Tag Archives: Delight in Christ

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.

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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.

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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How Shall I My Savior Set Forth?

One of my favorite memories attending the National Founders Conference is the singing. From 1991 to 2004 the conference was held at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. During those years at Samford we met in Reid Chapel, an acoustically live and wonderful venue for congregational singing. We filled the chapel each year with the sound of theologically rich hymns sung robustly and predominately by men.

One of songs I especially enjoyed singing at the Founders Conference was “How Shall I My Savior Set Forth?” #55 in the conference hymnal, Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs. The hymn is a declaration of praise for the glories of Christ and the wonder of His grace. And it is a passionate plea to sinners imploring them to come to Christ and find the peace and mercy that can only be found in Him.

Brilliant Sunlight

How Shall I My Savior Set Forth?

1. How shall I my Savior set forth?
How shall I His beauties declare?
O how shall I speak of His worth,
Or what His chief dignities are?
His angels can never express,
Nor saints who sit nearest His throne,
How rich are His treasures of grace;
No! this is a mystery unknown.

2. In Him all the fulness of God
Forever transcendently shines;
Though once like a mortal He stood,
To finish His gracious designs.
Though once He was nailed to the cross,
Vile rebels like me to set free;
His glory sustained no loss,
Eternal His kingdom shall be.

3. His wisdom, His love, and His pow’r
Seemed then with each other to vie;
When sinners He stooped to restore,
Poor sinners condemned to die!
He laid all His grandeur aside,
And dwelt in a cottage of clay;
Poor sinners He loved, till He died
To wash their pollution away.

4. O sinner, believe and adore
The Savior so rich to redeem;
No creature can ever explore
The treasures of goodness in Him.
Come, all ye who see yourselves lost,
And feel yourselves burdened with sin,
Draw near, while with terror you’re tossed;
Believe, and your peace shall begin.

5. Now, sinner, attend to His call,
“Whoso hath an ear, let him hear!”
He promises mercy to all,
Who feel their sad wants, far and near;
He riches has ever in store,
And treasures that never can waste;
Here’s pardon, here’s grace, yea, and more:
Here’s glory eternal at last.

“How Shall I My Savior Set Forth?”
Words: James Maxwell (1720–1800)
Music: Early American Melody
©Public Domain

Download free sheet music for this hymn (PDF), including a guitar chord chart and an arrangement of the hymn tune CONTRAST for classical guitar.

If you have never attended a Founders Conference and experienced the rich fellowship and teaching of God’s Word, don’t miss the opportunity this fall to join us. We will be meeting October 3–5 at South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee for the 2017 National Founders Conference on the theme: Reformation Truth: Now and Forever.

Find more Hymns from History

Centering on Jesus in Worship

Look to the Cross

When you think about worship, what comes to mind? What do you look for in a worship service? What do you enjoy most? What makes a service rich and meaningful? When you think about the gathered worship of the church—what do you find most delightful and memorable?

There are many wonderful things about our times of worship: the fellowship we share together, opportunities we have to encourage one another, the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, the times of corporate prayer and intercession, the biblical preaching and teaching of God’s Word. But as needful and as meaningful as these elements can be, they are not the chief joy and end of our worship. We sing and preach and pray and engage in these elements as a means to another end.

So what is that end?

I want to propose to you—

The end that is our great delight in worship is Jesus Christ Himself!
His Person, His Work, and His glory!

We can have preaching and singing—even good preaching and good singing. We can have praying and fellowship—heart-felt prayers and sweet-caring fellowship, but if we miss Christ, we miss worship. If we lose sight of Christ and His glory, our attempts at worship may sound good and look good and feel good, but they will be empty and vain.

What we need most in worship is to center on Christ— to look for Him, to pursue Him, to see Him, to embrace Him and to commune with Him.

[Continue reading this sermon from John 12:20–26]

Sunlight in the Valley

Christian: But did you meet nobody else in that valley?

Faithful: No, not I; for I had sunshine all the rest of the way through that, and also through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Christian: It was well for you. I am sure it fared far otherwise with me. I had for a long season, as soon almost as I entered into that valley, a dreadful combat with that foul fiend Apollyon; yea, I thought verily he would have killed me, especially when he got me down and crushed me under him, as if he would have crushed me to pieces; for as he threw me, my sword flew out of my hand; nay, he told me he was sure of me: but I cried to God, and he heard me, and delivered me out of all my troubles. Then I entered into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and had no light for almost half the way through it. I thought I should have been killed there, over and over; but at last day broke, and the sun rose, and I went through that which was behind with far more ease and quiet.

