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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Investigating the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus Christ (Part 2 of 2)

Investigating the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus Christ (Part 2 of 2)

Through his own faith journey and the context of his police-work analogies, J. Warner Wallace will provide a compelling evangelistic message that will challenge nonbelievers and inspire Christians to be bolder in their faith. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: February 3, 2023

J. Warner Wallace: So I- I had stopped myself as I’m reading, “Well can I just figure out what- what did Jesus say that was so smart,” that’s really what, all I want to know. But as I’m reading-

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: … through there, I realize these are, uh, these are people who want me to believe that these things happened in a certain event order, a certain sequence, at a certain time in history, at a certain place on the planet, these are- are alleged eyewitness accounts, and so I just decided to test ’em the way you would test any eyewitness account.

John Fuller: That’s Jim Wallace describing how his background in law enforcement helped him uncover some amazing truths about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and, best of all, the story of his investigation will inspire and challenge your faith. We’ll hear more from Detective Wallace on this episode of Focus on the Family, and thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, we heard an amazing conversation last time that I recorded with Jim and he has some fascinating perspectives about why our beliefs in Jesus and the Bible r- really do matter today. As he described last time, uh, Jim was an atheist who simply thought Christianity was another kind of mythology, probably like a crutch, or worse, he was convinced it was an elaborate hoax that could easily be debunked by careful examination of the facts. I- I love this stuff because I think he’s done such a great job of compelling a person to think a little bit outside the box about the life of Christ. However, uh, Jim’s convictions were put to the test when he realized there might be more credibility to the gospels then he imagined, think of that, that revelation. So he began a comprehensive investigation using all of his skills as a police detective to discover the truth about Jesus. And if you missed our conversation last time, man, I want to urge you to review the previous video episode, or get the audio download from our website, or get our broadcast app so you can listen that way. This is a great message for you and for those you love that may not know the Lord.

John: Hm, yeah, and as we mentioned last time, Jim Wallace has written a book about his research and his personal faith journey. The title is Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. Request your copy when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And now, Jim, here’s part two of your conversation with J. Warner Wallace on today’s Focus on the Family.

Jim: Let me ask you this, because one thing that I’ve seen for, uh, people, particularly, who don’t want to believe in God, spend a lot of t- time talkin’ about God-

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: … in a negative context, right?

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: So if they don’t believe in God, they’re the atheists, they do a lot of rebuttal to Christians about how silly we are. They- they-

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: … um, my point being, is they engage the topic more than their predisposition would, you know, kinda, implicate, you- you-

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: … see what I’m saying?

J. Warner: Well, and so me as the atheist-

Jim: If I’m an atheist, why would I even talk about God-

J. Warner: Okay, so here’s what, here’s what-

Jim: … but here I am, talkin’-

J. Warner: … here’s what-

Jim: … about God.

J. Warner: Yes, and I … And sometimes it’s put out this way, um, uh, you know, that atheists are saying that, “God doesn’t exist and I hate him.”

Jim: Uh, (laughs) right. Okay, that’s weird.

J. Warner: Well we’re speaking contradiction. But the reality of it is, is that I was, uh- uh, one of those guys and I would’ve said, “No, it’s not that I think that God doesn’t exist and I hate …” that would be stupid, he doesn’t exist, what’s there to hate? No, it’s that, “God doesn’t exist and I hate the fact that you think he does, and have created a version of God, which has created so much problem in the world, it has created so many troubles in the world,” that was my view. So it’s that, uh, we talk about it a lot ’cause we think it’s problem-solving, like, we can solve the world’s problems, the nation’s problems, by simply eliminating the Christian worldview, because it’s the Christian worldview, if you think about it, that stands between … There’s a lot of things I-

Jim: Well now we’re talkin’, because there’s-

J. Warner: R-

Jim: … about half the country that believes that.

J. Warner: That’s right. And so because of that, they’re- they’re actively pursuing not because they think this is, you know, I- I, uh, there’s no God and I hate him,” but because, I think there is no God and what you’ve done by creating this fiction is stopping us from progress, it’s stopping us from becoming the kinds of people that they think we need to become. The reality of it, though, is that the Bible does describe the world the way it really is, not just the way it is historically, and that’s, you know, I think that this describes the history of the 1st century about Jesus accurately, but it also describes human nature accurately. Look, things don’t change. 

