Jesus can change your life
Since 1964, Josh McDowell has been a traveling representative of Campus Crusade for Christ and heads the Josh McDowell Ministry international organization located in Dallas. McDowell is the author or co-author of 77 books. Among his most popular books are several offering clear defenses for the Christian faith: New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, More Than a Carpenter and Right From Wrong: What You Need To Know To Help Youth Make Right Choices. Evangel associate editor Scott Harrup conducted this interview in 2001.
PE: How has Christ changed your life?
McDOWELL: After I set out to refute Christianity intellectually and couldnÕt, I came to the conclusion the Bible was true and Jesus Christ was GodÕs Son. On December 19, 1959, at 8:30 at night I placed my trust in Christ as Savior and Lord and asked Him to come into my life and forgive me.
Over time things began to change. Where I once constantly lost my temper, I found myself arriving at a crisis and experiencing peace. Where I once believed people were there to be used, I started thinking of other people first. I once had a lot of hatred, mainly toward my father, an alcoholic. After I came to Christ, I could look my father in the eyes and say, ÒI love you.Ó That shook him up after some of the things I had done. As a result, it brought him to Christ also.
PE: Some might say that your testimony is just subjective experience.
McDOWELL: I always ask people, ÒWhat is the objective basis for the subjective experience?Ó I am not a Christian because God changed my life; I am a Christian because of my convictions about who Jesus Christ is. He is the Son of God. He died on a cross for my sin, was buried, was literally raised from the dead on the third day.
PE: Critics say that Jesus never claimed to be more than a teacher. Where does Jesus claim divinity?
McDOWELL: I wrote a book, Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity, because the deity of Christ is found from Genesis to Revelation. Several passages in the Gospels are some of the strongest. For example, in Mark 2, Jesus said to a paralytic, ÒMy son, your sins are forgiven.Ó Now, whenever you read any historical document, you always evaluate it in light of the historical context. When you consider the audience He spoke to and the meaning in that context, it was a bold statement.
WeÕre commanded to forgive others who wrong us, but Jesus took a person who had sinned against God the Father and said, ÒI forgive you.Ó Immediately the Jews said, ÒWhy does this Man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?Ó And Jesus said, ÒThatÕs right. I forgive you.Ó ThatÕs one of the boldest claims to deity.
John 10 talks about JesusÕ sheep. Jesus says, ÒMy Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my FatherÕs hand, for I and the Father are one.Ó You might say, ÒI and the Father are oneÓ in spirit. But thatÕs not what Jesus said in the context of His audience. He said, ÒI and the Father are oneÓ in essence and meaning.
Look how the Jews, JesusÕ audience, responded. They picked up stones to stone Him. And Jesus answered: ÒI showed you many good works from the Father. For which of them are you stoning me?Ó And the Jews answered Him, ÒFor a good work, we do not stone you. But for blaspheming, because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God.Ó To the audience He was addressing, Jesus made a direct claim to deity.
Those are two of about 40 related passages.
PE: Why are ChristÕs claims valid?
McDOWELL: My presupposition is that JesusÕ claims are valid because He is God in human flesh. But Jesus said, ÒIf you do not believe me for my words only, at least believe me for the sake of the miracles that I have done.Ó He said, ÒThe blind see, the lame walk, the sick are healed.Ó Christ confirmed His message, as did the disciples, through miracles and healing.
Christ also fulfilled prophecy, substantiating His claims. There are 333 messianic prophecies in the Old Testament fulfilled in one Person, Jesus Christ.
Another point would be how Jesus appealed to the Father and gave credit to the Father and stated He was God in human flesh. The Resurrection was probably the biggest proof. Other people claim to have been raised from the dead, but their power is always from someone else. Jesus claimed He had the power to raise himself from the dead and His followers would be raised from the dead. ThatÕs a unique claim in the literature of religion.
PE: Some say ChristÕs disciples made up the story of His resurrection. Is there evidence of the Resurrection?
McDOWELL: HereÕs the simplest answer: Within weeks, the disciples proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that He had been bodily raised from the dead and appeared to them. Where did they do that? Jerusalem. Where did the Resurrection allegedly take place? Jerusalem. If they had connived a scheme, and Christ had not been raised from the dead, where would have been the hardest place on the face of the earth to convince anyone? In Jerusalem. A 15-minute walk would have exposed the body in the tomb. They preached it in the hardest place in the world to convince anyone that Christ had been raised from the dead if it was a fraud.
PE: How can one PersonÕs death 2,000 years ago change someoneÕs life in the 21st century?
McDOWELL: If Jesus was not who He claimed to be — the Messiah, the Son of God, the Redeemer — then it couldnÕt. He might be a model for you, a motivation. If you study the life of Abraham Lincoln, you might live for others and take bold stands. But Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed that unless we are personally related to Him we are still in our sins and we are not saved.
If Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be, and He did die on a cross at a point of time in history, then, for all history past and all history future it is relevant because that is the very focal point for forgiveness and redemption. So, a Person who died on a cross for the sins of humanity has an impact on a personÕs life today in forgiveness.
Second, Jesus not only died on the cross for sins, but also was buried and raised from the dead, ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit. Because Christ lives, 2,000 years later He has that capacity to enter a manÕs or a womanÕs life and to change that life from the inside out.
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