Led Astray by Vain-Confidence

He, therefore, that went before, (Vain-confidence by name), not seeing the way before him, fell into a deep pit, which was on purpose there made, by the Prince of those grounds, to catch vain-glorious fools withal, and was dashed in pieces with his fall.

Now Christian and his fellow heard him fall. So they called to know the matter, but there was none to answer, only they heard a groaning. Then said Hopeful, Where are we now? Then was his fellow silent, as mistrusting that he had led him out of the way; and now it began to rain, and thunder, and lighten in a very dreadful manner; and the water rose amain.

Then Hopeful groaned in himself, saying, Oh, that I had kept on my way!

Christian: Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?

Hopeful: I was afraid on it at the very first, and therefore gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoken plainer, but that you are older than I.

Vain-ConfidenceIn the last post Christian and Hopeful strayed into By-Path Meadow. When God’s Way became difficult, they sought a more comfortable course. In his self-confidence, Christian believed he could find a better way. And so he led Hopeful over the stile and into what appeared to be a more pleasant yet parallel path.

At first it seemed as if they had made the right choice. The meadow was a welcome relief and the way was easier. They fell in behind another traveler who assured them that he also was on his way to the Celestial Gate. But as night came they realized their error. They were walking into great peril. They were trusting in themselves rather than God, and the one they now followed was Vain-Confidence.

We are warned in Scripture not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust in God to guide us in the Way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5–6)

When we think ourselves to be wiser than God and forsake His Word to devise our own way, there can only be one end.

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 6:18)

We see several examples of pride leading to a fall in Scripture: King Saul (1 Samuel 15), Jezebel (2 Kings 9), and Haman (Esther 7). Jesus asked the Pharisees, the prideful religious leaders of His day: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39).

Vain-Confidence is not a trustworthy guide. He is unable to see the way before him. Lost in the darkness, he falls “into a deep pit” and is “dashed in pieces with his fall.” Christian and Hopeful hear him fall and try calling out to him, but there is no answer.

Hopeful then asks Christian, “Where are we now?” But Christian also has no answer. He comes to the fearful realization that he is responsible for their present danger. The error is his and he has led Hopeful out of the way.

For the leaders of this people cause them to err,
And those who are led by them are destroyed.
(Isaiah 9:16)

Just as the pilgrims realize the danger they are in, their trouble worsens. It begins to rain and thunder. The water rises “amain” (quickly, in haste without warning). Hopeful laments: “O that I had kept on my way!” When Christian first suggested that they enter the meadow, Hopeful was hesitant to object. Now he regrets not speaking more plainly, when he feared that Christian was making a mistake. He should have had the courage to offer correction, even though Christian was an older brother in Christ. Though Christian made the greater error, Hopeful accepts some of the blame for their present troubles.

Though Christian’s error is obvious, he is still surprised that his plan did not work the way he had hoped. He asks: “Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?” The answer is he should have thought so, but he was not careful, and was blinded by his own pride, and lead astray by vain confidence.

The dangers faced by Christian and Hopeful are a warning to us to flee from pride and vain-confidence. Scripture warns us:

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

We must not seek our own way or think we can find a better way. We must learn to trust God and walk in His ways, even when His Way is difficult.

David exhorts us in the psalms:

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
(Psalm 37:5)

And he prays, as we should pray:

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4–5)

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.

I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art

One of my favorite hymns from the Reformation is “I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art.” The words are attributed to John Calvin, from the Strasbourg Psalter, 1545. The tune (TOULON) was composed by Claude Goudimel, one of the musicians in Calvin’s church in Geneva. It was originally composed as the melody for Psalm 124 and included in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter.

I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art

Calvin has been criticized regarding his convictions about music. One historian (Münz) wrote:

“The Pope of Geneva, that dry and hard spirit, Calvin, lacked the warmth of heart which makes Luther so lovable … is the foe of all pleasure and of all distraction, even of the arts and music.”

A closer look at Calvin’s thoughts on music, however, reveals that this harsh judgment is unfounded. During his ministry Calvin came to appreciate music as a valuable part of worship. He learned that music is a useful means to point our minds and hearts to Christ. He desired the church to sing Scripture and employed the gifts of renowned French poets in his congregation to set all 150 psalms, some of the canticles, and the Ten Commandments into metrical French. Clement Marot began the work on the Genevan Psalter and Theodore Beza completed the work. Louis Bourgeois, Claude Goudimel and other musicians in the church composed tunes to fit the psalms. The first complete edition of the Genevan Psalter was published in 1562 and was widely used. By 1565 it had gone through at least 63 editions.

Calvin recognized the devotional value of music. He encouraged his congregation to sing praise to God, not just in the worship services at church, but in their homes and places of work. In the preface to the 1543 edition of the Genevan Psalter, he wrote:

The use of singing may be extended further: it is even in the houses and fields an incentive for us, like an organ, to praise God and to lift our hearts to Him, for consoling us in meditating upon His virtue, goodness, wisdom and justice, which is more necessary than can be expressed. Firstly, it is not without reason that the Holy Spirit exhorts us so carefully in the Holy Scriptures to rejoice in God that all our joy may be reduced to its true purpose, for He knows how much we are inclined to rejoice in vanity. So our nature causes us to look for all means of foolish and vicious rejoicing. On the contrary, our Lord, to distract us and draw us away from the desires of the flesh and of this world gives us every possible way to occupy ourselves in that spiritual joy which He desires for us. Among all other things which are proper for recreation of man and for giving him pleasure, music is the first or one of the principal and we must esteem it as a gift of God given to us for that purpose.

