Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings…
I admit it–I’m a nerd. I love to learn and so I love to read, both fiction and non-fiction, old works and new. More and more I enjoy older or even ancient works of those who have gone before me in the service of the Lord. Some of these are written by people in other countries, in other decades, other centuries, or sometimes simply in other contexts, and I find that their faith stories not only strengthen and refresh me but often challenge me to examine my own ideas in the all-revealing light of the Word. I am constantly prompted to ask, “Is this idea/concept/method actually from the Word of God or is it a new fad (or perhaps, was it a fad of that age)?”
In reading cross -generationally and cross-culturally, I find a greater sense of the stability and immutability of God and His Word, seeing time and time again the Truth that neither fades nor diminishes woven into the stories of the faithful. In reading historically, I also find that it is easier to sift those things that are changeable–human elements of religiosity, social and intellectual trends of a given age, and pop culture–from the unwavering character of our God and the unaltered message of the Gospel.
I do also enjoy reading more modern literature and what I would call “popular Christian-y books,” however, I read them all–both old and new– through the lens of God’s Word and filtered through what I have learned about the mistakes and triumphs of other generations. I believe that there is a grave danger in embracing only what is present and popular and neglecting the lessons of the past. I am somewhat worried when I see fewer and fewer of my generation and younger in the Church who have never read works like Pilgrim’s Progress, but have lapped up each new and best-selling book labeled, sometimes rather broadly, as “Christian.”
It is a simple thing to get caught up in popular thought trends, especially if the only thing we are feeding our minds is a steady diet of currently fashionable conceptual currents. That is why the first and foremost authority for the Christian life should be the Word of God alone. This ancient text has seen many faddish books and the philosophies they extol wax and wane and finally fade away, but its truth remains undiminished.
With that Word in mind, we can read both widely and deeply while looking for the golden threads of God’s truth in every life and tale. Reading like this opens doors for a more well-rounded worldview and a keener understanding of what ideologies and doctrines withstand the wearing of time and which erode and crumble under its steady, grinding procession.
Investigating the lives of those who adored Christ in decades and even centuries gone by or in countries where persecution has drawn a stark line between God’s people and the rest, we begin to get a feel for the permanence and solidity of Truth. We get see what stands fast through the ages, what ideals hold true despite cultural or economic differences, as well as recognizing those brief thought trends that flare brightly for a moment before sputtering out. We see the Foundation that has remained unchanged regardless of what adornments have been placed upon its walls. We also see clearly the state of the human heart, and the comforting fact that in the midst of this volatile humanity, there is an actual, absolute Truth living in the person of Jesus Christ.
I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, read avidly. Read voraciously. Read not only what has been published in the last 10 years, but look into authors like Thomas A Kempis, C. S. Lewis, Brother Lawrence, Corrie Ten Boom, G. K. Chesterton, and others like them. Look for that thread of truth that is the exact same no matter the gender, origin, denomination, or economic status of the author. Above all, be a student of the Word so that you can rightly handle the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15), looking for that truth in every other item you read. As you explore these older worldviews, probe for the timeless elements of our faith. Seek to expose weaker views that have not stood the test of time, and most of all, look to the Eternal Who has given us a glorious brotherhood in Christ that spans not only cultures and continents but time as well.
So what are you reading now?