Keith and Pat Zukeran discuss the basics of the Christian faith, emphasizing the person and work of Christ.
Intro (Keith): Welcome to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, where we continue to equip leaders with biblical skills for a lifetime of ministry.
Keith (00:14): We are so excited today to be coming to you from the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, and today Keith Chancey’s here along with Pat Zukeran and we are so excited to answer some questions that maybe you’ve been asking. And you know, as always, we want to help you guys to understand how your faith is so important and how you view God’s Word is the most important thing ever. So, today what we’re going to do is we’re going to hear from our… Pat Zukeran. Pat, will you tell us a little bit about your background and where you come from?
Pat (00:42): Yeah Keith, great to be here at Kanakuk Institute again. I’m, must be going over 10 years now that I’ve been coming here an it’s just been fantastic every time. We get the cream of the crop here at Kanakuk, you know. And yeah Keith I’m from Honolulu, Hawaii, grew up there. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I grew up in a Japanese-Buddhist home, but I went to a very liberal episcopal high school. So I was exposed to Christianity, but you know, we were taught it was pretty much fairy tale and folklore. And growing up in the Japanese-Buddhist home, so, a kind of synchronistic, kind of mix of religions. But then you know, at 16 I began studying, asking the big questions of life. Why am I here? What’s the reason for my existence? Why is the universe here? You know, what happens after death? Then I began studying my Buddhist roots and other religions. We’ve got a lot of religions that were exposed in Hawaii and I found out most of it’s based on folklore and mythology. You know, and I was taught Christianity is the same and simply became an atheist. And so for my sophomore, junior year, I thought science had all the answers and that’s what I was doing, being an atheist.
Keith (02:02): Wow. You just said a mouthful, and as you said that Pat, I was overwhelmed with just hearing your background growing up in a Japanese-Buddhist home. What do you think really tweaked your interest in understanding who Jesus is?
Pat (02:19): Well, you know, a good friend of mine. We were on the baseball team together. I was the shortstop, he was the third baseman, and he came to faith in Christ. And I thought, “Well that’s, you know, that religion stuff, that folklore and mythology,” and he kept inviting us to church and I’d never want to go. But finally, he tricked me into going. He said we were going to, you know, work out on Sunday morning, and have a good work out, and I said, “Alright.” But before we did he drove us all to church, you know? And so I sat down there, but I heard the message of the gospel for the first time, and that, you know, there is a God who created this universe who loves us and desperately wants a personal relationship with us and made it possible by actually coming to Earth and dying on a cross for our sins to make this relationship possible. And that really intrigued me. You know? I had never heard anything like it before. I thought it was an incredible story, you know? And I thought, I prayed on the pew. The guy made the salvation invitation and I just prayed in the pew. I said, “God of the Bible, if you’re real I want to know you.” So that’s kind of where it all began, the investigation began.
Keith (03:28): Wow, that’s great Pat. You know, I think of your friend that was a friend enough to hear about the gospel and then come tell you about the gospel. Pat, what do you think is the most important part of that we as an audience could take from that of: what did he do that made you interested enough to make you want to seek out the things of Christ?
Pat (3:48): Well, you know, he really didn’t do anything. It was really the message. He just got us to church. You know, he kind of tricked us there. But he got us to church. And it was the message. I was searching for hope and meaning in my life and I had come, as an atheist, come to realize that if God does not exist, if there is nothing beyond the grave, if we are an accident, just natural causes, if that’s all we are, everything ends in death an annihilation and extinction. You know? One day the universe is going to run out of energy, mankind is going to die, the universe is going to die. It was just so depressing. But that’s the dark reality that, you know, if you hold to an atheist worldview, that you come to, and that’s the dark reality I came to. So when I heard that message, really, it really was a message of hope that I had never really heard before. I don’t think he knew enough to articulate it, he just knew enough to somehow get me to church, and that’s where I heard that message, which really sparked my interest.
Keith (04:55): Pat that’s great, and you know, I love what you just said. “He didn’t really do anything other than He just came and invited us to church.” And you know I think sometimes we think that we need to be more engaging to people, but yet the greatest engagement is to get them to the church. Get them to where they can hear the truth. It’s not that you have to have all the answers, but it’s that you take someone to the place where they can find the answers. And for you being an atheist, you came in and you go, “Wow. There is something more than this darkness that I have felt and believed in. There’s a hope. And the hope was in Christ. You know, Pat, you said a lot of things about Christ. You know, in our world today, we are really struggling, you know, in our views of who Christ is. What would you say is the most important things that we need to understand is who Christ is today?
Pat (05:42): Yeah, you know, Jesus Christ made some astounding claims that no one ever made. Well, you know, no sane person made. You know, he claimed to be the divine Son of God and when you read the gospels, the kind of things he was claiming: the authority to give life, the authority to judge all mankind, the authority to forgive everyone’s sin. You know, authority over the law, authority over nature. You’re just sitting here going, “Now this is not the thinking or the statements of a sane person here.” Either this guy is insane, or he really was who he said he was. And that some people need to understand. Jesus wasn’t a good teacher or just reciting good teachings. I mean, he made an astounding claim to be the divine Son of God, and the question is: Did he confirm that claim or did he not? And the historical evidence seems to show he affirmed that claim to be the divine Son of God.
Keith (06:49): You know, that just gets me pumped up. Because I know in my world, you know, I had a similar background. Now atheist, but I just didn’t like God. Because I believed that if God was good, then why would there be such evil? Why would my Dad abuse me? Why would my Dad hurt my mom, and why would there be such pain in the world? And what you’re saying is that there’s just great hope when you look at the reality of who Christ is and what he did, and his substitutionary atonement was so important. Pat help me understand because a lot of people in the audience today, they really wrestle with that substitutionary atonement idea. Help me undrstand that a little bit more clearly.
Pat (07:34): Yes, you know, the Bible says that we are all guilty of sin. We have all, somehow, violated God’s moral law. And God, being a just God, has to judge sin. You know, there’s no way he cannot judge, he just can’t dismiss it. You know, that’s not being just. If someone committed a serious crime and the judge in the court just said, “Well, dismiss it.” We wouldn’t say, “What a loving judge. What a good judge.” No, we’d say, “Hey, this is an unjust, unloving judge.” You know, the penalty has to be paid. And so God can’t just simply dismiss sin. Someone has to pay the price for sin, and that was supposed to be us. And scripture teaches, you know 1 Peter, that Christ was righteous and sinless and he died in our place, took our sins upon himself and paid the penalty we could not pay and as God, the eternal God, being perfect and sinless. Therefore, he had the ability to take on the sins of the whole world and paid the price, as the eternal God, paid the price for all mankind forever. So that’s, you know, what it means when Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ. He died in our place.
Keith (08:57): Well said. You know, as I have been working for Kanakuk now for 44 years. You know, I’ve watched tens of literally hundreds of thousands of kids come through. And it seems like what they do is they had this picture of: I went to the cross, I made a decision at the cross at camp. But when they go back home, it seems like they fall back into their sin and they look forward to next year going back to camp to experience the cross. What would you say to that type of faith that they’re gaining and how they view Christ?
Pat (09:34): Yeah, you know, Jesus in many of the passages in the Gospel, calls us to a life of discipleship. You know, Christianity is not just a one-time, you know, commitment, like marriage. It’s not just, “Hey, I said I love you at the altar and that’s it! Don’t ever have to do anything again.” No, we’ve got to constantly nurture that relationship. And that’s what it’s like in our walk with Christ. We make a commitment to Christ, and then he calls us to a life of discipleship to follow Him, to obey his word, to take up our cross daily, die to ourselves, put Him number one on the throne of our life and follow him, to know his Word, to obey his Word, and that’s really where the crux of discipleship is all about. It’s daily walking with Christ. So, it doesn’t stop at that commitment. You know, from there on, we daily follow Christ. It’s like, you know, you played professional sports. You know, you don’t just say, “Hey, I’m on the team! That’s it! I’m done. I can eat any way I want. I don’t need to exercise and work out. I’m on the team.” No, you’ve got to work at it to be the best player you can be. You know, that’s what the life of the athlete is called to do. That’s what the life of discipleship is all about, a daily walking with Christ.
Keith (10:55): You hit the nail right on the head, and you know, when these kids make these decisions at camp and they go, “I made a decision, I got saved.” But then they go home and they don’t get involved with discipleship, they don’t ask somebody to disciple them, they don’t get involved in the church. They’re going to begin to, they don’t lose their salvation, but they walk in a place of darkness and it’s, and they think that getting back to camp is the answer. Camp is a great answer, but it’s not the answer. Discipleship is the answer. And so I love that you said that Pat, how important is that for us as we continue to be discipled and growing in our faith with Christ. What is a couple of points that you think that we could take away, and as we understand Christ, what are some disciplines, Pat, that you have. You were an atheist. When you became a Christian, what are dome disciplines that you take upon yourself to really grow in your walk with Christ?
Pat (11:48): Well, you know, one thing, of course, is to study God’s word. God speaks not only through his word, but also through what he has created, called general revelation. And so, one of the things, the disciplines that I had to learn is that Christianity is just not about my personal walk with God. Christianity is an all embracing worldview. I need to see the world and all that I study through the lens of God’s eyes, or the Christian worldview. And so to study the sciences looking at it through the Christian worldview framework, to study Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, Literature, be looking at it through the Christian worldview, gain a real understanding of truth, discerning truth from error, tremendous discipline that we need to learn. There’s a lot of truth out there in non-Christian sources, but also a lot of error. And so, we need that ability to discern truth from error, and that’s always been one of the great challenges for me and for everyone who walks with Christ.
Keith (13:06): You know, Pat, if I’m out in the audience today and I’m going, “You know Pat has made a lot of sense today. He’s telling me to, I need to understand who Christ is, I need to base my life on the facts. That these facts are real, they’re very valid, and once I do come to Christ, I need to be discipled, I need to grow. If you’re out in the audience today and you’re struggling, Pat has said, “Go back to the church, get involved in discipleship, look at the Bible, begin to study the Bible, the authenticity of the Bible, and that it is real, and that who Christ said about himself is valid, and that just begin to understand that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing in the world.” Guys, we are so excited today that you have been a part with Pat Zukeran, Keith Chancey, the Kanakuk Institute, we’re thankful for you guys, and may you have the most blessed day ever, and thank you guys for being a part of our podcast, and we can’t wait to talk to you again soon. Hey, have a nice day! Bye Bye.