You know, when somebody asks me to give them three or four essential books for a Christian, my brain melts because there’s a way in which I always think that when I stand up to speak, there are a couple hundred people that stand up behind me who have contributed to everything I have ever understood about my relationship with Jesus. I think of a famous thing that Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones said. Somebody’s commented on the uniqueness of his guitar leads and he said, “l never played a lick I didn’t steal.” That is my ministry. I am the product of the voices of many, many people.
So all I can do is tell you three books that have been formative for me. The first one is a Puritan book. Puritans are hard to read, but you can find renditions of this book that are easier. It’ s John Owen on The Mortification of Sin. That book is a classic. Not only did I see my heart in that book in ways that were devastating, in the good sense of devastation, devastation that would drive me to seek and celebrate grace; but I understood how to handle scripture. There’s a moment where John makes a point from Romans and then, it’s followed with fourteen pages of application. He wanted people to have a street-level understanding of the word of God. I just think it’s a model book and it’s worth the work that you’d have to put into it.
Second book is by John Piper. It’s The Pleasures of God. In that book, I saw the glory of God in ways I’d never seen it before, what pleases God in ways I never saw before; and it has placed me both on a personal and ministry trajectory that I’m very thankful for.
The third book is The Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson. That little book takes the theology of the Christian life with specific doctrines and talks to you about how to live in light of those truths. It’s enormously helpful because what The Christian Life does is it bridges the gap between your confessional theology and your functional theology because often, we say we believe these things, but we don’t actually live those things at street-level.
Those three books have been very helpful for me, very formative for me. I’ve never been able to keep a copy of The Christian Life in my library because I always end up giving it away. I’m thankful for John Owen. I’m thankful for that people have recaptured Puritans and that they’re still available to us. And sometimes, John Piper is a bit mocked because he’s had one single zeal his entire ministry but I’m thankful for how God has raised up a man to hold the glory of God in front of us. Those three books, I think, are worth your effort and will leave an indelible imprint on your life.