Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] You see, true Christianity transcends the "Jesus loves me so I'm okay, you're okay, as long as we are nice to each other." That's a twisting of the Gospel. According to His words, He requires us today to submit to His leadership as the firstborn among many brethren, even to loving Him more than our own lives.
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God, as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow, directly from your Bible, here on "Beyond Today."
[Gary Petty] We're doing a series on "Beyond Today" called "The Unknown Jesus." I know that title may seem a little strange. The biblical Jesus is the most well-known person in the history of the world, but, you know, there's so many different portrayals of Jesus. Is He the meek and mild pacifist who's main message is the brotherhood of humanity? Is He the non-inclusive judge, sifting the true believers, so He can give some of the reward of heaven and condemn others to hell? It's interesting, the Bible claims that He was, at the same time, the Son of God and a Jewish itinerant rabbi.
Today, He's quoted in support of socialism and in support of capitalism. He is said to support or condemn the LGBTQ agenda, depending upon who's telling the story. And all Christian denominations claim to have special insight to His teachings. You know, Jesus may not be who you think He is, and over the next few weeks, we're going to help you discover the unknown Jesus and how this truth can actually change your life.
Now today, we're starting with a statement that is made by one of Jesus Christ's earliest followers, Paul of Tarsus. Paul was a leader in the first-century world, first-century Judaism and he originally denied Jesus and claimed that Jesus was a religious heretic. He even persecuted Christians, until he was forced to come face-to-face and confront the unknown Jesus. And after this encounter, Paul would explain Jesus in many different ways throughout his writings. He would claim that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. He also said that He was the perfect fulfillment of the Jewish Passover. He claimed He is the Savior of all humanity. Paul said that His death reunites an evil human race with their Creator. He claimed that Jesus died and was resurrected after three days and three nights in the grave. And then there's this interesting thing he said, in his letter to the Romans.
Paul said, "Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren." Now what does that mean? I mean, Christians claim that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, the Son of God. But how can Jesus be your brother? The first two chapters of the New Testament book of Hebrews explains how Jesus Christ was not an angel, and He was the unique Son of God, who came to this earth to fulfill God's plan for humanity. And I want to look at here, and let's go through just a couple verses in Hebrews that talks about Jesus, and what He said, because this is important. Listen to this. "In as much then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
Okay, we need to explore this a little bit. What are we learning about Jesus here, as our brother? And how can this truth change your life? Well, first of all, he says, "The children are partakers of flesh and blood." In other words, the children here are human beings. We've been created by God in a physical form with the potential of becoming His eternal children. And then he says Jesus Christ became flesh and blood like us. Before He existed as a fetus in Mary's womb, He existed for eternity with God the Father.
To understand how He can be your brother, you must realize that He was willing to leave that state and become like you, able to feel pain, able to become tired and hungry, experience the fear of death, and ultimately, experience death itself. In Hebrews, it also said that through His death, He destroyed the power of Satan. You know, Satan is real and he has the power to influence humanity in an evil way.
To understand Jesus Christ, we also have to understand the reality of Satan. In Hebrews, it says He releases the children from bondage, and we're going to have to explore this in a minute. I mean, what does he mean by bondage? How can we be released by Jesus Christ becoming our brother? Couple verses later, here's what it says in Hebrews 2. "Therefore," once again, speaking of Jesus, "in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."
Okay, what does this mean? "In all things He was made like His brethren." We're back to this concept, that Jesus literally says, "I am your brother." Do you understand that? It also says He's the high priest, "a faithful high priest in heaven." In the Old Testament, the purpose of the high priest was to intercede between a weak and sinful humanity and an all-powerful righteous God. And it says, "He makes propitiation for the sins of the people."
This means He paid the price for our crimes, before the law of a good God. In these verses, we discover some of the greatest life-changing truths of all time. Human beings are created to be the children of God and what we just read isn't just a charming analogy. You were formed by the Creator of this universe to be His child. Now unfortunately, and we just read it here, according to Hebrews, we're in bondage. We are slaves, all human beings are slaves. And you know, what's the worst kind of slavery? A gilded cage where we have become so accustomed to our slavery, the self-destructive behavior, that we don't even recognize our pitiful state of slavery. We are literally in bondage to death. And the beginning of this slavery is found clear back in the book of Genesis.
