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Summer Reading copy

Most people share summer reading at the beginning of the summer, not when it’s basically over. (I meant to do that, but forgot.) My reading list often changes based on my teaching/preaching schedule or if I’m reading through something with others.

Below is my summer reading list with an assortment of related links, mini-reviews, and a couple of freebies.

21 Books on My Summer Reading List


Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller

This is a prequel to The Reason for God that I am reading right now. Review to come.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield

This will probably be in my top 10 for the year. Get a taste by reading some quotes or hearing Butterfield tell her story.

A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Truthfulness by John Piper

A Peculiar Glory is a very helpful book for Christians wanting to enrich their theological and rational understanding of why Christians can call the Bible the Word of God, and will serve as a compelling reminder of how God reveals His glory through a book. This book isn’t the definitive work on the subject, but I do see it as one that will help many Christians think through the Scriptures from angles they never before considered. See my full review.

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (free audio version)

We all need to work missionary biographies into our yearly reading. It’s truly amazing hearing what Taylor went through to reach the lost of inland China. This will motivate you to do great things for God and find confirmation in Taylor’s famous saying: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would. It was a hard read, but had some great portions describing how modern education strips away much of what it means to be human. Watch this YouTube video for a helpful summary of one chapter.

Out of Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

I hadn’t read this since my time at Taylor University. Lewis had such a gift for both fiction and non-fiction, this being book one of his underrated Space Trilogy.

Calvin Prayer Cover

The Chief Exercise of Faith: John Calvin on Prayer. My mini-review below:

Calvin’s treatment of prayer in The Institutes of Christian Religion is second to none. It both informs and transforms as you meditate on rich truths and insights that have stood the test of five centuries. Yes, you will have to trek through some of his polemical rants against false beliefs common at the time, but a dose of historical reality and gives us better perspective of how we got to where we are today. I am making it my personal goal to go through Calvin’s rich treatment of prayer devotionally every year or so to motivate me to more faithfully “dig up by prayer the treasures that were pointed out by the Lord’s gospel.” It’s also short—which is a plus.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

I’ve heard enough people rave about Wodehouse’s writing that I knew I had to read a book of his. This one features comical short stories about a helpful and crafty butler (Jeeves) who helps his boss and friends get out of ridiculous situations. A fun summer read, especially when the Kindle version is free.

Exalting Jesus in 1-2 Timothy and Titus by David Platt in Christ-Centered Exposition Series

A helpful book of sermons on the pastoral epistles.

Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God by Rankin Wilbourne

Tim Keller calls this the best book on the subject for laypeople. That is why I read it and am working on a review of it. (Stay tuned.)

The Challenge of Preaching by John Stott

An abridgement of Stott’s classic Between Two Worlds edited down by a former professor of mine, Greg Scharf. A good reminder of basic preaching truths from a legend. Read John Stott’s Simple—Yet Surprising—Spiritual Productivity Secret.

Calling on the Name of the Lord: A biblical theology of prayer by Gary Millar

I recommend this book for pastors and scholars looking to frame their understanding of prayer in God’s saving purposes. See my full review.

Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes by Nancy Pearcey

I loved this book. See why when you read my interactions with this important book.

Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ (Preaching the Word) by Kent Hughes

Ephesians is currently the frontrunner for my favorite book of the Bible. This book of sermons helped me grasp the beauty of Christ’s bride, the church, in God’s eternal purposes in the world. Hughes is a clear communicator and master illustrator. If you read any book on this whole list, make it this one. (Or just read Ephesians a dozen times prayerfully!)

Unashamed: Lecrae Moore’s Biography

I have loved Lecrae’s music and witness since I first heard him in 2006. Here are 5 Lessons I Learned from Lecrae’s Biography Unashamed.

Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore

A must-read for culture-engaging Christians (which should be us all). Read some of the best quotes.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

I started to read this because of this story Randy Alcorn shared:

Five years ago a friend and I had lunch with Bruce Ware, who teaches theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, and Gerry Breshears, theology professor at Western Seminary in Portland.

Bruce asked me, “Randy, of all books besides the Bible itself, what book has had the greatest influence on your life?” And I said, “That’s easy. Without a doubt it’s A. W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy.”

Bruce smiled and said, “You’re kidding. That’s the book that has had the biggest influence on my life!”

