Joy’s Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven, by Sam Storms

This message was given at the 2003 Desiring God National Conference.  I listened to it again today, and it is still one of the most encouraging, heart-warming, affection-raising messages I’ve heard.  I think the truths expressed in it, although mind-stretching and, though very high, still admittedly low in comparison to the reality of heaven, are transformative if grasped and taken to heart.  Indeed, I think this message of heaven is fundamental to the Christian life.  It is the great goal for which we have been saved, seeing God (cf. Psa 42.2).

Go here to listen.

Confessions and Resolutions: Encouraged by Jonathan Edwards – Part 3

Part 3: Promoting God’s Glory in Ministry and Personal Life (Resolutions 2-4)

Even in these early stages of thinking on Edwards’ Resolutions, I find that I cannot speak for Edwards himself. His thoughts and writing come from a different era, cultureI cannot enter into the spirit of his mind. I might be able to read the output of his thoughts, and thereby, draw much from them of the man and for my own soul. But I cannot see his soul or spirit like I could his body. Only Edwards’ own spirit can know the essence of Edwards’ thought (2 Corinthians 2:11) – and of course, God who knew them before he had them. But I am grateful that he has given them and that God has retained them for us all in His providence, that we might be encouraged by them. I write all that to write this – I can only comment on what I hope to be in some accordance with the original meaning and purpose of his soul, and beyond that, I will write only with regards to my own reflections upon his words, attempting to add for you any biblical insight that I am inclined to see reflected in Edwards’ Resolutions. With that set forth, let us comment on resolutions 2, 3, and 4.

Resolution #2: Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the fore-mentioned things.

I take this to mean that he intended to be tireless in endeavoring in those things that most glorified God and pleased Him, which glorification obviously implies that advantage for his own soul and that of others. In terms of Gospel endeavor, it seems that he was of the mind to always be finding points of reference with men to advance it; and since contrivances and inventions are intended to make difficult tasks more simple (though not without mature thinking), it appears that he intended by such inventions to make plain the glory of God in Christ to men so as to win some. But this resolve is relative to personal life also. For how does one promote the glory of God and the profit of souls without an intimate striving after holiness and satisfaction in Him who is most satisfying? By endeavoring in these inventions and contrivances, I find an echo of Paul’s words in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ (apostolic shorthand for the Gospel), and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” By contrivances, we may also talk of keeping oneself out of situations in which our fleshly desires are sure to meet that attractive temptation out which wedding comes sin. By inventions, let us know ourselves and stay ahead of ourselves with the help of God’s Spirit that by purity and growth in restraint we might not give ourselves occasion to sin – this is most glorifying to God and most beneficial for us and our witness to that greatest need in others. But positively, it is a call (having put off sin) to be satisfied in God and to contrive of ways in which to do this: take a walk with God as Edwards often did in the woods for prayer; in the ways that we might think of spending time with our wives, let us think likewise towards God. With the pslamist let us pant for God and so endeavor to be satisfied in Him: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you (ah, there it is – he is earnest in his invention for seeking); my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you…so I have looked for you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory…(and you want to talk about contrivances and inventions?)…My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night,” Psalm 63:1, 2, and 5.

Resolution #3: Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

Here we find encouragement to have our own biblical resolutions – personal accountability, that accountability with ourselves. By writing such resolutions that are the outpouring of our souls, we will in reading them be confronted with ourselves, and with that soulish resolve. Therefore, we will be reminded and held accountable, and if we have forsaken a resolve that was in accord with the Bible, then we will immediately repent of every shortcoming that He brings to mind. It is a thing worth noting that our initial repentance towards God results in an inward principle of repentance by which we continually repent towards God so long as we live. Sometimes it is comforting to know that Paul battled sin, or that Edwards battled sin, or that any modern spiritual hero battles with sin, so we are assured to have examples of them who overcame them in Christ in our own battles. How this is a humbling thing – our resolutions are often greater than our obedience! Let us then cling to Christ, and thank God for Him who was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin! Allow me to leave this resolution with a practical thought:

Have you ever awakened (as I often do) without the slightest inclination to pursue those things that most glorify God and are most to your spiritual advantage? Yes! But we should not be surprised or angry at God for this seeing He is the One who supplies even our daily rations of faith. For if we arise in complacency, it is because we have awakened in ourselves, and thus, it ought to be our humble plea to God for mercy and grace that day! It is an amazing meditation – our absolute dependency upon God!