Calvin’s hymn “I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art” is a wonderful encouragement to remember and meditate on the gospel. It embodies a major theological emphasis of the Reformation: Solus Christus (Christ Alone). Our salvation is accomplished only by the mediatorial work of Christ. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement are alone sufficient for our justification and reconciliation with God. Indeed, “our hope is in no other save in Thee!”

I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art

I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only Trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pains didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place:
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
O comfort us in death’s approaching hour,
Strong-hearted then to face it by Thy pow’r.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness:
Make us to taste the sweet grace found in Thee,
And ever stay in Thy sweet unity.

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
O grant to us such stronger hope and sure,
That we can boldly conquer and endure.

“I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art”
Words from the Strasbourg Psalter, 1545
Attributed to John Calvin
Translated by Elizabeth Smith, 1868, alt. 1961
Music by Claude Goudimel (Genevan Psalter, 1551)
©Public Domain

Download free sheet music for this hymn, including chord charts and an arrangement of the tune TOULON for classical guitar.

See more Hymns from History

Behold, My Soul

Sunlight on Mountains

Behold, my soul, what God has wrought
When by His grace my heart He sought,
When in His love and sovereign plan
He chose to save a wretched man.
When God made heav’n and earth below
He simply spoke and it was so,
But when He sought my soul to save
E’en Christ, His only Son, He gave.

Before God spoke and it was light,
Before men fell in sin’s dark night,
The Lord set forth redemption’s plan
That grace might find this wretched man.
That God would choose for Christ a wife,
And Christ would die to save her life;
The Spirit then would call the bride
And draw her to her Master’s side.

Christ left the glories of heav’n above
And took the form of those He loved.
He shared our suff’ring and our strife
And lived a holy, perfect life.
He found us dead and vile within,
Rebels to God, condemned for sin,
Destined for wrath and hell’s torment,
Yet blinded and in sin content.

Yet in our sin, Christ loved us still
And bore the cross on Cal’vry’s hill.
He took the judgment we had earned
And died as God’s fierce wrath did burn.
Our debt was great, none would suffice
Except a perfect sacrifice,
And as the cross drew forth His blood,
An off’ring rose before our God.

His death has full atonement made!
The debt we owed in full is paid!
He purchased us with His own blood;
Such love! Behold the Lamb of God!
When death and sin defeated fell,
He trampled down the gates of hell
And rose victorious o’er the grave
To live for those He came to save.

He then ascended to the throne,
Now interceding for His own,
And for our comfort, help, and cheer;
He sent His Holy Spirit near,
To open hearts, convict of sin,
To lead to Christ and dwell within,
To daily bring supplies of grace
And hold us fast to Christ’s embrace.

When by His grace my heart He sought,
Behold, my soul, what God has wrought!
The measures to fulfill His plan!
The cost to save a wretched man!
He now prepares for me a place
And soon I’ll see Him face to face,
And wonder through eternity,
How great His mercy shown to me!

Words ©1992 Ken Puls

I wrote this hymn after traveling on May 15, 1991 to attend a Wednesday evening service at Grace Church in Denton, Texas. John Marshall, who was the guest preacher that evening, spoke from John 1 on the theme: Behold, the Lamb of God. He contrasted the simplicity of becoming a Christian (our responding in faith and repentance) with the difficulty (God’s vast work accomplished through Jesus Christ to bring us salvation). I wrote in my notes:

When God created the world, He spoke,
But when He redeemed men:
He came down—He was born of a virgin—He lived a perfect life—He died upon a cross—He rose from the dead—He ascended to glory—He sent His Spirit—He promised to come again!
“It is a simple though difficult thing for one to become a Christian.”

I began writing the hymn the following day with these lines (that became the end of verse 1):

When God made heav’n and earth below
He simply spoke and it was so,
But when He sought my soul to save
E’en Christ, His only Son, He gave.

The hymn is a celebration of the gospel, patterned after the psalms where the psalmist would address his soul and sing to encourage and remind himself of truth (Psalm 16:2, 42:5, …). The verses are my reflections on the message and effort to preach it to my own soul.

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

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

By-Path Meadow

Now, I beheld in my dream, that they had not journeyed far, but the river and the way for a time parted; at which they were not a little sorry; yet they durst not go out of the way. Now the way from the river was rough, and their feet tender, by reason of their travels; so the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way. Wherefore, still as they went on, they wished for a better way. Now, a little before them, there was on the left hand of the road a meadow, and a stile to go over into it; and that meadow is called By-path Meadow. Then said Christian to his fellow, If this meadow lies along by our wayside, let us go over into it. Then he went to the stile to see, and behold, a path lay along by the way, on the other side of the fence. It is according to my wish, said Christian. Here is the easiest going; come, good Hopeful, and let us go over.

Hopeful: But how if this path should lead us out of the way?

