Carl Trueman unearths nuggets of pure gold from Jim Packer.
Here’s a really helpful post for any of us who find our constant struggle with sin a discouragement in our lives and maybe even a reason to doubt the reality of our faith. When it comes to issues of sin, shame and guilt Ken Berding offers the following insight from a conversation with JI Packer.
‘Paul wasn’t struggling with sin because he was such a sinner. Paul was struggling because he was such a saint. Sin makes you numb.’
(HT: Trevin Wax)
Jim Packer on the secret of the Christian life; being sure of who you are.
The immediate message of adoption to our hearts is surely this: Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? my own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother too.
Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait in traffic, any time your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it all to be utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret (of a happy life? – yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say). This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, of a God-honouring life, and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter. May this secret become fully yours and fully mine.
God cannot be happy until you are with him in heaven – why we ignore the doctrine of election at our peril
Wherever we find the doctrine of election in the Bible we find worship. For men and women of the Scriptures election is a doctrine not for debate or disagreement, nor even awkward embarrassment but profound and heartfelt gratitude.
Because in it we find a great assurance and a certain hope that the God who has of his own freewill set his love upon us cannot be happy until we are with him.
God always gets what he wants and what he wants are his people to share his glory, every last one of them. Whilst our troubles may threaten to overwhelm us and whilst we find the future to be so uncertain and unsure we know that He cannot be happy until all those who know and love him are with him forever.
Jim Packer in Knowing God writes.
If a father continues cheerful and carefree while his son is getting into trouble, we wonder at once how much love there can be in their relationship, for we know that those who truly love are happy only when those whom they love are truly happy also. So it is with God in his love for us. God’s happiness is not complete till all his beloved ones are finally out of trouble – in William Cowper’s words,
Till all the ransomed church of God, Be saved to sin no more
God has set his love on particular sinners, and he will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again till he has brought every one of them to heaven. Thus God saves not only for his glory but also for his gladness. The thought passes understanding and almost beggars belief, but there is no doubt that, according to Scripture, such is the love of God.
The Lord you God is with you, He will rejoice over you with singing – Zephaniah 3:17
Let us learn to rejoice in the sovereign love of a God who chose us in Christ, before the world began, all for His glory.
Did they even sleep that night? How can we ever think ourselves into the situation of those first disciples on Easter Saturday. How can we begin to even imagine what it must have felt like to see every hope evaporate and every confidence in God shattered. Was their decision to leave everything to follow this man of God nothing but a huge mistake. Was their conviction that this man Jesus was God’s Messiah and that the Kingdom lay just around the corner nothing but a demonstration of their own collective god delusion.
Like a spiritual tsunami everything was swept away by the savage crucifixion of the very one they called ‘Lord and Master’. Easter Saturday was a day of utter bewilderment. It turns out that it was not only Jesus who felt abandoned by God.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a book written for Easter Saturday experiences. It speaks into those situations and circumstances in life that have the potential to rob us of every confidence that God is good and that he is ruling. The book is a book for those times when God’s providence is dark indeed and life makes no sense at all.
JI Packer in his book Knowing God writes;
What the preacher wants to show him [his younger disciple] is that the real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgement that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all.
Rarely does this world look as if a beneficent Providence were running it. Rarely does it appear that there is a rational power behind it at all. Often and often what is worthless survives, while what is valuable perishes. Be realistic says the preacher; face these facts; see life as it is. You will have no true wisdom till you do.
God is at work in the darkness. The promises of God assure us that he is working out his purposes. Peter would one day stand before the crowds in Jerusalem and with conviction declare;
This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
No more so than on Easter Saturday are we reminded that
the truth is that God in His wisdom, to make and keep us humble, and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which He is working out in the churches and in our own lives.
This is the way of wisdom. Clearly, it is just one facet of the life of faith. For what underlies and sustains it? Why the conviction that the inscrutable God of providence is the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption.
And Easter Sunday would prove how sure that conviction is.
No-one should set out to be controversial for the sake of it and its certainly a worrying sign when someone revels in the reputation of a controversialist. Nevertheless, in a world in which the gospel will always be under attack (often by those inside the church) at times it is necessary to be controversial. If the leader is to protect the flock then he must expose error in order to guard the gospel. Defending the truth must mean contending for truth.
