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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Contentment and Satisfaction through Suffering

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in self and the world. I have never heard anyone say, “The really deep lessons of life have come through times of ease and comfort.”

But I have heard strong saints say, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with Him has come through suffering.”

The pearl of greatest price is the glory of Christ.

Thus, Paul stresses that in our sufferings the glory of Christ’s all-sufficient grace is magnified. If we rely on Him in our calamity and He sustains our “rejoicing in hope,” then He is shown to be the all-satisfying God of grace and strength that He is.

If we hold fast to Him “when all around our soul gives way,” then we show that He is more to be desired than all we have lost.

Christ said to the suffering apostle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responded to this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

So suffering clearly is designed by God not only as a way to wean Christians off of self and onto grace, but also as a way to spotlight that grace and make it shine. That is precisely what faith does; it magnifies Christ’s future grace. The deep things of life in God are discovered in suffering.

So it was with Jesus Himself: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). The same book where we read this also tells us that Jesus never sinned (4:15).

So “learning obedience” does not mean switching from disobedience to obedience. It means growing deeper and deeper with God in the experience of obedience. It means experiencing depths of yieldedness to God that would not have been otherwise demanded.

Desiring God, Multnomah Books (Colorado Springs, CO), pages 265–267

Praying for Your Straying Soul

Do you pray for your straying soul?

I do. Daily.

The soul is always in motion. If you think yours is motionless, you are probably floating downstream.

Daily the soul is lured to other treasures, other satisfactions, other rewards besides Jesus and his way. Jesus taught us to pray daily, “forgive us for these wanderings and lead us not into, but out of, them.”

So, how do you pray for your straying soul if you believe in God’s sovereign will to bring back his wayward ones? For many years I have taken my cue from Jeremiah 31:18.

You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; cause me to return and I will return, for you are the Lord, my God.

Similarly, Lamentations 5:21.

Cause us to return to yourself, O Lord, and we will return! Renew our days as of old.

These are my translations to make clear that the same Hebrew word is behind both verbs: “Cause me to return.” And “I will return.” The first one is the causal form of the verb, while the second one is the declarative form. If God causes me to return, I will return.

That is the way I believe. And that is the way I pray. I invite you to join me. This is how perseverance happens.

Originally Posted by John Piper here: http://ow.ly/dwWNG

Darkness & Light (Spurgeon)

“And God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:4)

A believer has two principles at work within him. In his natural estate he was subject to one principle only, which was darkness; now light has entered, and the two principles disagree. Mark the apostle Paul’s words in the seventh chapter of Romans: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members.”

How is this state of things occasioned?

“The Lord divided the light from the darkness.” Darkness, by itself, is quiet and undisturbed, but when the Lord sends in light, there is a conflict for the one is in opposition to the other: a conflict which will never cease till the believe is altogether light in the Lord. If there be a division within the individual Christian, there is certain to be a division without. So soon as the Lord gives to any man light, he proceeds to separate himself from the darkness around; he secedes from a merely worldly religion of outward ceremonial, for nothing short of the gospel of Christ will now satisfy him, and he withdraws himself from worldly society and frivolous amusements, and seeks the company of the saints, for “We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”

The light gathers to itself, and the darkness to itself. What God has divided, let us never try to unite, but as Christ went [outside/away from] the camp, bearing His reproach, so let us come out from the ungodly, and be a peculiar people. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; and, as He was, so we are to be nonconformists to the world, dissenting from all sin, and distinguished from the rest of mankind by our likeness to our Master.

~ C.H. Spurgeon (from Morning and Evening, a daily devotional; paragraphing added)

Misdirected Discontent

This race we’re running is tiring. In hunting our happiness and fulfillment, we’ve become the hunted. Our desire for approval and love – this disconnect in our souls – both promises and denies rest. We are trapped in a self-defeating cycle, trying to catch happiness at the expense of joy.

As believers, Jesus is our identity – our daily footing and acceptance before God. Our hope in life is His death and resurrection.

But there are moments I don’t believe this. There are moments that I say I trust in one thing but believe in another. I let my heart put hope in things other than Him – subtle things like power, respect and approval.

When I find my identity and fulfillment in things other than who He is – and who He says I am – disappointment and discontent bind me. It’s not disappointment with the object but with life at large. I blame Him for my inability to recognize my own deviation from the gospel and go right back to a pick-me-up, a novel distraction from the reality that life still isn’t what it should be.

So there I am again: frustrated that I don’t have more fruit of the Spirit in my life, annoyed at sin I still struggle with and disappointed with myself – certain that God is also. The promise of God’s love goes untried, while misdirected disappointment draws my eyes back to myself and away from Jesus. This cycle feeds a deadly misunderstanding of the gospel – that it cannot save or transform me.

The problem is that we’re moving so fast we can’t see this, and we’re lucky if we slow down enough to hear the never-ending whisper of our sinful hearts: that what we can make, who we are and what we do will satisfy us – if we just work harder. But this is not the gospel.

The gospel is hard for me and maybe for you, too. I fear, along with others, that His love is no better than mine – fickle and flimsy. Truth is, this love wants me to be full of joy to the depth of my being – and this joy is found in the depth of His.

Such elusive fulfillment is freedom to quit looking inward – and to look outward to Him. It’s like we get stuck on the first few steps onto the grass, and our feet are so tender that we can’t move forward. But His love makes our feet firm.

If you think He is too good to be true, that He might be for others but not you, then you believe a lie. God is a good and loving Father who gives good gifts to His children. He gives Himself, and that has all kinds of implications for daily life.

Dare to believe that He is good, and that His love towards you is particular, knowing and intentional. Don’t let momentary distractions steal your hope. Don’t blame disappointment on the One who came to rid you of it. Slow down and look at what and who you are trusting for your happiness, identity and worth. Your daily discontent might just be enough to expose it.

Originally posted on The Village Church blog by Mason King here: http://ow.ly/aIumi

Finding the Ocean

Jonathan Edwards reminds us of the foolishness of seeking true and lasting happiness outside of the One who is truly excellent:

“Worldly men imagine, that there is true excellency and true happiness in those things which they are pursuing. They think that if they could but obtain them, they should be happy; and when they obtain them, and cannot find happiness, they look for happiness in something else, and are still upon the pursuit.

But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean”

(“Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment, to Be Found in Christ” Jonathan Edwards on Knowing Christ, 169-170).