Herman Bavinck looms large as one of the 19th century’s greatest Reformed theologians. Despite his theological prowess, Bavinck was first and foremost concerned with being a follower of Jesus Christ. In this book, Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus In Faithful Service, John Bolt—editor of the English edition of Bavinck’s four-volume masterpiece, Reformed Dogmatics– brings the great Dutch theologian’s life and work to bear on following Jesus in the twenty-first century, helping us see the direct connection between robust theology, practical holiness, and personal joy.
This book has three parts. In the introduction, the author helps us learn about the context that Bavinck lived and ministered in. In part one, under the category, Foundations for Christian Living, Bolt explored the image of God, the law, Christian obedience, and union with Christ. In part two, he explored the shape of Christian discipleship by following Jesus, and what a Christian worldview is. Part three explores the practice of Christian discipleship in the areas of marriage and family, work and vocation, culture and education, and civil society.
Reading this book was truly eye-opening for me, as I’ve never read Bavinck’s work before. As a result of reading this book, I plan on getting Bolt’s Reformed Dogmatics and diving into Bavinck’s work here soon. In reading Bolt’s book, it became clear to me that Bavinck is very concerned with helping Christians understand that the Christian life has a doctrinal/theological dimension to it. In our own day, doctrine and theology are often relegated to our feelings. For, Bavinck and others like him truth matters because it is built upon the solid foundation of the character of God revealed in the Word of God. This is why I enjoyed this book because Bavinck understands that the goal of good doctrine is healthy disciples who live their whole lives before the face of God in every sphere of life.
While the theological dimension of Bavinck’s work on the Christian life is impressive, I was equally impressed with his approach to the practice of Christian life. Some theologians have such a strong academic bent to them that they never discuss how the theology they are describing relates to the daily lives of people. Bavinck was not one of these theologians as Bolt so ably describes in this book. Rather, Bolt held a high view of God’s Word and to a proper understanding that good theology should impact the lives of people who read it. This is seen best in part three of this book on his work on marriage, family, work, vocation, culture, education, and civil society. Almost no area is untouched by exploring these topics.
Whether you’ve read Bavinck before or you’re like me and never have, Bavinck on the Christian Life has something for you. I highly recommend this book and pray it will spark interest in further study on Bavick’s outlook on not only theological topics but also on his outlook on how theology relates to Christian life.
Join Dave as he continues the study of the Gospel of John by looking at John 5:19-30 with the men at his local church. In this study, Dave looks at the deity of Jesus, the justice of God, and the grace of God.
We are living in an age when people spend the vast majority of their time on screens. If you work in an office it’s likely you spend most of your day in front of a computer. If you have a cell phone it’s likely you spend time reading and/or checking your social media. We live in challenging times that demand we think seriously about how to use technology in ways that glorify God. Standing for purity in an age of impurity requires intentionality and laser focus on the gospel.
First, we must understand that technology is a gift from God. We can use good gifts from God in the wrong way. When we do this the gift becomes an idol. In our battle for purity we can use our laptops, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices in ways that displease God. At the outset of this article let me be as clear as I can: Whether you view that explicit image or video once a day, once a week, once a month, once every six months or once every fifty years—once is to much according to God’s Word. Sexual immorality is forbidden by God because it is an attack on His glory. Sexual immorality is an assault on the institution of marriage. This is why God takes human sexuality seriously. This is why we must use the gifts of God in ways that glorify God.
Second, we must use technology to glorify God. How we use technology is a reflection of what is in our hearts. Luke 6:45 reads, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Mark 7:21 elucidates further, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery.” These verses teach that what comes out of our mouths and is exhibited by our actions is a reflection of what is really in our hearts.
If we marginalize, justify, or minimize our sin we are saying in effect that our God is not who He says He is. Whether we say that or not, our actions truly speak louder than our words. In the case of technology, we glorify God when we deal with our sin in ways that He has prescribed in His Word—through regularly reading, meditating, and applying the Word to our lives, including prayer, activate participation and involvement in the local church, and much more.
Third, we stand for purity in an age of impurity by reflecting on and rehearsing the gospel to ourselves. Purity is only possible because God has taken our hearts of stone and given us a new heart, with new desires and affections for Himself.When we live lives of impurity we are saying that the Cross is not enough, Jesus did not rise, and He is not living to presently make intercession on behalf of His redeemed people.When we stand for purity we’re saying that we no longer support the violation of women, and by extension, no longer support with our clicks the trafficking of young men and women. To stand for purity is to display the holiness of God before a watching world.
