When we are oppressed.

refining fire

There are a few books that have radically changed my life throughout my Spiritual walk, and one of those books is The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.  Jesus, throughout His earthly ministry, sought to teach the disciples how to love God and love Him, not simply to serve routinely – as was the practice of the Pharisees and others.  He compelled obedience and service as an overflowing of love, not duty.  Many in the early church grasped this foundation and by the time catechisms were being penned, the answer to the primary question, the meaning of life, was understood as thus:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

We have been created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Some have concluded that we most glorify God by enjoying Him fully, and forever – as God has created us for relationship with Him and commands us to remain in Him.  Thus our religion is driven by an affection of love that is rooted in thankfulness for what God has done for us – namely, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to ransom us from our sin debt and offer us eternal life.

Without affection, Edwards argues, our religion is cold and dead, and simply that of the Pharisees.  But he looks also at the reality of affliction and suffering in the Christian life and he makes this beautiful observation:

“True virtue never appears so lovely as when it is most oppressed; and the divine excellency of real Christianity is never exhibited with such advantage as when under the greatest trials; then it is that true faith appears much more precious than gold, and upon this account is “found to praise and honour and glory.”

– Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections

Paul teaches us in Romans, and James teaches us in his letter that our faith is purified by the fire of suffering, persecution and tribulation (Rom 5.1-5, James 1.2-4).  We understand from natural laws that we can purify and refine metals and natural products by fire.  If you want to make gold more pure, you heat it up.  You place it in the fire to burn out the impurities because gold can withstand a higher heat than most of the dirt and other elements that might be mixed in.  The higher the heat of the refining fire, the more pure the gold.  We have mastered the art of purifying metals and making steel as strong as it can be and gold as pure as it can be.  You never leave it in its natural state.

In the same way, Edwards argues, our faith is never at its most glory at its primary state.  The greater the oppression and the hotter the fire of trial, the more beautiful and pure it becomes.  God promises that all who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted:

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

– 2 Tim 3.12

He utilizes trials to refine, mature and grow our faith:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

– James 1.2-4

And He promises to discipline everyone that He loves:

“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”

– Heb 12.6

We know and understand that it is God’s will that we suffer in order to purify our faith (1 Peter 1-3).  If we have not walked through seasons of suffering or trials, if we have not experienced the discipline of the Lord in our lives to root out sin, then we can assume that we are not saved.

One of the greatest lies and tactics of the enemy is to keep us complacent and comfortable.  No one desires suffering.  No one wants to be confronted in his sin.  No one enjoys the pain of discipline and the refining fire.  But when we look back over our lives, an honest assessment sees the maturity and growth that came through this times.

When is it that your attention is caught by the faith of another?  When a person walks in regular discipline of quiet time, prayer and daily chores?  Or when a person is walking through an unimaginable trial and remains faithful to God, serving others and exemplifying the peace of the Spirit.  The faith of a man on his death bed, ready and eager to meet Jesus is much more beautiful than a rote prayer uttered over a meal.  The faith of the persecuted who is clinging to Jesus as he is unemployed for his faith or his church is burned down proclaims the excellencies of God more than hosting a Bible study in one’s home with one’s comfortable friends.

Yes, praying over meals and hosting a Bible study are good things.  But it is in the moment of testing that our faith is refined and proven to be more beautiful and more precious.  It is in those moments that we grow.

The enemy draws on our flesh, on our tendency and desire to be comfortable, and teaches us the lie that if God loves us He will give us everything we want and will make our lives easy.  He distorts the beautiful promises of Jesus,

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

– Matt 11.28

Jesus indeed will give us rest.  We will have peace and joy that is un-explainable and full of glory (1 Peter 1.18).  But the rest is spiritual.  We will have confidence in God, in our salvation, in our eternity.  Our eternal life begins at the moment we are born Spiritually and we are made into a new creation – one that understands and takes joy in the testing and refining of our faith.  We no longer have to strive to appease God and earn our salvation, we can rest in Him.  We no longer have to chase the pleasures of the world, we have the joy of God established in our hearts.  And the trials amplify that.

