Reading for Transformation
If we desire to become more like Jesus - really (as John Wimber said, to "grow up before we grow old") - it will pay us to think about what we are reading, and how we are reading it.
Firstly, we should read books which challenge not only our intellect (our ideas) but also our conscience (our sense of right and wrong or moral behaviour). Such books (and of course we would include the Bible) reach deeper into us and elicit responses to God that might not happen merely with new ideas. They take us on a journey into holiness. Because biblically, the basis of a spiritual life with God is hearing him and responding, challenging our conscience is very important. Jesus will never twist our arm, but if we are to follow him and enter more and more into the glory of his life, we must find ways to freely respond to his call on our lives.
It is not always true, but I have found that older books are more likely to challenge my conscience. I think this is because many Christian books written today have absorbed the ideas of popular culture - if you like they have been "processed", and like white bread have had a lot of goodness squeezed out of them in order to appeal to their readers. But discerning readers see this and pursue more wholesome daily bread seeded with the raw truth, way and love of God. My favourite book, In the Footprints of the Lamb by G. Steinberger, is an example. I have provided a link below for a free copy of this wonderfully transforming little book that will take you on a journey into the holiness of Jesus. There are many more, including novels which can tell stories dripping with God's truth between its fictional lines. Again, there are wonderful books written today which also resonate with the depth of God's heart in a way that is transforming. Just be aware that because a book has been published, has a spiritual title, or even become popular, doesn't make it transforming. It has certainly been my goal with my new book Barefoot Revolution to provide a tool for a truly transforming journey toward God.
Secondly, we can read as we would a newspaper, simply looking for opinions or facts which support our current view of things. You can see that reading anything, including the Bible, in this way will not be very transforming. Alternatively, we can read as if we are yet to master the truths being written about or told in a story - they are higher, sacred, at this point beyond us. Of course this requires that the author has such insight or revelation to offer. (It would be true reading the Bible, and it places even more emphasis on the importance of being discerning about the books we read.) When we read in this way we are open, wanting to discover new things for ourselves - fresh, first-hand revelation from the Holy Spirit. We are more likely to stop and meditate than just skim. We are not content to stay where we are with what we have discerned to date, no. We desire to receive revelation continually- daily bread. We can read even secular books in this way and find God speaking to us. We can also read very spiritual books laced with deep revelation in the first way (as if we are reading a newspaper) and receive very little revelation. As Jesus taught, "Seek and you will find."
Reading is reading, but if our reading is to be transforming we must pay attention to what we are reading and how we are reading it.