I hold the heady doctrine that no pleasures are so frequent or intense as those of the grateful, devoted, single-minded, whole-hearted, self-denying Christian. I maintain that the delights of work and leisure, of friendship and family, of eating and mating, of arts and crafts, of playing and watching games, of finding out and making things, of helping other people, and all other noble pleasures that life affords, are doubled for the Christian; for as the cheerful old Puritans used to say (no, sir, that is no a misprint, nor a Freudian lapse; I mean Puritans – the real, historical Puritans, as distinct from the smug sourpusses of last century Anglo-American imagination) , the Christian tastes God in all his or her pleasures, and this increases them. JI Packer, God Has Spoken, 3rd ed, p. 14.
Paul’s doctrine of free and sovereign grace both humbles the pride of the self-righteous legalist and condemns the lazy and irresponsible laxity of the antinomian. Rightly understood, this teaching is the parent of joyful assurance and tireless energy in the service of one’s Saviour. It has been well said that, in the New Testament, doctrine is grace and ethics is gratitude (see Rom. 12:1); and our Lord has taught that the one who loves most will be the person who is most conscious of the love shown to him (Luke 7:40ff.). The world would see a great deal more practical godliness than it does if Christians today knew more about God’s grace.
The word ‘grace’ thus comes to express the thought of God acting in spontaneous goodness to save sinners: God loveing the unlovely, making covenant with them, pardoning their sins, accepting their persons, revealing Himself to them, moving then to response, leading them ultimately into full knowledge and enjoyment of Himself, and overcoming all obstacles to the fulfilment of this purpose that at each stage arise. Grace is election-love plus covenant -love, a free choice issuing in a sovereign work. Grace saves from sin and all evil; grace brings ungodly men to true happiness in the knowledge of their Maker…. Grace…is…the heart and hand of the living almighty God…. God’s love is free, and it is God himself who chooses whom he will save. Sermons and sacraments proclaim the reality of grace, and the church’s prayer invoke it, but it is God alone who exercises it and leads men into the benefits of it.
-J.I. Packer, 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, p. 94, 95.
…The Christian under grace is freed from the hopeless necessity of trying to commend himself to God by perfect law-keeping. Now he lives by being forgiven, and so is free at every point in his life to fail (as inevitably he does in fact, again and again) – and, having failed, to pick himself up where he fell, to seek and find God’s pardon, and to start again. Pride, our natural disposition, which is self-protective, self-righteous and vainglorious, will either refuse to admit failure at all or refuse to try again, lest the trauma of failing be repeated; but the humility of the man who lives by being forgiven knows no such inhibitions. The Christian’s experience of daily failures, along with his inside knowledge of his own false motives and his tally of shameful memories, make him constantly want to claim for himself Paul’s end-of-life self-description, ‘the foremost of sinners’ (1 Tim. 1:15); daily, however, his shortcomings are forgiven and his joy restored. One reason why, as Jesus taught, we must be ready to forgive our fellow-Christians countless times is that our own life with God is a matter of being forgiving countless times, too.
-J.I. Packer, 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know
“This depravity, or perversion of God’s image, in commonly, and rightly, said to be total: not in the sense that everything in man is as bad as it could be, but that nothing in man is as good as it should be…. Are our wills free …? The simplest answer is that our wills are free, but we men are not. Our wills are free in the sense that we have power to do what we will in the realm of moral action, but we ourselves, as heirs of Adam, are slaves of sin (John 8:34; Rom. 3:9; 6:16-23); which really means that we shall never in fact will with all our hearts to do the will of God. His tragedy lies precisely in the fact that his will is free, and that he has power to do what he wants and chooses to do; for what he wants and chooses is always in some form self-glorifying, and so sinful and ungodly, and hence all that he does increses his condemnation.”
JI Packer, 18 Words, p. 73-74.