Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #20

Resolved to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

So if I’m honest, I have been putting this one off for a little while. This is one area that I know I should do better in, but simply don’t. I’ve developed bad habits of eating poorly and though I can point to benefits, I have never really been able to develop a strong discipline of eating well. The drinking aspect is really a non-issue for me; I don’t really consume alcohol or drink poorly (water tends to be a dominant fluid for me).

What comes to mind that really gives me pause about my inability to be disciplined is that the Bible definitely speaks to this. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:20, while contextually talking about sexual immorality, reminds me of this sort of disciplining of our bodies: “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Just one verse prior to this one (in 1 Corinthians 6:19) Paul writes “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…?”

In the Old Testament the temple has many connotations; most notably, for me, is that of it being a place of holiness and un-defilement, and a unique place of honor because of the presence of the Lord (2 Chronicles 5:7). Romans 8:9-11 outlines the truth that the same Holy Spirit that indwelled Jesus is within us, and this should give us cause for great rejoicing.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul said “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Essentially, he is calling out to the other Christians: “follow my example, as a leader and representative of discipline and worship; do as I do but only because I am pursuing Christ’s face.”

In a leadership context I heard Justin Anderson once speak on this. He said “your body matters–what you wear, your weight, your presentation of yourself–because your congregation follows you not just as a pastor but as a leader. They follow your lead. Your people have to be able to see themselves in you.” 

Ultimately, if we as leaders do not consider what our nonverbals (and even image) is communicating, we might be in danger of communicating that our bodies are not valuable to be tended to. Paul refers to us as athletes and soldiers–both of which have physical and mental disciplines–and I think that could be used in this context as well.

At the end of the day, this is not an area that I am thriving in, but I see the biblical warrant and I pray that these reminders help me reorient my choices. For me personally, I am reminded that many times I chose foods that will satisfy me temporarily but hurt me in the long run–they do not really have nutritional value but they may be appetizing in the here and now. Many times I regret the decision even while I’m still eating it! In the same way, God has called us to feast from the true source of nourishment–Himself. God calls us to be disciplined in our approaches and be mindful of our discipline, because it may likely reveal to us our posture of worship–do we “feast” on that which we know is damaging and will not satisfy, or do we “feast” on that while is abiding, true, and ultimately nourishing to our bodies and souls?

“Food for thought,” if you will. Hope some of this provides a different perspective.

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Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #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.

While this resolution is very similar to Resolution 17, in reading this resolution I had a very different train of thought. Instead of the mindset “thinking of this world will fuel us for lasting impact in this world” I thought to Hebrews 11:13 to those who “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

I then began thinking of the implications of what it means to be a stranger and exile, and what it means for us today.

It’s easy for many of us to be desensitized to our surroundings. Our rides to work are along the same route, take roughly the same amount of time, and the rides often become a “featureless corridor from home to work; a non-place where the mind drifts and we suddenly find ourselves arriving without having any memory of the journey” (from A Mis-Guide to Anywhere). When thinking of these implications, it’s easy to be so casually associated to your surroundings and completely miss the beauty in them.

The book mentioned above–A Mis-Guide to Anywhere–seeks to combat this mentality by providing various activities/tasks to see your typical surroundings (workplace, cities, transit, etc.) in a different perspective [if you’re interested, definitely check it out. There’s quite a bit of interesting things there which could spice up some of our [especially my own] routine-driven, sometimes repetitive lifestyle(s).

Anyways, back on point: I believe my thoughts jumped to this because as strangers and exiles we shouldn’t think of this place as home. Strangers see things around them as unfamiliar, they have a mentality of learning and seeking to understand from the people around them. I know for me this mentality is not present enough–and I’m all too often content to stay within my Christian sub-culture. Exiles are ones who have been displaced for one reason or another, but all the while they long to be reunited with their true home–no matter how “at home” they may be in their new location. With this in mind, remember that we are to live as exiles, aware that we have been cast out of the garden yet long to return to the shalom–the abiding fullness, rightness, and flourishing that God created us to experience with Him–of His presence.

