This past week I read a biography on one of my heroes of the faith: Jonathan Edwards.1 He was born in 1703 in Connecticut and by the time he was 18 years old began writing a series of resolutions that he determined would guide his life. In 1741, while pastor of a church in North Hampton, Massachusetts, he preached the famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” which is credited with beginning the First Great Awakening throughout New England in which tens of thousands were saved.
Edwards was actually arranging his life as if he believed the first statement he learned in the Westminster Confession of Faith (a well-known statement of faith for the Puritans and Reformers), “MAN’S CHIEF END IS TO GLORIFY GOD AND ENJOY HIM FOREVER.” I marvel as to how far removed we are from this in our modern American Christian culture.
Today Christians seem to think: “MY CHIEF END IS TO GLORIFY MYSELF AND ENJOY ME FOREVER.” There is so much self-help and self-promotion presented in our churches today. My son, Rick, wrote a song that tries to describe the self-centered nature of our modern churches. One verse says,
“You can grab your coffee have a seat
I swear we’ll never make you think
Teach you how to fix your life
Help you deal with all the strife
Help you be the best you that you can be”
The more you make your faith about yourself, the less glory you will bring to the Lord. We are bombarded by a self-centered version of our faith. Here are some “self” Scriptures.
“and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed” (2 Peter 2:10a).
“In his self-sufficiency he will be in distress; Every hand of misery will come against him” (Job 20:22).
“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16).
“An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
“idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions” (Galatians 5:20).
Many of these traits we applaud in our culture, but they lead to glorification of self. If you would follow the word “self” throughout the Scriptures you would see it is almost always cast in a negative light. Here are two passages that seem to describe our culture today.
“For people will love only themselves and their money” (2 Timothy 3:2a).
“All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21).
Jonathan Edwards singularly focused his life on bringing glory to God. Here are just two of his resolutions:
“Resolution # 1: Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory.”
“Resolution # 4: Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.”
Edwards was described as ” God-dominated, God-centered, God-focused, God-intoxicated, and God-entranced.”
HOW DO WE DO THIS? How do you make the glory of God your chief aim in life?
- UNDERSTAND MY PURPOSE
“Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them” (Isaiah 43:7).
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
- BRINGING GLORY TO GOD MUST FLOW FROM MY LOVE, AND NOT DUTY.
“whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
- REGULARLY EXAMINE MY LIFE.Edwards determined to examine his life at the end of each day to see what he might have done more to God’s glory. He examined his motives, attitudes, words and deeds. “Edwards believed that only by regularly examining his life could he adequately pursue the glory of God” –Steven Lawson.
“Resolution # 37: Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.”
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40).
- GUARD AGAINST SELF-PROMOTION OR SELF-GLORIFICATION.In our world today it is very easy to spend significant energies promoting yourself. This is truly nothing more than idolatry.
“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified ” (Galatians 6:14a).
There is great benefits to seeking God’s glory above all else. Steven Lawson writes, “The more Edwards sought God’s glory, the more he found his deepest happiness. When he asked himself ‘whether any delight or satisfaction ought to be allowed … besides a [Biblical Christian] one,’ Edwards’ answered in the affirmative, for rejoicing in God allowed him to enjoy all things lawful in life.”
What impact could we have as Christians if we made the glory of God our singular focus?
Onward for His glory,
1 Lawson, Steven J. (2008-12-01). The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.