The Pursuit of God

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Category Archives: Things Jesus Said

A Mouthy Messiah: Why the Jews in Nazareth Tried to Kill Jesus

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In Luke 4, we find an interesting sequence of events. Jesus stands up in a synagogue, reads a portion of Isaiah 61, and when He sits down, everyone’s staring at Him like He just said something shocking.  What’s that about?

Well, first realize that there wasn’t an “Isaiah 61” to the Jews because their Scriptures weren’t divided into chapters.  Isaiah’s entire book would have been one long scroll for them.  Chapters were not added to the Bible until the 13th century A.D., and verses were then added in the mid-16th century.  All of the stuff you read about in the New Testament happened during the 1st century.

Now even though there weren’t chapters, Isaiah’s book is a series of visions and speeches which are stand alone thoughts.  To understand the context of a single verse, you need to find the start of the speech that it’s a part of, and read the whole speech.  Chapter headings can actually get in the way because they make you feel like a new speech is starting when sometimes the chapter break happens in the middle of the speech.  Either way, in the case of Jesus, He didn’t come anywhere close to reading a whole speech.  He just read a few lines from the middle of a long speech.  He really wasn’t modeling a good use of context—but then again, that wasn’t His purpose.  Read more of this post

Why Christians Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion (aka The Eucharist)

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Holy Communion.  The Holy Eucharist.  The Lord’s Supper.  These are all names that Christians use to refer to a religious sacrament which involves a group of believers coming together and sampling two edible elements: some kind of bread product, and some grape related liquid.  Sometimes a loaf of bread is passed around and everyone rips a bite sized piece off of it.  Or sometimes a plate of small crackers are passed around like an offering plate and each person takes one.  Sometimes the liquid element is actual wine, other times it’s just grape juice.  Read more of this post

Jesus in Context Charts: Be Perfect

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To correctly apply the things Jesus says in the Gospel books, you must interpret His words within their original cultural context.  The theological climate of New Testament Israel was drastically different from Old Testament Israel.  While spiritual rebellion abounded in both cases, there were many concepts being pushed by Jewish preachers in the New Testament which were not being taught during the Old Testament.  As a result, the Jews living in New Testament Israel needed different lessons than the Jews living in the Old Testament.

It’s vital to realize that most of the things Jesus says in the Gospel books–including His parables–are directed at Jews.  He is speaking to a very specific audience within the context of their cultural values, beliefs, and concerns.  Since you’re not a Jew living in New Testament Israel, you should be very cautious about taking Jesus too literally.  The purpose of our Jesus in Context charts is to help you understand the original purposes behind some of the famous statements Jesus made–statements which are often misunderstood by Christians today.  (Click the image to enlarge it.) Read more of this post

False Formulas for Salvation – John 3:16

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“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

This is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible, and we often use it to summarize God’s requirements for salvation.  But is this really an accurate summary?  Not even close.  In fact, when you really stop to think about it, John 3:16 is a very lousy verse to use to try and help a non-believer end up on the right side of eternity.  Now let’s learn why. Read more of this post

Why Serious Christians Shouldn’t Pray the Lord’s Prayer

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Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matt. 6:9-13)

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most well-known passages of Scripture.  It’s also one of the most misapplied.  First, we ignore context.  The Lord’s Prayer was part of the Sermon on the Mount—a long speech by Jesus which was intended to strike terror into the hearts of Jews who were blowing off the importance of reverentially submitting to God.  Second, we get hung up on the fact that Jesus is the One doing the talking.  Even though Jesus is God, we aren’t open to Him having a variety of agendas when He speaks.  We try to make everything Jesus says a direct message for sincere Christians, when in reality most of Jesus’ recorded words were directed at rebellious adherents to Judaism.  Ignoring Jesus’ original audience is guaranteed to lead us astray with our applications of what He said.  But the third mistake we make is not asking Jesus Himself to help us properly apply His words in our lives today.  It’s not like Jesus has ceased to exist and the biblical records are all we have to remember Him by.  No, Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all actively involved in our lives today and They encourage us to come to Them directly with our questions.  When we skip the step of asking Them, then we just end up eavesdropping on what Jesus said to a bunch of Jews 2,000 years ago and deciding that anything He said to them must apply to us as well. Read more of this post

Trapping Jesus – Part 2: The Sadducees Ask About Resurrection

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This is a continuation of Trapping Jesus – Part 1: The Pharisees Ask About Taxes.

