Three Books Every Christian Should Read

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By Bob Day

When I was in Bible college I took a class in Christian Classics. Three books that were required reading made a HUGE impact on my life. So much so, that I read them once a year for many years. I want to share with you what these books are and why you too should read them.

The first book is Foxe's Book of Martyrs by George Foxe, written in 1653. Now, I'm sure that many folks today would shake their heads and think to themselves that this book will be irrelevant in today's world. Nothing could be further from the truth! In this book, the author writes about believers who suffered for their faith even unto death. You might be wondering why you should read this book. "After all", you may say, "no one suffers for their faith on the good ol' U.S. of A. in this day and time. This may be true, but, it should not be. Philippians 1:29 reads, "For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for Him." This is a truth that very few if any, American Christians do not believe. Foxe writes of an incident that took place during the second century A.D. in Rome. A Christian teacher was being taken to die because of his faith. While the leader was being led away by Roman soldiers one of his disciples walked beside him crying. He asked his teacher, "Master, what have I done to you and the Lord that I am not allowed to die a martyr's death also?" The teacher replied, "The time for you to die for the faith will come soon enough, just not today." Did you get that? The disciple was genuinely upset that God was not giving him the privilege of suffering for his faith. What a difference from the average believer in western culture. Many believers today are under the impression that if we are following after Christ life should be without trouble and sacrifice. This is not so according to 1 Peter 5:10 which says, "And the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered for a little while." We need to change our thinking about what it means to be a follower of Christ in this time and place. This book may help you, as it did me, to completely change your thinking about what it means to take up your cross on a daily basis to follow Christ. We are pilgrims and visitors in this life. It's high time we start thinking that way.

The second book that has profoundly changed my life is The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, published in 1678. Bunyan was a pastor and spent as much time in jail for preaching the Gospel as he did a free man. The book is based on a dream he had while in prison. It's the story, actually an allegory, about a Christian who was having a rough go of it because of the immaturity of his faith. He refused to believe that the Lord had completely forgiven him of his sin, so he carried around a false sense of guilt which weighed him down. He learns that when he finally trusts the truth of God's forgiveness the burden of guilt "slides" off of him and he then enjoys the free gift of complete forgiveness. I don't know about you, but I quite often struggle with a sense of guilt for sins I've committed in the past and it is an unnecessary burden. Romans 8:1 reads, "There is therefore NO condemnation for those who are in Christ." We might agree that this is a truth that needs to be lived out, but many of us don't. We allow Satan to convince us that we are not truly forgiven. How about you? Are you still carrying the burden of sin that makes you miserable even though you have been forgiven of it? Pilgrim's Progress may help you drop this burden and live in the comforting truth of God's forgiveness in Christ.

Finally, the third book is Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, published in 1961. I must warn you, Tozer doesn't pull any punches in any of his books and sermons and you may go away from the reading wondering if you are actually saved. I admit that this was my thought the first time I read it. He contends that if a Christian is to live a full, blessed life, he/she must make time to fellowship with the LORD. According to the author, we must make time to think deeply about who God is. I had a professor in seminary who used to say, "The things you think about when you think about God are the most important things you will ever think about." No truer words were ever spoken. Many Christians don't think correctly about God and, as a result, don't experience the richly blessed life the He intends for each one of us.

How about you? Do you want to live the kind of life that God intends for you to live, or will you go lacking, unfulfilled, and frustrated in your walk with Jesus? I can't guarantee that your life will change as a result of reading these books, but I can guarantee that you will find your faith challenged and most likely enriched after you read them. I can tell you that mine has.

Why Do We Gather?

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In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, Paul desires that the church abound in love for one another so that through one another the Lord may establish their hearts blameless in holiness before God at the second coming, or advent, of Christ. That is why, at C3, we gather for corporate worship on Sunday mornings and for dinner on Sunday evenings. We gather to remember, and thus stay ready. Andrew Peterson captures this beautifully in his song Remember and Proclaim. The lyrics are below:

As we gather round this table
We remember and proclaim
Christ has died, Christ is risen
Christ will come again

There's nothing to fear
And everything to gain
And so we gather here to remember
To remember and proclaim

Every footstep tells the story
As the people join the feast
We remember his blood and body
Broken for you and me

One step and we remember
The other we proclaim
His death until He comes
O He's coming back
He's coming back again

And every time we break the bread
We drink the wine
I can hear the song in my heart and my head
And I sing along...

We remember, we proclaim
His death until he comes again
We remember, we proclaim
Christ has died, Christ has risen
Christ will come again

Now we join with friends and neighbors
To celebrate again
Around a different kind of table
We remember just the same

This feast, it is a battle
That we wage against the night
And this joy is just a shadow
Of the resurrection
Of the resurrection life

And every time we break the bread
We drink the wine
I can hear the song in my heart and my head
And I sing along...

