Well, it took me over a year, but I finally finished reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Long thought of as a classic in Christian literature, we embarked on reading and studying it one chapter at a time in our small group. We were interrupted once with a church-wide study (Peacemaking - excellent, but for another post) and just finished it last week.
The book is 22 chapters long, and each chapter stands well on it's own, although they do build on each other. We found they were independant enough that newcomers to the group were not lost picking up in the middle of the book, which is great for the ever-changing dynamic of small groups!
I cannot adequately explain what this book has meant to me in one post, so I hope to post some of the more meaningful passages in the future. Suffice it to say that the author insists that knowing God should be more than an intellectual pursuit, and each chapter revealed something unique to meditate on about God and that drove me to worship Him more. The book is worth it's weight in gold just for that.
I can't stress enough that if you don't own this book, buy it now! It is one you will want to have in your library and is perfect for reading through from cover to cover more than once, as well as refering back to parts of it when needed.
I will quote from the last chapter, since it is most fresh in my mind, concerning Christ's death and the gift of faith:
"The apostolic writers present the death of Christ as the ground and warrant of God's offer of forgiveness, and that we enter into forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ, will not be disputed. But does this mean that, as a loaded gun is only potentially explosive, and an act of pulling the trigger is needed to make it go off, so Christ's death achieved only a possibility of salvation, needing an exercise of faith on our part to trigger it off and make it actual?
"If so, then it is not strictly Christ's death that saves us at all, any more than it is loading the gun that makes it fire: strictly speaking, we save ourselves by our faith, and for all we know, Christ's death might not have saved anyone, since it might have been the case that nobody believed the gospel. But that is not how the New Testament sees it. The New Testament views is that the death of Christ has actually saved "us all" - all, that is to say, whom God foreknew, and has called and justified, and will in due course glorify. For our faith, which from the human point of view is the means of salvation, is from God's point of view part of the salvation, and is as directly and completely God's gift to us as is the pardon and peace of which faith lays hold."
I will quote some more in the following weeks . . .