Each day is a new day to live our Christian faith. We awake; and wonder what God will do today and how we can be serve God and others in the gift of our lives of faith?
A Puritan theologian and preacher who thought about this question was Paul Baynes (c. 1573-1617). Baynes was the successor to the great theologian, William Perkins (1558-1602) at the Great St. Andrews Church, Cambridge. He had studied under Perkins and continued the Puritan tradition of emphasizing the personal dimensions of Christian living as expressions of Christian doctrine. What we believe should be expressed in how we live. Baynes was known for his spirituality and was called “holy Baynes.”
In his book, Briefe Directions Unto a Godly Life (London 1637), Baynes wrote that for Christians, the duties of godliness are not to be practiced only some times. The duties God desires of Christians should be carried out “in all their actions; and every day, and throughout the day, to be looked unto and regarded” (166). This is so that “all evil be avoided every day, and such good done, as in our calling and life shall be occasioned” (167). We need God’s directions so we can live in accord with the will of God (1 Peter 4:2). The Scriptures commend to us a “certain course to walk in with God, and a particular direction of our lives.” God’s directions are to “be daily kept and followed” so Christians can be “guided by some daily directions in the leading of their lives” (167).
Paul Baynes suggests eight daily directions for Christian living.
Confess your sins. As Baynes put it, “every day we should be humbled for our sins, as through due examination of our lives by the Law of God we shall see them (Psalms 5:3; Ephesians 4:26; Job 1.5” 172) The law of God shows us how far short we fall of living as God desires. Every day we need to confess our sins. When he wrote about prayer, Baynes said our prayers of confession mean the “acknowledgment of our selves to be guilty, and worthily to have deserved God’s wrath for our grievous offences; together with a free and humble bewailing of them before the Lord: such as are unknown to us in a general manner, but those which we do know (according to the nature of them) particularly” (158). We are to confess our particular sins, those known to us. We must confess honestly and remorsefully before God who knows our hearts and our actions. Daily we sin; and daily we need to see our sins and confess our sins.
Receive Christ’s forgiveness. Gratefully, when we humbly confess our sins, we can trust God will forgive our sins in Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9). Baynes wrote that “every day we ought to be raised up in assured hope of forgiveness of them by the promises of God in Christ; this is never separated from the former” (Acts 2:38. Hosea. 14:2.3; 172). We confess our sins in the confidence that God’s promise is true: God forgives our sin because of Jesus Christ and his death on our behalf. God forgives through the work of Christ who died for us (1 John 2:2). Through Christ we have the hope of forgiveness—made real by God’s Word of promise—Jesus Christ himself!
This is why Jesus Christ is called our “Savior.” In his A helpe to true happinesse. Or A briefe and learned exposition of the maine and fundamentall points of Christian religion (London, 1618), Bayne said that Jesus “saveth from the blot of sin, the power, usurpation, and spot of it, and all the evils that entered by it” (Happiness, 106). Jesus saves “from all our sins, that is, from the guiltiness, power, and punishment of them” which make us “miserable” (Happiness, 107). Jesus is the savior from sin we need. He is the only one who can bring us forgiveness; and a restored relationship of love and trust with God (Rom. 5:8).
Keep seeking the Lord. Our forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus means that “every day we ought to prepare our hearts to seek the Lord still, and keep them fit and willing thereto (Hebrews 3:12; Deuteronomy 5:29; Matthew 22:37; Proverbs 4:18,” Directions, 172). Our lives should be marked by the constant desire to seek God and God’s will in all we do. Our guide for life is Paul’s word: “Do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). We seek the Lord’s will and God’s glory in all our thoughts, words, and deeds—always!
Resist sin and evil. Our desire to do God’s will means we continue to need to resist sin and evil. As Baynes put it: “Every day we must strongly and resolutely arm our selves against all evil and sin, fearing most of all to offend God” (Directions, 172). This is our repentance. Repentance is “such a change of the heart, as bringeth forth a reformed life. Matthew 3:8. Romans 12.2; Isaiah 1:16” (Happiness, 247). Repentance is “an alteration of the whole soul and inward” person. Repentance is turning to God’s directions for our lives, instead of our own. So, we constantly need to live out our repenting. We resist sin and evil.
