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Notes: A Sermon by Lee Strobel on “Why We Believe What We Believe”

First Redeemer Church
11-18-2007
Lee Strobel: �Why We Believe What We Believe�

Opening Story: Cracker Barrel � mistaking �Buenos Dias� for �What�s a Deist?�

Strobel�s Background:

– Strobel became atheist at 14 years old
o Felt that people created God because of a fear of death
o Became journalist living by the motto �if your mother says she loves you, check it out�
– Strobel�s #1 value at the time was to get maximum pleasure
o Became a narcissist, angry person
o His own daughter�s natural reaction was to hide from him whenever he came home because of his anger
– Married an Agnostic
o Leslie became a Christian through a downstairs neighbor
o Strobel�s first reaction was to divorce her
o Leslie invited him to church (Bill Hybel�s in Chicago)
o He decided to investigate Christianity journalistically

2 Key Questions

– Did Jesus really claim to be the Son of God?
– Did he back it up by rising from the dead?
o 1 Corinthians 15:17 � �And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.�

1. The Claim

a. Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion claims that there is minimal evidence of Jesus� claim to be the Son of God. (False)

b. Gospel of Mark is based on Peter�s eyewitness account and is oldest record
i. It is an ancient historical document, no matter its truth
ii. Most common way that Jesus referred to himself is as �The Son of Man�
iii. But the �Son of Man� refers to �>Daniel 7wherein he is described as eternal, divine

The Son of Man Is Given Dominion

13 �I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

iv. When Jesus says �Son of Man� he is claiming divinity and humanity, both
v. Mark 14:61-64 – �Again the high priest asked him, �Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?� And Jesus said, �I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.� And the high priest tore his garments and said, �What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?� And they all condemned him as deserving death.�
vi. John 10:30 � �I and the Father are one.�

2. The Proof

i. Execution
1. He was truly dead not a �fortuitous resuscitation�
2. He was flogged and in hypoglycemic shock from loss of blood
3. Strobel reads eyewitness account of a Roman flogging
4. crucifixion � a slow death by suffocation and finally by heart attack from lack of oxygen
5. spear that penetrated heart and lung
6. 5 outside sources verify his death (Tacitus, Talmud, Josephus, and others)

ii. Early Accounts
1. Resurrection as legend?
2. the creed from the earliest Christians recognizes his Resurrection and even includes the names of eyewitnesses including skeptics converted � Paul (I Corinthians 15:3 ff.)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

3. This creed is dated only 2-5 years after his death
4. according to scholars, even 2 generations is not long enough for legend to obscure fact
5. Biblical accounts as well

iii. Empty Tomb
1. it was sealed and guarded
2. Discovered by several WOMEN!
a. Criterion of embarrassment � a person is not going to make up something that is actually embarrassing, as this was, so it is more likely to be fact.
b. Women were not credible witnesses under Jewish Law so that also works with the criterion of embarrassment
3. everyone in the first century conceded it was empty
4. Why make up a story if the body was there?

iv. Eyewitnesses
1. a dozen appearances after the Resurrection
2. 515 eyewitnesses including skeptics (i.e. Paul and others)
3. he appeared in various places, inside and outside, individually and in groups
4. Was it hallucinations?
a. Hallucinations are like dreams, they are personal and cannot occur en masse
b. They are not contagious and are individual events
c. �515 people having hallucinations is a bigger miracle than the Resurrection itself�
5. Cowards become brace after seeing Him
a. Willingness to die proves nothing (i.e. 9/11 terrorists)
b. People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they are true (disciples, martyrs etc.)
c. They will NOT die for their beliefs if they know they are false.
d. Therefore the disciples knew the truth of the Resurrection and were willing to die for it.

Strobel�s Conversion

– Came to faith on November 8, 1981
– Came to conclusion that �it takes more faith to maintain my atheism� than to believe in Christianity
– John 1:12 � �But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.�
o Believe + Receive = Become
– After conversion
o Ezekiel 36:26 � �And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.�
o Life began to change � no longer as angry or narcissistic
o His daughter (who had feared him) came to faith 5-6 months after his conversion and said �I want God to do for me what he has done for my daddy.� � She is now a Christian Novelist
o His son is seeking a doctorate in philosophy

Ended with prayer and admonition to come to faith in Jesus Christ.