A Prayer and Encouragement for Those Who Preach God’s Word

A prayer and an encouragement for those who faithfully study and preach God’s Word week by week, diligently mining its treasures that we might marvel at truth in all its facets.

The Riches of God's Word

Vast the Riches of God’s Word

“Therefore I love your commandments
above gold, above fine gold.”
(Psalm 119:127)

1. Vast the riches of God’s Word,
Truth that shines as purest gold.
Search its treasures, venture deep,
All its splendor to behold!

2. Grant us hearts that love the Word,
Open ears that we might hear,
Help Your servant, Lord, we pray,
Make the message plain and clear.

3. Keep our thoughts from wandering
As Your Word is preached today,
Anchor us in truth applied
That we might not fall or stray.

4. Preach the Word, we need to hear!
Draw out wealth as from a mine.
Show each gem that we might see
Truth in all its facets shine.

5. Take us to each verse and line,
Open up the Word and show
All the riches we can find;
Help us more of Christ to know.

6. May God’s Word in brilliance shine
Light on all we do and say.
May it be our great delight
To receive it and obey.

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune INNOCENTS for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs

The Companions of By-ends

Now I saw in my dream that Christian and Hopeful forsook him, and kept their distance before him; but one of them looking back, saw three men following Mr. By-ends, and behold, as they came up with him, he made them a very low conge; and they also gave him a compliment. The men’s names were Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all; men that Mr. By-ends had formerly been acquainted with; for in their minority they were schoolfellows, and were taught by one Mr. Gripe-man, a schoolmaster in Love-gain, which is a market town in the county of Coveting, in the north. This schoolmaster taught them the art of getting, either by violence, cozenage, flattery, lying, or by putting on the guise of religion; and these four gentlemen had attained much of the art of their master, so that they could each of them have kept such a school themselves.

Well, when they had, as I said, thus saluted each other, Mr. Money-love said to Mr. By-ends, Who are they upon the road before us? (for Christian and Hopeful were yet within view).

By-ends: They are a couple of far countrymen, that, after their mode, are going on pilgrimage.

Money-Love: Alas! Why did they not stay, that we might have had their good company? for they, and we, and you, Sir, I hope, are all going on pilgrimage.

By-ends: We are so, indeed; but the men before us are so rigid, and love so much their own notions, and do also so lightly esteem the opinions of others, that let a man be never so godly, yet if he jumps not with them in all things, they thrust him quite out of their company.

Save-All: That is bad, but we read of some that are righteous overmuch; and such men’s rigidness prevails with them to judge and condemn all but themselves. But, I pray, what, and how many, were the things wherein you differed?

By-ends: Why, they, after their headstrong manner, conclude that it is duty to rush on their journey all weathers; and I am for waiting for wind and tide. They are for hazarding all for God at a clap; and I am for taking all advantages to secure my life and estate. They are for holding their notions, though all other men are against them; but I am for religion in what, and so far as the times, and my safety, will bear it. They are for religion when in rags and contempt; but I am for him when he walks in his golden slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.

Hold-the-World: Ay, and hold you there still, good Mr. By-ends; for, for my part, I can count him but a fool, that, having the liberty to keep what he has, shall be so unwise as to lose it. Let us be wise as serpents; it is best to make hay when the sun shines; you see how the bee lieth still all winter, and bestirs her only when she can have profit with pleasure. God sends sometimes rain, and sometimes sunshine; if they be such fools to go through the first, yet let us be content to take fair weather along with us. For my part, I like that religion best that will stand with the security of God’s good blessings unto us; for who can imagine, that is ruled by his reason, since God has bestowed upon us the good things of this life, but that he would have us keep them for his sake? Abraham and Solomon grew rich in religion. And Job says, that a good man shall lay up gold as dust. But he must not be such as the men before us, if they be as you have described them.

Save-All: I think that we are all agreed in this matter, and therefore there needs no more words about it.

