I grew up in the average, conservative Christian home of the 1980s. Each week I attended Sunday School, morning worship service, evening worship service, Wednesday night prayer meeting, youth group, and sometimes a Bible study with my friends. Each summer I attended Vacation Bible School and when I aged out of attendance, I was there to serve.
At the end of sixth grade, I had a comprehensive understanding of Old and New Testament survey. And by the time I entered my high school years, I could explain terms such as “individual soul liberty” and “dispensations”. But ask me to define “grace” or “mercy” and I couldn’t tell you what they really were, let alone how they were different.
The Power of Grace
While I knew I was a sinner, that God sent Jesus to be my Savior, and that the only way to Heaven was by accepting this free gift of eternal life, I did not understand how that changed my life after the moment of salvation. I looked at it all as a series of steps…a checklist for my spiritual life. I read the Bible looking for the things I was to do or not to do and then began to comply. Or at least I tried.
Then in 2009, God took me into the deep waters of a trial. During several painful months, He pried my fingers off my tight grip on legalism and filled my hands with His grace. One would think that would be a wonderful experience, but in my sinful human heart I thought my ways were just fine and I struggled to see how grace was better.
Understanding God’s Grace
But God is merciful — sparing us from what we do deserve — and gracious — giving us what we don’t deserve — and placed several people in my life who walked the journey with me. Some of those people were real-life friends and others were people who wrote books.
I have spent the last few years taking one step after another into the amazing depths of understanding God’s grace. These are seven of my favorite books that have helped me dig deeper into God’s Word to understand the Gospel and its daily impact on my life.
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7 Books to Help You Grow in Grace
Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney
Living the Cross Centered Life was one of the first books I read about the topic of the Gospel. Its tagline sums it up well: “Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing”. This little book packs a big punch as it simply and quickly explains what the cross means to us right here and right now. It is full of deep theological truth, yet very easy to read.
Mahaney explains why the cross should define our lives, the difference between what we feel and what is real, our part in Jesus’ death, how He is present in our suffering, and so much more. This book opened my eyes to how Jesus’ death didn’t just save me from hell, but also enables me to run to God when I sin because Jesus literally swapped records with me!
“We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross.”
(C.J. Mahaney in Living the Cross Centered Life)
Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
Jesus + Nothing = Everything is conversational and easy to read as well as understand. Tullian shares of his own struggle from the year 2009 and how God used that trial to make His grace known in greater depth to him as well. In every one of the 12 chapters, Tchividjian explains the grace of the Gospel and how it impacts our daily life, stripping us of the desire for a checklist and leaving us hungry for God alone.
“The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants the church to buy is the idea that it’s dangerous and therefore needs to be kept in check. By believing that lie, we not only prove we don’t understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church by perpetuating our own slavery. The truth is disobedience happens not when we think too much of grace, but when we think too little of it.”
(Tullian Tchividjian in Jesus + Nothing = Everything)
Gospel Treason by Brad Bigney
This book explains how anything that prevents us from having the Gospel at center stage of our life is an idol and will, therefore, change how we live our life…for the worse. The message of Gospel Treason is similar to the others on this list, but this with another author’s viewpoint, it continues to help us grow in fuller understanding of how Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection changes our lives today. Reading this book will help you understand what your number one problem is: identity amnesia.
“Do you know what the Christian’s number one problem is? Identity amnesia — forgetting who you are. The Bible reminds you of who you are in Christ.”
(Brad Bigney in Gospel Treason)
Note To Self by Joe Thorn
Note To Self is a 48-day devotional that takes a passage and applies its Gospel truth to your life right now. It is divided into three sections: The Gospel and God, The Gospel and Others, and The Gospel and You. These 2-page devotionals are like reading a letter to yourself exhorting you to keep the Gospel forefront in your thinking and showing you how to do so.
If connecting the Gospel to the mundane of life is new to you, Note to Self is a great place to start as it’s easy to read and each devotional stands alone. In other words, you don’t have to read the whole chapter or book to benefit. It is also a great choice for those who are crunched for time!
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
New Morning Mercies is also a devotional, but one for an entire year. Each daily page starts with a summarized thought of the day’s devotion and ends with a passage for further study. This book is a great way to introduce yourself to what the Gospel means to our ordinary lives beyond the moment of salvation. Paul’s writing is easy to read and will provide daily encouragement and conviction.
Good News for Weary Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Good News for Weary Women is about “escaping the bondage of to-do lists, steps, and bad advice”. This book shows us women how the grace of the Gospel can free us from the pressures of legalism in the form of living up to the expectations of others and our never-ending to-do lists. Each chapter has sidebar inserts of responses from other women and ends with some discussion questions.
Awe: Why It Matters For Everything We Think, Say, & Do by Paul David Tripp
Awe by Paul David Tripp is by far my favorite book on the subject of the Gospel and grace. Rather than talk about the Gospel itself, these 13 chapters take a real life topic — war, ministry, parenting, work, materialism, etc. — and apply the truth of Gospel grace to them. Tripp also shows us how our lack of awe makes us think less of the work of Christ and how that negatively impacts our daily living. Each chapter stands alone, making it easy to read in small moments of time.
“Like me, you need to spend more time gazing upon the awesome beauty of your Lord so that your heart will remember and , in remembering, be rescued.”
(Paul David Tripp in Awe)
I pray that these seven books will become as dear friends to you as they have been to me on my journey from the clutches of legalism to the grip of grace!
Growing in grace,
Mandy J. Hoffman
Here at Club31Women, we recognize that not everyone has the same taste or point of view on books, music, or movies, but we offer these short reviews for your consideration. Our hope is that you will find something new and wonderful on this list of recommended resources!
~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
Mandy J. Hoffman is a happily married mom of 3. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, Mandy’s desire is to always be growing in the knowledge and grace of God. Her passions are studying theology, biblical counseling, and reading intentionally; all the while balancing life as a homeschool mama, dabbling in a mini homestead, and being committed to the body of Christ at their church. She is the author of the book #ReformingSocialMedia.