This morning I introduced part one of what will end up as three sermons with the same title from John 8:31-38: How To Be Certain Your Faith Is Not Fatally Flawed.
Jesus prescribes three tests for testing faith’s genuineness in vv. 31-32:
- Continuation in His word – If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.
- Acquisition of the truth – you will know the truth.
- Liberation from one’s sin – and the truth will set you free.
I made much of the connection between the first and second points. One glorious consequence of remaining in the word of Jesus, hearing and obeying it, is that we gain increasingly greater understanding of truth over and against falsehood.
Certain tools must belong in your toolkit if you hope to grow in your knowledge of the truth. It is not enough to read the Bible, though that certainly is essential to what Jesus means when He says we must abide in His word as a test of genuine faith. We have to get our arms around the meaning of His words and grasp the truth contained within them.
Along the way several extra-biblical helps can aid in one’s understanding of the truths taught in the Bible, truths that serve to set us free from the bondage of sin.
Some, not all, you can access online. I have sought to provide links below where this is the case.
Here are my suggestions for helpful tools for truth acquisition as a follower of Jesus Christ. More exist for sure, but these seem basic to me.
First, you need a solid one volume commentary of the Bible. Puritan Matthew Henry’s complete and unabridged work can be accessed here. You don’t want to rely on a commentary to do your own study, but you definitely want to check your work by comparing it to a solid teacher either from the past or today. If you can afford it, John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentaries are now available. But here’s a tip. Much of those works come right from his sermons that you can access here. The same is true of John Piper’s sermons here. Save yourself some bucks. Calvin’s commentaries are online too here.
Second, make sure you have a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia at your disposal. You can access ISBE, a classic for cultural and historical background study, here. For example, if you wanted to learn more about Abraham and the significance of his reference in John 8:33, you could look up his name in the encyclopedia and have a wealth of information about him at your finger tips.
Third, invest in a one-volume systematic theology. Wayne Grudem’s is among the best for accuracy and readability. However, if you can’t afford that option, you still have online hope. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion can be found here. You don’t get a helpful index with this masterpiece by the reformer, but you will be reading one of the all time great digests of truth that has ever come from the pen of man. This year I am reading through this work a paragraph at a time as part of my devotions. It is a must read for the reformed follower of Jesus.
Fourth, utilize a devotional guide. I love Ligonier’s TableTalk. After using this resource for a year now, I am amazed at how much truth this little booklet crams into each monthly installment. It is the first thing I open each morning as I approach the Lord for communing with Him. You will find a daily reading and themed articles each month that will greatly contribute to the increase of your truth quotient.
Fifth, make sure you include some reading from the saints of the past. You can get absolutely free Free Grace Broadcaster from Mount Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, Florida. Every quarter they publish a booklet of largely Puritan writings on different subjects. Order your subscription or read online here.
Sixth, books, you’ve got to read books! As I mentioned this morning, books change your life. They bring truth to life. I can’t even begin to tell you how often God has brought a book across my path that He has used to further my sanctification in a significant way. I have referenced often recently J. C. Ryle’s classic Holiness as a book I am currently digesting. Guess what? You can get it online too here! Reading good, solid, extra-biblical literature that opens your eyes to the truths of the Scriptures will make a huge difference in your life.
Seventh, go to conferences. God shows up at meetings that honor His name and teach His truth. Ligonier Ministries holds their annual conference every year right here in Orlando. How sweet is that! No travel costs. No hotel costs. Pack your own food if you need to save even more money. Register early like Nancy and I did and you will get the benefit of early bird pricing. This year’s conference theme is Tough Questions Christians Face.The lineup of speakers will knock your socks off. Take a vacation day or two and go to Ligonier. You can learn more about this year’s conference here.
No doubt there are more. Faithfully attend church and the preaching of the word. Utilize the 9:30 equipping hour. Get into a growth group. Attend the 1689 Confession tutorial class every other Wednesday (see the events calendar on the website) or listen to the classes online on our website.
If it is true that acquiring the truth in greater degrees of understanding is a mark of true discipleship, then let us be a people who are rabid for truth and as crazy about accumulating tools to that end as the carpenter is for stocking his toolkit with nothing but the very best equipment!