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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Lee Strobel Interview

Robert Jeffress - Lee Strobel Interview

Robert Jeffress - Lee Strobel Interview

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Since the publication of his book, "The Case for Christ" in 1998, Lee Strobel has become a household name. Lee was once a journalist for the Chicago tribune, and also a staunch atheist. When his wife, Leslie, came to faith in Christ, Lee set out to prove that Christianity was wrong. But the evidence he encountered did exactly the opposite. It proved to him that Christianity was true. And now Lee is one of the leading Christian apologists in our world today. Please join me for a very special question and answer session with New York times bestselling author, Lee Strobel.

Dr. Ben Lovvorn: we've heard your story today. You were an atheist. You sought to actually disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the process you came to faith in Jesus Christ. And you've shared your story with so many people. And as you do, I'm sure that you've heard questions that people are wrestling with, things that they view as barriers to them coming to the faith. What are some of those things that have been the biggest questions in people's minds that you've encountered? And how would you answer them?

Lee Strobel: I talk to a lot of folks who have what I call spiritual sticking points. You know, a sticking point in their spiritual journey. Some questions, some doubts, some hesitation. And the first thing I like to do is validate that and say, "It's okay to have questions". I think some Christians feel like, "Oh, people knew I had doubts or questions. They think I'm less spiritual than I want to appear". And I think a lot of people are kind of spiritually curious, but they don't want to embarrass themselves by asking a dumb question if they think it's not going to be well-received or whatever. And I point to John the Baptist, who if anybody should have known the identity of Jesus, it was John the Baptist. But he gets arrested, he gets thrown in prison. Now he starts to have some hesitations. But what does he do? Does he wallow in that? No, he gets together some friends and said, "Go track Jesus down and ask him point blank. Are you the one we've been waiting for? We'd have wait for somebody else". So they go, they track Jesus down and they say, "Jesus, you know, John, well, he's freaking out and he's arrested, he's got busted. So would you just tell us, are you the one we've been waiting for"? But here's my point. Jesus didn't get mad that John asked a question, had a hesitation, even a doubt. He didn't get angry. He didn't say, "How dare John have the temerity to ask a question like that"? No, he said, "Look, go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who are leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor". In other words, go back, tell him about the evidence you've seen with your own eyes that convinces you that I am the one I claim to be. So they go back and they tell John. But this is not disqualified John from any role in the Kingdom of God 'cause he dared to ask a question. It's after this incident that Jesus gets up and says, "Among those born of women, there's no one greater than John". John, the guy who dared to ask a question. So the first thing I like to do is validate. It's good, I'm glad you're asking a question. If that is an authentic sticking point in your spiritual journey, nothing is more important than getting a resolution to that. And so I find people have authentic questions. I think oftentimes they have barriers to faith that they're not even aware of, psychological barriers. They want to come to God on their terms, not on his terms. I want to keep living life like I live and kind of have Jesus on the side. I mean, that doesn't really work. So there's a lot of different approaches, but I find that often when people take the time to seriously look at the evidence, that unless they ratchet up their skepticism to unreasonable levels, that they often will acknowledge the truth of the faith. In fact, in my book, "Is God Real"? In the introduction, I think I tell about 10 real quick stories of people who I know in my life who were atheists, skeptics, doubters, and yet who investigated the evidence and have come to faith in Christ.

Dr. Ben Lovvorn: Pastor Lee spent the first part of his life apart from the faith. You have a very different background. You grew up in the church, you grew up in this church. And so you had a firm foundation, but I know when you went off to college, you faced some significant challenges to your faith, challenges to the basic Christian doctrines, to the trustworthiness of scripture. So what are some of those challenges that you faced? And what was the evidence that you discovered that helped you to hold to your convictions?