Throughout history, the church has grown and matured the most under persecution.  The early church multiplied and was rich in faith, but when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire, people grew complacent, lazy and nonbelievers began to desire to be a part of the church.  Offices were sold, the Gospel was distorted, and the church suffered.  The Church today is bursting in countries like China – where the oppression is still real.  And believers around the world pity American Christians because we are distracted and infatuated with the world.  Our faith is not being tested and refined like most around the world, even today.

So when we enter into trials, let us cling to Jesus.  Let us abide in Him.  Let us rejoice that our faith is being purified.  Let us seek what it is that God wants to teach us, and what impurities need to be removed from our lives.  Let us praise God that He is refining our faith.  Because it is in those moments that we grow, and that our faith is most precious and most beautiful.

Why did God forsake Jesus?

jesus on the cross

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the physical manifestation of the Godhead, and our Savior, came to the world with a purpose:  to buy salvation for those who would believe through His perfect life, death and resurrection.  He took on the form of a man, lived a life without sin – one not deserving of death – but died in our place so that we might be forgiven.  Many times when we share the Gospel, however, we leave out the most crucial part:  The resurrection.

If Jesus only died, then there is no hope.  This is true for no less than two reasons:  1)  He promised to raise again, and if He did not keep His word then He was a false prophet and a liar.  2)  Just dying does not solve the problem of death, He had to raise again and conquer death.

Secular anthropologists and researchers have often studied methods of torture and the Roman cross is regularly listed as the most terrible way to die.  Jesus suffered on that most terrible device of men.  But at the risk of sounding callous, so did thousands of other people.  Many Christians, in fact, were executed and left to rot on crosses, guilty of no crime deserving death.  Jesus did not come to Earth simply to die, He came to Earth to raise again, to conquer death, and to establish our forgiveness and salvation.

After Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the disciples, they went up to the garden at Gethsemane and He prayed that God would allow this cup to pass from Him.  He dreaded what was coming, to the point that He begged God for hours to find another way.  When God offered no alternative, Jesus set His face to the cross and was led silently, as a lamb to the slaughter (Is 53.7).  Jesus suffered unthinkable physical torture, was nailed to the cross, and hung there for six hours.  Before He died, however, in the final moments, God turned Jesus into sin.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

– 2 Cor 5.21

Jesus was not just taking our place, He literally became sin.  Isaiah says,

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

– Is 53.6

All of the sins of all of those who would believe were laid on Jesus in such a way that Jesus became sin in His very nature.  Jesus was still God.  He was still loved by God.  He still had the Holy Spirit on Him.  But God turned Him into sin and poured out His wrath against Him.  God forsook Jesus.  He Himself sent Jesus to the cross (Acts 2.23).  This only began to happen in the final moment Jesus was on the cross.  The final three hours that Jesus was on the cross, the sky was black (Matt 27.45).  God sent Jesus to the cross, turned Him into sin, and turned His back to Him.  In that moment, Jesus cried out:


– Matt 27.46

Jesus no longer used the affectionate term for God, Abba, that He regularly used.  He switched to the respectful, “Almighty” term.  And then He breathed His last and entered into the second phase of the the purchasing of salvation:  He went to Hell.  This is a point of confusion in today’s church that has never been a point of confusion since the foundation of the Church.  The Apostle’s Creed proclaims it boldly, and Acts 2 teaches is shamelessly.  When the women found Jesus on Easter Sunday, Jesus told them to not cling to Him because He had not yet been to the Father (John 20.17).  But why does it matter?

Jesus was not fearful or dreading of physical death.  He was dreading being separated from God.  He was dreading the true punishment that we deserve for death:  Spiritual separation from God.  Jesus went into the pits of death, having been made sin, and then, three days later, He conquered it!

It is said, when Jonah was cast into the sea, the sea ceased from her raging: so, when once Christ was swallowed up in God’s wrath, his wrath ceased from raging towards the church. The words of Jonah’s song, chap. ii. make the thing more apparent. He calls the belly of the fish, the belly of hell, or the belly of the grave, 2d and 4th verses. “I cried by reason of mine affliction, then said I, I am cast out of thy sight.” So Christ said, My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” Ver. 3. “The floods compassed me about, all thy waves and thy billows passed over me,” (the words of the psalmist, Psal. xlii. 7. also Lam. iii. 4, 5.) to signify the great sorrow and distress that God brought upon him. Ver. 5. “The waters compassed me about, even to the soul,” (the words of the psalmist, for great trouble and anguish, Psal. lxix. 1.) Ver. 6. “Yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption,” agreeable to what is said of Christ, Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

