Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Spiritual Goals

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss describes an important resolution.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: By God’s grace, I’m going to live a life where my emotions are disciplined. They’re under the control of the Holy Spirit. I’m not going to be controlled by my flesh. I’m not going to let it run my life.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Friday, January 2.

We’re going to hear about a young man who gained some early success. He entered Yale at age 13 and graduated at the top of his class. But he wasn’t satisfied. He wrote out 70 resolutions to guide his process of spiritual maturity. I think you’ll find these resolutions helpful in your life as Nancy shares some of them with us.

Nancy: Do you ever find yourself looking at another believer who’s very mature in their faith and they seem so spiritual? Or you read about one of these great Christian leaders in history and you kind of have this sigh and think, “If only I could ever have that kind of mature Christian walk.”

I see some heads nodding. We maybe just assume they’re in a different league, or they’re just naturally more spiritual than we are.

As you examine the lives of those who’ve lived spiritually mature lives, you realize that spiritual maturity doesn’t just happen. We don’t just wake up one morning and find that we’re spiritually mature. It’s a process. It’s a process that requires intentionality. It requires purposing to pursue Christ-likeness.

We’ve been looking this week at some of the resolutions of a great man of God, but made when he was still a teenager. Jonathan Edwards—who became one of the great leaders of the first Great Awakening in our country—was a great pastor and writer and thinker and man of God.

But early in his life he penned 70 resolutions focusing on what kind of person he wanted to become. What were the spiritual values that he wanted to be his core values? He purposed to live an intentional life set apart for the glory of God, to be always growing in his walk with God.

Today we want to look at some more of his resolutions and see how they can challenge us in our own process of growth toward Christ-likeness.

One of the things that comes out in Edwards’ resolutions is that he purposed to live a disciplined life. Now that’s a word I’m not exactly crazy about. And probably judging from some of your faces, you’re not either.

Discipline—that sounds like work. That sounds hard. And it is. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews says, “No discipline for the moment seems pleasant” (12:11).

When I get on the treadmill in the morning or go out to do my strenuous walk—well, it’s pretty strenuous to me . . . that isn’t pleasant. But I’m desirous of a fruit that it’s going to produce that, to me, is worth the discipline.

And Edwards was saying in his resolutions, “There’s an end result that I have in mind. I can envision what it is to be like Jesus, and I’m willing to pay a price to get from here to there.” So he purposed to live a disciplined life, to live temperately, to bring every area of his life under the control of the Holy Spirit.

For example, he said, “I’m resolved to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and in drinking.” In relation to his physical habits he said, “I’m going to be disciplined. I’m going to be temperate.”

Why? Because he wanted for all of his life to bring glory to God. And apparently Edwards discovered what I have in my own life and that is that if I’m not temperate in those most simple basic areas of life—what I eat, what I drink, what I do with this physical temple, this body that God has given to me—then I’m going to be more vulnerable to be lacking in discipline and in temperance in other areas where the implications of a lack of discipline may be more serious.

For example, one of the purposes in my life is to live . . . and this is something that’s been on my heart in a strong way since I was a young girl. Lord, I want to live a morally pure life in my thinking, in my habits, in my relationships. I want to live a life that is morally above reproach.

But what would make me think, what would make you think that we can live a morally pure and disciplined life if we are not disciplined in the simple things of what we eat, our exercise, our diet, what we do with our physical habits?

You see, the Scripture says bodily exercise profits a little. My dad used to remind us, it does profit a little. In the big scheme of things, what we eat and what we drink and exercise and these physical habits aren’t the all-important thing. But they do lay a foundation in some very practical ways for other disciplines in our lives.

Edwards says, “I’m resolved never to do anything but my duty, and then to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord and not to man.”

Edwards says, “I’m going to find out what is my duty and then I’m going to discipline myself to do my duty. Whether it’s easy or hard, whether I like it or don’t, whether it’s convenient or not, I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do. I’m going to find out my duty and then I’m going to do it.

Now so many of us tend to live our lives based on what we feel like doing rather than what we know we’re supposed to be doing. So what is your duty?

Well most of us in this room are women. And the Scripture is very clear about some aspects of our duty as women. For example, when we come to Titus chapter 2, Paul says to Titus that he is to teach older women and then older women are supposed to teach younger women something (see verses 1–4).

Now we have in this room some older women and we have some younger women. You decide which category you fit in. But we’re told something of our duty whether we’re older or younger.

He says that older women are to be reverent in the way that they live. That’s a duty. They are not to be slanderers. They are not to be addicted to much wine. They’re to be temperate in their habits. And they are to teach what is good (see verse 3).

Who are they to teach it to? They are to teach what is good to younger women. This is the duty of an older woman. If you are an older woman, the things that Paul has just listed there are your duty.

He’s not saying just do them if you feel like doing them. He’s not saying be temperate, be reverent in the way that you live, not to be a slanderer, to teach younger women . . . he’s not saying do that if you feel like doing it today or you feel qualified to do it. He’s saying this is your duty.

And Edwards said, “I will do what is my duty to do, and I will do it cheerfully as unto the Lord.”

