Activated - - NEWS - By Peter Am­s­ter­dam, adapted

WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT, God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him. His Son obeyed the Law, so he could set us free from the Law, and we could be­come God’s children.

1 God sent His Son into the world at a spe­cific time and place to live as a hu­man be­ing, to die on a cross, and to be raised from the dead to re­deem fallen hu­mankind, so that hu­man­ity would have the op­por­tu­nity to en­ter into His king­dom and into a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Him. The four Gospels tell this story—the story of a unique hu­man be­ing, a Galilean Jew, a per­son who in many ways was very much like ev­ery­one else who has ever been born. At the same time, He was very dif­fer­ent from any­one who has ever lived.

The Gospels tell us what made Je­sus dif­fer­ent. They teach us that He came into the world to lay down His life for hu­mankind, and how through His death and res­ur­rec­tion hu­man­ity was able to en­ter into a new re­la­tion­ship with God. Je­sus didn’t come to teach peo­ple how to be good; He came to give them the power to be good through the supreme sac­ri­fice He made for us all. There is no other story as im­por­tant as this one, be­cause how peo­ple re­spond to this unique in­di­vid­ual de­ter­mines their des­tiny for eter­nity. It’s through this story that we

2 un­der­stand the great gift that is of­fered to us: the gift of be­com­ing a child of our Fa­ther in heaven, the means to be­come a part of His fam­ily, and the won­der of liv­ing with Him for­ever.

The Gospels lay the foun­da­tion of Chris­tian be­lief. It’s within their pages that we learn that Je­sus was more than a good or right­eous man, more than a teacher of morals and ethics, and more than a mir­a­cle worker. It’s within the Gospels that we find that Je­sus is the Sav­ior promised by God. It is from the Gospels that we learn of the ful­fill­ment of the prom­ise God made, that through the an­cient He­brew pa­tri­arch Abra­ham all the world would be blessed.

3 Je­sus lived over two mil­len­nia ago, and the Gospels were writ­ten a few decades af­ter His death and res­ur­rec­tion by be­liev­ers of that day. Their goal in writ­ing Je­sus’ story was to pre­serve it so that it could be shared over and over. They wrote so that oth­ers would be­lieve, and

4 they were suc­cess­ful. There has been an un­bro­ken line of

Chris­tians from their day un­til ours. Two mil­len­nia later, we read the same Gospel as did the first read­ers, and it has the power to trans­form our lives just as it did theirs.

The Gospels were not the first writ­ings about Je­sus. The apos­tle Paul’s let­ters are be­lieved to have been writ­ten be­tween 49–67 AD, which means some of them were most likely in cir­cu­la­tion be­fore the Gospels were writ­ten. Some of the other Epis­tles writ­ten in the early 60s AD could have pre­dated the Gospels as well. The Epis­tles don’t tell a great deal about the life of Je­sus, most likely be­cause the au­thors were writ­ing to be­liev­ers who al­ready knew some­thing of His life. As was the gen­eral cus­tom of the day, the sto­ries and teach­ings of Je­sus would have been cir­cu­lated orally. The original wit­nesses, those who knew Him, would have told oth­ers the story of His life, de­scrib­ing His mir­a­cles, retelling His para­bles, and shar­ing other de­tails of His life.

The time be­tween Je­sus’ death and res­ur­rec­tion (c. AD 33) and the first of Paul’s Epis­tles was prob­a­bly about fif­teen years. The first Gospels were writ­ten about thirty years af­ter Christ’s death. From what the au­thors of the Epis­tles wrote, it’s clear that what they com­mu­ni­cated in their writ­ings cor­re­sponded with what the Gospel writ­ers later recorded.

The Epis­tles tell us that Je­sus was a de­scen­dant of David, a Jew raised un­der the Mo­saic law, gen­tle and 5 6 meek, sin­less, tempted, and

7 8 9 right­eous. We also learn that

10 He ex­pe­ri­enced hos­til­ity, was

11 be­trayed, suf­fered with­out

12 re­sist­ing, was cru­ci­fied, and

13 14 rose from the dead.

15 The Gospels fo­cus on the time of Je­sus’ min­istry. Two of the Gospels give an ac­count of His birth, and one speaks briefly of an event from His child­hood when He was about twelve years old. Beyond that, we know al­most no spe­cific de­tails about His life un­til He was bap­tized by

John the Bap­tist. His pre-min­istry life wasn’t the fo­cus or pur­pose of the Gospel writ­ers. In­stead, they speak about what Je­sus said and did dur­ing the pub­lic era of His life, the mes­sage He pro­claimed, and the man­ner in which He pro­claimed it. They tell us of His ac­tions, mir­a­cles He per­formed, sto­ries He told, the man­ner of His death, and His ris­ing from the dead. They teach us that He was God’s only be­got­ten Son, the only per­son who was both God and man, and that His pur­pose for tak­ing on hu­man form was to make it pos­si­ble for us to live with God for­ever. In short, the Gospels’ main pur­pose is to share the good news that sal­va­tion is avail­able through Je­sus Christ.

The Gospels also teach be­liev­ers about the re­la­tion­ship we en­ter into when we be­come children of God. They lay the foun­da­tion for liv­ing as the new cre­ations we be­come through sal­va­tion and re­ceiv­ing the Spirit of God within us. The Gospels im­part in­for­ma­tion which can af­fect our lives for eter­nity, help us to de­velop a world­view built on the foun­da­tion of truth, and act as spir­i­tual, moral, and eth­i­cal guide­posts on the jour­ney of our lives.

A fuller un­der­stand­ing of what the Gospels teach can bring us into a richer re­la­tion­ship with God. If we can grasp the deeper con­cepts of what Je­sus said and did, of His para­bles, His ser­mons, His mir­a­cles, if we can see them through the eyes of the first eye­wit­nesses in the mi­lieu of first-cen­tury Pales­tine, then we can see more of the depth and beauty of His mes­sage. This can re­sult in a fuller un­der­stand­ing of Je­sus’ life, a more pro­found ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the “wealth and wis­dom and knowl­edge of God,” and ul­ti­mately a deeper faith.

16 The Gospels pro­vide foun­da­tional prin­ci­ples which act as guide­lines for lead­ing a mean­ing­ful life and mak­ing choices and de­ci­sions based on eter­nal truths given by our Sav­ior. Knowl­edge of the Gospels and what they teach is vi­tal for liv­ing a God-cen­tered life, which leads to joy in this life as well as the next.

I’ve al­ways loved the Gospels, but study­ing them more thor­oughly these past years has given me a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for their depth, beauty, and the life-chang­ing power they pos­sess. Spend­ing more time read­ing them has en­riched my life in nu­mer­ous ways. They have helped strengthen my un­der­stand­ing, my faith, and my con­nec­tion with God.

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