The Bible describes a Christian dying as “falling asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Why? Because people who fall asleep wake up. Christ-followers don’t die, but instead fall asleep and wake up in the glory of God.
Recently, author and theologian J.I. Packer fell asleep at 93 years old. He was a “man of whom this world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11), and he is now more alive than ever before.
In my early 20s, someone gave me his book “Knowing God.” It strengthened my faith, expanded my view of God, and grew my wonder of the Cross.
I am often asked, “In addition to the Bible, what books would you recommend reading to go deeper in your faith?” In no particular order, these books have deeply shaped my faith in my 20s, "ruining my life" for the better:
1. Knowing God - J.I. Packer
It’s been said that what you think about God is the most important thing about you. I’d agree. Reading this book will help you get to know God better by offering a descriptive look at his attributes.
2. Desiring God - John Piper
Everyone wants to be happy. Marketers capitalize on that basic desire by offering “solutions” to the happiness void. This is a book devoted to helping people find their happiness in the only true place it can be found—God.
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
3. The Pleasures of God - John Piper
Like the previous book, this one helps you in your tireless search for joy and satisfaction. Read this to grow in finding joy and satisfaction in God alone, no matter your circumstance.
4. The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis
I’ve read this book more than any other on the list, and spent more time with it than any other book I’ve read (except for the Bible of course). Chapter 10 alone is worth the price of the book, as it describes heaven better than any book out other IMHO.
5. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
This one is full of fundamentals of the Christian faith—foundational truths that are really important to know. For the person who’s drawn to intellectual conversations about faith, this book is for you. For everyone else, push through the first five chapters and I think you’ll come to enjoy the rest.
6. The Chronicles of Narnia (all seven novels) – C.S. Lewis
The movies don’t do it justice. And it’s an odd case when an entire series is worth your while. I listen to these books on Audible in my car and pretend I’m driving to Narnia…The character of Aslan portrays God like no other.
7. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
This one’s different. It’s written from the perspective of an imaginary demon clan. Before you write it off, it’s purpose is to give you insight into how the enemy works against you. Read this book to understand why temptation and sin are a part of your life.
8. The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis
Not all love is the same. The Bible, in its original language, actually has four different words for love. Sexual desire, affection, friendship, and more are unpacked and explained in this book. Read it to understand God’s love and to love people better.
9. The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis
A collection of essays that capture why settling for anything less than a life devoted to God is a waste. Enough said.
10. A Praying Life - Paul Miller
This is a book on understanding prayer—what it is and how it changes you. I think it’s by far the best book on prayer that’s out there.
11. Knowledge of the Holy - A.W. Tozer
This book is poetic and rich. It’s Tozer’s most well-known work. The short but dense chapters help you understand and fall more in love with God by understanding his character.
12. The Pilgrim’s Progress - John Bunyan
There’s a reason it’s one of the most widely printed books in the English language. This one takes you through the Christian journey, which you’ll find strangely similar to your own. It’s a fictional story of a “Christian” and the people and places he encounters.
13. Lectures to My Students - Charles Spurgeon
Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers of all time. This is a collection of messages he taught his students, and I believe there is a lot to learn from him about faith.
14. A Severe Mercy - Sheldon Vanauken
This is the only romance book on this list (you’re welcome ladies…and gentlemen). It will definitely get you in your feels. A non-Christian couple who is so in love writes their exchanges with C.S. Lewis and how he led them to faith.
“Not the death of love, but death IN love” (leaving you wondering here so you’ll go check it out).
15. What’s So Amazing About Grace? - Phillip Yancey
This one shows the power of guilt and offers the perfect alternative. It’s a basic look at how grace changes everything.
16. The Jesus I Never Knew - Phillip Yancey
A look at the first century Jesus that most people miss. Put yourself in the Pharisees’ shoes, and discover Jesus in a way that will unquestionably strengthen your faith.
17. Enemies of the Heart - Andy Stanley
Guilt. Anger. Greed. Jealousy. Read why your emotions affect you the way they do, and learn practical steps you can take to not be controlled by the “enemies” of your heart.
18. The Reason for God - Tim Keller
A modern-day “Mere Christianity” that explains why it’s actually the most reasonable thing to believe what Christianity teaches.
19. Vintage Jesus - Mark Driscoll
This one’s all about the one who changed history. Read this to understand who Jesus was and is, and why he’s worth trusting.
20. Systematic Theology - Wayne Grudem
This one’s different than all the rest. Explore Christian doctrines (teachings) and dive deeper into understanding what the Bible teaches about both basic and controversial topics.
If “Come and See” by Todd Wagner or “Welcome To Adulting” by Jonathan Pokluda existed back in my 20s, they would be on here.
These all “ruined my life for the better” by changing the way I look at God, the Cross, the church, this life, and a thousand other things.