Thursday, February 28, 2019

Book Review: Knowing Christianity

Knowing Christianity. J.I. Packer. 1995. 191 pages. [Source: Bought] 

First sentence: Knowing God. Is there any greater theme to study? Is there any nobler goal to aim at? Is there any greater good to enjoy? Is there any deeper longer in the human heart than the desire to know God? Surely not. And Christianity's good news is that it can happen!

J.I. Packer is the author of Knowing God. If you haven't read Knowing God yet, then you should. That book is absolutely a must read. It focuses on the attributes of God.

Knowing Christianity has a different focus or slant. While in some ways it's still about knowing God, it's main focus is on answering a few basic questions: what is christianity? what do christians believe? which doctrines are key to the christian faith? how should christians live? In other words...Christianity has CONTENT. (It isn't a label that you can just slap on a person or slap on yourself.) That content should be learned/taught. It should be known. Doctrines should be informing how we live.

So essentially it spends a few chapters on HOW we know what we know and why we should live accordingly. OR to put it in its simplest terms: Christians should be people of THE BOOK. The Bible is true and authoritative. It is the Word of God for the people of God. Culture. Society. Polls. Traditions. Or own selfishness and self-centeredness. Or own love of pet sins. Or fears. NOTHING should have more authority than the Word of God in our lives. The Bible is trustworthy and true and Christians should hold it close and dear--live by it, be empowered by it, transformed by it. You cannot know God apart from knowing the Word of God. You just can't. You can't claim to want to know God and dismiss the Bible. You can't claim to want to live "in" God's will and never open the Word of God. You can't claim to be in right relationship with God but pick and choose which verses are true.

The book is also about God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, the cross, regeneration, prayer, worship, church fellowship, heaven, hell, etc.

  • Faith is the outgoing of our heart to God and Christ, who are there inviting us to themselves, saying to us, "Come and put your trust for eternal life in the Father and the Son." Faith focuses not on feelings but on facts, not on reactions inside us but on realities outside us, on the words and works of God who is there, searching us, knowing us, and personally addressing us, whether we like it or not. (15)
  • Knowing God is in fact more than knowing God. It involves knowing ourselves as needy creatures and lost sinners, for it is precisely a matter of knowing God in his saving relationship to us, that relationship in which he takes pity on us in our sinfulness and lovingly gives himself and his gifts to us for our renewal and enrichment. In other words, knowledge of God occurs only where there is knowledge of ourselves and our need and thankful reception of God's gifts to meet our need. (16)
  • God made the human race in order that he might communicate himself to us and draw us into loving fellowship with himself. This was always his purpose. But we have turned away from God; sin has come in; human nature has become twisted. The human race is now radically anti-God in all its basic attitudes. The human race is not interested in fellowship with God. It is no longer in our nature to love God or to respond to God in any kind of worship. We have our back to God, we might say. In consequence of the Fall it is now human nature to do over and over what Adam and Eve are found doing in Genesis 3, that is, hiding from God so as to avoid having to face our guilt and so establish independence of him in the way we live. We treat ourselves as though we were God. We live for ourselves; we are self-servers; we seek to bend everything to our own interests. In doing this, we fight God--the real God. We say no to him. We push him away from the center of our life to its circumference. We keep him at bay because it is our nature to do that. So God's communication to us in our sin has to do more than simply present truth to our mind; it has to work in the human heart and alter fallen human nature. (18)
  • If, therefore, God is ever to be acknowledged, worshiped and trusted as he should be, he not only must set his truth before us but must also give us eyes to see it, ears to hear it and hearts to receive it. And that, in fact, is precisely his agenda. (19)
  • What is called for now is the humility that bows before the Scriptures and accepts them as instructions from God. They are God preaching, God talking, God telling, God instructing, God setting before us the right way to think and speak about him. (22)
  • The privilege of knowing God's truth with certainty and precision carries with it the responsibility of obeying that truth with equal precision. Christianity is no armchair faith but a call to action. (27)
  • Bowing to the living Lord, then, entails submitting mind and heart to the written Word. Disciples individually and churches corporately stand under the authority of Scripture because they stand under the lordship of Christ, who rules by Scripture. This is not bibliolatry but Christianity in its most authentic form. (35)
  • Consciences not governed by God's Word are to that extent not Christian. (38)
  • Where basic beliefs about Jesus are denied and Christian behavior as he taught it is not practiced, Christianity does not exist, whatever may be claimed to the contrary. (53)
  • Luther gazed at Christ's cross with steady joy and gloried in the fact that whoever trusts Christ can be assured of his love. He once wrote a troubled friend, "Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You have become what you were not so that I might become what I was not.'" (79)
  • Meditation, which as I use the word means thinking about God in God's presence, is a helpful preparation for speaking to God directly, and one that we seem regularly to need. (103)
  • Never are Christians so fully themselves or so happy as when their hearts are drawn out in the worship of God. (110)
  • It is not a good sign when a person sees no difference between sucking sweets and eating a square meal. (119)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: