Monday, December 26, 2005

Making Resolutions?

It’s that time again: “I resolve” is ubiquitous. “I resolve to read the Bible from cover to cover in 2006.” “I resolve to go to South Beach with Mr. Atkins.” “I resolve to better understand the planet my spouse inhabits.” "I resolve to make no resolutions." Whether your New Year’s resolutions include reading through the Bible, losing weight, nurturing a better relationship with your spouse, or making no resolutions at all, there is no denying that the advent of a new year invites reflection.

I am still reflecting upon a sentence I read not long ago: “Edwards spent his whole life preparing to die.” This sobering statment is the first sentence from the final chapter of George Marsden’s magisterial biography, Jonathan Edwards: A Life. It introduces the chapter entitled, “The Transitory and the Enduring.” Marsden emphasizes that Jonathan Edwards often reminded his eighteenth century New England congregation that “those who were sitting comfortably one Sabbath might be in the grave the next.” For those who reject Jesus Christ, “life is like walking a rotten canvas” that will give way at any moment. Marsden continues,

"Edwards worked constantly to cultivate gratitude, praise, worship, and dependence upon his Savior. Whatever his failings, he attempted every day to see Christ’s love in all things, to walk according to God’s precepts, and to give up attachments to worldly pleasures in anticipation of that closer spiritual union that death would bring."

When Edwards was a young man he took the time to write down what we might call today a personal mission statement. Some of these “resolutions” date from his years at the fledgling Yale College. He was a teenager at the time. Others were written when he was pastor of a small Presbyterian Church in New York City. These goals would direct his thoughts and actions for the rest of his life. Recently, Edwards’ resolutions along with his “Advice to Young Converts” have been edited by Stephen Nichols and re-published in booklet form (P&R Publishing, 2001).

Drawing his conclusions from his encyclopedic grasp of the Scriptures, Edwards challenges himself to “live with all my might, while I do live.” Over the next few days we will look together at some of the resolutions of the man David Martyn-Loyd Jones called the “Mount Everest” of theologians. Edwards’ ideals are lofty, but they display insight, commitment, and urgency that are just as important today as they were almost 300 years ago.

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