Category Archives: Character

Resolved: To go to my Lord in good times

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. – Jonathan Edwards

Are you like me? Do you ever realize that you’re going to God when things are tough but not spending much time with Him when things are going well? I’m not proud of those times, but I also know I’m not alone in doing that.

If I’m completely honest, a lot of times in my life have been that way. Hard times have a way of bringing us to our knees like nothing else. When there’s nothing else and no one else to turn to, we always know we have Jesus as a backup. But He’s so much more than that.

Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The love God has shown me and you through Jesus should make us bow down on our knees often, praising Him and giving Him thanks for everything He’s done. If He dwells in our hearts, we should all the more approach Him in love, not just when we need something. Will you resolve with me to spend more time in worship and stop waiting until things are bad to reach out to the Lord?

Resolved: To assess my spiritual health

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. – Jonathan Edwards

Psalm 51: 1-3 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 

How often do you do take an inward look and assess where you are spiritually compared to one year ago? Are you aware of your sins? Are you willing to admit to them?

It seems so easy in this postmodern society to come up with great excuses for everything we do. It’s not really sin, it’s just_______. I can’t help it that I did ___________, because when I was a child __________. Nothing is our fault and that’s just accepted. It shouldn’t be so among believers though. We should be always taking a spiritual inventory.

I remember when I had to take a college course that required me to fast and pray regularly as part of the learning. There came a time when I was reading the Bible and I started crying. Just weeping, and I didn’t know why. I looked back down at what I had been reading in Psalm 51 and it hit me so hard.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight (v.4)
My actions had been in direct disobedience to God and I had been acting like that meant nothing. It weighed heavy on me, only to be lifted somewhat as I read on.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (v.17)
When I brought my brokenness to the Father, He comforted me and restored me. Christians tend to downplay the importance of this, but we should be doing it as a regular part of life. Not looking at what religious activity we’ve done, but looking in a very real way at how we’ve been walking with the Lord.

Resolved: To live with all my might

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I’m guilty of forgetting. I’m guilty of forgetting that if God is by my side I have nothing to be afraid of. I’m guilty of being afraid when I know better. I fail to step out in obedience when things seem scary because I forget that I have nothing to fear.

Living in fear isn’t really living life. It’s certainly not living the life God has called me to. Where in His Word can we ever find the Lord telling us to be afraid of anything in this world? There’s lots of places that we find encouragement to trust in Him and to not be afraid, but no, no instructions to be timid and hold back because something is scary.

Is there any area of your life where you’re dealing with this? Are you really living life as its meant to be lived and carrying out the calling God has on your life? Or are you waiting for things to settle down before making a move? There’s a time to wait. There are specific times when we’re meant to slow down and wait on God’s timing. I’m not talking about those times, though. I’m talking about times when you know exactly what He wants you to do and you’re afraid to do it.

I’m resolving this year to listen to the voice of God and follow Him, even when it may be hard to do so because of fear. We have a limited time on this earth. It’s time to start living.

Resolved: To make the most of my time

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Time is a limited resource. We only have so many minutes, and we don’t know how many that will be in the end. We have to do what we can with what we have. Carpe diem. It’s easier said than done, though.

The Psalmist declares, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12), which many of us take to mean that we should live life to the fullest and get everything out of it that we can. If we read the entire Psalm in context we something different though. There’s a lot in there about God’s wrath and about affliction. The author even says at one point, “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.” (Psalm 90:15)

Even in the times when we’re suffering, we can bring God glory. Even when life hurts, we can make the most of it by living for Him. Asking the Lord to help us number our days is about Him helping us to see how we can serve Him no matter where we find ourselves.

If we resolve never to lose one minute of time, but even in the hardest moments look to the Creator of time, we will live worthy of His calling. That’s what I want to aim for this year. Will you too?

Resolved: To innovate for God’s glory

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things. -Jonathan Edwards

Romans 12:6-8 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

We’ve all been given gifts to use for the glory of God. What are yours? Better question: what are you using those talents to accomplish for the Kingdom of God? Sometimes we think we’re just supposed to go along doing the status quo, not really trying to think deeper or go farther.

But what if the Lord blessed us with gifts, not just to do what seems easy or comes naturally, but to do hard things and step out into the unknown at times? What if we used what we’ve been given to innovate for His glory?

I spent a good portion of my life trying to fit in and do what was expected of me. Maybe part of that is having been in the military, where expectations were largely that I comply and obey. I don’t know if that’s it, but whatever the cause, I felt I was supposed to do what people expected of me and it made me afraid to move on new ideas or do anything uncomfortably different from the norm.

Then I realized it didn’t matter what people thought or wanted. I started asking what God wanted. When I began acting for His glory, using the gifts He gave me, whether or not the stuff I was doing made sense to other people, it gave me a satisfaction of knowing that I was living out my calling.

