June 23, 2008
Knowing God with Dr. J.I. Packer
Welcome to Haven Today. I’m Charles Morris sharing the great story that’s all about Jesus. This program, as we begin a new week, is called “Knowing God w/Dr. J.I. Packer”. As you might guess from the title, we will be joined in a little bit by the delightful author of this bestselling book. We spent an afternoon together last week and I know you will really appreciate not just hearing about the background of his book, but also his life story. This is “Knowing God Week” here on Haven Today. If you’ve never read the book that first came out in 1973, I’ll tell you how to get a copy from us and help Haven Ministries at the same time, that’s a little later. Someone else who we’ve had on the program before, Matthew Ward, opens our time together, leading us to worship.
Song: Knowing You
Performed by: Matthew Ward
Originally part of “Second Chapter of Acts” here in Southern California, Matthew Ward from his “My Redeemer” album leading us in worship on a program called “Knowing God w/Dr. J.I. Packer”. Well, last week we were talking about “The Shack” which is now a New York Times bestseller, number one in fact, on the fiction list. Over a million copies sold so far and it’s self-published. It’s a story about a man who has an encounter with God in a shack where his little daughter was killed. Well, this week we’re going to be talking about another book which has sold over 3 million copies, J.I. Packer’s “Knowing God”. Now “The Shack” has generated a lot of controversy. Paul Young describes a startling encounter with the Trinity. It’s a work of fiction, of course, but Paul wrote it to share how he was healed of some very painful memories. The question is, is it true to the God of scripture? Does it lead us to understand God better or does it misrepresent him in dangerous ways? Well, we’ve tried not to embrace the book or to bash it but simply to engage it, to discuss the pros and cons because it is a bestseller. People are reading it for better or for worse. But “Knowing God”, that’s a different story. I can embrace it wholeheartedly. It opens up our minds to know and understand the Living God as he’s made himself known in the Bible, the way he wants to be and so that’s how we’re calling this program “Knowing God”, knowing God as he wants to be known. And a number of people say that next to the Bible “Knowing God” is the most spiritually significant book they’ve ever read. Well, later in the program we’ll talk with Dr. Packer about his experience of knowing God. But first, let’s stop and ask a question. What is so important about knowing God? It’s a simple question and it has a simple answer. Knowing God is important because that is what life is all about. We were created to know God. A man who just signed his email as “B” wrote to the Haven prayer team a few weeks ago. His request was short but full of pain. “I can’t find the meaning of life. What was I made for?” We’ve all heard the joke about the man who sold his possessions and left his family to seek out a guru who lived up high on a dangerous mountain that, when he reached the top of, he staggered forward, “Oh, holy guru! I have given up everything to seek the truth! But it will all be worthwhile if you can answer my question. What is the meaning of life?” And the guru smiled and said, “My son, here is the answer you seek. Life is a fountain.” After a long pause, the seeker shook his head, “A fountain, all you have to say is ‘Life is a fountain’?” The guru said, “You mean it’s not a fountain?? What is the meaning of life?” The real answer is simply this: knowing God. We were created to know God. Nancy Strezza, who heads up our prayer team wrote back to “B” told him, “Jesus went to the cross because he saw you. He wanted to have a relationship with you. That’s what life is all about, having a relationship with God through Jesus. Nancy got it right, obviously she knows her Bible. Jesus gave the answer the same way in his prayer to his Father in John 17 just before he went to the cross. He said, “This is eternal life,” now let’s hit a pause button here for a minute. Jesus wasn’t just talking about life. He was talking about eternal life, life that endures, life that has meaning because it won’t just wind down in 80 or so years. “This is eternal life,” he said. What Lord, what is eternal life? This is what he said, “That they may know you, the only True God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing God, the only True God, that’s the meaning of life. And we know God, the only True God through Jesus Christ whom he as sent. Matthew 11:28 and 28, you’ve heard it before,
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Well, every day this week we’ll be talking a little bit to Dr. Packer and going deeper into the most awesome privilege we have as believers in Jesus Christ, knowing God. Not just knowing about God but knowing him, having a relationship with the person who created the world, the Holy One, the Creator God. Now Jim Packer is in some respects a very reserved British gentleman. He has degrees from Oxford University. He’s taught theology for decades and he has a passion for knowing God. It was one afternoon last week at his office that Dr. Packer, Jim sat down with me and shared his own story of how he came to know God and how he entered into a relationship with the Lord.
CM: Dr. J.I. Packer, our listeners would probably really appreciate hearing something about your background growing up in England and then your faith story. How did you come to faith in Christ?
JP: Well, I was born in Gloucester City, which is about a hundred miles from London in the western part of England. I was brought up a nominal church goer. My parents took me to church. We didn’t talk Christianity at home. I was taught to say prayers but we never prayed as a family. And so I got into my teens without any living faith although I thought that as a church goer I must be a Christian. At age 15 I played chess regularly with the son of a Unitarian minister and in between games he tried to sell me what I can only describe as the Unitarian bill of goods. And I could see that it was a position that only held together by will power. That is, if you are going to deny something so central to the New Testament as the divinity of the Lord Jesus, why don’t you deny much more? And if you are going to affirm that the ethic of Jesus is the best thing since fried bread, well why don’t you believe more of the Bible than simply Jesus’ moral teaching? So the experience left me wondering, well what is true in Christianity? And I read various books and C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” was among the material that I got under my belt. And by grade 12 I was prepared to stand up for the Christian creed amongst Atheist kids of my age and I did. So I was quite sure that I was Christian, however a friend of mine went to university and was soundly converted through the Intervarsity Chapter and he spent the best part of a year after that trying to convince me that I lacked faith.
CM: And you didn’t think so still?