We remember, we proclaim
His death until he comes again
We remember, we proclaim
Christ has died, Christ has risen
Christ will come again

We remember, we proclaim
His death until he comes again
We remember, we proclaim
Christ has died, Christ has risen
Christ will come again

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What is Preaching Anyway?

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This following is an excerpt of a longer article by Jared C. Wilson on preaching. The whole article is written specifically to pastors, but for our sake, and to apply it to Romans 10:14-16, and to give us a great definition for preaching, I have scaled it down a bit. To read the full article go here. Otherwise, read on:

Lots of theologians and ministers define preaching in different ways, but I tend to think that preaching is proclamation that exults in the exposing of God’s glory.

Proclamation. 
Preaching can employ instances of conversation and laid-back chit-chat but preaching cannot be typified by conversation and chit-chat because it is first and foremost declarative. The Bible does not come with fill-in-the-blanks. It isn’t MadLibs. Preaching in essence declares, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Because the gospel is good news, not good advice, we come proclaiming “It is finished,” not “Get to work.” Because the gospel is a God-authored story, we come proclaiming his wisdom revealed in Christ, not our wisdom revealed in fortune-cookie bon mots. With our sermons we are meant to be delivering what we’ve received, not what we’ve created.

The soundest and safest Christian reflection consists in “what you have received, not what you have thought up; a matter not of ingenuity, but of doctrine; not of private acquisition, but of public Tradition; a matter brought to you, not put forth by you, in which you must not be the author but the guardian, not the founder but the sharer, not the leader, but the follower.” (Vincent of Lerins)

Preachers approach God’s word as its recipient, its servant, and its deliverer, not its author, manager, or marketer. Because our triune God is holy, infinite, almighty, and wise, we preach like he is. Preaching assumes authority, from God and from his infallible word. So then we don’t preach like so many ninnies as if every sentence ends with a question mark. And we preach like we’re at a pulpit even when we’re at a music stand or plexiglass lectern. These words from Lloyd-Jones offer powerful wisdom:

God is not a subject for debate, because He is Who He is and What He is. We are told that the unbeliever, of course, does not agree with that; and this perfectly true; but that makes no difference. We believe it, and it is part of our very case to assert it. Holding the view that we do, believing what we do about God, we cannot in any circumstances allow Him to become a subject for discussion or of debate or investigation. I base my argument at this point on the word addressed by God Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:1-6). Moses had suddenly seen this remarkable phenomenon of the burning bush, and was proposing to turn aside and to examine this astonishing phenomenon. But, immediately, he is rebuked by the voice which came to him saying, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” That seems to me to be the governing principle in this whole matter. Our attitude is more important than anything that we do in detail, and as we are reminded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, God is always to be approached “with reverence and with godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28 and 29).

To me this is a very vital matter. To discuss the being of God in a casual manner, lounging in an armchair, smoking a pipe or a cigarette or a cigar, is to me something that we should never allow, because God, as I say, is not a kind of philosophic X or a concept. We believe in the almighty, the glorious, the living God; and whatever may be true of others we must never put ourselves, or allow ourselves to put, into a position in which we are debating about God as if He were but a philosophical proposition.

I don’t believe we ought to forbid talking about God in any position, whether it be from an armchair or from a ditch on the side of the road, but as it pertains to preaching, Lloyd-Jones’s point is sound and important. We do not approach preaching casually unless we approach God casually. We can make jokes about ourselves and be self-deprecating when we preach, because we do not “preach ourselves.” In the preaching ministry, we take ourselves lightly and the word of God heavily.

We preach the terrors of God’s wrath as if they are terrifying, we preach the joys of God’s salvation as if they are joyful. We preach hell in serious, sober ways, neither being glib about it nor speaking as if it is the only word. And we preach the gospel in declarative ways, bold and certain and full of Christ’s glory.

“of God’s glory.”
Moses says, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Deep down, this is the cry of every human heart. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says eternity is written there. The gospel of God’s glory in Christ must be central in our preaching because nothing else even comes close to filling the eternal gap.

We all agree that fallen man has a “God-shaped hole,” but then we go on to suggest all kinds of fillers that are not God—financial success, good sex, promotions at work, healthy relationships, happy spouses and children, community service, outlets for our creativity, etc. All good things but all things you can have and do and still be eternally bankrupt.

The scale is enormous, the stakes are high. Instead of spiritually dressing up the idols we know people want, let’s give them what they need—God as all in all, the filling of the Spirit, the exaltation of the risen Lord.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God!” (1 John 3:1a). That should be the chief service…beholding. Behold our glorious God and his lavishing of grace on us in his precious Son.

We are aiming for awe of God. Preaching advice is a poor means to that end. We want the Lamb to be beheld, so we must hold him up high and long. We proclaim not helpful hints but eternal visions.

We can’t do this if we are making the Bible’s words serve our words. Biblical preaching trusts that the Bible can be set loose to work its power.

Brothers, isn’t it wonderful that we are set free from the tyranny of our good ideas to the power of the Bible’s good news?