We have never met, probably never will, but reading his books, articles and hearing others talk about J. I. Packer has been a source of great comfort to me. And as I started to review it for this blog, I saw the publication date on his Knowing God, book, 1973.
I was as far from the kingdom of God as any person could be, that year. It wasn't until May 13, 1975 that I came to "know" God and to discover the miracles of His grace that have followed me for almost forty years, as of today. When I came across this particular quote, I smiled, ..."despite the facts, there do not seem to be many in our churches who actually believe in Grace." It was true then and it seems to me, here in the year 2015, it is even more true today.
Oh I know, we pay lip service to it, but in the streets where Jesus walked in His life, the ones He would be walking in today, and others, Grace is virtually unknown. Otherwise, we would certainly not be involved in the headlines we read whenever the Church attempts to express their thoughts.
Packer provides a sample of his thoughts then, that I have to believe would be even more applicable today, when he writes, "What is it that hinders so many who profess to believe in Grace from really doing so? Why does the theme mean so little even to some who talk about it a great deal? The root of the trouble seems to be misbelief about the basic relationship between a person and God - misbelief not just in the mind but in the heart at the deepest level of things that we never question because we always seem to take them for granted."
He offers this explanation: "There are four critical truths in this realm in which the doctrine of Grace presupposes and if they are not acknowledged and felt in one's heart, clear faith in God's Grace becomes impossible. Unhappily the spirit of our age (in 1973, and continues into the next century - SM)) is as directly opposed to them as well could be. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that faith in Grace is a rarity today, The four truths are:
(I will be condensing his thoughts - so I that don't lose my readers, but if you want to examine them as they were written - in 1973, they will be found on pages 129-132 of Knowing God)
The moral ill-desert of man. Because of the nature of these times, we seem to have fallen into the trap that denies that we are "creatures, fallen from God's image, rebels against God's rule, guilty and unclean in God's sight, fit only for God's condemnation."
The retributive justice of God. The way of modern men and women is to turn a blind eye to all of the wrongdoing as long as they safely can.... in our pagan way, we take it for granted that God feels the same way as we do. God is the judge of this world, and He will do right, vindicating the innocent, if such there will be, but punishing in the Bible phrase (visiting their sins upon) lawbreakers - see Genesis 18:25)
The spiritual impotence of man. Namely, the belief that we can repair our own relationship with God by putting God in a position where He can say No! - anymore.
The sovereign freedom of God. He is not obliged to pity and pardon, if He does so it is an act done, as we say, "..of His own free will" and nobody forces His hand. "It does not depend on man's will or effort, but on God's mercy." (Romans 9:16)
I will be thrilled if somehow, these words, these thoughts, challenge those who read this page. I could write for hours on the more to be found on the pages of Packer's books or the thoughts he has expressed in many of his other articles.
Are you up to the challenge? Respond and we can continue it as long as I have the time allotted to me by His Grace.