And then Gerry Breshears said, “Okay, this is crazy. That’s my number one book too!”

Hard to argue with that!

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

The classic website design usability book named for the #1 rule in web usability, “Don’t make me think!” In the next six months, I will be managing the project that redesigns our organization’s website. Pray for us! And thank you Matt Perman for the recommendation.

The Glory of Christ by John Owen

One of Owen’s best. Made me richly behold the glory of our Savior.

The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Around Disciple Making by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

A book all pastors should read. Read my review on The Gospel Coalition or watch an interview with the author.

Proverbs (Preaching the Word) by Ray Ortlund Jr.

A helpful collection of Christ-centered sermons from a sometimes-neglected book. Anything Ortlund writes helps me treasure the gospel more!

What was your favorite summer read?


Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.57.51 PMBest of New and Free Resources

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How It’s Made: Christian Music

7 Things Jackie Hill-Perry Wants to Say to America

Article originally posted at

Our lives are filled with many choices of how to spend our time, energy, and resources. Some live for money and possessions, amassing as much as they can, while some invest their time in education or entertainment, hoping to find long-lasting value and enjoyment.

How do we make the best use of the choices we have in life?

Imagine that you are a stock trader at your office researching the best stocks to invest. You feel a nudge on your shoulder and look up to see Jesus Christ Himself standing beside your desk! He smiles, reaches into His pocket and gives you a sheet with the ten best companies to invest  your money into for the next 50 years. You can’t believe what just happened! God has given you the winners you were trying to predict. You are astonished at the grace of God and are excited to go “all in” with your money into those companies. Anything less than going “all in” would be the waste of a lifetime.

The truth is, if you are a Christian, God has already given you the incredible opportunity of knowing the future so that you may be able to invest your life wisely in the light of it. The Scriptures tell us specifically about the things that Christ will reward.

As you read, make it your prayer and ambition to go “all in” for these investment opportunities.

10 things Christ promises to reward:

1. Praying and Fasting

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you… But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6, 17-18

The first guaranteed winner is prayer and fasting. God desires that his children seek through faith-filled prayer and fasting and promises to reward those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Prayer is one of the chief ways we show our reliance on God and are able to know Him. Be sure to put your stock in what God values and rewards, and make sure you are living a life characterized by seeking God through prayer and fasting.

2. Having compassion for the vulnerable

…Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:37-40

The next amazing promise from God involves having compassion for the vulnerable. Having compassion for our needy brothers and sisters by clothing, feeding, and welcoming them is seen by God as us clothing, feeding, and welcoming Christ Himself. This is a magnificent picture of serving God and something God promises to reward.

3. Bearing insults and being excluded for the name of Christ

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23

It seems to be a backwards thing for us to be told to “rejoice” and “leap for joy” when we are hated for being Christians. But that is exactly what Jesus says. He knows that persecution in His name brings promised blessing and rewards and glorifies the Father. The gospel of Jesus Christ is so great that, even when we are ridiculed on earth for it, we receive treasure in heaven.

What is your first reaction to persecution? If it is anything other than rejoicing, you have an incomplete view of who Christ is. Christ died for our sins to reconcile us to God and buy us eternal life, something that nobody and nothing can take away (Romans 8:38-39)!

4. Loving your enemies

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35

Just as Christians receive blessing from God for being insulted for the name of Christ, they receive blessing and rewards for loving the very ones who insult them. When we love our enemies we emulate the kind of mercy and grace that our Savior showed to those who were crucifying Him when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Christ showed the grace of the Father by loving His enemies and gives us the opportunity to show His grace and gain eternal rewards by loving our enemies.

5. Giving generously

…Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Giving to others is the fifth action God promises to reward. Every dollar you have, every material item you own, every skill you have is a gift from Almighty God. Knowing that all we have is a gift from God (James 1:17), why should we not seek to generously give to others, especially when we consider that this is an activity God promises to reward?

6. Hospitality that cannot be repaid

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14

There are many things in life that will not repay you here on earth, including many times we are hospitable. But God does not overlook our efforts–He promises to reward us at the resurrection of the just for our hospitality in His name.

How does that change your attitude toward showing hospitality to others? How can you be more hospitable to in the future?

