Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] Post-modern secularized, New Age Christianity is actually about being a fan of Jesus, like He's some celebrity It's not being a disciple of Jesus. You see, disciple just doesn't mean being a believer or a student, it means being an imitator of Jesus Christ.
[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] Who is Jesus? The Bible says that God created human beings in His own image, but throughout history it seems that human beings have been trying to recreate Jesus Christ in our image. Many Protestant churches contain paintings of a sort of European-looking Jesus. In Catholic cathedrals, you find statues of a baby Jesus in the arms of His mother Mary, or a mutilated Jesus hanging on a cross. Statues that induce powerful emotions for those who go there to pray. Well, in China you can find that Jesus becomes relatable because He's depicted as Chinese, in Korea worshipers are comforted by seeing Jesus as Korean, in Africa Jesus is often betrayed as being African.
Jesus has been represented in many ways in movies like the popular series, "The Chosen." Here the producers tried to show Him in a first century context, but at times add words and actions that are actually not recorded in the gospels. Or there's the controversial "The Last Temptation of Christ" from 1988 which is a fictional account of Jesus filled with non-biblical hallucinations of Jesus committing sins. And then some of the older ones will remember, there's a musical version of the life of Jesus from the 1970s "Jesus Christ Superstar." ♪ Why should you want to know ♪ ♪ Why are you obsessed with fighting ♪ ♪ Times and fates, you can't defy ♪ So who's the real Jesus?
This is the first in a "Beyond Today" series exploring the unknown Jesus. Today, we'll look at what Jesus’s first biographers said about Him and the culture of His birth, His ministry, and just a few of His core teachings. And if you desire to be a follower of Jesus Christ, if you want to know who He really is, then you have to sort through the legends and the misunderstandings and discover the real Jesus Christ. But first, let's set aside a controversy that sometimes swirls around discussions about Jesus, the argument that there's really no proof He existed.
This argument is based on an emotional desire for Him not to exist, not an examination of the facts. A substantial number of historians agree that the New Testament was written by different authors who lived in the first century. Many of these authors claimed to have met Jesus, recorded His life story and shared accounts of thousands of people who interacted with Him. And there are biblical and non-biblical accounts of His followers being persecuted, sometimes killed because they believed in His existence. Now we also have first century accounts that He was an actual person from the Jewish writer, Josephus, and from Roman sources here like Tacitus and Suetonius.
Now all historians agree that Josephus and these Roman writers actually existed, and the three of them all verify that Jesus existed. A Jewish man named Jesus lived in Judea in the early first century, that's not the issue. Knowing who He is and what He actually taught, now that's another story. This is where the story of Jesus goes in all kinds of different directions. So let's begin our journey of discovery by looking at what we know about the early life of Jesus.
Well we know that He was born around 4 BC in a small town named Bethlehem in Judea which was a province under the powerful Roman empire. Jesus had humble beginnings. He was born in, basically I guess you could call it a stable, but right from the time of His birth there were rumors about Jesus being somebody special. Some people claimed that He was the fulfillment of prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures, that He was in fact the Messiah who had set up God's kingdom on the earth and overthrow all human kingdoms.
When these rumors reached Herod, who was the Roman appointed ruler over the area, he was so afraid of who He was that he ordered soldiers to kill every male child two years of age and under in the area around Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary, Jesus' parents had to take their baby and flee to far away Egypt to escape the massacre. They didn't return to Judea until Herod died. Then they moved to a city called Nazareth in Galilee. Now we will further explore Jesus' birth in just a little bit, we're going to go back to this.
As a Jewish boy, Jesus was immersed in Jewish society. His family dedicated him to God at the temple in Jerusalem. He was circumcised on the eighth day in accordance with Torah. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, never ate pork or shellfish, and observed the annual ceremonies of Passover and the other holy days commanded in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus. Friday nights in Joseph and Mary's house were special because the entire community prepared for Sabbath. Prayer and singing Psalms were regular activities in a society where God was the center of daily life. Jesus worked with His father as a carpenter and He would've studied Torah, and there's no reason for people to believe that the rumors that He was this prophesied Messiah were really true. Until one day in His late twenties, Jesus spoke in a synagogue.
