As J.I. Packer closes chapter two of Knowing God, he is ready to share his first steps toward knowing God. He has already delineated four pieces of evidence that someone knows God.
- People who know God have great energy for God.
- People who know God have great thoughts of God.
- People who know God have great boldness for God.
- People who know God have great contentment for God.
Now what must we do to begin to know God? What must we do to begin to show some of this evidence?
I have always felt that I know some things, but I certainly don’t claim to know a lot. That has kept me hungry to learn new ideas and I have always liked that. Packer’s first step to knowing God is humbling because so many Christians feel like they know enough about God already—thank you very much. He says the first thing we must do is “recognize how much we lack knowledge of God.” He has some very demanding words in this regard. Christians just think they know about God because they have declared they are Christians. Christians think they know a lot about God because they have a lot of gifts [from The Lord]. Christians think they know about God because they have a lot of responsibilities in the church. To Packer these things matter very little.
To Packer, it is how we pray that counts; it is what is going on in our hearts. Here is what he writes to describe our knowledge: “Many of us, I suspect have no idea how impoverished we are at this level” [Packer, 32].
Ok, that seems harsh…
To know God, I think I have to admit I really don’t know Him at all, or at least I have to admit that my knowledge is very limited. Socrates supposedly wrote “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” That seems to be what Packer is proposing; if you want to learn more about the Savior, admit that you know little about The Savior. Maybe my prayer life is lacking; maybe my heart is not totally dedicated to God…
Before God became the incarnate Jesus Christ, He certainly manifested Himself on earth. God shows up in the Old Testament book of Daniel in the form of an Angel walking with Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The fourth man in the furnace was their Savior; it was God. When Daniel was in the lion’s den, who shut the lion’s mouths? It was God again as an Angel. Of course there are many more signs of God in the Old Testament but these two examples serve to illustrate God’s pre-incarnate manifestations.
Of course when Jesus was on earth He invited ordinary people to be with Him. What was the purpose? So they might know Him. My reading of the Gospels is that Jesus was a very all-inclusive person.
Now that we don’t have The Savior on earth, what are we left with? Some people today acknowledge Jesus Christ was a good man, a great teacher, or even a prophet of God. These things are definitely true of Jesus, but they do not fully define who He truly is. Calling Him good man, great teacher or prophet will not be enough for us to prove that we truly know God. We must believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, God in human form. We must believe that God came to earth to teach us, heal us, correct us, forgive us—and die for us. Jesus Christ is God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord.
That’s a lot to believe about a Man who came and now no longer walks the earth.
Some don’t have the faith to do this; thus they use the titles good man, great teacher or prophet of God. The just can’t make that “leap of faith.” Maybe they don’t see the need for a Savior. They are doing just fine on their own.
Surely Christians should recognize the need for a Savior to battle the sin nature that lives within us all. Otherwise how are we going to live life with that? We need to admit that we need help. We need belief in Jesus Christ. It is not about just going to church, performing rituals in worship and being careful not to commit certain sins. It is about giving ourselves to Jesus; we know we have to have forgiveness for sins we have committed, sins we are committing and sins we will commit in the future. That forgiveness is what Jesus offers to us. Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus as your personal Savior means placing your own personal faith and trust in Him. No one is saved by the faith of others. No one is forgiven by doing certain deeds. The only way to be saved is to personally accept Jesus as your Savior, trusting in His death as the payment for your sins and His resurrection as your guarantee of eternal life.
Traditionally this is what is expected of Christians.
What is Packer talking about in his book? “The Lord Jesus Christ is now absent from us in body, but spiritually it makes no difference; still we may find and know God through seeking and finding Jesus’ company…for the promise is that when we seek Him with all our heart, we shall surely find Him.”
“The promise is that when we seek Him with all our heart, we shall surely find Him—who can stand before the world and testify that they have known God.”
Maybe it all starts with admitting how much we don’t know…
Maybe it all starts with seeking Him with…
“all our heart?”
We will find out in upcoming discussions…