Christian: That is not like, said the other. Look, does it not go along by the wayside? So Hopeful, being persuaded by his fellow, went after him over the stile. When they were gone over, and were got into the path, they found it very easy for their feet; and withal, they, looking before them, espied a man walking as they did, (and his name was Vain-confidence); so they called after him, and asked him whither that way led. He said, To the Celestial Gate. Look, said Christian, did not I tell you so? By this you may see we are right. So they followed, and he went before them. But, behold, the night came on, and it grew very dark; so that they that were behind lost the sight of him that went before.

 

By-Path MeadowAfter being refreshed at the Pleasant River, Christian and Hopeful resume their journey. They are saddened when they discover that the river is no longer close by. Now the Way is rough. Their feet are sore and soon the two pilgrims are discouraged. At first they are determined to keep to the Way. But as weariness and discontent sets in, they long for a better way.

Though disheartened by present trials, Christian has grown in his confidence. He and Hopeful have escaped Vanity Fair and recognized the folly of By-ends and company. The plain of Ease did not dull their watchfulness. They recognized and rebuked the temptation of Demas. They avoided the perils of the silver mine and took to heart the warning of the pillar of salt. Such successes on the journey should be cause for ongoing praise to God. But Christian has become too sure of himself. He has gained confidence, but his confidence is in his progress, not his God.

Christian’s misplaced confidence soon leads to carelessness and forgetfulness. The pilgrims see just to the left of their path a fair meadow. This meadow seems to promise relief. And it seems to lie parallel to the true path. Enticed by the hope of an easier way, Christian encourages Hopeful to follow him over the stile and into By-Path Meadow.

By-Path Meadow represents our own efforts at attaining righteousness. It is lush with pride and filled with the fruits of self-determination and good intentions. It is our attempt to define how we will live and walk before God in this life, especially when we grow discontent with the path God has us on. The stile represents how easy it is to cross over from resting our confidence in Christ to thinking too highly of ourselves. William Mason explains in his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress:

The transition into the by-path is easy, for it lies close to the right way; only you must get over a stile, that is, you must quit Christ’s imputed righteousness, and trust in your own inherent righteousness; and then you are in By-path Meadow directly.

The Pleasant River represents the joy and assurance that fills our hearts as we look to Christ and trust in Him for our salvation. This river does not flow near By-Path Meadow. Though Christ never fails us, we can sadly lose sight of Him. This is especially true when we forget His gospel and find confidence in our own efforts. Our hope must be in Christ and His righteousness, not our own successes along the way.

Christian forgets that he is an undeserving sinner, saved by grace. He forgets that his heart is wicked and can deceive him.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)

If we follow our hearts rather than God, we can easily be led astray.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:12)

Christian forgets that God’s way is best, even when it is difficult. Earlier in the allegory, he learned at the House of the Interpreter and at Hill Difficulty that the Way can be hard and hazardous. Evangelist warned him that the Way is dangerous and those who follow Christ must endure suffering. When the Way becomes difficult, Christian feels entitled to an easier way. He and Hopeful complain and grumble like Israel in the wilderness.

Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord… (Numbers 11:1).

And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me” (Number 14:26–27).

And they become discouraged.

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way (Number 21:4).

We must remember that, though God’s Way can be perilous, it is perfect. His Word is a trusted, proven guide. We must read it and follow it every step of the way. We can trust the Lord to be our shield and strength through every danger and difficulty.

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
(Psalm 18:30)

Christian finds a path that is “according to” his wish rather than staying on the path that is marked out by God’s Word. Hopeful sees the potential danger and asks: “But how if this path should lead us out of the way?” Christian, however, persuades him that the path is safe. They cross over the stile and for a time their journey is easier. They even encounter a traveler on the path who assures them that he also is on the way to the Celestial Gate. But this traveler’s name is Vain-Confidence and soon Christian and Hopeful lose sight of him and find themselves lost in the darkness.

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.

A Pleasant River

I saw, then, that they went on their way to a pleasant river; which David the king called “the river of God”, but John, “the river of the water of life.” Now their way lay just upon the bank of the river; here, therefore, Christian and his companion walked with great delight; they drank also of the water of the river, which was pleasant, and enlivening to their weary spirits: besides, on the banks of this river, on either side, were green trees, that bore all manner of fruit; and the leaves of the trees were good for medicine; with the fruit of these trees they were also much delighted; and the leaves they eat to prevent surfeits, and other diseases that are incident to those that heat their blood by travels. On either side of the river was also a meadow, curiously beautified with lilies, and it was green all the year long. In this meadow they lay down, and slept; for here they might lie down safely. When they awoke, they gathered again of the fruit of the trees, and drank again of the water of the river, and then lay down again to sleep. Thus they did several days and nights. Then they sang—

Behold ye how these crystal streams do glide,
To comfort pilgrims by the highway side;
The meadows green, beside their fragrant smell,
Yield dainties for them; and he that can tell
What pleasant fruit, yea, leaves, these trees do yield,
Will soon sell all, that he may buy this field.

So when they were disposed to go on, (for they were not, as yet, at their journey’s end,) they ate and drank, and departed.

A Pleasant River

After Christian and Hopeful ponder the meaning of the pillar of salt, warning them to guard their hearts and flee from sin, they come to the bank of a pleasant river. This is more of God’s gracious provision for His pilgrims. God is faithful, not only to warn us of His wrath against sin, but to comfort us with His mercies in Christ. His Word not only implores us: “Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die…?” (Ezekiel 33:11); but also, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The river represents the peace and joy that God abundantly supplies us in Christ. It is the assurance and delight that refreshes and revives our hearts as we meditate on the riches God has given us in His Son. It is through Christ alone that we can draw near to God and enjoy His presence.

