Lee Strobel: Grace is the unmerited and undeserved favor of God in our lives. It is His forgiveness, His gift of forgiveness and eternal life that He offers us, not because we deserve it, not because we've earned it, but because He loves us so much that Jesus Christ, His only Son goes to the cross, dies as our substitute to pay for all of our sins and then offers forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift of grace.
Roger Marsh: Well, that's an accurate definition of God's grace from our guest once again, here on this Family Talk broadcast. He is Lee Strobel, the popular author of the books, The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator. Those titles and many others have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Lee is also a well-known and respected Christian apologist. And as you heard on our last broadcast, he spent the first part of his life as a skeptical atheist. It wasn't until he used his journalistic abilities that he discovered the overwhelming evidence for God. For the past 25 years now, Lee has traveled everywhere, sharing that truth with anyone who will listen. And today, he and Dr. Dobson will conclude discussing the concept of grace as described in Lee's book called The Case for Grace. Lee Strobel will explain the transforming power of the gospel by recounting a few powerful testimonies included in his book. He and Dr. Dobson will also consider why Christianity is the only faith defined by grace. Let's listen now to the conclusion of this interview right here on Family Talk.
Dr. Dobson: Lee, you've been my guest many times through the years on radio, and I've loved every time that I've had a chance to talk to you-
Lee Strobel: Thanks, I've loved it too.
Dr. Dobson: ... Because you really do have a grasp of who Jesus is and what he can do in a life. And I'll tell you what my hope is for today. There are people listening to us right now who have heard the name of Christ, but have never accepted Him-
Lee Strobel: Yeah.
Dr. Dobson: ... There are others today who've never really heard Him, at least not understood who He is. And maybe you will reach out to some of those people today.
Lee Strobel: Absolutely, it'll be my pleasure to do that.
Dr. Dobson: You have written a new book called The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives. You are of course, a New York Times bestselling author and I'm really anxious to talk to you about this book. Now, it is filled with stories about people who were given grace-
Lee Strobel: Yes.
Dr. Dobson: ... which is unmerited favor.
Lee Strobel: That's right, it's-
Dr. Dobson: It is receiving what you had no right to.
Lee Strobel: That's right. Free gift, free grift.
Dr. Dobson: And it comes because Christ loves you as an individual. Knows you by name, knew you before the foundations of the earth and is calling you, and beckoning you. And that's who you're addressing this book to, isn't it?
Lee Strobel: It is. I really am an addict for stories of how God transforms lives. The Bible says that when we receive Christ this free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that He offers to us out of his grace, when we receive that, something happens as we become adopted into his family and He will transform us. He will change our values and our character and our morals and our attitudes and our relationships and all of these things over time will change. Galatians says that over time, as we follow Jesus more and more, we will find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I mean, think about that. Those are the very things we all want. I mean, if we sat down and said, "I'd like to make a list of things I really want in my life. Let me see; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Yeah, sign me up for all those things."
Well, the Bible says, these are the things that God will manifest more and more in your life as you follow Him, and if you receive His grace and then you grow in your relationship with Him over time. So, I love these stories of people who were radically changed, I think because I was such a wretch. What people saw of me was award winning journalist at the Chicago Tribune and investigative reporter and all that stuff. What they didn't see was me literally drunk in the snow in an alley on Saturday night.
Dr. Dobson: You're such a nice guy today, I can't imagine you being a bad guy.
Lee Strobel: Well, I'll tell you a story. And I tell the story in the book, because I tell it as a way of saying, God can forgive our deepest hurts and our deepest wrongs and sins. When I was in college, living a wild life as an atheist, a girl I knew came up to me and said, "Lee, I got bad news." I said, "What?" She said, "I'm pregnant." I said, "That's no big deal." I said, "Abortion is legal in New York. Well, just get an abortion. It's not a big deal, believe me. Look, I'll help you, I'll help you set it up. We'll get the money for it, it's not a big deal." And I facilitated the destruction of that innocent unborn life.
