Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, we conclude a two-installment series of classics from our Search the Scriptures Daily archives with the late founder of The Berean Call, Dave Hunt, and TBC executive director, Tom McMahon. This week, they address the question: Are You Contending Earnestly for the Faith? And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
For some weeks now, we have been using Dave Hunt’s out-of-print book Beyond Seduction to address subjects that have - well, really have made a critical impact on professing Christians. In fact, the views that Dave deals with are distortions of what the Bible teaches about some important biblical doctrines.
For a number of weeks we discussed the difference between what the Bible teaches about “self” and what the world teaches, including concepts that some have Christianized in order to give the impression that they’re biblical. Today we’re going to talk about another significant doctrine that has undergone tremendous abuse to the point that many Christians are, at best, confused by it, and that is the doctrine of faith.
Dave, first off, because it relates to the fact that we are even raising the issue of faith, let’s talk about contending for the faith. For example, Dave, you write, “Christianity was never intended to be the follow-the-leader-blindly cult. It is the personal responsibility and privilege of each individual Christian to be immersed in the Word of God, to study it diligently, to meditate upon it, and to live by it. The Christian life is a 24-hour-per-day, seven-days-per-week fulltime commitment - not a game to play on the side.”
So, contend - we have to contend for the faith.
Dave: Right. The faith, of course, and there is a definite article in front of “faith.” This is not some vague idea about being positive and believing things, you know – “believe in yourself,” or “believe in success,” or whatever. The faith has moral content, doctrinal content. It involves specifics that we must believe. The faith depends upon what we believe, and in whom we believe, and it has been delivered to the saints - it doesn’t change.
We have talked today about “people of faith,” you know. You have the “Faith-Based Initiative” of President Bush. Well, what he means is anybody that has some religious faith - you’re a part of this. Well, that is not the faith that we are to earnestly contend for.
And we are saved by faith. You know, Satan loves to deceive people and pervert the faith - deceive them about the faith - because by grace are we saved through faith. We are saved by faith, we walk by faith, we live by faith, we are victorious over sin and Satan by faith. So if Satan can destroy the faith, he has destroyed salvation. He has destroyed everything.
And why must we earnestly contend for it? Well, because it’s not just any faith - any religious idea - will do; there is only one way to heaven. So the eternal destiny of souls depends upon this. Jesus said it very clearly in John:3:36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” Now, that doesn’t mean you just believe vaguely there is somebody named Jesus. Who is He? What did He do? Why did He come? Why did we need Him? “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”—pretty clear!
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, I want to read from Acts 20 - again, to encourage people that we’re not doing this just for something to do. Throughout the Scripture… most of the New Testament was written to correct certain issues, certain doctrines, false… where those who came along “twisted the Scriptures,” as Peter writes. I’m reading from Acts:20:27: “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Now, of course, this is the Apostle Paul speaking to the Ephesian elders.
Dave: In other words, Tom, you don’t pick and choose what you want to believe, you know, what you like - have certain favorite verses in the Bible, and we hammer away on them. We’ve got to know the whole Bible.
Tom: Right, the whole counsel of God. Verse 28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves….” Check yourself out, see if you are in the faith...
Dave: Right, that’s number one.
Tom: “…and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.”
Dave: Indicates that Jesus is God.
Tom: Correct. Dave, we think of all that’s been abused or distorted with regard to Christian television, Christian radio in many cases, and so on, but here’s Paul speaking in the first century. He says: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore, watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”
We’re on once a week, and we believe the Lord has called us to address some of these things, but we don’t do it night and day with tears.
Dave: I’ve been accused of being too concerned about apostasy, being a fanatic, and so forth. Compared with Paul, I haven’t even begun to get concerned, and I think we need a little more of that concern in the church today - at least a little more. There are people out there who do not want to hear anything that they call “negative.” Well, read the Bible: most of it is corrective. Jeremiah, Isaiah, and so forth - they are correcting, and Paul is correcting, and he is weeping and warning night and day for three years - wow! He knew what was coming, and yet we’re accused of being too concerned about this. I don’t think we are concerned enough.
Tom: Right. Faith. Dave, you point out that the most basic error that you find in the church regarding faith - and this is heavily promoted, particularly on Christian TV - is that faith ends up being some kind of impersonal force.
Dave: Yeah, a lot of misunderstanding there, Tom. And I can recognize it, because as a young Christian way back then, I leaned in those directions as well, until the Lord straightened me out. Many people think that faith is, “If I am praying for something, if I can just believe, if I can just get myself somehow to believe….” In other words, faith is something, some power, which, if you can wield it, it will make things happen. Well, obviously that’s a wrong idea of faith, because if things happen because you believe they will happen, then you don’t need God! That’s the “power of the mind.” But a rational person can’t believe something unless he knows it really is true.
