I am an avid reader and cannot get enough of consuming good books. We can be profoundly influenced and mentored by Christian authors that the Lord has used to impact His kingdom. With so many choices out there in the evangelical sub-culture, how does a Christian discern truth from error—especially when it is in print?
Part of our spiritual growth as believers is to build a good library of doctrinally sound and theologically solid books that will encourage, challenge, motivate and stimulate us to love and good works. As evangelicals, we adhere to Sola Scriptura which means that Scripture alone is our sole rule of faith and practice. There is no other authority above the Holy Bible and we are to measure every teaching of man against God’s revelation in Scripture. Yet, God in His providence, has given gifts to His church through godly men and women who have written books for the growth of God’s people. We should realize that all humans are fallible and no one author or pastor or theologian is above reproof or correction and can at times be wrong.
As we start 2016, I want to recommend to you my reading audience “Sean Cole’s Top Ten List.” These are books that I have read over the past few years that have personally impacted me and I think would benefit you. Some are more accessible and readable that others. Some are more theologically dense but worth the read. These are in on particular order.
Number One: “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” by Timothy Keller. Out of all the books on prayer I have read over the years, this has to be the most powerful. It combines sound teaching with great examples from church history as well as practical ways to actually pray. He uses many examples from Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards on the richness of praying the Scriptures.
Number Two: “Follow Me” by David Platt. This is the follow up to his best-selling book “Radical.” I think this book should have been written first as it provides the theological foundation for what our life in Christ is and how we follow Jesus as disciples. He clearly articulates what it means to be soundly saved by the regenerating power of God in the gospel. He challenges us to live as obedient followers of Jesus and provides a practical personal disciple-making plan.
Number Three: “Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions” by Sam Storms. This great resource provides solid biblical answers to some hot topics. For example, he addresses the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the fate of infants who die, and the nature of angels, demons, and the Satan. He tackles issues such as losing one’s salvation, speaking in tongues, and tithing among many other hotly debated issues.
Number Four: “PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace” by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. Using the teachings from the Canons of Dort, these authors explain the doctrines of grace for a modern audience. They address God’s unconditional election, sovereign regeneration, particular atonement, total depravity, and perseverance of the saints.
Number Five: “What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality” by Kevin DeYoung. In this accessible book, the author examines every passage in the Old and New Testament that address the issue of homosexuality. He also responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians.
Number Six: “Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved” by J. D. Greear. This short, semiautobiographical work relays how J. D. struggled with finding assurance of his salvation because he had “asked Jesus into his heart” so many times as a child. He provides a solid explanation of what it means to truly be saved and demonstrates the pitfalls of using the sinner’s prayer as a replacement for repentance and faith.
Number Seven: “Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus” by J. Mack Stiles. This brief book packs a punch on what it means for the both individual Christians and the church to share the gospel with the lost. Instead of focusing on canned programs, the author encourages a simpler and more biblical approach to evangelism.
Number Eight: “Hell Under Fire” edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson. This is probably the best resource on the doctrine of hell. Different authors contribute to each chapter and cover the Scripture’s teaching on hell from both the Old and New Testaments as well as some major theological issues and objections. In the past 50 years, the reality of hell has been under attack and this book clearly addresses the issue from the authority of the Bible.
Number Nine: “God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients our World” by David Wells. The author explores the depths of the paradox that God is both holy and loving. He provides a renewing vison of God’s character as the cure for the current shallow theology of evangelicalism. This is thoroughly gospel centered and will challenge modern assumptions of who people think God actually is.
Number Ten: “We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry” by G. K. Beale. This is probably the most difficult of all the books I have recommended. The author traces the themes of idolatry from Genesis to Revelation as he argues for this thesis: What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration. Beale is a prolific scholar who will challenge your thinking on how destructive idolatry truly is.
May you enjoy reading these recommended books as you start 2016. May God bless you and may you grow closer to Jesus this year!