Love, enjoy, and please God. As we live our life in Christ, “every day,” said Baynes, “we must nourish our fear and love of God, and joy in him more than in any thing, and endeavor to please him in all duties as occasion shall be offered, 2 Thessalonians 3:5” (Directions, 173). As Paul prayed for the Thessalonians: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Our Christian lives are lives of great joy! We “fear and love God” and in doing so, we experience the greatest joy in the Lord. As Baynes wrote: “The first inseparable companion of Faith, is joy and comfort, glorious and unspeakable, Acts 8:8, 39” (Directions, 20). Our great joy is loving and serving God as we follow—day by day—the directions God gives. They are means by which our faith and love are expressed.
Give thanks for God’s benefits. As we live in the love and service of God, receiving the gift of joy, we will also give thanks for God’s benefits. Baynes calls us to remember and thank God for all blessings we have been given; and for those for which we hope: “Every day our thanks be continued for benefits received, and still certainly hoped for, Lamentations 3:23; Psalms 118:7; and 103:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:18” Directions, 173). Baynes defined thanksgiving as “that part of Prayer, in which we being comforted by some benefit, which in favor God bestoweth upon us, are drawn to love and praise him, and shew forth the fruits thereof” (Directions, 156). We serve God and others in gratitude. We are driven to thanks by “a persuasion, that the benefit for which we give thanks, comes to us from God his fatherly love” (Directions, 156). We give deepest thanks for benefits we receive from the God who loves us!
Pray to keep these directions. Then, said Baynes, “Every day we ought to watch and pray for steadfastness, and constancy in all these, Ephesians 1:5, 17” (Directions, 173). God’s directions for our lives ought to be before us constantly. We should be alert and pray we may remain dedicated and faithful in following what God desires and how God wants us to live.
Rest in our peace with God. Finally, said Paul Baynes, we should “every day hold and keep our peace with God, and so lie down with it, 2 Corinthians 1:12; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16” (Directions, 173). We rejoice, as the Scriptures say, because we can live at peace with God (Romans 5:1). As Baynes wrote in his commentary on Colossians 1:2, peace is “the effect of grace in us; for God’s grace forgiving sin worketh in us peace of conscience” (A commentarie vpon the first and second chapters of Saint Paul to the Colossians [London, 1635], 2). The ground of all our peace is “the blood shed of Jesus Christ” (Colossians, 116). We have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Our sin is forgiven and our peace is so real that we may “lay down with it.” What a great gift: God’s peace in our hearts!
Baynes advises we should not think of these daily directions for Christian living only once in the day and then forget about them. He said, “We must have this present with us, and our hearts seasoned with them throughout the day” (Directions, 173-174). Before us always should be God’s will and God’s ways to direct our paths (see Psalms 23:3; 25:4).
Then too, we should “not take occasion from hence to shake off our callings, or neglect any part of them.” We follow God’s directions and pathways as we serve God daily. For “in our ordinary and meanest [smallest] works, we may and must serve God, by doing them in faith” (Directions, 174). All we do is done in faith.
Every new day is an exciting day as we wonder what God will do…and as we follow the directions God gives so we can serve God and others in our lives of faith!
Dr. Donald K. McKim currently lives in Germantown, TN and is an Honorably Retired minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Some of his publications include: (with Jim West), Heinrich Bullinger: An Introduction to His Life and Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2022); Everyday Prayer with the Puritans (P&R, 2021); Everyday Prayer with the Reformers (P&R, 2020); Living into Lent, new edition (Westminster John Knox Press, 2020); Everyday Prayer with John Calvin (P&R, 2019). Several of his other articles can also be found at The Presbyterian Outlook https://pres-outlook.org/