Ravi Zacharias — Do Apologetics in the Twenty-First Century
Thank you, and it's great to be here. I was saying earlier that Rick happens to be in the city of Hyderabad. Which is the first city in which I preached my first sermon. I was 19 years old at that time. It was a youth preacher contest and so it happens he's in my homeland, I'm in his homeland, and I was mentioning also that it's because I got first choice, and I'll explain that to you, what I mean by that. You know, the story is told of an Indian who is on a flight and happened to be sitting next to Albert Einstein, and so Einstein said Tamil, this is a long flight. Let's play a game as we are flying. He said to the Indian young man next to him, I'll ask you a question and if you can't answer it you pay me $50. The guy said, this is ridiculous, you're Einstein. He said, no, no, no. Then you ask me a question and if I can't answer it I'll pay you $500. So it's a 10 to one ratio.
So the Indian figured out he could probably ask at least one question that Einstein couldn't answer so the game began. So he said to Albert Einstein, you go first. So Einstein says to him, how far is the moon from the Earth? And the Indian said, you know what we're a land of engineers and scientists, I should know the answer to that, but I can't give you the exact answer, so here's $50 to you. So Einstein said, now it's your turn. So the Indian said to Einstein, what goes up the mountain with three legs, and comes down with four legs? And Einstein start to scratch his head, do all the algorithms that he could think of, and finally he said, you know what, I don't know the answer, here's $500 for you. So he looked at the Indian and said, before I ask you my next question, what is the answer? What does go up the mountain with three legs and come down with four legs? And the Indian went in his pocket and he gave him $50.
And so Rick, whatever you do, don't get into a Q and A time in India, because you may come back with your wallet a little lighter than when you left. It's one of those countries where they can wear you out with exhaustion with question, after question, after question. We're a questioning culture. Years ago I was flying in from Thailand, Bangkok to New York, New Jersey, and it's an exhausting flight. Those long long 14 hour stretches. You're just one out. So I got off the plane and was heading to the gate where I was to catch my connecting flight to Atlanta, and as I went to the gate, I saw a lady sitting in the corner. I looked at the marque and the marque showed a different city to what I was heading to, Atlanta. So I said, "Mam, is this going to Atlanta, "or is this going to where the marque says it is"? She said, "Oh it is going to Atlanta". I said, "That's good".
So I went over to get a cup of coffee, and I heard the patter of feet behind me, and a tap on the shoulder. She said, "Excuse me, are you Ravi Zacharias"? I said, "Yeah, I'm Ravi Zacharias". She said, "That is amazing, absolutely amazing. "I didn't know you had questions as well". You know I can't even make up such a story. I thought to myself, do they really think you don't have questions? From the time you tottle around you have question, after question, after question. I have four grandchildren, the oldest is five. I am amazed at the questions he actually does ask. One day we're sitting around the table and he was just staring at me and then he says, "Papa, what is the meaning of sophomoric"? Boy's five, well he was actually much younger than that, and I sounded sophomoric trying to give him a definition of what sophomoric is all about, and they get deeper, and deeper, and deeper into questions.
The amazing thing in our time is not just that we ask questions, but we have no answers for even the most basic questions of life. All of our definitions have gone. We no longer know how to define the most basic issues of life. I'll ask an average university student, what does it mean to be human? Chances are you will get a dramatically different answer depending on which school you're at or which student is answering the question.
The story is told of these two Aussie's who had just gotten off a boat and had wanted to go out to one of the pubs in London, and they went into that pub, drank themselves with liquid refreshment into the early hours of the morning, and as they came out into the dense London fog, they're wobbling on their feet, and they see a man coming in, unknown to them, he's a highly decorated English naval officer, and so one of them looks at him and says, "Saya mate, can you tell us where we are"? And the officer, rather offended, pointed at his metals and said, "Do you men know who I am"? At which point one Aussie said to the other, "We are really in trouble now. "We don't know where we are and he doesn't know who he is".
It's a fact, we really don't know who we are. I just finished writing a book, coauthored it with my colleague Vince Vitally. My chapters are dealing with humanism, and relativism, and all these other isms that Evee Hill would have said should be wasims. We're dealing with those isms and I just went across the huge amount of literature in humanistic philosophies, and I marveled at how the very definitions have changed. You go back across time from the Renaissance right now to the post modern definition of what it means to be human, and you will see how they've gone down that vortex. They've been sucked into the absence of definitions. In fact about the biggest insult you can pay an average humanist is to ask him or her to really define what humanism is all about.