Now I don’t want to leave the younger women out here. He says the older women are to train the younger women in their duty. And here are some of the duties of younger women: to love their husbands and to love their children (see verse 4).

Did you know that to love your husband is your duty as a Christian woman? Now there’s more to it than duty, and you want to love your husband and your children not just because you have to.

But the fact is, even when you don’t feel like loving your husband and your children, you have a duty to love your husband and your children. So younger women are to be trained to fulfill this duty.

Here’s some more of their duty. They’re to be self-controlled. They are to be pure. They are to be busy at home (see verse 5). The word there in the original language means “home workers.” They are to work in their homes. They’re to keep house is part of the meaning of that. And keeping a home that brings glory to God and that is a refuge and a haven for your family. If you have a husband and children that is part of your duty.

It’s not an unimportant part. It’s part of how you worship and bring glory to God. They are to be kind. They are to be subject to their husbands (see verse 5). For married women this is a part of your duty to be obedient to your husband “so that no one will malign the word of God” (verse 5, NIV).

Well, Edwards is saying, “When I find that I have a duty, I will do that duty. I will fulfill it, and I will do it cheerfully.”

Edwards talks in this matter of a disciplined life. He says, “Resolved: When I’m most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger.” When I feel this welling up inside of me to lose my cool (that’s how we might say it today). When I feel provoked, "I will strive to feel and act good naturedly.”

What is he saying? “I’m not going to let my life be controlled by how I feel.” There are times when we feel provoked. Maybe there’s no reason at all but just the way we feel that day, and we don’t feel like being good natured. We feel this ill nature and this anger rising up within.

Edwards is saying, “By God’s grace, I’m going to live a life where my emotions are disciplined.”

The apostle Paul likened it to running a race, to being an athlete. He says, “I’m going to run in such a way that I can win. And that means I’ve got to be disciplined.”

As part of running that race, Paul says, “I’ve got to bring my body into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:25, paraphrased). I’ve got to discipline my body, my emotions, my mind.

And he says, “If I fail to do so here’s what may happen. I may find that after having preached to others I myself will be disqualified from the race” (verse 27, paraphrased). I may get put up on a shelf where God can’t use my life after having told others how to live the Christian life.

Edwards understood. The apostle Paul understood. And we need to understand that if we’re going to be used by God in the long run we’ve got to resolve to live lives that are disciplined and temperate and under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Are you living a disciplined life? You say, “That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.” Did Edwards never have any fun?

You see, Edwards understood that the person who can really enjoy life is the person whose life is under the control of the Spirit of God. When we live under our own control, when we let our emotions or our bodies or our sinful flesh control us, we may have pleasure for a season—eating whatever we want to eat, letting our anger and our flesh and our ill will express itself, saying whatever we want to say. That gives you a kind of momentary high. It has a momentary pleasure.

But he realized ultimately that that person is in a painful bondage. That person is miserable.

So the fact is, we pay the price now or we pay it later. We pay the price now to discipline our flesh, to bring it under the control of the Spirit of God. And then we can enjoy the freedom that that brings in our relationship with the Lord.

Or we have it our way now and then ultimately find ourselves in bondage to ourselves, to our temper, to our tongues, to our flesh, to our bodies.

Edwards resolved, “I’m going to live a disciplined life letting God discipline and restrain my life so that He can be glorified through every detail of my life.”

As I have been pondering these resolutions, God has been doing a fresh work in my own heart of reminding me not just to live for the moment as most do—taking things for granted and assuming that life will go on as it always has—but learning to live in light of eternity.

For example, Edwards said, “Resolved: Never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.”

Now that gives a whole different way of thinking than most of us are accustomed to. He said, “I’m purposed in my heart”—this is a teenage young man writing—“and I’m resolved never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if I knew that this was going to be my final hour.”

He said, “I’m resolved to think much on all occasions of my dying.”

When’s the last time you stopped and really thought about your dying—not just someone else’s dying but your dying. Edwards as a teenage boy said, “I’m resolved to think much on all occasions for my dying.”

You say, “That sounds like a pretty morbid way to live.” Thinking this way helped Edwards to live a wise life and a purposeful life and a life that we remember now centuries later because he lived in light of his death and what was beyond.

He said, “I’m resolved to think much of my dying and of the common circumstances which attend death.”

Of course, we don’t know what will be the circumstances surrounding our death, but do you stop to think about how you want to die and what kind of person you want to be on your death bed? And then to realize that it’s not going to happen unless we take steps between here and now, by God’s grace, to become that kind of person.

Edwards said, “I’m resolved that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.” He’s saying, “I don’t want to come to my deathbed, whenever that is, and look back on my life and say, ‘I wish I’d done it differently.’”

You know, no one ever said on their death bed, “I wish I’d put more time into my work. I wish I’d been more successful at my job.” But I think a lot of people at the end of their lives had wished that they’d been more successful at loving their mate, more successful at training their children in the ways of God.

He said it a different way in this resolution. He said, “I’m resolved never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if I expected it would not be more than an hour before I should hear the last trump.”

He realized, “I may not die. Jesus may come back first. It could be today.”

And he said, “I don’t want to do anything which I’d be afraid to do if I knew that Jesus was coming back within the hour.”

And he says this in the resolutions. He said, “I frequently hear people in old age say how they would live if they were to live their lives over again.” Here’s a young man looking at older people. And he hears them say, “I’d like to do this differently if I could live my life again.”

And so Edwards goes on to say, “Resolved: That I will live as I shall wish I had done supposing I live to old age.”

“I want to live now in the way that when I become an old man, when I become an old person, I will be happy that I have lived that way and not have regrets.”

Edwards said, “I want to live in light of my death. I want to live in light of the end of life. But more than that”—and here’s another thread that runs through his writings—“I want to live in light of what’s beyond my death, in light of eternity.”

And so he says, “I’m resolved to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can. I’m not just living for this world,” he says. “And happiness in this world is really of not much consequence to me.”

“Because,” he says, “I know I’m here for just a short time, and I know that the next world is one that I will inhabit for eternity. And so I want to store up for myself happiness in the next world.”

You know you can forego some happiness in this world if you know that you’re preparing the way by the way that you live and walk with God to be happy in the next world.

Jesus taught us in some of His parables about the talents that the way we live here on earth—the way we invest the stewardship that God has given to us here on earth—will determine our fruitfulness and our ability to be profitable to God in the kingdom of God in eternity.

Our responsibility in heaven, the ability to serve Him in the way that we want to in heaven will in some measure be determined by our faithfulness here on this earth.

Edwards says, “I am resolved when I feel pain to think of the pains of martyrdom and hell.” Because if you’re a child of God, you recognize that any pain that I may endure here on earth is nothing compared to the pain of hell that I will never experience, the pain from which I’ve been spared.

And if you’re not a child of God, it puts things in perspective as well because you realize that the pain you experience here on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal pain that you will experience in hell separated from God. So Edwards says, “I want to live in light of eternity.”

And then Edwards says, “I’m resolved to endeavor to my utmost the greatest degree that I can so to act as I think as I think I would act had I already seen the happiness of heaven and the torments of hell.”

He said, “If I could take a trip to heaven and see the glories and the wonder and the happiness of heaven, or if I could take a trip to hell and see its eternal torments, I think that would affect the way that I live here on this earth.”

And he said, “I want to live in such a way as if I’d already made those trips, I’d already seen what eternity is like.”

Now Scripture gives us only some small glimpses into the horrors of hell and the glories of heaven. But Jonathan Edwards says, “I want to live my life in light of what I know is true about the afterlife.”

In the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, having wasted much of his life in pursuit of things that were not eternal, the writer of Ecclesiastes comes to this conclusion. He speaks first to youth, and then he thinks about the aging process, and then he looks forward to death.

And here’s what he says: “Remember your creator in the days of your youth” (12:1, NIV) While you’re still a young person, remember God.

Before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"—before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain [remember God. Remember your Creator before] the keepers of the house tremble and the strong men stoop 

[He’s now speaking here of older men, aging men.] When the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred (verses 1-5, NIV).

He’s saying, “Young men, you think you’re so strong, and you are now. But look forward to the day when it won’t mean anything to you, when there’s no longer strong desire or strong anything. Look ahead. And then remember.”

Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets (verse 5, NIV).

He’s saying, “Young man, young person, think about what it will be like when you go to your eternal home and those who mourn your departure are left down here alone.”

And what should you do? Ecclesiastes 12:6:

Remember him [remember your Creator] before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (verses 6–7, NIV).

He’s saying, “You’re going to stand before God.”

And in light of eternity, how long is it between now and our death?

You say, “We don’t know how long until we die.”

Well I’ll tell you this. We know that it’s just a moment in the light of eternity. Whether you have a day or a week or a month or ten years or fifty years left of life on this earth, it’s just a moment in the light of eternity.

And then you return to God. So what does he say? “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (verse 13, NIV). This is what life is about. This is what life is for. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (verse 14, NIV).

Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss inviting you to examine your life just like Jonathan Edwards did. Nancy’s been describing his 70 challenging resolutions, and she’ll be right back.

You only have one 2009. The decisions you make today, tomorrow, and the next will add up quickly. It will either be a full challenging year or a year of regret and missed opportunity.

That’s why this is the perfect time to read the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards for yourself. These resolutions are rich in deep content and very practical. They’ll help you make 2009 a memorable year of growth and effectiveness.

We’ve organized these important ideas from Jonathan Edwards in a booklet called Resolutions for Godly Living. We’ll send it to you when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Just ask for Resolutions for Godly Living when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

There’s no better way to spend the first Sunday of 2009 than in church. I hope you can make it this weekend. Then join us again Monday for some strategies for getting the most out of your Bible reading in this New Year.

Now to close our time today, here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Oh Father, would You help us whether young or aging to live this day, this week, this year in light of eternity . . . to ponder the matter of dying . . . to ponder eternity and to live in such a way that we will be able to face You without regret, without fear, without shame, but with great joy because we know that we have lived life here all to Your glory? We pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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