Tying it all back to the Resolution, keeping our thoughts fixed on the Gospel and the “other World” (the one that is to come as promised in the Word of God) helps remind us that this world and these circumstances are not all there is. This should motivate us to live differently, learn differently, and perceive the world around us as something to marvel at.

Mark Batterson has a couple of quotes that I have found particularly helpful in this regard: “When a routine becomes routine, change the routine” (and)

“Change of pace + Change of place = Change of perspective”

When you force yourself to look at things differently and when you slow down enough to observe–truly observe–your surroundings, I think you’ll be surprised at the majesty in the mundane.

Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #17

Resolved that I will live so, as I wish I had done when I come to die. (#17)

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. (#19)

[update: I’ve combined Resolutions 17 & 19 due to the consistent nature of their content and my reaction to them]

This reminds me of a quote I read recently. Dr. Samuel Johnson is reported to have said: “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” When we are near death–or made more aware of it–our minds tend to think clearer. When someone close to us dies, when we struggle with a grieving loss, what is truly (and ultimately) important to us becomes apparent.

I believe this is the emotional response Jonathan Edwards is hoping to trigger with this resolution.

Essentially he is saying that he wants to live in such a way that he has no regrets. Sure he (as we all) will mess up and wish things could’ve been done differently, but having an attitude of urgency and proactivity changes the way in which we live; the people in which we share the Gospel with; even HOW we share that Gospel. It changes the filter in which we perceive and act in our lives. Even the risks we do or do not take.

Another quote that comes to mind in regards to this topic is from C.S. Lewis who says: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

I think he hits it dead on in pointing out that as we think about Heaven and the eternal promises provided to us in the Gospel it changes us. It changes the way we think, act, pray, love, and serve. It changes our perspective from the temporal to the abiding/eternal; and when that happens, there are fundamental changes in us.

This resolution is about making these truths more readily on the front of our minds. We ought to be thinking through this lens much more than we presently do. Maybe then we won’t watch that extra episode of a TV show we’ve already seen. Maybe then we will have the courage to share the Gospel (and take the risk!) with the person God has put on our hearts. Maybe then we will begin actually responding to our own question of “will this (action) even matter in 5 years, or am I just wasting time?”

At the end of the day it’s about a level of intentionality. John Piper in Don’t Waste Your Life puts it well when he (continually) asserts that he doesn’t want to get to the end of his life and say “I’ve wasted it.”

Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #16

Resolved never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to (their) dishonor–more or less–upon no account except for some real good.

This resolution immediately makes me think of the cliche “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” However, I think this resolution hits much deeper to a heart issue that is easily overlooked.

James 3:1-12 is the central passage that comes to mind for me with all of this–the “taming of the tongue” section. Verses 3 and 4 compare the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth or a rudder on a ship; each item is small but controls the entire object. In the same way our tongue has the ability to steer our entire self in a particular direction. If we speak ill of someone (slandering, gossiping, lying, envying, etc.) then all too often–for me at least–it’s easy for my mentality towards that person to shift and to only see what I want to see, and end up building walls around myself rather than bridges in the relationship.

Proverbs 18:21 says that the tongue has the power of life (or) death and James 3:9-10 echoes this in saying that from the tongue comes both blessing and cursing.

I say all of this to reinforce the fact that our tongue is a strong influencer of our minds and our hearts. We would be wise to listen more than we speak (some say “there’s a reason we were given two ears and only one mouth”).

To make one final point, the last part of this resolution says “except for some real good.” I think this is extremely important to remember. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 both say that we must “encourage one another” (with 5:11 adding on “and build one another up”). Your brother and sister need your encouragement. Our walks with Christ can be challenging, confusing, trying, and isolating. While we do not work and pray and strive to live out the Gospel for other’s affirmation and approval, it is a welcomed encouragement when others pour into you as you strive towards the goal.

So in the end.. be mindful of what is coming from your lips (life vs. death) and begin looking for opportunities to encourage those around you.

Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #15

Resolved never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

This one set me back a little at first; “irrational beings”?

When I thought on it a bit longer what I think he was getting at, or at least my interpretation of it based on my own understanding, is that we are quick to apply one set of values, standards, and expectations on someone or some thing which may not even hold to those values/perspectives/etc. in the first place.

That may have been a bit more vague than I intended, so allow me to explain.