We struggle with these definitions for one simple reason. When we were in the earliest days of the dawn of the created order, there was only one restriction. Only one restriction. With all the possibilities, one restriction. Not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What does that mean? Do not play God. Don't play God. Don't be the self referencing point of all absolutes and all definitions, and the temptation was pretty to fold wasn't it? God said to them, in the day that you choose to play this role, you will die. You will actually demean yourself. You will self destruct, but the tempest said no, no, no. In the day you do this, you will be as God, knowing good and evil. Meaning, you become the definer of absolutes.
Take a look at our world today and see what has happened in the defining of absolutes. We are living in America, possibly on the hinge on some of the darkest days we've ever seen. Suddenly the most unpredictable days we've ever seen. All over the world that I go, I'm asked the question, what is happening in the United States? I was in Moscow, Russia in June, and a business man asked me out for breakfast and at the end of the breakfast he got up and said this. "I always had hope that the future of the world would hang on the wisdom and the ability of the American people". He said, "That was my only hope". He said, "I no longer have that hope". And here's what he said. "They don't think rightly there anymore". This is a Russian man telling me.
So what has happened? How do we in this pluralistic culture do apologetics? What is apologetics? Apologetics is that discipline which comes from the Greek word apologia. Which literally means to give an answer. To give an answer to the questions of people, but it has that twin responsibility of making truth claims clear and giving answers to the questions that people ask. The apostle Peter says, "But to set apart Christ in your heart as Lord, and always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks of you the reason for the hope that is within you, and to do that with gentleness and respect". I cannot think of a more beautiful definition of what apologetics is, and this came from a fisherman who had also seen that extraordinary disclosure in the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus. Such a spectacular event, vouchsafed to only a hand few. So spectacular was it that he said to his Lord, Let's stay right here. I don't wanna go down there again. But the Lord told him that they had work to be done, and took them back into the mainstream of people.
You and I would love to be in that cloistered existence of a spectacular revelation, but this is our time in history. Regardless how bleak it may seem, how dark it may seem. My colleague and I were talking about this earlier today, and I made the comment to him. I said, "You know, this is the most open time that I have ever sensed, but it is also the most difficult time at which to give clear and convincing answers". The struggles we have began about 40 to 50 years ago, and a Canadian writer said this.
"In the 1950s, kids lost their innocence. They were liberated from their parents be whelping jobs, cars, and lyrics, and music that gave rise to a new term: the generation gap. In the 1960s, kids lost their authority. It was the decade of protest, church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it. In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of Mesum, dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. Self-image, self-esteem, self-assertion. It made for a very lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex. Forgot everything there was to know about true love, and few had the verve to tell them that there was indeed a difference. In the 1980s kids lost their hope. Stripped of innocence, authority, and love, and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare. Large and growing numbers of this generation have stopped believing in the future".
I put this as a post script. In the 1990s, kids have lost their power to reason. Lost in a world of cyberspace, they have now personalized objects and totally subjectivized reality, and they are now imprisoned in a deep world of their own loneliness. Having personalized objects, and subjectivized reality, they look deep inside of them. They really have no answers. They only sense that sense of isolation or alienation.
Earlier in the year I had the privilege of speaking at the passion conference. About 40,000 young people listening live to that session, and after just a number of powerful speakers the two most important issues for which they came forward for counseling. These are university students. If nobody had told you, you'd never guess. Number one problem plaguing the young that came forward for counseling was on pornography. Number two was in suicide. The first demeaned the other. They ultimately demeaned themselves, and as I hear their voices and hear their struggle, we are living in a world of billions of people with each on in their solitary world of struggle and questions. You and I believe, if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, that in Jesus alone we have the answers that are correspondingly true to every question raised and coherent when all of the answers are given together. Correspondence and coherence. The two tests for truth, and in the person of Christ we find those answers to the four deepest questions that bridge the head to the heart.
What are those questions? The question of origin, the question of meaning, the question of morality, and the question of destiny. That forms your world view. Origin, meaning, morality, and destiny, and if you put it all together, you walk on the two feet of truth and relevance. What is true in the answers you hold to, and what is relevant in the way those answers are given? And so when Rick so graciously spoke to me about coming and speaking at this Ahmanson Lecture Series on apologetics, and to bring to you this message. I've selected as my title, doing apologetics in the 21st century. Doing apologetics in the 21st century. Which means how do we give answers and what are the real struggles that people are facing in their lives. I bring to you, there are many ideas I can go through in the first part of it. I'll just break it down to three.
