Tag Archives: Gospel

Joined by Hopeful

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul often mentioned and gave thanks for fellow-labors.

In Thessalonica:

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

In Rome:

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

In Philippi:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pressing On We Journey

Seek the Light

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

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

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

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

Pressing On, We Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

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

Find More Hymns and Song

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

My Soul What Truth Consoles You?

Light on the Path

Last month we had the privilege at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral of hearing from Conrad Mbewe. On New Year’s Day 2017 Dr. Mbewe, who serves as Pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, preached a message from John 3:16 entitled “God’s Indescribable Love.” He encouraged us to begin the new year with our souls “anchored deep” in the unfailing love of God in Christ.

Sometimes the verses we think we know best are the ones we can learn from the most. That is certainly true of John 3:16. Anytime we are under the preaching of God’s Word, we need to listen intently, and even more so when the passage is familiar and we think we know what the preacher is going to say. Scripture is an inestimable and inexhaustible treasure. We need to hear it expectantly (even parts we think we know) and let it dwell in us “richly” (Colossians 3:16).

This hymn is my reflection on the verse and the message. The love of God that He has given us in His Son is a sure fortress that shelters us through every storm and trial.

My Soul What Truth Consoles You?

For God so loved the world,
that he gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16)

My soul, what truth consoles you?
For hope, where can you run?
For God so loved the world that
He gave His only Son,
And everyone believing,
Though wrecked by sin and strife,
In Him can never perish,
But have eternal life.

My soul, when life confounds you,
Look up to Christ above!
The floods of fear can’t reach to
The heights of His great love.
If clouds around me darken,
I know I will endure,
For I have life eternal;
In Christ I rest secure.

So come, my soul, and worship,
Give praise to God and sing!
There is no firmer promise
To which you now can cling.
Through every storm and trial,
My soul He’ll safely keep.
Within the love of Jesus,
My soul is anchored deep.

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn.

Download a free Lyric Print (PDF) of the words to this hymn.

More Hymns and Songs

Send the Law Before the Gospel

Light on Mountain

I have many books in my library that I value and return to often. Books I especially value are ones that have helped me understand and apply God’s Word. The book that first helped me grasp the vital connection between the Law and the Gospel is Walt Chantry’s God’s Righteous Kingdom (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1980). While reading the book, I was intrigued by the use of the Law in evangelism, as it serves along side the Gospel. It is the Law that exposes our sin and shows us our great need of a Savior. We need to taste the bad news (“for the wages of sin is death”) so we can savor the sweetness of the good news (“but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” —Romans 6:23). God has called us to preach both Law and Gospel:

Our Lord predicted a surge of evangelistic power when the Spirit would come. “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). Next to communion with God and worship of his name, nothing will hold a greater interest for children of the kingdom than this amazing work of the Spirit in transforming souls. In the task of bringing men into the kingdom, the moral law and the gospel are the two major instruments in the arsenal of the Spirit” (God’s Righteous Kingdom, 89–90).

When I first read God’s Righteous Kingdom, I sought to summarize the content of the book in a hymn. I wrote the hymn 30 years ago on November 7, 1986 as an expression of praise for the uses of the Law in the life of a believer.

Send the Law before the Gospel,
Shine the Light revealing sin!
Men will see they need a Savior
As their hearts are bared within.
Weep you sinners under judgement;
See yourself before God’s Law!
Full deserving condemnation,
Dread the wrath of God in awe.

Come you sinners and take comfort,
You convicted and dismayed,
For God’s love is only sown in
Furrows that His Law has made.
Come you sinners, look to Jesus!
He’s fulfilled the Law’s demands.
Christ will turn your dread and sorrow
Into love for God’s commands.

Praise to God for such instruction,
Sent to show us our great need.
We must place our hope in Jesus
And in Him we shall be freed.
O believer, be encouraged!
Christ died suff’ring in our place;
Bore the sins of all His children,
That we shall come unto grace.

On the cross was Christ afflicted,
There endur’d the wrath of God.
Now the Law no more condemns us,
Satisfied by His shed blood.
God has set His Law before us;
Let His Word be our delight!
As we travel unto glory,
Persevering in His light.

God has given His commandments;
They shall never pass away.
On our hearts His Spirit writes them,
That we can through grace obey.
May His Law forever guide us
In the paths of righteousness,
As we seek His will most holy,
All our efforts He shall bless!

Words ©1987 Ken Puls
Listen to this hymn and download free sheet music.

Read more on the Founders Blog:
Hymns and God’s Law as a Rule of Life
Hymns and God’s Law as a Tutor to Christ

Fragile Jars of Clay

Treasure in Jars of Clay

This past week I enjoyed attending and leading the music at the Southern Baptist Founders Conference Southwest at Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas. While at the conference I had the opportunity to finish writing a hymn. The idea for the hymn came earlier this year in a sermon series through the book of 2 Corinthians entitled “Gospel Power in Human Weakness” preached by Dr. Tom Ascol at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida.

As the church we are called to go and proclaim to the world the hope we have in Jesus. But we live in a world of darkness, blind and in bondage to sin. We face powerful foes and seemingly overwhelming odds against us. How can we press on in ministry and mission?

