J.I. Packer on the Purpose of the Christian Life

We have been brought to the point where we both can and must get our life’s priorities straight.  From current Christian publications you might think that the most vital issue for any real or would-be Christian in the world today is church union, or social witness, or dialogue with other Christians and other faiths, or refuting this or that -ism, or developing a Christian philosophy and culture, or what have you.  But our line of study makes the present-day concentration on these things look like a gigantic conspiracy of misdirection.  Of course, it is not that; the issues themselves are real and must be dealt with in their place.  But it is tragic that, in paying attention to them, so many in our day seem to have been distracted from what was, is, and will be the true priority for every human being- that is, learning to know God in Christ.” ~ J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 314.

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A Prayer of Thanks for Long-Standing Friends

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philem. 1: 7)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him— a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Eccles. 4: 9– 12)

Heavenly Father, I cannot imagine how storms can be navigated, burdens borne, and hardships handled without the company of a few good friends. I praise you today for the gift of friendship— for the joy, encouragement, and refreshment you’ve just given me through a special band of brothers. It could not have come at a better time.

When we walk through difficult seasons we’re sometimes inclined to think, “No one can possibly understand what I’m going through; no one can begin to relate to my feelings and confusion; no one is a mess like me.” Those are the times when it’s easy to withdraw into isolation, fall into the pit of condemnation, and reach for some ill-chosen medication. That’s when the gift of long-standing friends becomes especially precious.

Father, I praise you for the gift of hearing my friends say these two words: “Me too.” I praise you for brothers who know how to “refresh the hearts of the saints”— including this saint. I praise you for friends who remind me of the truth and power of the gospel, of the love of Jesus, and of the bigger story you are always writing.

I praise you for friends who share their lives and not just their gospel. I praise you for friends who offer tears and not just their answers. I praise you for friends who give life-giving wisdom and not just mess-fixing formulas.

Father, these cherished friendships turn my heart heavenward. They simply remind me that the foundation and fountain of all good friendship is found in you. I praise you for befriending us in the gospel. It is overwhelming, settling, and centering to hear Jesus say to us, “I no longer call you servants. . . . I call you friends” (John 15: 15 NIV). What wondrous love is this, indeed? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 13 NIV). Hallelujah, what a salvation! Hallelujah, what a Savior! I pray in Jesus’ most glorious and gracious name. Amen.

~ Scotty Smith, Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith

Just after reading this prayer this morning, I read a portion of one of the books I am reading as part of my devotions by Jerry Bridges. Because of the similarity of topics and unplanned content, I was surprised and challenged. He wrote:

Speaking of the importance of fellowship: the importance and vital necessity of spiritual fellowship, or what I called in chapter 1 “communion” with one another. 1 God has created us to be dependent both on Him and on one another. His judgment that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2: 18) is a principle that speaks not only to the marriage relationship but also to the necessity of spiritual fellowship among all believers. None of us has the spiritual wherewithal to “go it alone” in our Christian lives.

He then quotes J. I. Packer:

We should not … think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotion. We should recognize rather that such fellowship is a spiritual necessity; for God has made us in such a way that our fellowship with himself is fed by our fellowship with fellow-Christians, and requires to be so fed constantly for its own deepening and enrichment. fellowship with himself is fed by our fellowship with fellow-Christians, and requires to be so fed constantly for its own deepening and enrichment. God’s Words, p.193.

Jerry goes on:

The writer of Hebrews was rather emphatic about the importance of this aspect of fellowship. In 3: 13, he said, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Then in 10: 24-25, he said, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Note the emphasis on encouraging one another in the face of temptation and spurring one another on toward love and good deeds. We need to be kept from temptation, and we need to be stimulated when our zeal for Christian duty is flagging.

The admonition of Hebrews 10: 24-25 — “Let us not give up meeting together” — is not fulfilled merely by attending church on Sunday morning, as is so often supposed. Rather, it is fulfilled only when we follow through with the instruction to encourage, spur on, or stimulate one another. This cannot be done sitting in pews, row upon row, listening to the pastor teach. It can be done only through the mutual interchange of admonishment and encouragement.

… Packer says, “Fellowship with God, then, is the source from which fellowship among Christians springs; and fellowship with God is the end to which Christian fellowship is a means.” Fellowship with God is indeed both the foundation and the objective of our fellowship with one another.

~ Jerry Bridges, True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia

J. I. Packer on Something More Important Than Knowing God

https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/j-i-packer-on-something-more-important-than-knowing-god/

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The Fuzzification of Faith

https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-fuzzification-of-faith/

Five marks of revived churches

https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/five-marks-of-revived-churches-2/