Welcome to our ongoing study of J. I. Packer’s book Knowing God. You can find all of the previous lessons using the Knowing God category link. Study materials for the book are also available at william.meisheid.com.
I have been tardy with the Chapter 3 lesson and I apologize, but sometimes things happen and we fall back on grace. Thank you for your patience. Before we move on, however, I would like to share with you some recent insights. You will remember that in the last lesson, Chapter 2: People Who Know Their God, we examined what separates people who know their God from people who do not. We focused on the people, on those who know, those who claimed to know, and those who knew nothing about their God.
It was also an opportunity to examine ourselves and honestly assess where we are in our journey in coming to know our God. That self-assessment is absolutely necessary if we are to plot a course toward a closer understanding of and relationship with our God, since without knowing your starting point there is no possibility of laying out a heading to take you where you want to go. Now let me be fair and say this does not mean you have to disect your Christian life down to its miniscule elements, since we are talking about a big picture assessment. But it does require an honest admission that you don’t know as much about God and are not as close to God as you sometimes like to tell yourself or let others believe.
It is important to understand that the journey itself will ask enough hard questions and expose enough failure that any current assessment will be incomplete anyway. In my experience of leading over six study groups through this book over past twenty-five years, I have seen the various chapters of this book strike right to the heart of so many people, forcing them to ask questions of themselves that lay bare the hidden and expose the unexpected. Why does this happen? I think it is because that at its core this book is not really about theology, even though it covers, albeit with broad strokes, the basics of the theology of the Christian Godhead. No, this book is really about the heart, your heart and God’s heart and how the two meet and interact. I think that is why this book endures and touches so many lives while other, more detailed studies of the theology and nature of God fall by the wayside. I believe that Packer has found a unique balance between just enough theology to engage your understanding and the necessary probing of the heart to lay bare your soul. I will go back to the response of a gentleman in the current study group I am meeting with on Saturday mornings. He has been a Christian for over twenty-five years. I asked him if he wished that he had studied this book fifteen or twenty years ago. His reply was instructive. He said, “I don’t think I would have been able to handle the demands the book is making on me before now.”
We are all different, our individual paths proceed at the best pace for each of us and God, who is the author, sustainer, and finisher of our faith treats each of us uniquely. So, I want to encourage you, since you have come this far, to believe that God has decided that you are ready to engage your heart with his heart at this level of honesty. Remember, I have studied the book over six times, and with each encounter God digs ever deeper, exposing more of the hidden me. I have confronted things this time through the book that went right past me before. Therefore, while this book will challenge you at a fundamental level, you can rest assured that God’s grace is sufficient to meet the task and that he where never take you where his love and grace cannot and will not sustain you.
With that in mind, I would like to thank you for joining us on this journey and for your patience with me as I try to express my thoughts as we move along. If you have any questions or insights that you would like to share, please do not hesitate to send me an email, post a comment, or write me longhand. I say again, please either contact me or join in the discussion.
Knowing God Study
502 Oella Avenue
Ellicott City, MD 21043
God has arranged our lives so that we all learn from each other and the fundamental scripture I use to remind myself of that fact is Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. ” Ladies, that includes you, especially you Rebecca. I know all of you have important insights to add.
I want to close with a prayer for all those who are either on this journey or considering taking it with us. You can start at any time.
Dear Lord God, our Father, Brother, and Spiritual Mentor. Give us the grace and perseverance we need to both begin and continue this journey with you: the author, sustainer, and finisher of the good work you have begun in us. Be mindful of our frailties, patient with our weaknesses, and a balm to the wounds your loving discipline inflicts on our growing souls. Transform us by the renewing of our minds, so that in seeing more of you we would become more of ourselves, the true selves you have destined us to be. Show us, O Lord, how to offer ourselves as the living sacrifices that define our true spiritual worship, so that we will be holy and pleasing in your sight. We ask all of this in the sure knowledge that the sacrifice of your Son upon the cross gives us access to the throne of your grace. Amen.
Since I have my own personal invitation to comment….
at its core this book is not really about theology, even though it covers, albeit with broad strokes, the basics of the theology of the Christian Godhead. No, this book is really about the heart, your heart and Gods heart and how the two meet and interact. I think that is why this book endures and touches so many lives while other, more detailed studies of the theology and nature of God fall by the wayside. I believe that Packer has found a unique balance between just enough theology to engage your understanding and the necessary probing of the heart to lay bare your soul.
And I think that at it’s core this book is all about theology, or all about what theology really is, which is knowing God. Really knowing God necessarily makes demands on us, on our hearts, and calls us to interaction with the one we have begun to know. Real theology always does that.
And why have I been leaving that last “a” off my name lately?