Over the course of my Christian life I’ve read a number of books about Jonathan Edwards and now I’m doing it again. And guess what’s happening again? Same thing that often happens when I read a biography of a devoted child of God. I get blessed and challenged and convicted of the shallowness of my Christian life and ministry. In the words of Hebrews 10:24 (KJV) Jonathan Edwards is provoking me unto a greater love for God and His people and a greater desire to serve God and His people with more fervor and devotedness. What child of God can read about the fervor and dedication of these humble and great saints of God and come away unchanged? I leave you to answer that question.
I could write about many things I’ve learned from the life of Jonathan Edwards that provoked me, but will mention only one (perhaps in the future I’ll mention others). Throughout his life he made it a practice to reflect on the quality of his Christian life and write his thoughts down in a diary as a means of promoting confession of sin, repentance and greater devotion to the Lord. His purpose was not to provoke morbidity or melancholy. His purpose was to avoid self deception and hypocrisy in religion. Edwards did not believe that claiming conversion should be taken lightly. Stephen Nichols, the author of the book, I’m reading writes that “keeping a diary was a typical Puritan practice, serving much like an X-ray of the soul. It enabled them to face and hopefully keep at bay that dreaded enemy of self-deception. Edward’s diary reflects moments of both triumph and defeat. On January 2, 1723, he begins his diary with the word dull, then on the 9th he begins with decayed and by the 10th he writes ‘Reviving’.” (Page 39 of the book Jonathan Edwards, A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought)
That practice of reflecting on one’s life in and of itself is provoking in that if Jonathan Edwards and other godly men found it to be a spiritually profitable practice and one that is warranted by Scripture perhaps we should consider doing the same. The examples of Edwards and other eminently godly and useful men like George Whitfield, David Brainerd and Robert Murray McCheyne who have made reflection on their lives a practice have provoked me to make it a practice to spend some time during the day reviewing and evaluating the godliness of my thoughts, desires, behavior, my prayer life, my devotional practices, my words and interactions with people throughout the day.
Honesty compels me to say that I have not always taken the time to write down my reflections because I often do this after I have gone to bed and just before I go to sleep. Nevertheless, even without recording my assessments on paper, I find the practice of mentally reviewing and evaluating my day to be stimulation to confession, repentance, commitment and sometimes praise for evidence of God’s working in me and through me.
So I thank God for provoking brethren of the sort of Jonathan Edwards. May God be pleased to make each of us “provokers” in the sense of this man. Lord, raise up a whole tribe of these kinds of “provokers” is my prayer. Don’t you agree?
Incidentally, I think I’ll be back again with some other ways reading the book about Edwards has blessed and provoked me. So until the next blog about Edwards or whatever, may our great God multiply His grace, mercy and peace to you. So keep on being a Hebrews 10:24 “provoker” and thanks for taking the time to read and think about what we write.