By Tim Sweetman
It remains amazing that the simple pages of our books instantly grant us access to a whole new world. It’s earth-shaking how the combination of paper, ink, and imagination come together to form something that’s simply difficult to describe. The experiences found in many books are so deep, it often does feel as if we’re transferred into different lands.
But I think books are even more than just pathways into imaginary worlds. Some books open for us a look into a truer world.
Often I find myself consumed in some way by the shadows of this world we live in. Other days my heart or mind is clouded by what the world would have me believe. Books have taken me to the truest of places and brought my heart back to the true Word.
Of course, the greatest of all books is the Word. Without it, I would be lost. Besides the Bible, I’ve found a number of books in the course of my life thus far that have righted my path, increased the depth of my love for Christ, and pulled back the curtain to let me see the truth once again. Here are just a few of those books:
The Cross Centered Life
By C. J. Mahaney
As a young man, I came to accept the truth of the gospel, but as a new believer I honestly didn’t see any radical change in my life. I remember the first time that I read this book. It was as if a light bulb had snapped on in a dark room. My Christian life was so much clearer than before. I realized it was because I was rediscovering the truth that had first saved me.
I found incredible joy in realizing that the cross-centered life was “made up of cross-centered days,” days where I was to be “preaching the gospel to myself.” With real, practical steps on how to actually do that, I put this book back on the shelf, but the message has never left my heart.
My life has been changed by the gospel—but it doesn’t stop there. The gospel continues to fuel the life I now live. It’s because of the gospel that I can overcome legalism, condemnation, and feelings-driven faith.
The Discipline of Grace
By Jerry Bridges
The first few chapters were worth the purchase of this book. One of the greatest things Jerry Bridges says is this: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
Those words have stayed with me as a constant encouragement and exhortation. Some days I’ve found myself feeling so beyond help, and I remember—I’m not out of the reach of God’s amazing, beautiful grace. Other days I’m feeling stronger than ever before, cruising through life at a million miles an hour and I remember —I am just as in need of God’s grace as I ever was.
This book was key in helping me through times of both intense personal despair and depression because of sin and times of prideful, self-centered legalism and confidence. Ultimately it helped me work through what my role is in the sanctification process, that process of becoming like Christ in holiness. I finally understood that I must “vigorously pursue” a life of holiness even as I found rest in the fact that I had received the unmerited grace of God.
Do Hard Things
By Alex & Brett Harris
There is certainly no better book for a teenager. It was the battle cry and manifesto of my teenage years. The “rebellion against rebellion” was the best way to describe what I was doing with my life. There was no time to be wasted on excessive video games or relationships that were going to evaporate. Time was running short.
Brothers Alex and Brett encouraged me and thousands of other teenagers to reject the idea of adolescence as a time to “vacation from responsibility.” There was a much better way to live those years. “Doing hard things” was the battle cry. Don’t settle for the easy, passive, I-don’t-care mentality of the generation around you. Get out of your comfort zone and push to do something great. The book was full of real-life examples of other teenagers who were doing incredible things with their lives—teenagers who were rejecting complacency and apathy.
Do Hard Things is a book every teenager needs to read (and a few adults as well). It’s too easy to coast through life unchallenged. Wasting my teenage years would have been tragic. Today too many teens are continuing to embrace the idea that their days of adolescence are to be used as a few years to throw away before they have to grow up. What starts as a few years of wasted time often continues well into the twenties. I’m tired of seeing and hearing twenty-somethings who still have yet to do anything with their lives. The challenge to do hard things for the glory of God is desperately needed.
The Last Battle
By C. S. Lewis
I remember weeping with joy as I read the final pages of this book. Certainly the entire Chronicles of Narnia series is fantastic, but this book for me left an indelible mark. After a desperately dark story unfolds and Narnia seems to disappear, the characters find themselves in a better Narnia.
The Chronicles of Narnia was always more than just another fantasy fiction series. It influenced and encouraged the way I thought about the world. The Last Battle was no different, but it added something new—it connected the world of Narnia to my own world. As the children realized that the world of Narnia was but a shadow of the next world, I was filled with hope and expectation for Heaven—I could only imagine the beauty and depth of what it would be like. I look forward to the day when, like the children, I can explore Heaven, where the deeper you go the bigger and greater it gets.
By Nancy Pearcey
I’ve always been the type of person who wants to make a dent in the universe. Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, the biggest way seemed to be to get involved in politics. This book changed everything with one simple phrase: “Politics is downstream from culture.”
If this were true—which I quickly concluded it was—then how in the world would I be able to make a dent and change culture? If politics is really just reflecting what’s already happening in culture, I needed to get to the root. Enter this brilliant comment from Pearcey: “The most effective work is done by ordinary Christians fulfilling God’s calling to reform within their local spheres of influence.”
Nancy Pearcey lays out a fabulous argument for how our worldview should affect our lives. Christianity is not just religious truth about reality, she argues. It is total truth. It’s something not just for Sunday morning; it’s a truth that’s in and through how we live every single day.
No Little People
By Francis Schaeffer
This book has left in me an unmistakable passion to share its message. Yes, I’m not ashamed to say that I want to be making an impact on the world. But I often have felt unused, small, and insignificant. Here is a beautiful reminder that regardless of who you are, if you are faithful to what God has called you to do, you are far from insignificant. In God’s eyes, there are no little people, just those who are willing to be used by him and those who aren’t.
Francis Schaeffer so clearly explains how I often feel when he says that Christians will think, “It is wonderful to be a Christian, but I am such a small person, so limited in talents—or energy or psychological strength or knowledge—that what I do is not really important.” Thank goodness the Bible says the exact opposite.
Schaeffer argues that the Scriptures tells us that “much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God. Then I can become useful in God’s hands.” That has stuck with me for so long. Regardless of my supposed limitations, my ultimate call is to consecrate everything I have to God. He uses my weaknesses and does great things. It’s not about me at all. It’s all about his glory despite me, and in his hands we can be used as he likes.
Tim Sweetman is a freelance writer in Arnold, Maryland (timsweetman.com).
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