Edwards and Strachan: Love Our Enemies

“Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him; so we should be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbor freely, expecting nothing again. Christ loved us, and was kind to us and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving any good, but deserving only to be hated, and treated with indignation; so we should be willing to be kind to those that are an ill sort of person, of a hateful disposition, and that are very undeserving. Christ loved us, and laid himself out to relieve us, though we were his enemies, hated him, had an ill spirit towards him, had treated him ill; so, as we would love Christ as he hath loved us, should {we love those who are our enemies, hate us, have an ill spirit toward us, and have treated us ill}.”

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733.

“It isn’t hard to say that we’re Christians. If we keep the definition vague, the shoe seems to fit. We go to church, do what we’re supposed to do at work, and write a check once in a while to a worthy cause. With this low threshold, the faith doesn’t seem all that challenging; it fits comfortably into a typical American lifestyle, and we experience little discomfort.

But when we dig into the priorities of true Christianity, that laxness seems woefully deficient. The standard of Christ is not simply to love people who love us back, or to love humanity in a general sense. The standard of Christ is to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Such teachings present us with a major challenge. It’s no easy thing to love someone who acts hatefully toward us. Our every instinct runs away from love in such situations.

Christianity brings about a quiet revolution in the human heart. One of its chief effects is to awaken a full range of compassion and kindness to the people we encounter. Faith grabs hold of the truly repentant, and upends us, making friends of those who once were enemies. “Christ loved us” when we “hated him.”

Now, God gives us the strength, the otherworldly ability, to emulate our Savior and love those who despise us. Few practices are more challenging—or more revealing of the authenticity of our faith.”

‘If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.’ (Romans 5:10)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 167.

Edwards and Strachan: Examine Yourself

“Examine whether or no you are new born.

1. Whether or no you are, ‘as little children,’ humble (Matthew 18:3-4).

2. Whether or no ‘as new born babes,you desire the sincere milk of the word,’ whether [you are] governed by spiritual appetites (1 Peter 2:2).

3. Whether you are a ‘follower of God, as a dear child’ (Ephesians 5:1), and ‘walk as a child of the light’ and of the day (Ephesians 5:8), [and] follow God: [a] child with a filial disposition, [with] love, reverence, [and] dependence as a little child on a father, imitating, obeying in everything.”

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733. As recorded and commented on by Owen Strachan.

“The seriousness of Christianity is unlike anything else we’ve experienced. It’s true, Christians can sometimes earn the reputation of being overly uptight. We want to guard against that, especially because overflowing joy is a major gift of God to his blood-bought people. But we also stand apart from the world in fundamental ways. Life is not a joke. It is not a game. We are sinners. Eternal matters are at stake.

So it is that true religion marks us as different. Our faith is not a mere interest in heaven, but rather a matter of heaven and hell. Above all else, we are called to examine whether we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5).

‘Test yourself,’ the apostle Paul tells us. So it was that Jonathan Edwards summoned his hearers in Massachusetts to examine their hearts. Were they humble? Did they desire to know God’s Word? Were they ‘governed by spiritual appetites’? Did they seek, at even a basic level, to follow their holy Father?

These were not trick questions. Edwards did not wish to bring his people down, but to lift them up. When we revisit such matters as these, we who are born again will remind ourselves of our first priorities.

Our present walk with Christ is not about having a position, or being listened to by others, or making ourselves great. It is about the simple things: humility, spiritual hunger for God, obeying the Father.

In a world prone to silliness, the Christian faith is serious, and it yields serious change, and serious joy.

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ JOHN 3:7

-Owen, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 135.

Strachan: Everlasting Security

“By looking to Christ, we find our lasting identity and everlasting security. We are no longer insecure, for we enjoy ‘perfect safety in Christ.’ Christ is our life (Colossians 3:4). The ‘evils’ and ‘misery’ we so long faced have met their match in our Savior. He has disarmed unrighteousness and made a mockery of pride.

These theological truths mean everything to us. We cannot be happy by looking to ourselves. We must look to Christ. We may struggle to feel settled and confident at time, but God is our father and Christ our ‘strong rock,’ the giver of ‘undisturbed tranquility’ in a place where nothing is stable.”

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 125.

Edwards: Quiet and Sure Rest and Peace

“The Saints receive by Christ the most quiet and sure rest and peace. By his redemption they obtain or will obtain the most perfect rest and sweet repose of mind.

They may lay themselves down and sleep and awake, the Lord sustaining of them. They may dwell quietly and without fear of evil. They may set their hearts at rest, and may enjoy undisturbed quietness without having anything to fear.

And that with good reason, for by Jesus Christ they enjoy the most perfect safety. They are thoroughly secured from all evil. He that is in Christ, he has the almighty God to be his defense. He is secured from all those evils and that misery he was exposed to while in a natural condition….

From the top of the highest mountain of God he may behold the dreadful work that storms make amongst miserable mankind below and himself be out of their reach, enjoying the most undisturbed tranquility in Jesus Christ, his strong rock.”

-Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon from 1730 as quoted by Owen Strachan in Always in God’s Hands, 125.

Edwards: Purify Your Hearts

“Though it be God’s work to give it, yet it is as truly your work to obtain it; though it be God’s work to purify the heart, yet the actual, or rather the active, procuring of it is your act. All pure and holy exercises are man’s acts, and they are his duty. Therefore we are commanded to make us a new heart, and a right spirit.

Ezekiel 18:31, ‘Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby he have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die?’

We must not think to excuse ourselves by saying that it is God’s work, that we cannot purify our own hearts; for though it be God’s work in one sense, yet it is equally our work in another.

James 4:8, ‘Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.’