We see all through the Scriptures this pleasant river pointing us to Christ.

In Genesis 2 a river flows from the place where God communes with man—the Garden of Eden:

“Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads” (Genesis 2:10).

In Psalm 65 King David sings of the Temple where God manifested His presence in the Old Testament:

Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.
(Psalm 65:4)

Later in the psalm he rejoices in the “river of God” as evidence of God’s gracious care for His people:

You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
(Psalm 65:9)

The people of God can rest in safety on the banks of this river.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
(Psalm 23:1–2)

The firstborn of the poor will feed,
And the needy will lie down in safety;
I will kill your roots with famine,
And it will slay your remnant.
(Isaiah 14:30)

Bunyan draws much of his imagery of the river and its banks from Ezekiel, where the river flows from the Temple.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side.

And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river.

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:1–12).

This vision is repeated by the apostle John as he describes the “river of water of life” flowing from the throne of God in the final chapter of Revelation:

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1–2).

Here is Christ with His people, “the tabernacle of God is with men” (Revelation 21:3). In Bunyan’s story, Christian and Hopeful are not yet at the Celestial City, but their meditation on the beauty and glory of Christ are a taste of heaven on earth.

It is Jesus who has brought God near. He is the source of living water, the fountain of life. He is Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The Old Testament anticipates the joy of His coming:

And in that day it shall be
That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem,
Half of them toward the eastern sea
And half of them toward the western sea;
In both summer and winter it shall occur.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
In that day it shall be—
“The Lord is one,”
And His name one.
(Zechariah 14:8–9)

And it will come to pass in that day
That the mountains shall drip with new wine,
The hills shall flow with milk,
And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water;
A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord
And water the Valley of Acacias.
(Joel 3:18)

Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
(Isaiah 12:3)

The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:11)

They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.
(Psalm 36:8–9)

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
(Psalm 46:4)

Just as God nourishes and replenishes the earth with rivers of water, He revives His people with rivers of His pleasure and grace. God’s pleasure and grace come to us through Christ. Jesus declares Himself to be the source of living water and He invites us to come and drink.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37–39).

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 14:10).

It is in Christ that our souls are fully satisfied. In Him is all we need. In Him we can rest and find peace. Bunyan describes his own spiritual refreshment meditating on Christ and the gospel:

Now had I an evidence, ‘as I thought, of my salvation’ from heaven, with many golden seals thereon, all hanging in my sight; now could I remember this manifestation and the other discovery of grace, with comfort; and should often long and desire that the last day were come, that I might forever be inflamed with the sight, and joy, and communion with him whose head was crowned with thorns, whose face was spit on, and body broken, and soul made an offering for my sins: for whereas, before, I lay continually trembling at the mouth of hell, now methought I was got so far therefrom that I could not, when I looked back, scarce discern it; and, oh! thought I, that I were fourscore years old now, that I might die quickly, that my soul might be gone to rest (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 128).

Bunyan was amazed that Christ would suffer and die for him. He knew himself to be sinful and wretched. Yet he found the abundant mercy and love of God in Christ to be a peaceful, pleasant river. He was among the blessed whose—

… delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:2–3)

Believer, drink deeply from this pleasant river! Delight in God’s Word. Meditate on its promises. The gospel affords an invigorating taste of heaven, even as we press on in our journey here on earth. May God lead us often to the banks of this river to refresh and encourage our weary souls.

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.

Remember Lot’s Wife

Now I saw that, just on the other side of this plain, the pilgrims came to a place where stood an old monument, hard by the highway side, at the sight of which they were both concerned, because of the strangeness of the form thereof; for it seemed to them as if it had been a woman transformed into the shape of a pillar; here, therefore they stood looking, and looking upon it, but could not for a time tell what they should make thereof. At last Hopeful espied written above the head thereof, a writing in an unusual hand; but he being no scholar, called to Christian (for he was learned) to see if he could pick out the meaning; so he came, and after a little laying of letters together, he found the same to be this, “Remember Lot’s Wife.” So he read it to his fellow; after which they both concluded that that was the pillar of salt into which Lot’s wife was turned, for her looking back with a covetous heart, when she was going from Sodom for safety. Which sudden and amazing sight gave them occasion of this discourse.

Christian: Ah, my brother! This is a seasonable sight; it came opportunely to us after the invitation which Demas gave us to come over to view the Hill Lucre; and had we gone over, as he desired us, and as you were inclining to do, my brother, we had, for aught I know, been made ourselves like this woman, a spectacle for those that shall come after to behold.

Hopeful: I am sorry that I was so foolish, and am made to wonder that I am not now as Lot’s wife; for wherein was the difference between her sin and mine? She only looked back; and I had a desire to go see. Let grace be adored, and let me be ashamed that ever such a thing should be in mine heart.

Christian: Let us take notice of what we see here, for our help for time to come. This woman escaped one judgment, for she fell not by the destruction of Sodom; yet she was destroyed by another, as we see she is turned into a pillar of salt.

Hopeful: True; and she may be to us both caution and example; caution, that we should shun her sin; or a sign of what judgment will overtake such as shall not be prevented by this caution. So Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with the two hundred and fifty men that perished in their sin, did also become a sign or example to others to beware. But above all, I muse at one thing, to wit, how Demas and his fellows can stand so confidently yonder to look for that treasure, which this woman, but for looking behind her after, (for we read not that she stepped one foot out of the way) was turned into a pillar of salt; especially since the judgment which overtook her did make her an example, within sight of where they are; for they cannot choose but see her, did they but lift up their eyes.

Christian: It is a thing to be wondered at, and it argues that their hearts are grown desperate in the case; and I cannot tell who to compare them to so fitly, as to them that pick pockets in the presence of the judge, or that will cut purses under the gallows. It is said of the men of Sodom, that they were sinners exceedingly, because they were sinners before the Lord, that is, in his eyesight, and notwithstanding the kindnesses that he had showed them; for the land of Sodom was now like the garden of Eden heretofore. This, therefore, provoked Him the more to jealousy, and made their plague as hot as the fire of the Lord out of heaven could make it. And it is most rationally to be concluded, that such, even such as these are, that shall sin in the sight, yea, and that too in despite of such examples that are set continually before them, to caution them to the contrary, must be partakers of severest judgments.

Hopeful: Doubtless you have said the truth; but what a mercy is it, that neither you, but especially I, am not made myself this example! This ministers occasion to us to thank God, to fear before Him, and always to remember Lot’s wife.

Pillar of SaltNo sooner had Christian and Hopeful crossed the Plain of Ease and made it past Demas and the Silver Mine than they encounter a strange sight near the Way. The pilgrims see an old monument that appears to be “a woman transformed into the shape of a pillar.” The monument is placed “hard by the highway side” (right next to the path so it can’t be missed). At first they are puzzled and not sure of its meaning. Finally, Hopeful sees an inscription that unravels the mystery. The monument is a warning from the pages of Scripture where God brought judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God sent angels to warn Lot and his family to flee the city lest they be destroyed, telling them:

“Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed” (Genesis 19:17).

Then God sent the promised judgment:

Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt (Genesis 19:24–29).

While fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah with her husband, Lot’s wife ignored the angel’s warning, looked back, and “became a pillar of salt.” The sight of the pillar of salt near the Way gives Christian and Hopeful pause. In their solemn discourse, Bunyan teaches us three important lessons:

1. We are saved by God’s grace alone, not by our own wits or cunning.

Christian regards the monument as a “seasonable sight.” He tells Hopeful, “Let us take notice of what we see here, for our help for time to come.” He recognizes the value and providential timing in finding the pillar on their journey. It is meant to teach them and alert them to be cautious. Had they listened to the words of Demas and stopped to look in his mine, as Hopeful was inclined to do, they might have fallen into the snare of sin. Hopeful is humbled and confesses his foolishness. He knows he strayed in his heart and is deserving of judgment. He sees his sin as far worse: Lot’s wife “only looked back,” but he “had a desire to go see.” It is only by God’s grace that he did not fall into the same condemnation. It is God, not us, who saves us and keeps us. Left to ourselves, we would stumble and fall. He alone is worthy of praise!

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7).

2. We must heed God’s warnings and take His judgment against sin seriously.

Although temptations to walk in the ways of the world are often close by, especially when we walk through times of ease, God’s warnings are also close at hand. We see these warnings set forth clearly in God’s Word and manifest starkly in the consequences of sin and the insatiable emptiness that sin leaves in its wake. Sin ultimately leads to misery and condemnation. We can be grateful that God doesn’t judge every sin with a timely display of His wrath. If He did, we would all be consumed.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
(Psalm 103:8).

BUT

He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
(Psalm 103:9)

And so we must heed His warnings and flee to Him for mercy and grace. Hopeful mentions another account later in the Old Testament where God displayed His wrath as “a sign” or warning to His people.

The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah when that company died, when the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign (Numbers 26:9–10).

All of God’s judgments— on Sodom and Gomorrah, on the Sons of Korah, on Lot’s wife—are warnings to us to take the wrath of God seriously. Every display of God’s wrath is a call to us to turn away from sin, and come to Christ for mercy, forgiveness, wisdom and righteousness.

The warnings are clear, placed along our path so we cannot avoid seeing them. Yet too often we ignore or discount them. The pillar stands within sight of the mine. The consequences of sin stare us in the face. Yet even with God’s warnings so close at hand, we wander off the path to trifle with sin. God’s blessings are equally clear. He sustains us—He gives us every breath. His gracious provisions are all around us. Yet even in the midst of blessing, we ignore God’s kindness and go our own way.

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were richly blessed of God. Their beauty was comparable to the garden of Eden. Yet their citizens did not honor God and rebelled against Him.

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord (Genesis 13:10–13).

Blatant sin in midst of God’s abundant provision and kindness is nothing less than “exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” To ignore His warnings and live as if there were no coming judgment is utter folly (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). God’s sovereign rule over His creation is evident and obvious if we would but acknowledge it. There will be no valid excuses on the Day of Judgment from the ungodly who refuse to turn from their sin and flee to Christ.

3. We must guard our hearts and not assume that because we are fleeing the consequences of sin, we are safely beyond the reach of sin.

