J.I. Packer on knowing God

Between Two Worlds quoted J.I. Packer on our preoccupation with the not-so-important things:

We have been brought to the point where we both can and must get our life’s priorities straight. From current Christian publications you might think that the most vital issue for any real or would-be Christian in the world today is church union, or social witness, or dialogue with other Christians and other faiths, or refuting this or that -ism, or developing a Christian philosophy and culture, or what have you. But our line of study makes the present day concentration on these things look like a gigantic conspiracy of misdirection. Of course, it is not that; the issues themselves are real and must be dealt with in their place. But it is tragic that, in paying attention to them, so many in our day seem to have been distracted from what was, and is, and always will be, the true priority for every human being. That is, learning to know God in Christ.

– From the last page of J.I. Packer’s 1973 classic, Knowing God

…whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God. Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God. Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour. We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters. Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us. But how different were the Puritans! The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God.

– Packer, A Quest for Godliness, p. 215 (chapter 12).

This reminds me of a sister’s sharing of God’s work in her for these one-and-a-half years, where she realised that some things she were seeking were just peripherals, but what really matters is the matter of the heart. God should occupy our heart. What matters is knowing God and having communion with Him.

And as I think about the conversations in my fellowships with siblings, there were times that I would rather talk about the church culture, methods and strategies in sharing the gospel, etc, than to share about our encounter with God. I suppose it’s because I was afraid to show, or even to realise myself, really how shallow I am in my communion with God. Seriously, I’m not that much of a thinker. I quote people (and that’s what I often do on this blog), and share what others are talking about. But by the grace of God, He does use what I read to provoke me in my thoughts, so that they can be more Godward. Thank you, Abba. Indeed, every thought and act that leads me to you comes from the prompting of your Holy Spirit. You are exceedingly gracious to me.

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