On Bookstores

Time was, if you wanted a book you had to physically go to a place and buy it. You could browse shelves and shelves, or you would ask a clerk, and they would help you find one. Then, if you found one, you would pay, and immediately take it in hand and read it. Those places were called bookstores (catchy, right?).

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit. I mention bookstores because I want to tell you my bookstore story:

Even though there aren’t many left these days, I was in a bookstore this past weekend. While I’m fascinated by all the books, I have to say a mix of sadness and joy came over me. Lord, I thought, thank you that I am a Christian.

I am so glad God saved me. I’m so glad He revealed Himself to me, convicted me of my sins, and impressed upon me my desperate need of Himself. I thank God He led me to the truth, to Himself.

I can’t imagine being a lost person who is earnestly out to find Truth in this world who then goes to a bookstore to try to find it. What a depressing, hopeless endeavor.

For one thing, there are all the choices. Solomon famously wrote, “Of making many books there is no end…” (Ecc 12:12 ESV), and he wrote that 2,000 years before the printing press! Think how much has been written and published in just the last 600 years since then.

Point being, one could spend their whole life reading all kinds of ideas and philosophies, going broke on buying book after book, trying to find real light, and never find it. And there’s always another book. And what about all the books out there you’ll never get to? What if the one book, with real truth, was the one that you never got to? What misery!

For another thing, what about all those ideas and philosophies? We all learn pretty early in life that they don’t all agree. So, you read one book and that author tells you one thing, and you take it as Truth.

But then, further into your quest, you read another author, and he tells you the exact opposite! Both seem entirely plausible, but both are completely incompatible. What a dilemma? (And that assumes there are only two paths! What happens when ten authors disagree? Or twenty? Or a hundred? And now you must choose which to believe, or be left to discredit the lot and start over. How sad and exhausting!

And what if the meaning of life isn’t even found in your language? What if one spends their whole life reading books to find Truth, only to discover it was in some dusty book on some high shelf on the other side of the world, in a completely different language?

Mathematically and existentially, those are some of the dangers a truth-seeker in this world will face if they try to scale the world’s Everest of ideas. Apart from the mercy and grace of God, if they could read a hundred books a day, spending their entire lifetime looking for truth, and they’d still die without knowing if they ever found it.

How then can I be so sure that Christianity is the truth? Who am I to boast that my found truth is better than any found in that bookstore, or every bookstore that ever existed?

Because, by God’s grace, He showed me that Truth isn’t ultimately a Book, it’s a Person: Jesus Christ, God who became Man. The Bible is the true Book of truth, but it is so only because it tells us about Him. “I am the way, the truth, and the Life,” Jesus said. “No man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

At the end of his Gospel account, the Apostle John writes:

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John 21:25 ESV

I love bookstores, don’t get me wrong. And in some writings there is some truth, only the Bible is God’s inspired, infallible truth for mankind. Only in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is Jesus prophesied and portrayed. Only in them–in Him–is the Life and Truth this world searches for.

In AD156, a bishop in Smyrna named Polycarp was martyred. At his martyrdom he was offered one final chance to recant his faith in Christ and live. The aged and respected bishop replied, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?” I have only known Jesus for about 15 years, but I also can attest, “He has done me no wrong.” A Christian’s testimony doesn’t prove anything; even people who believe a lie can believe it so sincerely it changes their lives. But 2,000 years have passed and countless millions have been changed by Jesus. He is the most remarkable Person ever to live. He was, and is, in every way, unique. Surely, if you are a rational human being, all of this has to count for something worth serious consideration.

Baptist preacher Vance Havner summed it well, as he often did, “You will find what you need in Jesus. Not in that book which you hope will reveal some magic open sesame on the next page…He is Alpha and Omega–and all the letters in between–so you need not go outside His alphabet to complete the wording of your life.”

So, if you go to bookstores and wish you could go up to the Information Desk and ask, “Can you please point me to Truth, to Life, and where I can find eternal life?” Let me answer that for you. Even the most irreligious bookstores on the planet will almost certainly have a Bible. Find it. Ask for it. Buy it. You will never spend better money. Then get alone with it. Ask its Author to open your eyes as you read it. Then, to quote Mary as she told the servants at the wedding of Cana when she directed them to Jesus for more wine, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Do that and, I assure you, you will find the Truth and the Life you seek. It’s all there, and more, because it is all in Christ.

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