March 22, 2018 • Life for Leaders
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
So far in this week’s Life for Leaders devotions we have been focusing on how we can know God better, taking our lead from Ephesians 1:17. Today, I want to consider the question: Do you know God personally?
The first theological book I ever bought was Knowing God by J.I. Packer. I can still remember picking up this book from the shelf of the Logos Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts when I was a freshman in college. Knowing God was about two years old then and came highly recommended by several friends. I knew that the author of this book was a highly respected theologian and that the book was becoming a bestseller. (It has now sold well over a million copies in the United States alone!)
Back in 1975, you would say that I knew about J.I. Packer, but you’d hardly say that I knew him. Knowing someone implies something more personal. It suggests a two-way relationship. It involves knowing things about someone, but goes much deeper than just gathering information.
It’s like this in our relationship with God. In Knowing God, Packer explains that knowing God involves personal, relational knowledge, not just book knowledge, even if the book is the Bible. He writes, “[I]nterest 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.” Rather, “knowing God is a matter of personal dealing, as is all direct acquaintance with personal beings. Knowing God is more than knowing about him; it is a matter of dealing with him as he opens up to you, and being dealt with by him as he takes knowledge of you.”
Knowing God contains plenty of theology because knowing God personally is based on God’s self-revelation in Scripture and, most of all, in Jesus Christ. Yet, this book once encouraged me—and still encourages us—to go beyond knowing about God as we grow into a deeper, truer, and more intimate relationship with him.
Thirty-three years after first reading Knowing God, I had the privilege of meeting J.I. Packer at Laity Lodge, where I served as the Senior Director. Since the mid-1960s, Dr. Packer taught at Laity Lodge more than any other guest speaker. In 2008, I was honored to lead a retreat taught by Dr. Packer. Twice since then, I was doubly honored to team up with him as his co-teacher at Laity Lodge. I can now say that I not only know about J.I. Packer. I know him, having shared many conversations over many meals. I now know that, in addition to being a brilliant, influential theologian, he is also a person of broad interests and a delightful sense of humor. He loves jazz and has opinions on all sorts of things in addition to theology. I was glad to know about J.I. Packer, and I am blessed to know him personally.
So, thirty-three years after first reading Knowing God, I pause to ask myself the following questions. Perhaps you might ponder them as well.
Something to Think About:
How well do you know God?
Do you really know God, or have you been satisfied with knowledge about God?
How does your knowledge about God help you know God better in a personal way?
What helps you grow in your personal relationship with God?
Something to Do:
If you haven’t read Knowing God, I would encourage you to do so. This book is still in print and is still speaking to the minds and hearts of people who want to know God.
Gracious God, again I thank you for making yourself known to me. Thank you for all the ways you have helped me know you in truth. Thank you for all the times I have sensed that knowing you is a relationship, a two-way relationship, and not simply a one-way quest for information. Thank you, dear Lord, that you want to know me!
Help me, I pray, not to be satisfied with knowing more about you. Rather, may my deeper grasp of the truth lead me to know you more deeply, more intimately, and more joyfully. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Talking with J. I. Packer, Professor in Theology at Regent College
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.