More than a Story: 5 Ways to Read the Gospels

At my home church, Central Church of Christ,  we are starting 2016 with a reading plan that will take us through the New Testament in a year.   We’ll talk about these things together, read them together, and live them together.

When you think of the gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Christian New Testament), what do you think?  What are they all about?  How do you read them?

I believe there is one way to read them that is absolutely the best!  Read on to find out more.

The 5 Ways to Read the Gospels

1.  The Greatest Story Ever Told

I’m writing this on New Year’s Day of 2016.  We are in the second golden age of the Star Wars movies.  The new film, The Force Awakens, has debuted with greater sales than any other film in history.  Now, what’s the Star Wars series all about?  Spoiler Alert (if you haven’t seen the old movies).  The overarching theme of Star Wars mythology is that there is this battle between good and evil.  There is this chosen one who save the people who are in danger, but will do so at great personal cost and sacrifice.  Sound familiar?  Sound a little like the gospel?  I can name countless other movies and stories and even classic literature that sound like they sorta ripped off the Jesus story line.

“Jesus Christ” means “Jesus, the Chosen One.”  As the Chosen One, Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died to save us, and rose again from the grave.  Now, that’s a story…the greatest story ever told, better than Star Wars.

2.  Powerful Apologetic

No doubt one of the reasons for the initial writing of the gospels was prove that Jesus was the Messiah and that people should follow him.  This defense of the gospel, or apologetic, is something that still carries weight today.  Lee Strobel was an agnostic and investigative journalist who set out to dispove the gospels.  The more he dug into the gospels, the more he realized that there were historical facts that could be verified.  The one that caught his attention the most was the resurrection.  Christianity rises or falls on the truth of the resurrection.  Lee Stroble investigated the resurrection claims like a tough journalist, trying to find holes in the story.  He didn’t.  He became a believer.  That’s what has happened to many people when they looked deeply and critically into the gospels.

3.  The Life that Split History In Two

A.D. and B.C.  Or, ACE and BCE.  No matter what you call it, we count time from the birth of Christ.  His life split history in two.  Now, wouldn’t it make sense to know about that person, I mean at least from a historical perspective?

How could a person be educated and not know about the life that split history in two?

What kind of a teacher must he have been to have this kind of influence?

The story of his life has been the all time best seller.

Wouldn’t it make sense to get to know about this man?

4.  The Facts of the Faith

Any person can learn about Jesus simply for the historical facts, but a Christ follower will want to get to know all about the Teacher, the Master, the Lord.

What did he teach?  What was he like?  How did he interact with people?  How did he die?  Who were his friends and followers?   These are facts you’ll want to know, and you can find them in the gospels.

5.  The Story to be Lived

I believe the best way to read the gospel doesn’t really have to do with reading…it has to do with living.    You see, knowing about Christ isn’t enough.

The Pharisees knew the Scripture, but they didn’t know the Savior.

It’s possible to know a passage by heart without taking it to heart.

It isn’t how many Scriptures you’ve committed to memory; it’s how many you’ve committed to life.

And, when you get to know Jesus, you want to walk with him, you want to enter his Story.

John Mark Hicks puts this really well, so take a look at this:

We follow Jesus into the water. We follow him into the wilderness.  We follow him into ministry–to the tables of the marginalized, to the sick and diseased, to the broken and hurting. We follow him to the cross and die with him daily. And, one day, we will follow him into glory where our mortal bodies will be transformed into the likeness of his resurrected body.

The story of Jesus is our story. The Gospels are our narratives. They are not historical artifacts or pieces of mere evidentiary history. They are the story of our lives as disciples of Jesus.

So, I want to invite you to go with me, not only to read the story:  Let’s be the story.

How do you read the gospels?

Your Worship Will Fail Without This One Thing

I have no doubt your worship will fail without this one thing.

This isn’t my idea.  It’s Biblical.  Before I tell you want it is, let me tell you what it’s not.

This one thing is not

  • a talented worship leader
  • beautiful four-part harmony
  • great song selection

It doesn’t depend on your money, your talent, nor your performance,  Yet, this one thing will improve your worship more than a $1,000,000 sound system or the best voices in the world.

What is it?  It’s gratitude.

Courtesy of Adobe Stock
Courtesy of Adobe Stock

A Biblical Basis

Here’s how Paul put it

“15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17

It’s very Biblical to say that without gratitude, you’re not doing it right.  Please understand, this is about more than putting on a feeling.  It’s about being real.  The only way you can have real gratitude is to have a reason to be grateful.

There is this big story that makes me grateful.  I believe that I have a purpose in life.  I believe that everything works together for good for me (Romans 8:28).  I believe that the Universe itself is designed in such a way that the end result is to show me a kindness (Ephesians 2:5-10).  I believe that the designer of the Universe is best described by everyone’s deepest longing: love (I John 4:8).   And, I believe that I have a destiny, a purpose, and security.   Not only that, I believe that this isn’t just for me.  It’s something I get to do with others.  We can do this together.  It’s not lonely.  It’s family.  It’s not drudgery.  It’s desire and longing.

If I sing beautifully in 7 different languages, and am not grateful, I am just a noise maker.  If I understand all there is to know about music and lyrics, and even if believe are the words are true and could move you to tears with my voice, but if I don’t have gratitude, it’s not worth anything.  If I give countless hours in prep and would sing even if it meant persecution, if I don’t have gratitude, it won’t do me any good.  

What makes you grateful?