Chapter 21, “These Inward Trials,” discusses the problems of believing, or, worse yet, teaching, that the Christian life will be a “bed of roses,” when the Bible tells us repeatedly that we will have trials in this life. Thinking that there won’t be any more trouble after one becomes a Christian “is bound to lead sooner or later to bitter disillusionment” (p. 245). Either they will think they’ve been deceived, or they’ll think something is wrong with their faith or practice.
We still have our old nature within us and the devil and the world system opposed to us, not to mention potential conflicts with others, believers or not, who also still have a sin nature. We need Biblical understanding of sanctification, spiritual warfare, and growth in grace.
Packer’s definition of grace is one of the best I have ever seen: “God’s love in action toward people who have merited the opposite of love” (p. 249). God’s grace saves us, revives us, transforms us, and will some day raise our bodies to glory. The work of grace leads us to “an ever deeper knowledge of God, and an ever closer fellowship with Him. Grace is God drawing us sinners closer and closer to Himself” (p. 250).
How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from the assault of the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from frustrating and burdensome circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing to us all these things, so as to overwhelm us with with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely. This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint , why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another: it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak, is that God spends so much of his time bringing home to us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find, or to follow the right road (p. 150).
Chapter 22 studies “The Adequacy of God” primarily from Romans, primarily from Romans 8. After the despair of Romans 7, Romans 8 encourages and edifies by pointing us to “the adequacy of the grace of God” to deal with a number of things and teaching us of “four gifts of God given to all who by faith are “in Christ Jesus”: righteousness (no condemnation), the Holy Spirit, adoption, and security (p. 258). Packer reminds us that “God is for us” and encourages us to “let evangelical thinking correct emotional thinking” (p. 260).
This is one of the longest chapters in the book with Packer unpacking many truths from Romans 8, but that will give you a little glimpse. There were a couple of paragraphs of a Calvinistic bent that I did not agree with, but otherwise it was very good. The last section of this chapter is called “Learning to Know God in Christ” and gives a nice overview of all that the book has discussed.
Overall I’ve much enjoyed the book and can see why it is considered a Christian classic. I am glad to have read it.