The beginning of a new year is usually seen as an opportunity to examine ourselves and determine what we may need to do differently in the upcoming year. This can be a helpful practice but is often seen as burdensome when our resolve begins to wane within weeks of making our commitments. This may be due to the nature of our resolutions, or simply because life quickly cools our emotional fire that we had in the beginning. Whatever it may be, it is worth considering the purpose of resolutions and how we can live in light of them as followers of Christ.
Jonathan Edwards is considered by many to be the greatest mind that has ever come out of the Americas. While he is best known for being one of the key figures used by God in bringing about the First Great Awakening, Edwards began his lifelong pursuit of the glory of God while he was still a young man. It would appropriate to assert that Edwards took to heart Paul’s advice in 2 Timothy 2:22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
Another thing that Edwards is well remembered for is his list of 70 resolutions he made around the age of 19. In 1722, this was not an uncommon practice for young persons to undertake. What obviously was uncommon is not only the biblical wisdom they reflect, but the actual resolve of Edwards to live in light of them. Part of his commitment was to review the list weekly, and from what we know from his writings, he continued to examine himself in light of them throughout his life. Often our resolutions are made in a moment of enthusiasm or guilt and are quickly forgotten once our emotions have calmed down. Edwards recognized the importance of consistently keeping these things on the forefront of his mind, which is exactly what God teaches His people to do with His Word. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Needing God’s grace
“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.” – Edwards
It is important to humbly realize our own inability to live sinlessly, and that it’s only by the grace of God and with His help that we can live in a way that is pleasing to Him. Edwards begins his resolutions here because he recognized the importance of humbly bringing himself low, and at the same time raising God up.
The second part of it was that Edwards saw it was important for his resolutions to be thoroughly biblical. He did not want to resolve to do anything that was contrary to what God had revealed in Scripture. Filtering our resolutions through the filter of God’s Word is important to ensure we are pursuing something that aligns with His will.
Living for the glory of God
1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, – Edwards
The first of Edwards resolutions begins where we must also begin, the glory of God. We are not to seek our own glory but the glory of God in all things (Romans 11:26). As we make decisions throughout own lives, one of the best questions that we can ask is, “How does this glorify God?” This was the theme throughout all of Edwards resolutions, as he recognized it was his chief purpose in life.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. – Edwards
Being intentional about the things we do is important, and Edwards knew that he would not simply stumble into living a God-glorifying life. It is convicting to realize how passively we often live, and how we would likely live differently if we considered that any hour could be our last. Doing this changes our perspective and causes us to neglect the things of this world and to pursue things with eternal value.
Weighing our words
31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution. – Edwards
Jesus boiled the Law of God down to the love of God and the love of others. Edwards recognized that living for the glory of God includes humbly extending grace and love to others. He sought to test his words and actions by this resolution in order to recognize his own failings so as to extend the same grace to others that God had given to him.
Making our own resolutions
The resolutions of Jonathan Edwards are both challenging and motivating, and this is just a taste of the list that he examined himself by weekly. The full list ranges from resolutions regarding his overall life mission, to time management, relationships, suffering, and his spiritual life. If you would like to read the full list, I would encourage you to Click Here in order to view all of them arranged topically.
Jonathan Edwards provides us not only with an amazing example on how we should form our resolutions, but he also models for us how these personal motivators must also align with Scripture so that they become lifelong goals that are God-honoring. We will all fail to perfectly fulfill our resolutions, which Edwards realized, but he did not allow himself to be discouraged by this. Recognizing that the pursuit of godliness is a lifelong journey that is only accomplished by the grace of God.