The God of grace whom believers serve is lavish in His gifts. None of us who are Christians can complain we have been short-changed by God and treated unfairly. We have been given loving treatment all out of proportion to what we deserve. Our sins deserve hell, but God has given us His Son, the Holy Spirit, heaven, new life, the Bible, the church and the promise of His presence forevermore. What a bounty is ours by the grace of God.
To learn about and come to appreciate more of this bounty, God has given us gifted brothers and sisters whose insights into the Word of God enrich, strengthen, stretch and challenge our walk with God.
If you knew that 2012 would be your last full year on this planet before Christ calls you home to glory, what books beyond the Bible should you read and master and be mastered by? What books would prepare you to finish well and glorify God in the remainder of your life? What books would strengthen you to face the final enemy, death, and its trappings?
What books would encourage you as you seek to glorify Christ in the remainder of your life and leave a legacy of righteousness pointing to the Savior for those who remain here?
Here are my choices for books you should master and be mastered by as you read them, reread parts of them, meditate upon them, share them with others and commit segments to memory.
THE CHRIST OF CHRISTMAS by James Montgomery
Boice; P & R
THE CHRIST OF THE EMPTY TOMB by James
Montgomery Boice; P & R
As Christians, we need always to start with the
foundation of our faith--the Lord Jesus Christ. We
can never go wrong gazing at Christ, marveling at
Him, learning more deeply of Him, drawing more
closely to Him. CHRISTIANITY IS CHRIST ! These
two books count as one because in these we see
the Savior--Boice starts us off well !
THE GOSPEL FOR REAL LIFE by Jerry Bridges;
Navpress--I know of no book, written for laymen,
but so helpful for teachable pastors, that so well
explains what Christ did for us in His life and death.
What is "the atonement" all about? What did
Christ achieve so that He could exclaim: "It is
finished!" ? There are a year's worth of sermons
for a pastor here and a lifetime of the Bible's
wisdom for all of us here.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT by Martyn Lloyd-Jones;
Eerdmans--when our Lord preached His most
famous sermon He was NOT telling His listeners
how to become Christians. He WAS telling them
what real CHristians look like, how they act, what
motivates them and what energizes them. What
a tonic for the Christian life! If you want to finish
well, pray through this book.
KNOWING GOD by James Packer; InterVarsity Press
One of the few 20th century classics! I have read
it many times, each time with growing appreciation
and understanding. Packer "packs" a lot into his
books and you will want to read this slowly and
thoughtfully as you would an expensive steak
(male readers) or an exquisite chocolate (women
readers). Pastors, there are years of sermons in
this book. Laymen, this is a four pound steak or
a one pound chocolate! This is theology at its finest.
THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS by John Bunyan; various
editions. Some books are famous for being famous.
This book is not one of them. It is famous, however
little read, because it is great. It is the Number 2
best selling book in the world after the Bible. After
the "Cultural Revolution" in China under Chairman
Mao, Mao's maxims for life were distributed to every
person in the nation in the format of "the little red
book". Clever Christians soon published there own
little red book of biblical wisdom, THE PILGRIM'S
PROGRESS. It took some time for the authorities
to catch on and by then, Chinese Christianity was
saturated with the biblical wisdom of John Bunyan.
It was Charles Spurgeon's favorite book after the
Bible. He read it to himself or has his wife read it
aloud to him every Sunday evening and he went
through it over a hundred times! A common man
with an uncommon genius, John Bunyan vividly
portrays the Christian life, from our escaping the
City of Destruction to our entrance into the
Celestial City of heaven. The battles and the people
we will meet are laid out for us in a striking way.
You will not forget you read this book. It sticks with
THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF HEAVEN AND HELL
by Ted Donnelly; Banner of Truth--as I pondered
what book in Christian history would prepare us
for death and glory, this had the first place. It is
biblical, clear, moving and exhilarating, sober and
awe-inspiring. Some of the most frightful and
fearful thoughts one can entertain are in this book
as we read of hell. Some of the most exhilarating
and mind-expanding thoughts I have ever had
come from this book.
THE HIDDEN LIFE OF PRAYER by David McIntyre;
Christian Focus Publications--I first read this little
gem some forty years ago. Praying is hard work.
It is hard to stop doing and running about "serving
the Savior" and quietly spending intimate time
with Him. Many books have been written on prayer
and praying. Many of them are very good.
Inadvertently (and sometimes intentionally), many
books on prayer make the reader feel very, very
guilty. And guilt can be a strong motivator--for a
short time. As many have pointed out over the
centuries, grace love and gratitude are stronger
motivators. This book always makes me want to
pray. While some guilt hangs over me for my times
when I do not pray as I should, the over-arching
message is 'come to the precious Savior and spend
time with this wonderful person--talk to Him and
spread your life before Him. I cannot do the author
justice but it is my favorite book on prayer. Try it;
I believe you will like it. We shall spend eternity
with the One who loved us unto death. What a
privilege to begin now to be alone with Him.
EXTRA CREDIT--Well, the books above will keep most of us busy if we really take the time to read them, pray through them and seek to work them into our lives. But if some of your are feeling extra energetic may I recommend THE INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION by John Calvin (various editions)?
You may balk at this, thinking that the book is old (almost 500 years) and Calvin is supposed to be a "great man". How can ordinary people like us learn from "the great men" of this world?
Well, the simple answer is that the so-called "great men" are great because they can communicate great thoughts about God in a way that we can understand them. This book is not a book for "brain surgeons" and "rocket scientists". It is a book for Christians who will take the time and dig deep and be overwhelmed at the glory and grace of God.
May 2012 be the year that we draw closer to the Savior and even if He does not come back or take take us home this year, our journey to draw closer to Him will have been worth it anyway because we did draw close to Him.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin