February 3, 2012

Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God

I'm really enjoying this series of books, written by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, on Jonathan Edwards and his teachings. "Lover of God" is the third book I've read out of this series of five. This one is an introduction to the man, Jonathan Edwards, and his life and ministry.

A prominent preacher during the mid 1700's, he was raised in a devoted Christian home and went on to study at Yale University. While studying for his master's degree in theology,  1 Timothy 1:17 changed everything. 

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." 

 He says here:

"As I read the words, there came into my soul, and as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the divine being; a new sense, quite different from anything I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapt up to God in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him."

"And my mind was greatly engaged, to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ; and the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation, by free grace in him."

Jonathan went from being  a student of God and His Word, to God transforming him into His child, and from that moment on he began to fall in love with his Savior.

The authors say here:

"Jonathan would never again abstractly study God. From this moment on, he would enjoy Him. He would seek to know the Lord, a journey that involved the full capacity of his mind, his emotions, and his soul."

One thing that stands out to me, in the life of Jonathan Edwards, is the joy of life in Jesus and the appreciation of His beauty and all He has created. He believed and taught that..."we should not simply know the faith and its inherent goodness, but taste it. We should not shy away from emotion, passion, or joy, but should celebrate these things as gifts from God."

He believed as the authors also put here: 

"Becoming a Christian does not kill delight; it intensifies it."

Before I had read anything by Edwards or about him, I'd always thought of him as a strict puritan preacher, someone who preached rules and regulations and who would  probably be boring to listen to. But I was so wrong!! I've come to see that he was actually a very charismatic man who didn't just preach the gospel but lived it out. The authors say here:

"Edwards did not see the Bible as a static collection of timeless truths and moral maxims. He viewed the Scripture as a living thing. It pulsed with life; it shone with beauty; it bore the glory of God."

And in another chapter:

"He did not seek to change the emotions of his flock, nor did he wish merely to equip his people to win theological arguments or memorize a body of doctrine. Edwards labored to communicate truth to his people so that their souls might brim with passion and love for God. Doctrine, then, was a means to love, the factory of passion, the genesis of joy."

Jonathan Edwards is best known for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" where he spoke of the hopelessness of the sinner and the great mercy of God. Near the end of this sermon Edwards called out to all that would hear:

"Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over great part of this congregation: let everyone fly out of Sodom: 'Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.'" (Genesis 19:17)

The author's of this book go on to say:

"Edwards aim was not to merely scare his people or share frightening stories, but to cause them to look honestly on their sin and their deserved fate, and then to joyfully flee to Christ, the sinner's substitute, for salvation...Preaching for him was not merely about forming strong character or delving deeply into a passage. Edwards aimed at transformation. For that, only the gospel would do."

This book also talks about the humanness of Edwards. How he fought against his own indwelling sin, just like us. The authors say here:

"He preached great sermons, and he ministered powerfully to his family, church and society, but he also hurt his wife, and wronged his children, and spoke bitterly against his church, just as every christian does. He tried to work hard without complaining, but he surely did; he yearned to stop pride in its tracks, but he sometimes could not."

"Jonathan's life was like that of every Christian. It was a struggle, a fight for faith, that did not rest until the end of his life."

I find this so relate-able. A life of faith can be a lifetime of struggle with ourselves and our shortcomings. It will be a constant fight till God takes us from this life. But I'm so glad there is hope, hope in our Savior, who  experienced many struggles, heartaches and betrayals during his earthly life, and who now is always near to help us through.

I love what the authors say here about having a relentless pursuit of the Lord:

"Similarly, like Edwards, we must never think that we have arrived as wholly mature Christians. We must always read and listen to good sermons and talk freely and humbly with others for the purpose of growing in grace. Too many Christians reach a certain level of maturity and then content themselves with a faith that merely coasts through life...Christians should train themselves to engage in a humble but dogged pursuit of the Lord, never settling for a static level of maturity when a higher one is attainable. If athletes push for an earthly prize, one that fades and is forgotten in a matter of years, how much more should we pursue the Lord, whose rewards will not spoil or corrupt but will satisfy the soul into all eternity?"

At the age of 54 Edwards was installed as the president of Princeton University. A mere week later he decided, after careful thought, to be inoculated for small pox. Soon after, he started to feel the effects of the disease itself and his body became consumed by it. Within weeks he passed away. His last words were to his children... 

"And as to my children, you are now like to be left fatherless, which hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father, who will never fail you."

What beautiful last words for him to leave with his children...to seek a Father who will never fail them.

I highly recommend this series of books for an introduction to the life and teachings of Jonathan Edwards. They are each only about 150 pages which make for an easier read and study. I really enjoyed this particular book in this series and look forward to reading the last two.

Buy it HERE on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I L O V E your blog! Don't you sometimes bump into someones blog on this vast internet world and just say..."I'd like to have a cup of coffee or tea with that person"?
    Well as I purused your blog that is exactly what came to mind =) Not in a creepy way of course. lol
    Off point question, I've noticed a lot of blogs are devoting the year to "ONE WORD". I see yours is Promises. I've thought of joining but don't know how to post my word as you have on my blog. Any ideas?


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