1) Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Multnomah Press), by John Piper.
On a number of occasions I have commented on how powerfully this book has affected my life and thinking. The concept of Christian Hedonism can be reduced to three principles: First, the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Second, the God of the Bible takes greater delight in meeting needs than in making demands. Third, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. No Christian should be permitted to depart this life without having read Piper. Newsflash! The 25th anniversary edition of Desiring God has just been released in hardback. Get it!
2) The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Multnomah Press), by John Piper. In this sequel to Desiring God, John sets forth another revolutionary thesis: “The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.” If you are interested in what ultimately pleases God, Piper will give you the answer.
3) Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards. The reason I didn’t list a particular publisher is that the Affections has been released in countless editions by a multitude of publishers over the past 300 years. The best (and most expensive) edition is undoubtedly the one from Yale University Press. If Edwards’ prose (and the price of the book) is a bit too much for you, you may want to start out by reading my book, Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, published by Crossway in 2007.
4) Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster Press, 2 vols.), by John Calvin. Calvin’s writings were probably more influential in giving broad shape to my theology than anyone else. The Institutes are both profound and practical, both substantive and spiritual. Don’t be put off by what others may have told you about Calvin. These volumes are more than meat . . . they are filet mignon!
5) Most everything written by J. I. Packer, in particular Knowing God (IVP). Packer has often confessed he is still surprised that this book became as popular as it did. It isn’t flashy or flamboyant, but it is most assuredly worth your time and effort.
6) The Presence and the Power: The Significance of the Holy Spirit in the Life and Ministry of Jesus, by Gerald Hawthorne (who passed away in 2010) (initially published by Word, but recently re-released by another publisher; check it out on Amazon.com). I rank this book highly because of the way God used it to awaken me to the reality of how Jesus lived the life he lived and the implications for how I am to live the life I live, namely, in the power of the Spirit. My doctrine of the person and work of Christ was forever changed by what Hawthorne showed me in Scripture. This isn’t easy reading, but it will pay rich dividends for the work you put into it.
7) The Presence of the Future (Zondervan), by George Ladd. This book had the greatest influence on my views of the kingdom of God and the broader issues of eschatology. It is a devastating and irrefutable critique of classical dispensationalism.
8 ) Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Zondervan), by Jack Deere. Jack’s book is the most thorough refutation of cessationism ever written. Regardless of where you come down on the issue of the nature and validity of spiritual gifts today, you should own and read (often) Jack’s treatment.
9) Chasing the Dragon, by Jackie Pullinger. The fact that this book appears toward the end of my list is no reflection on its value. I am tempted to place it number one, simply for the impact it continues to have on my understanding of what it means to take up your cross and follow Christ. If you have not yet read the life-story of Jackie Pullinger and her experiences in Hong Kong’s Walled City, don’t wait a day longer. It will change you forever.
10) Confessions, by Augustine. This classic by the late fourth, early fifth-century philosopher, theologian, and churchman is a testimony to the marvels of sovereign, saving grace. Most people talk about the so-called “classics” of the Christian faith, but very few read them. Take my word for it and read this one.