The books that have most influenced Alex Chediak:
Chosen for Life by Sam Storms
This book went out of print. However, it was pivotal it helping me understand the doctrine of divine election. I don't know of many books that exclusively treat unconditional election. It is a fairly short book. Sam carefully walks through thorny issues related to this doctrine and answers them clearly and patiently. I'll never forget his analogy of an armless man in a pool drowning. He is not able to grab a floatation device even if he wanted to. He must be completely rescued by another.
Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul
Sproul's background in philosophy helps him to clearly grasp paradoxical concepts, such as the compatibility of human choice and divine sovereignty. Sproul walks through his own struggle with the doctrine of predestination, then helps the reader wrestle with the Scriptures, explaining the relationship to being born again and exhibiting saving faith. He tackles the solidarity of mankind with Adam in the Fall, how predestination relates to foreknowledge, and the most troubling concept of "double" predestination. Most thankfully, this book is aimed at the layperson, so there is not a lot of discussion regarding pre- or postlapsarian convictions. There is also a chapter on how these matters relate to assurance of salvation.
Further reading: John Murray's Redemption, Applied and Accomplished, R.C. Sproul's The Holiness of God
The Way of Holiness by Kenneth Prior
I realize there are many more recent books, like those by C.J. Mahaney such as The Cross-Centered Life, that provide the layman with a pastoral, practical distillation of justification and sanctification. But this is a book that God brought in the year 2000 to help me in my walk. Kenneth Prior begins with the holiness of God as the basis for his explanation that God's people must be holy. Because of sin, God had to provide a way to redeem man. Prior explains how justification differs from sanctification, the former being legal and definitive, the latter being a progressive outworking of the status God has already granted. Prior helpfully discusses distortions of the biblical doctrine such as perfectionism. He does a good job discussing faith and effort-how we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling because God is working it in us. The means of sanctification include our Holy Spirit-empowered obedience; nevertheless, increasing holiness is the inevitable fruit of one who has been set apart by God.
For Further reading: Books by Jerry Bridges such as Transforming Grace, The Pursuit of Holiness, and The Discipline of Grace
A Price for a People: The Meaning of Christ's Death by Tom Wells
Among the more daunting questions for me is the one Wells asks: For whom did Christ die? Wells gives a compelling, biblical presentation of the doctrine of definite atonement. It is clearly laid out and very readable. Wells defines and explains concepts such as redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation. He helpfully shows the Old Testament roots of these concepts. Details are explained in footnotes and appendices. Wells also examines some of the hard texts, and winsomely responds. By comparison, the gem by John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, is more exhaustive (exegetically) and a lot more work to read. So if you want to read on definite atonement, and don't have the tenacity or time to tackle Owen, A Price for a People is the book for you.
Desiring God by John Piper
A theologically God-centered vision for life must be connected to man's incurable longing for happiness. Yes, man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Piper expounds this statement to show that we glorify God by finding our happiness in Him. We do this by regarding Him not just as our Savior and Lord, but also as our supreme treasure (Matt 13:44). Piper critiques the notion that to find joy in a good act is to ruin its goodness. Many Christians think of joy as the caboose on the train of faith followed by obedience. The caboose, they were taught, was superfluous. The problem is that God commands us to delight in Him. The pursuit of joy in God is to be pervasive, flavoring all of our obedience. The essence of sin is not human longing for happiness, but the longing for happiness apart from God being viewed as the one, chief, all-satisfying fountain (Jeremiah 2:13). How do you glorify a fountain? By drinking from it. This book is vintage Piper. Read it before reading another Piper book, because the roots of his theological emphases all go back to this magnificent treatise.