One of the main goals of 1 Peter is to help those first-century sojourners and exiles to understand the holiness of God. This is what the Apostle Peter has to say to us in 1 Peter 1:13-16. The Apostle in the first twelve verses of 1 Peter 1 emphasizes the finished work of Christ. The reason we don’t have to live lives of impurity is because through Christ we who were once in darkness have been made right with God and can walk in the light of His love. We can now grow in the grace of God and display the brilliant light of His radiance before a watching world.
Whether today you’re struggling with purity or you’re standing for purity by fighting your sin and addressing it by the grace of God, I want to encourage you that God sees where you are and knows you thoroughly. Jesus stands before the Father and intercedes on behalf of His people. Jesus lives to plead the treasure of His own precious blood before the Father. He pleads the merits of His own sinless life, victorious death, and resurrection before the Father. As our Advocate He pleads His finished work before the Father and applies His precious blood to our accounts when we confess our sin and repent of it. This is why Martin Luther’s observation is correct: the Christian life from beginning to end is one of repentance. Since we never outgrow our need for the sufficiency of Christ, we will never outgrow our need for God’s grace. God knows this, which is why the grace of God abounds and abounds all the more towards His people. God’s grace runs far deeper than sin.
In light of all of this we should deal with our sin as sin. We should not minimize our sin and think we can live anyway we want. To do so is to violate the grace of God and treat it as ‘Cheap,’ as Bonhoeffer describes it. To do so is to take what was costly in the death of Christ and treat it as common. Instead, because we’ve been saved let us daily repent of our sin, knowing that to do so is to walk humbly and justly before our great God and King Jesus Christ. Rather than hiding in our sin let us go into the Light, have our sin exposed, and walk rightly with God by standing against in word and deed, the violation of women and the sex trafficking industry. By doing so we’re standing on the bedrock of the promises of God and displaying the holiness of God before a watching world—all for His Glory.
Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers understand what spiritual warfare is, strategies to engage biblically in spiritual warfare, and how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today Dave writes on spiritual warfare and the power of Scripture. **************************************************
In Matthew 4, Jesus is confronted by Satan in the desert. In this story, we learn how Jesus used Scripture in spiritual warfare against Satan. Today, I want us to look at Matthew 4:1-11. This temptation is an attempt by Satan to subvert God’s plan for human redemption by causing Jesus to fall into sin and disobedience and thus disqualify Him as the sinless Savior.
Matthew 4:1 says that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit guided Jesus in His earthly life, providing a pattern for His followers to be empowered and led by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18). The Greek word for tempted (perirazo) can also mean test. While God never tempts anyone to do evil (James 1:13); He does use circumstances of all types to test a person’s character (Hebrews 11:17). Diablos (Greek, meaning slander, or accuser) is here preceded by the definite article to indicate the one who tempts. Although the devil intended to thwart God’s plan and purposes; the Father uses this evil intention for the good purpose of strengthening Jesus in His messianic role.
Jesus fasted “forty days and forty nights” according to Matthew 4:2. Jesus’ experience of 40 days of fasting in the wilderness corresponds to Israel’s experience of 40 years of testing in the wilderness (Deut 8:2-3). Jesus endured His testing victoriously and obediently. Moses also fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights on two occasions (Ex. 24:18, 24:28). Fasting was a means of focusing intently on prayer. Forty days is also about the longest a human can fast without permanent bodily harm.
Verse 3 in Matthew 4 says, “If you are the Son of God.” Jesus was and is the Son of God, but He refused to be tricked by the devil into using His divine prerogatives to make the trial any easier for Himself. Jesus obeyed as a man; as the representative for all who believe so as to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) on behalf of His people. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said “It is written.” Jesus responds to each temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy; linking His experience to Israel’s in the desert. In Deut. 8:2, Moses remains the Israelites of God’s testing through hunger and his miraculous provision of manna.
The holy city is Jerusalem and the pinnacle of the temple is the southeast corner of the temple area, the top of, which was some 300 feet above the floor of the Kidron Valley (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 15.411-412). The devil’s use of Matthew 4:6-7, a quotation from Psalm 91 is a blatant misuse of Scripture, and is used by Satan in an effort to manipulate Jesus. Such a spectacular display as jumping from this great height unharmed would have gained Him an enthusiastic following but it wouldn’t have followed the Father’s messianic and redemptive plan of suffering and proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven.
