Knowing God by J.I. Packer Response

I experienced Knowing God by J.I. Packer as a beneficial and helpful resource, but with one catch: I had to be acutely focused on its contents to be able to be able to tap in to it’s resources. The reason for this is that J.I. Packer’s style of writing in Knowing God isn’t particularly engaging (in my experience), and didn’t naturally draw me in except for a few really good parts. I would still call it a devotional book as it’s marketed as but I would describe it also as a textbook: a textbook of devotion or a devotional textbook or a devotional book that reads as a textbook. My point is that Knowing God indeed helped me to “know God” in a complete way, but it took some persevering effort. To help with this, I listened to an audiobook rendition of Knowing God while reading it to push me along.

Knowing God helped me to know Him more so in a few ways. First it gave me some extra knowledge about how God is described in the Bible and by people who have become very close to God. Second, it helped me in a similar way to how Scripture helps me. When I read it each day it served as a reminder to the ways of the Kingdom and as an encourager in my journey of following Christ.

Knowing God is a very rich book. J.I. Packer is extremely well versed in subjects such as church history, Christian theology, the various Christian denominations and traditions, the whole of Scripture and so on. He knows his stuff and it translates into a very complete book. I would very much like to read it again sometime! This richness is played out by the 22 aspects of God which it explores in detail, depth and variation. It includes reflections on “God Incarnate” to “The Love of God” to “The Jealous God” and even also to “The Adequacy of God” to name a few topics. It makes me very excited to see all of these aspects of God. Just reading them gives you a way to connect to God in a more meaningful way. The book is a great theological reference point. If you want to learn something about an aspect of God or just be enriched in your faith, Knowing God is a good means of doing that.

Because of the difficulty I experienced in reading it, some of the book went in both ears (because I listened to it) and left somewhere else. You could also say that some of the book went in both eyes and left somewhere else as well. This posed as a problem because I didn’t grasp the ideas as completely as J.I. Packer intended, but the sections that I did grasp, think and pray about were nevertheless helpful. Here are some excerpts that stuck out for me.

Living becomes an awesome business when you realize that you spend every moment of your life in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator.

I like this excerpt because it tells a very true truth about living for God. It’s very celebratory.

The following excerpt relates to how we often will determine how we've seen God in the day by our feelings (excitement, good feelings = experience of God, we refuse to acknowledge God in our suffering, depression and in times when everything seems kind of dull).

We need to ask ourselves why we 'feel' a particular course to be right, and make ourselves give reasons - and we shall be wise to lay the case before someone else whose judgement we trust, to give a verdict on our reasons. We need also to keep praying, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting' (Ps 139:23 f.),. We can never distrust ourselves too much.

So overall, I found it very valuable to read Knowing God and hope to read it again sometime. I think it is a great resource for anyone who would like to deepen their relationship with God as it has great depth and breadth. If you would like to read them, here are some more excerpts I found helpful!

Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. You tremble before the nations, because you are much weaker than they; but God is so much greater than the nations that they are as nothing to him. Behold your God!

"There is certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and am I am glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which in all conscience, is enough). There is however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend and has given his Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know, not merely that we know God but that he knows us."

Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humour, compassion, humility, or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under specially difficult positions. Perhaps he has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps he wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit. Perhaps his purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest when the cross is heaviest. Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling of.

We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, he is wise; we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here. (Job in heaven knows the full reason why he was afflicted, though he never knew it in his life.) Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to trust in his wisdom, even when he leaves us in the dark.

The attitude of Paul is a model for us. Whatever further purpose a Christian’s troubles may or may not have in equipping him for future service, they will always have at least that purpose which Paul’s thorn in the flesh had: they will have been sent to make and keep us humble, and to give us a new opportunity of showing forth the power of Christ in our mortal lives. And do we ever need to know any more about them than that? Is not this enough of itself to convince us of the wisdom of God in them? Once Paul saw that his trouble was sent to enable him to glorify Christ, he accepted it as wisely appointed, and rejoiced in it. God give us grace, in all our own troubles to do likewise.

Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father, heaven is my home, every day is one day nearer. My saviour is my brother, every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of - a happy life? - yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and of a God honouring life: and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter. May this secret become fully yours and fully mine.


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