Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Taking Aim

Leslie Basham: In 2009, who will be in control of your life? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Once we settle the issue of why we’re living, all of life takes on a different perspective. All that matters is that God is glorified, that He is pleased with my life.

Leslie: Happy New Year. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

In certain areas of our country, December means snow, and snow leads to salt on the roads; salt leads to potholes, and potholes throw cars out of alignment.

Has your life been hitting any potholes lately? You can get out of alignment just like your car. On this New Year’s Day, it’s time to evaluate whether you’re drifting spiritually or staying on course. Nancy will help you evaluate in a series called Resolutions for a New Year.

Nancy: I can remember when I was growing up that at the end of each year or the beginning of each new year, my dad would gather us together as a family and would challenge us to make some New Year’s resolutions. Did you make New Year’s resolutions when you were growing up? Perhaps you still do.

I can remember he would tell us if we would make our New Year’s resolutions keep them all year long, we could have anything we wanted. It seemed like the thing we would challenge him with was, “Even a horse? If we want a horse?” That was the biggest thing we could think of to ask. He said, “Even a horse, if you keep your New Year’s resolutions all year long.”

Well, he knew what it took us a few years to learn, and that is, left to ourselves, we would not be able to keep those resolutions. But he also understood there was value in taking time at certain key turning points. The turning of a year certainly is a good time to do that—to evaluate what are the areas of need in our lives and what areas do we want to focus attention on as we continue in our growth in Christ.

As you read some of the biographies of some of the great Christians of the past, you’ll find that many of them did make resolutions. They would ask God to search their hearts and show them areas of need. Then they would list things they wanted to see changed in their lives.

I discovered not too long ago a series of 70 resolutions that were written by Jonathan Edwards. He, as you know, was a great pastor and Christian thinker and leader. He was one of the men that God used in a significant way in the First Great Awakening here in the United States. In his memoirs, we have a list of 70 resolutions that he made over a period of a couple of years. I did not know until recently that all these resolutions were written by the time he was 20 years of age. Oh the value of early in life seeking the Lord as Jonathan Edwards did.

Today I want us to look at some of those resolutions and some in particular areas of focus that emerge as we read those resolutions.

The first thing that strikes me as I read through this long list—and, by the way, the list is in language that’s a little old fashioned, so I’m going to paraphrase at points what he said to make it a little bit more understandable for our modern ears. As you read those resolutions, you see that he resolved to live a purposeful life. For Jonathan Edwards, he was not going to let life just happen to him. Even as a teenager, he said, “I want to live intentionally. I don’t want to just drift through life. I don’t want to just exist as so many people do.”

As you read his resolutions, you see that he had one supreme purpose. He was going to live purposefully. He identified what was his purpose in life. The thing that comes shining through as a thread in these resolutions is that he realized that he existed for the glory of God. This was what moved him and motivated him and drove him even as a young man.

Let me read to you a couple of those resolutions. He said, “Resolved: Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, but what tends to the glory of God.

Resolved: That I will do whatsoever I think will be most to the glory of God. Resolved: To do so whatever difficulties I meet with, no matter how many or how great those difficulties.”

Nothing else seemed important to him next to this matter of living and dying for the glory of God.

You say, “How does this live out—this matter of living to the glory of God?” Well, some of his resolutions show the very practical way that he envisioned living life for the glory of God. For example, in his use of time, he said, “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it or use it or maximize it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”

He realized that one day in eternity he would be giving an account to God for how he used his time here on earth, and he wanted to be able to look back and to say, “God, I have glorified You with what I did with the moments You gave me here on earth.”

He wanted to live wholeheartedly. He knew this would bring glory to God, so there’s a sense of earnestness that comes through in these resolutions. He said, “Resolved: To live with all my might while I do live.”

Can you imagine most 18- and 19-year-olds that you know thinking that way? Can you imagine most of us thinking that way? Once we settle the issue of why we’re living, all of life takes on a different perspective. Once we settle the issue that:

  • It’s not about me.
  • It’s not about my convenience.
  • It’s not about my comfort.
  • It’s not about my happiness.
  • It’s not about who likes me, who accepts me.
  • It’s not about, “Am I fulfilled in what I’m doing here in life?”
  • It is all that matters is that God is glorified, that He is pleased with my life.

Then we can endure and bear up under circumstances and challenges that we might not otherwise be able to face if we know that, “My sole purpose for living is to bring glory to God.”

So Edwards resolved to live purposefully, to live an intentional life. As part of that, we then see that he resolved to live a growing life—not just to stay where he was spiritually, but to keep pressing on, to keep seeking new heights in his relationship with the Lord.

He knew that the study of the Scripture was an important part of living a growing life, and that that was how he would bring glory to God. So he said, “Resolved: To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently that I may find myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”

That reminds me of what Peter said in the end of his second e`pistle. He said, “Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18). And then the next line, “To Him be glory.” How do we bring God glory on this earth? By growing in our knowledge of Him, our understanding of His ways.