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
As the back cover says: Most people slip by in life without a passion for God, spending their lives on trivial diversions, living for comfort and pleasure, and perhaps trying to avoid sin. We were made to live in the hot pursuit of God's glory among the nations. We are called to offer our entire lives in worship to God. Being risk averse is ultimately suicide because we waste our lives. Far better to "attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God." We may be cut-off early in life (as happens to martyrs), but it will have been better to have lived briefly with full vigor for God than to have merely passed time and not impacted others for good. There is an outstanding chapter on what this means for (the majority of) us who work a non-ministerial job from 8-5. It affects the way we respond to disappointment in the workplace or economic hardship. We are called to demonstrate to others, even when all else fails, that our deepest happiness in God (Hab 3:17-18). This book is a tonic for those who want to see God's glory extended to the ends of the earth and to not spend their vaporous existence in the narcissistic self-absorption so prevalent in our day.
Future Grace by John Piper
How are we to engage the fight of faith? Is our obedience to God a repayment of all that He has done for us, or is it a moment-by-moment increasing indebtedness to a God who works for those who wait for Him? Future Grace is an outstanding book in relating the doctrine of sanctification to the practical Christian struggles with anxiety, pride, misplaced shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust. The book's format helpfully goes back and forth between 2-3 chapters on doctrinal/theological matters followed by a chapter on "applying the purifying power" of those chapters to a particular (often persistent) sin. Read this book and learn how gratitude relates to humble dependence upon God. God is glorified most when we come to Him and ask Him to be our strength for daily obedience. Sin gets its power by the pleasure it promises, but God triumphs in our life when we see Him as more satisfying than all that sin offers, such that we treasure God for the grace that is to come (i.e., future grace).
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
A clearly written, very readable systematic theology. I've heard of people struggling through Berkoff and other texts. Grudem explains concepts very well, and presents multiple positions on issues quite fairly. His chapters are long and thorough. (He later put out a book called Bible Doctrine, which was a more concise version of his Systematic Theology.) He starts with the Doctrine of the Word of God, which makes sense since Christianity is a body of revealed truth (God having spoken to us by His word and by His Son). In several instances he adds a pastoral flavor, which provides good practical balance for the weighty matters being discussed. For example, he concludes each chapter with a hymn on the topic of that chapter. If you are new to theology, this is a great book for you to get an overview.
Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards
Peter exhorts us to be diligent to make our calling and election sure (II Pet 1:10). Many Christians struggle with the issue of assurance, and particularly troublesome can be the interpretation of religiously oriented feelings. We live in an affective culture - one that often makes truth claims not on the basis of the examination of objective criteria, but on the reflection on subjectively experienced feelings. In this masterful treatise, Edwards distinguishes between (a) those things that are not indicators that our religiously-oriented feelings are truly the marks of regeneration; (b) distinguishing signs that our religiously-oriented feelings are truly the product of regeneration. Edwards begins with an exposition of I Peter 1:8, showing that true Christianity consists mainly in holy affections. One important note of "translation" of seventeenth-century English to modern English is in order. For Edwards: "The will, and the affections of the soul, are not two faculties; the affections are not essentially distinct from the will, nor do they differ from the mere actings of the will, and the inclination of the soul, but only in the liveliness and sensibleness of exercise."
Note: James M. Houston is the editor of a helpful modern rendering of Edwards' classic work, if you are not up for laboring over the original book.
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Lewis thought this was his best book. Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche. As reviewer Jesse Rouse notes: "Lewis takes 1 Corinthians 13:12, " For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known," and makes this his theme, masterfully weaving this theme into the story of Cupid and Psyche. Orual is the protagonist, the ugly sister of Psyche who is vilified in the traditional telling of the story. Lewis retells the story from her perspective, and through her questions about the justice of the gods are raised. In this book, Lewis rewrites in fiction what he wrote in the Problem of Pain, and in a much more eloquent mannor. Through Orual he asks the questions raised against Christianity and by Christians: why do bad things happen to me, where are the gods, why are the gods punishing me, etc."
The answer is that we do not have all the information and we do a grave injustice in judging God in these matters. (I need to reread it to speak further—it has been a long-time.)