“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:3
It’s the beginning of a new year, teenagers. For many of us, we resolve to make a positive change in our lives. The most common resolutions will look familiar: exercise more? Lose weight? Get organized? Quit smoking? Spend more time with family and friends? But I want to introduce you to a man named Jonathan Edwards who, as a teenager, made 70 resolutions! And they were centered around one Person.
Jonathan Edwards’ early passion was science. At Yale, he studied the works of Isaac Newton. In the late 17th century, it was Newtonian physics that revolutionized man’s understanding of his relationship to the God of the Bible. Through Newton’s work, man discovered the laws behind creation. God was no longer some mysterious detached “force” in the universe, but instead was understood as a personal God who designed man with a mind to comprehend His nature and with a will free to choose between good and evil.
Edwards didn’t make science his career. His study of the natural world fueled his desire to know and preach the character of God, to grow his personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and to pursue a life of holiness. Scholars of American history acknowledge Edwards as one of the greatest minds to be born on the North American continent, he is remembered as one of America’s greatest preachers and theologians.
He was born in New Haven, Connecticut in October 1703, the only son of 11 children (imagine 10 sisters)! He entered Yale at age 13, graduated as valedictorian in 1730, and initially became pastor at a church in New York. But he left the vocation of pastor to focus on preaching. When Edwards preached, he never yelled or used exaggerated gestures to make his points. He relied on imagery and the logical arguments.
As the Great Wakening swept through New England, He preached his first revival in 1734-1735. It began as a simple prayer meeting, convicting his audience of their sinfulness and then explaining the grace of God to free them of the penalty for their sin through the divine work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. People by the hundreds committed their lives to Christ. And he accomplished all this before he was even 20 years old. You see, Jonathan Edwards was called by God as a teenager!
Where did such dedication and resolve originate in the life of a teenager? He began by writing down a list of 70 resolutions that he would reread every week, to guide him in fulfilling his personal mission of glorifying God through His preaching. His intense life desire was, as our verse this week from King David explains, to “be led by God in the paths of what is right” not for his own sake, but for the sake of glorifying God to others. If you are a teenager, as you read through just 11 of Edwards’ these resolutions below, which of these could you resolve to incorporate in your own life in 2019 as a follower of Jesus Christ?
“#1. Resolved: I will live for God. #2: Resolved: If no one else does, I still will. #4. Resolved: Never to do anything, whether physically or spiritually, except what glorifies God. In fact, I resolve not only to this commitment, but I resolve not to even grieve and gripe about these things.
# 5. Resolved: Never lose one moment of time; but seize the time to use it in the most profitable way I possibly can. #6. Resolved: To live with all my might, …while I do live. #14. Resolved: Never to do anything out of revenge. #15. Resolved: Never to suffer the least emotions of anger about irrational beings.
#28. Resolved: To study the Scriptures so steadily, and so constantly, and so frequently, that it becomes evident – even obvious – to myself that my knowledge of them has grown.
#30. Resolved: To strive to my utmost every week to be brought to a higher spiritual place, and to a greater experience of grace, than I was the week before.
#31. Resolved: Never to say anything at all against anybody; except when to do so is perfectly consistent with the highest standards of Christian honor and love to mankind; and except when it is consistent with the sense of greatest humility and awareness of my own faults and failings. Then, whenever I have said anything against anyone, I will examine my words against the strictest test of the Golden Rule.
#53. Resolved: To improve every opportunity, 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 eternal safety, knowing that my confidence is in my Redeemer.”
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #330