Reading & Understanding the Gospels

The first four books of the NT (the Gospels) pass down the story of the life and ministry of Jesus. These four books all draw from the same material (the Life of Jesus), and so there are several questions that we must ask as we seek to understand specific passages in the Gospels.

  1. Why did the author say what he said?

    We must remember that each gospel writer had to pick and choose what accounts he wanted to include in his gospel, and what he did not want to include. The question that we must ask as we approach specific passages is “why did the author choose this account?” Specifically we must attempt to understand how our specific passage fits within the entire Gospel. For instance, if the Gospel writer has told us why he wrote his gospel then we must attempt to determine how our passage fits into the author’s purpose.

  2. Why did the author say what he said how he said it?

    This is particularly important when we come to accounts that occur in multiple Gospels. Obviously different men are going to present the same account from different perspectives, but why? Here we need to determine if our passage is different in any way from other parallel passages, and if so then why? Why did the author of our passages present this account they way that he did?

  3. Why did the author say what he said when he said it?

    Here we need to determine if there is any significance to a passages inclusion in a Gospel at a specific point. Not only did the gospel authors present the same accounts from different perspectives, but they also include the same account in different places within their gospel. Here we need to determine if our passage is in a different context than the other presentations of this same account, and if so then why? In other words, why did the author choose to include this account right here?

The key in all three of these steps is to be observant, and ask good question as you read through the Gospels.

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Update

The first week of seminary is in the books, and so am I.  There will be a lot of reading this semester (I guess that is normal), but that is not so bad for someone who enjoys reading as much as I do.  I am extremely blessed to have the opportunity to sit under the professors at the expositors seminary.  All of my profs are also pastors, and so each one of them has great insight into pastoral ministry. 

I have to keep reminding myself that it is only by God’s grace that I have this opportunity.  The tendency of the flesh is to be prideful and think “finally, I deserve this opportunity.”  This has been a struggle for me, but as I think of how many people have sacrificed to help me in this endeavour it helps me to be humble. I cannot say enough about my wife, Elyse, in this regard.  She has been supportive of me in every sense of the word (she even made me muffins for my first day of classes).  I know that with Elyse’s support our family will make it through these busy years until the Lord brings us into more busy years. 

I would appreciate all of your prayers in the weeks to come.  I specifically need you to pray that I will not be puffed up with the pride of knowledge, but rather that I will be humbled as I learn more and more of my Creator. 

Look for things to get back into a normal schedule around here pretty soon (maybe tomorrow); thanks for your patience.

A Christian Worldview Defined

The term “Christian Worldview” is thrown around a lot in today’s world.  I fear that there are a lot of Christians who do not know what to think of this term, and so they do not think in these terms.  However, a “Christian Worldview” is simply how a Christian is to view the world.  I would add that a Christian Worldview must be shaped by the teaching of Scripture. 

In his systematic theology, Christian Theology, Millard Erickson has a great paragraph that defines a biblical Christian Worldview:

The Bible quite clearly affirms a theistic and, specifically, a monotheistic understanding of reality.  The supreme reality is a personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving, and holy being – God.  He has created everything else that is, not by an emanation from his being, but by bringing it all into existence without the use of preexisting materials.  Thus the Christian metaphysic is a dualism in which there are two types or levels of reality, the supernatural and the natural, a dualism in which all that is not Gos has received its existence from him.  God preserves in existence the whole creation and is in control of all that happens as history moves to the fulfilment of his purpose.  Everything is dependent upon him.  Man, the highest of God’s creatures, is, like him, personal, and hence capable of having social relationships with other humans and with God.  Nature is not merely a neutral given.  It is under God’s control; and while it ordinarily functions in uniform and predictable ways in obedience to the laws he has structured into it, he can and does also act within it in ways which contravene these normal patterns (miracles).                                                                                                          Pg. 54

I know that this paragraph is filled with “theology talk.”  But, if you can discipline yourself to work through the difficult language it will help you to better understand the world that you live in, and the God who controls the world that you live in. 

I got nothing…

To be honest with you “I got nothing” today.   My mind is in several places, including the start of seminary next Tuesday, and it is hurting in all of those place.  Every time I get headaches like this I cannot help but think about how horrible sin is.  I do not know exactly what is making my head hurt – in this regard I am in the company of every doctor in the world – but I do know that when Jesus comes back I won’t have to worry about headaches anymore.  Which actually brings me full circle back to “I got nothing.” 

