Seven Things We Must Read if We Want a Vibrant Spiritual Life

Pastor shares some smart ways to grow closer to God while juggling busy work, family schedules

My kids love candy. That’s why at our house, Easter rivals Christmas. Like all Christians, I love the Easter celebration. But as a dad, I dread the overabundance of candy, for in the days after Easter, our house is littered with candy wrappers.

While parents lecture on many things, one of the recent topics at our house is a balanced diet. Candy is delicious, but my children are learning they can’t eat it every day. A healthy diet is important not only for our physical bodies, but for our souls, too. Just as children enjoy filling their mouths with sugar, many Christians like to consume their favorite forms of printed “sugar”: fiction books, romance novels, news periodicals, or celebrity magazines.

With the expansion of the digital marketplace, access to our favorite forms of “sugar” is easier than ever.

However, if we desire a spiritual life that is vibrant and healthy, we must nourish our minds and hearts with Scriptural truth from a variety of trusted sources.

Where can a Christian turn to develop a well-balanced diet of healthy reading that will truly nourish the soul?

1.) Read the Bible. Christian publications are helpful as they unpack God’s truth, but nothing compares to the Bible because it alone is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Bible reading plans abound, and you can find one to fit your routine. Read one book of the Bible this month, or read through the New Testament this summer.

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With daily discipline, you can even read the whole Bible in 12 months. If you want to walk with God, other books can be neglected — but the Bible cannot.

2.) Read Christian classics. In addition to the Scriptures, read Christian classics. These are books that generations of Christians have embraced for the way they apply God’s truth. Read a few pages each day as part of your devotional exercises, and you’re off and running. Christian classics include books like “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan; “Knowing God,” by J.I. Packer; “The Pursuit of God,” by A.W. Tozer; and “The Holiness of God,” by R.C. Sproul.

3.) Read classic devotionals. Not all devotionals are created equal. Much of today’s devotional material is just self-help psychology dressed up in Christian clothes. You don’t want that; you want the devotionals that Christians have trusted for generations. Examples of these include “Morning and Evening,” by Charles Haddon Spurgeon; “My Utmost for His Highest,” by Oswald Chambers; and “The Valley of Vision,” edited by Arthur G. Bennett. These soul-stirring devotionals are available in both print and digital formats.

4.) Read Christian biography. Next to the Bible, nothing else stokes the devotional life like Christian biographies. When you read biographies of Christian heroes, you join them in the journey. Whether they are battling a challenge, celebrating a victory, or mourning a defeat, you are right there with them, learning more about God in the process.

Where should you begin? Start with some legends in Christianity’s hall of fame: Martin Luther, Dwight L. Moody, or William Wilberforce. Female members would include Fanny Crosby, Corrie ten Boom, or Joni Eareckson Tada.

5.) Read the best sermons. Have you ever wondered why so many Christians swoon over the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, or James Montgomery Boice? Sample them for yourself! Purchase a book of printed sermons and commit to reading one sermon each week. If you can’t afford a hard copy, you will find many of these sermons online and ready for consumption.

6.) Read a theology book. A good theology book is like a good steak: It’s dense and packed with nutrients. If you’re hungry for a little more “meat” in your devotional diet, sink your teeth into a good systematic theology book. These books walk you through the major doctrines of God’s Word in an organized way.

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It may take you a few weeks or months to finish, but the effort is worth it. Beginners should start with “A Survey of Bible Doctrine” by Charles Caldwell Ryrie. More seasoned Christians would benefit from Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.”

7.) Read a subscription-based devotional. Perhaps your schedule is extremely busy, but you’re still desperate to meet with God. Thankfully, there are many subscription-based devotionals that are trustworthy and time-friendly. Subscribe to Moody Bible Institute’s “Today in the Word,” Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine, or “Our Daily Bread” from Radio Bible Class. In addition to being faithful to the Bible, these daily devotionals can be digested in as little as 15 minutes. Some can even be delivered to your email inbox.

It has been more than a month since Easter, and I’m thankful. The candy wrappers are long gone, and my kids have finally descended from their sugar high. While children love sugar, parents know they must have a balanced diet for a truly healthy life.

If we’re going to have a vibrant Christian life, we need a well-rounded diet of God’s revealed truth.

The same is true for Christians. We can’t live on a steady diet of fiction or news magazines. If we’re going to have a vibrant Christian life, we need a well-rounded diet of God’s revealed truth.

The good news is that the spiritually nutritious truth we need is always available — printed in black and white. And there’s not a cellophane wrapper in sight.

Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 19 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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