February 25, 2023 - Testimony and Recap

Click here for:  Audio file of this program

Today is our last broadcast of Biblical Words and World (at least for now – who knows? God is always pulling surprises on me). We’re going to take a look back at all we have talked about over the past 2 years, and where you can find it on our Radio Archives. But before we do that, I want to share my testimony with you.

Back in my early teen years, I struggled with a nagging uncertainty about whether I was ready to meet God on the Day of Judgment. Don’t get me wrong. I was no juvenile delinquent: no sex, drugs, or trouble with the police. I was probably worthy enough to enter a temple. I had no obvious reason to believe I was going to hell. I even had a desire to be right with God. So when I was confirmed as a member in my local church, I made a sort of “New Year’s resolution” to God to be the best person I could possibly be, and hope that my good deeds would outweigh my bad deeds in the end.

The trouble is, I had a conscience that was too honest to believe that I was being good enough. Perhaps I was not literally committing idolatry, murder, or adultery, but I knew that I broke these laws in my heart. And I knew that God expects us, not only not to do evil, but also to do good. But I could never know if I had done enough. I knew that Jesus died for our sins, but I couldn’t figure out how that applied to me, how I could know that I was worthy enough for him to save me. I had no idea how a person could ever know that they have been put right with God. I didn’t think that anyone else knew, either.

But when I got into high school, I found that there were people who knew that they were saved. They had the assurance that they had eternal life, the very assurance that I wished I had. One of these persons was our new assistant pastor, who took our youth group to hear other young people talk about how had found Christ (this was in the days of the Jesus Movement of the 1970s). After a whole year of searching for what so many other people had found, I went to my pastor on the first night of a youth group trip to Arkansas and asked him to help me find the assurance I was looking for. “Jim,” I said, “I have been trying hard to be a good person, but I don’t know if I’ve been good enough. How can I know that I’ve done enough to be saved?”

Jim responded by quoting Ephesians 2:8–9, a passage I had never heard before: “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith, and that is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast.” Then Jim explained what the word grace means. He said grace means: undeserved favor. “Jim!” I said. “Are you trying to tell me that salvation is free? Are you trying to tell me that it’s a free gift, a gift we can’t earn or deserve?” He said yes. “Jim,” I said, “that goes against everything I ever heard in church!”

How could this be true? I wondered. Hadn’t I always heard, “Be a good person, and you’ll go to heaven”? How could God give salvation as a free gift? If that was true, what was there to keep everyone from accepting this free gift? But the more I thought about what Jim said, the more I realized that this was the missing part of the puzzle that I had been searching for: salvation, not by my own goodness, but through a gift from God that I could never earn or deserve. All I could do was accept it in faith. Now I understood that what Jesus did on the cross was enough to take away my sins and put me right with God forever. That night the lights came on for me. Finally, I understood! That night I prayed to receive this gift of God, and God gave me the assurance of eternal life, based not on how much I had done, but based totally on Jesus and what he did for me. This was Good News that has revolutionized my relationship with God ever since. That’s my testimony, which I testify to you in the name of Jesus Christ!

Soon after this, I began to sense that God was calling me to be someone who could help others find this exciting news about God’s grace. Then, 4 years later, I met the people of Utah, on a youth group trip to Oregon, on the same trip where I met my wife. Ever since that trip, I’ve had a heart for the people of Utah, which led me to believe that God was calling me to be a pastor in Utah someday. I prepared for Utah the same way as I’d prepare to go to the foreign mission field. But for 43 years, God never opened up a place for me to serve in Utah, which led me to wonder if this was really a call from God.

But then the KUTR station manager asked me if I’d like to do a weekly half hour radio program on this station. The first time he asked, I said no (I had no idea how that would work out). But then he asked me again. Suddenly I asked myself, “Is this what God has been calling me to do all these years?” If so, I thought, God’s going to have to provide a program plan, a studio, money for air time, a 501c3 to receive that money, and a theme song. Within 3 weeks, God provided all 5 of those needs. What I thought God was calling me to do in a Western pulpit, God was calling me to do on the air here at KUTR. And now, just as clearly, God has called me to help a church in my area as they search for a new pastor, a call that requires my full attention.

