Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

13 October 2011

Knowing God Vs Knowing about God

I've been wondering what to read next.  I'm going to work through Come Thou Long Expected Jesus again during Advent but wanted something to fill in the weeks between now and December.  So I went to my husband's bookshelves and settled upon Growing in Christ by JI Packer.  I started in on the introduction to read that Packer himself described Growing in Christ as the companion volume to the classic Knowing God.  And I read no further. 

It is time to read Knowing God.  It's one of those books on everyone's list of top ten MUST READS.  I've tried to read it in the past without success.  Now is the time.  I'm three chapters in and it is brilliant! 

Here's a bit I read a couple of days ago.

One can know a great deal about God without much knowledge of him.  I am sure that many of us have never really grasped this.  We find in ourselves a deep interest in theology (which is, of course, a most fascinating and intriguing subject - in the seventeenth century it was every gentleman's hobby.)  We read books of theological exposition and apologetics.  We dip into Christian history, and study the Christian creed.  We learn to find our way around in the Scriptures.  Others appreciate our interest in these things, and we find ourselves asked to give our opinion in public on this and that Christian question, to lead study groups, to give papers, to write articles, and generally to  accept responsibility, informal if not formal, for acting as teachers and arbiters of orthodoxy in our own Christian circle.  Our friends tell us how much they value our contribution, and this spurs us to further explorations of God's truth, so that we may be equal to the demands made upon us.

All very fine - yet interest in theology, and knowledge about God, and the capacity to think clearly and talk well on Christian themes, is not at all the same thing as knowing him.  We may know as much about God as Calvin knew - indeed, if we study his works diligently, sooner or later we shall - and yet all the time (unlike Calvin, I may say) we may hardly know God at all. 
Knowing God by JI Packer.  Chapter 2 page 26

These words were ringing in my ears all the day after I read them.  And I woke up the next morning still thinking about them and feeling slightly ill.  Deeply convicted, I've prayed and I've pressed on.  And I've been challenged and convicted, and yet nurtured and fed.  All in three chapters.

Knowing God along with Come Thou Long Expected Jesus will see the year finished well.  Thereafter I hope to go back and read beyond the introduction of Growing in Christ and then tackle John Owen's Communion with God, thanks to Jean's recommendation. It's been good advice to read short and well - a few short minutes, say fifteen, every day from well chosen titles - which can see you through a handful of good books each year and greatly enriched as a result.  Thanks Jean Williams and John Piper for the good encouragement.

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