Number one is the popularization of the death of God, and the strident willingness to live with its ramifications. The popularization of the death of God and the stridency of willing to live with its ramifications. What do I mean by that? Let me unpack that for you. The German philosopher Fredrick Nietzsche who's father was a pastor and both of his grandfathers were in the ministry. He's the one who really popularized the phrase "God is dead". He was a brilliant seminal thinker, creative thinker, but he came to the philosophical conclusion that God had philosophically bled to death under the knives of the scrutinizing thinker. He used that metaphor. Who will wipe this blood from the knife that has bled him? Who will wipe away the horizon? Who will give us the power to wipe away the horizon? "Will lanterns have to be lit in the morning hours" he said. Is there any up or down left? How do we not strain through an infinite nothing?
You see the questions he's raising? Is there any up or down left? Take a look at the political scene today and ask yourself the question. How often we hear of the two poles of right and left. You never hear of the up and the down. And yet that's precisely what's Solomon said 3,000 years ago. Everything is a chasing after the wind under the sun. What he really meant was if you don't get a transcendent perspective, if you don't have that vertical dimension to your life, at the end of it you'll find it was all a chasing after the wind. Everything became meaningless under the sun locked in the three school years in time, but now we have the stridency of willing to live with these ramifications.
Take a look at the writings of our ethesis in our universities, and see what it is that we are really willing to live with in our time. I just wanna give you two illustrations. You see Nietzsche said this. He said, "Because God has died in the 19th century, two things will happen in the 20th century". He was right on both of them. He said number one, the 20th century become the bloodiest century in history, and number two, universal madness will break out. He was right. In the 20th century in warfare we killed more people than the previous 19 centuries put together. See, violence has become absolute. It is the absolute solution to everything we do now. He took the first step himself in the last 13 years of his life he spend insane. Swinging between moments of clarity and the moment of total obscurity.
You know, I am a world traveler by God's divine courtesy and grace. I never ever dreamed that this would be my life when I got into the itinerant call. I was speaking to my summer friends last week and in Colorado Springs and I said, As this year is coming to an end, just 2016, I have been to 26 countries and 76 cities just in the last 10 or 11 months. It's my life, and one of the things I really morn, I really morn, I don't make it up. I lie in bed sometimes and I think about it. What we've done to this world. One of my favorite countries in the world was Syria. I've been there many many times. The oldest inhabited cities in the world, Damascus. It was of the wall of Damascus that Saul of Tarsus was put into a basket and lowered. Nobody knew that right then he was gonna write one third of the new testament on that Damascus road, that tremendous transformation that took place in the house of Ananias out there.
About five, six years ago I was Damascus, and every time I arrived, the chief of intelligence would always have me go to the office and to be flanked by the military brass, and they put me on the other side of the table. They put some baklavas and coffee in front of you and none of it you feel like eating or drinking because of the hostile looks, and then he looked at me he said, "Mr. Zacharias, you know, you're always welcome in our country, thank you for coming, but don't get involved in the politics of this land". I said, "You have my word sir, I never will". I said, "But I have a question for you, I know you well enough now. Tell me, what is the future of this part of the world"? This was before ISIS, we knew of anything of ISIS, or at least certainly I didn't know anything of ISIS at that time. He looked at me and he said, "You really wanna know"? I said, "Yes". He said, "If nothing changes in the next five years, the whole place is going to blow up".
I wonder if he knew he was talking about the deaths of 200,000 to 300,000 of their own people? He himself was assassinated in the early days, and I think of that beautiful city that has held forth for thousands of years, and we've destroyed it. We destroyed it, we wiped it out. You see, if violence is absolutized, we only find ways of hurting. We find very few ways of solving problems, and now we enter into this 21st century and the heavens knows what really waits us for the future. A stridency of willing to live with its ramification, but just think of our own culture here. One of the fundamental mistakes we make in America today is that we actually think the truth matters. We think people really worry about the truth. I wish that were true. If you listen to the media and all the distortions, and all that goes on, you say to yourself, do you really want the people to know the truth, or have you got an ideology that you want people to latch onto?
These are very difficult time to be a student in a western university where relativism is absolute, and where theism is debunked, and the vertical is really mocked out of any reasonable discussion. I haunt the university students, university venues. I go there year after year after year. The audience is packed. There's a good side to it. I'm paining for you right now the darkest side to it. I'll get to the positive side. So number one is the stridency of willing to life with the ramifications of atheism. Secondly, it is the gathering storm of religious pluralism that has disoriented western culture. It's the gathering storm of religious pluralism that has disoriented western culture. Ask yourself this question. Why are there millions in the world who will give anything in order to make this their home?