If Jesus Christ is who he said he was, and if he is who the Bible teaches him to be, then what we do with Jesus Christ determines our eternal destiny. It is unlikely that unrecorded or undiscovered evidence about Jesus ever existed that would have produced a different picture of Jesus than the one we have now. We have little if any reason to fear that words or acts of Jesus have been covered up or changed that would discredit his character or trustworthiness, or that any other part of the truth about his life has been fabricated in order to deceive us. Jesus is not an imposter, nor is he the tragic object of a global misunderstanding.

That was the fear that suddenly struck me when I was on my internship preparing to become a pastor. After studying the claims of Utah’s favorite prophet for over 4 years, I was convinced that those claims were false, and that the truth had been covered up, honest people believed what they were told, and the rest was history. But then I asked myself, “How do we know that didn’t happen to us?” How do we know that Jesus’ resurrection was not a hoax that was inflicted on us by a similar story of runaway deception that was undetected until the evidence disappeared? I struggled with this fear for months, but finally I came to grasp the historic bedrock on this all-important question, which I describe in my book The Historical Jesus and the Historical Joseph Smith. I cannot prove the truth about Jesus in a test tube, but the historical Jesus is worth betting our earthly life and our eternal destiny on. God has given us enough historical reason to do this, that we need not resort to blind faith.

So that’s where we began our broadcasts here 2 years ago. (You can find all of these broadcasts in our Radio Archives.) We started out with a program on the canon, where we saw that the books of the Bible were not a list imposed on us from the top down, but were chosen by a grassroots effort over time. Our next program was on how we know that our translations are reliable, followed by a program on how we know that our copies are accurate and that nothing plain or precious has been left out or changed. We then had a program on whether feelings or facts are more reliable for our faith, followed by a program on evidence for the reliability of the Bible, followed by programs on the Biblical case for the Trinity and on whether or not God has a human body. We then had a program on how do we know anything about the historical Jesus, and a program on evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

After Easter, we had a program on early church government: how was God’s true church really organized? We next had a program on the Biblical case for women in leadership, one of our most downloaded programs. Next we had a program on stewardship, why it makes Biblical sense to give systematically to the Lord, followed by a program on the Biblical sexual ethic: what does the Bible really say about this subject? We then had a program called “Where Do We Come From?” We talked about how none of us are physical or begotten children of God; we are God’s children only by adoption. We also talked about whether we existed before we were born. After this we had programs on Jesus’ ascension into heaven and why it was necessary, and (on Pentecost weekend) a program on prophets and prophecy, and whether today’s church should expect to be led by a prophet today.

In June of 2021, we had a program on temples and priesthood. We talked about how there was never more than one temple at a time in Biblical times, and how temples in the Bible were much different than temples that anyone builds today. We also talked about how priesthood was very different in the Bible, and how Christ is the one and only Melchizedek priest. After this, we had a program on “Grabbing For Godhood,” and whether early Christians really believed that we can become gods. Next, we had a program on predestination: is God really in control, or not? We then had a program on universalism: will everyone be saved, and is God cruel to send anyone to hell? Then on July 4 we had a program where we did a study on the Biblical word for “authority,” and what kind of authority has God given to any of us.

Next, we had a program on historicity: does it matter whether anything in the Bible really happened, or can the Bible be fiction and still be true? We then had a program on how much of the Bible’s teaching is only for ancient Israel (like the kosher food laws), and how much of it is timeless and universal. We followed that up with a program on food, drink, and drugs, including Paul’s moral principle from 1 Corinthians 6 (Paul’s Word of Wisdom): “I will not be enslaved by anything.” In that program, we also talked about the evidence for mind-altering drugs in Biblical times. A lot of what we talked about in July can be found in my book What’s on God’s Sin List for Today? and on my website www.biblicalethic.org.

After this, we had a program on the question, “Can God Change?” We then did a deep dive on the subject of creation and Genesis 1, including the question, “Did God create everything from nothing?” We also had a program on Adam and Eve, and whether their rebellion against God was a righteous act, or a hideous tragedy. We then had a program on grace and the curse of Galatians 3:10: “Cursed be everyone who does not continue to do all things that are written in the book of the Law.” (How can we be set free from that curse?) We also saw from Romans 11:6 that grace and works are mutually exclusive: we cannot earn unmerited favor! We then had a program on repentance, and whether getting rid of every sin in our life is a prerequisite to being saved, or a natural response, and how much sin can we truly get rid of in this life.