Paul offers encouragement and an answer to that question:

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus ‘sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).

Though we are weak and frail—fragile jars of clay, God has placed in us the treasure of the gospel that He might display His sovereign, “surpassing power” to save.

Fragile Jars of Clay

1. A mission lies before us
To go and to proclaim
The hope we have in Jesus,
The glory of His name
The faint and weak He’s chosen
His power to display
By placing gospel treasure
In fragile jars of clay.

2. With such a task before us,
How can we stand and fight
Against the powers of evil
That rage at all that’s right?
God strengthens us with armor;
Calls us to wield His Word.
We boldly preach His gospel;
The outcome is assured.

3. So great the work before us
To shine the gospel light
Into a world in darkness,
Unto the dead of night.
But God has saving power
To give the blind their sight,
For He dispels the darkness
And says, “Let there be light!”

4. The labor hard before us,
The battle rages long.
Alone we cannot bear it;
Our foes are much too strong.
But God has chosen weakness,
The feeble and the frail.
He lifts us up in power
To conquer and prevail.

5. This mission now before us,
We gladly will obey,
Though we be unassuming,
Frail, fragile jars of clay.
For great the precious treasure
Our God has placed within,
His pow’r alone can save us,
The battle He must win.

Words ©2016 Ken Puls
Download a lyric sheet and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune LLANGLOFFAN for classical guitar.

The Promise of Suffering

Christian: Then Christian thanked him for his exhortation; but told him, withal, that they would have him speak further to them for their help the rest of the way, and the rather, for that they well knew that he was a prophet, and could tell them of things that might happen unto them, and also how they might resist and overcome them. To which request Faithful also consented. So Evangelist began as follows:

Evangelist: My sons, you have heard, in the words of the truth of the gospel, that you must, through many tribulations, enter into the kingdom of heaven. And, again, that in every city bonds and afflictions abide in you; and therefore you cannot expect that you should go long on your pilgrimage without them, in some sort or other. You have found something of the truth of these testimonies upon you already, and more will immediately follow; for now, as you see, you are almost out of this wilderness, and therefore you will soon come into a town that you will by and by see before you; and in that town you will be hardly beset with enemies, who will strain hard but they will kill you; and be you sure that one or both of you must seal the testimony which you hold, with blood; but be you faithful unto death, and the King will give you a crown of life.

He that shall die there, although his death will be unnatural, and his pain perhaps great, he will yet have the better of his fellow; not only because he will be arrived at the Celestial City soonest, but because he will escape many miseries that the other will meet with in the rest of his journey. But when you are come to the town, and shall find fulfilled what I have here related, then remember your friend, and quit yourselves like men, and commit the keeping of your souls to your God in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

Evangelist Christian and Faithful

Both Christian and Faithful benefited from the return of Evangelist. They were encouraged by his wise counsel and grateful for his exhortation. Earlier in the story, when receiving instruction at the House of the Interpreter, Christian was too eager to resume his journey. More than once the Interpreter bid him to stay and learn more. Now Christian is more mature in his faith. He knows the Way can be hard and he values godly instruction. Before continuing on, he desires to hear more from Evangelist. He desires to be as prepared as possible for the troubles and trials that lie ahead.

Evangelist continues his instruction by once again speaking “the words of the truth of the gospel.” He points the pilgrims to God’s and does not hide from them the seriousness of the dangers they are about to face. He quotes the words of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14 acknowledging the promise of suffering to those who would follow Christ:

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21–22).

Paul was well acquainted with suffering, yet willing to endure “chains and tribulations” for the sake of the gospel.

And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:22–24).

Paul understood that having Christ is more valuable than anything this world has to offer.

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 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8–11).

Because of the grace of God manifest in Christ, Paul was able not just to endure, but to “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4).

Jesus willingly endured suffering on the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul, with his hope firmly anchored in Christ, had a glimpse of that joy:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

The writer of Hebrews echoes this hope writing to Christians who “endured a great struggle with sufferings” and “were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations” (Hebrews 10:32–33). Yet they “joyfully accepted the plundering” of their earthly possessions, knowing that they had “an enduring possession” in heaven (10:34).

Christian and Faithful now need a full measure of this hope and confidence. Evangelist’s words foreshadow what is to come. The pilgrims are preparing to enter a city where they will face temptation and severe persecution. One of them will seal his testimony with his blood and will die a martyr. Evangelist tells that one that he must be faithful unto death and the King will give him a crown of life.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

Evangelist encourages them not to fear or lose heart, but to “quit yourselves like men” (be brave):

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 13:16, KJV).
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong (1 Corinthians 13:16).

And he exhorts them to entrust themselves to God who indeed made them and sustains them:

Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19).

In Christ we have all we need to endure the tribulations of this life. Jesus Himself said:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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 ©2016 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

A Meeting with Evangelist

Thus they went on talking of what they had seen by the way, and so made that way easy which would otherwise, no doubt, have been tedious to them; for now they went through a wilderness.

