STS1906 – What Are Your Plans for Eternity?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. For the last few weeks we’ve been going through Dave Hunt’s book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, and by “serious faith,” Dave does not mean a faith which people cling to simply because they were brought up, say, Baptist, and are committed to living and dying as Baptist for no particular reason other than the fact that that’s what they are. The serious faith he’s calling people to is a faith held on the basis of reason, logic, and evidence – “many infallible proofs,” as the Scriptures proclaim.
If you have the book and have been following along, we’re starting chapter 4, which is titled “Concerning Prayer.” But before we get to that, Dave, I want you to give us an explanation for a statement you made regarding faith. You write: “Faith can only engage the unseen and eternal, and therefore does not mix with works and ritual. In search of a serious faith, it is folly to look at that which is visible. Even to look to a visible cross or crucifix is of no merit. What occurred on the cross for our salvation was invisible and must be accepted by faith.”
Now, Dave, the reason I’d like you to explain that a little more fully, because it may seem to some a kind of a contradiction. On the one hand, we’re looking for evidence, we’re looking for logic and reason; on the other hand, we’re talking about the unseen, the eternal.
Dave: Well, the Bible does say that faith engages that which is not seen, that’s Hebrews 11. Tom, we need to take a whole program on that sort of thing, but you could go back to the Garden of Eden, and the basic lie – going back even before the four lies, “you won’t die,” and so forth – that Eve was deceived by, was that a physical fruit could give her wisdom. Wisdom is different from knowledge, you know, or intelligence. Job said great men are not always wise. So she thought that a physical thing could give her something that was spiritual.
You can carry that right on down through to Catholicism, where they feel that the best thing they could do is to turn a wafer into Jesus’s body and blood, so that if we could just have something physical and ingest it into our stomach, that is the way to get eternal life, whereas Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.”
And all of ritualism, sacramentalism, the robes, the swinging of the censor filled with incense—all of these are physical things, which people think, “Ooh, well now, that makes it real to me.” And they think that something must be physical in order to be real. But that’s not what the Bible teaches: “We look not at the things that are seen, for they are temporal. The things that are not seen are eternal.” And if I have something physical in front of me – I mean, if I’m doing a chemical reaction in a test tube that’s following certain laws, I certainly don’t need faith for that. But the words that Christ speaks, they involve something not physical.
For example, when Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8 in His temptation in the wilderness, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God,” what are you going to do? Can we somehow make words physical, so that we can physically eat them? Or when Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Well, is He talking about H2O that He’s going to give people? Some special kind of holy water? When He said that to the woman at the well, “You drink of this water, you’ll thirst again. You drink of the water that I give you, you’ll never thirst again,” He’s not speaking of something physical. So the problem is, if we could just get a physical representation of that water, then we would have made some advance, and it would help our faith. No! It would not.
So, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. I trust God for what He says: “By faith we understand that the things that are seen are not made of things that do appear.” So, I don’t know if I’m answering your question, Tom . . .
Tom: Well, you’re moving in that direction. For example, we know Hebrews:11:1 says that “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And I think that’s the question here that’s a little bit hard to resolve, because we’re talking about a faith based on reason, based on logic, based on evidence – but is that different from the unseen, the invisible?
Dave: Well, let’s try to get an example. Well, we could give you a negative example. Many people think that if they could just visualize Jesus, then that increases their faith. No, from the verse that you just quoted, that goes against and undermines their faith, because it’s the evidence of things not seen. We walk . . . in fact, the scripture says, “We walk by faith, not by sight,” so sight is put in distinction to faith. Okay, so, now let’s give an example. You alluded to it when you began. What Christ did on the Cross – it’s not that He was physically nailed there. It’s not that they physically mocked Him. It’s not what men did to Him that saves us. That would only add to our condemnation. We’ve discussed that before. It is that as He hung upon the Cross, He became the sacrifice for our sins. This is something unseen to man. Something between Jesus Christ and God the Father – I mean, Jesus is God, and that’s a mystery for us. How He could cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and at the same time, He is God, He is the Son. He’s not separated from the Father, but He is paying the penalty for our sins.
Now when I believe that, there is no physical evidence that you could offer me. The penalty that God prescribes – that His holiness and His laws prescribe for sin – is not something physical that you can point to as evidence. And the penalty that Christ paid upon the Cross, when He said – when Jesus said – “Tetelestai!”, “It is finished! Paid in full,” I can’t give you any physical evidence for that, because the payment that He made wasn’t money against a debt. It wasn’t some physical thing. In fact, it wasn’t even the physical sufferings, although His blood had to be shed. We are – we have redemption in His blood. He had to physically die and was laid in the grave for three days and physically rose from the dead. That’s true. Now I have never seen Him. Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
There is so much that I am asked to believe – that which is important, that which is spiritual, that which is eternal, is something that you can’t give me physical evidence for. On the other hand, I have . . .
Tom: That’s what I’m waiting for – the other hand [laughing].
