This chapter was a wonderful reminder to me on how sweet the grace of God is! I appreciate how Packer devotes this entire chapter to how God reveals Himself to us. Throughout history, mankind has been looking for God and more often than not, we try to find Him in the wrong places. In the past, people looked for God in inanimate objects such as the sun, moon, or even rocks. In recent history, we look to ourselves as being the moral standard and judge so that all our decisions are based on fulfilling our own desires. Yet Packer points out that we know God only if He reveals Himself to us. In His abundant grace, God desires to draw His elect to Himself and into His kingdom; something that we can never achieve on our own in our sinfulness.
Another point that I found intriguing was how Packer insists on the personal side of knowing God. Being in a society which values logic over feelings, we are often more comfortable with accepting empirical evidence over experiences. Yet Packer emphasizes that knowing God requires for a personal relationship with God. Perhaps this is why when non-believers or even believers ask us who God is and how He relates to us, we often just blurt out something we remember from a sermon we heard years ago or recommend the inquirer to go read a book of somebody else’s testimony. I believe that if we all have a genuine personal walk with God, the universal church would be a much more powerful witness to the world of who God is. An interesting side note is how Packer puts Chapter 2 titled “The People Who Know Their God” before this chapter. Perhaps he is trying to point out that knowing God is not just a personal exercise but can only be fully experienced in community, namely the church. May we all learn to cultivate an intimate, personal relationship with God and develop deep roots in our spiritual community so that we can know Him better.
In this chapter I was able to reflect a bit on what justification means to us as believers. In many instances, we tend to feel that the Gospel is only useful to our justification; once we are saved, we leave the Gospel behind. Packer points out that to know God in a genuine and personal way, we must know Him through Christ. I believe that if we fail to constantly remind ourselves of our desperate need of Jesus (the central message of the Gospel), our Christian lives merely becomes works-based all over again. To this end, Packer notes that “if one has been given a good bump of common sense one may frequently be able to use this learning to help floundering Christians of less stable temperament to regain their footing and develop a sense of proportion about their troubles.” This sentence stuck to me as I thought over my own interactions with brothers and sisters in church. Am I trying to use my knowledge to offer them practical advice so that they can help themselves or am I urging them to follow Jesus no matter the circumstances? I think that it’s very tempting for us to return to our old ways of self-improvement and self-help based on our own wisdom instead of surrendering ourselves to God.
The second point that impacted me in this chapter is Packer’s reminder on the four characteristics and the importance of prayer. I must confess that my prayer life is much less than where it should be and the example of Daniel is a very helpful illustration. Perhaps the reason why we are so unfamiliar with God is because we do not dialogue with Him in prayer. E.M. Bounds remarked that: “Prayer is a trade to be learned. We must be apprentices and serve our time at it. Painstaking care, much thought, practice and labour are required to be a skillful tradesman in praying. Practice in this, as well as in all other trades, makes perfect.” May we all enter into a deeper knowledge of God through a revitalized praying life!