Jim: You’re right. (laughs)

J. Warner: I- I learned early on that the only three motives for murder are- are sex, money, and power, the pursuit of power. Well, I- I- I wish I would’ve read scripture, because that’s in I John 2, I just didn’t know I John 2, so I had to find it the dumb way, by just, by, um, doing a bunch of cases. But it turns out that our human nature is described by a book that actually captures reality the way it really is.

Jim: That’s, uh- uh, I mean that right there is evidence, right?

J. Warner: Yeah, I think it is, I absolutely-

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: … can say it’s evidence and so that’s why I think we have to … But- but most of the time as an atheist, when I’m complaining about the Bible, I had never read the Bible, so I’m complaining about the one thing I know the least about. 

Jim: When you were that atheist, let me ask you this, you were, uh, convinced that the resurrection of Jesus had to be some kind of hoax or conspiracy and that the disciples cooked it up. That’s pretty common-

J. Warner: Yes-

Jim: … when you talk to people that-

J. Warner: … yes.

Jim: … don’t believe in Jesus, that’ll be the first thing. I talked to a guy from, uh, Princeton Divinity School that believes this, right-

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: … he’s a smart guy.

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: But think of that, he went to Princeton-

J. Warner: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … Divinity and unlearned his faith.

J. Warner: Well, okay, so we always have knowledge and wisdom are two different things, right?

Jim: (laughs) Right.

J. Warner: So it, you know, I can get a lot of knowledge goin’ to- to school, but I may not be wise. And what may be wise about the whole conspiracy theory issue is, is- is workin’ a bunch of conspiracies. Uh, so, any time you have, you know, if you’re working, I worked gangs for two years, any time you have more than one suspect who commits a crime or a murder, um, then you- you have, what’s, uh, we’re gonna add a conspiracy charge. But here’s what I’ve discovered. To have a successful conspiracy, and I think we’re so, we love conspiracy theories, I mean we are, I mean a lot of Christians we are-

Jim: Feeds an appetite.

J. Warner: Yes, it feeds an appetite we all have, they make great movies, make great novels, we love to talk about them as though they’re true, but here’s the hard truth, is that you need a certain number of things in place in order to have a successful conspiracy and here they are, pretty simple. You need the least number of co-conspirators. It’s easier for two people to do something, tell a lie, keep a secret than it is for 22, it just is. You also need to hold it for the shortest amount of time possible. It’s easier to hold a lie for a day then it is for a year. So the, a great conspiracy is when two people commit a crime and then one immediately kills the other. Well now we’ve-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

J. Warner: … kind of, uh, captured it, right-

Jim: The first day. 

J. Warner: Yes, the first day. So- so we make … We’ve kept the time span short and we only have one remaining, uh, perpetrator, but those are the first two things. The third thing is that you- you really want, you know, um, to have good communication, excellent communication. What’s the first thing we’re gonna do when we get five people who committed a crime, we’re gonna separate them and ask them deep questions, because they cannot talk to each other now to line up their stories. And I’m gonna go way beyond the initial story, into the weeds, to catch the lie, to spot the lie.

Jim: Hm.

J. Warner: You also want really super strong family or relational connections, right, and that’s gonna be really important. So these are the kinds of things we’re looking for, uh, when we see a successful conspiracy. Here’s the problem with the gospel authors is there’s way too many of them, it’s not just the 12, right, there’s 120 in the upper room in Acts 1. Remember they picked Matthias to replace Judas.

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: He was also an eyewitness who had seen Jesus from the baptism to the resurrection. They picked from a group of 120. But Paul says there were 500 who saw the living ri- risen Christ on the same day. So how large is … It’s just … If you just told me that, “Oh, yeah, I believe in a conspiracy from last year involving 500 people-

Jim: That all lined up.

J. Warner: … yeah, I’m gonna be suspicious already-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … there’s too many people. If it takes an entire sector of the federal government two decades to hold a conspiracy, I’m sorry, someone’s gonna break.

Jim: Let me ask you about that because, uh, that’s true, I understand that. Uh, the eyewitnesses would be different from those that believed the accounts of this- this.

