J. I. Packer

Created to Know God

What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. “This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me” (Jeremiah 9:23). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives him most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. “I desire … the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” says God (Hosea 6:6).… Once you have become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.

– J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 29.

The Spirit of Christmas

For the Son of God to empty himself and become poor meant a laying aside of glory; a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice, and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony – spiritual, even more than physical – that is his mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely men, who “through his poverty, might become rich.” This Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity – hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory – because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.

We talk glibly of the “Christmas spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians – I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians – go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that the Lord might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians – alas, they are many – whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice-middle class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christian spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others – and not just their own friends – in whatever way there seems need….”You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).”

– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pp. 70-71. (HT:MN)

Puritan Self-examination

Believing that the fallen human heart is desperately prone to optimistic self-deception, Westminster Puritans stressed the need for constant self-suspicion and self-examination. There was nothing of morbid introspection about this; on the contrary, it was experienced as a bracing and reassuring exercise, as the regenerate discerned within themselves the signs of life from the Holy Spirit.

– J.I. Packer (HT:DM)

QOTD – Packer Defines Evangelism

How, then, should evangelism be defined? The New Testament answer is very simple. According to the New Testament, evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel. It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy to sinners. Anyone who faithfully delivers that message, under whatever circumstances, in a large meeting, in a small meeting, from a pulpit, or in a private conversation, is evangelizing. Since the divine message finds its climax in a plea from the Creator to a rebel world to turn and put faith in Christ, the delivering of it involves the summoning of one’s hearers to conversion. If you are not, in this sense, seeking to bring about converstions, you are not evangelizing; this we have seen already. But the way to tell whether in fact you are evangelizing is not to ask whether conversions are known to have resulted from your witnes. It is to ask whether you are faithfully making known the gospel message.

Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: IVP, 1961), p. 41.

Prayer is the Revealer of the Heart

From When I Don’t Desire God (p. 139):

The central definition of prayer in the Westminster Catechism is “an offering up of our desires unto God.” Therefore prayer is the revealer of the heart. What a person prays for shows the spiritual condition of his heart. If we do not pray for spiritual things (like the glory of Christ, and the hallowing of God’s name, and the salvation of sinners, and the holiness of our hearts, and the advance of the gospel, and contrition for sin, and the fullness of the Spirit, and the coming of the kingdom, and the joy of knowing Christ), then probably it is becasue we do not desire these things. Which is a devastating indictment of our hearts.

This is why J. I. Packer said, “I believe that prayer is the measure of the man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we can ever face.”

What are your prayers about?