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“And just as there are no bounds to His presence with me, so there are no limits to His knowledge of me. Just as I am never left alone, so I never go unnoticed. ‘O LORD, thou hast search me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising (all my actions and movements), thou understandest my thought (all that goes on in my mind) afar off…and art acquainted with all my ways (all my habits, plans, aims, desires, as well as my life to date). For there is not a word in my tongue (spoken, or meditated), but lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether’ (verse 1 ff.) [Psalm 139:1-4]. I can hide my heart, and my past, and my future plans, from men, but I cannot hide anything from God. I can talk in a way that deceives my fellow-creatures as to what I really am, but nothing I say or do can deceive God. He sees through all my reserve and pretence; He knows me as I really am, better indeed than I know myself. A God whose presence and scrutiny I could evade would be a small and trivial deity. But the true God is great and terrible, just because He is always with me and His eye is always upon me. Living becomes an awesome business when you realise that you spend every moment of your life in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator.”
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.76
“He continues to act towards sinful men in the way that He does in the Bible story. Still He shows His freedom and lordship by discriminating between sinners, causing some to hear the gospel while others do not hear it, and moving some of those who hear it to repentance while leaving others in their unbelief; thus teaching His saints he owes mercy to none, and that it is entirely of His grace, not at all through their own effort, that themselves have found life. Still He blesses those on whom He sets His love in a way that humble them, so that all the glory may be His alone. Still He hates the sins of His people, and uses all kinds of inward and outward pains and griefs to wean the hearts from compromise and disobedience. Still He seeks the fellowship of His people, and sends them both sorrows and joys in order to detach their love from other things and attach it to Himself. Still He teaches the believer to value His promise gifts by making him wait for them, and compelling him to pray persistently for them, before He bestows them. So we read of Him dealing with His people in the Scripture record, and so He deals with them still. His aims and principles of action remain consistent; He does not at any time act out of character. Man’s ways, we know, are pathetically inconsistent–but not God’s.
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.70-71
“It is an extraordinary thing that those who profess to care so much about Christ should know and care so little about the Holy Spirit. Christians are aware of the difference it would make if, after all, it transpired that there had never been an incarnation or an atonement. They know that then they would be lost, for they would have no Saviour. But many Christians have really no idea what difference it would make if there were no Holy Spirit in the world. Whether in that case they, or the Church, would suffer in any way they just do not know. Surely something is amiss here. How can we justify neglecting the ministry of Christ’s appointed agent in this way? Is it not a hollow fraud to say that we honour Christ when we ignore, and by ignoring dishonour, the one whom Christ has sent to us as His deputy, to take His place, and care for us on His behalf? Ought we not to concern ourselves more about the Holy Spirit than we do?
“But is the work of the Holy Spirit really important?
“Important! Why, were not for the work of the Holy Spirit there would be no gospel, no faith, no Church, no Christianity in the world at all.”
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.60-61
“The crucial significance of the cradle at Bethlehem lies in its place in the sequence of steps down that led the Son of God to the cross of Calvary, and we do not understand till we see it in this context. The key text in the New Testament for interpreting the incarnation is not, therefore, the bare statement in John 1:14, ‘the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us’, but rather the more comprehensive statement of 2 Corinthians 8:9, ‘ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich’. Here is stated, the fact of the incarnation only, but also its meaning; the taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way which shows us how we should set it before ourselves and ever view it–not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.”
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.51
“The heart of the objection to pictures and images is that they inevitability conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent.
To illustrate: Aaron made a golden calf (that is, a bull-image). It was meant as a visible symbol of Jehovah, the mighty God who had brought Israel out of Egypt. No doubt the images was thought to honor Him, as being a fitting symbol of His great strength. But it is not hard to see that such a symbol in fact insults Him: for what idea of His moral character, His righteousness, goodness, and patience, could one gather from looking at a statue of Him as a bull? Thus Aaron’s image hid Jehovah’s glory. In a similar way, the pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, for it hides the fact of His deity, His victory on the cross, and His present kingdom. It displays His human weakness, but it conceals His divine strength; it depicts the reality of His pain, but keeps out of our sight the reality of His joy and His power. In both these cases, the symbol is unworthy most of all because of what it fails to display. And so are all other visible representations of Deity.”