Now, we pick up this story in the Book of Luke, and I'm going to read this to you, because this is very important. He's in His late twenties, and this is really the first time we find Him giving I guess what you could call a sermon in a synagogue. Luke says, "So He came to Nazareth where He'd been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. When He'd opened the book, He found the place where it was written." So He gets up in the synagogue and this is what He reads. "'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." He then closed the book. Luke says, "He gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all those who are in the synagogue were fixed on Him."
You can imagine, He just read this prophecy, what does He mean, okay? And this is what He said to them, "Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." This passage in Isaiah is about God's promise to save His people, and Jesus is making a remarkable claim. God's promise to save His people was being fulfilled at that moment, "Right now" He said, when Jesus publicly read the prophecy. You will never understand the meaning of Jesus' teachings until you understand Him in the context of the Old Testament. His teachings about God just flow right out of the Old Testament, and in His ministry, He repeatedly claims to be the Messiah.
Now, I want you to do something. I want you sort of freeze this scene that we've just described in your head for a moment, and we're going to go back to Jesus' birth, I told you we were going to go back there, and see what God gave to Him and why He could give this right to say, "I'm the Messiah." Jesus' mother was a virgin. An angel from God appeared to Mary telling her that through a miracle from God, she would conceive a child and, and here's what he told her, "Of His Kingdom there will be no end." He was the Messiah, to set up God's kingdom on earth.
This angel would appear to Joseph, Mary's betrothed, and he accepted her pregnancy as a miracle and he and Mary were married. But did you know there's an Old Testament prophecy that prepared people for this miracle? In fact, Matthew in his gospel account quotes from a messianic prophecy that's once again in Isaiah to prove who Jesus is. And Isaiah wrote, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated 'God with us.'" And Matthew said, "This proves who Jesus is." So we have a miracle from God, a virgin birth, and a tight Jewish community who knew Jesus as a child.
Now, keep this in mind. Let's go back to the synagogue scene. Okay, you're back there with me? Jesus has just made His proclamation, He's just read from Isaiah, He just declared that in accordance with this prophecy He was appointed to preach the gospel, proclaim liberty and give sight to the blind. His friends and neighbors looked at each other and according to Luke's account said, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" You can imagine what they were thinking. "Who does He think He is? Is He applying this prophecy to Himself?" 'Cause that's exactly what He did. Now, Jesus responded by telling them, "'No prophet is accepted in His own country.'"
You know, my friends and neighbors, you don't accept me. Now, you could see why some of the people would've been upset, right? But they weren't, they were enraged. They knew that Jesus was claiming that He had a special mission from God. His friends and neighbors seized Him violently, dragged Him out of the synagogue, pushed Him to the top of a cliff and would've killed Him, except Jesus managed to slip away.
Now, it's easy to condemn that crowd, but they understood something, something that each of you must understand if you're really going to discover the unknown Jesus. Either Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament, or He is a mad man. Many of His friends and neighbors decided He was crazy, they decided the best thing to do was kill Him. Now, if He's a mad man, then His teachings have little real value, if He is the Messiah sent by Almighty God, then His teachings are the most important life-changing truth you can ever hear in your entire life.
Now, to accept Jesus as God's Messiah, it changes everything. The problem is that there's so many versions of what Jesus taught. Which version of His teachings do you believe? So what did He really teach? Well, the answer to this question is debated among all the Christian groups in the world today. So what I want to do here is we're just going to look at a couple of Jesus' basic teachings, just, not much, just a little bit, and compare those teachings to what many people believe, okay?
So how many times have you heard this? "All religions lead to the same God." The concept is that there is sort of this mysterious God, He's inclusive in all faiths and all forms of worship, even the worship of other Gods lead people to the same God. Do you have any idea what Jesus actually taught? He taught about this, it's going to surprise a lot of people. John 14:6, He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." That's amazing, that's the most exclusive statement you can imagine.
You're going to find when you study the teachings of Jesus Christ, that, yeah, the message is filled with all kinds of information about God's love for humanity, but when you take the time to explore His complete teachings, you can't escape the fact that He did not teach that all religions lead to God. In fact, He taught according to this Scripture, that the only way to have a true relationship with God is to accept Him as the prophesied Messiah or Christ. Now, that's a bit of a shock for a lot of people, I understand. Okay, let's look at another teaching of Jesus. He said that He was coming to call people to Himself, He called them disciples.