God created human beings in His image, and all human beings are of the same blood. All human beings are created in the image of God. So why are we so messed up? We see here in Hebrews that Satan is a real being. He's the embodiment of evil. Because God created human beings with free will, He allowed Satan to come in contact with us, and human beings have been choosing the devil's way ever since. And all of us, every single one of us, has corrupted human nature which separates us from God.
And you will never really know the unknown Jesus until you accept that you have a corrupted human nature. And this is one of the hardest things we have to do. Now we just read in Hebrews how Jesus became one of us, so He could do certain things. One was to defeat Satan. He came to defeat Satan. He came to become our high priest, which He is now doing in heaven. And He came to sacrifice His life as the substitute God demands of us as criminals. Ooh, criminals, that seems like a harsh word. I mean, surely God doesn't see me as a criminal. You know, the New Testament has been watered down into of a perverse twisting of the Gospel. I mean, many post-modern Christian teachers claim that God didn't sacrifice His Son Jesus for our sins, because that would make God a child abuser.
But we just read what is written in the New Testament. "Therefore, in all things, He had to be made like His brethren," like us, "that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God," to what? To create this reconciliation, to heal the separation between God and us, because of the sins of the people. We just read it. Here's the inconvenient truth here. The loving God demands our lives in payment for our crimes before Him, caused by our corrupted human nature, and the substitution of Jesus Christ, His willingness, His willingness to take our legal punishment for us is the only way you'll ever be reconciled to God. So how does that work?
Now, have you ever been in a courtroom? I mean, it's obvious that the judge has enormous power. He wears a plain black robe. He sits behind a bench that's up above everybody else, and usually there's a seal of his jurisdiction that's on the front. You know the power he has. There's usually flags behind him, showing that he has the power of the government behind him. You know, when you and I initially appear before God, our relations with Him is as criminals before a judge in the courtroom of heaven.
Now, this is really interesting. I want you to picture that. Because according to the Apostle John, we appear in this courtroom with an advocate or a defense lawyer, and that defense lawyer is Jesus Christ. I remember when I was in college, as part of a reporting class we had to attend traffic court and then go back and write a newspaper story about the procedures. Well, we went in the traffic court, and people paraded before the judge, for tickets and accidents, and they had to plead a certain way. They either pleaded guilty, not guilty, or guilty with explanation. And most people pleaded guilty with explanation, thinking that if the judge just heard their side of the story, he would realize that they were justified in breaking the law.
When you and I stand before God as judge, He looks at our lists of sins. Paul talks about that in another place and declares that we are guilty. And here's what your defense lawyer uses as your defense. "Yes, your Honor, my client is guilty." That's it. Our only real choice is to recognize our crimes and beg the judge for mercy. This is part of the Gospel. And when we do, something else happens. Our defense lawyer, our advocate, says, basically, "My life will be the substitute payment for the crimes of this child."
You know, your advocate says He's your brother and He offers Himself for your crimes. Now this doesn't mean, by the way, that by offering Himself, God's definitions of right and wrong are done away with. Murder is still a crime. Stealing is still a crime. But in the court of God's law, the advocate's blood is accepted as the penalty for your crimes and my crimes. And when God then extends forgiveness, something remarkable happens. The relationship between you and God as judge changes to God as your Father, and your relationship between you and Jesus Christ is now defined that you are His brothers and His sisters. When's the last time you heard that? Have you ever heard that?
I want to show you something that Jesus said. This is a story here where Jesus is in a house, and there's so many people there. They're just packed in the house. The doors and the windows are open, and people are stacked around the house. You can't even get anybody close to Him. And Mary, His mother, comes up to talk to Him. We pick up this story. "While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brother stood outside, seeking to speak with Him." Here's Mary and other members of His family just wanting to come in and talk to Him. It's His mother. "Then one said to Him, 'Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to you.'"
