“Thou mayest hear sermons often, and do well in practicing what thou hearest; but thou must not expect to be told thee in a pulpit all that though oughtest to do, but be studious in searching the Scriptures, and reading good books; what though hearest may be forgotten, but what thou readest may better be retained.”
~ John Bunyan ~
Being an avid reader myself it probably goes without saying that I am a huge proponent of reading. (particularly non-fictional reading) I realize I am biased in this opinion, but I do think it is a great way for one to grow. However, whether you are naturally inclined toward reading or not, every Christian ought to spend time reading their Bible. It is reading of the Bible after all, that gives us the greatest grasp of who God is and what He has done. And, it is on this understanding that we build our faith. Thus, extra-biblical materials are icing on the cake, so to speak. You might even say it’s like taking a supplemental vitamin. For just as supplemental vitamins enhance ones health, so extra-biblical materials can enhance ones Spiritual growth.
Let me back up for a moment and define what I mean by extra-biblical materials. Extra-biblical materials are any forms of religious literature not found within the canon of Scripture. They are Spirit inspired (hopefully), but not God breathed. They are often enlightening, but not infallible. Extra-biblical material is any literature that helps us to better understand Scripture.
It is in regards to such reading that I would like to offer a word of advice today. Read with intentionality! What do I mean? Don’t read just anything. As Bunyan says, read good books. Identify authors that inspire you and read lot’s of their stuff. Reading multiple books by a single author allows one to better understand where they are coming from and how they think. I have found that reading in such a manner can be very similar to sitting under a professor. Then read books by authors that influenced them. Read old books. Reading books from former generations often lends itself to the development of a broader perspective. It also stands to reason, that books that have stood the test of time probably did so for a reason (although of course not all old books are good). Most importantly read books by authors that put a supreme value on the authority of Scripture. Scripture must be used to form thoughts, not to support them. In the end all extra-biblical reading should bring us back to a better understanding of God.
Need a place to start? Try John Piper, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, or C.S. Lewis. Those are my four favorites anyway. Happy reading!