You are here to read. Literally, you are on this page, on this site, to read what I have to say. So I better be careful with what I write. But you have a responsibility to be careful as well with what you read. Because what your little eyes read influences the way your little mind thinks (no offense – trust me, mine is not ginormous although my head may lead you to believe otherwise). And what your little mind thinks sets the course for the way you live what you may feel is a little life that nonetheless has a big impact on others.
For readers, there has never been a better time to be alive. A world full of books, articles, comments, and even blogs is just a fingertip away. We have almost unlimited access to the best writers from the distant past to the present and everywhere in between. For Christian readers, it is no different. I can’t tell you how much I have benefited from reading the works of Christian pastors, scholars, and authors. Though I have never met most of them, many of them have become like personal mentors to me over the years, and I have strong, deep feelings of friendship and admiration for them. This is all because of the blessing of reading.
Yet reading can also be a curse. Even “Christian” reading. Just as believers have so much good writing available to them, there is also a plethora (for meaning, see “The Three Amigos”) of that which is bad. Some of it is worse than bad. It is unbiblical. It’s heretical. And it is destructive to both the church and the individual Christian. I find myself wishing that some of my flock would stop reading altogether rather than continuing to read from a buffet of truth and error that, like most buffets, is slanted heavily towards error. I can’t say loud enough or often enough that just because a book is advertised as Christian or even comes from a Christian bookstore doesn’t mean it is Christian. Books about the Bible aren’t necessarily biblical. There are numerous examples of those who write in the name of Jesus who have no love for Jesus or His word or His people but instead are filled with a love for money, fame, and power.
The answer isn’t to ban our Christ followers from reading anything other than the Bible (as if that would work). And there has to be more to the answer than pointing out the bad authors and books, though that is part of the solution. A thankless, controversial, dangerous, and inexhaustible part, but I digress. The biggest part of the answer has to be a constant exposure to the truth of God’s word and the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Familiarity with that which is real will make an encounter with that which is false much more easily recognizable. It will plant, nourish, and grow a spirit of discernment that is so needed and yet so lacking in our churches. And from my end as a pastor, rather than simply declaring what I am against when it comes to reading, maybe I should do a better job of letting my brothers and sisters know who and what I have read that has been the most helpful and is the most theologically and doctrinally sound. So I am. And I will. Here is a first time short list of books that either I have read recently or are very applicable to what we are doing at First Baptist Monroeville:
Strange Fire, John MacArthur – informative and insightful look at the Charismatic movement within Christianity
Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax – editor of “The Gospel Project” explains the gospel before exposing six common counterfeits to the real thing
Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever – Dever is hands down the best out there on the subject of what the biblical church should be and how to get there
Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, edited by Thomas White, Jason Duesing, and Malcolm Yarnell – deals with subjects of church membership and discipline, baptism, Lord’s Supper, and the priesthood of believers
Why I Am a Baptist, edited by Tom Nettles and Russell Moore
Finally Alive, John Piper – a thrilling and challenging look at what it means to be born again
I Am a Church Member, Thom Rainer – a very, very short book on the attitude that makes the difference in meaningful church membership
So keep reading. But be careful. For we know that the Father up above is looking down in love. And that love’s for you, little eyes.