As you think about the coming twelve months, ask yourself this question: Is my spiritual growth a priority? It was for Edwards. He wrote, “Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.” With these words, Edwards is stating his desire to know God more intimately and, as a result, love more of what God loves and hate more of what God hates. His hope was to “grow in the grace…of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18) each and every week. And, we know from his practices that he put feet on his hopes. He personally sought the face of God (several of his resolutions deal with prayer and one is related to his study of God’s Word). Edwards was actively engaged in the public and private worship of God. Can we do less? Like this man of God, we are called–commanded–to grow as Christians. Unless our calendar changes, we are on the verge of 52 weeks entitled “2011.” Many of us have either spoken or unspoken resolutions. I am going to exercise more than I did in 2010 (not a difficult goal, sadly). I am going to read more than I did (again–relatively easy). Etc. These are not bad hopes, and I will be blessed if I can put feet upon them. However, I also need to own Edwards’ resolution. I need to be brought higher in religion. Paul put it this way, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). I think our 2011 will be wasted if we do not make progress in our walk with God. Have you a plan of action to do just that? I hope so. If not, allow me to list some tactical maneuvers on the Quick Takes page to assist you.
What do you do when you are irked?
Jonathan Edwards was a man who exercised self-control. He was on a mission to be disciplined in every area of his life. This included both outward issues–like drinking and eating [Resolution #20])–as well as inward issues such as emotions. Resolution #60 reads, “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.” What do you do when you are irked? Send an email (as a principal, I regularly receive emails from irked individuals)? Toss a txt msg at someone? Kick the family dog? Lash out at your spouse? Edwards was resolved to ensure that his emotional life glorify God. He wanted to feel to God’s glory. He wanted to inwardly act and react to outward circumstances in such a way that pleased the Lord. What an example for us! Without a doubt, 2011 will be filled with opportunities for each of us to glorify God with our feelings! The emotional roller coaster of the new year begins one second after midnight (hopefully that first emotion will be excitement, joy, praise, etc.). From that moment on, may the next twelve months prove that we are in control of our emotions rather than prove that our emotions are in control of us!
PS–You can find the link to a copy of Edwards’ Resolutions on the Quick Takes page.
We saw The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” yesterday afternoon. For what it’s worth, I believe I enjoyed it more than the previous two. I won’t be a spoiler. I’ll just share one line which stood out to me: “Before you battle with what’s out there, you must do battle with what is on the inside.” Resolution #53 reads, “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” Don’t you love his passion coupled with his honest assessment of his fight against his flesh? Edwards deeply desired to do battle with his own sin, and he planned to continue to do so even knowing defeats were surely in the future. I read 1 Peter 2 yesterday morning. In that passage, the Apostle Peter wrote, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (NIV). In the previous chapter, the same author commanded the saints, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:14). Similarly, the Apostle Paul enouraged the Christians in Rome to put to death the deeds of the body with the aid of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13). Simply put, Edwards’ commitment to denying his flesh was based on a repeated theme of the Bible. OK; let’s do the necessary self-examination now. Think back on the past twelve months. How well did we engage the flesh in battle? Or–to use Edwards’ terminology, did we “slacken” in the fight? A new year awaits, but the war remains. Let’s use the next three days to regroup and prepare for war! Who’s with me?!
Did you spend time in God’s Word today? I am reading 1 Peter this week after Christmas (last five days of the year = a five chapter book). This morning I read 1 Peter 2, a chapter filled with both theology and application. As I conclude yet another year, I still find myself fascinated by the Bible. In Resolution #28, Jonathan Edwards wrote, “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.” In other words, Edwards wanted to continue to spend quality time in the Word of God so that he might know more of the Word of God. And, knowing Edwards as I do, his ultimate goal was to know God more intimately and show God more effectively. This morning I was reminded that I should crave the milk of the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2). I do. I hope you do as well. And–like my baby–we need to fuss until we get some. If you did not have the opportunity to drink Bible yet today, start fussing! Drink as soon a possible!
