When I was growing up I wanted to be a baseball player. I loved baseball. Unfortunately I learned through experience I was not athletically inclined. Other options that came into mind were to be a disc jockey, or a musician or a teacher, or a priest. That’s right: a priest. I really thought through that. I was born and raised Catholic and, with all due respect to my Catholic brothers and sisters, I thought becoming a priest would guarantee my entrance into heaven. These thoughts came about during the time of my life when I was convinced I was going to hell if I died. That conviction held from age 12 to 22 when I accepted Christ as Savior.
By the time I was 20 I had thought perhaps I could be a teacher. It looked like an interesting life because of studying about knowledge and sharing that. I enjoyed studying and learning and sharing and was optimistic about that vocation. I went to graduate school to start work on a Master’s degree. I was financing this venture with a teaching assistantship.
I came into those classes with one thought in mind: I was the teacher and they were the student. I was the most important person in the room. I had to be strict and hard. Trouble was I hated being strict and hard. Somehow I thought that is the way teachers I had were and so I was going to just imitate them. I remember with pride finding my name written on the bathroom wall – and it was used in a very derogatory manner.
I hated the whole thing. I hated being a teacher and was lost because I had no options other than to quit and go into the military. It was not a good time. I came home that summer and came to know Jesus as Savior and when I returned that second year my teaching life was set. And so was my attitude. My students were the most important people in the room, not me. I did not just pass knowledge on to them, we worked on that together. I saw them as I saw myself: a child of God who deserved my love, affection, respect and hard work in preparation to be a good and loving teacher. Not only did I find the Truth, I had found a life.
One thing about teaching is all the knowledge you need to deal with and think through. I was in school for ten years, completing the Ph.D. I learned about working with knowledge by thinking critically about it. The classes I took in my PH.D. work involved a lot of writing and very little testing on knowledge.
When I started my teaching career at the college level I tried to remind the students that it was just not all facts and knowledge…that what was more important was that they were learning how to learn.
Still, that knowledge, as important as it is, is pretty empty. Our cultures have gone through centuries of gathering knowledge and learning from it. This has produced a better life for most people on the globe. Knowledge is king…it makes things that give us pleasure and provides for a more comfortable efficient life. And the circle is not ever broken in how that knowledge is gathered and imparted. We all stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. And together we move forward.
However, it is just like turning stones to bread. We make the mistake of living by bread alone and so we make the same mistake, a serious glaring mistake I believe, by living by knowledge alone. For one thing often that knowledge is used the wrong way. Just look at nuclear fission for example. We did not really give much thought to its benefits until we killed off a few million people in Japan back in 1945. I understand the reason why it had to happen and understand the necessity for it. Can that explanation hold up if heard by one of the survivors of that horror? So, there is a two-edged sword to that knowledge.
The main thing is that it will end someday. I suspect that will happen whenever the events of Revelation 21:1 happen in fact.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1 (NASB).
What is more important is relational knowledge. This is knowledge that we understand through the experience of our relationship with God through Christ. It could involve knowledge as we know it and teach it, but more importantly it is knowledge that we can take with us into the next life. It never ends.
And that takes us back to Scripture that is only understood as we relate to God, who is the Author of that Word.
Hence Scripture is important as the source of real truth. Knowledge on its own is good and we need to understand that and use it properly. That is fine. If we also understand that there is a more important relational knowledge, then we are not living by bread (knowledge) alone, but by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
For all flesh (mankind) is like grass, and all its glory (honor) like [the] flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off. But the Word of the Lord (divine instruction, the Gospel) endures forever. And this Word is the good news which was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:24-25 (AMP).
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8 (NASB).
Now, let us proceed to see what the Word is going to teach us about the truth making us free.
Consider these verses:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 (NASB).
This verse tells me that my life in God is a way of worshiping Him. The only difference is that I am not in church. I am in life. If I worship God in this way I am conforming to Him, and not to the world. What is really good is that I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind. That renewal comes from the experience of Scripture. Through scripture I can prove what the will of God is for my life.
What now follows in the subsequent sections is the real “meat” of Dr. Stanley’s study of John 8:32. It is a practical approach to finding a better life using Scripture as the basis, not some book on philosophy or listening to “Dr, Phil.” And, all of it is relational with Jesus as our guide.