Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gathering Happiness:

A lesson from Jonathan Edwards and the Apostle Paul.

This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Exodus 12:2 (NKJV)

One of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions, number 22 to be precise, was as follows: Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of. At first glance this seems to be a very selfish motive, but when viewed in the light of Scripture it appears more clearly to be very sound advice. Jesus speaks of the violent taking heaven by force (Mat. 11:12) by which is meant that no one sleeps their way into heaven! All who enter the kingdom of God do so because they desire it above all else and are determined to gain it.

Listen to the apostle Paul: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it (1 Cor. 9:24); I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14); I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Tim.4:8). Reading these words, one has to admit that Paul anticipated Edwards' desire and lived in such a way as to obtain for himself as much happiness in the other world as he possibly could. Paul was the prototype which Edwards followed and both of them exerted all the power, might, vigor and so forth that they could muster in making heaven sure.

Knowing these two men, we are sure that no charge of selfishness could ever stick to either of them. Both demonstrated a selfless love for the church, both spent their lives for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. Neither of them amassed anything close to a fortune in this life and yet we can be certain that as they were obedient to Christ they amassed a great deal in the next. Of course, the treasure of heaven is not the same as treasure on earth. Heavenly treasure won't be measured in kilograms or carats, in the square footage of mansions, or in the number of angelic servants cutting the lawns or cleaning the windows. heavenly treasure is more likely to be a deeper knowledge of, and experience of, the infinite love of God. Paul's great desire is expressed in the words: that I may know Him (Phil. 3:10a). That Edwards would concur is evident from his greatest work: The Religious Affections, in which the knowledge and love of God take center stage.

When Jesus told His disciples to lay up treasure in heaven (Mat. 6:19-21), He was speaking of their happiness (joy) in the eternal life to come. In order to have such a treasure then, it has to be gathered now – there will be no more gathering when this life is over. What lesson do these two men teach? Exert every effort in this life to obtain happiness in the next by applying yourself to know Christ, worship Christ, and serve Christ, and so lay up treasure in heaven which can never fade away.

That's not a bad New Years resolution, is it?

For the Kingdom,
Pastor Ron Bridge,
Rehoboth Baptist Church

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