I was only 20 when the opportunity came to me to move to Canada. My older brother was 22. My father gave us $400 each. That's all the government of India would allow with foreign exchange, and he said, "Go and make your home there. Settle down there and if all goes well, we'll all come and join you". We had to sit for an hour in front of the Canadian officer interviewing us. Asking us all the tough questions. We were moving to Toronto, Canada at that time, and he looked at us and he said, "Why do you boys want to move to Canada"? And I was trying philosophical in this. I thought, what answer is gonna work out here? Today you're not even allowed to ask this question, but that time, they could ask those questions, and my brother was two years older than me, stunned me when he looked at him and he said, "Because we think in English".
I said, where did this come from? You know what my brother was saying? The value structure that you represent is the value structure to which I wanna go. That's really what he was saying. You know, the guy looked at both of us and said, no one has ever answered this question for me this way. We were looking for an ethos where you gained places by virtue of your performance and ability, not by virtue of paying somebody under the table and getting it in, in the process. Which is what were so accustomed to and so used to.
Gertrude Himmelfarb who is professor and meridus at Columbia University, and author of so many books on history and culture. One of her latest to scroll, Roads to Modernity. She makes an incredible statement in that book, and coming from her as a philosopher, it shocked me what she said. She said: the difference between the renascence in Europe and in the United States and the United Kingdom on the one side. England on the one side, Europe on the other, is one word. She said, "For the French philosophs and for the Europeans, rationalism, reason was the substructure on which everything was built". Rationalism, reason. She said, "For the English and the Americans, it was not reasoning, it was moral reasoning that gave them the impetus to build their cultures". Imagine that. One word, not reason alone, moral reasoning, the up and the down, and she has a whole chapter dedicated to John Wesley. She said it was the powerful preaching of Wesley, and Whitfield, these men who really brought the gospel to these countries. Who gave the people here that ethos of up and down. Not just right and left.
Some time ago I was in Paris having dinner with some of the top level people in the country. One of them was the head of the business school. Probably the most prestigious business school in Europe. My wife was sitting next to me. It was a Chinese gentlemen and his wife. Who's our dear friend, very powerful man who hosted this dinner because he wanted me to talk to these folks, and the head of the business school said, "So you deal in ethics"? I said, "Yes". He said, "We don't teach ethics in our business school. It's not a subject". About half an hour later, half way through the dinner he said, "You know we had three of our graduates running for the past election"? I said, "How did they do"? He said, "Well not very well. One was a womanizer, the other was an alcoholic, and the third was very corrupt, so they didn't go further".
My wife leaned over, leave it to my wife to whisper when you have to be very careful. She said, "Maybe they need to start teaching ethics there". But he was talking as a French man did philosophically. They do not have moral reasoning of the underpinnings in the European world. If you take all of the isms from marksims to existentialism, and postmodernism. All of these isms have come from Europe because of the bottom of their world view is reasoning rationalism. At the bottom of the world view that built this country is moral reasoning. It's a world of a difference, and all of a sudden the world views came across. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and all of them came with their transcendental meditation which wasn't very transcendental, but they talked about it, and so what were we doing sitting in front of some teacher staring inwards and thinking we would find the answers to life?
When he passes away, his whole empire collapsed and most of them are in a courtroom now finding out who owns all the returns. Evidently the transcendental meditation did not help them meditate on the right things for too long. 'Cause you never got to the heart of the problem. The religious pluralism that has come in our time. Thirdly and importantly, how we have learned now the power to inform through the visual. We lean by the eye gate rather than by the the thought gate. William Blake put it in these words about the eyes. Listen carefully please:
This life's dim windows of the soul
Distorts the heavens from pole to pole,
And godes you to believe a lie
When you see with and not through the eye.
Distorts the heavens from pole to pole,
And godes you to believe a lie
When you see with and not through the eye.
This life's dim windows of the soul Distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and godes you to believe a lie when you see with and not through the eye. Blake was so right, we are intended to see through the eye with the conscious. Now we see with the eye devoid of all conscious. Life's dim windows of the soul. Distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and godes you to believe you a lie when you see with and not through the eye. Think of the thousands of hours in which our young are learning with the eye. Not through the eye. There is no conscious to superintend over them. You take complex stories and they are given to us in 30 seconds or 45 seconds sum bites, and supposedly we are getting the news. We are really getting more views than the news. The world has changed folks. It has changed dramatically.
