It can come as a great shock to Christians who have walked with Christ for some years to realise that books written hundreds of years ago contain truths that we thought were only discovered recently. It really is true that the old books are the best. The best of the new books are good, because the writers read the old ones. John Piper’s ‘Desiring God’ was good mainly because he read Jonathan Edwards (with a bit of C.S. Lewis thrown in).
I am re-reading ‘Celebration of Discipline’ by Richard Foster, and in the chapter on Study he says the following:
In addition to studying the Bible, do not neglect the study of some of the experiential classics in Christian literature. Begin with The Confessions of St. Augustine. Next turn to The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. Don’t neglect The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. For an added pleasure read The Little Flowers of St. Francis by Brother Ugolino. Perhaps you might want something a bit heavier next like the Pensees of Blaise Pascal. Enjoy the Table Talks of Martin Luther before you wade into Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Consider reading the pacemaker of religious journal writing, The Journal of George Fox, or perhaps the better-known Journal of John Wesley. Read carefully Williams Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life; its words carry a contemporary ring. From the twentieth century read A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
Delightfully he then goes on to refer to the writers he has failed to mention. I am always encouraged when I come across evangelical Christians who have read such books, and with every spiritual classic that I encounter afresh, there is the opportunity to be totally blown away. Reading in submission to God and to the ministrations of His Spirit on our hearts and lives is the ONLY way to read such books. Incredibly, many of these are available online now, and can often be downloaded to e-readers free.
There is no doubt that regular, daily reading of short excerpts from these texts will change your life.