Money-Love: No, there needs no more words about this matter, indeed; for he that believes neither Scripture nor reason (and you see we have both on our side) neither knows his own liberty, nor seeks his own safety.

The Companions of By-endsIn the last post, Christian and Hopeful met a traveler named By-ends. By-ends claimed to be a fellow pilgrim, but his religion proved to be a pretense. Though he was walking on the pathway claiming to follow Christ, he was in fact following his own heart in pursuit of personal gain. Life in Christ was not his aim or reward, rather, it was a means to another end, a way to attain a more advantageous position in this life.

By-ends is certainly a regular church attender in our day, especially in communities where the church is looked on favorably and where the cost of identifying with Christ is low. But the emphasis given to By-ends in The Pilgrim’s Progress indicates that he must have been active in Bunyan’s day as well. Though Christian and Hopeful leave By-ends behind, Bunyan keeps the focus of the story on him and gives us more insight into his character. The falseness of By-ends’ faith is evident especially in: 1) his choice of companions, 2) his opinion of Christian and Hopeful, and 3) his view of religion.

By-ends Choice of Companions

Not long after Christian and Hopeful’s departure, three other travelers catch up to By-ends. They are all former acquaintances and By-ends readily welcomes them as his preferred companions. They greet him with a respectful bow and a compliment. Their names reveal a like-mindedness to By-ends’ way of thinking: Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all. They all grew up together in the town of Love-gain in the country of Coveting. Their school teacher was Mr. Gripeman. Bunyan here uses an archaic definition of gripe meaning “to clutch or grasp or seize.” Mr. Gripeman’s students learned “the art of getting”—how to accrue possessions, power, pleasure and profit by any means necessary: violence, cozenage (deception), flattery, lying, or even by putting on the guise of religion. Though they prefer the treasures of this world to heavenly treasure, they all regularly attend church. They value the church, not as a place of humble worship and sacrificial service, but as a useful place to make connections, explore prospects, and gain people’s trust. They have learned well how to manipulate religion to their advantage in their pursuit of personal gain.

By-ends’ Opinion of Christian and Hopeful

Though By-ends considers himself to be a pilgrim, he distances himself from Christian and Hopeful. He describes them to his current companions as “far countrymen” not near neighbors or relations. His complaints against them are numerous: He does not count them as brothers, but feels slighted that they would not affirm his “reasonable” way of thinking. He thinks them to be rash and radical; they have their own “mode” of going on a pilgrimage. They are rigid and in love with their own notions. They lightly esteem the opinions of others. They won’t accept the company of any who do not act and think as they do. They are self-righteous in their condemnation of others. By-ends’ friends all agree with his assessment. They conclude that Christian and Hopeful have no regard for their own safety, have cast off their liberty, and are indeed unreasonable and even unbiblical.

By-ends’ View of Religion

It is clear from the testimony of By-ends and his companions that they believe themselves to be on a pilgrimage. Their faith is false. Their souls are in great peril. They are in love with the world, enamored by its mirage of prosperity and imprisoned by its fleeting comforts. Yet they believe all is well. Their guise of religion has fooled even themselves.

Though By-ends regards Christian and Hopeful as radical and unreasonable, he believes himself to be sensible and balanced. He will not journey in all weathers (willing to press on in faith even when the storms of life come), but waits for wind and tide (favorable conditions and comfortable circumstances). He will not hazard all for God “at a clap” (when tragedy or an adverse circumstance strikes), but takes every advantage to secure own his life and estate. He will not stand for truth when it is opposed, but seeks first for his own welfare and safety. He will not hold religion while in rags or contempt, but only when it “walks in his golden slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.”

By-ends is enthusiastic in justifying and rationalizing his views. He does so by:

  • Complaining about and degrading Christian and Hopeful
  • Offering his own ideas as the voice of reason
  • Seeking the support and encouragement of friends who think the same way as he does

Hold-the-world affirm his views. He does so by:

  • Appealing to nature and common sense—He draws analogies from serpents and bees, sunshine and rain, winter and harvest.
  • Appealing even to Scripture and biblical illustration—He refers (though out of context) to Abraham, Solomon and Job.

