(This article was written for the church at the beginning of 2017)
Is there a better way to begin the New Year than to begin by worshipping the Lord with your church? Perhaps we should redouble our efforts to make this year the year of worship. Here today, right now, all together, we should resolve to be faithful in our attendance to the services of our church.
Today’s message is entitled Resolved to Be Righteous. This is based on resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards, but more importantly on Paul’s words of encouragement in Philippians. He challenged Christians to press on to claim the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. If I may, please take a look back at the past for a moment. The following is the text of a bulletin article I wrote on Jonathan Edwards a few years ago. I hope it will be helpful in light of today’s message.
In the year 1722, America’s greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards, sat down to make a list of resolutions. Rather than concentrate on only a few goals he wished to achieve as we would when making our most important New Year’s resolutions, Edwards made a list of seventy items which he promised to read at least once each week. By doing this, he would not easily forget as we do but would be reminded each and every week to strive for these goals.
Edwards’ resolutions contained some of the same things we attempt such as not eating too much or drinking too much. He also included such standards as never speaking evil of others but to be humble and consider his own faults. His opening statement read thusly: “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.” With such sensitivity to God’s work in his life, his first resolution does not come as a surprise. He wrote, “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.”
His twenty-eighth resolution is one of my favorites. He wrote: “Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.” If I were to put my finger on the one resolution that guaranteed the success of the other sixty-nine, this would be it. No one grows in scripture without application of it. The sacred scripture is the place to find God’s activities manifested in the life of Christ. If our lives are to be of the highest order, they must be conformed to His activities. What resolution is of any value if it is not one that would be kept by Christ?
This is the reason we plow the Bible at Berean Baptist Church. Solomon wrote in the Proverbs: “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee” (Prov. 3:1-2). Many promises such as this that associate success with the knowledge of scripture are found in the Bible. One of the most important is David’s statement, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Sin is the crucial sticking point between us and God. If knowledge of the Word of God prevents sin, shouldn’t we resolve to study the scriptures steadily, constantly, and frequently?
This year you may not list seventy resolutions that you promise to read every week, but you should realize as Jonathan Edwards did that you must humbly entreat God for His help each day. Nothing you will do in any week this year will be as personally gratifying and enriching as spending time in God’s word. If you are faithful to it, all Christ-like activities will flow out of the knowledge you gain. This is your guarantee of success.
Pastor V. Mark Smith