New Years Resolutions from Jonathan Edwards
In 1734, God used the preaching of Jonathan Edwards to launch the Great Awakening in Northampton, MA. Edwards would go on to be one of the most influential Christians in American history. We rightly think of this Awakening, like all true revivals, as a sovereign work and unexpected blessing from God. At the same time, there was a long preparation in Edward's life that played its part in the way that God used him. He had long devoted himself to being the kind of person who would honor God in his life and serve Christ's kingdom well. In this, Edwards set an example that all Christians should follow. He reminds us that every Christian should seek to live daily for God's glory and to serve zealously Christ's kingdom of eternal life.
One famous example of how Edwards challenged himself to godliness was the Resolutions he penned during the years 1722 and 1723, when he was around twenty years old. Stephen Nichols said: "When he wrote these seventy resolutions, Edwards was completing his schooling and ministerial training and was anticipating setting out on his life's work. He took advantage of the opportunity to pause and reflect on the type of person he wanted to be and the way in which he wanted to live his life." As we turn the corner on a new year, many of us will find it profitable to reflect on our own lives. New Year's Resolutions are often made flippantly and have little value. But they can also reflect a sincere desire to grow spiritually. To this end, let me present some of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions as s stimulant to those of us who are interested in reflecting on our lives at the start of our new year, 2013:
Some Resolutions, by Jonathan Edwards
1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory and to my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time... Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general...
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can...
7. Resolved, never to do anything that I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life...
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death...
14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge...
21. Resolved, never to do anything that, if I should see it in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him, for, or think any way the more meanly of him.
22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, mighty, vigor, and vehemence, yea, violence, I am capable of...
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of them.
34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity...
53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity... to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have the assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.
In so daunting a list of resolutions, from such an earnest young Christian, I was glad to see the last one I cited - the resolution to hold fast to Christ for salvation. Edwards shows us at his early age how to avoid two key mistakes in living as believers. One key mistake is to fail to strive to glorify the Lord more and more in the whole of our lives. The other key mistake is to believe that by living for God's glory we earn our place in God's love. Edwards knew that his salvation, and the experience of its blessing, was God's free gift in Christ, received by faith alone. His resolutions had nothing to do with earning God's favor or his own salvation. Let us likewise resolve, above all else, to rely completely on what Jesus has done for us - his finished work of a complete salvation. Then, let us each reflect in the new year on how the Lord would challenge us to lead more godly, joyful, and spiritually useful lives so as to glorify God and enjoy him in the year to come.
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