We’ve got a new year ahead of us, and the thing is, it’s never too late to start living for God’s glory. How will you use your talents and gifts to do that?

Resolved: To seek God’s glory

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 myriad’s 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. - Jonathan Edwards

Who are you living for – yourself or the Lord? If I’m honest, I have to admit that I spend a lot more time looking after what I want than I do what He wants. But I know what I’m supposed to do. Why is it so hard?

The thing is, Christianity isn’t about a list of things to do. It’s not about serving God because we’re supposed to. We humans are awfully good at taking just about anything and making it into a to-do list. We look at sections of the Bible that speak on how to live, such as Romans 12, and we think it’s a list of things to attain.

Romans 12:9-21 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It is how a Christian should live, but we can’t miss the point that it’s through God’s empowerment and for His glory that we live this life. It’s not to achieve His approval or check some stuff off a list. We respond to what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ by living for Him, giving ourselves to Him fully.

So let’s start out this year right. Let’s resolve to live for Him in every choice we make, with every plan, with every move. When we trade what we want for what He wants, we’ll prosper like never before.

Resolved

What’s your New Year’s resolution? For the past few years, I’ve resolved not to make resolutions. The thing is, they don’t work. At least not for me. I get this idea in my head of a goal I’d like to achieve, and before March hits, I’ve already either failed, forgotten, or given up.

But someone who did have some pretty great resolutions was the great minister of old, Jonathan Edwards. I don’t know if you’ve ever read through his, but they’re God-glorifying, others-focused, spiritual growth-producing things that we should all consider.

So, for the next few weeks that’s what we’ll be looking at. These devotions may look different from what you’ve seen in the past because I won’t be starting out with one particular Bible verse. Rest assured, though, the content will be biblical and Scripture will be presented within.

Are you ready to take this journey with me? Let’s dig down into what Jonathan Edwards set out to accomplish with new resolve. Let’s keep in mind that to really succeed we have to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), not looking after our own pursuits.

The man Joseph

Matthew 1:19  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

Who was Joseph and why is it important?  We so often talk about Mary because she is the virgin mother who was chosen by God to bear the Savior.  It was Mary who conceived by the Holy Spirit.  But Joseph was chosen by God to be part of this story as well.

Joseph was a descendent of David, a requirement for the prophesy of the Messiah to come true.  He was the one who was from Bethlehem in Judea, where the Savior was to be born.  It was Joseph who had to return there for the census. But why did he bring Mary along with him?  He wasn’t required to.  Surely one of Mary’s relatives could have cared for her while Joseph made the journey to his hometown.  But word had gotten out about this “virgin” who had conceived a child.  The pressure was put on Joseph to divorce her, or worse, stone her to death.  Joseph likely brought her along to protect her and the child.

But why would he do this?  We learn from the Bible that Joseph was a just man.  And why should that surprise us?  This was to be the man who would play the role of father to the Son of God while he was growing up.  Why would God have picked anyone short of a just man who had integrity and character?  Mary was chosen with good reason, and so was Joseph.  God provided the perfect settings for Jesus to come into the world.

New Law or Gospel Freedom?

Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

What is Christianity all about?  Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law?  Is this new life just about more rule-following?  Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so!  Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. We trade in the true power of the gospel for the belief that being a good Christian means listening to the right music, wearing the right T-shirts, not swearing or drinking, and being “nice.” Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do.  Moralistic, therapeutic deism fails to deliver.

The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts.  No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful.  Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.

It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all (Hebrews 7:27-28).  Nothing we could ever do could make Him love us more.  And nothing we fail to do could ever make Him love us less.

 

Overcoming the World

1 John 5:1-5   Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world.  And what is it that comes from faith?  Good works.  A natural response to faith is obedience.  When we know God and experience His love for us, we want to keep His commandments and follow everything He says to do.  If we remain faithful in this, nothing can stop us.

This passage says that everyone who has been reborn overcomes the world.  Are you overcoming the world?  Have you taken the time to actually evaluate whether or not you’re overcoming the world?  What does it even mean to overcome the world?  Does that mean we don’t ever fall into temptation or that we don’t sin?

Sadly, most of us don’t think in terms of victory when we look at our lives.  We’re not operating in our spiritual gifts or showing any fruit out of the faith we proclaim.  Some of us aren’t even showing love to our fellow Christians, let alone to the people out in the world.

But we’ve been equipped.  We’ve got the victory already if we’ll just do the next thing God calls us to do.  That’s what obedience is.  It’s not some lofty, unachievable goal.  Obedience is doing the next thing God calls you to do.  And when you’ve done it, do the next thing He calls you to do.  Then the next.  Obedience is a lot like walking.  It’s one foot in front of the other.

Walk in victory, knowing that Jesus has already won the battle.  The odds are in your favor.  You can’t lose.