1. Knowing God, by James I. Packer
His treatment of the attributes of God provides a bedrock foundation for all theological study. As a young Christian in the 1970s, the chapter on God’s wrath helped me grasp the doctrine of propitiation, or the God-ward aspect of Jesus’ death on the cross. A chapter titled “These Inward Trials” soothed my soul, and still offers needed perspective due to my lifelong propensity for despondency. It’s a concise “theology of suffering” that is much-needed in an era in which the so-called “prosperity gospel” proliferates.
2. Future Grace, by John Piper
What a soul-soothing truth: the more grace we get from God for daily discipleship and ministry, the more glory God gets from our lives. Rather than trying to “pay back God” for grace—which would nullify it—the right response is to keep going to Him for more of His grace.
The chapter titled “Faith In Future Grace vs. Despondency” is my personal favorite. No matter what causes bouts of depression, there is a spiritual battle to fight—a fight that requires regular use of the means of grace He has provided. That’s the chapter where the author explains and illustrates the concept of “preaching to yourself”—giving biblically-informed rebuttals to negative or unbiblical “self-talk.” Piper shows us from the Psalms how writers literally “talked to themselves” about God and His role in their circumstances. He also applies God’s grace thoroughly to anxiety, bitterness, pride, impatience, covetousness, and lust. What sets this book apart from other valuable works of John Piper is his extensive emphasis on application to life struggles.
3. Overcoming Sin and Temptation, by John Owen (Edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor)
This book demands concentrated effort, not casual reading. Go through it on a personal retreat, or cover a few pages a day during your devotional time. The spiritual gold you mine will be worth the mental exercise.
I’ve never read anyone who grasps issues of spiritual warfare and the inner workings of the human heart as well as John Owen. He emphasizes the indwelling sin of the believer, and insists that we take it for granted at our own peril. He warns us to guard our hearts and tells us how to do it. Though I’m redeemed and the Holy Spirit indwells me, enabling me for spiritual warfare, I’ve learned from this book not to trust my own heart. Otherwise, why would I need to heed Proverbs 4:23, and guard it?
What book (outside the Bible) has been most beneficial in your daily walk with Christ? Why? To whom can you give that book as a gift?