Through the ValleyAs Faithful concludes the account of his journey through the two valleys, we see again the difference between Christian’s experience and Faithful’s experience. Faithful did not succumb to the same fears and temptations as Christian. For Christian the way was difficult and dark. He battled Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation and was confounded with torments and terrors in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Faithful encountered Discontent and Shame in the first valley, but “had sunshine all the rest of the way through” even through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Sunlight is an important metaphor in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Earlier in the story, when Christian was in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Bunyan described the rising of the sun as “mercy” to Christian. This mercy was a reflection of Bunyan’s own experience. In Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners Bunyan tells of a dream that he had when he was beginning to understand his need of salvation. The dream provided him ideas he later used to create the story of The Pilgrim’s Progress. In his account of the dream, he explains the significance of the sun.

About this time, the state and happiness of these poor people at Bedford was thus, in a dream or vision, represented to me. I saw, as if they were set on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow and dark clouds. Methought, also, betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did compass about this mountain; now, through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass; concluding, that if I could, I would go even into the very midst of them and there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun.

About this wall I thought myself, to go again and again, still prying as I went, to see if I could find some way or passage, by which I might enter therein; but none could I find for some time. At last I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little doorway in the way, through which I attempted to pass; but the passage being very straight and narrow, I made many efforts to get in, but all in vain, even until I was well-nigh quite beat out, by striving to get in. At last, with great striving, methought I at first did get in my head, and after that, by a sidling striving, my shoulders, and my whole body. Then I was exceeding glad, and went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun.

Now, this mountain and wall, etc., was thus made out to me—the mountain signified the church of the living God; the sun that shone thereon, the comfortable shining of His merciful face on them that were therein. The wall, I thought, was the Word, that did make separation between the Christians and the world; and the gap which was in this wall, I thought was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father (John 14:6; Matthew 7:14). But forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow, that I could not, but with great difficulty, enter in thereat, it showed me that none could enter into life, but those that were in downright earnest, and unless they left this wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul, and sin.

[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 53-55]

The sunlight represents the merciful face of Christ shining down on the members of the church in Bedford. They were comforted and refreshed while Bunyan was “shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow and dark clouds.” It was only when Bunyan repented of sin and looked to Christ as his only hope that he was able to join them and be “comforted with the light and heat of their sun.” In The Pilgrim’s Progress it was the light of day that comforted Christian when he neared the end of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. When “at last day broke” he walked “with far more ease and quiet.”

As Bunyan notes, the sun gives both light and heat. The light signifies our understanding of God’s Word. We can see and think more clearly in the light of Scripture. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Christian was confounded and needed the helpful rays of truth on his path. But when the sun arose, it was not just Christian’s mind that was helped. He had not just light but also heat and warmth. His emotions and affections were lifted with the smiling face of Christ. God’s Word was precious to him. He delighted in truth. Christian had forsaken the world to become a pilgrim, a follower of Christ. He was rescued and redeemed, cleansed and forgiven. He belonged to the Lord and now enjoyed the warmth of His presence.

Does hearing and believing God’s Word impact you this way?

Do the promises of the gospel warm your heart and stir your soul? We need truth to do more than just satisfy us intellectually. We need it to do more than just answer our questions. When the truth of all that Christ has done for us truly lands on us, it will do more than simply make us wise to salvation. It will warm and rejoice our hearts. It will stir and overflow our affections. It will move us and grip us in ways that resonate through our entire being. It will cause us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Luke 10:27).
If you know Christ, I pray that this describes your love for God and His Word—that your deepest delight is trusting and resting in Him. And if you don’t know Him, I pray that you will come to know Him this way—that you would understand the depth of His love in the light of His Word and feel the warmth of that love in His abiding presence—that you would know, as Bunyan came to know, “the comfortable shining of His merciful face.”

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24–26)

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Run in with Discontent

Christian: But pray tell me, did you meet nobody in the Valley of Humility?

Faithful: Yes, I met with one Discontent, who would willingly have persuaded me to go back again with him; his reason was, for that the valley was altogether without honor. He told me, moreover, that there to go was the way to disobey all my friends, as Pride, Arrogancy, Self-Conceit, Worldly-Glory, with others, who he knew, as he said, would be very much offended, if I made such a fool of myself as to wade through this valley.