Dave: Right. Okay. On the other hand, we have historical evidence that the Bible is true. We have archaeological evidence, scientific evidence. We have the prophecies fulfilled. They were physically fulfilled in history, in time, space, history. The disciples had physical evidence of the resurrection. Jesus said, “Handle me and see. . . . ” We were not there to handle Him and see. We have evidence of another kind. We know that the grave was empty, or the Romans would have put the body on display, and so forth. So we do have evidence.
Now that takes us to a certain point, and I have enough evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. You can’t be an atheist; you can’t deny it. So I have enough physical empirical evidence of that. But on the other hand, I’ve never been to heaven. I haven’t seen eternity. I don’t know what God’s justice really involved. I don’t know the payment that Christ really made.
So I have enough physical, historical, logical evidence to know that the Bible is true, but it also speaks of things that I cannot understand. So, as we said before, I guess, maybe a few times, evidence points in a direction. Faith takes a step beyond but always in the direction that the evidence is pointed.
Now, the atheist, he takes a leap of faith – really a leap – in the opposite direction. All the evidence says “Design,” Designer,” and so forth, but he says, “Well, I choose not to believe the evidence.” He takes a step in the opposite direction. Now when I say . . . I look at the universe around me – you cannot rationally imagine it happened by chance, so I say, “This had to be created by Someone who was infinite, who always existed, who has the capability of putting the atom together and creating the human brain, and so forth. I have evidence for that!” But on the other hand, I cannot fully fathom – a God who is infinite? Who can create out of nothing? I know He had to create it out of nothing, because there couldn’t have been something – some material for Him to create everything out of – because material things wear out. So there couldn’t have been some material thing that was around forever. So I know that. I know that God must have created it out of nothing by His power and His wisdom.
But to understand that power and wisdom? That is beyond me. So God says, “My thoughts . . . as the heavens are high above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts.” So if I am going to know God, if I’m going to walk with Him, I’m going to have to walk by faith. I’m going to have to trust Him.
On the other hand, I have enough evidence to make that faith and that trust thoroughly rational.
Tom: Dave, on the one hand we talk about – or you referred to – atheists and their views, but the sad thing is among Christians, many professing Christians, there’s the same leap of faith – their views. That’s why we’re talking about your book, a serious faith: An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith. We want Christians to know what they believe and why they believe it – to have not what you might call “preferences” for what they believe but real conviction. Isn’t . . . that’s what’s going to make you stand – certainly, it’s the grace of God – but that’s what’s going to help you to stand in days of trials, tribulations, things that happen, that you couldn’t stand otherwise.
Dave: Right, and, Tom, we probably have said it before, but everywhere I go, I meet people who have supposedly lost their faith. For example, just a couple weeks ago, I’m sitting next to an MBA from Harvard, a very bright young man. He’s reading Siddhartha. Well, he wants to read Siddhartha, you know, Eastern mystical treatise . . .
Tom: By Hermann Hesse.
Dave: Hermann Hesse, right. And he told me, these are his words – he said, “When I was in high school, I believed in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” But now he doesn’t believe any more. Now, how do we explain that? I mean I meet people like that everywhere I go. I don’t believe that you can fully understand the truth – know the truth – and ever turn from it. I think a lot of people have an emotional attachment to Jesus – they’ve been talked into it, or they’ve been raised in a Christian home, or who knows what, in a youth group, and this is the thing to do. But you couldn’t possibly know the facts and know that this is the truth and ever turn from it! You would be turning from what you know is the truth to a lie, so that’s why I think it is important, and so we need to train our young people in Sunday school, in our homes, to understand what they believe, why they believe it, and to have an absolutely solid foundation, so they’re not going to be shaken when they get into high school or university, or whatever it is, by some bright person who says, “Oh, but this isn’t true, and that’s not true,” and so forth.
So, Peter says, and we’ve quoted him often, “We must be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason – a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear.” So there should be – this is a reasonable faith we’re talking about. This is a faith based on facts and evidence. It is true. You cannot refute it, and you could never turn from it once you understand it! And Jesus emphasizes understanding, and I think we’ve talked about that.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, the same Peter – he slipped up, but he also said, when others were leaving Jesus, “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” But he did slip up. But he repented.
Dave: Tom, I don’t think he fully understood at that time, and in fact, we know that he didn’t because he said, “Though all men forsake thee, will not I! I’ll die. . . . ” And when Jesus was washing his feet – again, a physical thing, but it wasn’t physical what Jesus was doing. He was teaching them something. Jesus said, “What I do, you don’t understand now. But you will understand later.” And Jesus said, “You can’t follow me now.” Peter thought he could! He thought, “Well, I’ll take up the cross and I’ll follow Him,” but wait a minute! Only one could go to the Cross, because the Cross was more than a physical thing.