If you do not engage in this work yourselves, and purify your own hearts, they never will be pure. If you do not get a pure heart, the blame of it will be laid to your own backwardness.

The unclean soul hates to be purified. It is opposite to its nature; there is a great deal of self-denial in it. But be content to contradict the nature and bent of your own heart, that it may be purified; however grating it may be to you at first, yet consider how blessed the issue will be.

Though the road be a little rough in the beginning, yet it will grow pleasanter and pleasanter, till after last it will infallibly lead yo that lightsome and glorious country, the inhabitants of which do see and converse with God.

Proverbs 4:18, ‘But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.’”

-Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. II-VI, Revised, 221.

Almost Out of Time

Gleanings from Jonathan Edward’s sermon “The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It” made by Donald S. Whitney.

1. Use Time wisely “Because the Days Are Evil”

Ephesians 5:15-16 – “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

2. Wise Use of Time is the Preparation for Eternity

Whitney warns, “During time (that is, in this life) you must prepare for eternity, for there will be no second chance to prepare once you have crossed eternity’s timeless threshold.”

As the general shouts, “Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity.”

3. Time is Short

James 4:14 – “You are a midst that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

4. Time is Passing

1 John 2:17 – “The worlds and its desires are passing away.”

Whitney writes, “We speak of saving time, buying time, making up time, and so on, but those are illusions, for time is always passing. We should use our time wisely, but even the best use of time cannot put pages back on the calendar.”

5. The Remaining Time Is Uncertain

Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

Whitney warns, “There are thousands who entered eternity today, including thousands who were younger than you, who yesterday had no idea that today was their last day. Had they known that, their use of time would have become far more important to them.”

6. Time Lost Cannot Be Regained

John 9:4 – We have the day for work but a night is coming when no one can work.

Whitney says, “If you misuse the time God offers to you, He never offers that time again.”

7. You Are Accountable to God for Your Time

Romans 14:12 & 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 – We will all give an account for how we use our time.

Edwards resolved to live each day as if at the end of that day he had to give an account to God of how he used his time.

8. Time Is So Easily Lost

Proverbs 24:33-34 –A little wasted time here, a little there and soon all will be gone.

Whitney reminds, “You don’t have to do anything to lose time.”

9. We Value Time at Death

Proverbs 5:11-13 – Regret comes at the end of a wasted life.

Edwards determined, “Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”

10. Time’s Value in Eternity

Luke 16:19-30 – The parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Richard Baxter asks, “Does it not tear their very hearts for ever, to think how madly they consumed their lives, and wasted the only time that was given them to prepare for their salvation? Do those in hell now think them wise that are idling or playing away their time on earth?”

-Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (NavPress, 1991), 125-133.

Are we true to the gospel?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32

The gospel is in these verses: “. . . as God in Christ forgave you.”  The rest of it is how we are to be true to that gospel, how not to be a living denial of the very gospel we profess, how to be living proof of that sacred gospel.

Faithfulness to the gospel is more than signing a doctrinal statement.  That’s a good thing to do.  But faithfulness to the gospel is more.  Far more.

Faithfulness to the gospel is also treating one another as God in Christ has treated us.  It is not that hard to sign a piece of paper or take a vow that we stand for the gospel.  Again, that’s a good thing to do.  But it is far more demanding to bear living witness to the gospel by denying the demands of Ego and treating one another with the grace God has shown us in Christ.

When the gospel actually sinks in, we change.  Winning no longer matters.  Getting in the last word no longer matters.  Payback no longer matters.  We now perceive such things as contemptible, compared with the display of God’s grace in Christ.

Unbelieving people are not impressed by our official positions on paper.  They will not pay attention – nor should they – until they see the beauty of the gospel in our relationships.

Jonathan Edwards, observing his wife under the influence of the Holy Spirit, noted this about her:

“There were earnest longings that all God’s people might be clothed with humility and meekness, like the Lamb of God, and feel nothing in their hearts but love and compassion to all mankind; and great grief when anything to the contrary appeared in any of the children of God, as bitterness, fierceness of zeal, censoriousness, or reflecting uncharitably on others, or disputing with any appearance of heat of spirit.”

Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:377.”

Thanks to Ray Ortlund,  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2012/10/08/revival-replaces-reproach/

Edwards and Time

A great reminder from Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions about time management.

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

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world.

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc.

What Must I Believe to Be Saved?

What must I believe to be saved? Which truths are necessary for conversion? Here’s what Jonathan Edwards taught:

“It is essential to Christianity

that we repent of our sins,

that we be convinced of our own sinfulness,

that we are sensible we have justly exposed ourselves to God’s wrath,

that our hearts do renounce all sin,

that we do with our whole hearts embrace Christ as our only Saviour;

that we love him above all, and

are willing for his sake to forsake all, and

that we do give up ourselves to be entirely and forever his.”

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, 334;  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-is-essential-to-being-a-christian

The Goal of Preaching

“In the midst of debates over the Great Awakening, Edwards, made a revealing comment about the effects of preaching. During intense periods of awakenings, evangelists often preached to the same audience daily, or even more frequently. Opponents of the awakening argued that people could not possibly remember what they heard in all these sermons. [Jonathan] Edwards, responded that

‘The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered.’  Preaching, in other words, should be designed primarily to awaken, to shake people out of their blind slumbers in the addictive comforts of their sins. Though only God can give them new eyes to see, preaching should be designed to jolt the unconverted or the converted who doze back into their sins (as all do) into recognizing their true estate.'”

-George M. Marsden, The Salvation of Souls (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2002), 11-12.
Complements of: http://approachingdamascus.com/2011/11/02/the-preaching-moment/