By-ends and his companions are convinced that they are right and that Christian and Hopeful are harsh and unloving for not accepting them on their own terms. They desire to hold to the world, love money and save all for themselves. But the Bible clearly contradicts them. We cannot follow Christ and hold to the world.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

We cannot love money and serve God as well.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10).

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).

And we cannot save all for ourselves and value our own life above all.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26).

The faith of By-ends and his friends is not confirmed by Scripture. Their love is not ultimately for Christ, but for themselves. Their religion is self-seeking and not God-honoring. In the next post By-ends and his friends defend their reasoning for using religion as a means to acquire personal gain.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Posture of Worship (Part 2)

Raised Hands

Last time in our series on worship, we began a study on what the Bible says about posture in worship.

So why is posture important? Why all the verses?

Why, in a day when we are called upon to worship God in Spirit and in truth, should we be concerned about our outward expressions of worship?

In our time together this evening I want to answer these questions.  We will first discuss the importance of posture and then conclude with a right perspective on posture.

I. The importance of posture in worship

1. God made us to be both body and soul.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).

God created our bodies, as well as our souls. He made us of dust and breathed life in us. He made us to enjoy Him, not only in our souls, but in our bodies as well. He demands our obedience, not only in our hearts, but lived out in our bodies as well.

Paul refers to our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

God made our bodies to glorify Him. Paul exhorted the church:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

He desired that Christ be exalted in his own life lived out to God’s glory.

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:19–20).

We cannot separate body and soul. God has created us and wired us to be complete beings. What we do with the body affects the soul. What goes on in the soul is made manifest and expresses itself in the body.

Corporate worship of necessity involves the body.

  • We speak God’s Word.
  • We voice our prayers.
  • We sing with our lips.
  • We place our gifts and tithes in the offering plate.
  • We eat and drink at the Lord’s Table.

When we worship God, we worship Him in our bodies.

Oh, but some might say, “God is Spirit.” And we are to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. God is concerned with my heart and so what I do with my body is of little or no consequence.

It is true that we are to worship God in Spirit and in truth. But God informs us in His Word that He has given His Sprit to make us alive—in our bodies. His indwelling presence has made our bodies temples of worship. We are living sacrifices, dead to sin but alive unto Christ.

We cannot escape our bodies if we are to participate in the elements of worship. We can get into trouble and become imbalanced we disengage our body and soul. This can happen two ways.

  1. We become so withdrawn or introspective that we no longer value what is happening around us—or concern ourselves with how we are reacting to what is happening around us. We think that we can hold our faith on the inside—in the domain of the heart—without caring that it ever shows on the outside.
  2. We become so extroverted that we content ourselves with just going through the bodily motions and we disengage the heart. We think God will be pleased with our outward show of faith without caring that we really mean it on the inside.

Both of these dangers lead us down the road of hypocrisy. When God truly pierces us with His Word, it affects body and soul!

Truth rightly understood in the heart—on the inside—will compel us to live out truth and rightly apply it—on the outside.

Worship begins in the heart—in the mind (focusing and directing our thoughts), then the will (determining our actions), and our emotions (flooding and spilling out into our feelings). As the truth of God’s Word dawns in our thinking by the illuminating power of the Spirit, we are brought to sorrow and repentance over our sin—we are brought to joy and faith in the salvation and forgiveness of sin found in Christ. And we are spurred into action and obedience as the reality of God’s work on the inside is expressed and lived out on the outside.

We need truth, but we need the Spirit to quicken us and make that truth alive and active in our hearts and in our lives. Truth is not just for the mind—it is for the whole of our being.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Truth has implications and demands on our hands and feet as well as our minds and intellect.

Known truth must be practiced truth. Doctrine must find its way to devotion.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “The Posture of Worship (Part 2)” in the series Thoughts on Worship. Continue reading the full sermon text here.]

