Christian Authors & Books
The books that have shaped me
As I said before, no life is ever lived in total isolation. Who we become as people also has a great deal to do with the authors we read, respect and learn from.
Because of this truth, I want to give credit to Christian authors that God has used to bless me and to teach me about real life in Jesus. In addition to Marvin Robbins, and in addition to Christian Pastors & Teachers, God has used a number of Christian authors to strengthen and establish my faith in Him. I’m truly indebted to each of these men and I’d like to honor them by listing them and the more significant things they helped me learn.
Actually, the list that follows is a small subset of all the Christian authors whose works I’ve read since becoming a Christian. But for each of these listed, there’s at least one special thing they taught that God deeply implanted in my mind and heart. So much so that when I think of these authors and their books, this one special “thing” that they shared is the central memory I have of them.
This book introduced me to the vital concept that true, Christian spirituality is not solely based on what we know about God. It’s based on the accuracy of what we know about Him combined with the quality of our knowing God in relationship.
It’s critically significant that Satan’s initial temptation of Eve (and Adam) in the Garden of Eden was blatantly intended to have them question the goodness of God’s character, and to motivate them to look for life apart from God.
And that led to the introduction of sin into the world. And since the Fall, every sin ever committed has been the result of people doubting the goodness of God and trying to find life apart from Him. Misunderstanding God not only leads to desperate, sinful thoughts and actions, it also—always—leads to the impoverishment of what we experience as life.
Conversely, as we grow in our relationship with God, we continually refining the accuracy of our knowledge of His nature, character, purposes, plans and works, and we more continually experience a life of joyful, worshipful intimacy with Him—regardless of our circumstances.
This understanding about the foundational need to always grow in my relationship with—and understanding of—God has also become a core part of my Christian perspective of life.
Telling Yourself the Truth
This book, which I read a long time ago, introduced me to the idea that many of our thoughts are actually based on the lies of Satan—in particular, the many messages that we receive from the world, which are absolutely contrary to the truth revealed in the Bible. What’s more, those lies often persists for years inside our minds and hearts without our detecting them, mainly because we’re ignorant of the need to examine and judge our thoughts.
For example, suppose a Christian is struggling with sin and they basically give up, thinking, “I’ll never be able to change.” That’s a lie from Satan because it completely ignores the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the desire of God to transform us into the image of Jesus.
The purpose of this book is not to encourage believers to think they can escape the normal struggles of still having a sin nature inside us and still living in a sinful world.
Rather, the purpose is to help us “capture” those thoughts that are lies—and which have the effect of distorting our views of God and of ourselves—and to replace those lies with Biblical truth. Here’s what Paul said to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 10:3–5
3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ
In verse 3, Paul says that while we walk—or live our lives—in the flesh, our battle is not “of the flesh” against external enemies. The battleground for Christians is not an external one, in the world around us. Paul is clear: the true battleground for Christians is inside of us, in our minds.
“Speculations” and “every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” both refer to lies, and both are equated with “thoughts” by Paul in verse 5. And, he says Christians are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Not “some.” All thoughts are being judged to see if they’re consistent with the Biblically-revealed knowledge of God and of what Jesus desires of us in the way of obedience.
This book opened my eyes to the truth that our minds—often—lie to us. And that it’s critically important for us to continually examine and judge our inner thoughts. Because if we don’t, those inner thoughts which are lies will work themselves out in distorted beliefs and disobedient actions.
Dr. Larry Crabb
Actually, I’ve read many books by Dr. Crabb. But there’s no question that “Inside Out” was the one that had the most significant impact on my life.
God used the information in this book to build on the perspective I’d adopted from “Telling Yourself the Truth”—that the real battle for the Christian is in the mind and the heart.
One of the most influential Bible quotations he provides was from Jeremiah.
13For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew [dig] for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Even though this passage is actually directed towards the nation of Israel, the sins God is describing applies to anyone who is guilty of similar thoughts and actions.
Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, sin starts in our minds when we choose to believe that God is withholding something from us that’s “vital” to life. Those thoughts—that God can’t be trusted to provide what we think we desperately need—lead us to actions of refusing to wait on God, and of instead trying on our own to take what’s at hand to provide what we think we need. Our unfaithful thoughts—based on the lies of Satan—always lead to horribly inferior results compared to what God had intended for us.