– Jonathan Edwards

Jesus was in the belly of death, in Hell, and yet God did not allow His body to see decay.  God had the plan of conquering death in play.  And it was when Jesus arose from the dead, when He left Hell and tore down its gates, when He took the keys from Lucifer (Rev 1.18), He came back to life as the first born of the resurrection and thus He established our hope.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

– Col 1.18

When Jesus died, the Earth shook.  The curtain in the temple was torn in half.  God boldly exemplified that He no longer resides in the Holy of Holies and people can no longer approach His presence through the priests there.  But until Jesus was raised from the dead, there was no intercessor to approach God.  He removed His presence to Heaven, left no plan in place to appease Him, and Jesus was dead.  For three days there was no hope.

But then Jesus arose.  He was given the highest name, He was bestowed the highest honor.  He shed the sin that He became in Hell and left it there, having appeased the wrath of God for the sins of believers.  He was raised to eternal life, and He took His place in the holy courtroom of God as our High Priest, our intercessor.

If Jesus only died, we have no hope.

The glory of the Gospel is not that Jesus died, it is that He became sin, suffered death, defeated death and rose victorious over it!

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

– 1 Cor 15.12-19

Resolved VII

I have come today to reflect on the last of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions.  Oh to be a person of such conviction!  When I was in High School, I was often accused (mostly by myself) of being too serious, incapable of relating well to most of the other students, except – of course – for the philosophicals and thinkers of my class.  I distinctly remember sitting with a group of friends one day – who claimed to be Christians – and thinking to myself as they were quoting movies and acting like fools, “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5.4).  I still wrestle with this balance, as I do believe God gave us creation and humor to enjoy.  So what exactly is the prohibition against silly talk?

Jonathan Edwards apparently had no problem with this balance, and his first resolution here (and all following) is exceptionally convicting:

61.  Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it—that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, &c. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
62.  Resolved, Never to do any thing but my duty, and then, according to Eph. vi. 6-8. to do it willingly and cheerfully, as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall be receive of the Lord. June 25, and July 13, 1723.
63.  On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14, and July 13, 1723.
64.  Resolved, When I find those ”groanings which cannot be uttered,“ of which the apostle speaks, and those ”breathings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the psalmist speaks, Psalm cxix. 20. that I will promote them to the utmost of my power; and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavouring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.
65.  Resolved, Very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness of which I am capable, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him, all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance, according to Dr. Manton’s Sermon on the 119th Psalm,. July 26, and Aug. 10, 1723.
66.  Resolved, That I will endeavour always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking, in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
67.  Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what I might have got by them.
68.  Resolved, To confess frankly to myself, all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
69.  Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.
70.  Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.

Resolved VI

A few months ago, I began chewing on small sections of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions that he made at the beginning of his ministry.  He reflected on all seventy of his life’s resolutions at least once a week, and lived an exemplary life – the type which I seek to emulate.  I have listed here links to the first fifty resolutions:

This section of resolutions look much to the fullness of life and living without regret.  He does not want to get to the end of his life and think, “I wasted it” or to think that there is something he could have done differently or more to the glory and honor of God.

51.  Resolved, That I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
52.  I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
53.  Resolved, To improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, 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 assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
54.  Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
55.  Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
56.  Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
57.  Resolved, When I fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13, 1723.
58.  Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
59.  Resolved, When I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.
60.  Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.

Are you a thinker or a feeler?

I am a thinker.  To a fault.  I can compartmentalize, talk about subjects and situations completely removing all emotional attachment and excel at problem solving.  This is extremely beneficial in the work place, academia and the logical side of life.  However, I often assume people are processing situations the same way that I am and I might speak to a problem or situation without considering another’s emotional involvement in that situation, because to me problem solving is the default.

One of my best friends is a licensed counselor and is working on her PhD in counseling.  We had a terribly interesting conversation a few months ago about the counseling world and how we, as a society, are trying to force thinkers to be feelers.  I was told once that I need to practice “feeling statements” and get in touch with my feelings.  “I feel _____ because _____ “.  We, as a society, equate relational ability with feelings.