Christian: Well, and how did you answer him?

Faithful: I told him, that although all these that he named might claim kindred of me, and that rightly, for indeed they were my relations according to the flesh; yet since I became a pilgrim, they have disowned me, as I also have rejected them; and therefore they were to me now no more than if they had never been of my lineage.

I told him, moreover, that as to this valley, he had quite misrepresented the thing; for before honor is humility, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Therefore, said I, I had rather go through this valley to the honor that was so accounted by the wisest, than choose that which he esteemed most worthy our affections.

Faithful now begins to describe his experience in the Valley of Humiliation. This valley is where Christian fought and defeated Apollyon. Faithful, however, meets another foe. He encounters Discontent, who tries to persuade him to go back and not attempt to cross the valley.

The purpose of the Valley of Humiliation is to help us see the depth of our sin against God and the greatness of our need for salvation. God brings us to the valley for our good, to prune away our pride, to humble us and to increase our love for Christ. Both Christian and Faithful had to confront their pride in this valley. We saw earlier in the allegory that Christian was prone to think too highly of himself. He was pleased with his progress and desirous of reward and recognition. He let slip from his mind the reality that his progress thus far was by God’s grace alone. And so when he went down into the Valley of Humiliation, his pride gave him the “slips.”

DiscontentFaithful, however was not as far along as he had hoped. He had been slowed and wearied by his struggles on Hill Difficulty. Now he was even more resolved to move ahead. He did not even stop at Palace Beautiful for the benefit of his own soul and others. Instead of seeking refreshment and assistance, he pressed on to gain more ground. Now as he descends into the valley, he is tempted to be dissatisfied with his progress. And so he is joined by an unwelcome companion, “one Discontent.”

Discontent tries to convince Faithful that the way of humility will be ruinous to his reputation. He will be scorned and ridiculed by the world. Discontent would have him give up and go back rather than appear weak and admit his need for grace and help. But Faithful, because of his recent trials, knew afresh of the mercies of God. When he was fallen on the Hill, he was raised up in the strength of the Lord. He now has his eyes on glory and has an answer to fend off discontentment.

Faithful tells Discontent that at one time he was indeed friends with Pride, Arrogancy, Self-Conceit and Worldly-Glory. These friends represent the world’s way of finding contentment and satisfaction. The world measures contentment by what we think of ourselves and by what others think of us. It finds humility to be demeaning and foolish. In the world’s eyes we can only be satisfied when we look good to ourselves and to others, not when we admit ourselves to be needy or down trodden.

When Faithful followed Christ, his former friends disowned him, and he rejected them. Faithful chose to be like Christ who “made Himself of no reputation” and took “the form of a bondservant.” Jesus came “in the likeness of men” and “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7–8). Faithful chose to believe God’s Word rather than the advice of his friends. He quotes from Proverbs where God warns against pride and commends humility.

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:18)

Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty,
And before honor is humility.
(Proverbs 18:12)

A man’s pride will bring him low,
But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
(Proverbs 29:23)

God will bring down the proud, but will save the humble.

For You will save the humble people,
But will bring down haughty looks.
(Psalm 18:27)

God will destroy the slanderer, but His eye is on the faithful.

Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor,
Him I will destroy;
The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart,
Him I will not endure.
My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land,
That they may dwell with me;
He who walks in a perfect way,
He shall serve me.
(Psalm 101:5–6)

Discontent can be a pesky companion. We invite his company when we are tempted to find our joy and satisfaction in something or someone other than Christ. Discontent seeks out those who reject Christ and those who try to find fulfillment in the things of this world. But he also finds those who attempt to follow Christ with wrong expectations and misplaced desires.

If you come to Christ with the expectation that being a Christian will solve all the problems in your marriage, or make you successful in your job, or give you prosperity and privilege in this life, then you can expect to have Discontent as your frequent companion. Why? Because Christ never promises that your marriage will be free from troubles, or that you will be rewarded in your business, or that you will achieve affluence and ease in this world. In fact, following Christ often brings more suffering and trials in this life. God uses our troubles and difficulties to sanctify us and draw us closer to Him. We need the strength and mercies of God every day and every moment, but we are prone to forget and trust too much in ourselves. Our trials and troubles humble us and graciously remind us of our need for a Savior. They prevent us from making the terrible mistake of believing we can make it through this life on our own.