Yesterday I was talking to a woman who for the first time we had made contact. She's quire high placed in the world of technology, and she said, "Ravi, that instrument that we hold in our hand every morning, every noon, and ever night". She's part of a high tech world right now working with some of the best cinematographers in this country. She said, "That little instrument is controlling our lives to a degree, that someday we will look back and wonder how we ever did not see what we were doing to ourselves". You wake up in the morning, and this is the first thing. You go to bed at night, this is the last thing, and the invasion of the imagination when you are young is a huge assault.
My daughter Naomi, she's a wee little girl. She works in our ministry for the rescue of women in prostitution and children with aids. She goes to the streets of Holland and the streets of South Africa and in Mumbai. She will go in with a Bible in her purse and as she walks, and they know who she is now, and they'll turn that light on for about 10, 15 minutes to listen to her, and she will tell you, dad, when I see these beautiful young girls who've been marred and scarred in the sex trafficking industry, and now with a heavy dose of makeup to cover all of their heartache and their pain. She said, "I walk out of there and I just weep and think, are we really going to let thousands in this deluge wipe themselves out"?
And she said it all starts with the image and the pictures and for the men who come as customers, the average length of an unclad woman that is able to hold their attention is no more than one minute, and then the picture has to change, and then the picture has to change. She said those are the customers, this is the product. She walks in the streets of Mumbai, and if you've seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire, you will see exactly the very street where my daughter Naomi has been so involved. It's a world that's tough, a world where you've got all of the absolutes altered. The popularization of the death of God. Gathering storm of religious pluralism and the power to inform through the visual.
How do we respond, how do we deal with it? I wanna give you full thoughts. The question is this. How do you reach a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings? How do you reach a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings? I give you four propositions. Number one, make sure you understand what it means to set apart Christ in your heart as Lord. The Lordship of Christ over your will, over your imagination, over your life. The older I get, you know I talked about speaking in Hyderabad where Rick is, in 1965, I was 19. At the age of 17 I was lying in a hospital room in Delhi. I had never opened a Bible in my life. My parents used to go to take me to church, and the only thing I did was memorize half of the prayer book because then I knew how many minutes were left before the service was over.
As soon as the vicar would say, let us now therefore draw nearby faith, I knew we had seven minutes to go. I couldn't have cared less. I was reading those beautiful prayers and I thought, what on Earth does all of this mean? Age 17, when I lost purpose in living, I was in a hospital room. I had tried to poison myself and my body was dehydrated. I'd failed in the attempt but I was hanging between life and death. A man walked into my room. You know, if this had been two, two and a half years ago and I was speaking, he's be in the audience. He passed away a couple of hears ago. He used to live in Los Angeles. He's an Indian man. He walked into my hospital room, and I just looked at him, and he said to my mother, "I wanna read the Bible to your son". She said, "Whoever let you in here? My son's dying". He said, "Madam, this is what your son needs more than anything else". She said, "You cannot be here, he is in intensive care". He said, "I'm here because I'm a minister". She said, "You cannot be here". He said, "Will you do me a favor, and you read it to him"? She said, "Okay give it to me".
My mothers English was not that good, and he his this King James Gideon's new testament in his hand, and he gives it to her, and turns it to John chapter 14, and in her heavy accented way she's reading, and I'm listening to this because I knew my life was totally a mess. Then she comes to verse 19. Jesus said "Because I live, you also shall live". Nobody explained it to me. I told my mother to stop there, and I said, "Jesus, if you are the author of life, and you wanna help me how to live, I will trust you, but I want you to change what I want to do. I don't want to live. If you will change what I want to do, I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth". I was 17 years old. Five days later I walked out of that hospital room so thoroughly converted. Setting apart Christ in my heart as Lord.
I go to India about three times a year. In fact, two weeks from now I'll be in Delhi speaking there. I always take a taxi all alone, and I go to the Belington hospital. It's called a different name now, and I park outside there and I just look at that building and I say to myself, I never dreamed 50 years ago what God had in store for me, and the drivers have no clue what is going on, and one of them he was a turban guy, a Sikh guy, and he looked at me and he said, "What is happening sir"? I said, "This is my story". And I tell him what happened. When that Sikh got me back to the hotel where I was staying, he folded his hands, and refused to take any money from me. He said, "I've never heard a story like this, and I just want to thank you for not forgetting your roots". I told him it is not just my roots, it is a story of my conversion through Jesus Christ who is now my Lord and my Savior.
