How Urgent and How Serious?
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.
Dave, we have reached the concluding chapter of your book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, but before we begin our concluding discussion of what you’ve written, I’d like you to respond to some questions which hit me as I was thinking about some of the things we covered over the past weeks. First of all, why an urgent call? And what do you mean by a serious faith?
Dave: Jesus said in Mark 11, “Have faith in God.” Faith must be in God. It must be a response to what God has said, the revelation of Himself. And He calls upon us to seek Him, to know Him, to believe in Him, to trust Him, to follow His Word. You don’t just say, “God, cool your heels. I’ve got other things to do, and let me take care of them, and then when I get around to it, I’ll have some time for you.” You just don’t do that. I mean, why is God going to wait around?
Furthermore, you just don’t tell the God of the universe to wait on you. We should do His bidding. So, therefore, it’s urgent. It’s urgent because we don’t have a lease on life. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It’s urgent because there’s nothing more important than to know God and to trust Him, and we should get right at it. This should be the number one priority in our lives!
A serious faith? Well, I think we’d better be serious about faith. It’s not a leap in the dark. “Well, you’ve got your faith, I’ve got my faith.” These are “people of faith”—we hear that all the time. No, there is one faith, and we are to “earnestly contend for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints.” I think one of the problems, of course, in the world, but in the church, even among Christian leaders—they don’t take faith seriously! “Well, let’s not criticize; let’s be loving.” Well, if you love someone you will correct them.
“Let’s be kind, and we’ll all get along with one another. And let’s not split hairs, theological hairs,” and “Don’t get too doctrinal.” Well, it’s doctrine that defines the faith once for all delivered to the saints, so I think we’d better be serious about it. Furthermore, our very eternal destiny depends upon this. I don’t know what could be more serious!
Tom: Yeah, as you mentioned, we’re hearing the phrase, “Well, they’re people of faith.” I don’t know where that comes from.
Dave: Well, it comes from—one place it comes from is Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, in which you have Mormons and Moonies—Moonies? Well, some of our evangelical leaders have commended Sun Myung Moon for standing up for his beliefs. And when they put him in prison—and they didn’t put him in prison for his faith, but for fraud—but they got behind him and stood up for this man: “Well, at least he stands up for his faith.”
What is his faith? He says Jesus was a failure; Jesus is not God—he is not who he claimed to be; he failed in his mission. I mean, I don’t want to get into Sun Myung Moon, but Moonies are honored as “people of faith” because they have faith in Sun Myung Moon as the perfect father, and his wife the perfect mother, and they are establishing the perfect family. And Jesus failed to get married and establish his family. Come on! Evangelical leaders get on a platform with Sun Myung Moon. They’ve been doing it, now, going around the country and so forth.
So, people of faith—[in] Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, you have Mormons. “Oh, they’ve got some faith.” But their god is a man who was a sinner redeemed on another planet—well, I shouldn’t go on.
There are Roman Catholics—their faith is in the church “outside of which there is no salvation”; their faith is in the sacraments. Their church anathematizes you if you say you could be saved by faith in Christ alone; that just believing in the gospel and receiving Christ as your Savior, that’s not enough. You have to participate in the sacraments of the Catholic Church and come under their authority and so forth.
So, I don’t think that this is the faith for which we are to earnestly contend. Robert Schuller, last Christmas Eve on Larry King Live—he said that he was over in the Middle East, and he said the Grand Mufti of the faith had invited him to preach in his mosque in Damascus! The faith, for which we are to earnestly contend, has a Grand Mufti? I don’t think so! That’s not what the Bible says.
So the problem today, Tom, is—and I think this is urgent, I think it’s serious—any faith will do. You’ve got your faith; I’ve got my faith—so we are all taking different roads to get to the same place? That is not what the Bible says, and you simply cannot lead people astray by encouraging them in a false faith! That’s not honest, it’s not right, but that is the atmosphere of today. So, people of faith, anybody that has some kind of a faith . . .
Tom: So, the reason I said, Where did this come from? It really is ecumenism; it really is sort of a catchall to cover people who have a religious belief of any kind.
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: But for a biblical Christian to approach it that way is absolutely contrary to what he supposedly, or professes to, stand for, as you have been saying, Dave. Content and distinctions—you have to throw all of that out, and then it becomes a guise or a vehicle for accomplishing someone’s agenda or sort of achieving a goal.
Dave: Well, “we are all going to work together against abortion . . . against homosexuality . . . against pornography,” which is good, but in order to do that, we have to pretend that moral values, family values, and so forth, that this is what is important. That won’t get you to heaven! That won’t help you as far as your eternal destiny is concerned.
Tom, it’s very simple—either the Bible is true, or it’s false. Either Jesus said, “Except you repent, except you believe in me, you will perish.” Now, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” And John, the beloved apostle, writing in his second epistle, says, “If you do not have the Doctrine of Christ, you do not have the Father—you are lost.”