Okay, so what does it mean to really be a disciple? Well, the New Testament was originally written in Greek and the Greek word translated, disciple, means, thought followed by endeavor. Now, this is really important. You think something, you learn something, it becomes part of who you are and it leads to endeavor, it leads to you doing something. You see disciple just doesn't mean being a believer or a student, it means being an imitator of the teacher, learning and doing what you are taught. It means being an imitator of Jesus Christ.
Post-modern, secularized, new age, Christianity is actually about being a fan of Jesus, like He's some celebrity, it's not being a disciple of Jesus. In the gospel of Luke, a man came to Jesus and said, "Lord, I will follow you wherever you go." Now, how do you think Jesus would answer that, respond to that? He replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nest but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head."
Now, think about for a moment what's happening here. I mean, this man says, "I will follow you wherever you go." You think Jesus would say, "Your profession is enough. You desire, you believe." No, He told the man that He needed to truly understand the total commitment that is required to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. You know, in other places, He actually taught that discipleship means to be changed at the very core of who you are, it means giving up whatever is required to follow Him. To simply say, "I follow Jesus," isn't enough for Jesus. You understand? It's not enough for Him. Knowing what He taught and following Him at all costs is a required response to His calling.
Authentic Christian belief must include faith and trust, authentic belief in Jesus requires a response to who He is. This response and commitment is based on the acceptance of Jesus as Savior sent by God, and we'll cover Jesus as savior in a future program in this series, "The Unknown Jesus." So here's a really important question if you believe in Jesus: what did He actually require of us? Of me? Jesus did give His followers instructions or commands to follow, or did He just tell us sort of a love with feelings in our heart? I mean, are there things He tells us to do?
Okay, here's a very small sampling, a sum of Jesus' teachings, okay? Just a little bit, let's just look it a little bit. And this is in Luke, "Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it." This is the response. I hear the Word of God, I believe in Jesus, everything's okay. No, these are His words, by the way, these aren't anybody else's words, these are the words of Jesus Christ, okay? In John, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." You want to be a friend of Jesus Christ? Well, you have to do what He commands.
Here's another one from John. "If you hold my teaching, you are really my disciples." If you hang on to what I teach, He says, "'Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'" This sounds a little more complicated than what some people think about Jesus, isn't it? This next one is really tough if you've never heard it. Jesus says, "'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching, and my Father,'" the God that you can only get to through Him, "My father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them." And notice this next statement, "Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching."
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, you must love Him, that's what He says. And if you love Him, you will be studying His teachings and obey Him. That's what He said. So let's take this concept of loving Jesus a step further. I've had numerous conversations with people who will state things like, "I love God and Jesus and I know God and Jesus love me, but I'm not religious. You know, I'm very spiritual." And the conversation usually goes on to how the person describes how they don't attend a church, they don't do anything or get baptized, they don't do any of these things because they just love Jesus, that's all they have to do, and religion, all these things are just human constructs.
Okay. Well, let's look at what Jesus taught about the religious ritual of baptism. Now, it's true, Jesus never baptized anyone, but He was baptized, He was baptized by John the Baptist. Many people were coming to John the Baptist because they repented of their sins, their disobedience to the commands of God and they were undergoing the ceremony to symbolize the forgiveness of God, the washing away of guilt, they were put under the water which symbolized the washing away of guilt.
One day, John was baptizing repentant people in the Jordan River and a large crowd gathered, and Jesus came to be baptized. And at first, John tried to talk Him out of it. I mean, he understood that Jesus is the Christ, He had no need to be washed of the guilt of sin. And Jesus' response is real important. He told John, "Permit it to be so for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus says that He had to be baptized because it's an example of doing the right thing before God. In fact, He would later command His apostles to go and baptize people everywhere. You may say that you love God and Jesus, but are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you accept that He is the Messiah?