Read also “The Posture of Worship (Part 1)”

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

The Posture of Worship (Part 1)

Lift up the hands

The Bible has much to say about our posture in worship. This can be seen in two specific points:

I. The meanings of the two words, translated most often in Scripture as “worship” in both the Old and New Testament, refer to posture.

The Hebrew verb shacah in the Old Testament means to become low or to bow down as an act of reverence. It depicts a physical act that symbolizes what we do when we worship—showing reverence to God, acknowledging Him as the Most High, humbling ourselves, making ourselves low—in His presence. The term describes the worship of Israel at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple:

When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

And in the psalms:

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
(Psalms 95:6)

In the New Testament proskuneo is the Greek term most often translated “worship.” It has a similar meaning: to bow down, become low or kiss toward.

It is the verb used when the wisemen came to Bethlehem to see Jesus after seeing His star in the East.

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

This is the term used in Matthew 4 when Satan tempted Jesus:

And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:9–10).

It is the verb used after the resurrection when Jesus greets the women near the empty tomb:

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him (Matthew 28:9).

And before His ascension into heaven when His disciples worshipped Him:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted (Matthew 28:16–17).

It describes the worship of the church on earth. Paul speaks of an unbeliever coming into a worship service and being convinced that God is truly present. He says of the unbeliever:

And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you (1 Corinthians 14:25).

This is a physical expression of worship—not just bowing down to God in the heart, but bowing down with the body.

Proskuneo describes the worship in heaven as well:

The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne (Revelation 4:10).

It is the word (both noun and verb) used five times in John 4:20–24 where Jesus teaches:

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Some have interpreted Jesus’ words here to mean that God is only concerned about our spirit in worship—only interested in what is happening on the inside—the externals are of no importance or consequence.

I submit to you that this is a misinterpretation of these verses. Jesus was not teaching here that the body no longer mattered. He was teaching that our worship must be alive in the power of the Spirit and informed and in submission to the authority of His Word.

Truth must first be received and understood and grasped by the heart, but when truth grips us—when it really matters to us—when it really affects us—it will be borne out—visibly displayed—made apparent and lived out in our bodies.

What does it look like when we worship God? What should it look like? What affect should truth have on our physical expression—on our countenance—if we really get it? When we look into God’s Word, we see that He has much to say concerning our posture and expression in worship. He is concerned not only with what we are communicating directly to Him on the inside in our hearts—but also what we are communicating on the outside to those around us.

God alone is worthy of our worship. He alone is Most High. And we are to express our worship to Him in both body and heart. So how then can we know what is appropriate and fitting as we physically express our devotion to God in worship? Here the Scripture gives us a wealth of information.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “The Posture of Worship (Part 1)” in the series Thoughts on Worship. You can read the full sermon text here.]

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

Guitar Hymns for Easter Sunday

It’s almost Easter Sunday. If you play classical guitar and are looking for music, here are some suggestions. Click on the hymn title to view or download the free sheet music (PDF).

Hymns for Easter

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (EASTER HYMN)
Crown Him With Many Crowns
I Know That My Redeemer Lives
Look Ye Saints, the Sight Is Glorious
Low in the Grave He Lay
The Head That Once Was Crowned With Thorns
Thine Is the Glory

You are welcome to copy and share these hymns with friends and fellow guitarists. You can use them for accompanying congregational singing (classical guitar works especially well for a sunrise service), playing prelude or offertory music, or simply playing for your own enjoyment.  Please copy the full page with the website address and the “Used by Permission” notice at the bottom (see Permissions).

For additional music, check out:

Hymns for Good Friday

Hymns for Classical Guitar
Christmas Music for Classical Guitar
Wedding Music for Classical Guitar
More Music for Classical Guitar

Guitar Hymns for Good Friday

I’m looking forward to playing classical guitar this Easter Weekend. Here are some of the hymns I will be playing during the prelude of our Good Friday Service.  Click on the hymn title to view or download the free (PDF) sheet music.

