On January 23, 1723, I made a solemn dedication of myself to God and wrote it down; giving up myself and all that I had to God, to be for the future in no respect my own; to act as one that had no right to himself in any respect; and solemnly vowed to take God for my whole portion and felicity, looking on nothing else as any part of my happiness, nor acting as if it were; and his laws of the constant rule of my obedience, engaging to fight with all my might against the world, the flesh, and the devil, to the end of my life.
These are the words of Jonathan Edwards, spoken at the age of twenty, only two years after receiving salvation and one year after serving in his first pastorate. His father was a pastor, as was his grandfather, and consequently, Edwards grew up in an environment where he did not lack in his knowledge of the Scriptures. In fact, by the age of thirteen, the year he began undergraduate studies at Yale, he already knew Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. As a child, Edwards even responded to one of his father’s messages and committed himself to prayer five times a day – even building a secret prayer booth in a swamp with some local school friends.
But Edwards’ piety should be a warning to us. In his own words:
I am ready to think many are deceived with such affections, and such kind of delight as I then had in religion, and mistake it for grace.
By the time Edwards was in college, he had come to realize he took great pride in his intellect, and was self-deceived into thinking he was a true believer in the gospel of grace. After receiving genuine salvation though, Edwards steadfastly committed Himself to the Lord, writing seventy resolutions he’d vigorously commit himself to over the course of his life – not because he believed it was by these resolutions that he’d earn salvation, but because as a true Christian, he sought to please God by his life. That’s something every Christian should be concerned with, and it’s something that every true Christian is concerned with.
Edwards was alarmed though by the growing number of those who were making professions of faith, but who lacked the desire to please God by their lives. There was no fruit of salvation, and Edwards would spend a great portion of his own ministry tirelessly fighting an easy-believism gospel plaguing New England and the spiritual apathy in his own congregation – the the same church his grandfather once pastored. We know the end to the story though. In spite of his status and influence in the 18th century, he was removed as pastor of his church in Northampton.
Regardless, he remained a man of the Word, and a man committed to his convictions. Ian Murray said this of him:
The key to an understanding of Jonathan Edwards is that he was a man who put faithfulness to the Word of God before every other consideration.
After losing his home and his congregation as a result of that faithfulness, he set out as a missionary to the local Native Americans and wrote some of his greatest works during the years that followed.
But what’s truly amazing about Edwards’ resolutions, is that they were not just a formal expression of his desire to please God – but he genuinely endeavored to keep them.
As we embark on a new year, it’s a great time for us to evaluate our own spiritual condition and make resolutions of our own. We will never be perfect until our bodies have been glorified, but we should still endeavor to become more and more like Christ in everything we do.
After all, Paul himself modeled this for us. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 he writes:
But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Paul himself regularly committed himself to disciplining his body in order that he would not be disqualified. Listen also to the words of Peter:
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:5-8).
How’s that for some resolutions for the new year!? But look at what Peter says next:
For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
So, Peter informs us that the person who does not regularly pursue these things will be unable to discern his or her true spiritual condition, and not only that, but the blessings associated with obedience to God’s Word will be forgotten, being replaced instead with fear and doubt.
Commitment to obedience might result in hardship in this world – in fact, they will. But can you imagine if Edwards was more concerned with living comfortably in New England by living a mediocre, normal, “Christian” life? Or the Apostle Paul, or Peter? Our Lord builds His church on the shoulders of those who are faithful, and my hope for you this year is that you yourself would be resolved to live a life of faithful obedience to the Lord.
*This post originally appeared at on the Pastoral Blog at www.highpointbaptist.church.