lives for the past, the utopianist lives for the future, the existentialist for the present, the utopianist for the future, the traditionalist for the past.
And as I look at what Jesus did for you and for me: He took bread. And when he broke it, go back, go back for a moment. Existentialist for the moment, traditionalist for the past, utopianist for the future. He took bread and broke it. He said, “As often as you eat of this bread and drink of this cup, now you proclaim the Lord’s death in the past until he come in the future.” He gave meaning to all of time.
You see, time is the canvas on which you present your portrait. Eternity is the key hole that takes you into the gallery that gives you the whole story.
You may just think it’s your story right now. One day you will look through the keyhole of eternity and see his entire plan. Just as the men on Emmaus road had all of history opened up to them.
And when were their eyes opened? When He broke that bread, and suddenly all history was opened up to them.
Young people, don’t forget the past. Don’t just live for the moment. Make sure you engage the future. All of history is fused with His meaning because history is ultimately His story. It’s His story.
And I bring you then to the final. And that is the entire truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And I want to take you through three simple thoughts here. First, the people that He transformed. Number two, what it means for you and me, and number three, how it applies to history.
So please give me your undivided attention. Now I want you to follow me. This is critical that we understand that the resurrection is not merely a motif, how it defines all of history. So the first thing I want to say to you is precisely the transformation of just even three lives, forget the others — Peter, Peter, the fluctuating ever impulsive Peter. He said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God”
And Jesus said to him, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
But as soon as that was said, and Jesus told him about the cross and what lay ahead, Peter wanted to have nothing to do with that. Here he goes again, fluctuating, fluctuating, fluctuating — the transformation of Peter so that he was willing ultimately to be crucified upside down and take the leadership of the church and carry that message and tell you and me to always be prepared, to give a reason for the hope that is within us.
And remember what he said. He had been witnessed to some great scenes. He had seen the transfiguration of our Lord, the whitest white, that the eye could ever see, the brightest light that the eye could ever see so that he fell flat on his face when the transfiguration took place, as he was blinded. And when he got up, he says, “Lord, let’s not go down there.” He didn’t want to go back to that darkness anymore.
And Jesus, no, we’ve got work to do.
And Peter is the one who said, but now we have the word of the prophets made most certain, he gives us the written word to carry. He had seen the resurrected Christ, not merely the transfigured.
Secondly, Thomas. Thomas, who said, I’m not going to believe until I reach on the side and feel that side and feel those hands. Jesus presented himself to him. Thomas went to my homeland. My ancestors come from the state of Kerala, which is where Thomas set foot on Indian soil to present the gospel to the Indian people. After he felt the side and touched the hands, he looked at him on his knees and he said, “ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou…My Lord and my God.”
Saul of Tarsus, who was persecuting and killing the Christians. He just gets a glimpse of this risen Christ and ended up writing one third of the new Testament.
All three of them had one thing in common: They all saw the risen Christ.
All three of them had another thing in common: They paid with their lives.
Just three lives. Think of all the thousands. Here’s what I want to leave you with as the second thought.
In 1971, when I was in my twenties, I was asked to come and speak in Vietnam. I lived in Canada at that time. And I was invited by the chaplains, American chaplains and ministered to the American forces and the Korean forces, the Australian. I was only in my mid twenties. I had one tiny sermon book that I put into my pocket, had a handful of sermons and preached them again and again and again.
My interpreter was a 17 year old young man. Thousands came to Christ and it triggered the revival in Vietnam. Somebody handed me a poem before I left. Remember I’m in my twenties, my interpreter, 17 and the Vietnam revival broke out by the preaching of two young men.
Here’s what that piece of paper said written by a US Marine:
Lord God, I have never spoken to you,
but now I want to say how do you do?
You see God they told me you didn’t exist,
and like a fool I believed all this.
Last night from a shell hole I saw your sky,
I figured right then they had told me a lie.
Had I taken time to see the things you made,
I would have known they weren’t calling a spade a spade.
I wonder God if you’ll take my hand,
somehow I feel that you’ll understand.
Funny how I had come to this hellish place,
before I had time to see your face.
Well, I guess there isn’t much more to say,
but I’m sure glad God that I met you today.
I guess zero hour will soon be here,
But I’m not afraid since I know you’re near.
The signal, well God I’ll have to go,
I like you lots, I want you to know.
Look now this will be a horrible fight,
who knows I may come to your house tonight.
Though I wasn’t friendly to you before,
I wonder God if you’d wait at your door.
Look I’m crying, I’m shedding tears,
I’ll have to go now, God, goodbye.
Strange now since I met you,
I’m not afraid to die.
It’s an amazing little statement. And I want to just read it for you, but I want to make sure I get it right. And after that statement a quote.
“There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar and Jesus Christ had met in the arena, and Jesus Christ had won.” – Will Durant
Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won with a handful of disciples.
I close with this, and I want you to listen to every word, because I want you to take it to heart and then bow your head quietly in prayer and make a fresh commitment.
Malcolm Muggeridge said this, one of the most powerful statements I’ve ever heard, it’s been years and years since I quoted it, I’m doing my best to recover and recall what it said. So please follow me now.
Muggeridge says this:
“We look back upon history. And what did we see? Empires rising and falling; revolutions and counter-revolutions; wealth accumulated and wealth dispersed. Shakespeare has spoken of ‘the rise and fall of great ones which ebb and flow with the moon.’ I look back upon my own fellow countrymen in England, once upon a time dominating a quarter of the world, most of them convinced in the words of what is still a popular song that the God who made them mighty shall make them mightier yet. I’ve had heard a crazed cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a Reich that would last a thousand years. I have seen an Italian clown saying he was going to stop and restart the calendar with his own ascension to power. I have heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka. I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of military weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together. So that had the American people so desired, they could have outdone a Caesar or an Alexander in the range and scale of their conquests, all in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone — gone with the wind: England, part of a tiny Island of the coast of Europe threatened with dismemberment, even bankruptcy, Hitler and Mussolini, dead remembered only in infamy; Stalin, a forbidden name in their regime. He helped found them dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keeps some motorways roaring in the smog, settling with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam and the mystery and the, shenanigans of the Don Quixote’s of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate, all in one lifetime, all in one lifetime.”
Beside the debris of these sullen supermen and self-styled imperial diplomatists, stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”
Ladies and gentlemen, surrender to him, love him, follow him, serve him, live for him and take his message wherever you go. Because these sullen superman and imperial diplomatists will someday, someday litter, some desert terrain or some museums somewhere. They can dance all they want on the grave of Jesus. He is not there. He rose again.
He describes your heart. He provides for your melody. He equips you in suffering. He puts meaning into every moment in history and he conquers death through the resurrection from the grave.
Those are only a handful of thoughts. There’s a lot more that I could say. God bless you.