Hymns for Good Friday

Abide with Me
Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed
Go to Dark Gethsemane
Man of Sorrows! What a Name
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood
What Wondrous Love Is This
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

You are welcome to copy and share these hymns with friends and fellow guitarists. You can use them for accompanying congregational singing, playing prelude or offertory music, or simply playing for your own enjoyment.  Please copy the full page with the website address and the “Used by Permission” notice at the bottom (see Permissions).

If you live in the Southwest Florida area, come join us for the service.

For additional music, check out:

Hymns for Classical Guitar
Christmas Music for Classical Guitar
Wedding Music for Classical Guitar
More Music for Classical Guitar

How Shall We Stand in That Great Day?

Perhaps the most fertile ground for hymn writing is meditation on the preached Word of God. There is always great value, especially as we weather the storms and trials of life, of staying under the faithful preaching of the Bible. And there is even greater value in taking time to ponder, pray through, and preach that biblical truth to our own souls.

That has proven to be true with the recent sermon series through the book of Ecclesiastes entitled “Real Life in a Fallen World” preached by Dr. Tom Ascol at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida. This is the third hymn I have written while meditating on messages from the series. The other two are: “What Can Be Gained by All Our Toil?” and “Eternal God Exalted.” When you consider the vanity of life, the wages of sin, and the certainty of coming judgment, how great is our need of a Savior!

Storm Clouds

How Shall We Stand in That Great Day?

For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
(Ecclesiastes 12:14)

1. How shall we stand in that great day
When secrets are revealed,
When thoughts and motives are laid bare
And nothing is concealed?

2. On that great day when God will judge
Our every word and deed,
Without excuse, our mouths will close,
For guilty we must plead.

3. The deeds we do, the thoughts we think
Will matter on that day;
Each sinful act, each secret thought,
Each careless word we say.

4. O sinner, if you face that day
Alone, you will not stand.
The Law will charge and you will fall,
Condemned by just command.

5. Our only hope when that day comes:
That Christ died in our place;
He bore Himself the wrath of God
That we might know His grace.

6. O sinner, come before that day,
Come look to Christ and live!
Take refuge in His righteousness;
Your sins He will forgive.

7. With certainty that day draws near,
O why would you delay?
Tomorrow is not guaranteed,
Come trust in Christ today!

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune ARLINGTON for classical guitar.

Conversation with By-ends

So I saw that quickly after they were got out of the fair, they overtook one that was going before them, whose name was By-ends: so they said to him, What countryman, Sir? and how far go you this way? He told them that he came from the town of Fair-speech, and he was going to the Celestial City (but told them not his name).

From Fair-speech! said Christian. Is there any good that lives there?

By-ends: Yes, said By-ends, I hope.

Christian: Pray, Sir, what may I call you? said Christian.

By-ends: I am a stranger to you, and you to me: if you be going this way, I shall be glad of your company; if not, I must be content.

Christian: This town of Fair-speech, said Christian, I have heard of; and, as I remember, they say it is a wealthy place.

By-ends: Yes, I will assure you that it is; and I have very many rich kindred there.

Christian: Pray, who are your kindred there? if a man may be so bold.

By-ends: Almost the whole town; and in particular, my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, my Lord Fair-speech, (from whose ancestors that town first took its name), also Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Any-thing; and the parson of our parish, Mr. Two-tongues, was my mother’s own brother by father’s side; and to tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality, yet my great-grandfather was but a waterman, looking one way and rowing another, and I got most of my estate by the same occupation.

Christian: Are you a married man?

By-ends: Yes, and my wife is a very virtuous woman, the daughter of a virtuous woman; she was my Lady Feigning’s daughter, therefore she came of a very honorable family, and is arrived to such a pitch of breeding, that she knows how to carry it to all, even to prince and peasant. It is true we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort, yet but in two small points: first, we never strive against wind and tide; secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines, and the people applaud him.

