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Entries in J.I. Packer (17)


Our Perplexing Trials

From Knowing God, by J.I. Packer:

We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly. 

Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions. 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 the heaviest. 


Utterly realistic

From J.I. Packer, Knowing God:

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. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know 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 energizes, 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, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.


Rediscover holiness

As praise to God for his transcendent greatness is the doxological basis of holiness, so commitment to spend one's life expressing gratitude for God's grace, every way one can, is its devotional basis. As the Puritans used to say, the heart of holiness is holiness in the heart. The holy sacrifice that gives God pleasure is the Christian whose heart never ceases to be grateful to him for his grace. God is pleased with the Christian whose aim every day is to express that gratitude by living to him, through him, and for him, and who is constantly asking, with the psalmist, "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?" (Psalm 116:12).

I read this on the weekend from the The J.I. Packer Classic Collection. It's quoted from his book Rediscovering Holiness. It has been on my mind a lot since I read it.

How concerned are we with personal holiness? Are we more concerned with our favourite issues than holiness? How concerned are with with the day to day thoughts and actions that make up the majority of our lives? How is our holiiness reflected in our conduct? How often do we think about verses like Romans 12:1-2, and think about how we can offer our lives as a living sacrifice?

Are we more concerned with being right? Being noticed? Getting attention? Having the last word? How often do we claim our desire for importance and attention is "ministry?" How often are we willing to be unnoticed and ignored?

Sad to say, many who consciously want to pursue holiness are often labelled legalists. The fact of the matter is that living a holy life does require making conscious decisions to put ourselves in places where holiness happens. I will have a lot of trouble with holiness if all I care about is how much attention I'm getting, or how often I'm right. I may a little dense, but somehow, I think holiness has a lot to do with making myself of no account.

I suppose this isn't a very Christmasy thought. But isn't that exactly what Christ did by being born in human flesh? Make himself of no account? Isn't that what we celebrate in December? 


Words worth repeating

Daily; hourly, if necessary:

The source of strength is the knowledge of God, recalled, reviewed, refocused, thought through, and applied to the matters in hand.

J.I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom From the Book of Nehemiah.


From a long line of workaholics

My father is a hard worker, He was brought up by a hard worker, who produced children who are hard workers. I think they all tend toward workaholism. My father passed on his work ethic to his children. I think God keeps me from being employed because I could end up as a workaholic.

In his book A Passion for Faithfulness, J.I. Packer quotes a pastor, John White, with regard to the principle of work. He's giving this insight in relation to Nemehiah's work in rebuilding the temple walls.  The word "work" is frequently used in Nehemiah.

White says:

Sometimes we work too much not because the work is essential, but because we are driven by fear - rather than sustained by faith. Workaholics are driven. Work for them is not an expression of faith but a search for peace ... workaholics try to keep their consciences clean by working. Consequently, they work too much and become slaves to their own neuroticism. Workaholics cannot easily rest; they begin to look haunted when resting ...

The Scriptures do not encourage this sort of drivenness. "In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for he grants sleep to those he loves" (Ps. 127:2). Nehemiah ... was deeply aware that labor is fultile if it is not with the Lord. Nehemiah worked hard when hard work was needed because he knew God's hand was on him (2:8, 18), not because he suffered a neurotic need to achieve.

I love my father and he worked hard to provide for us, but there was quite simply an element of ambition behind what he did. He's not alone. Ambition is not a bad thing. As with any good thing, it can be taken to an extreme. I know people who work strictly to feed their ambitions, and I know people who work because it is good and because it's a vocation from God. There is a difference, I think.