Set apart Christ in your heart as Lord. What does that mean? It means two things. You know the two greatest commandments. That's what it means. To love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, but that followed a fascinating conversation. A person tried to trip Jesus up and said to him, is it alright to pay taxes to Cesar? It's one question I so desperately with Jesus had answered differently. April 15th would be a wonderful day to be godly and rebellious at the same time. Jesus said to him, "Do you have a coin"? He said, "Yes". he said, "Who's image do you see on this"? He said, "Cesar". He said, "Give it to Cesar that which belongs to Cesar, and give to God that which belongs to God". A good question that will always have a followup question. And he should have said, what belongs to God? And Jesus would have said, who's image is on you? Who's image is on you?
Do you know the Judea Christian world view is the only world view that will give you that extraordinary credential. I have no right to take a man with a sword in my hand and chop his head off because I'm violating the image of God. I am fully attacking and assaulting the amago de, the image of God, and that vertical gives me the basis for the horizontal. No other world view gives you this. They either exalt you to deify you or cast you down into the other end of the abyss to make nothing of you. The image of God, and then when he goes on to say to love the Lord, your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all you mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. No matter how much we disagree with others, we are taught by Christ to love them, to love them, and you ask any Muslim, chances are nine out of 10 when you say to them, how did you come to know Jesus Christ. A vast majority of them will give you one of two ways. Number one, through a dream. Jesus revealed himself to me through a dream, or number two they'll say, I watched the love of God in another Christian and said that's what I really don't have.
Those are one of two ways, and I've talked to scores of them. There are worlds views astride today that we may not find comfortable within our zones, but I'm communed by God to love my fellow human being no matter how much I disagree with them. I cannot be disagreeable with patience, if my Lord himself looked at those assaulting him and said, Father forgive them because they don't know what they're doing, how much more it is your call and my call to love my fellow human being even in the face of all such hostility? It's a culture where violence is absolutized and hate has become common. Neither is an option for us. We love our fellow human being with the love of Jesus Christ, alright. So we set apart Christ in our heart as Lord. Secondly, it is very critical we understand that our apologetic will not merely have to be heard, it'll have to be seen. Our apologetic was not merely to be heard, it has to be seen. It has to be visible to people. They are listening with their eyes, they are watching with their eyes.
You know, years ago my wife and I were visiting Honolulu and I said to her, "I'd really love to go to the island of Moloka'i". It's the worlds tallest sea cliffs, but I wanted to go there for a reason. I'd read the biography of Damien Da Veuster, the Belgium missionary who had gone to Moloka'i to walk with the people in Moloka'i, the Hawaiians that were sent away there because of leprosy. His brother was commissioned to go, but his brother had suddenly passed away, and so Damien decided he was going to go to take his brothers place. He really didn't wanna do it, but he loved his brother and felt that commission had to be fulfilled. So he came. He loved the people, the touched them, he embraced them, built chapel for them, helped find a cure for them, spend all of his life there.
One morning he was pouring a kettle of boiling water into a cup and the water swirled out of there and fell onto his bare foot. It took him a moment to realize he couldn't feel it. He was horrified as to what that intimated. He took some more boiling water, put it gently onto the other foot, and he couldn't feel it. He knew what had happened. That morning he began his sermon in a different line. He always began by saying, my fellow believers. That morning he began by saying, my fellow lepers. He'd contracted leprosy.
So as my wife and I were being shown around with this story, I came to his grave, and I said to the man showing me around, "Damien is buried here". He said, "No sir, he was, but the body was exhumed and the Belgium government asked for him to be brought back". I said, "Oh wow". He said, "Yup". He was a hero, but the people in Moloka'i, the people with leprosy, and he taught them to realize they were not lepers, they were people with leprosy. Even though he referred to himself as a leper, he was referring to it purposely as an outcast. He said you're not a leper, you're a person with leprosy. Always give them the dignity of their person hood, and so when they wanted the body back, the people there gathered together and wrote to the Belgium government, please, he loved us, this was his home. Don't take his body back from here, but they insisted. So they finally said alright. Will you cut off that right hand and bury it here? It's the hand that touched us. And today in Moloka'i, in that grave is not his body, it's the hand that reached out and touched them.