Robert Jeffress: Yeah, and to be clear, it wasn't just a university, it was a so-called Christian university. And in one of the classes, early classes I had, the professor started talking, this was a religion class, talked about all the contradictions in the Bible. In the second class, he talked about why, regardless of what the Bible said, God didn't really tell Joshua to go in and destroy every living thing in Jericho. That's just what Joshua imagined God had said to him, because he saw God as a bloodthirsty God. And the Bible is nothing more, I'll never forget him saying this, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of men's ideas about God. It did such damage to me spiritually that I considered giving up my call to the ministry that I had. Why would I want to spend the rest of my life teaching a book filled with errors? Finally, I was under the influence of some great scholars and men who helped me understand I didn't have to commit spiritual suicide to become a Christian and believe in the Bible. And that there is really great evidence out there for the trustworthiness of the Bible. And I would say to me, the core foundational doctrine of Christianity is not the deity of Jesus Christ even, it's the trustworthiness of the Bible. The foundational doctrine is not Jesus because apart from the Bible, there's very little we would know about Jesus. You enumerated the extra biblical evidence, but even though there's evidence for the death of Christ outside the Bible, how would you ever know what that death meant and its redemption apart from the Bible? The Bible, everything we believe as Christians is found in the Bible. And that's why satan's first tactic to cause doubt in people's lives is the same strategy he used in the garden.

Dr. Ben Lovvorn: The inerrancy or the trustworthiness of the Bible has been called the bedrock of all Christian faith and doctrine. But today we see so many who are "Deconstructing their faith". In fact, this is a new phenomenon, deconstruction. So tell us what is deconstruction and why is it so dangerous? And what would you say to somebody who is deconstructing their faith?

Lee Strobel: All it means is people questioning their faith. And often it's your own sexual sin that is driving it. I mean, I got to say it, in most of the cases I've seen, it's people who are involved with immoral activity that they don't want to give up. And so they deconstruct their faith and get it to a place where it's okay. That, "Oh, God's okay with this after all. I can live with my girlfriend and not be married. It's really no problem". Well, yeah, it's a problem. So the danger is what we see is so many Christian young people are deconstructing to the point of atheism. So it's not a healthy, "Golly, I'd like to know why this is true". Like for instance, Dr. Jeffress said, to say, "Why do I trust the Bible? Why can't I trust the Bible? That's a great thing to investigate and to look into". But when we start deconstructing and getting down to being an atheist, because we want God on our terms, not on his terms, then I think it's a problem.

Robert Jeffress: Yeah, that's a great answer. One thing I'd add just as a pastor, for those of you who are parents and your children may be in that age where they are deconstructing, in one sense, don't panic. There's a normal process by which people have to personally embrace faith. And it's not just because their parents told them it was the truth. So if it's done in a healthy way, as a parent, pray for your children, be sure they've got right material to look at, not just something that was seen on the internet and some of the books I mentioned would be a help, but also understand there's a spiritual war going for the soul of your child. And it's hard not to panic about that, but don't condemn your child. Don't say, "You atheist, how could you do such a thing"? Pray for them, encourage them that there are right answers. And whatever you do, whether it's their lifestyle or their theology, don't break off communication with your children. There are so many parents who think they're doing the right thing by turning their back on their children. That's the worst thing you can do. Always assure them you love them and you're always open to talk with them.

Dr. Ben Lovvorn: Well, now we want to hear from you. We have staff members around the room with microphones. So if you have a question, just raise your hand and wave one of them down and they'll come to you and give you the opportunity to ask it.

I can't help but think of all the hurt and suffering in the world. With everything that's happening today, if God is good, omniscient, all-powerful, all-knowing, why does he let these things happen?

Lee Strobel: God can and does use our suffering for our good. He can and he does. He uses it to draw people to the faith. But here's the thing I'd like to observe. Romans 8:28 says that every follower of Jesus, that if you're committed to him, if you're following him, that God will take whatever difficulty, struggle, suffering that we go through, and in this world or the next, he will draw good from it. And I used to doubt that 'cause my wife, Leslie, has a incurable neuromuscular condition. She's in pain every single day. For the last 20 years, she's been in pain every day. She'll be in pain every day for the rest of her life unless God does a miracle 'cause it's an incurable condition. And you wonder, well, how can God possibly draw anything good from a lifetime of suffering? And then I thought, wait a minute. God took the worst thing that could ever happen in the universe, which is the death of the Son of God on a cross. And from that, he created the best thing that's ever happened in the universe, which is the opening of heaven to all who follow him. So if God can take the worst thing in the universe and turn it into the best thing in the universe, he can even redeem the suffering that Leslie has gone through. I can trust that if he can take the worst thing, turn it into the best thing, that he can deal with our struggles as well.

