Edwards and the Need for Self-Assessment

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On a recent trip to Orland I had the opportunity to begin McClymond and McDermott’s massive work entitled “The Theology of Jonathan Edwards.” Before looking at some of the major emphases of his theology they spend the introductory chapters describing his historical, intellectual, and spiritual background.

In the chapter dealing with the spirituality of Edwards they highlight his practice of self-assessment. For many Christians today, Edwards’ practice of assessing why he did the things that he did could be very helpful.

Edwards wrote that through this practice he was, “searching and tracing back all the real reasons why I do them not [i.e., his duties], and narrowly searching out all the subtle subterfuges of my thoughts…that I may know what are the very first originals of my defect.”

Not only was Edwards concerned with why he continued to sin, but he was also very concerned with the motives behind his performance of religious tasks. As a pastor he had a great deal of concern for those in his church that believed they were following Jesus because of what they did, but they never took the time to stop and assess their hearts

There’s much we can learn from Edwards practice of self-assessment. It’s easy to often stop and feel satisfied when we do things that would please Jesus. However, if we’re being honest, there’s a number of sinful reasons someone might do “religious” things.

  • How many of us have performed outward actions knowing others were watching?
  • How often do we seek the praise that comes from others when we’ve stepped out in a big way to follow God?
  • If you had the opportunity to be obedient to Jesus, but no one would ever know, see, or hear about it would you still do it?
  • Not only that, how often do we deceive our selves finding assurance in the actions we perform, but never asking if our hearts are far from God?
Rather than simply assuming we are doing things for the right reasons we need to carve out time in our lives to ask the hard questions about why we do what we do. Often we need to hear the warning of Jesus, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1 ESV).

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