Some time ago when I was being interviewed by India's leading newspaper, the Hindu, they were really quizzing me on why I come there and speak, and then they found out the charitable work we do there through my daughters work, Wellspring International, and she looked at me and said, you're doing this? I said, yeah we're home for the destitute. We work with prostitutes in the streets. We've got children with aids that we work, and burn victims. Went through all of that. She looked at me and said to me, "I will ever be grateful for what you're doing for your mother land and your home land". The next day when she wrote the article, there was not one negative word of criticism. It was just a series of appreciations of what was being done for the needy. You see, even the hostile are disarmed when they can see, and when they can feel your touch.
To you young people especially I say to you, find some time in your college days, in your school days to go and touch other peoples lives. It will be the most memorable and the most wonderful thing you're ever doing, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ. I'll give you a quick illustration. Time's running out but they gave me a little more time that I could. In India, the washer doesn't run, it walks. But out here it runs. There's a guy in Delhi pushing himself. Only one leg bandaged up with all horrible marks on it. I don't know what lay beneath it, but it was a horrible looking thing, and he had two stubs for arms. He was pulling himself. He did have one hand gnarled up, and I wanted to give him something, but I knew if I started that I'd be crowded out. So I just followed him from a distance till there was not much of a crowd and as soon as I got close I said, bisob, means brother sir. I said, can you wait for a moment?
So I walked over to him and a knelt down on my haunches and I said to him, I want to give you this in the name of Jesus Christ who loves you. It was 100 rupees. It was a lot for him. It's about $1.50. I opened up his hand and I put the 100 rupee note, and he just looked at it like that, and his hand began to quiver, and he said sob ge, respected sir. May God richly bless you. It's the greatest benediction I have ever received. Bless people, let them see it. It's an apologetic, not merely heard but seen. Secondly, not merely argued but also felt in conviction. Not merely argued but also felt in in conviction. Here I say, pray for wisdom. Please pray for wisdom. How to disarm an antagonist. I have 46 other apologists working with me on our team and 15 countries. I keep talking to them, be humble in heart and be wise in wise in response. Humble in heart, wise in response.
So you're not answering a question, you're answering a questioner. You're not answering a question, you're answering a questioner, and it reminded me of the time I was in the Middle East. Quick story and final thought, and we were talking to one of the four founders of Hamas, muscle bound guy. The archbishop of Canterbury took five of us. We're meeting with Israeli leaders and Palestinian leaders and boy this guy was hostile. He spent years in prison. You could barely get a word in, he was so argumentative. His room was full of tobacco smoke, and after about several hours, the archbishop said to the five of us, would each one of you men like to ask one question? So I asked mine. I won't tell you the question, this was a private conversation, but I can tell you this, I didn't like his answer, and so I looked at him and I said, "Sir, I really don't like your answer. I have to be honest with you".
I said, "Can I tell you something? Not far from where you and I are sitting, 5,000 years ago a man by the name of Abraham took his son up the hill and was gonna offer him as a sacrifice". I said, "You remember the story"? He said yes. I said, "Please let's not debate which son, let's just agree he took his son up that hill to offer him as a sacrifice". He said, "That's right". I said, "As the ax about to come down, God stops it, remember that"? He said, "Yes". I said, "What did God say? He didn't know. I said, "God said stop, I myself will provide". He said, "That's right". Stop, I myself will provide. I said, "Very close to where you and I are sitting in Rumula is another hill. 2,000 years ago God took his own Son up that hill, and this time the ax did not stop".
He just stared at me. I said, "Shaykh, until you and I receive the Son God has provided, we'll be offering our own sons and daughters on the battle fields of this world for position, and power, and land, and prestige". I myself got shocked that I said that. I've never thought of it before. Leave alone saying it. And so the archbishop says, well you know I guess it's time to go now. So we left. I thought boy I have blown this big time, and as I was walking I felt this arm around me, and it was the archbishop. He leaned over and said, "Ravi that was of God" I said, "I sure hope so". I don't know what I said. So we went down the steps, and the archbishop is the guest of honor. They were ushering him in. So the five of us are going. I'm still in a daze whether in the body or out of the body, I couldn't tell, and I hear somebody running behind me and he comes and twirls me around. It's the Shaykh.