Remember the words of Jesus we read earlier, accept this, listen to this, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching but anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching." Jesus said that if you truly love Him, you're going to obey Him. I mean, these are straightforward words, we don't have to interpret this. He said, if you don't obey Him, you don't love Him, that's what He said. The promise in this verse isn't just about the future, when He says, "My father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them." God right now will become directly involved in your life, He's going to give you strength, and He's going to give you comfort, and He's going to give you peace, and He's going to give you love.
Now, what have we discovered today? Okay, we just covered a few things but what have we discovered? There's real discoveries here about Jesus Christ, okay? The real Jesus is not simply a good teacher. He is the prophesied Messiah or Christ of the Old Testament, He claimed that He was sent by God to proclaim liberty. In one of His sermons, we didn't go through it today, but He claimed that those who truly believe in Him will be resurrected from the dead. We'll go through that in this series.
Once again, either Jesus is mentally ill or He's the prophesied Messiah and He is going to resurrect people from the dead. Before you can discover the real Jesus, you have to settle that question in your mind, is He a good teacher or is He actually the Christ sent by God? We learned that Jesus came into this world through a miracle from God, it was a virgin birth, and the gospels report how He healed the blind, the lame, the sick, simply by His words, His power from God. In other words, to really know Jesus, you have to accept Him for His miracles, that that's part of the true story.
You also, as we learned, found out you have to accept that He taught a very exclusive message claiming that He's the only way to have a true relationship with God. That may be the biggest shock of what we talked about today for many people, I mean, this is the opposite of what New Age Christianity teaches about all religions leading to the same God. By making the exclusive statement that He's the only way to God the Father, the Jesus of this Book, the Jesus of the Bible taught that Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are not true religions.
Oh, that's hard, isn't it? He calls people to be His disciples, this means that belief must produce a response to Him as the Christ. You see, Jesus is all about life changing total commitment, submission to God, and this commitment requires you and me to become an imitator of the teacher, not a student, not a believer. And we looked into how His teachings say that His disciples must love Him, and to love Jesus is to be willing to obey His teachings about God and about life, and He declared that those who do not obey Him do not love Him. Maybe you've never heard that teaching of Jesus. Well, we just cracked open the door of discovering the unknown Jesus. This is just the beginning in a series.
Now on "Beyond Today," we want to help you in your quest to discover the unknown Jesus. That's why we want to send you a free copy of our study guide, "Jesus Christ: The Real Story." What is His gospel? People talk about the gospel all the time. You know, gospel literally means good news, and this study guide will help you discover why His message is called good news, it will help you make sense of the world you live in and why it's so dysfunctional and filled with suffering. I mean, you could use some good news, right? This is the most important good news you will ever get. One section here in this study guide is titled, "The Messiah's Misunderstood Mission."
Are you worried about the chaos and the increasing uncertainty of the world you live in? Because it's becoming more and more uncertain every day. Did you know that God is going to save humanity from total destruction, and you know He's going to do it? You can find the Scriptures, this will take you to the Scriptures, by sending Jesus Christ back to earth to establish His kingdom. Remember what the angel said to Mary about how she would produce this child through a miracle and, quote, "Of His kingdom there will be no end." "Jesus Christ: The Real Story." This study guide will help you find and understand all kinds of biblical passages about God's purpose for your life. To get your free copy, call the number on your screen, or go to BeyondToday.tv. That's BeyondToday.tv and download your free copy right now, do it right now.
You know, how many times have you seen WWJD on a window sticker or a sign? What would Jesus do? You know, that is a great saying, but if you don't know what Jesus would do, it's absolutely meaningless, has no meaning at all. Understanding the unknown Jesus, it's actually the key to what you've been looking for your entire life. This "Beyond Today" series will continue to explore who Jesus really is and what He actually taught. You know, in part two, we're going to break down some statements from Jesus about how He is a brother to His disciples. Maybe your entire life you've pictured Jesus as the baby in the manger, or just the Savior on the cross, the King of Kings? But have you ever thought of Jesus as a brother? Find the answers next time on "Beyond Today."
[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. This free study aid will help you understand the life and mission of Jesus Christ. 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. You'll discover what Jesus taught about the law, and the wisdom He shared so you can live a successful life.
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. The "Beyond Today" magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year, you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family, 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. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.