Then Christian stepped a little aside to his fellow, Hopeful, saying, It runs in my mind that this is one By-ends of Fair-speech; and if it be he, we have as very a knave in our company as dwells in all these parts. Then said Hopeful, Ask him; methinks he should not be ashamed of his name. So Christian came up with him again, and said, Sir, you talk as if you knew something more than all the world doth; and if I take not my mark amiss, I deem I have half a guess of you: Is not your name Mr. By-ends, of Fair-speech?

By-ends: This is not my name, but indeed it is a nick-name that is given me by some that cannot abide me: and I must be content to bear it as a reproach, as other good men have borne theirs before me.

Christian: But did you never give an occasion to men to call you by this name?

By-ends: Never, never! The worst that ever I did to give them an occasion to give me this name was, that I had always the luck to jump in my judgment with the present way of the times, whatever it was, and my chance was to get thereby; but if things are thus cast upon me, let me count them, a blessing; but let not the malicious load me therefore with reproach.

Christian: I thought, indeed, that you were the man that I heard of; and to tell you what I think, I fear this name belongs to you more properly than you are willing we should think it does.

By-ends: Well, if you will thus imagine, I cannot help it; you shall find me a fair company-keeper, if you will still admit me your associate.

Christian: If you will go with us, you must go against wind and tide; the which, I perceive, is against your opinion; you must also own religion in his rags, as well as when in his silver slippers; and stand by him, too, when bound in irons, as well as when he walks the streets with applause.

By-ends: You must not impose, nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you.

Christian: Not a step further, unless you will do in what I propound as we.

Then said By-ends, I shall never desert my old principles, since they are harmless and profitable. If I may not go with you, I must do as I did before you overtook me, even go by myself, until some overtake me that will be glad of my company.

Meeting with By-ends

Now joined by Hopeful, Christian has set out from Vanity Fair. But not long into their journey, they overtake another traveler. This stranger is at first reluctant to give his name, but reveals that he is from the town of Fair-Speech and is also on his way to the Celestial City.

The town of Fair Speech represents those who live in duplicity and hypocrisy in their conversations and dealings with others. Christian has heard of Fair-Speech and is at once skeptical. The town has a reputation for its elegance and wealth, but it is also known for being pragmatic and self-seeking. On the surface, it is awash in civility and pleasant conversation, but underneath it is submerged in hidden agendas and ulterior motives. The stranger affirms that he is from an affluent family and is related to many in the town:

  • Lord Turn-about (one who indicates that he is going one way, but then changes his course to go the opposite way)
  • Lord Time-server (one who changes his views and opinions to fit the times)
  • Lord Fair-speech (one who speaks kindly but hides deceit in his heart)
  • Mr. Smooth-man (one who speaks “smooth words”—Isaiah 30:10, saying what people want to hear)
  • Mr. Facing-both-ways (one who hold contradictory views and opinions, and attempts to gain favor by agreeing with everyone)
  • Mr. Any-thing (one who will believe, say or do whatever it takes to reach his personal goals or achieve his personal agenda)
  • Mr. Two-tongues, the parson (one who shades the truth and deceives people with his words, saying one thing to some and something contrary to others), whom, the stranger confoundedly notes, “was my mother’s own brother by father’s side.”

The stranger also points out that he is an oarsman just like his great-grandfather, who “would look one way and row another,” and that he is married to Lady Feigning’s daughter (one who pretends or gives a false impression of herself).

Though the stranger will not give the pilgrims his name, Christian recognizes that he is By-ends of Fair-speech. Christian also identifies him as a knave, a false professor.

A by-end is “a subordinate end” most often rooted in “private interest, secret purpose or selfish advantage.” By-ends represents the duplicity of openly following Christ and honoring God, while truly living for self and seeking selfish gain. He believes that he has a good understanding of the times in which he lives and can adapt or adjust circumstances to his own advantage. By-ends is not ashamed of his religion or opposed to being identified with Christ, but he is rather selective as to when and how he wields his religion.

