Resources to Enhance your Biblical Study - Part 1: E-Books
The Bible reminds us that what it teaches “is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Deut. 32:47). The primary and most important way that this Word is fed to us is through the ministry of preaching as the church gathers each Sunday. Second to this act of preaching as the Christian’s most important means of Bible intake is the regular teaching ministry of the church in its various forms: Scripture readings in the order of service on Sundays, corporate church teaching events like Sunday Schools, classes, prayer meetings, seminars, and conferences, and small-group and one-on-one discipleship opportunities such as mentorship, counselling, and pastoral visitation.
The reason I’m stressing these means first and foremost is that I’m about to talk about something else—and I don’t want to leave the wrong impression! After all, modern-day Western Christians are prone to simply assuming that their own devotional Bible reading and theological study is the most important part of their growth in biblical knowledge and understanding. That’s an understandable assumption in our individualistic culture, but it’s not biblically correct. We are saved “in” and “into” Christ, by way of the proclamation of others, and we are then baptized by local churches and taught what Jesus commanded by teachers in local churches (Matt. 28:18-19). Christians from the very beginning have gathered together as a body to devote themselves corporately to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship (Acts 2:42), two things that go hand-in-hand. The aim of our discipleship is to create not just individuals, but a people, who are Christ’s own possession and zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14). So while individual Bible reading and theological study is very important—as shown by examples such as the Jews of Berea (Acts 17:11) who no doubt studied not just corporately but individually—it is not the most important means of gaining understanding of the Word. Charles Spurgeon warned his young and eager students to resist the temptation to think their own individual interpretation would be sufficient in ministry with words that apply just as forcefully to an individual Christian and his church: “It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.” We are not to be self-feeders only. Rather, we are to be studying the Word in the fellowship of the saints, first and foremost, and even our individual study is not to be detached from that but should be accountable to, and for the benefit of, one’s own church family.
Having said that, and for that very reason, individual study of the Word is nevertheless a vital discipline for the believer. Moreover, God in his providence has provided help from fellow believers for this task, fellow believers from not only outside our own local fellowship but in some cases from outside our own lifetimes. This unique “fellowship of the saints” is given to us in the form of books and study resources. Any Christian would be greatly blessed to know where to find some of these and how to use them. So, I’d like to offer into a brief series this month covering a selection of such resources that I personally believe would be helpful to everyone. I can’t possibly cover everything, so my focus will be on highlighting free and easily accessible stuff that’s useful for most believers.
I’m going to start with a look at electronic books—particularly those in Kindle format. I’m a big fan of Kindle books, not only because they are so easily available, but also because they can be read on almost any device. You don’t need to own a Kindle to read a Kindle book; most smartphones, such as iPhones, Androids, Windows Phones, and Blackberries, can read these books in dedicated apps. So can tablets like the iPad. Even if all you have is a desktop computer, you are still able to read the Kindle books in your “library” by way of a “Cloud Reader” you can open in your browser.
There are a couple of free ebook resources I recommend every Christian pick up. First, the ESV Bible is available for free on Kindle here. Kindles have one weakness; it’s difficult to look up chapter and verse references on a Kindle reader, but if you have nothing else at hand it will do.
More useful, especially on an iPad or in a web browser (again, clunky on a Kindle), is the ESV Global Study Bible. This study Bible is (at the moment, at least) completely free—incredible for a 1200-plus page work! The study notes have been adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
A great introduction to the basic beliefs and disciplines of the Christian faith is R.C. Sproul’s excellent “Crucial Questions” series. This is a line of (at present) 22 booklets, 30-50 pages each, each on a different topic. While I haven’t read all of them, I expect they all share the common features of being easy to read and digest, and they can be read over a lunch break or in an evening. Topics include Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?, What Can I Do With My Guilt?, What Is The Trinity?, and How Should I Live In This World?, among many others. Obviously as a Baptist, I’ll have to advise discernment when reading this Presbyterian’s book on baptism, but Sproul is a solid theologian and always worth reading. If you read through all of these, it would give you a good and broad introduction to theology.
The link to the series (which has links not only to Amazon’s Kindle versions but the Apple iTunes versions, all free) is here.
Next time, God willing, I’ll talk about some great web-based resources that you should bookmark in your browser!