Monday, November 9, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress - Preaching the Gospel to Yourself Everyday

Again and Again I am struck by the sound practical insight and advice offered up by John Bunyan in his wonderful book. For the last three weeks my three little girls and I stayed on but TWO simple sentences. Which are actually presented as one question and a four-fold answer. My desire for my girls was to see these two sentences through to a full understanding on the one hand, but on the other especially to remember the message here which I believe will prove so useful to myself and my little girls as we grow older in Christ towards the goal of preaching the gospel to ourselves every day with sanctifying results.

The setting at this point in our reading, is this: Christian has arrived at Palace Beautiful, a picture of the local church. He has been questioned by Watchful the Porter, a picture of the Pastor. He has been interviewed first by Discretion, then Piety and now Prudence. All three young ladies of great virtue, wisdom and purity; representing not specific individuals within the local church but the qualities and graces of those who might be able to undertake both examining for admission and assisting along the way, the new believer. Referred to as "virgins of the place" because of the pure and holy faith embraced by this local assembly.

Barry Horner in his online commentary describes the virgins like this:
"What is intended, it seems, is the portrayal of the Palace Beautiful, and therefore a biblical local church, as a fellowship of holy and pure faith that is illustrated by means of virginal purity and undefiled feminine virtue (11 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:27; Col. 3:12)."


To Set the context the passage begins with this interrogation:

Prudence: Do you not yet bear away with you some of the things that then you were conversant withal?

Christian: Yes, but greatly against my will; especially my inward and carnal cogitations, with which all my countrymen, as well as myself, were delighted. But now all those things are my grief; and might I but choose mine own things, I would choose never to think of those things more: but when I would be a doing that which is best, that which is worst is with me. Rom. 7:15, 21.

She is asking, "so as a believer now - what about those former sins you knew so well? Do they still have a hold upon you? Do you ever see them rising up? They once were your daily life - what about now?"

Which Christian answers: "Yes -- I still know these sins, but I know them against my will, and the worst of my enemies are those in my inward parts, in my thoughts, in my musings, I used to delight in those inward thoughts (cogitations) with everyone else - NOW THEY ARE MY GRIEF. If I could choose -- I would choose never to think on them."

Now, I'm thinking, "Oh, I can identify with that - may they be MORE GRIEVOUS to me than they are. " And it is a good sign in Christian, 1) that he recognizes the present continued battle with such sins as he knew before as opposed to someone who thinks, "ah, now that I'm saved I can sin no more, so whatever these things are that I'm thinking - that's not sin - maybe it's liberty - or a mistake." and 2) Their presence in him yet is a GRIEF to HIM. Both observations are a very good sign.

Prudence: Do you not find sometimes as if those things were vanquished, which at other times are your perplexity?

Christian: Yes, but that is but seldom; but they are to me golden hours in which such things happen to me.

But Prudence didn't leave it there. She digs deeper,"but is it not that sometimes those things are defeated - that you do rise victorious over them - even though as you describe at other times they win the day?"

And Christian answers humbly: "YES .... but seldom .... but when it is the case THEY ARE TO ME GOLDEN HOURS."

SO that brings us to the point of this article, and the two sentences that captivated my three little girls and I for the last three weeks.


Prudence: Can you remember by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished?

It's like Prudence has noted and underlined back to Christian, "Christian you said that sometimes even though seldom yet at times these sins are defeated. BUT HOW? How is it that this is sometimes done? What method or means did you use that this end was accomplished? If you can identify that perhaps the 'Yes, but seldom' will increase and become 'Yes, though not always.'"

AND WHAT MEANS WERE GOOD FOR CHRISTIAN MAY ALSO BE GOOD FOR US. Chrisitian identifies to Prudence four means or methods that work, "that will do it:"

Christian: Yes: when I think what I saw at the cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; and when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it."