7. Enduring pressures in ministry

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

If you have ever been discouraged in ministry, take heart. God promises to reward us for how we serve Him on earth. Instead of falling into discouragement or depression, cling tightly to the promise that God will reward you for your trials and afflictions. Let that be fuel to propel you into a deeper trust and dependence on God as you serve Him.

8. Performing quality work for your employer

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not just penetrate personal and spiritual lives of believers, it enters into the workplace as well. When we do our best work for our employer, we are doing our best work for Jesus.

Working heartily for the Lord is one way to show Him your gratitude for the amazing things He has given you in Christ. God will not let your effort go unnoticed, but promises to give you a reward for your labor.

9. Keeping faith through trials

…In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

God desires that we walk by faith at all times, and keeping faith during trials is no exception. Fighting for faith during such times is tough! But pressing on will prove your faith genuine and bring promised rewards from God.

10. Being faithful to the truth

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” 2 John 1:7-8

God deeply desires our full commitment to His truth. Jesus said He is the Truth (John 14:6), so that makes sense! Our commitment and self-examination honors God and secures the reward that we will receive.

These 10 actions are all great investment opportunities. God tells you what will be rewarded, so go figure how you should live your life.

The greatest loss that any person could experience would be to stand in the presence of God without Jesus Christ and His righteousness, and therefore be unable to participate in the resurrection to everlasting life. Knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior and serving Him as your Lord is worth any cost, because nothing is of greater value.

Post adapted from the chapter called “Profit” in Unlocking the Bible Story, Volume  4.

Originally published August 14, 2013.


100 of the Best J.I. Packer Quotes

Theologian J.I. Packer served as Professor of Theology at Regent College, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is known for making theological truths clear and devotional. His long writing and speaking career has led to numerous books, with his classic Knowing God (first published in 1973) selling over one million copies.

Among other characteristics, Packer is known for condensing deep theological truths into pithy and inspirational statements. In the introduction to 18 Words, Packer comments on his writing:

I love pregnant brevity, and some of my material is, I know, packed tight (Packer by name, packer by nature). I ask my readers’ pardon if they find obscurity due to my over-indulging this love of mine.

I’ve been on a Packer kick lately, and have started to collect quotes of his like a madman. Below is a list of 100 of the best J.I. Packer quotes, many of them packed tight in pregnant brevity. While this list does not cite many sources, a simple Google search of each quote should help you quickly find it.

Top J.I. Packer Books

  1. Knowing God
  2. Fundamentalism and the Word of God
  3. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
  4. Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God
  5. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs

J. I. Packer: In His Own Words | A Documentary

J.I. Packer Quotes on Christianity, Knowing God, and True Theology

The Best J I Packer QuotesEvery time we mention God we become theologians, and the only question is whether we are going to be good ones or bad ones.

A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him.

Theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness.

What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that he knows me.

If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both.

God was happy without humans before they were made; he would have continued happy had he simply destroyed them after they had sinned; but as it is he has set his love upon particular sinners, and this means that, by his own free voluntary choice, he will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again till he has brought every one of them to heaven. He has in effect resolved that henceforth for all eternity his happiness shall be conditional upon ours.

We must recognize that God is at the heart of things and that we exist for his glory, that is to say, we exist for him, not he for us.

You don’t get awe until you cultivate the sense that God is very great and you are very small.

God’s purpose at the cross was as real as was the guilt of the crucifiers.

J I Packer quote about Trusting Christ and ChristianityOnce you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.

How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to 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. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.

Pleasure is designed to raise our sense of God’s goodness, deepen our gratitude to him, and strengthen our hope of richer pleasures to come.

He that has learned to feel his sins, and to trust Christ as a Saviour, has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity.

We are only living truly human lives just so far as we are labouring to keep God’s commandments; no further.

Any theology that does not lead to song is, at a fundamental level, a flawed theology.

In Christian living, duty and delight go together…To give oneself to hallowing God’s name as one’s life-task means that living, though never a joy ride, will become increasingly a joy road.

“Man’s chief end,” says the Shorter Catechism, magnificently, “is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” End, note, not ends; for the two activities are one. God’s chief end, purposed in all that he does, is his glory (and what higher end could he have?), and he has so made us that we find our own deepest fulfillment and highest joy in hallowing his name by praise, submission, and service.

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.

J I Packer quote Creature and CreatorOptimism 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… 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.

