The Best BookWednesday, May 8, 2013
I love books. I love to read and learn. As a guy who graduated second to last in his high school class I have always felt like with each book I take some ground. "Nice. I'm 360 pages less dumb than when I started." I used to say that a lot.
Throughout my early twenties I poured over the pages of Systematic Theology. Berkhof, Dabney, Hodge, and Shedd were my friends. Professors, really. In my mid-to-late twenties it was mostly the Puritans: Owen, Watson, Sibbes, Brooks, and Bunyan were like pastors to me. My college dorm room was a kind of library for others to use instead of heading across campus. None of this was wrong. What was wrong is that at some point along the way my hunger for God's word was replaced with a hunger for mere knowledge. I longed for truths more than the truth. It didn't take long for the word of God to become something I used to simply footnote what I was reading in other books. I didn't even notice this was happening. I thought I was good. Thankfully, at some point my fiancé (now my lovely wife) softly reminded me, "Joe, you know the Bible is the best book."
When she spoke those words I was left speechless. I wanted to defend myself, but it was like someone turned the lights on, and it was obvious that she was right. I could see it. The next few years were years of repentance. No, I didn't stop reading books (after all I was entering seminary), but they moved to a secondary position. And the more time I spent in Scripture the more it towered above all other writings. The more I read the more precious it became to me, and in the middle of seminary I finally rediscovered what I had experienced during the first few years after my conversion: the word of God was life-giving, heart-transforming, and more precious than anything else I could get my hands on.
“More to be desired are they [the Scriptures] than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb. ”
— Psalm 19:10
I still read. A lot. And I still feel like with each book I read I move forward. In thinking through, understanding, agreeing, or disagreeing with an author I am helped along in many ways. But now such books are a means, not the end. As they teach well, they guide me back to the word of God, and in that is real power.
I am confident I am not alone in this experience. We have access to over 2,000 years of Christian writing, and still today the church is producing wonderful books. We encourage reading at our church. We have a "book rack" of great titles. But the Bible is the best book, and we don't want anyone to lose sight of that.
So stay in the word. Hold it in your heart. Read other books that direct you back to Scripture, knowing that it alone is what makes us wise unto salvation, it alone is the means by which God sanctifies us, and it alone is what God has given us by which we can not just know something about him, but truly know him.
“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. ”
— Psalm 119:14-16