I mean, Tom, it’s this way in every area of life! 2 + 2 = 4. We can’t just say, “Well, let’s be broad minded. Maybe it could be 5 every Thursday or once a month or something.” In every area of life! You can’t even play a game without rules. That’s why they have referees in football, or basketball, or whatever. But people, somehow, think God shouldn’t have any rules. So long as you are sincere, you can take any road you want, you can believe anything you want about God. God is some kind of a Silly Putty God, and you can just manipulate and mold him. He’s not entitled to make any, what they would say, “dogmatic statements.” God can’t make some definite, definitive pronouncements about who He is and the relationship we must have with Him and how that is to be brought about.
But, we must all be able to just take our way, and if we have a faith, faith in Buddha, faith in Confucius, faith in the Star Wars Force, or “faith is the power of positive thinking,” as Norman Vincent Peale would say, or Robert Schuller. It’s “possibility thinking. What does it really matter?”
Tom, it’s quite simple. The Bible defines it. Either the Bible is true or the Bible is false. If the Bible is true, then we’d better be serious about faith. And faith is not some force of the mind; faith is in whom you believe and what you believe. It is defined by doctrine. And that is why we are to earnestly contend for the faith, Jude says, “ . . . once for all delivered to the saints.” It doesn’t change. You don’t improve upon it. God hasn’t changed, and we must be definitive about this. Otherwise we are leading people astray.
Tom: Dave, one of the things that I really liked about An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith—you have a chapter in there called, “A Shortcut to the Truth.” Now, that’s a shocker, but really, it’s a phrase that just supports what you’ve have been talking about: that God has His Word. It’s either His Word, or it’s not.
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: You can go to it, you can check it out, it can be tested, and it keeps you from flitting around, moving from this to that, and this truth and . . .
Dave: I call it a shortcut to the truth, because many people think, Well I’ve got to study this religion. I’ve got to be an expert on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Bahai, and so forth—and I just tell them that you wouldn’t live long enough to study all those religions. But I’ll tell you how to save a lot of time. Go to the Bible first. The Bible claims that all of the rest of them are wrong. Now, if we can prove the Bible is true, which we can—very definitely we can prove the Bible is God’s Word—then you’ve saved a lot of time. So, it’s a shortcut.
Tom: Well, Dave, the surprising thing, maybe for people who are listening to us and we’ve been talking about the book for quite a while now, and we’ve been dealing with some very difficult issues, some things very controversial. But, Dave, this book’s different than many of the books that you’ve written in that you spend a lot of time talking about God’s love. That’s how you end the book.
Dave: It’s also different, Tom, in that I don’t name any names, believe it or not. People think, Dave Hunt, he’s just out there to criticize. There’s not a footnote in the book, I don’t think. I’m not quoting authorities or other people—we’re quoting the Bible. We’re going to God’s Word.
Tom: But you do spend chapter after chapter talking about God’s love. One of the things . . . well, the last chapter is titled, “God Has Said ‘I love you.’” And you point out, many people don’t believe that, can’t comprehend that. Why is that?
Dave: Well, it’s amazing that God would love us. Of course, for many people, God is some kind of a force, cosmic energy source; God is Mother Nature, the cosmos. Well, the cosmos doesn’t love you! Mother Nature doesn’t love you. There is no such thing as Mother Nature! God created nature, and nature has fallen. That’s why we have storms. You don’t pray to a hurricane.
So, God must be personal. Of course, He would have to be personal to create personal beings such as we are, with a sense of purpose and meaning. And we have the capacity to love because we were created in the image of God, who, the Bible says, is love. Now, it doesn’t mean love is God but God is love. That is the very essence of His character. That’s not all there is to God’s character—He also is just, pure, and holy, and so forth.
But for God to say, “I love you”—Tom, you see, at first you think, “Well, there’s some kind of a universal energy, or something. This is love, like a platonic ideal hanging out there somewhere.”
No, this is personal, and I believe it is passionate. And God has said to each of us, “I love you,” and the scripture says, “For God so loved the world . . .”—that’s everybody! Now, the Calvinist says no, that’s just the elect, so we’ve got to change “world” into “elect.” I don’t believe that. I think it means world when it says world, and it says, “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish,” and so forth. I think that means everybody. I believe Christ died for everyone and that this is a teaching of the Bible. And it is there, in the cross, that God has so definitively said, “I love you!”
Tom: Dave, just let me just interject this. On the one hand, it’s hard for many people to believe that God, the Creator of the universe, personally loves them. On the other hand, you point out that deep down we know about love. We know we are to be loved and we are to love others.
