During an extremely stressful time in my life and ministry, I discovered some old files I’d saved for future sermons. I must have done some research into Jonathan Edwards because my notes included a list of resolutions he wrote as a teenager. Here’s what I wrote:
Between ages 19 and 20, Edwards wrote down seventy resolutions which he read every week for the rest of his life. The preface and the first of Edwards’ resolutions reveal him to be a very serious man from his youth:
“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly ask Him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake.”
1. “Resolved, that I will do whatever I think to be best for God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my lifetime, without any consideration of the time, . . . .
i. Resolved that I will do this, whatever difficulties I meet with no matter how many and how great.”
Given my circumstances at the time, I composed my own list of resolutions. I borrowed the preface from Edwards and wrote down the following resolutions:
“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly ask him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.”
1. I resolve to live wisely (Proverbs 3:5-6; Philippians 3:12-16)
2. I resolve to live humbly (Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 2:3, 7-11)
3. I resolve to live repentantly (Philippians 2:1-16; 4:4-9)
4. I resolve to live faithfully (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 2:19-29)
5. I resolve to live fearlessly (Proverbs 1:7; 29.25; Philippians 1:27-28)
You don’t need seventy resolutions to follow Jesus. You don’t even need five. According to Paul, you just need one: press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (cf., Philippians 3:14). Let’s look at the resolution to live wisely.
Living wisely starts by reconciling our past with knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Like Paul, we all have a past. And like Paul, living wisely means grounding our identity in Jesus Christ, not in our past. We must fix our confidence in the Son of God who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of a cross (Philippians 2:8).
Although Paul’s past did much to shape him, he refused to let his past to define him. He secured his identity in Christ by …
1. Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection
2. Gaining Christ by being found righteous through faith Christ
3. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ becoming like Him in His death
Rather than boast about his solid gold religious resume; or in his outstanding Curriculum Vitae as a superbly religious Jew, Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
Rubbish is a polite translation. In Greek the word is skubala and refers to useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal. Skubala is the stuff you scrape off the bottom of your shoe after you’ve stepped in it.
Thus, to know Christ and the power of His resurrection is to receive the ability to willingly suffer the loss of all things. It is to receive the power to consider them skubala compared to knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection.
- It’s the power to walk away from your past by trusting Jesus for your future.
- It’s the power to go wherever Jesus leads you and do whatever Jesus commands you.
- It’s the power to live wisely in the midst of a culture that lives foolishly.
- It’s the power to face the worst life can throw at you and follow Jesus nevertheless.
- It’s the power to press on and persevere.
- It’s the power to say, “Not my will but Your will be done.”
Living wisely means fixing your eyes on Christ by practicing a long obedience in the same direction.
Paul practiced a wise forgetfulness. He refused to let his past define him. Wise forgetfulness is the fruit of finding our identity in Jesus Christ. It is the glorious freedom that accompanies trusting in the promise of future grace. Wise forgetfulness presses on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul is straining forward like a runner leaning forward; stretching out to break the tape at the finish line. His goal is to run in such a way as to receive the prize. Paul pressed on for the same reason Jesus pressed on and endured the cross scorning its shame: for the joy that was set before Him. Press on for the joy of hearing the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Press on for the complete, overwhelming, soul-captivating, heart-motivating, breath-taking moment when God looks at us and says, “Well done you good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of Your Master.” Press on by resolving to live wisely.
It’s been said that golf is a game of recovery. An honest golfer who’s hit a bad shot accepts that he’s hit a bad shot. He must play the ball where it lies. He must recover. By the grace of God, life can also be a game of recovery. We can neither change nor undo the events of our past. We must resolve to play the ball where it lies. We can recover by resolving to live wisely. We must resolve to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead. We must resolve to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
You think about that.