Dr. Dobson: Your first.
Lee Strobel: It was not my child-
Dr. Dobson: I see.
Lee Strobel: ... This was a friend and it was somebody else who had gotten her pregnant, but I encouraged her to get the abortion, I helped set-up the abortion, I facilitated the abortion. And that haunted me for many years. Even as an atheist it haunted me because-
Dr. Dobson: There is no God, there is no justice, there is no right and wrong, why did that haunt you?
Lee Strobel: I used to commute down to the Chicago Tribune on the train and a guy who used to sit next to me almost every trip was a lawyer for a pro-life organization. And we used to get in these little debates and you know what? He convinced me 100 times over that abortion was wrong, but you know what?
Dr. Dobson: Isn't that interesting? That God sat you down-
Lee Strobel: I know, what are the odds?
Dr. Dobson: ... Found the one guy you needed to talk to.
Lee Strobel: Exactly. But you know what? Even though he convinced me intellectually that this is wrong, I had a motive for it being right, because, "Yeah, it might be something to come in handy sometime and..." It wasn't until I came to faith in Christ that He really transformed my attitudes on that issue. And I remember then, repenting of that sin and receiving forgiveness for it and yet it haunting me for a long time. And finally, one day I sat down, I wrote a letter to that child and said I was sorry. And wrote a long letter, handwritten page, pouring out my heart to this unborn child.
Dr. Dobson: You weren't yet a believer?
Lee Strobel: No, I was a believer at that point.
Dr. Dobson: I see.
Lee Strobel: And it's interesting, I've lost the letter. And as I was writing the book, I thought about that because it happened to be, I think it was the 40th birthday that that child would have had. And I imagined 40 years, he or she would be probably a mom or a dad, maybe a grandparent. Who knows what wonderful relationships that person would have had and so forth? And it always would haunt me around the birthday of that child that I engineered the destruction of.
Dr. Dobson: You remembered it.
Lee Strobel: Yeah, absolutely. And so, I wrote that letter and the funny thing was, I thought I should get the letter now, quote it in my book, and then I thought, I don't have it anymore. And I thought, isn't that great? God somehow allowed me to lose that letter because you know what? It's forgiven. It is forgiven. There is no sin, there is no wrong that we commit that God will not forgive and wipe clean. And it was just a reminder to me that it's a good thing that letter's gone because I don't need to dwell on it. It is forgiven. And then I believe I'll meet that child in heaven someday.
Dr. Dobson: As far as the east is from the west.
Lee Strobel: Exactly, exactly.
Dr. Dobson: There is a story in here I want to make sure we get time for you to describe. It's a chapter entitled, The Executioner. Tell us that story.
Lee Strobel: Yeah. This is a story about a gentleman who was a pastor in California named Christopher LaPel. He's a pastor of a church in Los Angeles. He's from Cambodia, he survived the Killing Fields, that era of the Khmer Rouge, when they took over the country, millions of people were killed. I mean, it was a horrible, horrible era of Cambodia. And he lost a cousin in the S21, which is the torture center where 17,000 people came in and nobody came out alive. He survived and his parents were killed, his siblings were killed. He survived, he came to the United States, he's now a pastor. So, he went back to Cambodia to do evangelism and build churches.
And so, he was at a church growth conference that he was having and a guy he met came in and this was a man who said, "I've done many terrible things in my life. I don't think God can forgive me." And he said, "No, no, no. God's grace will cover whatever, the cross is able to forgive all. And God will forgive you, He will adopt you as His son." And this guy couldn't quite believe that God could forgive him, but Christopher said, "Yes, He can." So, he led him to Christ, baptized him and this guy was changed. This guy who came to him became a church planter. He led his family to the Lord. He became like a Mother Teresa, helping mission organizations in Cambodia and living a life like a Mother Teresa in Cambodia. Years later, Christopher LaPel found out the true identity of that man. His nickname was Duch. He was the commandant of S21 torture center-
Dr. Dobson: Really.