Resolution #4: Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

When we think of soul, we think of mind or will, or the immaterial aspect of our person. When we think of body, we think of our substance or matter. The resolve then seems to be never to do any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice, never to be any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice, and never to suffer any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice that does not serve the glory of God. Positively, in thought and deed, principle and practice, affection and activity, will and work, our chief attendance is to the glory of God. What an example of right striving! Let every aspect of our person be fueled by and funneled towards the glory of God. Since, in Edwards thought, and in my own, God’s greatest passion is His own glory, this resolve is a resolve to will and work in accordance with God. So he sets his sights on God’s glory and aims to let nothing detour him from attaining his resolve. May God help us also to propose to our own souls and bodies a like proposal to join with God in glorifying Him.

Confession and Resolution. I have often put myself in situations that I know are not ideal for glorifying God or profiting another, much less my own soul, and this in outright defiance of God’s convicting Spirit. Resolved, to pursue personal and biblical creativity, sensitivity, and accountability in life and ministry chiefly aimed at maintaing my witness, advancing the Gospel, and agreeing with my Lord in promoting and attending to, with unceasing fervency, the Glory of God.

Confessions and Resolutions: Encouraged by Jonathan Edwards – Part 2

Part 2: One Resolution, Three Links! (Resolution #1)

“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 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.”

Commentary. It is a humility worthy of our imitation that he introduces his resolutions with a plea for God’s help. I offered that introduction to you in the last blog. Simply, Edwards is of the biblical mind that his success in keeping these resolutions is wholly dependent upon God’s gracious help, so far as these resolutions accord with God’s will.

This first resolution seems to bring about the matter of decision-making in his life and the basis of those decisions. It appears from the phrase, “that I will do whatsoever”, introduces the idea of selection – that in the course of our day we are confronted with multiple things that we may do, and that the objects of these decisions may be good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, moral vs. sinful, or perhaps, optimum good vs. lesser goods. But out of the many things that we may think, say, or do, what are the things that we actually will think, say, or do? And what is the basis of those decisions? (I believe the biblical passage that he is most accurately attempting to resolve is that of 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1.) But for his own answer, let us continue –

The basis of those decisions is, he answers, “whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit, and pleasure.” So we infer, not just to God’s glory or our own good, profit, and pleasure, but that which is most participative in those ideas. In other words, we will often be confronted with many things that are lawful for us and that glorify God, but may not be the most helpful to others, and therefore, may not be the most God glorifying. This requires our greatest consideration. It is enough in this commentary to state that Edwards’ resolution encourages us to base our daily “doings” upon what most glorifies God and what is most to our own good, profit, and pleasure – these two considerations appear to be the basis of decisiveness. And this will be his course during his life, for it appears that this will be his course in eternity, yet without hindrance. Thus, by the mention of “time”, he means never to excuse himself from the consideration of what most glorifies God and what most fulfills his own others-oriented pleasures.

But I would also interject from reading Edwards that the personal good, profit, and pleasure that he speaks of is not a good, profit, and pleasure that is confined to himself, for that would be self-centered, and unbiblical. From Scripture we may deduce that there is a kind of personal gain that is godly – that is, the gain that we seek in the gain of others. So long as our good, profit, and pleasure is most occupied with the good of others and seeks their good as an end servant to the ultimate end of glorifying God, then that personal good, profit, and pleasure is a righteous pursuit. In other words, I do not think that Edwards is here referring to a self-confined pursuit, but a personal pleasure in the good and profit of another to the glory of God. I believe that I am right to conclude this because of the next link in his resolution –

“Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.” From this I would draw that he sees his duty as that conformity to the Scriptures, the golden rule of Christ, and in connection to the aforementioned resolution – simply, that this aspect of his resolution is the overflow of the prior resolution. As he (we) does (do) what is most God-glorifying in every situation, with the pursuit of his own good, profit, and pleasure, the overflow will be the resolve to do whatever is to the “good and advantage of mankind in general.” This is much like that overflow that we find often in Paul, who makes his own subjective desires to be with Christ in glory the source of and servant to the objective needs of the Church, that by continuing with them he might work with them for their progression and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:21-26).

