In college, my wife and I were visiting grandparents in northwestern Wyoming, where we were suddenly stuck in a blizzard just west in Idaho. With nothing to do, we walked over to the used bookstore next-door. Scanning the plethora of dusty books, I came across a book that was recommended to me months ago that I never bothered to pick up: Knowing God by J.I. Packer. With nothing left to do, I bought the first-edition print of this now classic theological treatise with no regard to how it might change me in the future.
Fast-forward a few days, we are again stuck in the airport waiting for a snowstorm to pass. I reach into my bag and pull out Knowing God and begin to read about this God that Packer seems to know so intimately yet was so foreign to me. The God of J.I. Packer was sovereign, holy, in control, jealous for his glory, powerful. Perhaps the God I was accustomed to was a bit needy, longing to be in my presence, and was simply a nice addition to my life. Packer talked about God the way an experienced climber talks about Everest: with delight and fear. I devoured the first quarter of the book and thought, “I’ve never heard of this God before.”
In one book, Packer fundamentally changed my perception of God. Even though the phrase is overused, Knowing God literally changed my life. When people ask for my top recommended books, Knowing God is, without hesitation, the first book that I recommend. In fact, I think it should be read once a year. It is that good.
This past week, on July 17, J.I. Packer passed away and is now enjoying the presence of the very God that he wrote about for so many years. Outside of Knowing God, Packer has influenced me through a host of other books, including Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, A Quest for Godliness, and Weakness is the Way. Outside of that, Packer played an influential role in the translation of the English Standard Version (ESV), which is the Bible that I regularly use and preach from.
In light of Packer’s passing, perhaps one of the best ways to honor his legacy is to not only pick up a copy of Knowing God but to cherish and delight in the God that he wrote about. Packer’s aim was for Christians to know, experience, and glorify the Triune God, so that God might be rightly seen for who he is—the all-knowing, all-seeing, God of the universe.