I believe that God gave us feelings.  He speaks to His provision of grace and mercy being the foundation for our joy, and that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh 8.10).  Solomon says that there is a season for everything:

“There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven—a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.  A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up.  A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.  A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.  A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away.  A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak.  A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”

– Ecc 3.1-8

We are also encouraged, in community and relationships to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12.15).  So there is a very real emotional connection and building up of one another that we are admonished to embrace and practice within the Church.

But two women have spoken into my life clearly this week:  We need to understand and embrace the person that God has created us to be.  He has gifted each of us differently, and “if the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body” (1 Cor 12.15).  If He made you a thinker, be the best thinker for His glory.  If He created you as a feeler, feel to His glory!  Now I am not saying that we do not need to continually be learning and growing as individuals and as Christians.  But I have, for a long time, considered myself less of a woman because I am not emotionally oriented.  Being a thinker or feeler by disposition is not inherently sinful, and thus we do not need to seek to change those attributes about ourselves.  We need to seek to change our sinful responses that are expressed because of those dispositions.  And we need to value one another in the unique ways He has gifted us!

Jonathan Edwards wrote a book called “The Religious Affections”.  I highly recommend it to both thinkers and feelers.  Everyone.  He notes that there is an intellectual and emotional response to God in the outworking of salvation and he offers twelve tests by which we can evaluate our conversion to see if it is genuine.  He then observes the fruit of the Spirit as outlined in Galatians 5 as the emotional and appropriate response for all believers in relationship to God, with love being the primary response:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

– Gal 5.22-23

What is important to remember is that the way that different people express and experience love is different.  And there is no “right way” to do it.  We each enjoy relationships and we each enjoy God differently.  And the different ways that we think and feel makes full and complete the body of Christ.  Embrace your gift.  Embrace your disposition.  Ask God to reveal to you the fullness of your experience with Him and fall more in love with Him every day, in the way that He expresses Himself to you and you to Him.  And use that to edify the body and push one another on to good works (Heb 10.24).  Do not consider yourself less of a body member because of your disposition.  But do consider one another’s interests above your own (Phil 2.4), and put aside the things of the flesh (Rom 13.12, Col 3.8).

Resolved V

I have come back to the fifth set of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions for encouragement today.  I like to chew on them in bite-sized pieces to best impact my heart.  Here are the first four sections:

This section is varied, as are they all, but Edwards reflects much on his foundational commitment to God and to those in his immediate family here.  I have to daily preach the gospel to myself.  And live knowing that I am not my own.  He uses the term “Religion” in his writings to represent his relationship with Jesus Christ.  The word did not yet have the negative connotation which we affix to it when he lived.

Let us resolve to know, love and honor God.

41.  Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
42.  Resolved, Frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism, which I solemnly renewed when I was received into the communion of the church, and which I have solemnly re-made this 12th day of January, 1723.
43.  Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s; agreeably to what is to be found in Saturday, Jan. 12th. Jan. 12, 1723.
44.  Resolved, That no other end but religion shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan. 12, 1723.
45.  Resolved, Never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.
46.  Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
47.  Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done. Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.
48.  Resolved, Constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.
49.  Resolved, That this never shall be, if I can help it.
50.  Resolved, That I will act so, as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

Resolved IV

I am periodically coming back to Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions for reflection, a section at a time.

As I have noted before, I enjoy that they come in themes and thus make for progressive thought and application.  The section today focuses heavily on our interaction with and intentions towards other people – both believers and non believers.  Let us all strive to:

“Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.”

– Rom 12.9-10

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

– Phil 2.3-4

This is no small thing, to consider someone as more important than yourself.  But what a fun perspective Paul offers us, to be – in a sense – at competition with one another to see who can honor others more!

31.  Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of christian honour, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said any thing against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.
32.  Resolved, To be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. xx. 6. ‘A faithful man, who can find?’ may not be partly fulfilled in me.
33.  Resolved, To do always what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without an overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.
34.  Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
35.  Resolved, Whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
36.  Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722.
37.  Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,—what sin I have committed,—and wherein I have denied myself;—also, at the end of every week, month, and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
38.  Resolved, Never to utter any thing that is sportive, or matter of laughter, on a Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
39.  Resolved, Never to do any thing, of which I so much question the lawfulness, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
40.  Resolved, To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

Resolved III

Jonathan Edwards, in his resolutions, establishes for himself outlines of how to live daily life.  I split them up into bite-sized pieces so as to meditate well on them, and have included resolutions 21-30 today.  Resolutions 1-10 are listed here, and 11-20 here.