God says that He’s the “fountain of living waters,” which His people refuse. They walk away from God’s fountain to seek water from a broken, leaking cistern. As a “fountain,” God always flows with more fresh, clean water. A broken, leaking cistern on the other hand contains a relatively small amount of muddy water that’s always running dry.
What Dr. Crabb illustrates with the Jeremiah reference is that we all develop strategies for providing for ourselves, rather than waiting for our provisions for life to be given to us by God. He further explains that these sinful strategies are formed in our attempts to avoid pain and disappointment and to maximize pleasure. We want to experience heaven here on earth.
The Holy Spirit used both this book and “Telling Yourself the Truth” to help me better understand how people “work,” and how it is that we can experience real change and growth. As Dr. Crabb describes, real change in our Christian life comes when we’re wise and courageous enough to “take a look inside” our minds and our hearts— for the purpose of exposing and repenting of sinful thoughts, beliefs and strategies, and for reinforcing a determined conviction that “good” only comes from God Himself.
Five Points, Look at the Book podcasts, and the Tagline for Desiring God
As indicated on the page, My Theological Perspective, I firmly believe the doctrinal truth revealed in the Bible is consistent with what’s generally known as “Calvinism.” (Although also on that page, I explain how I prefer to say that my understanding of Biblical doctrinal is through a “Reformed” perspective.
John Piper’s book, “Five Points” provides an excellent—and relatively succinct—explanation of the five major points of the Calvinist/Reformed position. Here’a a quote from his introduction.
Clear knowledge of God from the Bible is the kindling that sustains the fires of affection for God. And probably the most crucial kind of knowledge is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation.
That is what the five points of Calvinism are about. Not the power and sovereignty of God in general, but His power and sovereignty in the way He saves people. That is why these points are sometimes called the doctrines of grace. To experience God fully, we need to know not just how He acts in general, but specifically how He saves us—how did He save me?
Calvinistic teachings on the five points are biblical and true, and therefore a precious pathway into deeper experiences of God’s grace.
This focus on knowing the Person of God has been a consistent theme—or series of lessons—that the Holy Spirit has continually led me through during my Christian life.
An appropriate question then is, “How is it that we’re able to more fully know Who God is?
The best answer is the Bible itself most effectively and accurately reveals the Person of God: His nature, character, purposes, plans and works.
Which is why I love Piper’s podcast series “Look at the Book.”
Every Christian should be taught the methodology he employs for studying God’s Word. Basically, he uses an “Inductive Study” approach. Specifically, every “lab” demonstrates how carefully he observes and analyzes each of the words and phrases in a passage. This is the same methodology that my mentor, Marvin Robbins taught me. It’s also the one methodology I try to share with other Christians who are wanting to become more skillful in reading, understanding and applying God’s Word.
In commenting on the tagline used by John Piper’s “Desiring God” ministry, let me get one point of disagreement out of the way from the outset: I personally dissaprove of his use of the phrase “Christian Hedonism.”
“Hedonism” is a philosophy that was developed over two thousand years ago by philosopher named Aristippus of Cyrene, who was a student of Socrates. Here’s a definition of this philosophy.
Cambridge Dictionary Definition: Hedonism
Living and behaving in ways that mean you get as much pleasure out of life as possible, according to the belief that the most important thing in life is to enjoy yourself.
The word hedonism tends to have a fatalistic and amoral connotation to it—basically, living for pleasure, today, is all that matters.
And connotations are important to pay attention to.
For example, no Christian author with any sense of wisdom would write that “All true Christians should demonstrate a gay attitude about life” when trying to communicate that the Christian life should be characterized by an experience of deep joy. The word “gay”—unfortunately—now always carries the connotation of “homosexual.” I think in the same way, the word “hedonism” carries the inappropriate connotations listed above: pleasure is all that matters in life.
Rather than the term, “Christian Hedonism,” I prefer the term “Christian Joy,” which, I believe is actually consistent with what John Piper means. In fact, I’m in complete agreement with the “tagline” he’s been using for years, and with his explanation of it.
God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.
God is the only being for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act, because he is exalting for us what alone can satisfy us fully and forever: a relationship with Himself! If God exalts Himself, He draws attention to the One Person who can make us happy forever, Himself. He’s not an egomaniac. He’s an infinitely glorious, all-satisfying God, offering us everlasting and supreme joy in Himself.