But the Bible says…Jesus said in Mark 11, “Have faith in God.” So faith is not - we’re talking about a particular kind of faith now; not the faith - but faith is not believing that it will happen; faith is believing that God will make it happen. Well, that changes the whole equation. Maybe it isn’t God’s will. Maybe it’s not God’s way. Maybe it isn’t God’s time. And yet we have multitudes of Christians, Tom, and they are trying to impose their will on God; and they think that God is, somehow, just waiting for them to have this faith to get Him to do what they want Him to do, and when they can really believe that it will happen, that He will do it. Now, it would be a horrible, horrible world if that were the case. I’d like to have rain today, you want sunshine. We would just be a bunch of…
Dave: Right, Obi Wans and Darth Vaders, zapping one another with psychic power, seeing whose “mind over matter,” you know, could make this happen or that happen. Yet much of the secular world, as you know, even in our serious universities, from Princeton to Stanford…
Dave: Harvard, they’re working on it. Well, that would not be good. If we could manipulate the universe and cause what we want to happen to happen, it would be a frightening universe.
Tom: Dave, the great concern - we know the world is going to go that way - but when we see teachers, so-called, in the church promoting ideas, distorting the Scriptures… for example, you quote Kenneth Copeland regarding the Great Commission. Here’s what he says: “Jesus said, ‘All power is given unto me. Therefore you take it and use it.’” He goes on to say, “Faith is your servant,” and he also calls faith a “force, just like gravity.”
Dave: Well, Tom, that is so wrong that it is…it’s wicked. It’s leading people astray. It is rebellion against God. In other words, where does God fit in on this? He’s my servant; faith is my servant. Faith is some kind of a power like gravity, and I can take this and I can use it as I please. That is occultism. That’s the ambition of science, of the world. Science has the goal of “We’re going to conquer the atom, conquer space, conquer disease, and somehow we will reign supreme.” The problem is who is going to be in charge of all of this power? Scripture very clearly says that I haven’t even begun to pray until I say, “Not my will, but thine be done.” And prayer is submitting to God. I mean, the so-called Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” But Kenneth Copeland is saying, “No, we can do our own will if we know how to wield this magic sword called faith, which operates just like gravity.”
Now, Tom, another problem they have is they want it to be scientific. That was the error that Mary Baker Eddy fell into.
Tom: Christian Science.
Dave: Right. Now, if we could just make this scientific, you see, then we would be respectable in the eyes of the world; the world could look up to Christians and say, “See, they’re scientific.”
Well, but if it’s a scientific law, it’s not grace, number one. Number two, it has nothing to do with God. An atheist can fly an airplane if he follows the laws of aerodynamics. An atheist can be a wonderful chemist or a physicist if he follows the laws. It works automatically, and you don’t have to have faith in the laws of chemistry to put two compounds together in a test tube and get a predictable reaction. That’s very simple. So when we are talking about faith, we are coming before the Creator of the universe, and we are asking Him, “Lord, if it’s your will. If not, show me what is your will, and guide me.”
But Tom, we strayed away from the faith. The faith - it’s really the gospel. “I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes it.” So, the faith is something I must believe in order to be saved. I don’t negotiate about it; it doesn’t change. Jesus said: “God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” So, the faith, first of all, as we said, has moral content, doctrinal content, [and] it comes from the Bible. This is what God has said that we must believe. So there is a framework that Jesus puts this in.
For example, one of the things Jesus says is, “You’ve got to believe that I am God” - that’s John 8. “Except you believe that I AM,” this is God’s name, “if you don’t believe that I AM, you will die in your sins,” and the Jews knew what He meant. When He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” they knew He was claiming to be God. They took up stones to stone Him, and Jesus said, “I have done many good works. For which of these good works do you stone me?” They said, “For a good work we stone thee not, but because thou, being a man, makest thyself out to be God.”
Okay, Jesus declared that He is God. If He is not God, He can’t be our Savior, because the penalty that His own justice requires is infinite. It takes an infinite person to pay an infinite penalty, and only Christ could die for our sins and pay that infinite penalty. Well, I saw a poll recently - Barna Poll, I think it was, not too long ago. What was it? Thirty-five percent of the people who call themselves born-again Christians don’t believe Jesus is God! The Scripture says very clearly, Romans:10:9: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” (so I’ve got to believe He is Lord and He’s God), “and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
I think it’s another 40 percent, or whatever, of “Christians” - many pastors, priests - who said they don’t believe in the resurrection. You don’t believe in the resurrection! Paul says, “If Christ isn’t risen, we are yet in our sins.” There’s no hope.
So you can’t just make up a religion and call it Christianity. So when we are to earnestly contend for the faith, there are certain parameters, there are certain bounds - you can’t go outside of this. You can’t say, “Well, I think Jesus was a good man.” He’s not a good man because He claimed to be God, and a good man doesn’t claim to be God. He’s either an egomaniac, you know, or he is insane - doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He is only a good man if He is who He claimed to be, and that is God, the only Savior, the Judge of all the universe.
Tom: And, Dave, I find it interesting to talk about Paul back in the first century - there have been those in the church that really have contended for the faith, and I’m thinking about A.W. Tozer. I remember him writing one time that he had preached his way out of a number of pulpits in different churches…
Dave: I think he said almost every pulpit in North America wouldn’t have him back.