Christian and Hopeful made it past the silver mine. They would not stray from the path even a step.  They escaped the fate that came upon By-ends and his friends. But the pillar is a warning that they must stay vigilant and guard their hearts. Lot’s wife was being rescued; she was on a right path, hastened to leave a city prepared for destruction. But she longingly looked back. She treasured what was behind her. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Her heart remained in Sodom and so she was judged as a citizen of Sodom.

We must guard our hearts in the battle against temptation. It is possible to turn out of the Way with a glance, not just a step. Lot’s wife came under God’s judgment even in the midst of escaping God’s judgment. Though her feet carried her away from destruction, her heart plunged her into the Pit. She had the same covetous heart that Israel would later display when God brought them out of their bondage in Egypt. Israel was on the way to the Promised Land, yet their hearts were addicted to slavery, and they looked back with longing.

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4–6).

The message inscribed above the pillar reads: “Remember Lot’s Wife.” It is a message for us today. The inscription comes from Jesus’ words in Luke 17:

Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it (Luke 17:28–33).

You can turn away from God in your heart and rebel against Him in your thoughts without ever taking an obvious step. There are many in churches today who appear to be on the right path fleeing Destruction. They seek to escape the consequences of sin—its misery and condemnation, but they are looking back, longing for what they left. We must flee sin at all cost. We must flee sin in our hearts and with our eyes and ears, as well as with our hands and feet. We must not assume that because we are fleeing the consequences of sin, we are safely beyond the reach of sin. Scripture admonishes us:

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:12–13).

Let us run from sin with no looking back. And, as Hopeful instructs, let us thank God, fear Him, and always remember Lot’s wife.

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.

A Song Book That Begins With Words of Wisdom

The Book of Psalms

The Book of Psalms is an important collection of songs in Scripture for the worship of God. These songs are commanded to be sung by God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments.

In the Old Testament they comprise the songbook of the Temple. God appointed the Levites to sing and teach the people to sing psalms to God in worship. As the people gathered in Jerusalem and brought their sacrifices, these were the songs being sung and heard in the congregation.

In the New Testament Paul sets the psalms at the forefront of church music, exhorting us in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. The psalms speak of Christ, point us to Christ, and find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ (Luke 24:44).

When you think of the book of Psalms, and remember the purpose and use of the psalms, its beginning may at first surprise you. It might not be what you would expect.

The psalms are about our communion with God in worship.

How then would you expect such a collection of songs to begin?

What opening words do you envision?

  • A lofty song of praise?
  • A hymn exalting the attributes of God?
  • A call to God’s people to come to the Temple and enter into His presence?
  • A call to God, asking Him to hear His people as they lift their voices?

All of these are songs you will find in abundance in the Psalter, but not at the beginning.

Let’s go to the Word of God and read how the Psalms begin:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:1–6)

God opens His hymnal with a psalm of wisdom—a psalm for teaching that portrays a striking contrast between two groups of people: the ungodly and the righteous—those who are committed to walking according to the ways of God, and those who have forsaken that way.

For the righteous, the psalm offers a promise;
For the ungodly it declares a warning.

Continue reading this sermon from  Psalm 1 entitled “Two Paths and Two Ends.”

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

Above Image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

Demas and the Silver Mine

Now at the further side of that plain was a little hill called Lucre, and in that hill a silver mine, which some of them that had formerly gone that way, because of the rarity of it, had turned aside to see; but going too near the brink of the pit, the ground being deceitful under them, broke, and they were slain; some also had been maimed there, and could not, to their dying day, be their own men again.

Then I saw in my dream, that a little off the road, over against the silver mine, stood Demas (gentlemanlike) to call to passengers to come and see; who said to Christian and his fellow, Ho! turn aside hither, and I will show you a thing.

Christian: What thing so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it?

Demas: Here is a silver mine, and some digging in it for treasure. If you will come, with a little pains you may richly provide for yourselves.

Hopeful: Then said Hopeful, Let us go see.

Christian: Not I, said Christian, I have heard of this place before now; and how many have there been slain; and besides that, treasure is a snare to those that seek it; for it hinders them in their pilgrimage.

Then Christian called to Demas, saying, Is not the place dangerous? Has it not hindered many in their pilgrimage?

Demas: Not very dangerous, except to those that are careless, (but withal, he blushed as he spoke).

Christian: Then said Christian to Hopeful, Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.

Hopeful: I will warrant you, when By-ends comes up, if he has the same invitation as we, he will turn in thither to see.

Christian: No doubt thereof, for his principles lead him that way, and a hundred to one but he dies there.

Demas: Then Demas called again, saying, But will you not come over and see?

Christian: Then Christian roundly answered, saying, Demas, you are an enemy to the right ways of the Lord of this way, and have been already condemned for your own turning aside, by one of His Majesty’s judges; and why do you seek to bring us into the like condemnation? Besides, if we at all turn aside, our Lord and King will certainly hear thereof, and will there put us to shame, where we would stand with boldness before him.

Demas cried again, that he also was one of their fraternity; and that if they would tarry a little, he also himself would walk with them.

Christian: Then said Christian, What is your name? Is it not the same by the which I have called you?

Demas: Yes, my name is Demas; I am the son of Abraham.

Christian: I know you; Gehazi was your great-grandfather, and Judas your father; and you have trod in their steps. It is but a devilish prank that you use; your father was hanged for a traitor, and you deserve no better reward. Assure yourself, that when we come to the King, we will do him word of this your behavior. Thus they went their way.