 Every day I live me life and I continue in my own sin; specific sins.  I am prideful, I argue with my wife (or a fence post whichever is closer), I get frustrated with my daughter (who is only 10 mnths old), and the list could go on for quite some time.  Yes, even though I expereince a small taste of the horrible effect of sin through my headache I continue to live in sin.  I can completely understand what the apostle Paul was talking about when he said: 

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.          Romans 7:14-15

don’t understand it either.  This is why “I got nothing.”  When I think of my propensity toward sin, and then the Holy God who will judge me I cannot help but shudder.  “I got nothing.”  What am I going to tell God?  That I don’t understand what happened?  Or, how about that I worked on staff at a church, and even went to seminary?  Somehow I do not think that will help:

Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?  And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.    Matthew 7:22-23

When that day of judgment come I know that I will not be able to depend on my own merit for entrance into the kingdom.  “I got nothing.”  However, there is hope for sinners like me.  Jesus has made redemeption possible for sinners like me who have nothing.  So when I stand before Jesus I’m not going to try and convince Him that I am good enough to be a part of His kingdom.  Instead, I am going to admit my sins and depend upon Him for salvation – just like I have on this earth.  By doing that I go from some jerk who’s got nothing to a child of God who knows Jesus:


But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”                                   Galatians 4:4-6

I guess this entire post is me trying to put a positive spin on a bad headache.  But, when Jesus has poured out His love on you it is not so heard to find positives in this world.  At the very least we can look forward to the age to come when there will be no more headaches.

Happy 25th Anniversary Momma & Dad

happy-anniversary.jpgToday is my parent’s anniversary 25th. I am sure that Dad has sung the “happy anniversary song” to my mom. But even if he has, in keeping iwth family tradition, here goes:

happy anniversary, happy anniversary, happy anniversary, Hap—–py anniversary!” (insert tune of the William Tell Overture; that is the lone Ranger for all of you uncultured blog readers).

25 is very special, so how about one more time:

happy anniversary, happy anniversary, happy anniversary, Hap—–py anniversary!”

Happy Anniversary Moma & Dad!

Keep Yourselves in the Love of God – Jude 20-21 (conclusion)

c. Anxiously expecting Jesus

The third practical way that we can keep ourselves in the love of God is to anxiously expect the return of Jesus. Jude writes, “But you beloved… waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” God’s mercy is always present in this world. For instance, through Christ the Church has been redeemed. Additionally, God is merciful to withhold His wrath from sinners and allow the earth to continue to exist. But the Bible often connects God’s mercy with the ultimate deliverance that He will provide for His people when Jesus comes back. This last step in keeping ourselves in the love of God looks to the future when we will see the ultimate consummation of God’s mercy. On that day when Jesus comes back our salvation will be made complete and we will understand His mercy far more than we could ever imagine. On that day – when Jesus comes back – true Christians will be vindicated, and those mockers who made fun of Christians for believing that Jesus is coming back (2 Peter 3:3-4) will be proved wrong. This is the day that we are to be looking forward to. We are to be anxiously awaiting the mercy of Jesus to be revealed fully when He returns for His church. When we are anxiously awaiting the return of Jesus it will change the way that we live; this is why the Bible teaches us so much about Jesus’ return. In a similar passage John described how this outlook on life will change the way we live in 1 John 2:28-3:3:

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

When we hope in the return of Jesus, anxiously awaiting His return, it has a purifying effect in our lives and it helps us to keep ourselves in the love of God.
 Think about a marathon runner. They have to train unbelievably hard; when most people would stop they have to keep going. Day after day they just keep running. They are training for the day of the big race, but more than that they are training for the finish line. That line is what motivates them. They work and sweat all so they can cross that line. They know that there will be great joy and accomplishment on the other side of that line. If they train hard enough there may even be a gold medal waiting for them at that finish line. We too, as Christians, are running a race and the finish line is the return of Jesus. We must run our race with this great end goal in mind. The thought of Jesus coming back to deliver us from this sinful world and bring us into fellowship with God should change the way that we live. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 the apostle Paul used this exactly picture to describe his own life:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Conclusion:
 Jude’s command to the Church was to fight for the faith. If we are going to be useful in this battle then we must keep ourselves in the love of God by building upon the foundation of the Gospel, praying in the Holy Spirit, and looking for the return of Jesus.