The way I think about this for myself is the types of expectations I put on myself based on my beliefs. I don’t really drink–not because it’s evil or immoral, but because I don’t see it ever being fruitful for me–but it would be out of line for me to impose that mentality on others. I have friends who drink, and friends who get drunk. I don’t always agree with it, but I don’t think I should be surprised. Why should they not drink? If it’s in line with their worldview then it only makes sense that they think this way and do those things.

More generally applied, I think we–as Christians–have a tendency to mentally project our convictions onto others who don’t even believe the same things we do. We expect the world to not be having sex outside of marriage, hold the same views as we do in regards to abortion and marriage, and yet we often do not pause to think about it. Why should they act the same? We have a paradigm shifting set of beliefs that changes everything about us.. and yet we get bothered when others aren’t conforming to that.. others who don’t even have personal reasons to conform to it in the first place.

Now don’t hear me wrong.. it’s important for us to notice these differences and know, each for ourselves, why we do or do not do the things we do, and why others around us may do and believe in certain things. Additionally, we are to “always [be] prepared to give a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15) as to why we believe the things we do or live the way we do. This means being face to face with others who don’t believe the things we believe, but loving them all the while.

Understand that the actions of those apart from Christ should not necessarily provoke us to anger–because we can’t expect them to want to act differently if the rest of the world constantly says it’s OK–but it should stir up in us a grief. It should fill our hearts with a longing to show them that God has provided something something better to be experienced (see Hebrews 11:40).

So at the end of the day, do not let the patterns of this world provoke you to anger, but use it as an opportunity to pray to God to open channels of communication–through relationship building–to share the Gospel. May these instances not turn us to anger, but help us “abound in hope” (Roman 15:13).

Jonathan Edwards’ “Resolutions” Restarted

It’s been a little over a year since I wrote out my last “resolution” from Jonathan Edwards. For those of you unfamiliar with the process I was going through I wrote a brief explanatory posting before going into it (which can be found here: http://wp.me/pRsle-cl), but put briefly: Jonathan Edwards was a Christian preacher/theologian and is widely acknowledged to be one of America’s most important intellectuals.

He wrote out 70 Resolutions which he would read through at least once a week in order to re-center himself spiritually/emotionally and to make sure his eyes were fixed on the right things and that his heart would not wander into more dangerous territory.

I got up to Resolution 14 so I will be picking it back up tomorrow with one resolution per day–just expanding on the content and adding my own personal interpretations/thoughts as it comes to mind. I plan on doing a resolution a day until they are completed and hopefully it will be fruitful to you in reading each resolution and interacting with it’s content matter.

Thanks for reading, guys. Please leave any comments as something sparks a particular reaction/thought in you.

Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #14

Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge.

Though this particular resolution is rather short, I feel like it holds quite a handful of implications for us all. Everyone has been a part of a situation which turned south, or has reason to feel cheated, cut-short, or feel like you were given the “short end of the stick,” as it were. With these feelings, a sense of entitlement can boil up within us. Without diving deep into the concept of pride and humility (perhaps I’ll spend some more time on another blog post discussing that), the Bible provides some explicit direction as to why we ought to leave revenge and “evening-the-score” to God Himself.

With a focus on two places in particular, Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” And Romans 12:19 states, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” || These two scriptures outline rather plainly that revenge and retaliation is not something which we ought to be taking into our own hands, but something that the Lord will take care of in due time, on His own, sinless, terms. I do not wish to complicate this resolution much, as I feel that there is much clarity and directness made available to us in this Truth.

But how should we respond, then? Matthew 5:44 provides the answer in this tension: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” As Christians, we are to be characterized by our love for one another, and for strangers (yes, even our enemies). This is impossible to do in our own power and under our own selfish desires. Through grace provided in Christ alone, we are able to allow love to be the predominant force in our lives, knowing that Christ will work everything out on His power, and it is not up to us to attempt to take things into our own hands.

So may we not feel entitled to act out to “even the score” or that we have to act on God’s behalf (which, if we’re honest, is typically anything but what God would desire in the first place), but rather, may we be characterized by our unfailing love, knowing that Christ is working and redeeming all things to Himself, that God may be glorified all the more.