This post is the result of a handful of Robins that have taken up residence in our neighborhood and make their presence known around four-thirty am. Today, they were exceptionally emotional in their singing and once I woke up I couldn’t get back to sleep. So, what does one think about as he lies in bed, staring at the ceiling, while the dawn chorus chirps away outside the bedroom window? That’s easy, what book, outside of the Bible, has been the most influential in molding my worldview? I’m sure everyone is nodding their head in agreement, and saying, “why that should have gone without saying.”
I have to admit the question was a lot easier formulating than answering at such an early hour. If you are like me, you’ve read more than a few books in your day, and the fact that you can remember anything about them at all means they were important to you at some stage in your life. As a kid, I read comics, Jules Verne, Edward Row Snow, and of course every Tarzan of the Apes book I could find or order from our local bookseller. Then I went off to University to study literature and fell in love with books like Moby Dick, Omoo, Typee… well, you get the picture; I was a Herman Melville fan. At one point in my life I actually majored in Romanticism in American Literature. I also loved history, gardening, antiques, bird watching, books about books and the list goes on, so I read constantly. Since moving to my present location I’ve read hundreds of books on nautical themes, general fiction and travel adventure. You might say, that’s all fine and dandy, but what book did you settle on as the most influential for you?
There were actually three books that impacted my theology and pastoral ministry. The first two books, Paul, An Apostle of the Heart Set Free, by F.F.Bruce and The Gospel of the Kingdom by George Eldon Ladd have long been misplaced. The third book, The Cross of Christ by John Stott I have somehow managed to hang onto throughout the years. Now that I am rereading it after sixteen years and absorbing more than I ever did says volumes to me about its worth.
On the back cover of Stott’s book are these thoughts, “Can we see triumph in tragedy, victory in shame? Why should an object of Roman distaste and Jewish disgust (the cross) be the emblem of our worship and the axiom of our faith? And what does it mean for us today?” The book answers these questions, and for me, almost every page leaves me longing to understand the love manifested on that cross in a deeper way. Christianity IS the cross and to preach anything else is a failure to appreciate the centrality of the crucifixion to all that we are.
Stott writes, “Moved by the perfection of his holy love, God in Christ substituted himself for us sinners. That is the heart of the cross of Christ. It leads us to turn now from the event to its consequences, from what happened on the cross to what was achieved by it. Why did God take our place and bear our sin? What did he accomplish by his self-sacrifice, his self-substitution?” P.167 The answers to these questions are what shape our lives. The beauty and clarity of Stott’s writing leaves no question as to where he stands on all these questions. Anyone who picks up this book and prayerfully reads it will come away rejoicing in the goodness and kindness of God.
Do you have a book that influenced your life? Share it with us in the comment section for this post. And please don’t forget, if you haven’t already, to like this blog on Facebook and let your friends know about it. The number of people reading the blog is already way beyond my expectations so thank you for your reading support and sharing it with friends. It really makes a difference.