Do you like to read? I suppose you would!
I love to read. Anything really. Reading is essential to rounding out the Christian’s experience in this world. Start with the Bible, of course. Really, it begins with Jesus, as He is the living word: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
But where can we go from here? What books has God used to substantiate your faith and help you see things in a fresh light. A new way?
Consider this quote from Oswald Chambers’ exceptional devotional, My Utmost for His Highest (ironically, the quote is from today’s entry—December 15th): “The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”
I would consider Chambers to be the most influential Christian author in my life. His words and topics delineated in his unique style were to me exactly as he described in the above passage. My Utmost for His Highest is a collection of vignettes collated and published by his wife Biddy (Gertrude) after his passing. I highly recommend the Classic edition as opposed to the updated, modern translation. Either way, check it out.
The last verse of John’s gospel reads: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25, emphasis mine)
Speaking earlier (John 14:12) in the same vein, Jesus says “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
What Jesus—and John as well, for that matter are looking to encourage here is both the doing and recording of the things that God is doing through His body, the church. So what has God done in your life? And what is He doing that would benefit others in much the same way should you decide to share? As broad as human experience is, there is a finite number of categories. The things that you’re going through, when described and elucidated as seen through your eyes, can be of inestimable benefit for those in the world who are dealing with the same. “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:9)
Back to the subject of reading, taking a different tack: Because the Christian genre is so saturated with titles, you really have to pick your battles. Stressing again the importance of knowing Jesus, it truly is imperative that our focus is on Him and seeing that we stay “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17) because the temptation of acquiring the knowledge of God in any other way than through fellowship with Him can be strong and subtle. We end up acting much like the superstitious Athenians in the Book of Acts (17:21) who “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” The acquisition of knowledge without God is fruitless—a waste of time.
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 3:7
It is important however, to know this stuff for yourself, reflecting back what you read with what you already know. The things God has taught you through His word and directly. Another aspect of knowing Jesus before knowing stuff is knowing how to pray for someone who doesn’t get it. When you read a doctrinal assertion that clashes with truth, what will you do? Are you going to lambast them to your book club? Or pray for and lift them up as a brother or sister that is “otherwise minded”? (Philippians 3:15) Or worse, what if they’re “Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9)? Reading others’ opinions and assertions and then bringing them (and their works) to God in prayer and petition is a very practical way to build up and unify the Body of Christ.
“Try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1)
Other Christian authors of note are: C. S. Lewis, Andrew Murray, Charles Swindoll, Francis Chan, Mark Batterson. More include: St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain (his Philokalia is excellent), Brother Lawrence, Mother Teresa and Toyohiko Kagawa, etc. Too many to mention. And honestly, after a while, it all starts to sound the same. You see patterns and overlap and while what they’re saying is good, exceptional, sound, you really need to frame things for yourself and as Chambers says (also in today’s Utmost entry): “Struggle to re-express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else.”
“Go and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37)