The ideas contained in Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins are ideas that need to be opposed and opposed in the strongest terms. It matters. It matters because the gospel is at stake in what he writes. Is salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus or not? Bell has concluded that it is not, or at least not in faith in the way in which the Bible presents it. Ahead of publication a promotional video was released in which Bell raised a number of provocative questions that only buying the book would answer. Some Christians have been critical of those who they believe have condemned a man for just asking questions.
Now that advanced copies sent by the publisher are being read we can see that the initial concerns of many are proving well founded.
Tim Challies in his review,based on reading an advanced copy of the book, quotes a couple of quite extraordinary statements. As Bell looks at the subject of heaven and hell he states:
A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.
And in case we are in any doubt as to Bell’s conclusion. He comments:
People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.
Sometimes people use his name;
other times they don’t.
I’m not sure whether Bell is a full-blown universalist (all we finally be saved) but what I am sure of is that his message of a Jesus who saves people who don’t even know that he has saved them is poison to the church. As a result the book is one that for the sake of the name and honour and reputation of Jesus must be opposed.
But how do we have a good and godly argument?
He happened to live and minister at a time of great controversy in the Anglican church when truth was under attack from Enlightenment Rationalism and the Romish Ritualism that flowed out of the Oxford Movement.
As a result Dimock gave himself to writing extensively for over 30 years to countering error in the church. We can learn much not only about the need to refute error, as a sacred duty, but also the manner in which we ought to conduct ourselves.
Dimock wirtes in 1876 at the end of a work on the Eucharist.
It belongs to Christian controversy to set forth the truth, and the whole truth, but to set it forth in love. This conducted, controversy itself, though often a painful duty, is really a very sacred thing. And while earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, we may surely ask for God’s blessing on consecrated controvery. And asking, we surely expect that in His own good way God will graciously employ feeble efforts made in a sacred cause.
His manner was well recognised by those who knew him. After his death, Handley Moule (then Bishop of Durham) wrote in the foreward to the memorial edition of Dimock’s collected works:
In him the grace of God combined in perfect harmony a noble force and range of mental power, an unshakeable fidelity to conscience and Revelation, and a spirit beautiful with humility, peace, and love.
Even those who opposed him theologically could not help but comment on his gracious method. A critical review of one of his books still recognises;
The courtesy and calmness and Christian spirit which Mr. Dimock shows in this pamphlet certainly entitle all he has to say to consideration, and demand grateful recognition from those who cannot agree with his conclusions
The conclusion of the matter is this: How we disagree with someone as well as how we contend for the truth are both gospel issues.
The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy about how a godly minister will conduct himself:
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
As many of us will no doubt enter into debate with Rob Bell (or at least with those who support his views) Dimock asks us a question to which we all know the answer;
Does anyone really suppose that the cause of Him, who would have us love one another, can be forwarded by nourishing in our hearts the bitterness, wrath, and anger of our grievous odium Theologicum, or that the truth of the Gospel will be advanced by addressing unseemly language?
Wouldn’t life be simple if before Darwin came along all Christians interpreted Genesis 1-3 as literal history. The following quote from Origen, written around 231 AD, shows how far from the truth such a view of church history would be.
Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate, that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars— the first day even without a sky? And who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, i.e., a visible and palpable tree of wood, so that anyone eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil? No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it.
What Origen, one of the great church Fathers, makes apparent is that as long as there has been a church there have existed a whole variety of views on how to handle the early chapters of Genesis. All held with a passion by Bible-believing Christians.
Luther writes in the introduction to this Commentary on Genesis of chapter one:
There has not been anyone in the church who has explained everything in the chapter with adequate skill.
And so it is then that in our own day a growing number of Christians both eminent scientists and leading churchmen who are making a case for the compatibility of the early chapters of Genesis with the theory of evolution. I want today to draw attention to three leading Christian Biologists and three world-renowned Christian Pastors and theologians by way of a sample. At this stage I’m not seeking to comment on their views.
