To access the reading guide, scroll down to the bottom and click the orange plus sign (+) next to the chapter you wish to read.
Join Ben Telfair this summer as we read Knowing God by J.I. Packer this summer. Do you love reading books but need help to dive a little deeper? Do you enjoy reading but find yourself overwhelmed by where to start? Did you last read a book in college but have a desire to begin reading again? Outside of Scripture, I (Ben Telfair) firmly believe that one of the greatest ways to grow together is to read great books together. As believers, we not only want to read good books, we want to invest our time in the best books. With that said, I would love for you to join me this summer in reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer.
Here’s how it works. First, pick up a copy of Knowing God. You can read ahead or follow the schedule below. Then, every week starting on June 4th, I will share a reading guide on the assigned chapters that will help us dive deeper into the content and apply it to our hearts and homes. Feel free use the reading guide personally or with a group of friends or family.
I chose Knowing God because it is a modern-day classic that has had a personal impact for me. The publisher beautifully describes it as: “Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God. Explaining both who God is and how we can relate to him, Packer divides his book into three sections: The first directs our attention to how and why we know God, the second to the attributes of God and the third to the benefits enjoyed by those who know him intimately. This guide leads readers into a greater understanding of God while providing advice to gaining a closer relationship with him as a result.”
4th: Chapters 1-2
11th: Chapters 3-4
18th: Chapters 5-6
25th: Chapters 7-8
2nd: Chapters 9-10
9th: Chapters 11-12
16th: Chapters 13-14
23rd: Chapters 15-16
30th: Chapters 17-18
6th: Chapters 19-20
13th: Chapters 21-22
“THE STUDY OF GOD”
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,” (Psalm 119:1-2)
Knowing God is knowing how to truly live.
What is theology and why do we need it? In this opening chapter, Packer answers this honest question with a thoughtful answer. In doing so, he wants us to see that the study of God is not an academic exercise but “the most practical project anyone can engage in” (19).
- Imagining a world without theology. Why do we need theology? Packer does not disregard this question but helps us ask a better question – what happens if we neglect theology? Without theology “the world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you” (19).
- Learning the map of theology. If we are going to study theology, we need to become familiar with the foundations of theology. Like a map guiding our way, there are five foundational truths we will need for the journey ahead: 1) God has spoken in His Word, 2) God is Creator 3) God is Redeemer 4) God is Triune, and 5) godliness is how we respond to God “in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service” (20).
- Reading the theological warning label. Before we start our theological journey, we need to ask ourselves an honest question. Like a warning sign at the beginning of a trail “the question concerns our own motives and intentions as students. We need to ask ourselves: What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge of God, once I have it? For the fact that we have to face is this: If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us” (21). Simply put: are we seeking a theoretical knowledge for ourselves (1 Cor 8:1-2), which leads to pride, or are we seeking a relational knowledge of God (Ps 119:1-2), which leads to life?
“Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must himself be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God.” (22-23)
- What keeps people from seeing the study of God as practical and relevant for life?
- Of the five foundational truths, which one are you most prone to neglect? Why?
- Personally, what are your motivations and goal in studying theology?
“THE PEOPLE WHO KNOW THEIR GOD”
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)
A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about God.
How do we know that we know God? In this chapter, Packer helps us discern the dangerous difference between knowing God and knowing about God. In doing so, he wants to keep us from distraction and deception so we might have the deep joy of knowing God.
- Discerning the difference between knowing God and knowing about God. Knowing about God is being able to say correct statements of God while knowing God is being able to confidently say, “I have a relationship with God.” What happens if we fail to discern this difference? We are in danger of becoming “secondhand” Christians who can say the right things about God without having a right relationship with God (p. 27; James 2:19). Therefore, the issue “is not whether we are good at theology” but whether we have a growing relationship with the God to whom our theology points (27).
- Diagnosing our own hearts and lives. What does it look like to know God? There are at least four evidences that serve as a diagnostic on our own hearts and lives. First, those who know God have “great energy” for God that is first rooted and evidenced in prayer (27-28). Second, those who know God have “great thoughts” of God that is evidenced in humility (29-30). Third, those who know God have “great boldness” for God that is evidenced in obedience, regardless of the cost (30). Fourth, those who know God have “great contentment” in God that is evidenced in assuring peace (30-31). Can we say that we know God? To answer this, we should ask, if prayer, humility, obedience, and peace are rooted in our hearts and evidenced in our lives?
- Learning to walk with God (again). Do we desire to know God? Do we desire to grow in our relationship with God? Then, there are two steps we need to take. The first step is to “recognize how much we lack knowledge of God” (32). As David prayed, we need God to examine our hearts so that He would lead us away from ourselves and lead us to Himself (Ps 139:23-24). The second step is to “seek the Savior” (32). What are we seeking? Whatever it may be, it cannot compare to the beauty and soul satisfaction of knowing God in Christ (Phil 3:8).
“We must learn to measure ourselves, not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in the church, but by how we pray and what goes on in our hearts. Many of us, I suspect, have no idea how impoverished we are at this level. Let us ask the Lord to show us.” (32)
- What’s the difference between knowing God and knowing about God?
- What thoughts and concerns keep you most distracted from knowing God?
- Of the four evidences of knowing God, which do you desire to grow in the most?