J. Warner: Yeah, that’s right.

Jim: And I think the irony of that is, those that hear the account later would be the first to say, “Okay, I, you know, I just heard this was what happened-

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: … so I- I don’t know that I believe it.” But for those eyewitnesses, the-

J. Warner: Yes-

Jim: … martyrs-

J. Warner: … yes-

Jim: … in the case of Christ-

J. Warner: … yes.

Jim: … these people that are being boiled in oil, being-

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: … crucified-

J. Warner: Quartered, uh, crucified upside down-

Jim: … you know, all the-

J. Warner: … yeah-

Jim: … traditions-

J. Warner: … mm-hmm-

Jim: … of the church-

J. Warner: … mm-hmm-

Jim: … with Peter and all the-

J. Warner: … yeah-

Jim: … disciples, plus- plus- plus others, uh, it- it, those eyewitnesses would have been the ones to say, “No- no, okay, it’s not true.”

J. Warner: Yes.

Jim: None of them did.

J. Warner: Yeah, so if I said to you, I mean you say this, uh, too, we would be willing to die for what we believe about Jesus, so it would have zero evidential value, because there’s lots of folks who are willing to die for what they don’t know is a lie.

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: But these are the folks who would know if it was a lie-

Jim: That we cooked it-

J. Warner: … so-

Jim: … all up.

J. Warner: … so their, uh, like, willingness to die has high evidential value, but the very next generation would have no evidential value, so I think you’re right. So, uh, and I think, and now that … And I think if you look at … One of the claims I do see though, Jim, that I see the people will say, “Well, yeah, but we have very mixed traditions about the deaths, how we can even be sure that they died a martyr’s death?” Well here’s what I would say. We have all kinds of false claims made about Christians in the first three centuries. Yeah, we have no, uh, counterclaims to how the eyewitnesses died, except for their martyrdom accounts.

Jim: Hm.

J. Warner: That’s interesting to me, ’cause it’s not as though we’re weighing claims. We have some claims that say they lived to the ripe old age and some claims saying they died as martyrs. No, all we have are claims that say they died as martyrs.

Jim: Interesting.

J. Warner: So, for me, that’s a powerful, um-

Jim: Consistency.

J. Warner: Yeah, it is consistent. And we, uh, and- and by the way, the- the claims related to Peter’s death and Paul’s death are extremely well attested. So even if you say, “Well I don’t trust what I know about Andrew though.” Okay, but you’ve got … These folks were willing to die for what they believed was true, as-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … the eyewitnesses.

Jim: Right, it’s so true. Let, uh, let’s move to another common objection to reliability and that’s of the New Testament, um, so-called witness testimony was added centuries later. So, you know, somebody had the core story-

J. Warner: Yes-

Jim: … the fable-

J. Warner: … yes.

Jim: … and then others built on it to make it a more secure-

J. Warner: Yeah-

Jim: … fable. 

J. Warner: … yeah.

Jim: Speak to that idea that somehow this was just, uh, you know, a fairytale that was built on over two, or three, or four-

J. Warner: Yes-

Jim: … centuries.

J. Warner: … and there are really well-known, um, uh, skeptics who have written books on how Jesus became God and, basically, argue that there’s a Jesus of Nazareth, uh-

Jim: That that’s factual.

J. Warner: … yes, he’s a preaching rabbi in the 1st century. And even the skeptics, so many of these skeptics will say, “Well that’s very well attested historically,” uh, they have no doubt that there was a Jesus of Nazareth. What they doubt, though, is that that was accurately captured. What we have today is well the first, uh, capture of that Jesus of … In other words, there might be some early document recording the life of Jesus, but all of the miracle claims, those things that, you know, the virgin birth, the resurrection, these are things that were added to the story over time until the Jesus of history became the Christ of Christianity. And the argument basically is that- that we know of, you got 300 years, let’s say, between the- the life, um, and ministry of Jesus and, say, the counsel of Laodicea, where they decide which of these canonical books are we going to assemble into the New Testament canon, that’s a long time.

Jim: Hm.

J. Warner: Look, there’s a murder, uh, sh- show on Netflix, I think it’s called, the Making of a Murderer, and- and one of the claims is that some of the evidence was pulled out of property well after the crime by evil detectives and law enforcement officers who then used it, and twisted it, tainted it, put the blood someplace where it shouldn’t be, so that after the fact that the- the evidence was altered by a detective, and then when we go to trial 10 years later we don’t know it’s been altered by the detective, and we’ve got bad evidence in the trial. So the same kind of claim is made. This was not part of the original case, but it’s tec-, a detective later tampered with it and now it’s in the case. So what we do to prevent that from happening in criminal trials, uh, we simply ask a question, “Was there somebody there on the day of the, of the actual investigation who saw that piece of evidence in the crime scene,” maybe even took a Polaroid, ’cause back in the day we would take Polaroids.

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: And my dad would be the next guy up, the investigator, would talk to that officer and say, “What’d you find?” “Well I found this and here …” He would receive the evidence sometimes, or receive the Polaroid, take his own Polaroid, he’d write his own reports, and now I got two reports, and then he would bring it to the crime lab, they’d take their own, uh- uh, photographs, write the … Now we got three reports. And then I’d come pick it up years later, write my report. So now I’ve got picture, after picture, after picture and report, after report, after report connecting the past to the present, and each one of us is writing a report, or taking a picture, we’re like a link in a chain-

Jim: Uh-huh.

J. Warner: … that connects the past to the present. And this is why this is called the chain of custody. So in every significant piece of evidence in a criminal trial, they’re gonna say, “We have … ” What’s the chain of custody, like where did it go? Is there any period of time in which we can’t account for it-

Jim: Right, where it was tainted.

J. Warner: … is there any break in the chain, ’cause that’s where it got tampered, right there.

Jim: So how do you apply that to the New Testament?

J. Warner: Okay, so we asked a question, uh, we get, we get authors who write something, or eyewitnesses, so I say, like, John, we, he is, j-, uh, app- appears to be, he had … Whoever wrote John says they saw this stuff. Okay, great. So, um, whoever sat … Um, okay, he write, he wrote something, but how do I know if his Polaroid is the same thing I have today in my Bible? Well I ask the question, “Who’s this next officer in the chain of custody?” Well his students were Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias. So those three students actually wrote letters to local congregations, and we have, they’re not in your scripture, but they have these ancient texts. Here’s what I’m looking for. Is the Jesus described by Polycarp, and Papias, and Ignatius less supernatural than the one I have today in John’s gospel, because then it would tell me that, “Hey, something changed.”

Jim: Got a discrepancy.

J. Warner: Right. Who’s the next link in the chain? Well Ignatius and Papias, or, um, Polycarp rather, had a student named Irenaeus, but we have a bunch of his documents. What does Jesus sound like in his documents? He had a student name Hippolytus. And you can do this for the, uh, um, eyewitnesses over, and over, and over again. Peter, you can trace all the way through Tatian in history. Paul, you can trace to the North African church all the way to Eusebius. These are chains of custody and so you can examine every link in the chain and you can, uh, even compare the chains to each other-

Jim: Hm.

J. Warner: … ’cause these happen in three different regions. Remember, one’s happening in Asia Minor with John, one’s happening in Rome with Paul, one’s happening in North Africa with Peter. They’re separated in the kingdom, so how do we … I mean if they actually match, if the story about Jesus is every bit as supernatural from the very beginning, in all three chains, you can have confidence that the story hasn’t changed, so I actually have great confidence. Now you can argue that, “Hey I don’t, I don’t believe it,” okay, fine, but you can’t argue, “I don’t believe it because the story was changed,” ’cause-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … we can actually trace the chain of custody-

Jim: ‘Cause you can see the consistency.

J. Warner: … it doesn’t change.

Jim: Right, yeah.

J. Warner: The things that you’re most concerned about as an atheist, did he rise from the grave, was he born of a virgin, did he work those miracles, you’re gonna be stuck with that in the very earliest accounts of Jesus.

Jim: Well, see, that’s amazing. You- you also speak about the gospel of Mark and how it reads as a crime broadcast. Uh-

J. Warner: Yes.

Jim: … what does that mean to the novice here?

J. Warner: Well, okay, so if, you know, like I said before, we do cri- criminal trials and the jury, I always tell juries that we, I, I’m gonna tell ya everything you need to know, but I can’t tell you everything that could be known, because I can’t answer every question, because I’m, uh, we’re all … We try not to edit, right? We, we’re, we wanna give you everything we learned evidentially-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … but when you’re talking to a witness, the witness always does real life, real time editing-

Jim: Sure.

J. Warner: … it just happens. Now why is it, then, that Mark’s gospel is so much briefer than, say, Matthew or Luke? Well that’s because he’s, like, the crime broadcast. I honestly think that if you looked at this, New Testament letters, you’ll see that each author has a sense that Jesus is gonna come back in their lifetime, like, the return of Jesus is imminent-

Jim: Correct.

