As we wind down this study after a long journey through two introductions and twenty-two chapters, we come to the end of Packer’s argument, what he has been building toward since we took the first steps along our journey as travelers, leaving behind the balconeers. We have been a little like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, leaving the doubters behind and stepping out on our voyage of discovery, our goal of knowing God himself. In order to reach that goal we have had to deal with numerous obstacles along the way, but none more significant than our own need of fundamental transformation, without which our efforts will digress into an academic exercise, having the form of true religion and godliness while lacking its inherent power.
Hebrews 10:31 warns us that “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” Our journey was never a walk in park, an idle adventure with no consequences. I said at the beginning that everyone who has completed this study with me has been changed by the end. It is unavoidable. There are too many decision points along the way, too many demands on our comfortable assumptions, and too many challenges to our half thought through understandings to allow us to be unaffected.
We now reach the final nexus point of our journey. Toward the end of this chapter Dr. Packer makes the following difficult assertion:
Now, if you are a Christian, you know that you, too, are being claimed in the same way [as Israel was in the greatest commandment Matthew 22:37-38]…The claim rests both on the right of creation and redemption, and it cannot be evaded. You know what kind of life it is that Christ call you, as his disciple, to live…You can be called to go through this life as a pilgrim, a mere temporary resident, traveling light, and willing, as Christ directs, to do what the rich young ruler refused to do: give up material wealth and the security it provides and live in a way that involves you in poverty and loss of possession. Having your treasure in heaven, you are not to budget for treasure on earth, nor for a high standard of livingyou may well be required to forgo both. You are called to follow Christ, carrying your cross.
Tough words, words that demand being in the world but not of the world; words that demand us not to be like the rest of humanity, but instead like Christ. The possessions, accomplishments, and glory of this world are not important and if we are not careful they can be a dangerous trap. As Paul said to the Philippians:
But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him… Philippians 3:7-9a
Paul goes on in Philippians to talk about his ability to meet every circumstance, whether high or low, in the power of Christ who sustains him. That is because his current state in this world is not the end all and be all of who he is; Christ is. Packer amplifies this thought using Paul’s statement in Romans, “he will give us all things.”
Paul is telling us there is no ultimate loss or irreparable impoverishment to be feared; if God denies us something, it is only in order to make room for one or other of the things he has in mind. Are we, perhaps, still assuming that a person’s life consists, partly at any rate, in the things he possesses?…The meaning of “he will give us all things” can be put thus: one day we shall see that nothingliterally nothingwhich could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothingliterally nothingthat could have reduced that happiness has been left to us. What higher assurance do we want than that?
That is our nexus point. After all of this study, after this long journey of discovery and challenge, we come to the final question: what do we want? Do we want what God in Christ wants for us? Is that good enough for us? Are we willing to say what Job said?
I am unworthyhow can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. Job 40:4
That requires total submission, bending the knee of our heart in total allegiance to God. It is interesting how in the end it comes back to the beginning and that all decisions boil down to one decision: will you submit to God, will you keep the first commandment as Jesus said?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37
I want to close this study mirroring the words that Joshua spoke on the bank of the Jordan river, at the end of one journey and the beginning of the next. We are ending this journey through the book Knowing God and everyone who has reached this point is beginning their next journey as a continuing traveler on the path of discipleship. I have only one request: choose today whom you will serve. As for me and my family, we will serve the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Grace and peace be with now and forever more.