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Entries in J.I. Packer (15)


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.


Soaking in Nehemiah

I am studying Nehemiah and loving it. One thing about teaching a book of the Old Testament is that it forces us to look at the historical context more. These truths we learn become part of our memory, and the next time we read or teach a book of the Old Testament, we may remember the historial details a little better.

I taught on Sunday, looking at Nehemiah's prayer when he heard that the walls had been breached in Jerusalem, and then how he dealt with Artaxerxes when he wanted leave to go to Jerusalem. I think the kings of Persia were very fickle people. Artaxerxes was the one who stopped the building of the temple (Ezra 4:20) and he is the one who gives little resistance to Nehemiah leaving. Nebuchadnezzar was by turns hateful toward God, and then praising Daniel's Gods.  What was up with them? I also found it interesting that Nehemiah handles Artaxerxes in a similar manner that Esther does when she goes before Ahasuerus.

J.I. Packer, in his book, A Passion for Faithfulness, talks about Nehemiah's call to build the walls and what we can learn from it:

The fact we must face is that impenitent and unconsecrated Christians will be out of earshot when God calls them to service, just as they are out of line already, without being fully aware of it, in regard to the imperatives of daily Christian living.  Apathy and sluggishness with regard to ordinary obedience brings deafness when God calls to special service.  But Nehemiah, a consecrated and repentant servant of God, as his prayer in 1:5-11 shows, was sensitive to God's approach and ready to receive particular guidance. When the bad news floored him and set him prayng, he soon found himself suspecting what god's vocational call to him was. Faithful souls ecome quick on the uptake in these matters.

I was thinking that when we are spiritually apathetic, we tend to read our circumstances differently than when we are more consecreated and less apathetic. We may look at our circumstances not as an opportunity for service to God, but a nuisance, or a drudgery. It's all about our disposition toward God.

Next week at Out of the Ordinary, I will be discussing Nehemiah 1:1-2:8 in more detail.


God's Prerogative

From Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer

While we must always remember that it is our responsibility to proclaim salvation, we must never forget that it is God who saves.  It is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ.  Our evangelistic work is the instrument that he uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument:  it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument.  We must not at any stage forget that.  For if we forget that it is God's prerogative to give results when the gospel is preached, we shall start to think that it is our responsibility to secure them.  And if we forget that only God can give faith, we shall start to think that the making of converts depends, in the last analysis, not on God, but on us, and that the decisive factor is the way in which we evangelize.  And this line of thought, consistently followed through, will lead us far astray.

 Sometimes, I think we are much too concerned with the method and not the message, as is evidenced by the continued use of attracting teenagers in through things like all night video game parties and eating pizza until you barf.

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