James says, "Don't be double-minded when you pray". Jesus said, "Petition, petition, and don't stop. Keep asking, keep praying". How do you pray with faith knowing that your will may not be God's? You want desperately for that to be God's will and it may not be.

Robert Jeffress: You know, the prayer of faith that is mentioned in James 5, there's a lot of wrong teaching out there. A lot of people think to pray in faith means faith that God will do what I'm asking him to do. That's not faith, that's presumption. A lot of people think of faith kind of like the little engine that could, you know, I think I can, I think I can. They turn it into, I think God will, I think God will. If I can conjure up this belief that God's going to do what I want him to do, then he'll do it. That's not faith. Faith in praying is exactly what Jesus illustrated in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knelt down, he threw himself down, the Greek says, on the ground, and he cried out to God, "God, if there is any other way, keep this experience, the cross, from me". Faith in praying means boldly asking for what's in your heart, maybe the healing of your child. But then, remember what he said, "Yet not my will, but your will be done". To pray in faith means to tell God boldly what you want him to do. Ask, but then quietly rest in his answer, believing that's best. That is faith in praying.

Living in a world that's very me-centered, it's also bled into the doctrine of the church and how we read the Bible. When we read the Bible, we don't often look for God in the text. We're looking for ourselves. Do you have wisdom to give on what it looks like to read the Bible in context, the way that God intended to see himself and not ourselves?

Robert Jeffress: If you look at the book of Ephesians, the first three chapters are doctrine, some of the greatest doctrines of the faith. We're going to talk about predestination and election and what all of those things mean. But then is that pivot verse in chapter four, verse one, "Therefore, let us walk in a manner worthy of the call". Any teaching of the scripture has to have personal application. For a teacher to stand up and teach the content, the historical background of the Bible without an application to the audience, he has just performed a spiritual abortion. He has prematurely stopped his teaching. The whole reason God gave us the Bible was not to make us smarter sinners, but to make us more obedient disciples of Christ. So when we read the Bible or teach the Bible, the concluding thought and expression ought to be, what am I going to do differently in my life today because of a result of this truth? And you're not suggesting that, that's not me-ism, that's application, the reason that God gave us the scripture but to use the Bible to try to approve what you want to be true, that's I think what you're talking about. But if you don't read the Bible with application, you've missed the whole point of the Bible.

As a Christian physician, I originally bought into evolution when it was simply explained to me in high school biology. And then I was given books from creation scientists that show there's much more evidence that God is a Creator, that things did not happen by accident. Creation itself is the general Revelation of God to all people, but most of our Christian colleges don't believe in it and they don't teach it. Do you think it came from being pressured by secular society that evolution has been proven?

Robert Jeffress: There's no conflict between the Bible and true science. But what we've got to be careful of is not taking stands that the Bible doesn't address. Now, I'm a creationist. I believe in a six-day creation. I believe, and I understand others don't, that they were actually 24-hour days. There is nothing in the Bible that says the earth is 6,000 years old. The genealogies are not complete. There are large gaps in the genealogies. So I would say let's make sure that we're taking a biblical stand. I think Christians can differ on those things, but let's be sure it's a biblical stand we're taking when we stand for truth.

Lee Strobel: Yeah, I'd agree with that, that there's an umbrella of orthodoxy in Christianity. And there are people who take slightly different positions. I'm an evangelist. I want to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ. And so often I'm dealing with people who are scientists or physicists or whatever. And my attitude is I don't want to try to convert them to some scientific principle before I convert them to the gospel. So I want to say, "Hey, you believe the universe is 13.8 billion years old? Great, I'll show you why based on your beliefs in an older universe that God exists and that Christianity is true".

Why would a God that's all-powerful and supposed to love everyone, where everyone is supposed to be equal and he sees everyone as equal, why would he make some people born with a physical disability and make it so that they're disadvantaged at birth?

