Ravi Zacharias was received by the Passion 2016 crowd of 18-25-year-olds with cheers and wild applause. The conference that was attended by 40,000 young people came to an end on Monday evening. It was held in Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas and also live-streamed.
When Zacharias took the platform, he was following Christian hip-hop artists whose song was rooted in Romans 1:16.
He joked with the crowd, "Romans 1:16 has always been my favorite and life verse. Even if it weren't before, it will be now."
He told the crowd that he had gotten many e-mails saying that prayers were going up for the conferences.
"I have never sensed a time as uncertain as the times in which we live," Zacharias said.
He spoke of his son Nathan, who has a 2-year-old daughter and Nathan confided in Zacharias that, "I am so nervous about the future."
Zacharias detailed that his son was, "thinking of all the political rhetoric and all of the quicksand on which we are building our structures and wondering what sort of a world his little one will grow up to be in."
"The only reason that I have hope," Zacharias said, "apart from the fact that we serve a sovereign and an awesome God, is because of young people like you whose lives He will transform and make you a light in this very dark world."
Zacharias said his journey to Christ began with a lot of questions, but one night in a hospital bed, it ended with a challenge: "If you are who you claim to be, take me out of this hospital bed and I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of the truth. Young people, truth is the most valuable thing in the world... So valuable that it is oftentimes protected by a bodyguard of lies... And so my one challenge to you today is: Does the truth matter to you? It doesn't seem to matter in the political arena, it doesn't seem to matter in the cultural arena, it doesn't seem to matter in so many other pursuits."
He told a story of a former justice minister of Israel who had been incarcerated under the Soviet regime in isolation for a long period of time. When he was finally released and returned to his homeland, he decided that he wanted to return to visit the prison because that was where his life was changed, pondering what the truth is.
Zacharias detailed how the former Israeli justice minister wept over all the hours and days that he had spent there. Then when he came out, he asked for a bouquet of flowers that he could place on the grave of Andrei Sakharov, the physicist who had given the former Soviet regime the atomic bomb.
When he was asked why, Zacharias said that the former Israeli justice minister replied, "Mr. Sakharov, who gave you the atomic bomb, made this comment before he died...'I always thought that the most powerful weapon in the world was the bomb. I've changed my mind. The most powerful weapon in the world is not the bomb, the most powerful weapon is the truth.'"
Zacharias told the crowd that Jesus said that, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
"Truth is generally measured in three ways," he said, "logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experience relevance. Is what you are seeing logically consistent, is it empirically verifiable, is it experientially relevant?"
He spoke about how the Bible gives a rather accurate description of the depravity of the human heart: sinful and desperately wicked above all things (Jer. 17:9).
To give this a relevant and more modern illustration, Zacharias told another story about how he had been invited to Poland in the 1980s to speak at a gathering. A man who was a medical doctor at the gathering asked Zacharias if he had ever been to Auschwitz. Zacharias had not, and so they went to visit it.
He spoke of how he was emotionally unprepared even though he had seen other concentration camps in the past. His description of the horrors, torture and inhumanness of how the Jews were treated was graphic. Then he said, "And you look at what the most educated generation then did to humanity!"
He said they were killed in Auschwitz at the rate of 12,000 every day!
"They'd be stripped naked and were taken to the gas chambers that they were told were actually their showers, and they'd be so tightly packed next to each other, flesh to flesh, already just skin and bones, and they would not know what was coming. They were told they were going to get their first shower in the longest while..."
Zacharias said he walked away from Auschwitz thinking to himself, "This is what we are capable of! Even listening to the best music under the world and going to the highest educational systems! But I missed something in that...the problem of evil is not so much that it's pervasive and so strong out there, but the fact that it is deep inside your heart and mine."
He followed this with a quote from Viktor Frankl, who had served twice in Auschwitz. The quote in part was, "I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Majdanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of Nihilistics, scientists, and philosophers."
"The furry of relativism today," said Zacharias, "is being presented in the highest institutes of our learning, producing a whole generation of young men and women who no longer believe that there are absolutes."
He added, "The early stages of corruption may be behind lecterns, the end stages are the devaluation, the dehumanization, the denigration, and ultimately, the desensitization of your conscience and mine."
"On the day that you see your heart as desperately wicked and in need of a savior," Zacharias said, "you could become an answer rather than just another question."
Zacharias told yet another story about how he had the privilege of speaking at the United Nations Prayer Breakfast a few years ago. They wanted him to speak about the surge for absolutes in a relativistic culture.
In summary of the direction that he took, he said, "There are four areas in which you look for absolutes: evil, justice, love and forgiveness. You talk about evil empires when you get together here. What do you mean by that? You look for just societies, what do you mean by justice? You leave your loved ones back home, and you are here, and you miss them. Do you know what love is all about, especially when you miss your loved ones so much? And then some of you are going to blow it. You make mistakes, and you want to be forgiven...where in the world did these four (evil, justice, love and forgiveness) converge at a moment in history? Can I take you to a hill called Calvary and show you the person of Jesus Christ?"
He went on to talk about what's happening in the Middle East today is the result of about 3000 years of the "logic" of unforgiveness, and how so many religions think that they must perform works to receive any acceptance from their respective gods. Christianity is set up in such a way that Christ paid that penalty once for all, and once a person accepts Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, that they do not need to do anything to earn God's love and forgiveness.
Also, when a Christian accepts Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, Jesus empowers that person to continue living life, even in the midst of suffering.
Zacharias said that Jesus, "gives us hope not in spite of our suffering, but through it. He gave meaning to all of life through His story."