What’s the first book you would give to a newly converted Christian?
I’m sure not many of you would reply, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied,” by John Murray.
Yet that’s the first Christian book I read. And I was not a reader! In fact, I never read one full book while I was in High School. I read bits of books now and again for the purposes of scraping through exams here and there, but I just lived to play soccer and make money. My dream job would have been doing both together but my skinny teenage frame put paid to that. I had to settle for just the money.
When I left school, I went to work with a large insurance and investment company in Glasgow, and at times worked 18-hour days in order to climb the ladder as fast as I could. Books were the last thing on my mind.
I was still going to church – partly to please my parents, partly for social reasons – but I had no interest in Christianity or Christian books. I had heard probably over a thousand sermons but had really listened to only a handful. Even if I had listened, I wouldn’t have understood much of it. But most of the time, sermons were an opportunity to re-live my soccer goals and plot my next business venture.
When I was sovereignly converted in 1987, I felt conscience-bound to leave my well-paying job with lots of perks (including a company car). Thankfully, someone I knew at church was starting a business at the time and said he could offer me $40 for about 40 hours a week doing color printing and delivery work around Glasgow (yes that’s $1 an hour). I jumped at the chance mainly because I admired the Christian witness of this guy when we had played soccer together and I felt I could learn a lot from him. As it was, his business was so quiet at that time that we spent hours each day just talking Bible, memorizing Scripture, and discussing Reformed theology.
He had a substantial library, was a voracious reader, and was pretty stunned that I had read virtually nothing in my life. That’s when he decided that the first book I should read would be Redemption Accomplished and Applied.
Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. It’s not a big book, but it sure is dense with theology. I’m told it took Professor Murray about one hour to write each line – so precise and concise was his writing. It took me about an hour to read each line. But each line was a new discovery – partly of what the Bible taught, but mainly of what had happened to me.
Here was a book that explained the objective work of Christ in ways I had never heard nor understood before. But, most of all, it was a book that explained the subjective application of that salvation to my own soul. Up until then, I was like the half-blind man seeing trees as men walking (Mark 8:24), knowing that something sovereignly supernatural had happened to me but really clueless about what that was. Line upon line, this book explained everything so that I not only saw my Savior more clearly but I saw my salvation more clearly too. Amazing, amazing grace.
Over many weeks, I eventually finished it, probably the first book I had ever read from start to finish, and immediately went back to read it from the beginning again. It was strong meat for someone who was just a babe in Christ, but it was so nourishing and strengthening (even though I had to chew incredibly slowly, and choked upon it now and again).
Since then, I’ve heard Pastor Al Martin recommending it as a book that every Christian should read every year. I understand and second the exhortation, and wish I had done that more consistently. But it’s a book I do return to again and again, and each time Christ and His sovereign salvation shine ever more brightly. Each page, line, and letter breathes “Salvation is of the Lord.” That was my experience, and that, I trust, will be the message of my life every day of my life.
Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray.