The front page of yesterday’s Times declared, “TV’s golden age is closing the chapter on novels”. This year has seen a sharp decline in the sales of physical fiction books, partly attributed to the rise of the global monolith that is Netflix. I won’t deny that I enjoy an episode of Suits as much as the next man. But reading (particularly Christian) books has had a profound influence on my life in a way that Netflix never (ever) could.
Christian books are tools for discipleship. They’re an opportunity to immerse yourself in biblical teaching. They bring us face-to-face with wizened saints and their hard-worn truths. And they’re a springboard for engaging more deeply with God.
They’re for everyone, not just for ‘keen’ or intellectual Christians. But, I know some of you are unsure of where to start. I’ve identified 10 books that have had a significant influence on my walk with God here. I can’t claim that they’re the best Christian books that I’ve ever read, but each one has left an indelible mark on me. If you’re wondering where to begin, I’d recommend starting with one of these.
1. Discipleship by David Watson (here)
I read this book relatively soon after becoming a Christian and it was life-changing. David brilliantly communicates the essence of what it means to be a follower of Christ (it’s much more than going to church on Sunday). It’s a little dated (he died in 1984) but is an absolute classic. Particularly appropriate if you’re new(ish) to faith.
2. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges (here)
I found this book extremely helpful for understanding grace. This book will be particularly important for those of you who feel bored or unenthusiastic about grace. It’s such a tonic to our frequent desires to justify ourselves and relate to God on the basis of our performance. You’ll see how God’s grace transforms us.
3. Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller (here)
Tim has written an excellent set of books and this is probably my favourite. Tim explores the idea of idolatry i.e. misplaced desires for things like money, sex and power, which can take the place of God as the ultimate good of our lives. Tim shows the enslaving power of our desires and helps you to change the focus of your affections onto God. I’ll be talking about this more on Sunday!
4. Death by Love by Mark Driscoll (here)
The book is a series of pastoral letters, where Mark describes a different person who is in a difficult situation (e.g. experienced abuse, spouse cheated on them, in prison etc.) and shows how Christ’s death on the cross speaks to their situation. Whilst Mark is a controversial figure and his style is perhaps a little aggressive (particularly for British sensibilities), this is a fantastic book to help you understand how the truth about Christ’s death on the cross speaks into your life.
5. Thank God it’s Monday by Mark Greene (here)
I read this book when I was starting out in the working world and it was such a helpful preparation. Mark combines a theology of work, lots of (very humorous) anecdotes from his working life (he’s a former advertising exec) with some practical advice how to thrive in the workplace. If you’re in the working world, or planning to work at some point, you should read this book!
6. Pursuit of God by AW Tozer (here)
This is a classic. Reading it is like colonic irrigation for the soul. It’s very short and should be read slowly. I’ve found this very helpful in growing my desire for God. Tozer speaks as one who has encountered the Almighty and leads us in doing the same.
7. The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun (here)
This book is the autobiography of the one the Chinese house church leaders. This book first exposed me to the persecution experienced by Christians around the world as well as the power of Christian biography. Brother Yun testifies to the incredible grace of God at work in his life and the in the underground church in China despite much persecution that they face.
8. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis (here)
No list of Christian books would be complete without one from CS Lewis! This book is his attempt to get into the mindset of satan and the demonic horde. The book is a fictional dialogue between a senior and junior demon. They describe their attempts to tempt a new believer away from following Christ. It’s a powerful and sobering reminder of the enemy we all face.
9. A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers (here)
This is a moving novel telling the fictional story of a Jewish slave girl (in the first century) who has converted to follow Christ. Rivers immerses us into Roman culture, with fascinating insights into their (very modern) morality and the challenges experienced by the early church. It’s the first book in an enjoyable trilogy.
10. Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper (here)
John Piper has written many excellent Christian books. My favourites are his Christian biographies.
This book deals with the lives of Luther, Calvin and Augustine. Piper gives us a brief overview of their lives and draws out key spiritual insights from their experience. There are a number of books in this series dealing with different heroes of the faith. Each book will leave you marvelling at God’s grace at work in the lives of our brothers and sisters from generations ago.