When you consider the title of J.I. Packer’s book, it sounds like a believer is trying to do all the knowing, but Packer* flips this around at the end of Chapter 3. God knows us. God knows me.
Why is that a big deal?
Packer says that there are three ways He knows us.
First, there is the matter of our heart, our personal desire to really know God on a practical level. What he means is the hunger a person has to dedicate himself or herself to Biblical study. Most people probably assume that the trained theologian has the advantage in God knowledge, or at least the pastor who has been to seminary. They must know it all. That is not what he is referring to; he is referring to the “simple Bible reader and sermon hearer who is full of the Holy Spirit.” That person is the one who can develop a true practical application of God’s truth to their life, and God knows it.
I am a Methodist. A perfect example of this is the “accidental” founder** of the Methodist Church, John Wesley. Wesley was truly intelligent. His father was an Anglican priest and he was trained to be one too. He knew all about God and what God’s people should be doing to further His Kingdom here on earth. But in his days of training for assuming his post and even his early life as a Priest, he knew he was missing something. He had theological knowledge but he did not have practical heart knowledge of God. For example, when traveling to America from England, his ship was in a horrible storm and he saw people of a different faith endure the storm with prayer, while he had great fear and very little resolve. He knew he had a dedication to his Lord and Savior but he did not give his heart to God. He did not experience that until later in life. He worked hard in his studies at Oxford and he worked hard to preach God’s Word, but knowledge and hard work are not enough. Packer says people like this “have the right notions in [their] head without tasting in [their] heart the realities to which they refer.”
God know us. He knows me. The level of heart I have for Him, the level of practical application I have for His truth.
Secondly, God knows our personal involvement. Packer uses the example of friendship to illustrate this idea. When people get to know each other, they share; they are open with each other. As friendship develops, attitudes are examined and an effort is made to determine what the two friends have in common. The more you open yourself up to your friend, the more you become emotionally involved with their concerns; you begin to feel for each other. You are concerned for each other. You are involved in the life of another.
Too often emotion is denigrated as a lesser way to experience God. Packer says this is rooted in the idea that an emotional believer is too self-absorbed to know God on a deep level. I am going to use a personal example to explain how emotional connection is not bad. I have been in love two times in my life. The first time was with my girlfriend Susan, who later became my wife. When I “fell” in love with her, I thought about her almost every waking moment of every day. I was fascinated with everything about her as I had experience after experience trying to get to know her more. The more I learned about her, the more I was happy to have a relationship with her. I thought she was special [she still is]. Packer speaking of this emotional attachment to God: “knowing God is an emotional relationship, as well as an intellectual and volitional one, and could not indeed be a deep relation between persons were it not so. The believer is, and must be, emotionally involved in the victories and vicissitudes of God’s cause in the world.” The stronger the friendship with God, the stronger the commitment to God’s Kingdom.
God know us. God knows me. He knows the second time I fell in love was with His son Jesus Christ.
Lastly there is this matter of grace. We seek to make friends with God but that is really not how it works. God makes friends with us, “bringing us to know Him by making His love known for us”. Grace is fundamental to our relationship with God, because He knows we are not capable of living a sinless life. I know it is almost like the Christmas song lyrics “you have to be good for goodness sake.” Why? Because Santa knows whether we have been good boys or good girls and if we have been bad…well you know the reward under the Christmas tree will be meagre. God knows all the times that we fall short of His Glory but He loves us anyhow. He sent His Son to earth to redeem us from our sinful lives. That’s how much He loves us. Packer writes “God has taken the initiative in loving, choosing, redeeming, calling and preserving.” He knows us through and through. We have an imperfect knowledge of Him, but He certainly does not have an imperfect knowledge of us. In Jeremiah, God says He knew us before we were formed in the womb. In John, Jesus says that He is the good Shepherd, laying down His life for His sheep, His sheep listen to Him, His sheep know Him.
Because we are sinners, we need His saving mercy; we need His grace.
God knows us. God knows me. He knows I have sinned, I am sinning and I will sin, but He loves me anyhow.
Packer says there is “unspeakable comfort” in God’s knowledge of our heart for Him, the practical application of his Word. He also says that our emotional attachment for God, our love and commitment to our Godly relationship is comforting as well as the grace He extends for our sin-filled lives.
Yes, Packer’s book is entitled Knowing God but God certainly knows us. He certainly knows me. What Packer writes about himself applies to me. “Based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”
This energizes me, knowing that God is constantly knowing me and loving me at the same time. It is not enough that we know God; it is extremely important for Him to know us.
He does know us.
He does know me.
And He is determined to bless us all…praise God!
*J.I. Packer, Knowing God
**No time to explain Wesley’s accidental founding of the Methodist Church.