To many today in Evangelicalism, the name J.I. Packer is no longer a household word. Since his passing into glory in 2020 his star has sadly, quickly faded. But for countless numbers like myself, Packer’s writing was foundational and formative. His “Knowing God” was the “gateway drug” into Reformed Theology.
Growing up, my Dad’s library resided in my bedroom. As a result, the names that lined those shelves became my friends. Bunyan, Spurgeon, Clarke, Owen, Kuyper and others spoke of a Christianity that I did not encounter much in real life. And to be honest, I thought any who believed as they did – in a truly sovereign God – were all dead and gone by hundreds of years. That is, until I got my hands on a copy of Knowing God, which came out in 1973. And here, was a living, breathing, preacher and writer of that old Puritan (in the best sense of the word) ilk. I couldn’t believe it. And as that book laid out a solid theological base for me, I found the Word of God opened up in powerful new ways. But it was the sound Biblical framework Packer elucidated that was its most impactful feature. A theology with a true center of gravity: Christ Himself, in all of His sovereign glory. I will be forever grateful.
After reading Knowing God the 2nd time through, I wrote to Dr. Packer, expressing my gratitude. Much to my surprise, I received a handwritten, wonderfully gracious reply. We corresponded a few more times and then finally met in 2002. This was Packer. Gentle, humble, a towering intellect, and not too busy to write a young yahoo from nowhere.
Now all of this is leading up to recommending another book of his to you: “God’s Plans for You.” While Packer was for many a promoter and crystallizer of Puritan and Reformed theology – he also fought fiercely against the notion that one could simply take this theological path, without it informing every part of how you lived your life. He had no truck with mere theologians. If their theology did not cross over into forming the character of Christ in them – they had missed the point of digesting those great, monumental truths. While he rescued Puritan theology from the lost archives, he was at the same time demonstrating that the caricature of Puritan and Reformed theologians, that all they cared about was doctrinal precision – was false. To be sure, there are always those in every group who think just “knowing” is the equivalent of actually growing spiritually. But that was not the norm among the Puritans and the Reformers. They were anxious to see Christ formed in their own lives and the lives of others. They knew full well such formation needed to be founded upon sound doctrinal truth, but they never dreamt of doctrinal truth alone being the end game. (Mere doctrinal precision a Pharisee doth make.) Christlikeness was the goal. It still is. And this is where Packer excelled, and what brings me to “God’s Plans for You.”
The book is not long – 218 pages. And it is not written full of theological jargon. It is an accessible handbook on living the Christian life in Biblical balance. Developing a true Biblical and Christian worldview. It is an understated masterpiece of PRACTICAL theology. How the great truths of Scripture inform, and are to be applied to every avenue of life. It is a discipleship classic. It brings symmetry to Christian living. Balance.
Where Packer interacts with differing theological views and their implications, he is always gentle and irenic in his correctives. He gives a wide berth for sincere Believers who may have missed the mark in some places. He never condemns, even while he confronts and corrects. He displays the very Christlikeness he is avering.
I cannot recommend God’s Plans for You more heartily. It is a sweet and clear call to genuine Christian living in a wickedly complex world, and in many cases, a misdirected and confused Church. If you want some sense of what the Christian life is supposed to look like, well informed by The Word of God – couched in the most encouraging terms – this is it.
Buy it for yourself. Buy it for someone who wants to know what Biblical Christianity is all about. Buy it for a discipleship group with one or two others. You’ll find it refreshing, clarifying, edifying, and pointing you repeatedly back to the finished work of Christ and its implication in real life.
God’s Plans for You is not about self-centered mystical messaging. It is about living in truth and reality as God knows it. It is lifechanging.