Dave: Sometimes you think, well, He loves us en masse. You know, like when it says, “For God so loved the world,” I don’t think that means he just loved an amorphous mass of humanity. It means he loves the individuals, each one, and the scripture says, “Herein is love, not that we love God but that he loved us. And, he sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John:4:10).” “God has manifested His love toward us,” Paul says in Romans, “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . ,” and on the cross Christ said, “Father, forgive them . . . ,” and I don’t think He meant “forgive the elect.” He meant those who had nailed Him there. He meant those who were standing around the cross mocking Him! “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And, I don’t think you could find a greater demonstration of love.
Well, Jesus says if you love someone you might give your life for a friend—but to love your enemies? To give your life for an enemy? For Jesus on the cross to say, “Father, forgive them . . . ” for those who mocked Him, who hated Him, who cried, “Away with this man! Crucify him”? For those who nailed Him there, who are gambling over His clothes at the foot of the cross? For the rabbis, who are mocking and saying, “If you are the Messiah, come down, and then we will believe on you.” They are mocking Him: “He saved others, himself he cannot save.” And the thief on each side of Him is also mocking Him, until one of them becomes a believer. I believe it was for those that Christ said, “Father, forgive them . . . ” And, that is love, and it’s individual, personal love.
So, Tom, just to revel in the fact, and I sometimes do—and it’s hard. I think, in the book—I haven’t looked at the book or read the book in a long, long time, but I give the illustration of this young, rather homely girl in a small town who is not popular, and I don’t remember what I may have said about her, but very poor, and here is the handsomest, most desirable, wealthiest man in the world, and he courts her and he tells her, “I love you and want to marry you.” I think she’d have a tough time believing that if she was a realist. What is there in me? And, that’s another mistake we make, because we think, if God says, “I love you,” it must be because I am worthy of His love! It must be because He finds me so lovable and so appealing.
No, it’s because God is love, and His love goes out to all, whether they’re sinners, whether they hate Him—this is love! And it’s a love that we read of—we’ve often mentioned it—in 1 Corinthians 13. I don’t care whether the person is an atheist, agnostic, whatever they are, what their beliefs may be, when you read 1 Corinthians 13 (we call it “the love chapter”), you are confronted with a love that is so pure, that is so selfless, that is so beyond anything this world has ever seen, that you can’t conceive of it! And yet, in your heart (as you mentioned a few moments ago), in your heart you know this is love as it ought to be, and it’s like a haunting memory of a paradise from which we were expelled.
It’s something that we know in our hearts because we are made in the image of God, who is love!
Tom: Dave, I know, as a young believer, I was mistaken in thinking that the God of the Old Testament was not the same as the God of the New Testament. I remember a pastor challenging me by asking, “Well, have you read the Old Testament?” which I hadn’t, but I just went along with that.
But I’m thinking about Jeremiah:31:3. Now this is an incredible verse: “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” That just blows off any idea that I may have had that somehow God—whom you mentioned earlier, is love—was somehow different in the Old Testament.
Dave: Well, that’s been a statement that the skeptics, the modernists, the liberals, have made for years: that it was Jesus who introduced us to the God of love, to the loving heavenly Father—that the God of the Old Testament is so harsh, so angry, and so forth.
Let me just turn quickly in my Bible here to Exodus 33. And this is at Mount Sinai. This is where the law was given. This is where God thundered with an audible voice, and the Mount was aflame, and it was terrifying! And Moses says, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” That’s Exodus:33:18.
God said, “I will make all my harshness and anger . . .”—No, He doesn’t! He says, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” He’s not limiting it; He is saying that “mercy and grace comes from Me, and I will bestow this upon whomever I desire to bestow it.” And I don’t think He is limiting that in any way, because it goes on: (chapter 34:5)“And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by him and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin [only then He adds] and that will by no means clear the guilty.” [“Now, don’t think that this is a whitewash job. The penalty has to be paid, and I’m going to send my Son to pay that penalty.”]
But nevertheless, you get God’s heart—a heart of mercy and love and grace. That’s the Old Testament. That’s at Mount Sinai!
Tom: Dave, how does one who’s been listening to us, maybe following along with us the past couple of weeks, how do they come to know the love of God that we have been talking about?
Dave: Well, they receive that love. It’s a love that He has demonstrated in the gift of his Son, and Christ paid the full penalty for our sins upon the cross. He died for our sins, He was buried, He rose again! He seeks an entrance. He is knocking at the door of their hearts. Open their hearts to Him and believe in Him for who He is and what He has done, and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. And they will be filled with His love as they get to know Him.
Tom: Dave, I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed the book. We’re not pushing material here. What we want to do is inform people. We want them to know the true and living God. If somebody has been following along with us and would like to know more, we’d say, hey, get ahold of the book, An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, and it will encourage you—not to be a disciple of Dave Hunt’s or T. A. McMahon, or anything like that, but to come to know the true and living God.