It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people” (John Wesley). Before you go any further, let Wesley’s words sink in for a moment. Do you agree with him?
Wesley isn’t suggesting that reading in itself automatically causes us to grow in grace. His point is that reading is an important means by which we attain the knowledge of Christ and thereby grow in grace. That is to say, we can’t grow in grace without knowing Christ and we can’t know Christ without reading about Christ. Does this mean that those who don’t read can’t grow in grace? No. But it does mean that their growth will be severely limited.
This is one of the reasons why the Reformers (and those churches which stand in their shadow) place such importance on education (literacy in particular). The ability to read God’s Word (and books which explain and apply God’s Word) is a gift to be cherished, nurtured, and encouraged.
Admittedly, I wasn’t much of a reader until my mid 20s. While I understood its importance, I had very little interest in reading or (for that matter) studying. It wasn’t until I saw the fruit of it in my own life that I became a convinced reader. It was (I firmly believe) an answer to prayer – one for which I’m extremely thankful. Since then, I’ve maintained a steady diet of books. Recently, someone asked me, “What are the ten most important books you’ve ever read?” I took the word “important” to mean “most significant in my life.” Therefore, the following isn’t a list of my top ten book recommendations, but a list of those books which the Lord has used in a significant way at some point in my life. In no particular order, they are:
- J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness
- J. I. Packer, Knowing God
- Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
- John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
- David Wells, No Place for Truth
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Sermon on the Mount
- R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God
- George Swinnock, The Incomparableness of God
- John Flavel, The Fountain of Life
- John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion
I could write an essay on each of these, explaining in detail how God used them to shape my understanding of His Word, His works, and His ways – how He used them to correct, comfort, convince, and challenge me. Each has been instrumental in my spiritual pilgrimage.
I say all that simply to encourage you to read good books. The goal isn’t to read as many as you can, but to find a few really good ones to read and master and apply well, praying that the Lord will use them in your life, for “a reading people will always be a knowing people.”