Thinking...Looking...Looking and Thinking again ---- THAT WILL DO IT. That's Christian's four-fold answer and Bunyan's four-fold solution to defeating those sins I knew only too well in my former life.
When I THINK what I saw at the CROSS ....... that will do it. click here for Christian at the cross
From Taste-That-Which-Is-Good

Thinking upon what he saw is a considering of all that was done there? Who is Jesus that there died? Why did he die there? How is he there in my place? How is it that my sins were imputed to him there? He who loves me, who knew no sin, there as my Head and representative counted sinful with the stain and guilt of my own sins laid upon him there to suffer and die and make an atonement. When I think upon that cross there - that will do it. There is sanctifying power in embracing this truth and much in meditating upon the imputation of my sins upon Christ and the His purchase of my forgiveness. Col 1:20

When I LOOK upon my broidered Coat ... that will do it.
This coat was given to Christian at the cross where it says:
"the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment..."

Bunyan here citing the biblical reference to Zec 3:4
Zec 3:4 And he answered and spoke unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

Looking upon that Righteousness of Christ my Head which righteousness is counted as mine ... THAT WILL DO IT, the imputation of righteousness rather than being an encouragement to sin - was the very means cited by which sins are defeated. Oh, Christ my righteousness, cover me! This is gospel truth, precious truth and sanctifying truth. Barry Horner in his commentary quotes from Bunyan's treatise, "A Desire of the Rightoues Granted," as follows:

So then, the righteousness of Christ covereth his, as a man's garments cover the members of his body, for we are 'the body of Christ, and members in particular' (1 Cor 12:27). The righteousness therefore is Christ's; resideth still in him, and covereth us, as the child is lapped up in its father's skirt, or as the chicken is covered with the feathers of the hen. I make use of all these similitudes thereby to inform you of my meaning; for by all these things are set forth the way of our being made righteous to justification of life (Matt 23:37; Eze 16:8; Psa 36:7).
(click here for the entire treatise)

So in the first two parts, Christian has already noted the sanctfying benefit of meditating upon both the imputation of my sins to Christ for forgiveness and the imputation of his righteousness upon me by faith.

When I LOOK into the roll that I carry in my bosom...that will do it.

(click here for more on "What is the Roll?")

Assurance, the witness of the Spirit, the Earnest of my Inheritance, Christian states: "When I look into these things those former sins are vanquished?" Eph 1:13-14
Looking into the Holy Spirit spoken assurance that I do belong to Christ, that I have been purchased by his blood and chosen unto adoption is here cited as a sanctifying method. Though Matthew Henry rightly spoke that a holy fear of falling short is a good means of perseverance so also is a Spirit-wrought assurance of salvation a good means of killing sin.

when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.

So my thoughts go heavenward. There to be with Jesus, there to be in the presence of the savior, there where death will hold me no more. To realize this world is not my home, it's pleasures are not my pleasures, I am going heavenward and as my thought grow hotter and hotter thinking upon my future place... that will do it.

1Pet 1:3-4
Phil 3:20-21

As illustrated by Passion and Patience: (click here)
"Things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another"

Let your thoughts WAX WARM
about whither you are going and because things-to-come is such a stranger to carnal sense, meditating there will discover new sanctifying strength. As Christian did, I should do likewise, thinking upon where I am going... THAT WILL DO IT.

I will leave us with an extract from Bunyan's, "Heavenly Footman," one that I often refer to myself, and one which is in accord to this Preaching-The-Gospel-To-Yourself-Everyday illustration:


The Second Direction. As thou shouldst get into the way so thou shouldst also be much in studying and musing on the way. You know men that would be expert in any thing, they are usually much in studying of that thing, and so likewise is it with those that quickly grow expert in any way. This therefore thou shouldst do; let thy study be much exercised about Christ, which is the way; what he is, what he hath done, and why he is what he is, and why he hath done what is done; as, why 'He took upon him the form of a servant,' why he 'was made in the likeness of men' (Phil 2:7). Why he cried; why he died; why he bear the sin of the world; why he was made sin, and why he was made righteousness; why he is in heaven in the nature of man, and what he doth there? (2 Cor 5:21). Be much in musing and considering of these things; click here for full text

THINK - LOOK - LOOK and THINK some more --- upon these things and THAT WILL DO IT.

1 comment:

WhiteStone said...

Thank you, Scott. Very good stuff here!