Tag Archives: Jonathan Edwards

Talking Edwards

18 May

I am always looking for helps learning more about Edwards and his theology.

I recently found this podcast that is extremely helpful and I thought some of you might enjoy.

It’s called East of Eden:

“East of Eden devotes each episode to a work of Jonathan Edwards’. Several Edwards experts discuss the key features of the work in order to draw out Edwards rich biblical and systematic theology.”

What trusting God looks like

26 Mar

What does it mean to trust in God?

If you haven’t yet trusted in God, it is actually going to be difficult to understand fully what it means. There’s a peace and confidence that comes as a result of trusting God that is bigger than words can explain, and yet, with how valuable trusting God is, it is worth it to at least try.

In his sermon, Christian Safety, Jonathan Edwards highlights the following seven characteristics of a person who is really trusting God:

1.)  He knows he needs God’s help.

“If we see not our great and perishing need of help and relief, we shall never come to God for relief, because we shall think we can do it without him; and except we see that nothing else is sufficient to afford us help but God alone, we neglect to come to God, and seek something else in which to put our confidence.”

2.)  He believes God can help Him.

“After we have seen our own insufficiency, and the insufficiency of everything else but God; after we have seen that there is nothing else to take hold of, but we must take hold on God or perish, then we must see God’s all-sufficiency, and that there is enough in him for us. We must believe his almighty power, that he is able to do everything for us that we need to have done.”

3.)  He is sure God wants to help Him.

“Many are kept from trusting in God because they think they have committed so much sin that there is not mercy in God enough for them. He therefore must be sensible, that there is mercy enough, as well as power enough, to save the most vile returning sinner.”

4.)  He puts his confidence in the promises God’s made to help him.

“There is no trusting in God without a firm belief of the Word of God, and the revelation he has made concerning himself, especially his gracious promises.”

5.)  He loves God and seeks refuge in Him.

“As soon as we come into this world, and look behind us upon him that has just made us, we fly from him as we would from a mortal enemy, and instead of trusting in him continue to run with all our might from him, till he discovers his excellency and loveliness to us, and powerfully changes us and causes us to love him, then we shall venture quietly to rely upon him, and rest in him.”

6.) He looks forward confidently to the way in which God will rescue him.

“How can we trust in God for that we don’t believe, nor hope that he will ever bestow upon us what we trust him for.”

7.) He finds rest and satisfaction in God even in the middle of great difficulties.

“The sight of his great necessity and danger makes him restless and uneasy, when he sees danger all around him, and destruction every minute ready to take hold of him, and sees nothing that he can trust to, he must needs be very restless and in an uneasy state. But, when he sees a God that can save him, and stands ready, and is very willing to do it, and besides that has given his word and oath that he will do it, if he will depend on Him; when he sees that God is excellent and lovely, and worthy to be trusted and depended on: he then hopes in God, and places his dependence there, and so no more fears those evils that he was in danger of.”

Real Obedience

6 Mar

It is one thing to look like you take God’s Word seriously and another to really put it into practice. Unfortunately we sometimes settle for a hypocrite’s obedience. If others think I am serious about the Bible, then I am serious about the Bible. This is far from the proper response to God’s Word.

Jonathan Edwards highlights three characteristics of real obedience:

1.  The obedience of the godly is sincere.

Sincerity is when what a person does on the outside matches what is going on on the inside. In other words, when our outward religious activity matches up with our inner religious activity we are being sincere. Obviously, we are not speaking of perfection but intention and direction. If the direction of our hearts gratitude and the intention to honor God for the good He has given to us, then our giving of thanks is sincere.

2.  The obedience of the godly is universal.

It’s tempting to feel like you are obeying God because you obey the commands of God that you like or agree with, even when you are ignoring what He has to say about the issues where you don’t really want to change. We sometimes even develop the habit of only hearing what we want to hear and ignoring the rest. If we are going to honor God with our obedience we must be willing to submit even when submission requires self-denial.

3.  The obedience of the godly is a persevering obedience.

There are times in most people’s lives where they feel bad about a certain sin and decide they are going to change, only to give up on changing when the next temptation comes. One of the distinguishing characteristics however of godly obedience is a commitment to moving forward with obedience, no matter how slowly. This again of course does not mean that the godly never fail when it comes to obeying God, but it does mean that when they have failed, they get up again and keep walking the long path of obedience without giving up.

