The Redemptive Value of New Year's Resolutions
- Friday, January 02, 2009
Thinking about New Years and what resolutions I want to make, I see God's grace in the close of one year and the dawn of another. This yearly cycle gives us the opportunity to take inventory of where we stand in relation to our Creator; are we seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? (cf. Matthew 6:33) The New Year can be a time for "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" -- to recommit ourselves to "setting our minds on things above" (cf. Colossians 3:1).
To help me in this endeavor I've enlisted Steven Lawson and his fine new book on Jonathan Edwards: the unwavering resolve of jonathan edwards. Jonathan Edwards, of course, is probably best known for his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." But there is far more to appreciate about this 18th-century pastor. Benjamin Warfield, the eminent Princeton divine, referred to Edwards as a "figure of real greatness in the intellectual life of colonial America." And Edwards scholar George Marsden considers him "the most acute American philosopher." But perhaps the Englishman Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it best: "I am tempted, perhaps foolish, to compare the Puritans to the Alps, Luther and Calvin to the Himalayas, and Jonathan Edwards to Mount Everest! He has always seemed to me the man most like the Apostle Paul."
Lawson's aim with his book is "to challenge a new generation of believers to pursue holiness in their daily lives" by focusing on Edwards' 70 "Resolutions." (Amazingly, Edwards wrote these resolutions in 1722 and 1723 when he was just 18 and 19 years old.)
Lawson chose to focus on Edwards' "Resolutions" given how well they demonstrate the towering virtue of his life, namely, his piety. "In short, though Edwards was intellectually brilliant and theologically commanding, his true greatness lay in his indefatigable zeal for the glory of God."
Consider Resolution #1:
Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, 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 the most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.
Edwards was resolved, regardless of the difficulty, to live for the glory of God, his own pleasure (in God) and the good of mankind generally. Profound and convicting.
Now, notice what this Puritan -- this relic of centuries ago -- says in Resolution #2:
Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the forementioned things.
We don't usually associate Jonathan Edwards with "innovation" or "cutting edge thinking." And yet, here he is resolved to continually dream up ways to advance the glory of God.
I want to do this in the new year. I want to be resolved to live for the glory of God, my pleasure in Him and the good of mankind generally. And I want to do this with a determined, vigorous and biblically wise analysis of ways I can do it better.
What new ways can you think of to advance the glory of God, your pleasure in Him and the good of mankind? And don't just think innovation. Perhaps what is "old" should become new again.
Mike Pohlman is lead pastor of immanuel bible church in Bellingham, WA and a PhD Candidate in American church history.
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