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What would it look like for you to know Christ in 2017?
Resolutions toward physical fitness, habit changes, and life goals are commonplace in any given December, and when placed under God’s ultimate control, these are good pursuits. But there’s a better pursuit, the Bible tells us, one that takes to heart—well, our hearts.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
To prioritize growth in godliness for the purpose of knowing God is every Christian’s job, whether at the start of a new year or the dawn of each new day. Morning by morning, as we wake up with breath in our lungs, we’re beckoned to spend our moments on the greatest pursuit in existence: to know Jesus more intimately and to become like him.
One way to move toward this goal? Read great books. Not just any Christian books—great books. Books bursting with true, theological riches. Pages plumbing the depths of the gospel of Jesus. Titles trumpeting the value of holiness, the perfection of God’s Word, and the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for sinners stumbling their way to glory. Turn the pages and treasure the paragraphs of great books that will spur you on to know Christ and grow in godliness.
The Bible comes first. Great books follow. Here are six I’d recommend you read this new year:
I’ve said before that Tozer’s book is one I’d love to read once a year. Tozer packs 22 concise, accessible chapters with God’s attributes in such a way that draws the reader to slow down and meditate upon them. In the Preface, the author addresses the problem that’s pervaded the Church for centuries: a low view of the most holy God resulting in “spiritual losses” for the Christian. “A rediscovery of the majesty of God,” Tozer writes, “will go a long way toward curing them.”
I’d recommend Christians beginning their year with this book, as it will set the tone and provide the necessary “rediscovery” of God’s majesty for the books that follow it.
After Tozer, jump into the beauty that is Gospel Wakefulness, a book drawing out the awesome gospel for fueling a broken, awestruck, devoted Christian life, one rooted in worship of and love for Christ. Jared Wilson makes my list of favorite modern writers for his ability to write conversationally, compellingly, and with an obvious fervor for his Subject.
Read this book next to grasp the gospel afresh, that Christ has come to save rebellious sinners through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, for this will solidify your motivations for holy living prompted by the following books.
Jerry Bridges is known for the phrase “preach the gospel to yourself.” It's this phrase he clings to throughout his book on the fruit of the Spirit, with one chapter devoted to each, while the first three chapters unpack why godliness is of value and why we need to train ourselves to be godly.
Bridges writes, “[Many Christians] may be talented and personable, or very busy in the Lord’s work, or even apparently successful in some avenues of Christian service, but still not be godly. Why? Because they are not devoted to God.” Simple enough for teens to understand, yet complex enough for an adult small group study, The Practice of Godliness cuts to the heart and brings the Christian low, while holding forth the gospel as the means and motivation for godliness.
The newest book on this list, Momentum moved my heart from start to finish. Pastor and author Colin Smith has a unique ability to draw out in Scripture what is already there in a way that I may never have noticed. In Momentum, he teaches through Jesus’ words from the Beatitudes, demonstrating that progress can only be made in the Christian life by starting at the very beginning: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
With soul-searching questions, stirring biblical stories, and practical application, Momentum will wonderfully help Christians who are stuck, struggling, and hungry to grow closer to God.
A guide to spiritual disciplines, Barbara Hughes’ book specifically applies to women, uncovering and addressing struggles and sins particular to us as we grow in godliness. Gracious in tone, Hughes is both helpfully vulnerable and encouragingly firm while she teaches from God’s Word on subjects like submission, perseverance, the church, singleness, and giving. Each chapter ends with a section titled “Renew Your Mind,” which includes reflection questions and further Bible reading suggestions. (Hughes’ pastor-husband, Kent, wrote the book’s version for men, so consider gifting it to your husband, father, brother, or friend.)
I confess, I’m not yet finished reading Owen’s book on sin and temptation, but it’s not too early to commend it to you. This profound work, while dense in language and thick in volume, is well worth your time investment, mental focus, and searching of soul. Kapic and Taylor are editorial phenoms, as they’ve made this potentially intimidating work enjoyable to read and easier to grasp.
You’ve sinned; you’ve been tempted; you’ve struggled to walk worthy of God—but nothing’s new under the sun, as you’ll note within Owen’s centuries-old book. In its 400-plus pages, you’ll glean a wealth of conviction, encouragement, and truth for helping you fight the sin within. Even if it takes you two years to read, don’t miss this timeless, important work.
Set out to grow this year, but don’t read just any Christian books—pick great ones. They’ll make all the difference.
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Kristen Wetherell is a writer, Bible teacher, and the content manager of Unlocking the Bible. She is the author, along with Sarah Walton, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering(The Good Book Company, April 2017). She blogs at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter. She and her husband, Brad, are members of The Orchard in Arlington Heights, Illinois.