Two Minute Tuesday: The Heart of Biblical Religion by J I Packer

Where has all this led us? To the very heart of biblical religion. We have been brought to the point where David’s prayer and profession in Psalm 16 may become our own: “Preserve me, O God, for in thee I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘Thou art my Lord, I have no good apart from Thee.’ . . . The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup, thou boldest my lot. . . I bless the LORD who gives me counsel. . . I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad. . . Thou dost show me the path of life, in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore” (RSV).

Again: we have been brought to the point where we can grasp the truth in descriptions of the Christian life in terms of “victory” and “Jesus satisfies.” Used naively, this language could mislead—for the “victory” is not yet the end of the war, nor can faith in the triune God be reduced to “Jesusolatry.” Nonetheless, these phrases are precious, for they point to the link between knowledge of God on the one hand and human fulfillment on the other. When we speak of the adequacy of God, it is this link that we highlight, and this link is of the essence of Christianity. Those who know God in Christ have found the secret of true freedom and true humanity. But it would take another book to go into that!

Finally: 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 always will be the true priority for every human being—that is, learning to know God in Christ.

“Thou hast said, ‘Seek ye my face.’ My heart says to thee, ‘Thy face, LORD, do I seek’” (Ps 27:8 RSV). If this book moves any of its readers to identify more closely with the psalmist at this point, it will not have been written in vain.

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