After their frienemies, the Pharisees, failed to trap Jesus with a political question about Jews paying Roman taxes, the Sadducees decide to take a more sophisticated approach.  Quite confident that they can outperform the bungling Pharisees, the Sadducees sidle up to Jesus a short while later with a perfect theological stumper.  As was typical for Jewish commoners, Jesus has bought into the Pharisees’ ridiculous notion of a resurrection.  What kind of dingdong believes in an afterlife?  The Sadducees are quite convinced that there is nothing beyond death.  After all, they pride themselves in being experts on the Torah—which they say are the only valid Scriptures—and the Torah certainly doesn’t support any guff about rising from the dead.  So since Jesus has so foolishly allowed His theology to become corrupted by those ridiculous Pharisees, He’s sure to find Himself embarrassingly stumped by the “what if” scenario the Sadducees have cooked up.  Read more of this post

Trapping Jesus – Part 1: The Pharisees Ask About Taxes

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From the perspective of Israel’s leaders, that miracle working Bum from Galilee is a royal pain in the neck.  Jesus is His Name, and when He’s not winning more fans with His miraculous feats, He’s telling snarky parables which are so obviously meant to rip all over Israel’s spiritual leaders.  Where is His respect?  He clearly doesn’t have any.  Unlike the poor folk who accept their place as spiritually inferior to the pompous Pharisees, Jesus seems to think that He—the uneducated son of a carpenter—is more qualified to teach about Yahweh then the men who have been extensively trained in the sacred Scriptures.  How very galling.  The Pharisees are fed up with hearing Jesus constantly exalt Himself as having some special calling from Yahweh.  If Jesus really thinks He qualifies as Israel’s Messiah, He has apples for brains. When it comes time to throw off the shackles of Rome, the Pharisees want a Messiah who will dance to their tune—not some unpredictable Know-It-All who might drive them out of their current positions of power. Read more of this post

Impressing the Devil: Jesus’ Self-Exalting Temptation Story

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In Matthew 4, we find the famous account of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  What’s so fascinating about this account is that Jesus was supposed to be alone during those 40 days, and yet we find the Gospel writers describing what happened.  Where did they get their material from?  Well, since no one was with Jesus during His temptation period, what we find in the Gospels can only be an account that Jesus told His boys about what He did in the wilderness for 40 days.  Now suppose you go on a trip to another country by yourself. How will your friends and family know what you did while you were there?  They won’t.  All they will have to go by is what you tell them when you get back, and if you make a bunch of stuff up, are they going to know that you’re lying?  Nope. Read more of this post

Parables of Jesus: The Two Sons & The Evil Tenant Farmers

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We’re coming up on Jesus’ last Passover before He is crucified.  He’s just ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey—a very strategic stunt on His part which was intended to spike false hopes that He was indeed going to be the kind of Messiah the Jews were longing for (see Know Your Bible Lesson 61: The Triumphal Entry).  Now that His theatrical ruse has come off so well, Jewish commoners are worked up into quite the excited lather as they wait for Jesus to make some bold move to seize control over Jerusalem and launch an epic revolt against those nasty Roman pagans.  Meanwhile, Jerusalem is super crowded with religious Jews who have traveled many miles to present sacrifices to Yahweh during this obligatory Old Covenant holiday.  Read more of this post

Understanding Jesus’ Use of Titles: Son of God, Son of Man, I AM

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When He was walking around Israel in human form, Jesus used several titles to introduce monotheistic Old Covenant Jews to the shocking idea that we humans actually have three separate and distinct Creators, not just one.  In this post, we’re going to explain a few interesting facts about the Old Testament and the New Testament Jewish perspective that will help you appreciate the theological strategy behind Jesus’ title games. Read more of this post