By this time By-ends and his companions were come again within sight, and they, at the first beck, went over to Demas. Now, whether they fell into the pit by looking over the brink thereof, or whether they went down to dig, or whether they were smothered in the bottom by the damps that commonly arise, of these things I am not certain; but this I observed, that they never were seen again in the way. Then sang Christian—

By-ends and silver Demas both agree;
One calls, the other runs, that he may be
A sharer in his lucre; so these do
Take up in this world, and no further go.

Dumas and the Silver Mine

Christian and Hopeful did not enjoy the comforts of Ease for long. They crossed the Plain quickly and discovered close to Ease another danger. At the far side of the plain “was a little hill called Lucre.” In the hill was a silver mine, enticing and extraordinary, where, it is said, one can dig with little effort and find rich reward.

Lucre represents the prosperity of the world, especially money or wealth that is gained in sinful or dishonest ways. The silver mine is the inviting prospect of wealth and worldly success for all who desire to live in Ease and enjoy its comforts.

Near the mine, Christian and Hopeful are beckoned by a notorious person from the pages of Scripture. Demas calls to them to come and see the marvels of the mine. Demas is not the first Bible character to be included in Bunyan’s story. Earlier Faithful encountered Adam the First and Moses. We read of Demas in Paul’s letters. In two letters, Paul includes Demas as a “fellow laborer” in his greetings:

Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you (Colossians 4:14).

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers (Philemon 1:23–24).

But near the end of Paul’s life, we learn the sad truth that Demas became enchanted with the world and forsook Paul. Paul writes:

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry (2 Timothy 4:9–11).

Here, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Demas stands inviting others to turn aside to search for worldly treasures. His offer is appealing. He appears respectable and believable—a gentleman. He promises light work and a quick return. The attraction of wealth and success lures many to the mine. But to get a closer look, travelers must veer off the Way.

At this point in the story Bunyan shows again the advantage of walking with other believers in the journey. Hopeful is curious and wants to go and see the mine. But Christian recognizes the danger. He has heard of this place. It hinders pilgrims from pressing on in their journey. It distracts them from pursuing godliness and eternal life. Some in the past ventured too close to the edge of the mine and fell in. Some were slain and some were maimed.

Though Demas attempts to dismiss the dangers, Christian is not persuaded. He holds firm and will not leave the Way even a step. In Exodus, after the ninth plague, Moses held firm to God’s Word and refused to compromise when Pharaoh offered to negotiate terms. He told Pharaoh “not a hoof shall be left behind” (Exodus 10:26). Christian here exhorts Hopeful: “Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.” Christian was already led astray once by Worldly Wiseman and chastened by Evangelist at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He will not be taken in again.

Though Demas claims to be a fellow pilgrim and a “son of Abraham” (one who is true to the faith), Christian recognizes him and the danger he represents. He rebukes Demas for turning aside and for trying to get others to do the same. He points to Scripture and compares him to Gehazi in the Old Testament, who valued money and possessions over obedience.

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him” (2 Kings 5:20).

And he compares him to Judas in the New Testament, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him (Matthew 26:14–15).

In the end both faced destruction. Gehazi left Elisha’s presence stricken with leprosy and Judas took his own life.

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3–5).

Bunyan highlights an important lesson about the danger of desiring worldly wealth. Prosperity and success are not inherently evil. They can be blessings from God. But the lure of prosperity and the drive to success can easily become consuming and plunge the heart into idolatry. They can cloud the mind with fears and forgetfulness of God. They can put the soul in a precarious place. Those who venture too close to the mine are in grave danger of falling in. They ground they stand on is deceitful. Asaph calls it a slippery place. In Psalm 73 Asaph was perplexed when he “saw the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). But then he recognized their danger:

When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
(Psalm 73:16–19)

The wicked were trusting in their own prosperity rather than God, and success became for them a slippery slope bringing them to desolation.

Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned His people of the dangers that come with plenty and prosperity.

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:8–18).

In time Israel did indeed fall prey to idolatry and rebel against God. The prophet Hosea describes their sin:

For Israel is stubborn
Like a stubborn calf;
Now the Lord will let them forage
Like a lamb in open country.
Ephraim is joined to idols,
Let him alone.
Their drink is rebellion,
They commit harlotry continually.
Her rulers dearly love dishonor.
(Hosea 4:16–18)

The prosperity that God’s people enjoyed became a pathway to destruction as they forgot God and sought their own way. The plenty and harvest that they enjoyed in the Promised Land dissolved into nettles and thorns.

For indeed they are gone because of destruction.
Egypt shall gather them up;
Memphis shall bury them.
Nettles shall possess their valuables of silver;
Thorns shall be in their tents.
(Hosea 9:6)

Though Christian and Hopeful continue their journey and avoid the perils of the mine, By-ends and his friends do not. They fall prey to Demas and are not seen traveling along the Way again.

The demise of By-ends and his friends is a stark warning. Those who long for the riches of this world will in the end find only disappointment and destruction. But those who are “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21) will be abundantly satisfied (Psalm 36:8).

Scripture warns us not to set our heart on riches.

A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.
(Proverbs 28:22)

But to treasure God.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19–21).

May God anchor our hearts firmly in Him and may we remember that He alone is our greatest joy and treasure.

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.