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.40-41
“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it–the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.
This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort–the sort of comfort that energises, be it said, not enervates–in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and am I 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 realise this purpose.”
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.37
“Those who know God…
1. have great energy for God.
“Men who know their God are before anything else men who pray, and the first point where their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression is in their prayers.” (p.24)
2. have great thoughts of God.
“He knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man; His kingdom and righteousness will triumph in the end, for neither men nor angels shall be able to thwart Him…Is this the view of God which our own praying expresses? Does this tremendous sense of His holy majesty, His moral perfection, and His gracious faithfulness keep us humble and dependent, awed and obedient, as it did Daniel? (p. 25)
3. have great boldness for God.
“Daniel and his friends were men who struck their necks out. This was not foolhardiness. They knew what they were doing. They had counted the cost. They had measured the risk. There were well aware what the outcome of their actions would be unless God miraculously intervened, as he in fact did.” (p. 25-26)
4. have great contentment in God.
“There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favour to them in life, through death, and on for ever.” (p. 26)
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 23-27
“A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him…I am sure that many of us have never really grasped this. We find ourselves a deep interest in theology (which is, our course, a most fascinating subject–the seventeenth century it was every gentleman’s hobby). We read books of theological exposition and apologetics. We dip into Christian history, and study the Christian creed. We learn to find our way around in the Scriptures. Others appreciate our interest in these things, and we find ourselves asked to give our opinion in public on this or that Christian question, to lead study groups, to give papers, to write articles, and generally to accept responsibility, informal if not formal, for acting as teachers and arbiters of orthodoxy in our own Christian circle. Our friends tell us how much they value our contribution, and this spurs us to further explorations of God’s truth, so that we may be equal to the demands made upon us. All very fine–yet interest in theology, and knowledge about God, and the capacity to think clearly and talk well on Christian themes, is not at all the same thing as knowing Him.”
– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.21-22
Knowing about God versus Knowing God
“…if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject-matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and our grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate, and dismiss them as very poor specimens” (Knowing God, p. 17).
If you know me, you know that I love to read Christian books on doctrine and theology. After reading this chapter, I was convicted that I typically read Christian literature with the wrong motivation. Many times I read books to satisfy a desire to gain intellectual knowledge rather than as a means to know my Savior, Jesus Christ. This is evident because occasionally I’ll read a book and not really like it because I think, “That’s nothing really new. I already knew most of that.” This is revealing of my pride and arrogance. As Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit, “…knowledge puffs up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). I believe that I even do the same with Scripture at times. I can be tempted to search and study the Bible in order that I can win a theological debate (which doesn’t happen often) or to get some ideas on how to counsel a friend. Now of course the Bible reveals truths about God that we should contend for and it is useful for correction or encouragement (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but God’s Word is primarily a means of knowing the personal God it reveals. It is more than an instructional handbook for life or a theological dictionary; it is the way to commune with the Sovereign Creator of the universe. This truth was a helpful reminder in setting the stage to begin reading this book (and any Christian book for that matter).
“Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself the better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply the doctrine of God’s attributes, but the living God whose attributes they are. As He is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so He must Himself be the end of it.” (Knowing God, p. 18).
Towards the end of the chapter, Mr. Packer had some insightful thoughts on the practice of meditation. Some of it reminded me of C.J. Mahaney‘s message on Psalm 42, The Troubled Soul: God’s Word and Our Feelings, preached at this year’s New Attitude. Meditation is a discipline I am trying to grow in as I hide God’s Word in my heart and memorize Scripture. Anyway, here’s the quote:
“We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation? Well may we ask; for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. It’s purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us–‘comfort’ us, the old, strong, Bible sense of the word–as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Knowing God, p. 18-19).