Knowing God in 2008: The People Who Know Their God


We’re going through J.I. Packer’s modern classic Knowing God, and have just finished the second chapter. We will try to cover one chapter per week, and you are invited to join in the reading or simply “overhear” the discussions here and at the New Covenant blog.

In the second chapter of Knowing God, Packer once again stresses the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Knowing God is not just knowing the facts, but radically applying such knowledge to our lives. Those who know God “count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus…and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him” (Philippians 3:7). Counting things as loss or dung, Packer says, means that one “does not live with them constantly in his mind: what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do. It shows how little we have in the way of true knowledge of God.”

That statement reminded me of the sexual purity conference at church several months ago at which the speaker likened wallowing in sin to going back to a dead skunk. How much more should we yearn to have joyous thoughts of God than thoughts turned to a dead skunk? This knowledge of God and not merely about God is evident in the book of Daniel and summarized by Packer in four points. As I read through each of these four, I realized how much I fall short of truly knowing God though I know about God.

1. Those who know God have great energy for God: They react to the anti-God culture around them. This reaction is not only through public actions, but it starts with fervent prayer. “Men who know their God are before anything else men who pray, and the first point where their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression is in their prayers…If, however, there is in us little energy for such prayer, and little consequent practice of it, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God.”

2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God: The central truth proclaimed by Daniel is that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.” Packer asks if this is how we think of God. Do our prayers reflect this perspective? “Does this tremendous sense of His holy majesty, His moral perfection, and His gracious faithfulness keep us humble and dependent, awed and obedient, as it did Daniel?”

3. Those who know God show great boldness for God: “They may find the determination of the right course to take agonisingly difficult, but once they are clear on it, they embrace it boldly without hesitation. It does not worry them that others of God’s people see the matter differently, and do not stand with them.”

4. Those who know God have great contentment in God: This is reflected throughout the book of Daniel, as well as in Paul’s epistles: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ” (Romans 8:38-39).

So if we desire such knowledge of God, two things must follow: we must recognize how much knowledge we lack of God, and we must seek Christ. The next chapter focuses on “Knowing and Being Known.”

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