The word resolution almost becomes a byword during the New Year season. Every gym sees a bump in membership. New diets begin. New habits start. Perhaps bad habits end. This is nothing new.
But Christians have a unique opportunity we often overlook. The New Year should be a time when we look back upon the kindnesses of the Lord and look forward to knowing Him with deeper intimacy.
John and Matthew share the historic practice of making personal covenants before God. The Puritans wrote widely about it, though it likely existed before their era.
There is an important note we want to make before getting to the podcast. We want to be clear that personal covenants are in a different category from the covenants God makes with His people. Personal covenants have no impact on our justification before God. Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone.
However, personal covenants can be a great help in light of the work of Christ because they remind us of what He has done and what He has commanded of us.
That being said, John and Matthew look to the personal covenant of William Grimshaw, a minister in Haworth, England during the era of George Whitfield and John Wesley. Grimshaw read the personal covenant of Philip Doddridge and was so moved by it he adopted it as his own. Grimshaw would review this personal covenant every three months for the rest of his life. (Link to Grimshaw’s personal covenant is under Show Notes.)
While the text of the covenant is not long, it is packed with truths deserving explanation and commentary. John and Matthew take Grimshaw’s personal covenant paragraph by paragraph and discuss how it can be applied to our lives in 2019.
0:00-6:00 John and Matthew received some Christmas gifts from our friends at The Banner of Truth Trust. The coffee cups and bookmarks are great, but the real treasures are the books. (Links to where you can get your own are under Show Notes.)
6:00-9:00 John and Matthew introduce this week’s topic. John brings up John Newton’s practice of reviewing God’s kindness at the end of every year.
9:00-16:00 Matthew and John differentiate between personal covenants the covenants God makes with His people. They define what personal covenants are and what they are not.
16:00-19:00 John warns against the inappropriate use of covenants and shares ideas on approaching them wisely. He also discusses some dangers we must be aware of when crafting and reflecting personal covenants, even with a biblical approach. Matthew makes the point that our personal covenants can, in no way, impact our justification purchased by Christ.
19:00-22:00 A great example of a personal covenant is William Grimshaw’s. John and Matthew introduce Grimshaw and his personal covenant.
22:00-24:00 Mathew begins reading Grimshaw’s covenant. Grimshaw opens by acknowledging who he is and Who he is approaching. John points out Grimshaw’s recognition of the infinite gulf between the Creator and the created.
24:00-27:00 Grimshaw says God’s majesty and mercy are both infinitely great. This leads to a thread that runs through the rest of his personal covenant: the person and work of Jesus Christ. God’s arm is not twisted by us or by Jesus to make Him love us. Our salvation was His idea in the beginning.
27:00-30:00 The Christian can only come to God because he has been invited by the person and work of Jesus. Grimshaw confesses he is a man of great need, something we must continually be aware of. We must never forget our constant need for God.
30:00-36:00 Here the personal covenant makes a slight turn. Grimshaw has stated who God is and who he is. Now he comes to the point of his personal identity in Christ. It is in and through this identity that he writes the remainder of his personal covenant. Here begins what we may think of as resolutions.
36:00-42:00 Grimshaw has discussed his soul for the last few paragraphs. He now wants to consecrate the way he lives his life and occupation. He offers every aspect of his life to God in faith. And should God remove something he loves, he confesses he cannot promise not to be grieved. But he will walk through those times trusting in God’s sovereignty and the infinite grace.
42:00-45:00 John and Matthew again point out that Grimshaw’s personal covenant is not to make a better William Grimshaw. He longs for God to be glorified in his life. He pleads for God to do more of the work He began at Grimshaw’s conversion. That should certainly be the cry of every Christian heart.
45:00-52:00 If we make resolutions for 2019, or if we create a personal covenant of our own, we would not normally consider death. But Grimshaw does. He spends a few paragraphs asking for God’s grace in his death. It is the final plea in his personal covenant.
52:00-56:00 There was a great deal of reading in this podcast, and it may be difficult to follow. John summarizes some of the key truths and applications for us. John also mentions that Grimshaw omits many of the Bible references, but they can be found in Doddridge's personal covenant. (Link below in Show Notes.)
56:00- Matthew explains why we didn't publish a Supporter Appreciation Episode this week.
We intended to have a Supporter Appreciation Episode about a personal covenant John wrote before starting the work at Christ Church New Albany. However, after recording it, we felt it deserved to be its own podcast.
To that end, the theme of personal covenants will now be in two parts, with the discussion on John’s personal covenant coming to you next week.
We want all our supporters to know we greatly appreciate you and we are working on some very special content and behind-the-scenes videos from upcoming conference trips and projects. That is in the works and will be out soon.
Until then, enjoy this episode and look out for next week’s podcast concluding our discussion on personal covenants.
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In case you want to buy the items that came in John and Matthew’s boxes:
Mortification of Sin by John Owen
Child in the Manger by Sinclair Ferguson
Saved by Grace Alone: Sermons on Ezekiel 36:16-36 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The Glory of Grace: An Introduction to the Puritans in Their Own Words by Lewis Allen and Tim Chester
Amazing Grace by John Newton
2 Peter 1:5-11
The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul by Philip Doddridge
William Grimshaw of Haworth by Faith Cook