Ok I admit.
I’m only 28 years old and haven’t had the opportunity to read everything there is to read. I confess I cheated my way through school when it came to reading. To be honest it wasn’t until I became a Christian (age 17) and called into the ministry (age 18) that I began intentionally reading. I had a close friend say to me, “Michael you know as a Christian, you’ll have to read.” That was the moment that changed me. God supernaturally gave me a love for reading.
The book that has influenced me the most is of course the Bible. When I started following Jesus, I would stay up late at night and read the Bible. I fell in love with His Word. But God has used other books in my life to shape me. Here are 5 books that have influenced me, so far in my Christian walk.
The Gospel of the Kingdom – George Eldon Ladd
My best friend gave me this book my second semester in Bible College. As I would read Scripture, I would ask the question, “How does the Bible fit together?” This work provided the answer – God’s Kingdom. Ladd introduced me to the “already/not yet” framework of the Kingdom. In and through Jesus, the Kingdom of God has arrived but not in its fullness. This was transformative in my Christian walk.
Surprised by Hope – N.T. Wright
In Bible College the name N.T. Wright was either applauded or booed. I was introduced to Wright through his book The Challenge of Jesus (which I enjoyed). But his work, Surprised by Hope, changed me. Of the many modern day theologians, Wright has been the most influential in my academic life. I disagree with him on many levels but I will read everything he writes. Surprised by Hopeopened my eyes to the goal of Christianity – the resurrection. The book provided clarity, encouragement, and a call to embrace the radical mission of the gospel.
The Beast in the Jungle – Henry James
This work is by no means “Christian.” It’s a fictional short story telling the tale of a man who is anticipating a “catastrophic event.” I won’t give up the point of the story; you’ll need to read it for yourself. It’s a story that challenges the ideas of determinism and free choice, fate, and the point of the human experience. My life was altered through this small work (I ended up asking my girl friend – now wife – out).
Don’t Waste Your Life – John Piper
I found Piper’s work in a garage sale at the church I attended. Up to that point I had never heard of John Piper or listened to him. But reading this book changed that. Now I’ve read nearly all of Piper’s most important works. This book challenged the way I viewed my call as a Christian. The call to follow Jesus is not comfortable or easy. Rather it was a call to die and submit my life to King Jesus. My life could make a difference.
Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
Before I became a Christian I had never read a “substantial” book. It wasn’t until a friend gave me an extra copy of Mere Christianity that I realized what “substantial” meant. As I began reading this work it was “over my head.” But through the years of walking with Jesus I’ve returned by to the small book. Lewis made Christianity appealing on a logically level. It was something I had never experienced before. I still have the same old copy that I’ve read multiple times sitting on the nightstand.
Making a top 5 list is hard but here are some other works that have influenced me:
George Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards, various sermons from Charles Spurgeon, The Forgotten Spurgeon by Ian Murray, works by Puritans, Baptist Confessions (1689, Abstract of Principles), Ancient Creeds, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, Russell Kirk the Politics of Prudence, Calvin’s commentaries, and poems by T.S. Eliot. I’m sure over the next several years I’ll have to add to the list. But for now, these works have shaped me. Reading good books can lead to virtuous living.