Leading evangelical scientists who have written in support of theistic evolution include:
Dr. Francis Collins – A physician and geneticist who was appointed Director of the National Institutes of Health (US) by President Obama. He is a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honour given by the president, for revolutionizing genetic research) and has also received the National Medal of Science. He is the author of The Language of God and founder of the Biologos Forum.
Dr. Dennis Alexander – The Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, where he is a Fellow. For many years he was Chairman of the Molecular Immunology Programme in Cambridge. Since 1992 he has been Editor of the journal Science & Christian Belief. He is the author of Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose?
Professor R.J. Berry – Professor of Genetics at Univeristy College London between 1974-2000 and winner of the Templeton UK Individual Award for progress in religion. He has written God and the Biologist: Faith at the Frontiers of Science.
We might not be surprised to find scientists who believe endorsing an evolutionary model of creation but what may be surprising to us are the growing number of high-profile, well respected pastors and theologians who are ready to recognize evolution as a model compatible with the Genesis account.
Tim Keller – Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York. In his New York Times Top 10 book The Reason for God he writes:
For the record I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory. (p.94)
For a fuller statement from Keller visit here.
John Stott – Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church, London. Time magazine, as recently as 2005, voted John Stott as one of the 100 most influencial people in the world.
Stott writes in his BST commentary on Romans:
The evidence of Genesis 2-4 is that Adam was a Neolithic farmer. The New Stone Age ran from about 10,000 to 6,000 BC.
When considering the human fossil record and skeleton record he concludes by suggesting that homo habilis and homo erectus were:
All pre-Adamic hominids, still homo sapiens and not yet homo divines, if we may so style Adam .
JI Packer – British born theologian and author. In 2005 Time magazine voted him one of the 25 most influencial evangelicals in North America.
The following is taken from Wikipedia entry on Packer and evolution:
In 2008 Packer wrote an endorsement for a book called ‘Creation or Evolution: Do We have to Choose?’ by Denis Alexander. The book advocates theistic evolution and is critical of Intelligent Design. Packer said of the book: ‘Surely the best informed, clearest and most judicious treatment of the question in its title that you can find anywhere today.’ This perhaps reveals Packer’s current position in the evolution/intelligent design debate.
However, he has also expressed caution as to whether the theory of evolution is actually true, ‘its only a hypothesis… its only a guess… so as science, in terms of philosophy of science… evolution is by no means proven and as a guess it is very strange and contrary to all analogies…‘ He also said, ‘the biblical narratives of creation… don’t obviously say anything that bears one way or another on the question of whether the evolutionary hypothesis might be true or not…‘
The most recent information on Packer’s position on evolution comes from his foreword to Reclaiming Genesis by Melvin Tinker. Reclaiming Genesis is a ‘pro-evolution’ book with the subtitle ‘The Theatre of God’s Glory – Or a Scientific Story?’ in it Packer writes “Melvin Tinker is fully on wavelength in this lively and enlivening series of expositions. His book is wise, popular, and powerful. I heartily commend it.”
The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us [is] not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of reconciliation, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man – that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.
Here are two mysteries for the price of one – the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. It is here, the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.
And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.
JI Packer – Knowing God
Wishing you a wonderful and worshipful Christmas!
The best is yet to come said John Wesley of heaven.
Here are 14 quotes from Packer, Paul, Edwards, Lewis and others to help think great thoughts of our future.
Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, “I don’t want this to ever end.” But it invariably does. The hearts of those in heaven say, “I want this to go on for ever.” And it will. There is no better news than this.
JI Packer (b. 1926)
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:20,21
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Apostle Paul, Colossians 3:2
The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Continue reading »
‘What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God. ‘Thus saith the LORD, Let no the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knowth me’ (Jer. 9:23f.).What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives Him most pleasure? Knowledge of Himself. ‘I desire…the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,’ says God (Hos.6:6).
In these few sentences we have said a great deal. Our point is one to which every Christian heart will warm, though the person whose religion is merely formal will not be moved by it. (And by this very fact his unregenerate state may be known.) What we have said provides at once a foundation, shape, and goal for our lives, plus a principle of priorities and a scale of values. Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.’
Jim Packer, Knowing God
- Church Planting
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