Growing up, I did not like the discipline of reading. I would much rather play basketball outside or play video games inside. Reading felt like a hobby of old, sort of like listening to the radio for evening entertainment—we have TV now!
Then something happened, the Lord saved me. My eyes were opened to the goodness of Christ and I began to devour God’s Word. It wasn’t long before the older Christians around me started to encourage me to read (good) Christian books. It was a whole new world for me that challenged my mind, encouraged my soul, and more importantly led me to love Christ more.
That’s why I think every Christian, as much as possible, should commit to the discipline of reading. To be clear, I am assuming we already embrace and understand the importance of Bible reading. What I’m talking about here is the reading of extra-biblical Christian literature. Here are a few reasons to commit to the discipline of reading:
#1: Reading Cultivates Humility. When we read good Christian literature it is a practice of humility because we have to learn from others. Whatever the topic may be, we are saying that we do not know this topic as well as the author and have come to him or her for help in understanding and application. Even when we read books by Christians we disagree with on non-essential matters it requires humility. We learn to be charitable and appreciative for the work of others and their contributions to the Christian community. I am a baptist, but I love and appreciate those who are paedo-baptist and will gladly read and learn from their knowledge of God and Scripture.
#2: Reading Takes Our Eyes Off the World. The world is screaming at us to adopt their ideologies and practices. Reading good Christian literature can function as noise canceling headphones that serve the dual functioning of drowning out the noise of the world and speaking to our minds the things of God. We can grow a lot by simply logging off our social media for a few minutes a day and give that time over to Piper, MacArthur, Packer, the Puritans, etc.
#3: Reading Makes Us Better Biblical Thinkers. Reading good Christian literature should never detract or lower our understanding of Scripture. Good Christian books, like good Christian friends, will always point us back to the Bible, will always draw us closer to God. Reading good Christian books makes us more astute and precise in our biblical thinking. This is so crucial in the world we live in today where the Bible is constantly challenged, critiqued, and undermined.
#4: Reading Connects Us to Redemptive History. There is a sense of intellectual comfort I have when reading saints who have lived across the 2000 year history of the church. It is a comfort that comes because it assures me that my current day, first-world struggles are not new to the believing community. Sure, some sins are more technologically savvy, but the heart behind them are still the same. It is encouraging to know that the gospel has worked in the hearts of saints who never even fathomed of a country like the United States or technology like the latest iPad. Reading saints of old reminds me that God is doing something in the big picture and I am humbled to be part of His plan.
#5: Reading Makes Us Better Churchmen. You will notice that a lot of good Christian literature was written by people who were devoted to the church. So many of the Reformers, Puritans, and contemporary Bible authors were and are churchmen. While their minds could easily occupy the halls of universities so many of these people have given their lives to instruction in the church, not the academy. This truth should transfer over in our own lives as readers of their works. A stimulated mind will provoke us towards action. Those actions should be seen in our lives and in those who surround us, especially those in our local churches.
I have been encouraged by saints who read good Christian books, are edified, live out what they learn and share it with others. Even for myself, as a pastor, I aim to encourage other Christians to read good Christians books and utilize it in my ministry. I will give out good books, I will quote them in sermons, and ask Christians to read with me as a form of discipleship.
#6: Reading Cultivates Discipline. There are always reasons not to read because our world is filled with distractions. We have streaming media services, social media, and the beautiful outdoors vying for attention. Reading requires that we make space and time to pause our minds, focus our attention, and really chew on some well-crafted words. You don’t finish a 100–350 page book on accident, it takes discipline. Whether it’s 10 minutes a day, 50 pages a week, or 1 chapter a week it takes effort.
#7: Reading Deepens Our Spiritual Well. When I know I am struggling with a particular area of the Christian life one of the things I’ll do is look for a good Christian book on that topic. Depending on my existing knowledge or experience on the topic will determine what kind of book I pick up and read. The beauty of Christianity and our collective library throughout the church’s history is that great books have been written on virtually every area of the Christian faith. To name a few classics consider Packer’s, “Knowing God” (1973), Owen’s, “The Mortification of Sin” (1656), MacArthur’s “The Gospel According to Jesus” (1988), or Edwards’, “The Religious Affections” (1746).
These men often devoted large portions of their energy and time to writing on these specific topics. As a result, we can strengthen these areas of our Christian faith. These men were gifted by the Holy Spirit to us for our spiritual benefit. Because of their labors we can deepen our spiritual well.
I hope this encourages you to get up, find a Christian book, and get to reading. Remember, these are just some of the reasons why I think Christians should commit reading I’m sure there are other reasons. What other reasons could be added to this list?