JP: Oh, no! Since I believed the things that Christians are supposed to believe I couldn’t make head or tails really of what he was trying to say. I was due to go up to university next year after him and he told me very humbly when I was about to go up. “Look,” he said, “I haven’t managed to explain it to you very well but you get in touch with the Intervarsity people and they will do a better job.” Well, I was then what I hope I still am a reality person. If there’s any reality going I want it. So I did get in touch with the Intervarsity people and had as ordinary a conversion as you can imagine. It came at the end of an evangelistic sermon while we were singing, “Just As I Am.” You can’t have a more ordinary conversion.
CM: Oh no. A lot of people could say that I years past, yes.
JP: Well and yes I know. That was back in 1944, quite a long time ago now but I was not fit for the forces. I have a hole in my head. At age 7 I ran under a truck, the truck won on the exchange and they had to pull splinters of my skull out of, well the place in my skull where the bone had been bashed in. That was above the front of the brain as a matter of fact. They feared that I might have a lifetime of headaches or a life of mental instability but I don’t –
CM: But by God’s grace,
JP: By God’s grace I know I haven’t had a life of headaches.
CM: And you’re unsure about the mental instability!
JP: Yes, well anyway I’m telling you that because that explains why I was not conscripted to fight.
JP: I was allowed to come up to university while the war was still on and it was there that , well I’ll say it the way it felt and still feels, the Lord Jesus broke into my life. Then I wanted to make up for lost time and so I spent all my spare time during the years that I was doing my first degree with the Intervarsity people and I got my basic nurture from them. The story goes on with a remarkable providence. At the end of my first degree time an SOS came to Oxford from an evangelical theological seminary. They needed someone to fill a gap for 12 months teaching Latin and Greek. Well, since those were my degree subjects I was a natural person to be asked whether I would consider this. I did consider it. I liked the option of leaving Oxford for a year although I was planning to do a second degree. I did this year’s teaching. I found, as a matter of fact when I got to the college that there were people who needed instruction in metaphysics and ethics as well. Now in the providence of God those too had been part of my degree. So I was able to take over all this teaching. I got a couple of vicarious firsts in the London general degree out of the experience. And that year convinced me that I knew I was called to be a teacher of adults. I was clear now that most, if not all, of my teaching was going to be done in a theological college frame, preparing people for ministry and so it has worked out. And here I am at Regent College still doing that kind of work.
Song: Be Thou My Vision
Performed by: Selah
From their “Greatest Hymns” album that’s Selah with of course, the hymn “Be Thou My Vision” on a program we’re calling “Knowing God w/Dr. J.I. Packer”. Thank you so much for joining me. Wasn’t he delightful? Well, he’s going to be back with us and we’re going to be talking about issues that come up in his book “Knowing God”. We’ll be doing that for the rest of the week but I wanted you to get a feel for his life story, how he came from just a humble background in England. God gave him a brain but more than that, God called him to be a servant of Jesus Christ and that’s made all the difference in the world. And you can see it in his eyes and I hope you can hear it in his voice as he spoke with us. He’ll be 82 years old next month. Well, we have his book “Knowing God”. First published in 1973 and I think I’m going to trade up. Mine is pretty tattered. We used to have the hardback version and we loaned it to somebody and they never gave it back. So the version we’ve got is pretty old and it needs to be replaced. Maybe you have a copy also and you need to read it again. I would strongly encourage you to read it. Just get in touch with us. You can go to our website. Our homepage is haventoday.org, that’s h.a.v.e.n.t.o.d.a.y, haventoday.org and there on the homepage under the “Specials” section you’ll see Dr. J.I. Packer’s book “Knowing God”. You can read a little bit more about it and we ask for your gift to Haven Ministries to help us make it through this summer when people travel, they go away, they take vacations, holidays and they don’t always remember to do what they thought they wanted to do or wanted to do so I would encourage you to get a copy from us and if you can give anything above and beyond the suggested gift amount for this book “Knowing God” we would appreciate that so much as we are in now this first week of summer. Now I mentioned earlier in the program the “Shack” programs we had on last week. Well, we have left those up on the homepage, haventoday.org and if you’d like to read a copy of the book “The Shack” we’re not endorsing that like we are “Knowing God” but we have the book as a thank you for your gift to the ministry also. We also have, just as importantly, more importantly in fact, a 2 CD set, an audio discussion on “The Shack” between the author, Paul Young and members of the faculty at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. That’s there as well, haventoday.org. Now you can also call us if you want and let me give you our toll free number in North America. It’s 1-800-654-2836, that’s 1-800-654-2836. And when you get in touch with us by internet or by calling 1-800-65-HAVEN, it would help us a lot of you could tell us the radio station you’re listening to as well. If you would like to share Jim Packer’s life story with a friend you can go online at haventoday.org, hit the little “Listen” button, you can listen again yourself but we also have an easy way for you to pass this program on to a friend, recommend it to them and they can listen to it and share in his life story themselves. I haven’t mentioned this in a few days but if you have a computer or an iPod and sometimes you just can’t seem to get us when we’re on your local Christian radio station. We are podcasting and there on our homepage, haventoday.org on the lower left hand side you’ll find details on how you can get set up for a podcast of Haven Today. One other thing before we go. Are you in need of prayer? Would you like someone to pray for you? It’s a ministry outreach that we’ve had for many years here at Haven Today. We’d like to have the privilege in Jesus Christ to pray for you and your needs so when you call us at 1-800-65-HAVEN or when you go online at haventoday.org you can send us your prayer request and just know that we will lift you up in prayer before our heavenly Father.
Well, I’m Charles Morris and I want to thank you for being with me and I want to invite you to come back again tomorrow. Would you? Jim Packer will be back with us and we’ll be talking about knowing God in light of the great story that’s all about Jesus here on Haven Today.
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Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from...
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