J. Warner: … so here we’re gonna write this stuff down. Well Mark’s early broadcast, he’s coming … Uh, well, yeah, you, when you arrive at a crime scene, if you’re the first officer there, your job is to put out everything you can put out, because other people are still in the area, they might catch this guy.

Jim: What do you mean by put out?

J. Warner: Well, what I mean is, you get your radio out and you say, “We just had a robbery at this location, the suspect’s description is,” and you give a very brief suspect description, in a blue Toyota, it’s got a, you know, a broken rear mirror or it’s got a broken right-hand mirror, some description, so that if we’re out and patrolling, and we go, “Oh, there’s a guy that matches the description. There’s the Toyota, it matches the description,” we actually can do something.

Jim: Oh.

J. Warner: So the first broadcast, the first crime broadcast is, got information, but trust me, once he starts takin’ a report, that’s gonna be, like, 10 pages, his broadcast was a paragraph-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … but it was immediate. I needed it immediately because I need you to act right now, because time is short, he might get away. Well the same thing is, kind of, happening with Mark. I think he’s the earliest, uh, report and he has the briefest report. “I need you to act right now, time is short.” And everyone else who comes along then actually expands, uh … Luke says that he is speaking to all the eyewitnesses and servants of the Word and the person he quotes the most is Mark’s gospel.

Jim: Well it seems to me that Luke is uniquely positioned, ’cause he’s commissioned to go collect all the facts about the case.

J. Warner: And he says this, yeah.

Jim: It’s exactly what he says.

J. Warner: Yes, he says-

Jim: So he’s-

J. Warner: So he’s carefully written this while … Okay, but I always say this, whenever we’re listening to words and it, and it, uh, I’m listening to your words, Jim, I’m always listening to the optional words, the words you didn’t have to say. Well those are adjectives and adverbs. I never need to use one and then they, uh, tell you something. And so I’m listening to how Luke writes that report-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … he tells us he’s careful. He doesn’t need to say carefully. Look, if I tell you this is my black coffee tumbler, what did I just tell you?

Jim: Color and use.

J. Warner: I just told you I have more than one tumbler, this is the black one.

Jim: Oh, okay.

J. Warner: And the other one-

Jim: Oh, that’s good, definitely. (laughs) 

J. Warner: … the other one is probably a different color.

Jim: Okay. 

J. Warner: So, see, I can learn something from the optional word. By telling you this is my black tumbler, I didn’t have to say, uh, this is my tumbler, but I gave you more information.

Jim: Huh.

J. Warner: Well that’s what I’m looking for in Luke’s first chapter and he says that he carefully, that’s because he’s comparing his to Mark, which isn’t as careful. Mark was another early account, he’s gonna quote Mork, Mark, more than any other source, but he’s here to tell you, “I have a lot of other stuff from the other eyewitnesses and servants otherwhere else.” He also says that he has an orderly account and the Greek word means correct chronological order.

Jim: Huh.

J. Warner: Why do I need to use that adverb, or that adjective, an orderly account? Well, because it turns out Mark’s account is not in the correct chronological order. Compare Mark to Luke, you’ll see some things in different orders. Papias, an early bishop, says Mark’s account was written at the feet of Peter and he was accurate if not orderly, he uses the exact same Greek word, orderly. So we knew from Papias it wasn’t an orderly account, but Luke is telling us this in the first chapter. But that means that as early as Luke’s gospel is, and I think it is early, Mark’s is even earlier-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … because he’s comparing his to Mark.

Jim: Let’s turn the corner for the last few minutes here and just talk about how you moved from-

J. Warner: Hm.

Jim: … being that atheist to that first whiff of becoming a three, back-

J. Warner: Yes.

Jim: … to that discussion. I mean, talk about your progression from before-

J. Warner: Mm-hmm. 

Jim: … the hard-core angry atheist to the three, maybe so, heart is open, I hope there’s a God, but I’m not sure, to the two, I’m a Christian, but I have some questions-

J. Warner: Yes, you gotta be committed. 

Jim: … to the one-

J. Warner: Yes.

Jim: … I’m sold out.

J. Warner: Yeah, I think that … Well, first of all, I- I read C. S. Lewis, uh, um, at some point in the first year of investigating this and Lewis said something about, and I think it was Mere Christianity, but I was, I think this was, uh, from God on the Dock. And I remember him saying, um, uh, roughly, “That if Christianity is not true, it’s of no importance, so stop, you know, why- why should we go to church anymore, it’s of no importance if it’s not true. If it is true, though, it’s of critical importance, the most important thing you’ll ever- ever- ever know. What it can’t be, though,” he would argue, and I think he’s right, “is it cannot be moderately important.” It’s either of no importance or of critical importance, so- so I-

Jim: Absolutely.

J. Warner: … knew this, right? Once I got into it I realized, “Okay, if this is true …” So, I spent about a year just investigating the claims of the gospels to see if what they were saying about Jesus was true and I simply used a lot of first entry sources, a lot of the history of the early church, a lot of the history of the 1st century, that region, to see if I could corroborate some of these claims to see if they had changed over time, how early were the claims. And then, at some point, I got to a point where I told Susie, I said, “You know, I think I believe what it’s telling me about Jesus.” And I don’t know that we really even knew what that meant yet. And she said to me, “Well …” And I said, “But I have a question and maybe you can help me with this,” ’cause, uh, we, she’s on the same journey with me, “I still don’t get why he would have to die on a cross, though.”

Jim: Huh.

J. Warner: Like, “Why would this have to be the plan of salvation?” So I was already at a point where I was willing to accept the- the reliability of the gospels, yet I still didn’t understand the gospel.

Jim: Right, the core.

J. Warner: And at that point I started to read the scriptures not for what they said about Jesus, ’cause I’d already done that work, and I trusted him for that. I needed to know-

Jim: So that belief was there.

J. Warner: Yes, so I had believed that.

Jim: Now you had to move to the next step.

J. Warner: I had to move to believe in-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … and that was, I started reading the scriptures to see what they said about me.

Jim: Oh.

J. Warner: And if you are all, if you’ll do that … Now reason, I would never have started that way, because for me I didn’t believe they were telling me the truth about Jesus, so why should I care what they’re telling me about me, it’s all a fairytale. But, once I knew they were telling me the truth about Jesus, I started to read what they were saying about me. And if- if you have any sense of humility at all, or self-awareness, you’ll realize that what Paul says in Romans, in Romans wrote, right, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” well, you realize it, it’s true of you. Look, I don’t believe in a good God, I believe in a morally perfect God, there’s a difference. If there’s-

Jim: Hm.

J. Warner: … a God powerful enough to create the entire universe from nothing, he can eliminate moral imperfection, yeah, he, that’s why he’s a morally perfect being. I’ve had good days, I’ve had morally good days, but I’ve never had a morally perfect day.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, that’s right.

J. Warner: And- and you’re not gonna stand in front of a morally perfect God. By his sheer power alone, you cannot stand in front of him.

Jim: That’s what it says.

J. Warner: That’s right and that makes sense, right, because we’re like oil and water. So I knew at some point that that’s who I was. I was that natural man for years, only the spiritual man can discern these things, and I had to get to a place, and I think that’s okay. Uh, my journey in was-

Jim: Totally.

J. Warner: … different than others. And if you’re a skeptic who’s listening to this and you’re thinking, “No, I gotta think, my way in,” well, welcome.

Jim: Well that, and that hits the pride factor-

J. Warner: Yes.

Jim: … as the created being, that we’ve-

J. Warner: Yes.

Jim: … gotta say, “We are sinners, I-

J. Warner: Yes-

Jim: … am a sinner-

J. Warner: … that’s right. 

Jim: … saved by grace.” Not my grace-

J. Warner: Yes, that’s right.

Jim: … by the Lord’s grace.

J. Warner: And here’s how I look at it. Uh, look, in the end, the, um, all crime is created by some subset of pride that drives us to either pursue money, sex, or the pursuit of power. That’s a pride issue. I want this, I want this desire, I want … Uh, me- me- me- me- me- me- me. It turns out that pride, that kind of selfish self-focus is not just the- the motive for every murder and every crime, everything you think is wrong with the world and our country, you could go back and say, “Well it’s really grounded in this problem, a pride problem.” Well there’s … The opposite of pride is another word that no one wants to talk about, it’s humility. 

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: So it turns out that every problem you think you see, the solution is humility. It, uh- uh, this is why the gospel, I always say, “Yeah, the gospel is the cure for every kind of stupid you can think about.”

Jim: Huh.

J. Warner: If it’s government stupid, politic stupid, ideology stupid, whatever stupid you think’s out there, it turns out the gospel is the cure, you know why, ’cause it begins with an act of humility, it begins with a bent knee. And when we are willing to do that for the gospel, it- it changes everything, but, so you have-

Jim: So true.

