Is Your Joy Real Or Fake? Finding Help From J. I. Packer

Packer On The Christian Life – book review

Growing Into Humility

byJ.I. Packer

Spiritual health, like bodily health, is God’s gift. But, like bodily health, it is a gift that must be carefully cherished, for careless habits can squander it. By the time we wake up to the fact that we have lost it, it may be too late to do much about it. The focus of health in the soul is humility, while the root of inward corruption is pride. In the spiritual life, nothing stands still. If we are not constantly growing downward into humility, we shall be steadily swelling up and running to seed under the influence of pride. Humility rests on self-knowledge; pride reflects self-ignorance. Humility expresses itself in self-distrust and conscious dependence on God; pride is self-confident and, though it may go through the motions of humility with some skill (for pride is a great actor), it is self-important, opinionated, tyrannical, pushy, and self-willed. ‘Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Prov. 16:18).

As quinine is the antidote to malaria, so humility is the antidote to pride. In the sense in which Shakespeare’s Orsino in Twelfth Night sees music as the food of love, repentance should be seen as the food of humility. Or changing the picture, repentance should be thought of as the exercise routine that maintains humility, and through humility, health in the soul.”

~ Rediscovering Holiness, pp. 149-150

Christian Hope

Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark. Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God, as when the Anglican burial service inters the corpse ‘in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God’s own commitment, that the best is yet to come.

~J.I. Packer

Our representative and our substitute

God displays his righteousness by judging sin as sin deserves, but the judgment is diverted from the guilty and put on to the shoulders of Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God acting as wrath absorber.

The atonement had to be costly because it was necessary in light of the nature of God, which must inflict retributive punishment on sin.

A marvelous wisdom of God consists in his establishing the Lord Jesus as our representative and our substitute because only he could bear and absorb the judgment due to us. Being our representative makes him our substitute, and so he suffers and we go free.

~ J. I. Packer “The Necessity of the Atonement” in Atonement, ed. Gabriel N. E. Fluhrer, pp 15-16


Feeling weak in oneself is par for the course

Seen on the Parchment and Pen blog

He [Paul] demonstrates a sustained recognition that feeling weak in oneself is par for the course in the Christian life and therefore something one may properly boast about and be content with (vv. 6, 9–10). (‘Boast’ here means, not parade or be proud of in a self-centered way, but highlight when appropriate as a significant, God-given part of one’s life.)

In this, Paul models the discipleship, spiritual maturity, and growth in grace that all believers are called to pursue. When the world tells us, as it does, that everyone has a right to a life that is easy, comfortable, and relatively pain-free, a life that enables us to discover, display, and deploy all the strengths that are latent within us, the world twists the truth right out of shape. That was not the quality of life to which Christ’s calling led him, nor was it Paul’s calling, nor is it what we are called to in the twenty-first century. For all Christians, the likelihood is rather that as our discipleship continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-conscious and pain-aware, so that we may learn with Paul that when we are conscious of being weak, then—and only then—may we become truly strong in the Lord. And should we want it any other way? What do you think?

~J. I. Packer, ‘Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength’

Paul’s vision of the Christian life

J.I. Packer:

Paul is envisioning a Christian life not of constant, total defeat, but of constant moral advance…It is clear both here [Galatians 5:16-17] and wherever else Paul teaches Christian conduct that he expects the believer always to be moving forward in the formation of godly habits and the practice of active Christlikeness. Keep In Step With the Spirit, 33

The cross

found on Rick Iannllieo’s blog

JI Packer in A Quest for Godliness:
It cannot be over-emphasized that we have not seen the full meaning of the cross till we have seen it as the center of the gospel, flanked on the one hand by total inability and unconditional surrender and on the other by irresistible grace and final preservation.
Christ died to save a certain company of helpless sinners upon whom God had set his free saving love. Christ’s death ensured the calling and keeping — the present and final salvation — of all whose sins he bore. That is what Calvary meant, and means. The cross saved; the cross saves.

The Christian life is a Christocentric life

by: Sam Storms – 1 Comments

In my reading of the works of J. I. Packer I’ve come to greatly appreciate the Christocentric focus of his life and theology. This Christ-centeredness reverberates throughout virtually every page of everything he has written and echoes in nearly every word he has spoken. For Packer, it is not enough to affirm the existence of “God” or to be theocentric in one’s overall perspective. The Christian life is one in which the revelation of God is centered in his Son, Jesus Christ. All true knowledge of God is first and foremost knowledge of Christ. This is surely what Jesus himself had in mind when he declared, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). We read again in 1 John 2:23 that “no one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”

But what precisely does it mean to “know” Christ Jesus? It certainly begins with a solid and extensive grasp of the truths revealed in Scripture about the person and work of Christ. Yet, even non-Christians can study the Bible. Even Satan and his demons possess accurate understanding of the identity of Christ. Thus, at the center of Christian living for Packer is a very real, vital, personal engagement with Jesus himself, not as a distant figure of ancient history but as the living Lord who loves and gives and guides and encounters us in Scripture. I should let him unpack this for us himself:

More particularly, Christianity (so it is affirmed) is a prolonging and universalizing for all disciples of that one-to-one relationship with Jesus which his first followers enjoyed in Palestine in his earthly ministry. There are, indeed, two differences. First we know more of who and what Jesus is than anyone knew before his passion. Secondly, once Jesus is now physically absent from us, our connection with him is not via our physical senses, but through his own inward application of biblical material to mind and heart in a way which is as familiar to believers as it is mysterious to others. But the actual sense of being confronted, claimed, taught, restored, upheld and empowered by the Jesus of the gospels has been the essence of Christian experience over nineteen centuries, just as it is demonstrably of the essence of what New Testament writers knew, promised and expected. To assume, however, that Jesus is alive, universally available, and able to give full attention simultaneously to every disciple everywhere (and this is the biblical and Christian assumption) is, in effect, to declare his divinity (“Jesus Christ the Lord,” 26).

For Packer, and rightly so, Christian faith means far more than merely acknowledging Jesus’ deity. One must also seek out and find a personal relationship with him “in which we receive of his fullness and respond to his love in the devotion of discipleship” (ibid., 27). What the Christian is claiming is that Jesus Christ, “the risen and enthroned Lord, is, though physically withdrawn from us, none the less ‘there,’ indeed ‘here,’ by his Spirit, in terms of personal presence for personal encounter. From such encounter (so the claim runs) trust in him, and love and loyalty to him, derive. . . . Fellowship with Jesus is not a metaphor or parable or myth of something else, but is a basic ingredient of distinctively Christian experience” (ibid., 35). In the following we find Packer at his best, making the point with unmistakable clarity and force:

Whatever cultural shifts take place around us, whatever socio-political concerns claim our attention, whatever anxieties we may feel about the church as an institution, Jesus Christ crucified, risen, reigning, and now in the power of his atonement, calling, drawing, welcoming, pardoning, renewing, strengthening, preserving, and bringing joy, remains the heart of the Christian message, the focus of Christian worship, and the fountain of Christian life. Other things may change; this does not (“Jesus Christ the only Savior,” 46).

Reading Packer is a wake-up call to anyone who may erroneously conclude that Christianity is little more than a world-view or religious philosophy or a commitment to embrace the ethics of Jesus in daily life. The essence of Christianity is neither a set of beliefs nor a pattern of behavior. It is “the communion here and now with Christianity’s living founder, the Mediator, Jesus Christ” (“A Modern View of Jesus,” 65). And what does Packer mean by the word “communion”? In what sense do men and women on this earth experience that sort of relationship with someone who is in heaven? Says Packer,

Invisibly present to uphold us as we trust, love, honor and obey him, he supernaturalizes our natural existence, re-making our characters on the model of his own, constantly energizing us to serve and succor others for his sake. When life ends, whether through the coming of our own heartstop day or through his public reappearance to end history with judgment, he will take us to be with him. Then we shall see his face, share his life, do his will, and praise his name, with a joy that will exceed any ecstasy of which we are now capable and that will go on literally forever (ibid., 65-66).

Being a Christian, therefore, is a matter of constantly reaching out to the invisibly present Savior by words and actions that express three things:

faith in him as the one who secured, and now bestows, forgiveness of our sins, so setting us right with the God who is his Father by essence and becomes ours by adoption; love for him as the one who loved us enough to endure an unimaginably dreadful death in order to save us; and hope in him as the sovereign Lord through whose grace our life here, with all its pains, is experienced as infinitely rich and our life hereafter will be experienced as infinitely richer. It thus appears that Christianity is Christ relationally. Being a Christian is knowing Christ, which is more than just knowing about him. Real faith involves real fellowship (ibid., 66).

Again, Christianity is Christ relationally. If there is a center or hub to all of Packer’s thought on the Christian life, and ought to be in ours as well, it is here. Christian living is living in conscious, joyful, trusting relationship with Jesus of Nazareth.

– See more at:

Evangelism is the enterprise of love:

J.I. Packer,Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God:

It must never be forgotten that the enterprise required of us in evangelism is the enterprise of love: an enterprise that springs from a genuine interest in those whom we seek to win, and a genuine care for their well-being, and expresses itself in a genuine respect for them and a genuine friendliness toward them.

One sometimes meets a scalp-hunting zeal in evangelism, both in the pulpit and on the personal level, which is both discreditable and alarming. It is discreditable, because it reflects, not love and care nor the desire to be of help, but arrogance and conceit and pleasure in having power over the lives of others. It is alarming, because it finds expression in a ferocious psychological pummeling of the poor victim, which may do great damage to sensitive and impressionable souls.

But if love prompts and rules our evangelistic work, we shall approach other people in a different spirit. If we truly care for them, and if our hearts truly love and fear God, then we shall seek to present Christ to them in a way that is both honoring to God and respectful to them. We shall not try to violate their personalities, or exploit their weaknesses, or ride roughshod over their feelings. What we shall be trying to do, rather, is to show them the reality of our friendship and concern by sharing with them our most valuable possession. And this spirit of friendship and concern will shine through all that we say to them, whether in the pulpit or in private, however drastic and shattering the truths that we tell them may be.