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.