The Pleasantness of Religion

2 Feb

As believers we often talk about the importance of self-denial and picking up our cross in following Christ.

And, of course, we should.

As we do so however, we should be careful to remember that we are not simply talking about self-denial for the sake of self-denial. In other words, the reason we talk so much about self-denial is not simply because we do not believe in pleasure.

The reality is while there are many difficulties that come into our lives as a result of following after Jesus, there is also tremendous joy and good that is produced as well. Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. It is in fact so sweet that Jonathan Edwards once said, “It would be worthwhile to be religious, if it were only for the pleasantness of it.”

I suppose it would be hard to prove this to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but for those of us who know the joys of following Christ, this kind of statement is obvious. Still, it helps to remember just how kind God has been in saving us, even in terms of our life as it stands right now, and so Jonathan Edwards suggests five different proofs that a real relationship with God makes life more sweet.

1. It doesn’t stop us from enjoying legitimate earthly pleasures.

God has filled this world with many different things to enjoy. The smell of bread. The taste of chocolate. The beauty of the ocean. The sounds of music. Our relationship with God, following Jesus, it doesn’t stop us from enjoying these things. As Edwards once put it, “The sensual man cannot boast of the enjoyment of any kind of gratification but what the religious man may enjoy as well.”

What our relationship with God does do is teach us how to enjoy these pleasures in a way that doesn’t harm us. “Religion teaches us to use temporal comforts like men and not like brutes, like reasonable creatures and not as if we had nothing else but sense and no understanding.”

2. It doesn’t only not stop us from enjoying legitimate earthly pleasures, it helps us enjoy them better.

Tools work best when they are used for their purpose. A hammer is a great tool, but not as a toothbrush. Earthly pleasures are like tools God has given us. But the wicked man doesn’t really know how to use them. He doesn’t know their purpose. He uses them in ways they weren’t intended. And so, over and over, he takes good tools and breaks them. The godly person however, by God’s grace, is enlightened as to the purpose of pleasure and is trained in its use, so the tool does its job and he is able to actually delight in that pleasure to its fullest.

3. It keeps us from false pleasures which though they look like they will produce joy only really produce pain.

Sin is pleasurable for a moment and sorrowful for a lifetime. Satan is a master at presenting the bait and hiding the hook, and our relationship with God, makes our lives sweeter, by keeping us from being ensnared by temptations that look pleasurable but really only ensnare us.

4. The difficulties that our relationship with God brings into our life, in the end, only increase our joy.

If we look carefully at the things that seem most difficult about following Jesus, we will see that even though they are hard at first, they actually increase one’s joy.

For example, repentance. “Repentance of sin is a sorrow arising from the sight of God’s excellency and mercy, but the apprehension of excellency or mercy must necessarily and unavoidably beget pleasure in the mind of the beholder.” In other words, when we see the glory of God it does cause us to sorrow over our sin and turn from it, and that is difficult, but at the same time, we do get to see the glory of God and that produces joy. Plus, repentance produces joy in that it refreshes us in the forgiveness God’s offered in Christ and enables us to have peace in our minds in terms of our relationship with Him.

5. It produces pleasures that are deeper and profound than can be found in any ordinary earthly pleasures by themselves.

“The religious man enjoys spiritual pleasures that are much better than any others. He has pleasures of mind as well as pleasure of body.”

We don’t only follow Jesus for the good it will produce us, the giver is more important than the gift, but as we follow Jesus, we should rejoice that we serve a God who is so kind, that He has stuffed His commands with kindness, and in calling us to pursue Him is calling us to pursue our greatest good.

How Spiritual Knowledge is Obtained

29 Jan

There is no knowledge as valuable as spiritual knowledge. Sometimes it seems like there is no knowledge more rare.

How is spiritual knowledge obtained? Jonathan Edwards suggests the following:

1.) The procuring cause is Jesus:

It was purchased for them through the work of Jesus Christ. For me to have spiritual knowledge, Jesus had to die and I need to be united to Him.

2.) The immediate efficient cause is the Spirit:

All spiritual saving light is given by the immediate teaching of the Holy Spirit. For me to have spiritual knowledge, the Spirit of God has to remove the obstacles in my heart and give me a soft and teachable heart that can understand what the Scriptures are saying.

