Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Resolutions that help us to put away sin

Last time we looked at how all of Edwards’ resolutions stemmed from his desire to glorify God at any cost. Today as I continue to share from Lawson’s book The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, I’ll focus on the second category of his resolutions concerned with putting away sin.

As Christians, we all want to sin less, this is unanimous, but how we go about that pursuit can determine the degree to which we are successful. Edwards recognized that his sins were symptoms of the corrupt desires of his heart and he took his heart seriously.

Resolution 24: “Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.” (Lawson p. 84)

Resolution 56: “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” (Lawson p. 85)

When I look at Edwards’ life, I think he must have been one of the most godly men to live on the face of the earth, but when Edwards’ examined himself (which he did often) he saw his sin and it was terribly offensive to him.

“My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and infinitely swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or infinite mountains over my head. I know not how to express better, what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite… When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.” (from Edwards’ Personal Narrative, taken from Lawson p. 89)

They say the first step in tackling a problem is admitting you have a problem. Edwards proves this. He was a man perhaps more preoccupied with holiness than any other and we see in his above reflections that when he looked into his heart he saw a big problem. Do I take my sin as seriously as Edwards did? How often do I allow myself to think that since I’ve been saved from my sins that they don’t really matter anymore? As if God doesn’t care one way or the other since it's all just water under the bridge. Edwards understood the call to holiness in Scripture and he took it seriously.

Putting away his sin wasn’t just theory for Edwards either, like it often seems to be for me. I have these epiphanies during Bible study about ridding myself of sin, but all too often the convictions end there, as convictions. Edwards made actual escape plans to avoid sinning when temptation called.

“When I am violently beset with temptation, or cannot rid myself of evil thoughts, to do some sum in arithmetic, or geometry, or some other study, which necessarily engages all my thoughts, and unavoidably keeps them from wandering.” (from Edwards’ diary vol. 16, 776, taken from Lawson p. 86)

He was truly taking his thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ!

Edwards was determined when he discovered sin in his life that he would fully repent of it. He also determined to be gentle and forgiving of others in view of God’s forgiveness of him.

Resolution 3: “Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.” (Lawson p. 79)

Resolution 8: “Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings of others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.” (Lawson p. 81)

So Edwards understood his propensity toward feeling self-righteous toward others and realized the antidote was reflecting on the magnitude of the sins forgiven him by our merciful Lord.

In summary, our resolutions should reflect our knowledge of our sins, the importance of searching out our sins so we can confess them and repent of them, the priority of putting away our sins, and the plans of action that will help us to avoid future sins. Wow, that’s quite a list. So, as we make our New Year’s resolutions let’s try to keep in mind what activities will help us keep our sins before us and what actions will help us to sin less.

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.