Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ has been a best-seller for nearly 600 years! (It was first copied in 1420!) Now it’s completely updated in today’s language and organized into 90 devotional readings.
This book changed my life. While I had a degree in theology, and had been writing Christian books and articles most of my professional life, à Kempis had a close, deep relationship with Jesus Christ that I didn’t. I knew Christ, but I didn’t know Christ. I have read through à Kempis’ book at least ten times now, and each time, I find myself knowing Christ in closer and deeper ways. So, I invite you to join millions of readers who, for nearly 600 years, have become more like Christ through this amazing book.
About the book
Because The Imitation of Christ has had a most profound effect on my spiritual life, I am pleased to offer this updated version arranged for devotional reading . I have carefully updated William Benham’s 1874 translation with modern and inclusive language that remains faithful to the original message. Catholic scholar, Michael Fraley, compared my modernization with the original Latin text and made valuable suggestions to assure accuracy. For clarity, I have added headings to indicate who is speaking, as well as a biblical passages which introduce and reinforce the theme of each chapter. Passages taken directly from Scripture have also been attributed.
What others are saying
“The Imitation of Christ is one of the great spiritual works of the Church. More than five hundred years later, it remains not just a classic, but a road map to the life the Lord wants each of us to live.”
Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan: Archbishop of New York
“This book makes me angry. Not only because I didn’t think of it, but also because I could never have done the thorough, sensitive, beautiful job James N. Watkins has done in updating Thomas à Kempis’s, The Imitation of Christ, into a modern classic of ninety riveting readings. I need this book. And so does everyone I know.”
Bob Hostetler, best-selling author of Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door
“This influential book is an incredible gift to this century. James Watkins has stayed true to the original text but in language that continues to speak from the soul of Thomas à Kempis to the soul of a twenty-first century seeker. A message for which our world has deep hunger. This is literally a soul-changing, ultimately world changing book; a must for every person serious about being a Christ-follower.”
Jo Anne Lyon: White House adviser on faith, general superintendent of The Wesleyan Church
“The Imitation of Christ devotional is truly a gift to the church. Watkins provides timeless, profound truths in everyday language, introducing modern Christians to the power of Thomas à Kempis’ words and life’s work. A deeply moving, wholly convicting, and truly life-altering book.”
Mary DeMuth: author of Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Changes Everything
“Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ is a timeless classic. Watkins has succeeded in providing a clear and accurate rendering of this great volume for a new generation of Catholic and Protestants alike, while avoiding modern idioms that would date the text. I’m looking forward to reading this many times.”
Rev. Randolph Sly: Priest, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
“Each morning I eagerly go to this modern version of The Imitation of Christ knowing it will convict and teach my spirit, giving me spiritual focus throughout the day. It is the best devotional I’ve found in many years.”
Lissa Halls Johnson, author and speaker
About Thomas à Kempis
The devotional classic, second only to the Bible in sales and influence, was written anonymously in Latin in the Netherlands. Thomas Haemmerlein (1380-1471), better known as Thomas à Kempis, is generally credited as the author/editor, but purposely avoided claiming its authorship. He wrote, “Do not let the writer’s authority or learning—be it little or great—influence you, but let the love of pure truth attract you to read. Do not ask, ‘Who said this?’ but pay attention to what is said” (Book 1 Chapter 5). In fact, much of the writing is borrowed from the Bible, the early Church fathers, and medieval monks.
He spent seventy-two years as a member of the Brothers of the Common Life at the Mount St. Agnes Monastery in Deventer, Holland, serving as a “canon regular.” Unlike a monk, who limited his ministry within the walls of a monastery, this title describes a religious cleric who lived in community, but served in local congregations. He spent his time writing biographies of members of his order as well as copying the Bible by hand at least four times. He also was in charge of instructing young members of his order. In that capacity, he wrote four devotional booklets, which later were combined into The Imitation of Christ.
ON THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.
These are the words of Christ: “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness” (John 8:12). They teach us how thoroughly we must imitate his life and character if we desire true understanding and freedom from our own deceptive hearts and minds. And so, may we earnestly study and meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s teachings surpass all of the great holy writers of the past. If we have his Spirit, we find spiritual nourishment. Unfortunately, there are many people who frequently hear the words of Christ but have little desire to follow them and so do not have the mind of Christ.
What does it profit us to engage in deep discussions about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit if we lack humility and are displeasing to God? Truly, deep and profound words do not make a person holy and upright, but a good life is what makes us dear to God. I would rather experience sorrow for my ungodly thoughts and actions than simply be skillful in defining “repentance.” If we know the whole Bible and the teachings of all the philosophers, what does all this benefit us without the love and grace of God? It is completely futile unless we love God and serve only him. This is the highest wisdom: to put earthly values behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.
It is futile to strive for earthly things and to trust in riches that will perish. It is futile to desire honors and lift up ourselves. It is futile to be ruled by the desires of our physical body, for this will only bring misery in the end. It is futile to desire a long life and to care little for a good life. It is futile to concentrate on the here and now and not look forward to the things which are eternal. It is futile to love temporary things and not strive toward eternal joy.
Always keep this saying in mind: “The eye is not satisfied with visible things. Neither is the ear content with hearing.” And so, let us strive to turn our hearts from the love of things that are visible and concentrate on the things that are invisible. If we are controlled by our own physi¬cal desires, we will corrupt our conscience and destroy the grace of God. Book 1 Chapter 1
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