Top Five Books I Read in 2020
Thinking back over the past year, here are five books that I read in 2020 that I would recommend for you in 2021:
5. The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges (2006)
This one was actually a re-read for me. I first read it soon after it was published, and have used it since in a book study, and then I read it again this past summer along with our study on the fruit of the Spirit at MCBC.
I am a fan of Jerry Bridges; he is one of the few authors whose books I often return to (in particular, his books The Pursuit of Holiness, The Gospel for Real Life, and The Joy of Fearing God). His book The Fruitful Life is a practical, encouraging, and challenging study of the fruit listed in Galatians 5, along with excellent chapters on Devotion and Humility. I highly recommend it.
4. Praying With Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson (2014)
With our annual 40 Days of Prayer at Mountain Creek, I am regularly reading books on prayer to find one that we can give out for our church to read together. This one (along with another book listed below) is under consideration for 2021.
First published in 1992 under the title A Call to Spiritual Reformation, in Praying with Paul author D.A. Carson helps us to reflect on some of the great prayers from Paul’s epistles. With entire chapters on passages like Ephesians 3:14–21, Philippians 1:9–11, and 2 Thessalonians 1:1–12, this book will help you learn to pray God-focused, biblical prayers.
3. Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God by J.I. Packer (2009)
Having benefited from Packer’s book Knowing God and his articles on the atonement gathered under the title In My Place Condemned He Stood, I was glad to join in a reading group this fall to go through Rediscovering Holiness.
In Rediscovering Holiness,Packer refocuses our attention on the call of Scripture to growth in Christlikeness, that is, growth in holiness: “It is extraordinary how little the New Testament says about God’s interest in our success, by comparison with the enormous amount that it says about God’s interest in our holiness, our maturity in Christ, and our growth into the fullness of His image.” An important book on an often-overlooked subject for Christians, I highly commend this book to you.
2. The Secret Key to Heaven: The Vital Importance of Private Prayer by Thomas Brooks (1665)
One of the volumes in the Puritan Paperback series, The Secret Key to Heaven may be my favorite book on prayer. Don’t let its date keep you away: while there are phrases that are difficult and cumbersome, all in all this book is highly readable and supremely encouraging.
With sections such as “Twenty Arguments for Private Prayer” and “Eleven Instructions Concerning Private Prayer,” Brooks gives both needed counsel and practical advice concerning what can be an intimidating subject for many. He addresses those who feel inadequate, those who don’t know what to say, those who are distracted, and more—whatever your hang-up is in prayer, I can almost assure you that Brooks addresses it in this book.
1. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund (2020)
If I could give you one book to read in 2021, this would be it. With a warm and pastoral heart, Ortlund provides a balm to souls weary from 2020 and life in a fallen world by continually pointing us to the very nature of Christ. For those suffering from their own sin or from the sin of others or simply from the hardships of life, Ortlund’s book in an invitation to look again at Jesus, the one who is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
“The deeper into weakness and suffering and testing we go,” Ortlund writes, “the deeper Christ’s solidarity with us. As we go down into pain and anguish, we are descending ever deeper into Christ’s very heart, not away from it.”
Easily the best new book I’ve read in quite some time, I cannot encourage you enough to pick up this book.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.