Edwards said, “I am resolved to strive every week to be brought higher spiritually and to a higher level of grace than I was the week before.” Now that’s a challenge to me. As I was reading his resolutions last night, I found myself wondering, “Am I further ahead spiritually this week than I was this time last week?” How about you? Have you grown in grace, in your knowledge of Christ, in your knowledge of His Word in the last week? Have you grown in the last month?

Think about where you were a year ago as you look back over this past year. Can you say, “I’ve grown spiritually. I know more of the heart and the ways of God. I’ve grown in grace. I’m not where I want to be. I’m not where, by God’s grace, I’m going to be. But by God’s grace, I’m further in my walk with Him and in my ability to glorify Him than I was this time last year.”

  • Do you love Him more?
  • Do you know Him more?
  • Are you pleasing Him more with your life?
  • Are you growing in your walk with God?

Edwards purposed to live an examined life—an examined life, to keep bringing his life under the scrutiny of the Word and the Spirit of God. He didn’t want to take it for granted that everything was okay in his life. He purposed really to live an accountable life—to be accountable to God for where he was in his spiritual walk. Let me read to you some of the resolutions that show this purpose to live an examined life.

He said, “Resolved: To inquire every night as I’m going to bed wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself, and not just every night, but also at the end of every week, month, and year.”

He said, “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.” He said, “At the end of every day, it’s important to me to look back on the day and see if I have been temperate in my eating and drinking habits.”

You say, “Why should that be something that we should examine every night. I’m not sure I want to think about this before I go to bed every night.” But Edwards realized that if he was going to give glory to God, which was his supreme purpose in life, that it mattered that he would eat and drink to the glory of God. So he said, “Every night before I go to bed, I’m going to let God search my heart.”

Resolved: Constantly, with the utmost diligence and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest or a part in Christ or not, so that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of.” What was Edwards saying? He said, “On a regular basis, constantly and diligently, I’m going to examine my heart to make sure that I am in Christ.”

We have a theology today in our country that pretty much says, “If you pray this prayer, you receive Christ. You’ve got eternal security; you will never be separated from Christ.” Then we kind of forget about the whole matter of our salvation. But the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves" (11:27), not just once, but repeatedly, and make sure that you are in the faith. Edwards said, “I’m going to perpetually, constantly, with great rigor and scrutiny examine myself and make sure that there is evidence that I am in Christ.”

In the early days of our nation’s history, in order to become a member of a church, you didn’t just walk forward and say, “I want to join this church.” You didn’t just go to a three-week class on church membership. You had to give, and this was written into many of our early church constitutions, you had to give what they called “credible evidence” of conversion. And Edwards was saying, “I’m not going to take for granted something as important as the eternal condition of my soul.

Now, this doesn’t mean that he lived in fear that he would be separated from Christ. But he said, “I want to regularly evaluate and make sure that there is evidence that Christ lives in me and that I belong to Him.” He purposed to live an examined life.

He said, “Resolved: Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, [when my conscience is troubling me, even just a little bit, or I am aware of the least irregularity without, I see something in my actions, my external behavior, that isn’t consistent with the Word and the ways of God, what will I do?] I will subject myself to the strictest examination."

I’m not going to let it go. I’m going to stop and say, "What’s the issue here? What is God trying to say to me? What is the need in my life?" I’m not just going to live this life that just exists, but I’m going to deal with the issues that God brings to my attention.

We do this physically. When we get symptoms of maybe a stomach problem or a head cold or we have physical symptoms, immediately we say, “What’s wrong?” And, “What can I do to fix this? What can I do to get at the root that is causing this symptom in my life?” But in our spiritual life, so many of us just ignore the symptoms. We just let them go. We overlook them. And Edwards says, “No. I’m not going to overlook these symptoms. I’m going to go back and say, ‘What do I need to deal with?’”

We do this in so many areas of our lives. There’s not a day that goes by that you and I don’t look in the mirror. I mean, we do. We want to know, “How do we look?” I do something—I don’t know if this is a good habit or not, but perhaps many of you can relate. I step on the scales every day. We get regular physical checkups, as we’ve already said. We get regular dental checkups—I have a dental appointment next week. In Michigan where I live, every four years you have to take a driver’s test, a written test to renew your driver’s license. The State of Michigan says you have to live an examined life. You don’t have to do that here? Maybe I’ll move.

I regularly reconcile my checkbook. I take my bank statement and put it up next to my checkbook. I want to see how I’m doing financially. I want to see that the money I think is in the bank actually is in the bank. So we take stock of how we’re doing financially, and in so many areas of our lives.

Edwards said, “That’s the kind of life I want to live spiritually. So daily, weekly, monthly, every year, I’m going to stop and look in the mirror, get on the scales, pull out the checkbook, and say, ‘Oh, God, search my heart. Try me. Know me. See if there be any wicked way in me.’”

Edwards purposed to live a holy life. He wanted to live a life that was not only positionally holy, knowing that when he came to faith in Christ that he’d been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, but also that he was practically living out that holiness that God had put within him. He wanted to know that it was being worked out in his daily life, and he purposed to live a life of practical personal holiness. This comes out in a number of his resolutions.