Now listen to this because you think, "What would Jesus do here? How would He respond?" "But He answered and said to the one who told Him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' And He stretched out His hand towards the disciples and said, 'These are my brothers and my mother. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'" I mean, Jesus isn't denigrating Mary His mother, or His physical family. He's explaining the foundational truth that anyone who becomes a child of God the Father becomes a family member and the brother and sister of Jesus Christ. You see, God is creating a family.
This explains why you were born and why God cares so deeply for you and why Jesus was willing to become the legal payment for your crimes and my crimes against the goodness of God. Jesus became firstborn among many brethren through the resurrection of the dead. Now we'll cover the future resurrection of the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ in the next program in this series, as we explore how every person must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
But now let's look at the word "firstborn." The word "firstborn" or the firstborn male had a special importance in the tribal nature of ancient Israel where families were large clans. In the first century Jewish world, the firstborn male was chosen to take his place as the family leader, and he became responsible for the welfare of the family. Now this family leadership was considered his birthright, and the rest of the family was expected to submit to the authority of the older son when he took over the role as family leader.
The concept that Jesus is the firstborn of the family of God helps us understand His first and second comings. And if you desire to become a child of God and accept the firstborn birthright of Jesus Christ in your life, then there are requirements and promises from God to you. And we're going to look at just one requirement and one promise today, okay? When Jesus walked the earth as an itinerant rabbi, He called people to come out to be His followers, or His disciples, whom He also called His brothers and sisters.
Now, maybe you've been told that Christ's message is to accept me into your heart, accept my love, and then He accepts you just the way you are, and then you're His follower. But you know, Jesus never taught any message like that. He expected His followers to respond to Him in an intense and life-changing way, a change so dramatic that it would affect the way that person thought, acted, and interacted with others. Now here's what Jesus told His followers, and it has to do, interesting enough, with family and how they live life. "Great multitudes went with Him. And He looked and said to them, 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.'"
Now wait a minute, wait a minute. Jesus teaches love. Is He telling us to hate? No, what He is saying here is that our love for Him is to be more important than any other relationship we have with a human being. Having Jesus as your brother is a lot more than just believing in Him and that's a false teaching. Just believe in Him. That's all you have to do. According to His words, He requires us today to submit to His leadership as the firstborn among many brethren, even to loving Him more than our own lives. You see, true Christianity transcends the "Jesus loves me, so I'm okay. You're okay, as long as we are nice to each other."
That's a twisting of the Gospel. Now, when we think of someone sacrificing their lives, we usually think of martyrs, people who died for their faith. Many times the Christian sacrifice is a daily sacrifice of our desires, our priorities, and how we use our time, by submitting to God's desires, God's priorities, what He wants to do with the time that He gave to us. Now, notice what Jesus said next. "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me, he cannot be my disciple." Carrying a cross or a cross bar doesn't mean anything to us, right? Today, what's that mean? But Jesus was talking to people who watched condemned Roman prisoners drag that cross bar through the streets, and the prisoner carried that cross bar till they nailed him to it, and he was killed. What he's saying here is laying down the cross wasn't an option.
Picking up your commitment to Jesus Christ, as your advocate and as your elder brother, isn't a whim. There's no opting out because the way is hard. It is a commitment that is total and it is complete and it's everything. And this is the missing element that has created a tepid, uninspired Christianity, that produces believers in Jesus whose lives are no different than those who deny Jesus. So this is a requirement. Now, let's look at one promise. Just one requirement, one promise today, one requirement, one promise. Let's look at a promise. Paul tells us about a promise here, in a letter he wrote to the Romans.
So let's go to Romans here. He says, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." If you have responded to God's call, you will submit to God, so that every aspect of your life is led by God, as a son or daughter. He goes on, he says, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'" We read in Hebrews about how Jesus came to do what? He became like us for what? To break the bondage. The bondage of self-destructive behavior, the bondage of sin, the bondage of Satan, the bondage of death.
In Romans, Paul says don't go back to that. If you're a child of God, don't go back to that. And then to use that word "Abba," which is Aramaic word, but it's a fascinating word. It actually represents a personal name. It's supposed to be the sound a child makes when they address his or her father with unreasoning trust and love. And this captures the relationship God wants to have with His children, "Abba." He then says, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified together."