My paraphrase of that statement would be this: the more joy we experience in God, Himself, the more our lives will bring glory to Him.
Actually, I think the experiential aspect of a proper, growing, intimate relationship with God should increasingly include spontaneous times of awe, worship and joy.
The natural question to follow that statement then is, “How is it that we can increasingly experience these times of spontaneous awe, worship and joy in our relationship with God?” The following comments about the next author will answer that question.
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The ePub version that I have of this book is around 1,500 pages. Which means it required a serious commitment to finish it. However, the blessings from reading it have been almost as numerous as the pages.
Since Institutes was written during the Reformation—at a time when there was major discord between Protestants and Catholics—there’s a significant amount of content focused on refuting common errors in Catholicism. But, that’s actually a good thing, as it allows the reader to understand how great the separation was then, and continues to be now, between the erroneous view and the Biblical view of the doctrines discussed.
Calvin wrote this book for the purpose of guiding serious believers in their own study of God’s Word and assisting them in the progress of their faith. The book presents a “systematic theology” from the Protestant perspective, and is divided into four main sections: God the Creator, God the Redeemer, Man the Receiver of God’s Grace, and The Church.
One of the central beauties of this book is the systematic nature of how the truth of God’s Word is presented. For me, reading this book after 40 years as a Christian “brought me back” to my earliest days as a believer. As I mentioned in My Christian Testimony, my attendance at Spring Branch Community Church provided a systematic, Bible Institute-level training in God’s Word. How blessed I was—and still am today—to have been led to and trained up in that church by God!
There’s a common figure of speech, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” The corollary is also used, “Can’t see the trees for the forest.” Both of these statements describe the situation when someone is so focused on one thing that they cannot see another thing that’s equally obvious. More specifically, these statements contrast either seeing the details and missing the obvious big picture, or else, seeing the big picture without seeing all the individual, obvious details.
Rather than being an either-or scenario—either seeing the trees or seeing the forest—the systematic presentation in Institutes allows serious believers to not only properly understand the essential Christian doctrines (the individual details), but to also fully appreciate the interconnectedness of these doctrines, especially as they collectively illustrate the Gospel story (the big picture).
This book served to greatly expand my understanding of the person of God, my sense of wonder and awe of Him, the glory I perceived in Him and the depth of my love for Him.
The Attributes of God
This one book should be required reading for every Christian. Seriously.
I know it’s never permitted to add anything to the one requirement for salvation: faithful belief in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus as our Savior. So, it’s not correct for me to say someone must read this book. But, I sincerely, almost want to add that as a condition for salvation. (Please hear me… I’m NOT saying that.)
But, how can a child grow up and know who he is and what his place in the world is without knowing who his father is—especially if he’s been born to the king?
Every person ever born starts life without any understanding of the person of God—of Who He really is. We all start from zero. And even when we first become Christians, our understanding of God is still very much an infantile understanding.
One of the most important ways we need to grow as Christians is in our understanding of the person of God: His nature, character, purposes, plans and works… on our behalf.
For the attributes that I already had a basic understanding of, this book gave my a much more advanced understanding and appreciation. And for those I hadn’t know well, it helped me to at least begin to comprehend and appreciate them.
In the same way as Calvin’s Institutes, this book greatly expanded my understanding of the person of God, my sense of wonder and awe of Him, the glory I perceived in Him and the depth of my love for Him.
The Main Point
While the preceding descriptions might seem somewhat random and not all that important to you—the reader—please understand that from my perspective, the contributions these men made in the formation of my Christian perspective of life are great treasures.
I strongly recommend to any Christian who’s serious about their faith: read the great, classic works of reformed authors like Calvin (“Institutes of the Christian Religion”) and Pink (“The Attributes of God” and others). Their writing elevates and expands our perception of the great goodness of our God—more so, in my opinion, than almost all current day writers. Read the books and listen to sermon podcasts of people like Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
The most important life lesson that God has taught me through these authors, books and sermons is that whenever we read God’s Word, we should always, actively be asking—and answering—the question, “What does this passage reveal to me about God: about His nature, character, purposes, plans and works on my behalf?”
The more we see the nature, character, purposes, plans and works of God on our behalf as we abide in His Word, the more awesome and wonderful He becomes to us, the more we appreciate His love, the more we naturally fall in love with Him, and the more surely we’re transformed into the image of Jesus.