You can have all the right notions in your head without ever tasting in your heart the realities to which they refer; and a simple Bible reader and sermon hearer who is full of the Holy Spirit will develop a far deeper acquaintance with his God and Saviour than a more learned scholar who is content with being theologically correct. The reason is that the former will deal with God regarding the practical application of truth to his life, whereas the latter will not.

Creatures are not entitled to register complaints about their Creator.

Doctrine and experience without practice would turn me into a knowledgeable spiritual paralytic; experience and practice without doctrine would leave me a restless spiritual sleepwalker. If Christ is to be formed in me, doctrine, experience, and practice must all be there together.

What is Faith?

J.I. Packer Quotes on The Bible, Bible Meditation, Study and Interpretation

Whatever else in the Bible catches your eye, do not let it distract you from Him.

Historical exegesis is only the preliminary part of interpretation; application is its essence. Exegesis without application should not be called interpretation at all.

J I Packer quote about Knowing God and Lifes ProblemsA God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of Himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man’s image, and therefore an imaginary God, not the God of the Bible at all.

Psalms teach us how to worship; Proverbs, how to behave; Job, how to suffer; Song of Solomon, how to love; and Ecclesiastes, how to live.

It is certain that Scripture nowhere contradicts Scripture; rather, one passage explains another. This sound principle of interpreting Scripture by Scripture is sometimes called the analogy of Scripture or the analogy of faith.

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.

The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient Christian, but the Christian who has a sense of God’s presence stamped deep on his soul, who trembles at God’s word, who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and who tests and reforms his life daily in response to it.

[On Studying the Gospels, that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:] Gospel study enables us both to keep our Lord in clear view and to hold before our minds the relational frame of discipleship to him.

J.I. Packer Quotes on Adoption, Redemption, and the Gospel of Grace

Justification is the basic blessing, on which adoption is founded; adoption is the crowning blessing, to which justification clears the way.

To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.

J I Packer Quotes on Adoption and the GospelYou sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God. Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.

This one word ‘grace’ contains within itself the whole of New Testament theology.

Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves.

Adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name.

There is no moment when God’s eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

J.I. Packer Quotes on the Church and Ministry

The purpose of the church is to make the invisible kingdom visible through faithful Christian living and witness-bearing.

Catechesis is the church’s ministry of grounding and growing God’s people in the Gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight.

The preacher’s task… is to display Christ: to explain man’s need of Him, His sufficiency to save, and His offer of Himself in the promises as Saviour to all who truly turn to Him; and to show as fully and plainly as he can how these truths apply to the congregation before him.

Evangelical churches are weaker than we realize because we don’t teach the confessions and doctrine.

[On the Lord’s Supper] Each time we partake, we should be saying in our hearts, “as sure as I see and touch and taste this bread and this wine, so sure is it that Jesus Christ is not a fancy but a fact, that he is for real, and that he offers me himself to be my Saviour, my Bread of Life, and my Guide to glory. He has left me this rite, this gesture, this token, this ritual action as a guarantee of this grace; He instituted it, and it is a sign of life-giving union with him, and I’m taking part in it, and thus I know that I am his and he is mine forever.

JI Packer Quote on FellowshipChristian fellowship is…not an end in itself. Fellowship between Christians is for the sake of fellowship with God.

The proper aim of preaching is to mediate meetings with God.

Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.

Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms.

J.I. Packer Quotes on Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Far from inhibiting evangelism, faith in the sovereignty of God’s government and grace is the only thing that can sustain it.

The preacher should work to convert his congregation; the wife should work to save her unbelieving husband. Christians are sent to convert, and they should not allow themselves, as Christ’s representatives in the world, to aim at anything less. Evangelizing, therefore, is not simply a matter of teaching, and instructing, and imparting information to the mind. There is more to it than that. Evangelizing includes the endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught.

Men treat God’s sovereignty as a theme for controversy, but in Scripture it is matter for worship.

Divine sovereignty is a vast subject: it embraces everything that comes into the biblical picture of God as Lord and King in His world, the One who ‘worketh all things after the counsel of his own will’ (Eph. i. I I), directing every process and ordering every event for the fulfilling of his own eternal plan.

The root cause is the same as in most cases of error in the Church- the intruding of rationalistic speculations, the passion for systematic consistency, a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic. People see that the Bible teaches man’s responsibility for his actions; they do not see (man, indeed, cannot see) how this is consistent with the sovereign Lordship of God over those actions.