Robert Jeffress: It's a tough question, but in the Bible, it's very clear. God said through Isaiah the prophet, "Is it not I who made the deaf and the dumb and the blind and the lame"? I don't believe that's saying God sketched it out. I think, but God uses those handicaps. He said, "I take responsibility because I could have stopped it if I wanted to". I think he's being very honest. He's got a purpose. Remember in John 9, there was a man who had been born blind since birth and the disciples said, "Why is this man blind? Is it his sin or his parents' sin"? He said, "Neither". It's that the glory of God, the power of God might be displayed in him. And Jesus chose to heal him at that point. That was to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. But I still think through a Christian who is physically challenged, God's power can be glorified. Paul said, "It's in my weakness that God's power is most clearly seen". And I would just say to you or anyone else who's really wrestling with that for personal reasons, remember this body that you have is only temporary. Bible says it's nothing more 2 Corinthians 5 than a tent that you dwell in for a little while and then you fold it up and you go to your true house. It's nothing but a cocoon that you're going to leave behind one day. There is a new body coming for those who know Christ that will last for all eternity and will be free from the sin and the suffering and the sickness of this life. And that's something you can bank on. Praise God.

Lee Strobel: I think of Joni Eareckson Tada who was a healthy teenager and when she was 16 or 17, she dove into a body of water and broke her neck and has been a paraplegic now for, golly, how many, 50 years, 51 years? And yet how God has used her life to glorify himself and to bring people into the kingdom and to encourage people, wow. I mean, she is just a great example of what you were saying that despite the difficulties that we encounter, God can still use us to make a difference for him and to pour his love through us into other lives as well.

Robert Jeffress: You know, Johnny, she's a friend of both of ours. She said something interesting one time. She said, "If God could heal me right now, if God would heal me and make me walk, I wouldn't choose to have him do it". And she gave the most interesting reason. She said, "If I'm healed, it means because Christ has come back and it means an end to sin forever. And when that happens, there's no chance for anybody to ever be saved again. So I'm ready, willing to sit in this wheelchair a little longer if that means the delay of Christ and the salvation of many more people".

The reason why I stayed true to my faith is that Jesus' tomb is the only one that's empty. Every spiritual leader that you see in major religions, you can go to their grave or to their tomb, but Jesus is no longer in the tomb. That's why I believe.

Lee Strobel: Every world religion was founded by someone who ultimately died and didn't come back from the dead. And yet Jesus has, and that shows that he is who he claimed to be. What does that mean? It means therefore, as Dr. Jeffress said, his words are not just suggestions from a wise man. They are the Word of God, that we can follow them with confidence that this is coming from God himself. And another implication is he's alive. We can know him, we can experience him, we can have a relationship with him. There's lots of wonderful implications to the fact that the tomb of Jesus is empty. And there is only one path to heaven, and that goes to Jesus Christ.

Dr. Ben Lovvorn: We've talked about a lot of things today. We've talked about a lot of evidence for our faith and why we can believe. But let's talk for a moment about the difference that it makes. What would you say to someone who's saying, what difference will this make in my life?

Robert Jeffress: Christianity doesn't eliminate our problems, but it adds one word to our problems, temporary. What we're facing now, what we feel now, the heartache, the disappointment, we have is temporary. And one day when Christ returns, it will be a new world. And aren't you ready for him to come back again? Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Lee Strobel: As an atheist, I mean, I lived a narcissistic, self-absorbed, sinful, drunken life. What people saw was me winning awards for investigative reporting, but they didn't see the other side. I was literally drunk in the snow in an alley on Saturday night. And God didn't just change my life 10, 15 degrees. He changed it 180 degrees in the other direction. I mean, I can't imagine what my life would be like if I had not prayed that prayer on November 8th, 1981 and received him as my forgiver and leader. I can't imagine the impact on my kids, my grandkids, if we had marriages stayed together. It changes everything, it changes everything. And it's hard to explain that to people 'cause they can't imagine how that's true. No, it doesn't erase all of our problems, but now we've got resources in our life to deal with those problems in a way that we never had before. I walked away from journalism a number of years ago. I took a 60% pay cut to join a staff at church 'cause I said, I want to spend the rest of my life telling people there is hope, there is redemption, there is eternal life, there is a life to come. And you can receive all that through Jesus Christ. And I've not regretted one moment of that. It's been the greatest. I did a book once called "The unexpected adventure". It's a great adventure of life to tell people this good news.
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