The Best Books in the Bible
The first four books of the New Testament are called "gospels," which means "good news." They are central to revealing God's eternal plan: to redeem and save lost mankind. They are often referred to as biographies: Through them we gain a comprehensive insight into the life of a Man who only lived for 33 years, but who impacted the history of our world more than anyone who ever lived. The gospels declare Jesus the Christ, God's greatest revelation of truth.
The Magnificent Obsession
The primary emphases and purpose of the Gospels is to reveal God's message and to present His solution to our problem. We have divorced ourselves from God and that separation must be reconciled. Jesus, the greatest revelation of truth the world has ever been given, had a magnificent obsession, which was accomplishing the work His Father sent Him to do. The Gospels proclaim: Jesus came to provide forgiveness for our sin and to reconcile us to God!
The Ministries of the Messiah
In the Gospels we discover that Jesus was a Man with mission, a threefold ministry. Jesus expressed this threefold ministry in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." The Gospels tell of His teaching - the Truth; His mighty works, miracles, healings and deliverance - the Life; and of redemption, death and resurrection, and how His sacrifice saves us from our sin - the Way.
The Strategy of the Savior
The Gospels show us Jesus has a strategy for accomplishing His mission. His strategy for reaching the world with His message of salvation involved training and teaching His disciples to meet the needs of the world. Jesus frequently placed His followers strategically between Himself and those who needed to receive God's supernatural provision. The plan of the risen, living Christ is still to use His disciples to pass the truth of His Good News to those who need salvation.
Thy Kingdom Come
One of the primary emphases of the Gospel of Matthew is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus came into this world as King of an eternal, spiritual kingdom, open to anyone who believes in Him and makes Him Lord of their lives. When we pray, we pray for His kingdom to come. Our whole lives are to be centered on this goal: to see God's spiritual reign established in our lives and our world by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Crises of the Christ
John the Baptist introduced the Messiah, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" The Gospels tell of important events in the life of Jesus Christ: His baptism, an inauguration marking the beginning of His public ministry; and His temptation, a confrontation with Satan. Jesus resisted temptation by knowing and quoting Scripture and by keeping God first in His life. He proved that He was the Son of God who overcomes sin.
A Checkup from the Neck Up
One of Jesus' greatest discourses was His Sermon on the Mount, which is a concise summary of the ethical teaching of the entire Bible. Jesus taught the beautiful attitudes and character of a true disciple. The beatitudes show us the right attitudes for coming to God and for going from God into the world to be part of His solution. The essential question is: "Are you part of the problem, or are you part of the solution of Jesus?"
A Turtle on a Fence Post
The beatitudes are the mindset of a person who comes to God and of one sent into the world by God. Jesus follows this with four profound metaphors: the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city on a hill, and a candle on a candlestick. No followers of Jesus can have all of these attitudes and do the kind of works He commands, apart from the Spirit of God working in and through them.
Jesus made two important statements: He has come to fulfill the Law of God, not destroy it, and the righteousness of those who follow Him should be greater even than the righteousness of the religious teachers of His time. Jesus says that to be part of His solution, His disciples have to know God's Word and apply His teaching in their relationships: brothers and adversaries. Jesus teaches that we can control our passions before they influence us to disobey God.
Look In, Look Out, and Look Up
In the passage that follows the beatitudes, Jesus challenged His disciples to look around and apply the beatitudes in their most important relationships - including their relationships with their enemies. In chapter 6 He tells His disciples to look up and consider the spiritual disciplines and values of an authentic disciple. Jesus challenged His disciples to live for the approval of God while they allow Him to make them into part of His solution for the needs of the world.
Divine Disciplines and Vertical Values
We cannot live the Christian life if we do not know how to pray. That is why Jesus gave us His teaching about the spiritual discipline of prayer. The Lord's Prayer, should perhaps be more accurately described as the Disciples' Prayer. Jesus promises that God, Who is in secret, will honor and respond to our sincere, private prayers. Jesus indicated seven petitions: three that keep God first in every area of life, and then four for our personal needs.
The Choices of the Committed
In Matthew 7 Jesus teaches His disciples not to judge others; to ask, seek, and knock on the doors of God's goodness; and to treat other people according to how they want to be treated. Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount by comparing two kinds of disciples: wise or foolish. The wise obey His teaching and are like building a house on solid rock. The one who does not obey is like a fool, building his house on sand.
The Commission of the Committed
Jesus' twelve disciples followed Him closely for three years. He trained the disciples, or apostles, to reach the world with the Good News, the message of salvation. The apostles were sent to preach the Gospel: Jesus' sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sins, His resurrection and ascension, and to validate the kingdom of God through signs and wonders. We too must be faithful to reach our world for Christ as we proclaim the Gospel to all.
Seeds, Soils and Sons
Jesus often taught in parables - simple stories with deep spiritual truths. Only those who have the Holy Spirit to teach them can understand and apply His parables. Matthew 13 contains several of Jesus' well-known parables, one of which was about a farmer who scattered seed onto different kinds of soil. The seed represented God's Word, and the soils represented those who hear the Word. We should always look for the central truth of each parable.
Righteousness, Inside Out
Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter responded, "You are the Christ!," which means the promised Messiah. Jesus was very clear that the Father had revealed this to Peter. Jesus is building His Church on the miracle that ordinary people, like Peter, can confess something as wonderful as that. In fact, the Church is filled with ordinary people who do extraordinary things because they confess Jesus as Messiah and are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Faith, Forgiveness and Family
In the Gospel of Matthew we learn how Jesus taught through parables, teaching, and by example. He taught on the importance of faith and said, "All things are possible to those who believe." Jesus also taught frequently about forgiveness. Since we have been forgiven, we are to forgive constantly. Jesus taught about marriage and divorce, emphasizing that marriage is a sacred covenant, not be dissolved. We need God's help to fulfill our family responsibilities and in raising children.
The Call to Commitment
Some of the hardest words ever spoken by Jesus are found in Matthew 21 when Jesus informs the religious leaders that because they were not bringing forth the fruit of the kingdom, the kingdom would be taken away from them and given to a people who would be fruitful. Jesus taught His disciples to have a servant heart and to commit to follow Him at all costs. This servant attitude and radical commitment still applies to His followers today.
Confrontation, Crisis and Commission
Jesus gave many prophecies about the future and His return. He said that no one knows the day nor the hour of His second coming, yet we are to watch for the signs of the times and make sure that when He comes, He will find us faithfully serving Him. When Jesus was arrested and crucified, all of His disciples fled, but they came back together after His resurrection. He then commissioned them to go into all the world and make disciples.