The plan was for Jodi to take the three older kids on errands while I watched Cascade WHEN SHE NAPPED. Well, Madagascar 2 just ended, and my crazy daughter continues to move and talk! At present, she is meowing. A minute ago she called me a “big, bad wolf.” Seconds before that she informed me that she was in the couch. Things go from bad to worse when she has her magic wand! If I’m not careful, she will catch me unaware and pronounce “Poof” as she changes me into something or someone. It’s very disconcerting. What am I to do? The answer, of course, is to enjoy every moment! My fourth arrow is a lot of fun! She keeps us laughing! The kids had a wonderful Christmas. We are praising God for an awesome celebration of the birth of Christ! I am also thankful for the opportunity I have had to build into the lives of my children this Christmas break. We have spent time in worship as a family and with the body of Christ. These are very important ways in which I am attempting to aim the arrows in the right direction. I trust you are doing the same with your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. The children need us, and we had better be there for them or “Poof…you’re a table!”
By nature, I am reflective. Although I do not necessarily “contemplate my navel,” I am prone to pause long enough to think about what has transpired in my life. I’ll ask the metaphysical questions such as Why am I here? as well as the nitty gritty ones like What did I do in 2010 that I should strive to do again in 2011? I find it helpful to do a little self-examination as another year comes to its conclusion. As a result, I appreciate Jonathan Edwards’ famous resolutions. They serve as a guide to help me make any necessary adjustments in order to see my life become more aligned with the Word of God. This brings me to Resolution #7. Edwards wrote, “Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.” Edwards was not unaccustomed to contemplating his own death and using those thoughts to challenge himself to holy living (see Resolutions #9, #17, #19, #50). That’s not a bad practice. This past February I came face to face with my own mortality. I had a T.I.A. (mini-stroke). Thankfully, I bounced back almost immediately. However, the experience was another reminder that tomorrow is not promised. This could be my last day. This could be my last hour. This could be my last minute. It could be yours as well. How are we living it? The first and foremost passion of Jonathan Edwards was the glory of God. He mentions it first in his list of seventy resolutions. As 2010 ends, it is my intense hope that much of what I did, said, thought, etc. was glorifying to God. That, too, is my first and foremost passion. But I am well aware of the presence of my flesh. I remain in a “body of death” (Rom. 7:24). Thus, I rejoice with the Apostle Paul that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1)! I am grateful that the blood of Jesus is sufficient for the sins I committed in 2010, and I am motivated to live more to His glory in 2011. I hope the same can by said of you.
I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas Day! Our day was a gift from God, including a white Christmas! We have thoroughly enjoyed our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ this year. Last night we went to a nice Christmas Eve service at a local church. Today we had a brunch, family worship, a time of exchanging gifts and games. The kids are enjoying their presents. The parents are worn out. Our Christmas program at church in the morning is the last “big event” on our schedule for this year. I’ll reflect some on the past twelve months, and share my hopes for the coming year in a day or two. Today I am simply going to relish in the gifts of our gracious God. I hope you are able to do the same. God has been very good to His people. If Christmas reminds us of anything, it does that!
Christmas is about light, bright light! Consider the following:
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk. 1:78, 79).
“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened” (Lk. 2:9).
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Mt. 2:2)?
“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn. 1:4,5).
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
Tonight we will light the fourth candle of advent (we tweak the custom due to the little-kid season). The first candle is called Promise. It reminds us that all the prophecies related to the Messiah and salvation are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The second candle is called Light. It reminds us of the star the Magi from the East followed. The third candle is called Love. It reminds us that God is love, and that love was indeed a primary motivation in His sending His one and only Son. Tonight we will light our fourth candle. It is called Hope. It reminds us to continue to trust in the promises of God. On Christmas Day we will light the center candle. It is called The Light of the World. It will serve to remind us of Jesus–the Lord and Savior.
Christmas is about light, bright light! Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by the lesser lights around you this weekend. Strive to make your celebration about The Light of the World!
If you have thirty minutes to spare, this sermon from John Piper will help you to maintain your focus: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-child-to-be-born-will-be-called-holythe-son-of-god
I am often drawn to the third chapter of Galatians with Christmas only days away. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 3:4-7). I only meant to quote the third verse, but the four verses together serve as a beautiful literary unit listing no less than four benefits believers have in Christ! I’ll only mention the first in this entry: redemption. At the right time, God sent Jesus to redeem (purchase) His people (“those who were under the Law” who would be adopted). Redemption is a repeated theme in Luke’s gospel account of the incarnation. Zacharias mentioned it after the birth of his son (1:68). Anna made the connection between Jesus and redemption in the temple (2:38). Humans need to be redeemed in order to be saved. It is a necessary ingredient in the ordo salutus (the order of salvation). Today, I praise God for His awesome plan which resulted in a perfect Savior providing perfect redemption at the perfect time!
Got a minute? Check out the Quick Takes page again.