Satan tells Jesus in Matthew 4:9 to “fall down and worship me.” The devil offers a shortcut to Jesus’ future reign in God’s kingdom— a shortcut that would side-steps Jesus’ redemptive work on the Cross and come at the cost of exchanging the love of the Father for the worship of Satan. Satan’s words, “All these I will give you” is a lie.
Matthew 4:11 records that the “devil left him.” Jesus resisted the devil by standing firm on God’s word setting an example for His followers. Angels cane and were ministering to Him and their ministering included much needed physical sustenance. All of heaven knew the significance of Jesus’ initial victory in this cosmic battle.
What We Can Learn from Matthew 4:1-11
The main lesson we learn from this passage is Jesus use of Scripture in battling Satan. As noted above, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy in order to fight against Satan. The believer must study to show him or herself approved as a workman not ashamed, but able to handle and interpret the Word of God with precision and great care. Jesus quotes Scripture and says “It is written” three times. How do you fight against sin and temptation? Do you quote Scripture related to your specific temptation and struggle against sin? Or do you rely on yourself? Jesus gives His disciples an example of One who fought against sin and Satan by quoting Scripture.
After quoting Scripture four times, Matthew 4:11 says that “the devil left him.” James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:8 are instructive for believers because they teach the importance of humility and submission to God. The believer who rests in the finished work of Christ will be able to fight against sin and temptation, and make much of Him in and through their lives. The only way that the believer in Christ can ward off Satan’s accusations and attacks is to go back to who they already are in Him. This means that as the believer grow in Christ they increasingly grow in the knowledge of who they already are in Him—adopted, redeemed, sanctified (not yet glorified), which grants them the ability to stand (not perfectly) in the grace of God.
Knowing a lot of the Bible, and being able to recite from memory Scripture verses is a very good tool in the believers’ battle against sin, Satan and the world. These tools; however, are often treated as ultimate in spiritual warfare; when in fact they are not. The message that contains the power of God to save and sanctify is the gospel, which means only the gospel and not a tool is ultimate. The gospel calls believers away from self and to Christ; in order to put off the flesh and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This teaching has huge implications on our daily lives as believers, because it highlights the various ways in which we often fail to appropriate the truth of who we are in Him (adopted, justified, positionally sanctified) by exposing the fact that we are prone to embrace our sinful habits instead of putting our sin to death, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer’s identity in Christ ought to motivate them to not only put sin to death, but also to appropriate His life into all of life. The identification of the believer with Christ in His death and resurrection frees them from hypocrisy to be who they really are in Christ. The failure then to appropriate who we are in Christ exposes our attitude towards sin, which in turn demonstrates our apathy towards our sin. Jesus was tempted in every way and yet never sinned, which means that as His followers we ought to look to, mediate upon and run to the Cross of Christ daily in our fleeing from sin in order to appropriate our identification with Him into every area of our lives.
Jesus’ use of Scripture in spiritual warfare demonstrates that Satan is no match against the Word of God. The Word of God testifies to the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done in His death, burial and resurrection. Christians ought to take what they know about Scripture, and appropriate that knowledge daily into their lives; as they fight against Satan, sin and the world. Believers ought to do battle every day, and every moment against sin, the flesh and the world, which means they need to daily preach the Truth about who Jesus is and what He has done to themselves. The believer needs to do this (preach the Gospel to themselves) so they will be able to resist sin when tempted and stand in the grace of God.
Jesus engagement with Satan in the wilderness and His use of Scripture is instructive to believers on many fronts. First, Jesus teaches believers that they can only overcome by appropriating the truth of who they already are in Him. Second, Jesus teaches the supremacy and sufficiency of His Word by speaking that Truth of His Word in confronting Satan. Thirdly, Jesus’ use of Scripture calls believers to use the Word of God in order to expose the inconsistencies and errors of Satan and his followers by pointing them to Jesus. Fourthly, Jesus use of Scripture is instructive to His people, because He alone grants His people; the gift of His righteousness in order that the Holy Spirit may illuminate His Word to them individually as they read and study it, and corporately in the context of the local Church as believers gather to hear the Word of God preached. Finally, Jesus demonstrates in the desert that only the Word of God provides the fount from, which the believer can draw from in order to put sin to death and put on the Lord Jesus in all of life.