Life Theology

Resolutions, God’s Grace, and Jonathan Edwards

As the New Year is still underway, perhaps many are still sorting out what they want to work on this year (or, at least, until mid-February). For the most part, we list things like not eating as much, losing five pounds a month, reading more, praying more, or others.

Those are good things, of course. And goals are, to be sure, very good to have. It’s easier said than done, but we need to remember that we need God’s grace through the Holy Spirit to do these things–to do anything. Simply mustering up motivation and esteem to lose weight might make you thinner, but it also might make you angrier or arrogant. Manufacturing energy and will power to read the Bible and pray might get you practicing these disciples, but it also might turn you into a coldhearted Pharisee. Remember God’s grace, pray for God’s power, love God above all else, and, as St. Augustine, said, do as you please.

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, then, I want to direct you to the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. He didn’t pen these during one of the wild Puritan New Year’s Eve parties. Rather, he compiled them over a period of time, mostly during the year 1723. Edwards had a ferocious passion for holiness in life and ministry, one that God used to rebuke me as I read these earlier this week. These resolutions are grace-driven and faith-fueled. I trust that God will use them to spur me on in the faith, and I hope they do the same for you. I plan to read them often throughout the year, not because they are inspired or revelatory, but because they are focused on the glory of God and living life to reflect the centrality of that.

You can read the resolutions as they originally appeared here. I found Desiring God’s post on Edward’s resolutions very helpful, as they put them into modern categories with subheadings to increase readability.

Happy resolving for the glory of God in 2013!


How Not to Read the Bible

Part 4 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.

We are taking a step backwards a bit in our Gospel-Centered Devotions series. Before I get to how to keep Christ at the center of the New Testament (part 8), I want to briefly walk through some unchristian ways to read the Bible.

We learn how to read the Bible from the spiritual “experts” in our lives (usually the three “P’s”: pastors, professors, parents). People especially read the Bible the same way it is preached to them. These unchristian ways to read the Bible run rampant in pulpits all across America and usually leak their ways into small group Bible studies and children’s ministries as well (see my other series going on right now). With God’s help, we can “undo” wrong ways of reading to transform our devotional times. Without further adieu, here are a handful of unchristian ways to read the Bible.

  • Moralism. You read the Bible to find morals and ethics to obey to get God in your debt. If you obey, God loves you. If you don’t obey, he doesn’t love you. When you fail, you need to try harder to ratchet up the obedience. You fail to see that your true problem is identity (sinner), not actions (sins).
  • Self-Helpism. You read the Bible to find examples of how you can help yourself be a better person. You fail to see your natural inclination to resist obeying God by thinking  with the right tips you can achieve the absolute holiness God requires.
  • Mysticism. You read the Bible expecting an emotional awakening from the Holy Spirit. You want goosebumps and chills and an “inner feeling” that God is with you. You fail to recognize that the objective aspect of Christianity (the gospel event of Jesus life, death, and resurrection) is your only foundation for the subjective aspect (what the Holy Spirit is doing/can do in your life now).
  • Activism. You read the Bible to find justifications for corporate “kingdom work” like recycling, planting trees, starting homeless shelters, and other “causes.” These are good things, but you fail to recognize the personal work of the King as the foundation for all societal action.
  • Road Map for Life. You read the Bible only when life gets tough and you need a pick-me-up. You want a fortune cookie saying, so you fail to read the Bible in context and often apply passages to your life that have nothing to do with 21st century Americans.

There are also unchristian motivations to read the Bible. These are straightforward enough, but at least deserve a mention:

  • Legalism: You read the Bible in order to get right with God.
  • Obligation: You read the Bible to appease your own guilt.
  • Self-competence: You read the Bible to gain theological knowledge.
  • Self-righteousness/Judgmentalism: You read the Bible to feel good about your self-worth. You read the Bible to have a hammer to swing at others.

We are guilty of all these on some level or another. We must repent and “unlearn” what others have taught us and, indeed, what our sinful nature wants. Jesus even died to bring us hermeneutical (interpretive) salvation! The Bible is God’s self-revelation to us so that we might taste and see he is good as we gaze upon his Son, who is God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s nature (Heb. 1:3). Let’s read it as such.


Weekly Spurgeon

From Morning and Evening

“And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house.”
– 2 Samuel 11:2

At that hour David saw Bathsheba. We are never out of the reach of temptation. Both at home and abroad we are liable to meet with allurements to evil; the morning opens with peril, and the shades of evening find us still in jeopardy. They are well kept whom God keeps, but woe unto those who go forth into the world, or even dare to walk their own house unarmed. Those who think themselves secure are more exposed to danger than any others. The armour bearer of Sin is Self-confidence.

David should have been engaged in fighting the Lord’s battles, instead of which he tarried at Jerusalem, and gave himself up to luxurious repose, for he arose from his bed at eventide. Idleness and luxury are the devil’s jackals, and find him abundant prey. In stagnant waters noxious creatures swarm, and neglected soil soon yields a dense tangle of weeds and briars. O for the constraining love of Jesus to keep us active and useful! When I see the King of Israel sluggishly leaving his couch at the close of the day, and falling at once into temptation, let me take warning, and set holy watchfulness to guard the door.

Is it possible that the king had mounted his housetop for retirement and devotion? If so, what a caution is given us to count no place, however secret, a sanctuary from sin! While our hearts are so like a tinderbox, and sparks so plentiful, we had need use all diligence in all places to prevent a blaze. Satan can climb housetops, and enter closets, and even if we could shut out that foul fiend, our own corruptions are enough to work our ruin unless grace prevent. Reader, beware of evening temptations. Be not secure. The sun is down but sin is up. We need a watchman for the night as well as a guardian for the day. O blessed Spirit, keep us from all evil this night. Amen.