So Peter was thinking he would be true to the Lord by enduring a physical death, physical suffering, out of loyalty and love for the Lord. But he didn’t have the spiritual stamina, the spiritual strength and understanding, to endure it, and, in fact, he was mistaken, because he didn’t realize all that was involved.
So yes, Peter denied the Lord, and I’m not saying that someone might not even do that out of fear. But rationally, in your heart, to sit there coolly, now, when you’re not being persecuted, there’s no pressure on you, and to say, “I just don’t believe it any more.” Like this young man said to me, “Well, I still believe in Jesus as a good man.” And I said, “Well, you can’t believe He’s a good man – He claims to be God! He says that He’s the only way. You can’t say He’s a good man and at the same time a liar! So is He who He claimed to be? And all the evidence will substantiate that!”
Tom: Right. Dave, I think we can get to chapter 4 now!
Dave: (laughing) Oh, my goodness!
Tom: This is great, no, no! In chapter 4, you start off by stating that the major partner to faith is prayer. Now, what do you mean by that? This is a serious faith, now.
Dave: Yeah. Well, I should be in communion with the God in whom I believe. And this is what prayer is. Most people think of prayer as begging God for some favor. Well, we do cry out to God. The psalmist cried out to God. But prayer is communion with God as well.
And, if I’m really trusting the Lord, I’m going to talk to Him about everything. I commit my life to Him, and we pray for His will to be done in our lives, and prayer is really submitting ourselves to God. And Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” But a lot of people think that faith is some kind of a force that you can aim at God to get Him to do what you want to do.
Tom: Now, Dave, what you said was simple, straightforward, biblical. But that’s not what we’re seeing out there, and particularly in lots of different movements within Christianity. It’s the antithesis of that. For example, we find prayer as a technique for getting what you want. I mean, this isn’t just among Christians. We have religious movements – well, practically in every religion out there, we find, somehow, a methodology, a technique, a way of getting from a higher power, or God, or whatever they would call it, results.
Dave: Yeah, the Tibetan spins the prayer wheel and thinks that the more times he spins it, you know, the more likely it is that he will get what he wants. Jesus said, “Don’t use vain repetitions, as the heathen; they think they will be heard for their much-speaking.” There are so many techniques that are offered. Or, it’s . . . there’s the attempt to make it scientific. For example, Norman Vincent Peale, who taught The Power of Positive Thinking, his most popular book, he said that positive thinking is another word for faith. No, it’s not! You can be an atheist and teach positive thinking seminars. Norman Vincent Peale said that prayer . . . he said, “Just as there are scientific techniques for releasing the energy in the atom, so prayer is a religious technique for releasing spiritual power.”
Well . . . no! That’s not what it is. If I know God, if I trust God, then I don’t want to somehow manipulate Him into giving me what I want, but I would desire that He would give me what He knows I need. And I am so foolish – I know so little. I don’t even know how to pray as I ought. Lord, please, show me what Your will is – what You want to do. And help me to pray in that direction. Help me to be submissive to Your will and in tune with what You’re doing.
But people think, no, prayer is a way that I can get what I want. Prayer is a means of talking God into giving me what I want. And that is so foolish! It shows a lack of understanding of who God is. I mean, if God really loves us, which we must believe, and He is wiser than we are, then His way must be best.
So I think the greatest thing about prayer is for me to get in touch with God and submit to Him, and say, “Lord, my life is in Your hands. I want You to guide me.” And it is really thrilling, Tom, to see that happen, day after day, as God does things that we couldn’t do, and He leads us in . . . I’ve often given the example, but pardon me again, but look, so many times a plane breaks down, and I have to get on another plane. Then I could be praying against God’s will if I say, “Oh, Lord, don’t let this plane break down,” you know, “I want to meet this schedule. . . . ” But there’s somebody on another airplane that the Lord wants me to meet.
So I have to be careful that I don’t pray against God’s will, trying to direct my own life and control my own life. And it is so thrilling to be in God’s hands. . . .
Tom: Dave, that point is, to me, the point you’ve just made, is the point of the chapter. On the one hand, we’re talking about serious faith. Well, the faith we’re talking about is trust – trust in God. And you are putting in – through your prayer—you’re putting your trust in Him. He’s the object of your faith. And that’s based on . . . I mean, how is trust developed? Getting to know somebody, developing a relationship with them, and so on. And if you’re fully trusting in an individual on this earthly plane, you’re going to let them have their way, fully trusting. And if you’re trusting in God, you’re going to let God fully have His way in your life and look to the results as wonderful – because a good God is going to do the very best for you.
Dave: Amen, and this knowing Him and trusting Him, while it does say that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit – we’re the children of God, so there is an inner experience of God that we do not deny. On the other hand, faith comes by hearing His Word, and it is based upon the Word of God. This is our walk with Him.
Tom: Right. Next week, in this segment (we’re out of time now), but we’re going to pick up on this, pick up with some of the scriptures that seem to be a little bit difficult in understanding what true prayer is.