He wants life, including his religion, to be easy and simple. He is in favor of religion only when it is to his advantage. He is more motivated by a desire to be satisfied and in control of his life than to be sanctified and in submission to God’s Word. His religion is relaxed and flexible, not strict and rigid, as he perceives Christian and Hopeful to be. He shapes his religion at will to obtain what he believes will be the most favorable outcome:

  • He likes a religion that is calm and comfortable (doesn’t “strive against wind or tide”)
  • He likes a religion that is fashionable and favorable (goes in “silver slippers”)
  • He likes a religion that is amiable and applaudable (always in the sunshine)

The Danger of Following Christ for Worldly Gain

By-ends is a hypocrite who presents himself as something he never intends to be. He holds religion in high esteem. He claims to follow Christ. His words sound good; he is, after all, from Fair-Speech. But he has embraced religion for personal gain, not personal holiness. His aim is not to love and glorify God. He uses religion as a means to another end. For him Christ is but a useful ally in the pursuit of self-advancement, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification.

The Bible warns about being deceptive and sinful with our words:

He who hates, disguises it with his lips,
And lays up deceit within himself;
When he speaks kindly, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart;
Though his hatred is covered by deceit,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
(Proverbs 26: 24–26)

They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
(Psalm 12:2–3)

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so (James 3:8–10).

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money (1 Timothy 3:8).

And the Bible reproves and calls us to repentance when we are double-minded in our motives:

I hate the double-minded,
But I love Your law.
(Psalm 119:113)

He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8).

By-ends wanted to join Christian and Hopeful in their pilgrimage, but he was only willing to walk in fair weather and favorable paths. Christian gives him the truth about following Christ:

  • You must be willing to go against wind and tide.
  • You must be willing to own religion in rags as well as silver slippers.
  • You must be willing to be imprisoned as well as applauded.

Jesus taught in the Gospel of Luke:

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:27–30).

Christian is insistent that By-ends counts the cost. True discipleship involves sacrifice and suffering (bearing the cross); concepts that By-ends would find foreign and distasteful. By-ends responds the way many false professors respond when confronted with the truth of Scripture. He is offended and sees Christian and Hopeful as a threat to his liberty. He will not have anyone impose on him, or lord it over his faith. And so, for now, he parts company.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Joined by Hopeful

Now I saw in my dream, that Christian went not forth alone, for there was one whose name was Hopeful (being made so by the beholding of Christian and Faithful in their words and behavior, in their sufferings at the fair), who joined himself unto him, and, entering into a brotherly covenant, told him that he would be his companion. Thus, one died to bear testimony to the truth, and another rises out of his ashes, to be a companion with Christian in his pilgrimage. This Hopeful also told Christian, that there were many more of the men in the fair, that would take their time and follow after.

Christian and HopefulBefore entering the town of Vanity, Christian and Faithful were warned that one of them would lose his life for the sake of gospel. They were aware of the danger, but they entered willingly, believing that Christ and the souls of those in the town were of more value than their own comfort, or even their own lives. In the end, it was Faithful who died bearing witness to the truth of the gospel. Faithful completed his journey and went on to his reward. Now Christian is left to press on without him. But Christian is not left to walk alone in sorrow. Hopeful has become a pilgrim and he tells Christian that he will be his companion.

What then can we learn from Hopeful’s conversion? Consider three valuable insights:

1. The journey is more pleasant if we do not walk alone.

Earlier in the story Christian discovered the value of Christian fellowship when he caught up with Faithful. Now, in God’s kindness, Christian once again has a companion to walk with him.

Walking with other believers on the journey is a great encouragement. Their labors in the gospel build up our labors. Their faith strengthens our faith. Their prayers increase our own prayers. Seeing God’s work of grace in others gives us strength and hope.

Paul often mentioned and gave thanks for fellow-labors.

