The Five Best Books for Young People
The Book – The Bible
This might sound like an obvious inclusion, but we can never overstate the importance of daily Bible reading. In a day and age where Bible illiteracy marks many Christians each believer needs to cultivate the habit of spending time in God’s word. There is a difference between reading the Scriptures and studying the Scriptures. I am advocating here for the daily reading of God’s word.
A few tips on how to read the Bible are provided below:
Consecutively: Read through whole books, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Over a period of time you will begin to understand the framework and overarching theme of Scripture. Read from Genesis through to Revelation, and not just an inspirational verse for the day. We all need a daily diet of strong meat and not a pick and mix treat.
Carefully: Distractions like phones, and social media notifications will need to be turned off. The Lord speaks to us through His word, the least we can do is give Him our full attention. I am advocating finding a quiet place before your working day begins. We need to be careful about where and when we read because this will then affect how we read.
Widely: By this I mean read as much of the Bible as you can, if you have read the Bible through once in a year, why not try twice, or more? Have you read Isaiah or Jeremiah through in a few sittings, or does it normally take you weeks? By reading the Bible frequently and widely we begin to etch into our minds how the Bible works. We will discover the main themes and divisions within books, the book becomes a coherent whole and not a disjointed puzzle.
Sacrificially: I appreciate we are all pressed for time, but what we love we will prioritises. We cannot love The Lord without reading His word. We cannot be anything for God without His word. Some things will have to go to be alone with the word of God.
Prayerfully: I am an advocate of asking the Author to reveal the truth of His word prior to reading. This reminds me that I am dependent on His Spirit to guide me into truth andfostershope that God will speak to me at the start of a new day.
Meditatively: If the Lord has given you truth for the day (and He will), then whatever you have enjoyed, store it in your mind and ponder it during the day. This will preserve you from sin and enhance your appreciation of God.
A book on Overviews – Explore the Book (J Sidlow Baxter)
Before looking in detail at an individual jigsaw piece to see where it fits into the puzzle we often construct the perimeter first so that we have a framework to work within. This is also true for individual books of the Bible, we need a context to regulate our thoughts and an overarching theme to which we can direct our thinking. Baxter in his volume does exactly this as he explains the main themes, the turning points and the chapter divisions of the booksof the Bible.
For example, Baxter divides the Gospel of Luke for us as follows:
- "Good tidings" - a Saviour (1.5 - 4.13)
- "In the Spirit" - Galilee (4.14 - 9.50)
- "He set His face" - Jerusalem (9.51 - 19.44)
- "This is the heir - kill Him" (19.45 - 23)
Section 3 of Luke's gospel is known as the travelogue. Here we see Luke emphasise not what The Lord Jesus says or does, but the man Himself. Much of the travelogue is unique to Luke's gospel, whereas section 2 records 21 miracles, section 3 records only 5 miracles. Baxter says about this section "there is an unwinding miscellany of memorable sayings and doings, gracious replies and forthright rebukes, occasional miracles and compelling parables ... all cohere in exhibiting from different angles and under different lights, the mind and heart of that matchless man". We now understand that Luke’s gospel is changing emphasis and tone as "it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (ch 9.51). This overview will affect how you read you Bible on a day to day basis.
An honourable mention for an overview of Bible books is the afore-reviewed Believers Bible Commentary. If you are pressed for time and need something a little more concise then William MacDonald's commentary is great for a brief outline. In a few minutes you can know where you are in any chapter of the Bible and relate your daily reading to the framework of Scripture.
A book on prophecy – His Coming
Another framework that we need to have in place when reading and studying the Bible is where we are in relation to the dealings of God.We see in this book that the Bible presents a clear and coherent view on Bible prophecy. A pre-tribulation rapture, the pre-millennial return of Christ, a literal 1,000 year reign of The Lord on earth and the restoration of the nation of Israel are all presented as a package deal in the Scripture. It stands and falls as a whole.
There is a chapter devoted to Romans 11 which explains that God has not "cast away His people (Israel) which He foreknew". Reformed Theology would have us believe that the Church has replaced Israel, and we now have all the blessings promised to them in the Old Testament. God made promises to Abraham, David and Jeremiah (chapter 33) that Israel would be blessed above all other people. If these promises have changed or been hijacked by the Church then God's character is called into question.‘His coming’ explains the importance of the rapture of the church in the Thessalonian epistles. The section on the "restrainer" in 2 Thessalonians 2 is particularly illuminating and will repay careful reading. We also see that the whole Trinity is involved in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church; "the coming of the Lord (to the air), the control of the Sprit (the restrainer) and the choice of God(election) - the Triune God ensures that no believer of this age will ever experience or even enter the Day of The Lord (the great tribulation).”
His Coming is a book that is enjoyable and easy to read. It is very concise, and by no means an exhaustive treatment of future events. It will however richly reward any reader, giving them a firm grasp of what the Bible says about the future.Ards Bookshop and John Ritchie’s should have copies in store, if anyone is having difficulty sourcing them there, please let us know and we will try and arrange for copies to get to you.
A book on the Church – There am I: The Purpose and Pattern of the New Testament Church (Mark Sweetnam)
A book on the assembly is an important addition to any library. It is helpful to understand that once we are saved and baptised that God expects us to serve Him within a specific context. Generally speaking we are to worship, serve and grow in the context of a local church. Many Christians today think the only way they can grow in grace or do anything for God is with formal theological training in a Bible college, or with a para-Church organisation. The Lord never intended this to be so.
We all know that there is one way of Salvation, but the Bible as explained by "There am I" shows that there is only one way of gathering. This book shows that the local church is not one of many denominations, but the place where God has placed His name and Christ is in the midst. This is revolutionary, a correct appreciation of God's presence in the local assembly will change my attitude and view of the place where God has placed me. "There am I" helpfully explains why a local church exists, it is not for the community, the believers who meet there, or anyone else save God alone. We see that God has explained in His word that there is a definite pattern that is to be followed. Although the people there are imperfect, the pattern is, and by God's grace it is to be followed. This book is not an exhaustive treatment of ecclesiology but covers the main principles that should govern our thinking when considering what a local assembly is about. The book can be read in a couple of hours and is a good book to give to people who have not seen the truth of the local assembly.
A book on History – What if Jesus Had Never Been Born (D James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe)
This book is very helpful in a secular society that has sought to hijack Christian history anderase any mention of Christ and His people from the historical narrative of this world. The book explains that much of what we take for granted around us like modern science, morality, a high view of human life, education, missionary / charitable enterprises, literature and many other things all owe their existence to the Christian faith.
For example, modern science could only have been birthed through a Christian worldview and not an atheistic one as the secular culture would have us believe. The likes of Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Samuel Morse and Michael Faraday were all Christians who are testimony to this. "What if Jesus had never been born" and its sequel "What if the Bible had never been written" (another book I heartily recommend) state "science could not have developed in Islam due to its belief in fatalism ...it would never have been birthed among Buddhists or Hindus because of their belief that the world is an illusion ... modern science could not have risen in our modern culture because modern man believes that life is irrational and illogical ... a proper philosophical base for investigating the universe was needed and the Christian doctrine of creation provided that base."
This book shows to us where mankind would be without the gospel and reminds us that the gospel is the only answer to a sinful and dying world. The book is easy to read, balanced and exhaustive in its referencing. It reminds me of Hebrews 12.1 "since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses ... let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (NKJV)