Life Altering Books

I thank God for books, and try to read as many as I can. It is partly through books (extra-biblical and Biblical) that He saved me.
My wife suggested that for my next post I list and talk about some of the more influential/helpful books that I have read… And that is pretty much what is pictured above.

The first book that truly shook me to my core was The Holiness of God by R C Sproul. I peruse the book now and find the principles taught within it so foundational and simply primary to what the Bible teaches – but when I first read the book, around the age of 19 or 20, I had hardly ever heard the word “holiness” explained, let alone heard it expounded and taught as an essential of God’s nature. My almost constant reaction as I went to reference after reference of Scripture that the book pointed to was a jaw dropped in astonishment at how much of the Bible I was completely ignorant about. Though I have no “conversion story” that could indicate a time and place in which God saved me, I would almost be willing to bet that it was in the course of reading this book that He did.

Having soaked up so much profound truth from that book, I sought out more by R C Sproul at the library I frequented and came across the title Surprised by Suffering – and again God used Mr. Sproul to open my eyes to a gaping hole in my knowledge and understanding of Scripture.

Here I should probably note that my memory on the separation of time between reading the books in this list is a little hazy, because at that point in my life I was always reading several books at a time, and it was around this point that I began to listen to at least three sermons a day that I found online – this was possible because I had no job and only attended a trade school two days out of the week, so I was in my room studying for vast amounts of time.

All that to say I’m not sure if I found A W Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy because I heard it quoted in a sermon or read it quoted in a book. Regardless, I’m fairly certain I read it fairly soon after Mr. Sproul’s work, and found it incredibly helpful and thought-provoking. Although Tozer rarely actually quotes Scripture and deals more with conceptual application, his way of thinking, I believe, is very convicting and helpful for breaking one of any form of mental stupor they might have fallen into.

Again, I’m not sure how I found J I Packer’s Knowing God, but it was extremely helpful in continuing my study of theology in the Bible.

Throughout the course of reading, studying, and listening to sermons, I had heard many people mention and quote a man by the name of John Piper – enter God is the Gospel and Don’t Waste Your Life. I had actually looked up and listened to quite a few hours of Mr. Piper’s preaching through the Desiring God website before I found and read these books (I think). But they were incredibly thought-provoking and convicting on their own particular topics.

I heard about Voddie Baucham and his book Family Driven Faith (which I’ve always thought would have been better titled “Faith Driven Family” 😉 from a good friend at the trade school I was attending at the time. I subsequently added his itinerant and pastoral preaching to my list of things I listened to regularly, and have also read nearly all of his other books since then.

Radical by David Platt, was incredibly helpful and influential in helping me to see the way our culture was effecting Christians’ practice of their religion – and it was supposed to, ‘cuz the book’s subtitle is: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.

Another impactful book I would add to this list is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a book that I would almost recommend that every Christian read at least once.

Finally – just because this article has already gotten way longer than intended, and I have to stop somewhere – I heard Paul Washer highly recommend The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott on numerous occasions and so eventually bought the book. I found it to be one of the best books aimed specifically at husbands and their duties that I have ever read.

Well, I could add a LOT more to that list – considering that I think I read more than a hundred books in the three+ years following my discovery of The Holiness of God – but again, I need to conclude somewhere; and not everyone has the kind of time to read that I did then and still spend sufficient time in Scripture.

So I will close with an acknowledgement of the sufficiency of Holy Writ, and a reminder to myself and others that – though wide reading is good and necessary for developing the brains God gave us – disciples of Christ must hold Scripture as the highest standard and be students of God’s Word above and before anything else.

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Self-Esteem . . . Or God-Esteem?

I once heard a preacher make a great statement that is quite relevant to the last two posts I’ve put up – and his statement actually gave me the title for this post… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve probably been thinking about this way more than is even helpful, but I couldn’t shake the question: does God really command me to love myself? I’ve read and heard a lot about self-esteem and how it can supposedly effect your attitude, relationships, and even “success” – whatever that means – in life. But I’ve always found it hard to believe that any of those teachings are Biblical. Honestly, am I supposed to believe that Scripture actually teaches that one of my problems is that I think too poorly of myself?

So, naturally, to answer my own questions, I go to the Bible – and specifically I go to the places that describe mankind’s essential problem:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them…

…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… ~ Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, & 3:23 (ESV)

(NOTE: see also Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 36:1-6, Ephesians 2:1-3, etc.)

So, according to Scripture, my problem is not that I am “deceived” or self-deprecating, but that I am a God-hater. And thus I pervert the good things God originally made and act against His law, thereby earning for myself the just and righteous wrath of my Almighty Creator. What is worse, I can do nothing to appease the wrath of this thrice-Holy God, because even my attempts to do so are tainted with selfish, evil idolatry.

Now, the good news is that God has appeased that wrath Himself to save a people from Himself, for Himself. Jesus Christ, God the Son, took upon Himself the penalty for sin to redeem a people for Himself, thus making it possible to clothe them in His righteousness and delight in them for God’s own pleasure and glory.

So, since God has saved me and clothes me in the righteousness of His Son through my repentance and belief upon/in Him, I must forever focus upon the work and might of God – as that, and more, is merely the due reward of His act – and in so doing, forget myself (as far as is necessary without forgetting my state apart from Him, and His action) in the ever pursuing of His honor, praise, and glory.

(NOTE: see the entirety of the portions of Romans quoted above, the rest of Psalm 36, Ephesians 2:4-10, and the entirety of the New Testament…)

So, to return to what I opened with – and to close – here is a paraphrastic quote of something I first heard Voddie Baucham say:

“What we need is not more ‘self-esteem.’ What we need is more God-esteem!”

And here are a couple quotes I saw throughout the length of time it took me to gather my thoughts for this post:

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” ~ C. H. Spurgeon

“Only those who have learned well to be earnestly dissatisfied with themselves, and to be confounded with shame at their own wretchedness, truly understand the Christian gospel.” ~ John Calvin

NOTE: at some point I will post something in response to those silly people that would read these quotes and say “but now your focused back on your ‘wickedness’ instead of God! (I.e. Christians shouldn’t think about their sin)” … But – for now – suffice it to say a healthy (and poor) view of one’s self, balanced with a mindset of self-forgetfulness, SHOULD lead the disciple of Christ to greater and greater love for and confidence in the merciful, gracious, and worthy God and LORD of the universe.