Jesus Christ as the firstborn is the heir of everything that is God's. And that children of God are heirs with their elder brother, heirs of a future beyond this life. Have you ever really heard of this Jesus? Have you really understand the unknown Jesus? You know, there's one other point in that passage I want to bring out. In order to fulfill God's word, Christ suffered. Those who follow Him will also suffer. This is not a health and wealth Gospel. God promises physical blessings to His children, but remember, Jesus said, to be His followers, we must carry our cross, and there are going to be difficult times.
You may hear sermons about how Jesus is all-inclusive. He loves all, accepts all, even to the point that some Christian pastors are teaching that all religions lead to the same God. And if you read the New Testament, it is obvious that this isn't what Jesus or His earliest followers taught. They believed that Christ is the only way to have an intimate Abba relationship with God the Father. God has created human beings to be His children. Because of the influence of Satan and our own free will, we have become marred images of God. We have to be reconciled with God, and that can only happen through Jesus Christ.
So let's review, just quickly here, what we went through in that first part where we went through Hebrews. We read where the children are partakers of flesh and blood. The children, human beings, have been created by God in a physical form, with a potential of becoming His eternal children. Jesus Christ became flesh and blood like us. Before He came as a fetus in Mary's womb, He was with God, but He gave that up to become like us. And to understand how He wants to be your brother you have to understand what He went through.
Through His death, He destroyed the power of Satan. Satan is real, and we have to deal with that. To understand Jesus Christ, you have to understand Satan's role in what's going on. He releases the children from bondage. A bondage that we have to recognize we had, the slavery we're in, or we'll never understand Jesus Christ. And in all things He was made like His brethren. That statement, like us. And also said there in Hebrews, He's now a faithful high priest in heaven.
In the Old Testament, we know what the high priest did. He interceded between humanity and God, and He paid the price for our crimes before the law of the great and good God. To really begin to know the unknown Jesus, first of all you have to study the Bible. Now, our free study guide, "Jesus Christ: The Real Story," can help you explore what the Bible actually teaches about Jesus. I mean, did you know that the Old Testament contains dozens of passages that are detailed prophecies about Jesus Christ, and there's lots of questions about His life.
Why did many of the Jews, who met Jesus, deny Him as the Messiah, even though they knew the Scriptures? Why did people want to kill Him? Was He really resurrected from the dead? Answering these questions is just the beginning of the journey of discovering the unknown Jesus. "Jesus Christ: The Real Story" is a 125-page study guide, and it's absolutely free. You can order a free copy to be sent to your home by calling number on your screen, or you could go to BeyondToday.tv, where you can read the study guide online or download a copy right into your computer. While visiting BeyondToday.tv, look up the other episodes of our series, "The Unknown Jesus," to continue your journey becoming a child of God.
Now next time, we will continue to explore the unknown Jesus, by looking at His declaration that He's going to judge people. Now, this is going to be a shock to many who have never really studied the real Jesus. I mean, Jesus doesn't judge anybody, right? Hmm. Did you know that He claimed that when He returns that there will be two kinds of people who claim to follow Him. One kind of follower will be His brothers and sisters. Another kind of followers will be exposed, and He's going to say, "I don't even know you." I'm just saying this is what Jesus said. We're going to look at it next time. How can you be sure that you are a true follower of Jesus Christ? Well, join us next time, right here on "Beyond Today," as we continue this series of exploring the unknown Jesus.
[Narrator] Call now for the free booklet offered on today's program, "Jesus Christ: The Real Story." Many Christians who read through the gospels are surprised to find a different Jesus than the one they were taught. He presented Himself as a way to everlasting life for those who followed Him, but He also proclaimed the good news of the coming Kingdom of God right here on earth. Order now. Call toll-free 1-888-886-8632, or write to the address shown on your screen. "Jesus Christ: The Real Story" is a study aid that you won't want to pass up. You will read the Bible in a whole new way. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary, one-year subscription to our "Beyond Today" magazine. Six times a year, you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy and Godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, "Jesus Christ: The Real Story." We'll also send you a free one-year subscription to "Beyond Today" magazine. 1-888-886-8632, or go online to BeyondToday.tv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with the United Church of God. If you are looking for a church that encourages living what the Word of God really teaches, you found the right place. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.