Last week I started a list of the 12 books that have most changed me. If you're looking for books to read in 2016, hopefully one of these books will be as meaningful for you as it was for me.
You can catch the first six here. Here are the last six books from my list, in alphabetical order:
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton
No man has inspired me more than Martin Luther (not even Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, whom I love). I relate more than I'd like with his early attempts to find his identity and righteousness in his own work. I am constantly challenged by his devotion to the Scriptures at any cost, and instructed by his willingness to risk his life and reputation for the good of others. This book is the best biography I've read on him and helped me to understand him and the historical context of his work and life much better.
How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
As a non-Christian for the first twenty-one years of my life, I believed the road to change was simply to follow my heart and try harder. When I became a Christian I was taught, unfortunately, a religious version of the same thing. Every Sunday morning (...and Sunday night...and Wednesday night...and revival service) I was reminded of all the things I needed to change about myself and simply told to do it. It didn't take me long to learn that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to change the parts of me I most wanted to change. Then I read this book. Lane and Tripp provide a biblical framework for how human beings actually change their affections and behavior and show us how the gospel of Jesus Christ can be applied to our lives to produce real and lasting change. This has not only helped me experience change in areas I never thought I could, it has also helped me help others.
On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde
In this book, and in his equally good Justification: A Matter of Death and Life, Forde restates and reshapes Martin Luther’s classic teachings for the modern reader. In this book, Forde contrasts the “theologian of glory” (which wields the most influence over American hearts) with the “theologian of the cross” (which all of us should hope to be). I don’t want to go into any more detail because I don’t want to spoil the paradigm-shifting and life-altering insights found in both of these classic books by Forde. Let me just say, if you want to better understand justification, sanctification, theology, or suffering, you would be wise to start here. You will not find such complex topics discussed more profoundly or simply than they are here.
This simple little book examines Jesus’ famous parable, best known as “the parable of the prodigal son.” In the process, it shows us that we have failed to understand the parable properly. Far from being about one son, it is about two. One avoids God by fleeing from him (a road I took in my non-Christian days), and the other avoids God by obeying him (a road I took in my early Christian days). Keller also argues the parable is not really about a “prodigal son” or “prodigal sons” at all. It is, more than anything, about a prodigal God who is wastefully extravagant with his grace toward both types of people. I have found no book outside of the Bible more helpful in understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nor have I found any book more helpful in understanding my own sin, righteousness, and personal motivations for either.
If you like Keller, also check out Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope that Matters; Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work; and The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Or, be like me and just read everything he writes the moment it’s released. You won’t regret it.
Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being by Zack Eswine
Full disclosure: this is not one of my favorite books. In fact, I found about 80% of it to be boring and repetitive. But this is not a list of my favorite books. This is a list of books that have changed me. And this book changed me – deeply. While I was not so intrigued by the bulk of the book, the two introductory chapters include the most penetrating analysis of pastors (or any who do public ministry) I have ever read. Eswine has been in ministry for more than twenty years, yet the wisdom he shares in the opening chapters goes far beyond anything that can be learned in twenty years. If you are involved in public ministry as a pastor, group leader, musician, rapper – anything – I cannot recommend the opening chapters of this book highly enough. Also valuable on this theme is The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared C. Wilson.
If you are a Christian in the 21st century you have to reckon with the question of homosexuality. It has, right or wrong, become the test of orthodoxy for many Christians and the test of humanity for many non-Christians. The world is filled with books on every side of this issue. Yet none I have encountered approach the question with grace, truth, and empathy for all involved like that of Wesley Hill. Wesley describes himself as a “celibate gay Christian” who vulnerably shares his own story of living as one who is equally convinced of his “gayness” and his “Christian-ness.” In doing so, he helps people on every side of the issue better understand the other. More than that, he provides answers that are faithful to both orthodoxy and humanity. This is the book I give to all who are wrestling with the relationship between Christianity and sexuality - which is pretty much everyone.
That’s my list for now.
What books have most impacted you? Comment below.
Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.
Image credit to Andreas Levers: https://flic.kr/p/5S32Zv