I believe that of all the questions I receive, the most common relate to books. What are some books I ought to read? Can you recommend a book on this subject or that subject? What should I read next? I’m happy to answer such questions, but thought I might be able to answer a bunch at once by suggesting 10 books that every Christian ought to read.
As you can probably imagine, I get a lot of feedback from people who watch these videos, people who read my website, and I think of all the questions I get, probably the most prominent relate to books. What are some books I ought to read? Can you recommend a book on this subject? Those sorts of questions. I’m happy to answer them. I thought I might be able to answer a bunch of them by suggesting ten books that every Christian ought to read.
Today we’re talking about Christian books and I’m going to suggest ten books that I think every Christian ought to read, or at least try to read, at some point in your lifetime. These are not going to be in any particular order, also these are all contemporary books. Another time I can do some classics everybody ought to read, some of the older books, but for now let’s just focus on ten books, modern books, every Christian ought to read.
We will start with JI Packer and his classic, Knowing God. It’s a true classic book, everybody knows about it, everybody ought to read it. What Packer does so well there, is he simply introduces God as He is. So many of us have notions of God that are wrong, they’ve come in unhelpful ways, we’ve believed wrong things. He simply wants to show us who God is, so we can believe in the God who really is, believe in God as He actually exists. So it’s a fantastic introduction to the person of God.
Next up, The Holiness of God by RC Sproul. What do we say about this book? What RC does so well here, is he introduces God in all His holiness. You know, all the things God is, of all the attributes of God, there’s just one that’s repeated three times, right. God is not wrath, wrath, wrath. He’s not mercy, mercy, mercy. He’s not love, love, love, but God is holy, holy, holy. That attribute that’s repeated to the third degree, that’s an attribute of God we ought to know, we ought to celebrate. The Holiness of God by RC Sproul.
Next, we’ve got Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur and I guess some might say that’s an odd one to add to the list, but there’s good reason. I don’t think we fully understand yet just how deeply pragmatism has infiltrated the Christian church. So many of the principles of church growth and growing churches constantly bigger and bigger, this is built on pragmatism. This notion that the end justifies the means. That if something is working, it’s proof that it’s God’s will. We need to fight hard against that notion and that’s exactly what MacArthur does so well in Ashamed of the Gospel, a book I highly, highly recommend that does battle with something that’s so, so present in the church here in the 21st century.
Then we’ve got The Disciplines of Grace by Jerry Bridges. You’ve probably heard people talk about preaching the Gospel to yourself, probably heard them talk about the centrality of the Gospel in the Christian life and the Christian church. Well, many of those people are really downstream from Jerry Bridges and really this book. He shows how God means the Gospel to be central and I mean that can be cliché, there’s all sorts of ways that can go wrong. Bridges does it so, so well. Read that book, absorb that book, live out that book, you’ll be so much better for it.
I know I said these would be largely contemporary books, but I’m going to make an exception here, well kind of. Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen. Now John Owen wrote a massive body of work, in one of those volumes is this material, sin and temptation. I’m including this in the list because this is a version that Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic have gone over, they’ve modernized it a little. They haven’t changed it, they’ve just adapted it. They’ve changed some of the words that no longer fit, they’ve taken Owen’s strange way of quoting scripture and updated it. So it makes it that much easier to read. But this is a book that’s all about how we can fight hard against sin, how we can overcome temptation, how we can put on Christ’s righteousness. There is no book you’ll read in your life, sure the Bible of course, that will probably have a greater effect on your understanding of your own sinfulness, your understanding of God’s grace to help you overcome that sin.
It’s only right that I should have a biography on the list. I don’t even know that we know how much we benefit from reading about the lives of other believers. Well, how about Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore? Such a great biography of such a great figure. It’s fairly short for a man who accomplished as much as Spurgeon did, it’s so readable and it’s such a living, just a joyful biography to read. So I highly recommend Spurgeon by Dallimore.
I guess we need to have a book about the disciplines of the Christian life, the spiritual disciplines. So how about Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney? Of course there’s so many books about the spiritual disciplines today, and for good reason. This is an especially good one, it’s well into its second edition now. One that will help you understand, what does God call us to do as disciplines in the Christian life? How can we take hold of the means of grace that God offers? Whitney does such a good job in describing those things and calling us to them for all the right reasons.
And how about Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey? Nancy in some ways, in many ways, is following the thought of Francis Schaeffer. And so she’s bringing Schaeffer’s notion of truth into the 21st century. Such an important book as it shows the craziness of relativism around us. It shows this two-tiered version of truth that so many people, perhaps even us, have bought into, the sacred-secular divide. You really ought to read this book, it will help you think better about your own life, help you think better about the world around you.
Of course, we’ve got to have some John Piper on the list, right. Now, most people would think you ought to go with Desiring God. I’m going to go with The Pleasures of God. Here’s why: because it’s secondary to Desiring God. So in some ways, you get the best of Desiring God and yet you get the continuation of Piper’s thought into his next volume. So, you can’t go wrong with reading anything by Piper, but The Pleasures of God is probably as good a place as you’ll find to start, so you can understand, what is it that has so captivated John Piper? What is it about God that has so captured his heart, that so many people are listening to him and enjoying him and just being downstream of his thought? Such a good book, I’m sure you’ll be blessed by it.
And let’s close out with John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. Of course, we need to have a book about the sacrifice, the atoning sacrifice, the substitutionary, atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Nobody’s written on this in a better way than John Stott in his absolute classic work, and justifiably a classic work, The Cross of Christ. Pick it up, read it. I’m absolutely certain it will prove to be a blessing to you.
So, of the thousands and tens of thousands of books we could have looked to, here are just ten. I don’t think there’s a person in the world, a Christian in the world who wouldn’t benefit by reading these ten books that every Christian, at least at some point in their lifetime, ought to consider reading. I hope you’ll give some of them a shot.