He said, for example, “Resolved: In narrations," that is, when I’m speaking, when I’m telling stories. "Resolved: Never to speak anything but the pure and simple truth.” It mattered to him that in his speech, in his words, that what he said in everything would be true.

The Lord has really challenged my own life and has made me increasingly sensitive to the truthfulness of every word that I speak. Those of you who know me well know that I frequently find myself having to back up and restate something that I just said. It's not always because I intended to say something that wasn’t true, but sometimes as the words come out of your mouth, you realize, “That’s not quite how it happened. That’s not quite how it was.”

The Lord has challenged me to purpose to speak the truth to every person in every situation, no matter what the cost. And when I don’t, to go back and restate it, to make it right.

Why is that important? Because God is truth, and if we want to be like Him, then there must be in us no shadow of turning, no variation, no hypocrisy—just purely speaking the truth. That was a matter of practical holiness for Jonathan Edwards.

Another matter of practical holiness that was important to him, he said, “Resolved: Never to do anything of which I so much as question the lawfulness.” What’s he saying there? “If I have any question in my heart about whether what I’m about to do is acceptable to God and His Word, then I’m not going to do it. If there’s any doubt in my heart that this is biblically acceptable, that it’s lawful according to the Word of God, then I don’t want to do it.”

So many of us today try and see how close we can get to sin without getting caught up in it. “How far can I go before it’s sin? Is this okay? Is this okay?”

I wish we would today have the heart of some of our forebearers spiritually, men like Jonathan Edwards, who would say, “I don’t want to get as close to sin as I can. I don’t want to know how far I can go towards sin. I want to know how far I can stay away from it. I want to know how close I can get to that which is pure and holy and good and above reproach.”

Paul tells us in Romans whatever is not of faith is sin. If there’s doubt in your heart that God is giving freedom in His Word, then Edwards is saying, “Why do it?”

Edwards’ biographer, commenting on these resolutions, spoke about his passion for purity. He said, “The man who could thus write—who could write these kinds of resolutions—was not one who could easily trifle with sin, or who could enter any of its paths without the immediate reproofs of an offended conscience. He had a sensitive conscience.” I tell you—that’s what I want.

I think that’s what many of you want. I want a conscience that is touch-sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that God doesn’t have to shout to get my attention, that just the slightest prompting and whispering of His Holy Spirit through His Word and through my conscience becomes something that I quickly say, “Yes, Lord.”

Edwards knew that he had a sinful flesh to deal with, that he was not always going to live this way. So in his resolutions, he also purposes to live a life where he is constantly waging battle against his sinful flesh. He says, for example, “Resolved: Whenever I do any sinful action, to trace it back till I come to the original cause." "I want to find out what’s at the root,” he said, “of this sinful act I committed. Then,” he said, “I will carefully endeavor to do so no more and to fight and pray with all my might against the root, against the original of that sin.”

He said, “Resolved: Never to give over nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” He knew that there were besetting sins, there were things in his life that had perhaps a stronger grip than others. I think of my own life. I think of some sin issues I have battled with for years and years—and I see some heads nodding. Some of you are thinking of something in your own life.

Edwards was recognizing that these besetting sins do exist, but he said, “I’m not just going to live comfortably with those issues of my flesh. I’m not just going to resign myself to have to live a defeated Christian life. I’m going by the power of God’s Spirit to wage a relentless warfare against that sin and against its roots.”

Edwards recognized that he could not fulfill these resolutions in his own power. In fact, at the beginning of these resolutions, Edwards wrote these words: “Being conscious that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly plead with Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these resolutions so far as they are agreeable to His will for Christ’ sake.”

So we see here a man who knew he could not please God in his own strength, in his own energy. That as resolved as he was, it took a whole lot more than some New Year’s resolutions to live a holy life. It took the grace and the power of God. He said, “I can’t do this without God’s help, so I’m pleading with Him. If these resolutions are pleasing to Him, then, oh God, would You be the One who fulfills them in me?”

  • What is it that God’s put on your heart to believe Him to do in your life over this next year?
  • Are there areas of sinful flesh that you’d like to see victory?
  • Are there areas of holiness that you need to pursue?
  • Has God been putting specific issues on your heart? “You need to deal with this. You need to deal with that.”

Start by purposing to pursue holiness, purposing to live that examined life, and then say, “Oh, Lord, I can’t do this on my own. Flesh is flesh, and all my hope is Christ and His righteousness living in me and living His life through me. By Your grace, oh Lord, perfect that which You have put in my heart to do for Your glory.”

Leslie: God is far greater than your willpower. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been pointing you to the source of true change for a new year.

Nancy based that message on a very helpful set of resolutions Jonathan Edwards made as a teenager. When you read these resolutions for yourself, you’ll be challenged to live a life of purpose. Don’t just drift through 2009. Read more about Jonathan Edwards in a booklet called Resolutions for Godly Living. It’s yours when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com to donate and help us minister purposefully in 2009. We’ll send you Resolutions for Godly Living as our thanks.

It’s easy to make bad choices—even if you don’t mean to. But to make good choices, you usually have to make some effort. Learn how to purposefully make wise choices tomorrow as we continue exploring the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. I hope you can be here for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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