Paul understood that true contentment is not found in our expectations being met or circumstances going our way; it is only found in Christ. The way to shake off Discontent is to anchor our satisfaction in Him alone. Paul learned to be content regardless of his condition or circumstances. He tells the church in Philippi:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:10–13).

People, possessions, plans and pursuits will all disappoint us in the end. Only Christ truly satisfies. Paul testified:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7–8).

If we have Christ, we have all we need. Our song will be:

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah, Jesus is my life!
(from “All I Have Is Christ” by Jordan Kauflin)

If we understand that having Christ is more valuable than anything this life can offer, and that an eternity with Him makes it worth enduring all the pain and suffering and hardship this life can set in our way, then we will find true contentment. We will know as Paul did how to be abased and how to abound. This life is only a vapor; eternity is forever. Faithful understood that he was on a pilgrimage to the Celestial City. The only smile and favor he desired was that of his Lord.

I cannot be poor if I am in Christ
In Him I am full and abound
Though everything else should all pass away
I’m rich if in Him I am found

It is enough that I am in Christ
Enough that His mercy I see
It is enough that I taste of His grace
Enough that His love has found me

Pursue not this world, its wisdom and ways
Contentment eludes those who try
For all in this world is fading away
And soon will all wither and die

It is enough that I am in Christ
Enough that His mercy I see
It is enough that I taste of His grace
Enough that His love has found me
(from “It Is Enough” by Ken Puls)

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Gathered Now We Come to Worship

Gathered now, we come to worship,
Hearts united, singing praise!
We would look to Jesus only,
Letting none distract our gaze.
May we offer music fitting
For the worship of our King.
Let us foremost seek His pleasure
As our voices join to sing.

Worship is not about our efforts, our pursuits, or our offerings. Worship centers on the glory and majesty of Christ Jesus. This hymn is a meditation on 2 Corinthians 4:5 “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”

Check out the lyric video on youtube:

And download the music from band camp:

Click here to download lyrics and free sheet music: including song sheet, chord chart and music arranged for classical guitar.

—Ken Puls

 

In Spirit and In Truth

In Spirit and In Truth

What is most important to you when you worship God? If you were to list those things that are really essential for you to participate in worship, what would they be? Is it a certain style of preaching? Is it a certain translation or version of the Bible? Is it a certain type of music? Is it a sense of reverence and awe? Is it a sense of excitement and praise? Of course it is important to be intentional and thoughtful about reading and preaching God’s Word. We should be careful and purposeful about our praying and singing. We want to respond to God in ways that are biblical and appropriate.

But worship is more than the external elements we engage in. It is more than the outward actions that occupy so much of our concern. In John 4:1-26 Jesus points us to something much deeper at the heart of worship.

The context of this passage may seem at first to be somewhat unusual for a discussion about worship. Jesus is passing through Samaria on His way to Galilee and He stops at Jacob’s well for a drink. There He encounters a women from Samaria and He draws her into a conversation by asking her to give Him a drink.

Read more sermon notes from “In Spirit and In Truth” (from the series “Thoughts on Worship”) delivered at Grace Baptist Church, May 17, 2015.

Listen online at Grace

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Find Out What Is Pleasing to the Lord

Pleasing to the Lord

In Ephesians 5:10 Paul exhorts us to “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (ESV).

This verse is rendered different ways in our English translations of the Bible:

And find out what pleases the Lord… (NIV)
Proving what is well-pleasing to the Lord (ASV)
…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (NASB)
…finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. (NKJV)

The NRSV recasts the verse as a command:

Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. (NRSV)

The word for discern is a word that means “to prove, to find out or to test.” The word for pleasing means “acceptable or satisfying.” We are to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. In other words, we are to prove or seek out what is acceptable or satisfying to the Lord.

Trying to discern what is pleasing to the Lord is a primary pursuit for those who would follow Christ. If we know what pleases God, from the light and testimony of His Word, we will have a strong foundation for our lives. We will have a right focus that will keep us centered and on the right path. If we learn what is pleasing to God, we will find ultimate pleasure and purpose for ourselves. We were made for God. We were made to please Him.

So ask yourself:

What is it that pleases God?
What is it that brings Him delight?

In a recent Bible Study, I sought to provide some answers to these questions: 12 things that God delights in, according to His Word. The list is not exhaustive, but it highlights from the Bible what God has revealed about what gives Him pleasure and joy.

You can read / download the study here:
Find Out What Is Pleasing to the Lord

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