Lee Strobel: ... Where his cousin was killed and 17,000 others died. And he had led them to the Lord and baptized him and didn't know who he really was. So, he goes back to Cambodia, he is perhaps the only person who has been granted permission to visit Duch in prison. Duch's been now convicted of genocide, he will never get out of prison the rest of his life. He confessed to his crimes because now he's a Christian, and he couldn't lie and say that he was innocent. And so he admitted and he's now in prison.
So, Christopher visits him in the prison in Cambodia, where this guy lives a joyful life sharing Jesus with the guards and with the other prisoners and knowing he'll never get out, and carrying the weight of having killed 17,000 people. And yet knowing that God even forgave him and has adopted him as His son and given him the opportunity to share the message of grace to other prisoners. So, that's just one story in the book about how God can even forgive monsters. I mean, only a monster kills 17,000 people. And we would call him a monster and yet even so, he authentically repented of his sin, he opened his heart, he received forgiveness and this gift of eternal life purchased by Jesus on the cross. When Jesus died as a substitute to pay the penalty, Jesus paid the penalty and He offers forgiveness as a gift. He received that gift, he has been transformed.
Dr. Dobson: That's called grace.
Lee Strobel: That's called grace. The ability to transform "nice people" and "terrible people." We all need grace.
Dr. Tim Clinton: Thanks for spending some time with us. You're listening to Family Talk, a radio broadcast of the James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Dr. Tim Clinton, executive director of the institute. And we've come to the midpoint of today's broadcast. On behalf of Dr. Dobson and all of us here at JDFI, I want to thank you for listening today, and by the way, for your continued support. We're completely supported by you, our faithful listeners. We would not be able to bring programs to you like the one you're listening to today without your generous contributions. Learn how you can stand with us by visiting drjamesdobson.org. Let's get back to today's broadcast right now here on Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
Dr. Dobson: Tell us about the Korean orphan.
Lee Strobel: Well, that has a connection to you, because after I became a Christian and I'd received forgiveness through Christ, and yet on this life-long quest for grace that I had been launched on because of my bad relationship with my dad, I was still piecing together the riddle of grace, still trying to understand the puzzle of grace. And I was listening one day to your radio program, and I talk about this in the book, I'm driving on a highway, and I could take you back to the exact place I was on Northwest Highway in Palatine, Illinois. And I'm listening as I did every day to your show, and I'm listening to you and you're interviewing a woman named Stephanie Fast.
Dr. Dobson: Oh, yes.
Lee Strobel: Who was abandoned by her mom after the war in Korea, at age four was abandoned to the streets of Korea and lived several years as a street person as just a toddler basically in Korea until she was found on a trash heap, dying basically, by a World Vision nurse and taken to a World Vision orphanage there. And I heard her story on your show, and I thought, this is a huge piece of the grace puzzle. I need to meet her and talk to her. And so, I did, I flew out to where she lives out on the West Coast and I spent time with her and her husband, Darryl. I got to know them, they became friends and I talk about her story in the book.
But what's interesting about her story is, here she was nine years old, she weighed what? 35 pounds. She had boils all over her, she had scars all over her, she'd been assaulted as a child by horrible people, her hair was matted- I mean, she was a mess, and yet-
Dr. Dobson: Unlovable, yeah.
Lee Strobel: Unlovable, exactly, she thought. And this American couple came and they wanted to adopt a little boy, a baby, but they saw her and they reached out and they offered grace to her, and said, "We want to adopt this child." And you know what she did? She spit in their face.
Dr. Dobson: Yes, she did.
Lee Strobel: She did. And I'm saying, "Stephanie, how can you do that? They're opening up this window of opportunity." And then I thought, wait a second, I did the same thing to God. All the times when I was an atheist when God was reaching out to me, when I would hear someone say something about God, and I would feel a little bit of a tug, I would spit in His face. Or when I went to somebody's wedding and they would give a sermon about having a godly marriage, I thought, "gosh, that sounds so great," and I felt tugged toward it, and then I spit in God's face. I did that 1,000 times. And you know what? That couple, even though she spit in their face, they came back the next day and they adopted her.
