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 possibly avoid it.
This resolution aims first at the actions, or rather the prohibition of certain actions. Edwards resolves never to "do" things that fail to further the glory of God. Moreover, he is concerned with actions "in soul or body" and actions that are excessive in their lack or zeal for the glory of God ("less or more").
I guess I'm going to have to spend some time thinking through particular habits of action in my life. I'm not currently aware of any habit of obvious or gross sin that I need to repent of (perhaps my elders and co-laborers will soon correct that oversight! ;-)) But I suspect that my ordinary habits are not all aimed at the glory of God; I'm certain I have not resolved "never to do any manner of thing... but what tends to the glory of God."
So, some questions...
1. I need to lose about 30 pounds for my health (so a doctor with an overly enthusiastic fondness of the "O" word tells me). Is playing basketball for a couple hours a week on Mondays and Thursdays agreeable to this principle?
2. I once had a dear friend tell me that I was "more likely to take a nap than he was," by which he was exhorting me to not cut corners or procrastinate. But, and I don't think he knew this, I do like naps and will generally do so once or twice a weekend. Am I failing to redeem the time there?
3. Okay... then there is Civilization 4, a strategy simulation video game that I play every once in a while (by God's grace). Tending toward God's glory?
Granting that any of these things and many others may or may not be problematic depending on the amount of time invested/wasted and the attitude of heart while doing them (for example, before Christ, I was a big-time trash talker on the basketball court... moderate giftedness ruined by extraordinary pride), does any of these things aim directly at God's glory? In other words, despite the fact that they may not be sinful, is there a positive God-exalting warrant for doing them? Should I do this or that thing in light of God's glory is the question Edwards' resolution raises for me. Am I intentionally setting out to do things in body and soul that have as their express purpose to honor God?
And as a corollary, what is the role of recreation in the Christian's and pastor's life? How should we think about that aspect of our lives as God-glorifiers? Is there any such thing as "free time" when it comes to bringing fame and honor and praise to God?
But Edwards' resolution doesn't stop with doing. He also resolved never to be or to suffer anything opposed to the glory of God. Now that strikes at the heart of the matter. I could spend all day evaluating the things I do without any regard to who or what I've become, what I am. I could easily show more concern for being thought of in a certain way (e.g., servant, joyous, kind, humble) and never actually being that way. Resolving never to be anything in body or soul except that that tends towards God's glory is right and good; sounds like a good paraphrase of Rom. 12:1-2 or definition of sanctification. And yet I wonder, apart from New Year's resolutions and resolve to fight particular gross sins, how many Christians actually resolve to be and not merely to do, to be like Jesus in this or that essential way?
And then Edwards adds never to suffer or allow, to the extent of my ability, anything that does not tend toward God's glory. I presume that takes into account the actions and ways of being of others around us, perhaps the people in our charge as pastors or the members of our families. So the resolution becomes something more than individualistic piety by prompting responsibility and action on behalf of others.
I'm quite sure I'm not the kind of person that is quick and loving with a word of correction. I'm inconsistent at best. That's a failure in both character and ministry--one I'll need to correct in order to be faithful as a steward (I Cor. 4:1-2). I can recall more than one incident where I winced at someone's language or saw a kid in the mall doing something he should not, and failed to correct or instruct, thus allowing for things that do not tend toward God's glory.
This is a great resolution. It's penetrating and far-ranging. Resolved, to spend the next week with pen and paper in hand, noting things I do, "how I be" (a little Ebonics seemed a more fitting we of capturing being here), and also what I am tempted to suffer or allow that does not tend toward God's glory. Resolved, create a plan and ideas for tossing the insignificant and the aimless for the intentional and God-glorifying.