I said that's it I'm gonna be buried here, it's over, this guy can have me for dinner tonight, and then he looked at me and stared me eye ball to eye ball holding onto my shoulders, and then he patted me on both sides of the face. He said, "Mr. Zacharias". I said, "Yes, sir"? He said, "You are a good man. You're a good man. I hope I will see you again someday". And he gave a big solid bear hug, and as he pulled himself away I looked at his eyes and he's wiping the tears off. I don't know what happened following. I've never been back to be able to see him. I'm watched carefully when I go there, but a word in season can bring to fruit that which only God can nurture and nourish, and I say to you, ask God for wisdom. We're not picking a fight, we're looking for answers that'll break through the course resistance and do it in love. Set apart Christ. It's not merely heard but seen. Not merely argued but also felt, and lastly we cannot only rescue the ends of bringing them to Christ. We must rescue the means of the very word of God.
Let me tell you something. What is it the gospel gives that no other world view gives? Think about this question. It gives you an awful lot, an awful lot. In fact, I preached a message last week that the very questions the seculars ask are only legitimate questions of the Bible is the only answer for it. Forget the answers they give. I'm talking about the questions they raise. They're only legitimized by the Judea-Christian world view, and what is the one thing the Bible gives to you and me that none else does? The Getha hints at it. The Muslims are repelled by it, but there is no one else that provides this, and the Muslim Shaykh in Damascus, Shaykh Hussein was the leading Shiite cleric which whom I had a three R public dialogue. Ended the dialogue with these words. He said, "Professor, I want to say something to you. It's time for us in Islam to stop asking the question if Jesus died, and start asking why". I said, "May I quote you on that Shaykh Hussein"? He said, "Yes, why"?
Some years ago I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico and I was preaching at a large church there, and the pastor was a man by the name of Carmela Teranova. Great preacher, and I was in his office getting ready to go into the platform and I saw a big painting in his office. It was a sweet little girl sitting on the lap of our Lord holding his hand and looking at it, and the words in Spanish said, what happened to your hands? What happened to your hands? You know what happened to his hands? It what was here that wounded those hands, and that's why the hymn writer says, what language shall I borrow to thank your dearest friend for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end, oh make me thine forever and should I fainting be, Lord let me never never outlive my love for thee. I sometimes think about the cross and shut my eyes and try to see the cruel nails, the crown of thorns, and Jesus crucified for me, but even could I see him die, I would much see a little part of that great love, which like a fire is always burning in his heart.
What happened to his hands? Is the answer to a world that's so wounded, and you ultimately reach a wounded civilization through a wounded Savior. Why are the universities packed when we are doing open forums and with his eyes closed. They have no answers. Whether you go to Harvard, or Princeton, or Yale, or STF Kentucky, or Michigan or Michigan State. Wherever we go, it's an overflow crowd of young students. You know STF Kentucky we had 7,000 on a Wednesday night, and they lined up. The gospel is beautiful and it's beautifully true, and is the only answer to our relativistic cart where he pulls in the absoluteness of his love, and changes the hungers. It's the only hope for the world. That's what Conrad Adanar said to Billy Graham after the Second World War. Mr. Graham, outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind.
We have that message, let the world see it. Life for him, serve him. It's a beautiful message. If you're not walking in lockstep with him, let this be the evening of repentance in turning your heart around. If you do know him, let your light so shine before people that they will see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. It's been my real honor, and even through Rick is not here, I'll convey to him my thanks for the privilege of being here at Saddleback. You folks have touched the world, and may your greatest years still be ahead of you. May I close in prayer? Thank you, God bless you, thank you so much, thank you. God bless you. Thank you so much, thank you. Thank you, God bless you. Thank you so much. Please let me pray. Let me close in prayer. Thank you so much for your kind response.
Eternal Father strong to save, we need you more than ever. We are a desperate people. Lord Jesus, apart from you we have no hope. I pray for every man, woman, and young person here. Tonight, today, this weekend. I pray that hearts will be touched, lives will be transformed. You have given your servant a unique honor of standing on this platform. I don't deserve it Lord, I really don't, but you in your grace pour mercy upon mercy. Thank you for Rick and his team. How you have used them, and I earnestly pray their greatest decades and years will be ahead. Lord we pray for our nation. We go to the poles shortly. Sovereign Lord who changes the hearts of kings, do your work. May this nation never lose sight of its roots and ever walk towards that glorious call. For you have endowed us with some beautiful privileges of life and liberty, and to pursue the joys that you alone can give. This land of the free, may we ever be that, and use our freedom to honor you. What greater return can we give you for that gift? Let your benediction rest upon Saddleback and its work all over the world. Be with Rick. Grant him safety and anointing, and all that work alongside him with his servants heart. We come before you tonight with hearts filled with gratitude for enabling us to live at a time such as this. In the name of our Lord, and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen. God bless you.