Tag Archive for 'Jonathan Edwards'

A Curmudgeon’s Take On New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not into them, at least not on January 1st, but I won’t bore you with my opinion. Plenty has been written on the interwebz. I realize that some people like to evaluate their life as the calendar turns, so I thought I might gather an oft-neglected quote, some Bible passages, and ideas that might be applicable.

I was thinking about this subject right before I read the first passage in Ecclesiastes below the quote by Edwards. That’s what brought all of this up. This is just my take on this subject. If it’s not idealistic enough, or if you don’t have visions of unicorns, rainbows, and everything shiny and happy for next year, there is plenty of other material out there for you. (I’m doing my best to stay true to the subject line.) I do pray that everyone reading this post will grow closer to God and more Christ-like as the year progresses, whatever situation God has you in.

I’ve seen resolutions that contain a list of resolutions. Nobody can remember and do a long list of things. Saying that you’re going to do this, that, and the other thing will inevitably lead to failure unless you’re the 1% of the population that can do that. Jonathan Edwards couldn’t keep up with his 70 resolutions. Here is a quote from him later on in his life (emphasis added):

“My longings after it, put me upon pursuing and pressing after them. It was my continual strife day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily, and more becoming a child of God, and disciple of Christ. I sought an increase of grace and holiness, and that I might live an holy life, with vastly more earnestness, than ever I sought grace, before I had it. I used to be continually examining myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means, how I should live holily, with far greater diligence and earnestness, than ever I pursued anything in my life: but with too great a dependence on my own strength; which afterwards proved a great damage to me. My experience had not then taught me, as it has done since, my extreme feebleness and impotence, every manner of way; and the innumerable and bottomless depths of secret corruption and deceit, that there was in my heart.”

Source of Edwards quote: (Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 53). The quote is from his “Personal Narrative” in the Yale Works, 16:797.

HT: CAMPONTHIS: JONATHAN EDWARDS: RESOLVED TO GRACE…enjoying the beauty and sweetness of Christ

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-7

Don’t make promises to God. Make very small attainable goals. It doesn’t matter how small. Though I don’t identify with it, it seems that most people’s eyes are bigger than their discipline. They don’t have the ability to calculate what they’re capable of. This ends up making people look and feel pathetic. I know that sounds arrogant and mean, but it isn’t much different than what the Bible says. Start small and you can always progress. (As in proe-gress)

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
Luke 14:28-30

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3

Since most Bible reading plans are based on a calendar year (although electronic devices and other methods make that moot), many embark on a reading plan, which is the most fantastic thing anyone can do. If you for some reason have a hard time reading the Bible, set a goal of reading one paragraph a day. You can do that, right? Then move on from there. After a while you’ll find yourself liking and reading it more and more. As much as I hate to say it, maybe a one year Bible reading plan is too much for some types of people early on. Better to read a little consistently than to start out with a plan that ends up being abandoned and leaving one full of guilt.

As another example, look at exercise, if that’s something you don’t do. Instead of spending money on a health club membership (a “gym” is where the serious people workout), which takes 25 minutes to drive to and 30 minutes to get in a workout where it seems like it was worth the money, start out doing one set of bodyweight squats and one set of pushups leaning against the kitchen counter at home three times a week. You’ll find that you’ll make progress each time. This may motivate you to do more. Plus if you keep going and keep learning, when you’re elderly you’ll be able to stand up from a deep couch, pick things up off the floor, and maybe even avoid preventable diseases, God willing. Plus more importantly, you’ll feel better now (after you’ve been doing it for a while), which will help you spiritually.

Things like attitudes, behaviors, taming our tongue–those are more difficult to quantify. I think those are the types of things where we can’t work on very many at once. If we keep our mind on Scripture, God will convict us of sin and help us work on specific things. He will guide us on the right path.

Have a humble attitude. Realize that some goals may have life getting in the way.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

If we mess up, God isn’t holding it against us. Remember that we are in God’s favor because of what Christ did for us at the cross. We can always start over (whenever we want!) and know that God is for us (Romans 8:31).

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

For someone who doesn’t like resolutions, I have a lot of thoughts on them; I suppose it’s because I like to make goals and plans throughout the year. I like the structure. There is much more that could be written, but I will leave it there.

If you need an idea, here is a random resolution: Read one chapter of Proverbs a day for the month of January. Easy to keep track. That may lead you to other things you need to work on. In any case, it’s a book that should be read regularly.

Also see:

Knowledge and God’s Glory

The better we know God, the more we can glorify him. In another part of the book Edwards writes that this will make us happy, which glorifies God. Or happier, or less unhappy–whatever your circumstance may be. As far as I can see, God expresses this chiefly through Scripture, then the Holy Spirit in various ways, His mighty acts–including the marvelous work on the cross and what he does in our lives, and creation. I’ve included Scripture below that I think applies.

Again, the word glory, as applied to God in Scripture, implies the view or knowledge of God’s excellency. The exhibition of glory is to the view of beholders. The manifestation of glory, the emanation or effulgence of brightness, has relation to the eye. Light or brightness is a quality that has relation to the sense of seeing; we see the luminary by its light. And knowledge is often expressed in Scripture by light. The word glory very often in Scripture signifies, or implies, honor, as any one may soon see by casting his eye on a concordance. But honor implies the knowledge of the dignity and excellency of him who hath the honor; and this is often more especially signified by the word glory, when applied to God. Numbers 14:21: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,” i.e. all the inhabitants of the earth shall see the manifestations I will make of my perfect holiness and hatred of sin, and so of my infinite excellence.

Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
listening closely to wisdom
and directing your heart to understanding;
furthermore, if you call out to insight
and lift your voice to understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:1-6 HCSB

The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks it.
Proverbs 18:15

For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.
Romans 14:11

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens — far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.
Ephesians 1:17-23

God Is Not A Needy Parent

The pleasure God has in the creature is not properly pleasure from the creature
Nor do these things argue any dependence in God on the creature for happiness. Though he has real pleasure in the creature’s holiness and happiness, yet this is not properly any pleasure which he receives from the creature. For these things are what he gives the creature. They are wholly and entirely from him. His rejoicing therein is rather a rejoicing in his own acts and his own glory expressed in those acts, than a joy derived from the creature. God’s joy is dependent on nothing besides his own act, which he exerts with an absolute and independent power

[…]

From what has been said, it appears that the pleasure God hath in those things which have been mentioned is rather a pleasure in diffusing and communicating to, than in receiving from, the creature.

–Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World

We love because God loved us first.
1 John 4:19

I praise God that he’s not a needy parent. When parents have children to have someone to love them, it’s obviously not healthy for the child and it becomes a burden to them. I think many children can unconsciously sense this and develop hostility because of it. It also causes plain old dysfunction. But being a perfect Father, God delights in communicating to his children and delights in them communicating to him, but his happiness isn’t dependent on what his children can give him. A way of looking at Revelation 3:20 may be that God is telling the elect that he is happy to have close fellowship with his children if they would take advantage of it, instead of ignoring him.

Quote of the Day by Jonathan Edwards

What God aimed at in the creation of the world, as the end which he had ultimately in view, was that communication of himself which he intended through all eternity. And if we attend to the nature and circumstances of this eternal emanation of divine good, it will more clearly show HOW, in making this his end, God testifies a supreme respect to himself and makes himself his end.

There are many reasons to think that what God has in view, in an increasing communication of himself through eternity, is an increasing knowledge of God, love to him, and joy in him. And it is to be considered that the more those divine communications increase in the creature, the more it becomes one with God; for so much the more is it united to God in love, the heart is drawn nearer and nearer to God, and the union with him becomes more firm and close, and at the same time, the creature becomes more and more conformed to God. The image is more and more perfect, and so the good that is in the creature comes forever nearer and nearer to an identity with that which is in God. In the view therefore of God, who has a comprehensive prospect of the increasing union and conformity through eternity, it must be an infinitely strict and perfect nearness, conformity, and oneness. For it will forever come nearer and nearer to that strictness and perfection of union which there is between the Father and the Son. So that in the eyes of God, who perfectly sees the whole of it, in its infinite progress and increase, it must come to an eminent fulfillment of Christ’s request, in John 17:21, 23. That they all may be ONE, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be ONE in us; I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in ONE.

–Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NRSV

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
Colossians 1:9-10 NRSV

I’ve always wanted to think about God more. I read the book  The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence at least twice. It always left me wanting though. It may be because he doesn’t include spiritual disciplines, talk about God’s enabling,  the gospel, and other important topics very much. In reading the quote by Edwards, and of course much of the Bible, I can see why our spiritual nature would badly want this. Partly for this reason, I spread out my spiritual disciplines throughout the day.

There are a lot more thoughts I have on this. The book really causes me to think about a lot of things. I won’t write any more now at the risk of bungling it. Much can be misunderstood. I like how Edwards goes over specific objections with answers after presenting his ideas.

Exhortation from Jonathan Edwards

And so the final and most important exhortation to us from the life and work of Jonathan Edwards is this: in all our life and all our study and all our ministry let us seek to glorify God by being satisfied in him above all things. Let us press on to know in the depth of our being that “the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (Ps. 63:3). And so let us find the God-exalting freedom from this world that will make us the most radical, sacrificial servants of good on earth—that men may see our good works and join us in glorifying God by enjoying him forever.

–John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World)

Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards

In an interview with Dr. Sam Storms, author of Signs of the Spirit, in which he talks about Jonathan Edwards and his book about Edwards’ view of the spiritual life, he said that most people would recommend that people read Religious Affections for their first book by Edwards. He said this can be a little heavy for some and recommends Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards. This is a very short work of his own account of his early years and testimony to his own saving faith in Christ. It may be difficult to find in print but it’s a short read and is available online.

Our Reward in Heaven

1 Corinthians

In Garland’s commentary on 1 Corinthians he talks about 1 Corinthians 4:5:
“Paul now specifies what the reward is that he only alluded to in 3:8 and 3:14. It is praise from God (cf. Rom. 2:29; 1 Pet. 1:7).”

1 Peter 1:7
so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Wesley:
“Unto praise – From God himself. And honour – From men and angels. And glory – Assigned by the great Judge.”

Gill:
“his faith be found unto praise by him, he will have praise of him himself; it will be said unto him, “Well done, good and faithful servant”; his faith will be praised for its steadiness and constancy, notwithstanding all persecutions and tribulations; and his good works, the fruits of faith, will be taken notice of by him with commendation; he will be honoured, by being placed on the right hand of Christ, and by being set down with him in his throne, and having a crown of righteousness given to him;”

Clarke:
“he who doeth the will of God shall abide for ever, and his faith shall then be found to the praise of God’s grace, the honor of Christ, and the glory or glorification of his own soul throughout eternity. God himself will praise such faith, angels and men will hold it in honor, and Christ will crown it with glory.”

Related Scripture:
Matthew 6:3-4, Romans 2:29, 1 Corinthians 3:14 (teachers), Ephesians 6:7-8, Colossians 3:23-24 among others

I believe our reward is more than just salvation. I’m not sure if there will be any sort of levels or status in heaven but Scripture indicates we will be praised for good works, persevering in the faith etc. Some will enter only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15)

Here is another take on it with John Piper reading a section of a sermon by Jonathan Edwards called Levels of Happiness in Heaven.