I notice themes throughout the entirety of the list, but also in small sections.  In these resolutions today I see his determination to examine his heart and test his motives for both things good and things bad which he would commit.  Understanding the root of our service and the root of our sin will help us to comprehend that which drives us and assist us in submitting to God and living more purposefully for His glory and honor alone.  We might struggle with a particular sin, say, cheating on tests during school.  We might understand that as sin and thus discipline ourselves to refrain from cheating.  We might set boundaries for ourselves:  not sitting near to anyone so as to copy, not bringing cheat sheets and willfully choosing to not cheat one exam at a time.  This is a good thing.  However, we must test our hearts and chase the root of the sin:  pride, self-sufficiency, laziness in not preparing and/or lofty expectations of self, or any other number of heart issues.  If we do not fight the sin on the heart level, we might omit one particular outward expression of the sin but the inward problem remains and it will exemplify itself in other sins down the road.

Therefore, let us test our hearts.  Let us examine our motives.  Let us surrender to self and live for the glory of God.

21.  Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.
22.  Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
23.  Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution.
24.  Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
25.  Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.
26.  Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.
27.  Resolved, Never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
28.  Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
29.  Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.
30.  Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

Resolved II

On Wednesday I wrote about having a hero, and spoke to one of mine:  Jonathan Edwards.  I outlined the first ten of his resolutions for reflection, and today I am looking at the next ten:

11.  Resolved, When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
12.  Resolved, If I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
13.  Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.
14.  Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge.
15.  Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
16.  Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
17.  Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
18.  Resolved, To live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the gospel, and another world.
19.  Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.
20.  Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

Edwards’ resolutions so differ from our culture at large.  Just last night I watched a movie of which the intended expectation of the audience was revenge.  And I found I wanted the main character to obtain his revenge.  We pull for bank robbers, rebels and evil doers in movies often.  We often live our lives vengefully and selfishly.  But the way Christ would have us to live is selflessly and surrendered to Him.

Resolution fifteen catches my attention here, to never get angry towards irrational beings.  Do you know anyone who is or can be irrational?  Do you keep your cool towards them for the sake of the Gospel?

Do you have a hero?

To whom do you look?  Do you have a hero?  If you are a Christian, the Sunday School answer is often Jesus or Paul.  And there are characters throughout the Scriptures to whom we should look and seek to emulate.  Jesus is the Son of God, He is perfect, and He is the ultimate example for our lives.  The “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 gives examples of Old Testament forefathers of the faith who lived exemplary lives.  The disciples lived with passion and conviction, taking the Gospel to the known world and all but one dying for the faith.  These are people that we should imitate.

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

– Heb 13.7

In fact, Paul exhorts the church at Corinth to imitate himself!

“Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”

– 1 Cor 4.16

These pillars of faith have gone on before, serve as an example, and hope expectantly for our success.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

– Heb 12.1-2

There are many forerunners of the faith from whom we can learn since Bible times as well.  I prefer those who have finished their race as having died they are not able apostatize and disgrace the name of our Lord.  Perhaps the most influential author/pastor/believer in my life is Jonathan Edwards.  He has a phenomenal story which I encourage you to read, but at the age of 19 he established for himself seventy resolutions by which he would live.  He disciplined himself to read and meditate on the entire list once a week for the rest of his life: 35 years.  I long for such a conviction, such a passion and such commitment to our Lord.

Here are the first ten resolutions to which he committed himself:

  1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
  2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the forementioned things.
  3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
  4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.
  5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
  6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.
  7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
  8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. Vid. July 30.
  9. Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
  10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

Resolution number seven and eight regularly grab my attention.  To function in complete awareness of one’s own depravity and live with the freedom and knowledge of the saving grace bestowed upon us is to be able to love one another truly and grow in repentance and humility as we observe sin outside of ourselves.  It is easy to point fingers.  It is hard to repent.  And to choose “carpe diem”, to seize the day – to live every moment honorably such that the Lord would be pleased if He were to return at that moment is an overwhelming thought.  Let us seek to discipline ourselves.  Let us remember those who have suffered for the sake of the cross.  Let us live to “the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure” such as God would have for us and make His name known!  Let us find some heroes and imitate their faith!