3.) The means by which this knowledge is communicated is the Word:

This is the only likely way to ever obtain this knowledge, to converse very much with the holy Word of God, frequently to read the holy Scriptures. And if anyone is seeking after spiritual understanding, and does not do this, he can reasonably expect no other than to be disappointed.For me to have spiritual knowledge, I need to devote myself to the study of Scriptures.

4.) The foundation of this spiritual knowledge is regeneration:

Man must be made of an angelical nature before he has angelical knowledge; he must be made partaker of the divine nature before he is partaker of divine light. For me to have spiritual knowledge, I need to be born again.

Taken and adapted from Jonathan Edwards, A Spiritual Understanding

Seeing Things At A Distance

29 Jan

“The views of some men are confined to a narrow compass…nothing seems real to them but what they see with their eyes, and is the object of their bodily senses. The reason of this is a certain narrowness of soul, that has but a very scanty and confined knowledge, confined to the dust they tread on. This world appears very great to them, and worthy to set their hearts upon. ‘Tis because of a littleness of soul, they are like insects, worms and ants, to whom a little hillock looks like a mountain, and a spire of grass like a tree, and not like men, who tread these things under their feet as very little things not worthy the minding.

So they are of very narrow views and conceptions with respect to time. They can see no farther than just before them, and the things of another world, they are too great and too far off for them to behold…This is from a certain littleness of soul, and a pitiful scantiness and narrowness of mind, that they can’t realize the things of another world because they can’t see them, will not realize things that are to come because they be not present.

But to the spiritual man, God hath given largeness of heart, greatness of soul, that he sees and understands the things of the spiritual world as well as this. It’s beneath the greatness of their souls to be confined to a little clod of earth, and to a seventy years. They see things at a distance, and can see the reality of things that are to be a thousand years hence, as well as at present.”

Jonathan Edwards

Knowing versus Knowing

24 Jan

It is possible to know a lot about God without really knowing much of anything at all.

A person can be an unbeliever and have an extensive understanding of biblical doctrines, be orthodox in all his opinions, and yet not ever really have tasted or enjoyed or delighted in the gospel, the Savior, the glory of God.

Jonathan Edwards once put it like this,

“The knowledge of a thing is not in proportion to the extensiveness of our notions, or number of circumstances known, only; but it consists chiefly in the intensiveness of the idea. Thus it is not he that has heard a long description of the sweetness of honey that can be said to have the greatest understanding of it, but he that has tasted. If a man should read whole volumes upon this one subject, the taste of honey, he would never get so lively an apprehension of it as he had that had tasted…”

There’s knowing and there’s knowing.

There’s a knowledge that is basically useless even if extensive, and a knowledge that is worth more than gold, even if it just a start.

And obviously, as people who study our Bibles and go to church and spend a lot of time thinking and talking about God, we want to know which kind of knowledge we have. There’s no fool like a fool who doesn’t know he is a fool, after all.

Jonathan Edwards suggests four different ways of evaluating which kind of knowledge you have.

Does the knowledge you have about God change what is going on in your heart?

This is something only you can really know, but are you different deep down than you were before? Is there peace, joy, hope, love? Or just a plastic smile?

Does the knowledge you have about God purify your life?

I once heard someone say he doesn’t ask people what they are learning from the Bible, but how they are changing from what they have learned. That is because, spiritual knowledge is a practical knowledge.

Does the knowledge you have about God produce joy in your mind?

We are not talking about curiousity here, but delight. “The believer,” Edwards explains, “is filled with joy because he is pleased and delighted with the sight. The knowledge itself is a sweet sort of knowledge to him. He loves to view and behold the things of the Spirit of God; they are to him the most pleasing and beautiful objects in the world. He can never satisfy his eyes with looking on them, because he beholds them as certain truths and as things of all the most excellent.”

Does the knowledge you have about God puff you up or make you more humble?

This is essential! Those who really see God for who He is see themselves for who they are, and there isn’t anyone, who has seen himself for who he really is, who walks away proud of himself. The only people who think much of themselves are people who don’t know much about themselves, and that’s because they don’t know as much about God as they might think.