Dr. Dobson: They loved her.
Lee Strobel: And that's like God. God, even though I spit in His face 1,000 times, even though people listening may look back and say, "I've done that. I've felt tugged toward God and I've spit in His face so to speak." You know what? He still adopted me just as that couple adopted her. And you know what she says? She says, "For me, I can honestly say that there is no event in my life that I am better without." And I thought, here was a girl who's been assaulted as a child, who's lived on the streets, who ate mice and field locusts and who scrounged and scratched, lived in fox holes in the winter and went through a horrific childhood that none of us can imagine. She says that everything has made her what she is today, and that has huge [crosstalk 00:16:23]
Dr. Dobson: As I recall, she was really kind of an urchin-
Lee Strobel: She was.
Dr. Dobson: ... Where gangs of children who didn't have families, sort of, they lived in the sewers-
Lee Strobel: Under bridges and-
Dr. Dobson: ... Yeah.
Lee Strobel: ... Yeah. But her story of adoption reminded me that even though... She looked at me at one point and said, "I know you had a father." And I said, "Yeah." And she said, "You told me that you didn't have a good relationship with your dad." And I said, "Well, that's true." And she said, "The Bible talks about an orphan of the heart." And she said, "We have more in common than you think, you were an orphan of the heart."
Dr. Dobson: Lee, there is a sub-theme in your book that I think we ought to end with here, where you talk about other religions where people have to earn the love of God or His favor-
Lee Strobel: Right.
Dr. Dobson: ... And almost all of them are like that. Christianity is the only one where it is unmerited.
Lee Strobel: You're exactly right. There is no other world religion... There are two little sects that it isn't really grace, sort of like grace, doesn't have the full expression of grace like Christianity does with forgiveness and sin and eternal life and all that stuff. But we can say that there is no world religion like Christianity. Once there was a debate going on between theologians: what makes Christianity unique? And C. S. Lewis walked in the room and said, "What are you all talking about?" And he said, "Well, what is it that makes Christianity unique?" And he said, "Well, that's easy, grace." Every other world religion, you have to do something to earn your way to God. You have to use a Tibetan prayer wheel, you've got to go through a series of reincarnations, you've got to give alms to the poor, you've got to go on a pilgrimage, you've got to pray in a certain way, you've got to fulfill a certain number of requirements. And then maybe, maybe you'll be saved by God.
Dr. Dobson: In the Middle Ages, you had to flagellate yourself.
Lee Strobel: Yeah.
Dr. Dobson: You had to take a whip and hit your back till it was all bloody.
Lee Strobel: Exactly. It is unlike any other religion. And think about this, if you want to create a dysfunctional family, if you want to raise really messed up kids, then love them conditionally. "I'll love you if you do this, or if you..." You know what? Every other religion, that's what god says. You got to do this and maybe I'll love you, maybe I won't, maybe I'll be good to you, maybe I won't. You know what? God, in His grace showers us with this gift of love and forgiveness and grace. And that grows healthy people, just like when you raise a child and you give him unconditional love and encouragement and so forth, how that raises a healthy child.
Somebody once said that all these other religions are spelled, D-O. You got to do something to try to earn your way to God, you use a Tibetan prayer wheel, reincarnations, whatever it is. Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E, it's done, it's finished. Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished." Jesus paid the penalty; He paid the price and all we have to do is receive this free gift of His grace.
Dr. Dobson: Lee, you're moving to Houston-
Lee Strobel: Yes.
Dr. Dobson: ... Very shortly. There is a big Baptist Church there called Second Baptist-
Lee Strobel: Yes. Ed Young, senior... Great guy.
Dr. Dobson: ... And Dr. Ed Young is the pastor, and he's on television, his Sunday morning sermons are on television. And just recently I heard a fantastic message that he preached on Christ as the propitiation for sin. What that means is you don't have to pay for your own sin-
Lee Strobel: Right.