O Father Make Us Like the Son

Church Reflection

As Christians, how are we to relate to God’s Law? We know that our obedience to God’s commands could never make us right with God. The Law reveals our sin and shows us our great need of salvation. But the Law cannot save us. Yet, we are called to follow Christ, who is both the great Law-giver and Law-keeper. We are called to be imitators of Christ. Paul encouraged the church:

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1–2).

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 (Matthew 16:24).

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17–20).

How then, especially in light of Jesus’ teaching and fulfillment of the Law, are we to relate to the Law as Christians?

This was the question I had in mind when I wrote the hymn “O Father Make Us Like the Son.”

The hymn had its beginning on Thursday morning, April 16, 1992 at the Grandy’s on Seminary Drive in Fort Worth, Texas. Several men from Heritage Baptist Church had gathered for Field Education and breakfast with our pastor, Dr. Fred Malone. That morning we studied chapter 8 from John Murray’s book, Principles of Conduct on the Law and Grace. I was especially intrigued with the truth that God is at work conforming us to the image of His Son.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

We are called to be like our Savior. One day when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face, we shall be like Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

It is our hope and aim to be like Jesus. How then can we be made like our Savior, without loving God’s Law? To be like Jesus is to obey God’s commands and delight in doing His will. Certainly, we are not bound by all the ceremonial and civil laws that foreshadowed and prepared the way for Christ’s coming. But God’s Moral Law, especially manifest in the Ten Commandments, is to be a rule of life for all Christians. Jesus died to free us from the Law’s curse and condemnation, but not from its blessing and benefits. We are not to see the Law as a rigorous covenant of works to gain God’s favor and acceptance, but as a rule of life revealing God’s character, holiness, and goodness. Our efforts to obey the Law are done in gratitude and love to Christ, who has perfectly fulfilled and exemplified it for us.

I finished writing the hymn early in the morning on the Lord’s Day, April 19, 1992 and sang it in the morning worship service at Heritage. The hymn is prayer that God would work in us and conform us to the image of Christ.

O Father Make Us Like the Son!

O Father, make us like the Son
That we may walk as He,
Delighting in the Law of God
And bringing praise to Thee.

Our Lord’s great joy was loving God,
Obeying His commands.
He lived a holy, perfect life,
Fulfill’d the Law’s demands.

O Father, clothe us in the Son
His righteousness we need
That we might be declared as “just”
From condemnation freed.

O Father, we adore the Son;
He is our righteousness!
For we can now obey with hearts
Of love and thankfulness.

O Father, may we love Thy Law
And walk within its light,
And love the Gospel that can turn
Its rigor to delight.

We long to be made like our Lord,
Arrayed in truth and grace,
And we long for the day when we
Shall see Him face to face.

O Father, finish in each heart
The work that was begun.
Prepare us for the Lord’s return,
O make us like the Son!

Words ©1992, 2017 Kenneth A Puls

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

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

The Plain of Ease

Then Christian and Hopeful outwent them again, and went till they came to a delicate plain called Ease, where they went with much content; but that plain was but narrow, so they were quickly got over it.

The Plain of Ease

Have you ever wondered: Why does life have to be so hard? Admittedly, we are sinners living in a fallen world. But we have come to Christ whose “yoke is easy” and whose “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). So why does “the way which leads to life” have to be “difficult” (Matthew 7:14)? Why do we have to walk through so many troubles and trials in this world?

Many times in The Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan has made it clear that the life of a Christian is not easy. Already Christian has faced many difficulties. We have seen him weighed down with his burden, mired in the Slough of Despond, diverted by Worldly Wiseman, slowed by Hill Difficulty, confronted by Apollyon, confounded in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and tried in the town of Vanity. Now Christian and Hopeful come to the Plain of Ease. Here the Way is simple and they walk “with much content.” At this place in the allegory Bunyan emphasizes his point through brevity. All too quickly the pilgrims cross the plain and it is past.

The Plain of Ease represents times in life when all seems well and troubles are few. Spiritual warfare is at an ebb and peace and contentment abound. God grants such times for our rest and refreshment, but even with ease there is attending danger. Bunyan identifies this danger in his description of the plain.

The plain of Ease is delicate. In other words, it is subtle, not prominent. When crossing the plain, the plain itself is hardly perceptible. Unlike trials and troubles that disrupt our lives and demand our attention, ease doesn’t intrude or interrupt. Ease leaves us alone to settle in and relax in our comforts.

The plain is also narrow. It is short-lived and quickly traversed. Days of ease are fleeting—gone before we really notice them or appreciate them. It is easy to drift through days of ease. Our determination wanes, our guard comes down, and too easily we begin to forget just how much we need God.

Scripture exhorts us to remember:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.
(Psalm 103:2)

Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
(Psalm 105:5)

In Deuteronomy Moses warned Israel not to forget God when they enjoyed the ease and comforts of the Promised Land.

“So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deuteronomy 6:10–12).

We are always desperately dependent upon God for His grace and mercy. But in times of ease we can too easily forget our dependence on God and fail to thank Him for His mercies as we should. In times of trouble when the way is steep and hard, our need is more evident. Because the Plain of Ease is delicate, God, in His mercy, often makes it narrow.

The subtlety of ease is a danger. But there is another danger that lies close to ease. In the next post, we will examine a second hazard that threatens the pilgrims: a little hill at the further side of the plain called Lucre.

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.

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