We then had programs on 3 major Biblical characters. We did a comprehensive look at the life of Abraham, whose faith was pretty shaky along the way, but he passed an amazing test of faith in the end. We did a similar look at the life of David, a guy with a ton of faults (some claim David will never spend eternity with God), which leads us to ask, “How did David ever become an all-time hero of faith?” We then had a program on Elijah: we saw both his courage to confront the prophets of Baal in a contest of who worships the real God, and also Elijah’s fear that leads him to freak out and flee from Jezebel.

Next, we had a program on the Great Apostasy (one of our top listener favorites): Did the true church cease to exist at the end of the 1st century, or is this a prophecy for the end of time? We then had programs on the Pharisees (who were not as bad as we’ve been led to believe), and on the Dead Sea Scrolls (and today’s exaggerated claims about the people who wrote them). We had a program on holiness: being different from the unbelieving world in a positive sense. We finished October with a program on Satan and the name Belial.

In the next few weeks, we had programs on 4 more major Biblical characters: Paul, Peter, John the Baptist (my favorite Bible character), and Mary. Right before Thanksgiving, we had a program on gratitude, with a comprehensive look at all we have to be thankful for. We then had a program on amazing evidence for the Virgin Birth of Christ. We followed that with a program on the Incarnation, and why Christ is the only person in whom all the fullness of God dwells in a human body, followed by a program on historical evidence for the truth of the Christmas story.

In January, we had programs on Moses and on how different the Law of Moses was from the pagan law codes of its day. We then had a complete series on the 10 Commandments, including a look at whether there is really only one true God who is worthy of worship. During that series, we also talked about what the Bible says about obscene language, whether murder is the unforgivable sin, what all forms of sex God forbids beyond adultery and fornication, how many ways we steal without realizing it, what God thinks about “little white lies,” and how do we repent of the constant desire for more?

Once we finished the 10 Commandments, we needed to answer the question, “What do we do with a Law that is more than we can possibly obey?” That led us to a program on James, where we talked about whether we are saved by works or by faith alone (how do we put James together with Paul?). We followed that up with a program on Galatians, where Paul insists that we are put right with God only by faith; otherwise, Christ died for nothing. But in between, we had an Easter program on how we know the resurrection was not a hoax, and another all-time listener favorite on whether “praying about it” is a reliable way to discover the truth about God.

After this, we had a 9-part series on “Latter-day Prophecy,” future prophecy about events that are still in our future that will take place at the end of time. We first did an overview of the subject, and then we did individual programs about future prophecy in Revelation, in the teaching of Jesus, in Paul, in Isaiah, in Ezekiel (including whether Russia will be a major player in the last days), in Daniel, and in the Minor Prophets. The last program was on Jeremiah, who has very little prophecy that has not already been fulfilled, but who gives us an excellent look at how prophecy does get fulfilled at points where the evidence is in dispute. And what better way to follow Jeremiah than with a program on patriotism: does God teach us to love our country, and if so, how do we balance that with devotion to Christ alone?

Next, we had a program on what we mean when we say that the Bible is free from error. We revisited some earlier program topics on how we can know that the Bible is reliable. Then we had a 4-week series on Paul’s letter to the Romans, followed by a 4-week series on Paul’s first letter to Corinth. We then had a series on the doctrine of God, where we revisited some earlier topics such as the oneness of the triune God. We had a new program on the character of God, where we saw that the Biblical God is very different than the God proclaimed by a lot of folks here in Utah. We also had a program on angels and demons, where we saw that angels are not resurrected humans. Finally, these last few months we have rebroadcast a number of programs on topics that are particularly worth another look at. We also had a 2-part series on the book of Hebrews, and (last time) a program on Heaven.

We’ve covered a lot of territory together! I can’t honestly say that we’ve covered the “entire counsel of God” (as Paul says he did in his 3 years at Ephesus), but we’ve come close. All that we have covered together can be found on our Radio Archives on my 2 websites, and because those Radio Archives will stay there as long as I keep those websites, our 2 years of programs should remain available to you for years to come.

I still haven’t dismissed my dream to be a local pastor in Utah, but God is in charge, and I believe that our 2 years together here on KUTR may be all that God had in mind when God called me on a mission to bring the Gospel to you, the people of Utah. As we saw in our series on Latter-day Prophecy, it is all important that we know for sure that we are ready to meet God, that we have been put right with God forever. We can never know that, if we are trusting in our own good deeds to save us. All we can do is place our faith in Christ alone to take away our sins and put us right with God. If you’ve never done that before, I pray that God will lead you to do so today.