Dr. Dobson: ... He paid for it. He paid it in full and you don't have to earn it, it's just a gift, it is grace.
Lee Strobel: You know what it's like to me? To understand the difference between Christianity and all of the religions is like two country clubs. One country club says, "You want to come into our country club? All right. Well, we'll see, you can apply, but you have to meet all these requirements, you have to achieve a certain amount of social status, you got to achieve a certain amount of good deeds, you got to achieve this, this, this, this, this, and this. And then maybe you'll be allowed in our country club." Christianity is a country club that says, "You want in? Come on in. The membership has already been paid by Jesus, the door's open. The offer is out there, you just need to respond." That's the difference.
And I say, "Which country club is being snobbish?" Not Christianity. Christianity is saying, "Come on in." Seems to me these other faiths are saying, "You know what? You got to try to earn something." And here's the thing, it's like a salesman being told, "You've got to reach a certain sales quota, or I'm going to fire you, but I'm not going to tell you what the quota is."
Dr. Dobson: Yeah.
Lee Strobel: How that would mess with your mind? And that's what these other religions say, "God says, 'You know what? Maybe I'll let you into heaven, but you have to achieve a certain amount of stuff, but I'm not going to tell you how much.'" It just creates this insecurity and anxiety in performance-based frenetic kind of a life, whereas Christianity says, "Relax in Christ."
Dr. Dobson: Okay, Lee, as a place to end, we're being heard by people who have heard this for the first time and it sounds good, it sounds like something they have needed because they deal with guilt and sorrow and rejection. Tell them how they can find this Christ, what do they have to do?
Lee Strobel: You know what?
Dr. Dobson: You just said that it's nothing, but how do they get it?
Lee Strobel: Yeah, He's right there, all you have to do is talk to Him, which is prayer. And just talk to Him and say, "God, I've not lived the kind of life you want me to live, I admit that. I've sinned, I've fallen short, I've done things. I knew they were wrong even before I did them and I did them anyway. And I confess that, and I want to turn from that, and I want to receive this free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that your Son purchased on the cross when He died for my sins. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your Son to die so that we could be reconciled forever. Help me to live the kind of life that you want me to live, because from this moment on, I am yours."
Dr. Dobson: And then find a good Bible-believing church-
Lee Strobel: That's so important.
Dr. Dobson: ... With people who will help support you and pray for you and teach you and guide you.
Lee Strobel: Absolutely, that's so important. And then begins that adventure of transformation-
Dr. Dobson: Yes.
Lee Strobel: ... We're "born again" when we receive Christ, we become alive spiritually in other words, but then it's a great adventure for the rest of our lives, as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit as, over time, He transforms our values and attitudes and relationships and marriage and all these things in what I think is the greatest adventure available on planet Earth, which is the adventure of following Jesus.
Dr. Dobson: Lee, you and Leslie have been used by the Lord in many, many ways. I pray that He will continue to do that. And as you make this move to Texas, that He has great things in store for you.
Lee Strobel: Thanks.
Dr. Dobson: Thank you for being our guest again, and please come back and see us.
Lee Strobel: Thank you so much for a wonderful time together.
Roger Marsh: Well, these two programs have been wonderfully insightful in providing a look at God's love and grace toward us. I'm Roger Marsh, and I hope you've enjoyed Dr. Dobson's conversation with author speaker and apologist, Lee Strobel here on Family Talk. Learn more about Lee and the many books he has written by visiting our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org. Once you're there, you can also see how easy it is to request a CD of this entire two part interview. You'll find all of this and more when you go to drjamesdobson.org and then tap onto the broadcast menu.
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Well, that's all the time we have for today. Be sure to tune in again next time to hear Dr. Tim Clinton's recent conversation with author and pastor, Gary Thomas. They'll be unpacking how to avoid and find freedom from toxic relationships. It's a relevant and much needed discussion that you won't want to miss. And it's coming your way tomorrow right here on Family Talk.
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