Tom: …but the thing that fascinates me about him - this is in the 50s, the 1950s, 1960s - early 1960s - I think he died somewhere in 1960, I’m not positive; but this is what he writes: (now again, related to the word-faith teaching, which seems so prevalent on Christian TV, many of the evangelists are into this in one form or another) but Tozer writes back in the 50s, the 60s, “‘If we only believe hard enough, we will make it somehow.’ So goes the popular chant. ‘What you believe is not important - only believe!’ Back of this is the nebulous idea that faith is an almighty power flowing through the universe, which anyone can plug into at will. When it comes in, out goes pessimism, fear, defeat, and failure; in come optimism, confidence, personal mastery, and unfailing success in war, love, sports, business, and politics. What is overlooked in all of this is that faith is good only when it engages truth.” That’s what you’ve been saying.
Dave: Very good. Yeah, well said. We are to earnestly contend for the faith. We’re not to be contentious, Tom. There are a lot of people who are contentious. I don’t want to talk with someone that all they want to do is argue. If you see a couple of people arguing, neither one is listening to the other, generally. They are just waiting for their opportunity to get in their theory or whatever it is.
God says, “Come now, let us reason together.” I think, Tom, what we have been saying is reasonable. If we are going to be saved from our sins, if we are going to receive the gift of God, which is eternal life - which the Bible says is only through Jesus Christ - God couldn’t forgive anyone if Christ did not pay the full penalty for their sins. It’s that simple. If the judge just forgives someone because he favors them, or he wants to, he becomes a party to their crime. He is an unjust judge, and God goes not go back on His Word. He doesn’t have any favorites. He is no “respecter of persons,” the Scripture says.
So we know logically, rationally - I mean, you can’t play a game without rules. You can’t make it up. You’re going to get out on the football field in the NFL or whatever - you can’t make up your own rules! There are certain rules that define this game. And God created this universe, and He makes the rules.
And He said, you know, He gave Ten Commandments, and they have been broken, and man does not keep them. He says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Okay, now if we are going to be forgiven of our sins, if we are going to receive the gift of eternal life, it has to be on God’s terms. You don’t negotiate with God; you don’t talk Him into something—say, “Look, God, how about this, you know, how about doing it my way for a while?”
So, the faith…why do we contend for it? Because if you do not accept what God has said, and you do not believe it, you are lost forever - you are separated from God forever in torment, and it will be torment. I think one of the worst torments of hell will be the person will realize they didn’t have to be there. It was their stubbornness that rejected Christ. God held out the offer of pardon - eternal life. Christ paid the penalty, and they wouldn’t take it. They refused, and now they are separated from Him forever and forever and forever, and it’s their own fault.
Tom: Dave, 20 years ago we wrote The Seduction of Christianity. The book we are addressing right now, Beyond Seduction, you wrote a couple of years later. In dealing with all these issues, it hasn’t gone away - particularly the faith movement, positive confession, all of that. It’s bigger than ever. You see these camp meetings that - whether it’s Copeland or Hagin, Jr., or, you know, there are so many others. They have 20,000 people show up, in many cases. Dave, here is what I am getting at: truth is the issue. In 2 Thessalonians, it says, “Those who have not a love for the truth, God is going to send strong delusion that they believe the lie.”
Now, what draws people to these things, who are professing Christians? It’s certainly not a love for the truth, and isn’t that the reason that they are drawn into this error, in part, at least?
Dave: Tom, they want what they want. They don’t want submission to God’s will. They want to be able to be in charge. They want a formula that will then enable them to get what they want. Kenneth Hagin is dead now. One of his little booklets was titled How to Write Your Own Ticket with God. He said Jesus appeared to him and gave him four principles. If you follow them, you can always get what you want from God.
I don’t want to get what I want from God, because my heart is deceitful. There’s a big difference between getting God to give me what I want and allowing Him to give me what He knows I need and would be best for me.
So back to salvation and the faith - God decides it. I either accept His terms, I accept His offer, or I am a rebel. He doesn’t have any place for me. He doesn’t have any alternatives for me. There’s no second choice. It’s not a multiple-choice quiz, you know. “Well, what would you like?” It’s not a cafeteria: “Well, I like this, and you like that. Okay, now you’ve got your faith and I’ve got my faith.” It doesn’t work that way.
Tom: It says the broad way leads to destruction.
Dave: Exactly! So, so many false ideas, Tom. Why are we so concerned? Because we are supposed to earnestly contend for the truth! Why must we earnestly contend? Well, we have already said it on this section of the program: because the eternal destiny of mankind depends upon it. God is going to destroy this whole universe. He is going to make a new universe. Where are you going to hang out while He does that? Okay? Only those who have allowed Him to recreate them in Christ through faith - they have believed the gospel - they will be in this new universe. The rest of them cast out - the Bible calls it outer darkness; you will be alone with yourself and the remorse of what you’ve done in the past - unforgiven now, and realizing it could have been forgiven. Christ paid the full penalty for that, and you rejected Him. I think that will haunt people eternally.
Gary: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon, 97708; call us at 800.937.6638, or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for being here, and we hope you can tune in again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.