Now we must ask, what is that good and advantage which is “most” good and advantageous for mankind? The resolve towards this end in and of itself agrees with that sentiment of the Holy Spirit when through Paul He inspired, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Philippians 2:4. Directly following is the example of Christ’s humiliation, and thus, it figures that that greatest good and advantage for mankind is that which comes through faith in Christ, or by the testimony of the Gospel. That which is most good and advantageous is their salvation. Edwards resolved to make this an end in his life and ministry, and so should we.

As to the third link, it is the link of expectancy – that when one resolves to do what most glorifies God, and what is most profitable to himself, which is his own growth in Christ and the salvation and profit of others, that difficulties will follow. Simply, that to meet the prior resolutions will result in affliction and difficulties, but as he also resolves to do these things no matter the degree or amount of the difficulties which attend to it, so we may rightly infer and find remarkable encouragement from him in that he considers the two former resolves greater than the difficulties that will attend to them and so comes the third link! For when he resolves to do the first two links of the resolution in spite of the expected difficulties that will follow them, he concludes that to glorify God supremely and to be concentrated on one’s own pleasure (when that pleasure is another person’s pleasure in Jesus Christ) are two resolutions whose reward is greater than the difficulties that come with the pursuit of them and, therefore, he gives a greater weight to God’s glory and the advance of the Gospel than he does to affliction for the sake of them. This is truly encouraging – he resolves to glorify God and advance the Gospel (personally and publicly) despite the greatest of trials and tribulations.

My Own Confession and Resolution. First, that this commentary has been longer than the rest will be, but hey, it’s an awesome resolution worthy of our consideration and imitation in so far as it aligns with Scripture, which I hold that it does. I confess that I often think, do, and say many things in any given hour that do not hold up to such a resolution. I often do not even consider what most glorifies God in a given moment with given possibilities. And I often confine my pleasure to those things that do not in any way build up others.

I resolve, therefore, with God’s help, to pursue the servitude that I find in Christ with the intention of setting before all men the Gospel of Christ to the glory of God, that this might be the thing that most enthralls my affection. Moreover, that I might always, in every place, under any trial, seek and do that which most glorifies God, knowing that that will be my greatest good, profit, and pleasure both now and in eternity.

Confessions and Resolutions: Encouraged by Jonathan Edwards – Part 1

Part 1: A Brief Introduction (And My Hope For the One or Two of You That Read This Blog)

Jonathan Edwards was born October 5, 1703. By August 17, 1723 the young man had penned his famous Resolutions at the ripe old age of 19. To read the seventy of them as if they were felt and written by a well-advanced theological scholar is delightful enough, but the knowledge of these things scribed by a 19 year old pastor in New York, shortly before he earned his Master’s degree in September of the same year at the age of 20, and that he, though not long on years, was of such an advanced mind and affection that we may only ascribe his theological and pastoral supremacy to the blessed grace of God, is more than delightful, it is challengingly encouraging.

My aim is to offer his Resolutions, first to my own consideration, and then to yours, with brief biblical commentary, and my own resolutions (though these may or may not be necessarily reflective of Edwards’ own resolutions in each blog). Along with these, I would like to add (pastorally) my own confessions also, that my resolutions might be a matter of repentance as well as a source of accountability. I want to encourage you to take the time to meditate through the resolutions of Edwards that you might have a foundation for your own and that they will be in accord with the doctrine of Christ. To help you get started, I want to provide for you an exerpt from George Claghorn’s introduction to Edwards’ Resolutions. I have also added a link to Edwards’ web page at the site that Yale has dedicated to him under “Educational Tools” down in the far right column. Please offer your thoughts also!

And just to wet your confessional whistle I will leave you with Edward’s own introduction to his Resolutions, his humble and Christ-centered confession of his personal need of God’s help in keeping such resolve:

“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.”