In Thessalonica:

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:2–3).

In Rome:

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles (Romans 16:3–4).

In Philippi:

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3–5).

It is a great joy to have brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom we covenant together in the church, to walk and labor together in the hope of the gospel.

2. Pressing on in hope is rooted in seeing the work of God’s grace.

It is significant that Christian’s new companion is named Hopeful. God is a God of hope, who by the power of His Spirit, fills us with hope.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, that “in Him the Gentiles shall hope” (Romans 15:12). He “according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Hopeful is new believer—his heart, a fresh work of God’s grace. His life is a testimony to the power of God’s transforming grace. God was at work, even in the midst of concerted efforts to suppress and silence the gospel. Hopeful was rescued from Vanity. And Hopeful himself has hope that the darkness of the town of Vanity can be overcome. He is sure that many others from the fair will in time follow and join them in their pilgrimage.

3. Our lives are ever on display before a watching world.

We don’t know how God may use our lives to influence and intrigue others around us for the sake of the gospel. Our joys and trials, and especially how we respond to joys and trials, can be of great consequence when brought to the attention of others in the purposeful designs of God’s providence.

Hopeful came to faith in Christ by “the beholding of Christian and Faithful in their words and behavior” and Bunyan adds for emphasis “in their sufferings at the fair.” It was especially in their endurance through suffering that Christian and Faithful demonstrated the true value and veracity of the gospel. Christ is a treasure worth more than all this world can offer—a treasure worth more than even life itself.

We live the gospel before others and share the gospel with others—our friends, family, children, neighbors, coworkers, even strangers — “that they may set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7). Consider your own life. We live in a vain world. What do those around you see in the “beholding” of your life? Do you live in a way that commends the gospel? Do you demonstrate by choices, actions, attitudes, and reactions that Christ is your greatest treasure, and that the souls of people around you are precious? May God grant us to walk with hope that we might walk worthy of the gospel of Christ.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Pressing On We Journey

Seek the Light

Those who follow my blog know that one of my favorite books is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. I have read it numerous times and am writing a commentary on the book, A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. On occasion, I have woven the themes and imagery from Bunyan’s allegory into hymns I have written. These include “Looking Always Unto Jesus,” “Come Enter By the Narrow Gate” and “A Prayer for Pilgrims.” This new hymn also draws from Bunyan’s work.

In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches us not to be anxious for tomorrow, but to place our trust in Him, seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:25–34).

We will never find joy and contentment in this life apart from Christ and His righteousness. There are two great enemies of joy and contentment: regret and worry. Regret keeps us from joy in the present by fixating on the past—which we cannot change and is over. Worry keeps us from joy in the present by fixating on the future—which we cannot control and is uncertain. The gospel sets us free from both. We trust Christ, knowing that our sins are forgiven and our future rests in the hands of a loving and merciful God. We can press on in new mercies every day knowing that He will provide all we need to reach our journey’s end.

Pressing On, We Journey

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Christ our greatest treasure,
He our highest aim!
Christ our deepest comfort,
Him we now acclaim!
By His death, He saved us,
By His life, we live.
To the King of glory,
All our lives we give.

Pressing on, we journey,
Christ we now confess,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Rescued from destruction,
Told to seek the light;
Pulled up from the mire,
Fitted for the fight.
Christ, in every instance
Guides us in the Way,
Graciously providing
Mercies every day.

Pressing on, we journey,
Pilgrims we progress,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Fret not for tomorrow,
Fear not past regrets.
He heals every sorrow,
Sure the course He sets.
All these things are added,
What to eat and wear;
All our needs provided,
By His loving care.

Pressing on, we journey,
Joys we now possess,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

We long for that day when
We’ll see face to face
Christ, the King of Glory,
Full of truth and grace.
But until that moment,
Finally He descends,
We will ever seek Him,
Faithful to the end.

Pressing on, we journey,
Hope we now express,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune WYE VALLEY for classical guitar.

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