God’s way of saving men is to send out His servants to tell them the gospel, and the Church has been charged to go into all the world for that very purpose.

Evangelism is man’s work, but the giving of the faith is God’s.

J.I. Packer Quotes on Guidance and Wisdom

J I Packer quote about Knowing GodLaying out a fleece is the lazy man’s way to discern God’s will. It requires no work, little discipline and almost no character development.

‘Wait on the Lord’ is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.

Remember that, as George Whitefield said, man is immortal till his work is done (though God alone defines the work), and get on with what you know to be God’s task for you here and now.

Confidence that one’s impressions are God-given is no guarantee that this is really so, even when they persist and grow stronger through long seasons of prayer. Bible-based wisdom must judge them.

Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.

God guides us by means of the Bible’s teaching, the exercise of wisdom, and the counsel of fellow believers, plus insights and ideals sparked within us by the examples of faithful folk past and present, and supremely by the virtues shown in the way that the Lord Jesus lived.

If you ask, “Why is this or that happening?” no light may come, for “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29); but if you ask, “How am I to serve and glorify God here and now, where I am?” there will always be an answer.

J.I. Packer Quotes on Holiness, Fighting Sin, Repentance, and Sanctification

In reality, holiness is the goal of our redemption. As Christ died in order that we may be justified, so we are justified in order that we may be sanctified and made holy.

The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration.

We are only living truly human lives just so far as we are labouring to keep God’s commandments; no further.

The pursuit of holiness is thus no mere private hobby, nor merely a path for a select few, but a vital element in Christian mission strategy today. The world’s greatest need is the personal holiness of Christian people.

A deepening sense of one’s sinfulness remains a touchstone of the genuine Christian life.

Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.

J I Packer Quotes on Holiness and Sanctification….While it is certainly true that justification frees one forever from the need to keep the law, or try to, as the means of earning life, it is equally true that adoption lays on one the abiding obligation to keep the law, as the means of pleasing one’s newfound Father….The sins of God’s children do not destroy their justification or nullify their adoption, but they mar the children’s fellowship with their Father.

If you dwell often on the truth that God is Lord and orders everything, even the frustrations, for our sanctification (Hebrews 12:511; cf. Romans 8:28ff.), you will find yourself able increasingly, even in the most maddening moments, to “keep your cool”—and that is best of all.

The deepest word that can be spoken about sanctification is that it is a progress towards true humanity.

The activity by which the Christian directly secures the mortification of his sins is prayer.

I never get to the end of mortifying sin because sin in my heart, where it’s still marauding even though it’s no longer dominant, sin in my heart is constantly expressing itself in new disorderly desires.

What is Sanctification?

J.I. Packer Quotes on the Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts

The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ…I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned the corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my ministry needed. When flood-lighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior. (Keep in Step with the Spirit, 65-66)

The Spirit is here to glorify Christ…his main and constant task is to mediate Jesus’ presence to us, making us aware of all that Jesus is, so that we will trust him to be all that to us.

Prayer in the Spirit is prayer from the heart, springing from awareness of God, of self, of others, of needs, and of Christ. Whether it comes forth verbalized, as in the prayers and praises recorded in Scripture, or unverbalized, as when the contemplative gazes Godward in love or the charismatic slips into glossolalia, is immaterial. He (or she) whose heart seeks God through Christ prays in the Spirit. (Keep in Step with the Spirit, 79-80)

Perhaps there are no truths about the Spirit that Christian people more urgently need to learn today than those that relate to the inner life of fellowship with God.

Our exercise of spiritual gifts is nothing more nor less than Christ himself ministering through his body to his body, to the Father, and to all mankind.

J.I. Packer Quotes on Humility

Real spiritual growth is always growth downward, so to speak, into profounder humility, which in healthy souls will become more and more apparent as they age.

Humility is the product of ongoing repentance as one decides against, turns from, and by watching and praying seeks to steer clear of pride in all its forms. And as the battle against pride in the heart is lifelong, so humility should become an ever more deeply seated attitude of living at the disposal of God and others—an attitude that veteran Christians should increasingly display. Real spiritual growth is always growth downward, so to speak, into profounder humility, which in healthy souls will become more and more apparent as they age.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

J.I. Packer Quotes on Man and Sin

Our proud humanism, so-called, has made the world more like hell than heaven.

Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God.

We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God.

J.I. Packer Quotes on Pain, Suffering, and Weakness

J I Packer quote on Fellowship and SufferingFellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, even when the cross is heaviest.

Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.

I need not torment myself with the fear that my faith may fail; as grace led me to faith in the first place, so grace will keep me believing to the end. Faith, both in its origin and continuance, is a gift of grace.

God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your ‘thorn’ uncomplainingly — that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak — is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace.

Our task is to take suffering in stride, not as if it is a pleasure (it isn’t), but in the knowledge that God will not let it overwhelm us and that He will use it, by His own supernatural alchemy, to three good ends, at least. 1) Our suffering produces character; 2) Our suffering glorifies God; 3) Suffering fulfills the law of the harvest (John 12:24).

God hates the sins of his people, and uses all kinds of inward and outward pains and griefs to wean their hearts from compromise and disobedience. Still he seeks the fellowship of his people, and sends them both sorrows and joys in order to detach their love from other things and attach it to himself.

The same wisdom that ordered the paths which God’s saints trod in Bible times orders the Christian life today. We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simple that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained, yet, and his is dealing with us accordingly.

Weaknesses, far from a hindrance to successful ministry, are the very means by which the strength and sufficiency of Christ in the life of every believer are made known.

J.I. Packer Quotes on Prayer

Trying to describe what I do in prayer would be like telling the world how I make love to my wife.

Knowing that our Father God is in heaven, or (putting it the other way round) knowing that God in heaven is our Father, is meant to increase our wonder, joy, and sense of privilege at being his children and being given the “hot line” or prayer for communication with him. “Hot line” it truly is, for though he is Lord of the worlds, he always has time for us; his eye is on everything every moment, yet we always have his full attention whenever we call on him. Marvelous! But have we really taken it in?

I must ask the Lord to direct the Holy Spirit within me to drain the life out of sin and in prayer.

I pray to the Father through the mediation of the Son and by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. I may speak also to the Son and the Spirit directly when this is appropriate: that is, when I am praying about something that Scripture specified as the direct concern of either.

J I Packer Quotes on Prayer and Praise 2The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helpless dependence…what we do every time we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty.

When…we find ourselves so muddle-headed, dead-hearted, and tongue-tied in prayer that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” then our very desire to pray as we should and our grief that we are not doing so shows that the Spirit is himself making effective intercession for us in our hearts (Romans 8:26ff.); which is as reassuring as it is mysterious, and as thrilling as it is amazing.

The vitality of prayer lies largely in the vision of God that prompts it. Drab thoughts of God make prayer dull.

Prayer and praise are like a bird’s two wings: with both working, you soar; with one out of action you are earthbound. But birds should not be earthbound, nor Christians praiseless.

Random J.I. Packer Quotes

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.

There is nothing more irreligious than self-absorbed religion.

The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.

What is Doctrine?

Bonus J.I. Packer Resources:

Embedded videos courtesy of Crossway Books.


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In Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson (see my review), Dodson shares 15 questions to ask yourself to keep the Gospel front and center in your life:

1. What do you desire more than anything else?

2. What do you find yourself daydreaming or fantasizing about?

3. What lies do you subtly believe that undermine the truth of the gospel?

4. Are you astonished with the gospel?

5. Where have you made much of yourself and little of God?

6. Is technology interrupting your communion with God?

7. Is work a source of significance? How?

8. Where do your thoughts drift when you enter a social setting?

9. What fears keep you from resting in Christ?

10. What consumes your thoughts when you have alone time?

11. When people see how you spend money, do they conclude that God is a priceless treasure, exceedingly valuable above all worldly goods?

12. When people observe your relationship with others, are they alerted to the power of Christ’s forgiveness of you that alone accounts for your forgiveness of them?

13. If you are complimented for some accomplishment, does the way you receive it drive onlookers to give thanks to the Lord?

14. Is your use of leisure time or devotion to a hobby or how you speak of your spouse the sort that persuades others that your heart is content with what God is for you in Christ?

15. Does your reaction to bad news produce in you doubt or fear, or does it inspire confidence to trust in God’s providence?

Would you add any questions? Share in a comment!

This post originally published on July 6, 2013.