J. Warner: … to get to a place where you’re willing to bend your knee.

Jim: Jim, I mean, we’re right down to it. You’ve done a fantastic job describing the journey that God’s had, uh, that God has had you on. I mean right from … Uh, he had his hand on you when you were an atheist.

J. Warner: That’s right.

Jim: I mean this idea that God knows you before you know him-

J. Warner: That’s right.

Jim: … and he’s drawin’ you, and then drawin’ you. And that’s everyone and even for the person that would put his fist up to God because they lost a wife, they lost a child, whatever tragedy they had in their family, that’s usually the first response-

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: … “God why would you do this to me?”

J. Warner: That’s right.

Jim: And I think at the end here, the right question is for that person, particularly, who has that bitterness, wh- what do you say in everything that you’ve discovered?

J. Warner: I- I always say that I’m not a Christian because it works for me, huh, ’cause it doesn’t work for me. Honestly, if you’re, like, especially if you’re a young person right now, this is the thing that’s not gonna make you popular.

Jim: Right. 

J. Warner: You’re not gonna be the most popular kid in your school if you’re a Christian probably. And I wasn’t tryin’ to solve a problem, I didn’t have a tr-, a train wreck marriage, I didn’t have any of the things that most times will drive you to your knees, I didn’t have any of that, I had a great life. So I’m a Christian because it’s true. And even though it doesn’t always work for me, from a convenience sake, it is true. I’d much rather be in an inconvenient truth than in a convenient lie. It is evidentially true.

Jim: Hm.

J. Warner: So you can pretend like it’s not and live your whole life like, but you’re gonna be living in a lie, and how comfortable is anyone living in a lie? We’ve created this worldview for ourself, we want to deny that God exists, okay, but it is true, just know that you’re living in this fabrication you’ve created. I don’t think many of us feel comfortable doing that and they see us as the Christians who are living in the lie. Well, okay, that’s why I wanted to look at the evidence, ’cause once I knew it was true evidentially, I realized there wasn’t a lot of choice. There are days when it’s- it’s hard, it’s harder … If you ask Susie, the 18 years before we came, became Christians was a lot easier than the 26 since we’ve been Christians.

Jim: Oh (laughs) that’s interesting.

J. Warner: It’s a lot easier becau-, why, because it’s easy to throw the dart against the wall, just go draw the bullseye around wherever the dart lands. Now we’re not doin’ that, now there’s a bullseye before we start, I can never-

Jim: A standard.

J. Warner: … I can never hit it-

Jim: Yeah-

J. Warner: … and that’s a much-

Jim: … that’s, yeah-

J. Warner: … dif-, more difficult-

Jim: … that’s good.

J. Warner: … but it’s a life worth living.

John: We hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part conversation with J. Warner Wallace about the powerful truths of the gospel message and how each one of us can become effective witnesses for Christ. If today’s program has raised any questions about your own relationship with God, or what it means to be a Christian, I urge you to contact us. We have a free booklet, you can download it or we can send it to you, it’s called, Coming Home. It offers a simple overview of why Jesus came to die and sacrifice himself for mankind and how a personal relationship with him will transform your life forever. We can also send you a copy of J. Warner’s book, Cold-Case Christianity, when you make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today. Just call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or make that contribution at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: And I want to encourage everyone who’s listening and viewing this program today to consider a monthly pledge to Focus on the Family. Every year hundreds of thousands of people contact us for help. Uh, they may be facing a crisis in their marriage or simply, well, wanting to be better moms and dads for their kids. Others are looking for discipleship tools to grow in their faith. Uh, when you commit to a monthly gift, uh, you help stabilize our budget so that we have the necessary staff and resources in place to meet the needs of these families, so a monthly pledge is a great way to partner with us in ministry. A one-time gift is also very helpful, obviously, and we’re counting on your support today.

John: We’d love to hear from you and, once again, our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Have a great weekend with your family, and your church family as well, and plan to join us on Monday for a powerful reminder about why we must remain committed to God’s truth no matter what.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Today we have these cultural streams that are so powerful that it’s almost impossible to stand against them, but Booker T. Washington said these words, “Evil doesn’t become good and wrong doesn’t become right just because the majority believes it to be so.”

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Cold-Case Christianity

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