We need yet to answer the question, of course: what should we as Christians be reading regularly? The first and foremost answer should be the Bible itself. This might be a surprising answer to many Christians. All Christians should make it their life-long occupation to be constantly reading the Bible itself. We should read the Bible over and over from cover to cover. Every book and every chapter of it is the inspired Word of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. God gave to us the whole of His Word and all of its mighty and glorious truths that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished for a life of good works. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Every Christian should have a Bible which clearly shows that it has been much used. These Bibles have tattered pages and covers because they have been read so many times. There should be times when we read long sections of the Bible in one sitting, whole chapters and even whole books in long periods of devoted and careful study. God did not give us His Word in the Bible to be read just one verse here and one verse there in a very superficial way. The Bible needs to be understood as a whole in whole chapters and requires lengthy discussions of the truth. The great doctrines of the Bible must be carefully understood by studying these doctrines as they are taught in many places in the Bible. Strong Christians are usually those who have done a lot of reading of the Bible. Sometimes simple-minded Christians with little formal education far excel some learned and educated Christians simply because of the amount of reading of the Bible they have done over the years of their lives.
It should be obvious to all of us that the best book in the whole world to be reading is the Bible itself. The Bible should be read prayerfully and with a spiritual mind, and with great interest of learning and growing in the wisdom and knowledge that the Bible itself contains. The aged saint that has read the Bible from cover to cover more times than they can count will testify that through the constant faithful reading of the Bible they have learned new and amazing and wonderful truths of God and His salvation each time they have read the Bible.
The Christian should also be reading good books which carefully explain the meaning of the Bible and also the profound doctrines which the Bible teaches. We ought not to satisfy ourselves with mere fluff. We should not be satisfied with merely reading the so-called ‘how-to books’, how to do this and how to do that, how to be content and how to always be happy, how to love yourself and how to be rich, how to be a good leader, and on and on – often about superficial subjects. Many such books promote easy believism. There is no true Christianity that is so easy that it can be learned in four or five easy steps. There are way too many such books flowing continually off the printing presses of the world and demanding our attention. There are always new popular authors coming on the scene and coming out with new approaches to understand, and these books are being recommended by the media. Now, of course, we are not denying that a few of these are good to read, and we should sometimes listen to recommendations and encouragements from fellow Christians to read new and helpful books.
But we also need to read solid books, meaty books, some of which were written even centuries ago, such as books by the great reformers Calvin and Luther, some of the Puritans, Herman Hoeksema and David Engelsma, and many more great men of God from church history. The bookstore at Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore has available many excellent books published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and we encourage all to read them and not just buy them to put on the shelves in our homes to collect dust. The fact is that there is almost an endless number of excellent books that Christians could read with great profit, instruction, understanding, and edification. There are doctrinal books which not everyone can handle because they require deep thinking and careful study and attention to read. Those who feel called to be leaders in the church should be reading. A doctrinal and confessional foundation will stay in place in the church when there are members gifted by God who read and study so that they know and so that they can assure the church together that she is always built upon this foundation.
How does one discipline himself or herself to read? There is no magic formula to accomplish this. It takes a lot of constant effort and application of ourselves. It takes the same kind of study and hours and hours of pouring over books that it takes to equip oneself for a good career in life that will be able to be the source of income for ourselves and our families. The only way one will read consistently is when he himself regularly gives time and effort for such reading. Ordering and disciplining our time is necessary. We all are guilty of wasting way too much time God gives to us in our lives. We waste so much of the fleeting time in life on things which are quite useless and have no lasting value. We need to identify such activities and eliminate them. We need to begin using our God-given time wisely. Paul instructs us in Ephesians 5 to redeem the time, for the days in which we are living are evil. TV watching can be such a great waster of time; besides, it often corrupts our souls through the worldly philosophy it promotes and distracts us with. Internet viewing can be beneficial for learning many important things for our daily lives. It can even be searched for good online books, Bible commentaries, and thousands and thousands of sermons from some of the great preachers in the world. The internet also flows with filth and garbage.
Most of the time, however, we need to take the books in hand, hopefully in a quiet place where we can concentrate, exercising all the God-given gifts of our minds and hearts.
How urgent is the need for members of the church to be strong and for churches together to be strong, in these last days of great apostasy. Are you and I able to stand on the truth in the evil days in which we are living and to instruct and encourage and support fellow members of our church to so? Are there young men who are equipping themselves with the knowledge of the truth to be elders and deacons in the church and even ministers of the Word? For this to happen we must devote ourselves regularly to reading and study. There are those who want to promote themselves as leaders, but who are unwilling to study to show themselves approved of God and to be true leaders in the church. Reading is one of the greatest ways to equip ourselves for our calling, whatever the Lord’s will may be for us.
Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 51