Now, when they were got almost quite out of this wilderness, Faithful chanced to cast his eye back, and espied one coming after them, and he knew him. Oh! said Faithful to his brother, who comes yonder? Then Christian looked, and said, It is my good friend Evangelist. Ay, and my good friend too, said Faithful, for it was he that set me in the way to the gate. Now was Evangelist come up to them, and thus saluted them:

Evangelist: Peace be with you, dearly beloved; and peace be to your helpers.

Christian: Welcome, welcome, my good Evangelist, the sight of your countenance brings to my remembrance your ancient kindness and unwearied laboring for my eternal good.

Faithful: And a thousand times welcome, said good Faithful. Thy company, O sweet Evangelist, how desirable it is to us poor pilgrims!

Evangelist: Then said Evangelist, How has it fared with you, my friends, since the time of our last parting? What have you met with, and how have you behaved yourselves?

Then Christian and Faithful told him of all things that had happened to them in the way; and how, and with what difficulty, they had arrived at that place.

Evangelist: Right glad am I, said Evangelist, not that you have met with trials, but that you have been victors; and for that you have, notwithstanding many weaknesses, continued in the way to this very day.

I say, right glad am I of this thing, and that for mine own sake and yours. I have sowed, and you have reaped: and the day is coming, when both he that sowed and they that reaped shall rejoice together; that is, if you hold out: “for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not.” The crown is before you, and it is an incorruptible one; so run, that you may obtain it. Some there be that set out for this crown, and, after they have gone far for it, another comes in, and takes it from them. Hold fast, therefore, that you have; let no man take your crown. You are not yet out of the gun-shot of the devil; you have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin; let the kingdom be always before you, and believe steadfastly concerning things that are invisible. Let nothing that is on this side the other world get within you; and, above all, look well to your own hearts, and to the lusts thereof, “for they are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Set your faces like a flint; you have all power in heaven and earth on your side.

After the departure of Talkative, Christian and Faithful continue their journey together. Their pathway now takes them “through a wilderness.” Bunyan began the story with the words “as I walked through the wilderness of this world.” The wilderness represents the world in which we live, especially in its opposition and rejection of God. It is a place fraught with danger, dryness and desolation, as the pilgrims are soon again to discover. They press on by walking together and encouraging one another. Christian learned at the Little Ascent, where he first saw Faithful, the value of Christian fellowship. That fellowship now serves to invigorate them and make the way easy where it may have been tedious.

Christian Faithful and EvangelistAs Christian and Faithful near the end of the wilderness, they see a friend coming after them. Both recognize him as Evangelist. Evangelist has appeared twice before in Bunyan’s allegory: at the beginning where he pointed Christian to the Gate, and at Mount Sinai where he admonished Christian for heeding the voice of Worldly Wiseman and straying from the Way. Evangelist was instrumental in sharing the gospel with both Christian and Faithful. Now he returns to see how they are doing in the journey.

Evangelist addresses them as “dearly beloved.” His words of greeting come from 1 Chronicles 12:8 where Amasai greets David, saying: “Peace, peace to you, and peace to your helpers! For your God helps you.”

Both Christian and Faithful are delighted to see him. They welcome him as a friend and are grateful for his ministry and care for their souls. They readily share with him an account of their journey. As Evangelist listens to their stories, he rejoices, not because they have walked through dark trials, but because they have been victorious through trials and have persevered. Despite many weaknesses, they have “continued in the way to this very day.”

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).

He is grateful to see lasting fruit from his labors:

“And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:36).

And once again he points the pilgrims to Christ and to His Word. He brings them encouragement, exhortation and warning from the Scriptures.

He tells them to “hold out” and not faint, for in due time they will reap a reward:

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).

He speaks of an incorruptible crown and encourages them to run the race to win the prize:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27).

He tells them to “hold fast” and “let no man take your crown” (stand firm and not give into the fear of man):

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).

He warns them that they must continue to resist the devil (Ephesians 6:10–13; James 4:7) and fight against sin (Romans 6:11–14). They must seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 7:33) and aim for what is invisible (spiritual and eternal), rather than what is visible (worldly and temporal; 2 Corinthians 4:18). They are to keep themselves unstained from the world (James 1:27) and guard their hearts from temptations. For “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9).

He urges them to “set your faces like a flint” (press on with determination):

“For the Lord God will help Me;
Therefore I will not be disgraced;
Therefore I have set My face like a flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.”
(Isaiah 50:7)

For all power and authority are on their side:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:18–20).

Bunyan teaches us at least three lessons about what it means to be an Evangelist:

An Evangelist has an abiding commitment to the ministry of the gospel. Christian remembers Evangelist’s earlier kindness and his “unwearied laboring” for the good of pilgrims. We see aspects of Evangelist’s work throughout the story: pointing pilgrims to the way of life, reproving and correcting them when they wander from the way, and now fortifying them to remain faithful to the way. He is ever serving the cause of Christ.

An Evangelist has an abiding concern for souls. Evangelism is not simply sharing Christ, putting a notch in your belt and moving on. It is loving people, investing time and energy and resources for the sake of others. It is following up when possible with discipleship and encouragement. It is caring deeply about the spiritual well-being of people. Evangelist is not content to point Christian and Faithful in the right direction and then forget them. His desire is to see them win the race and complete their journey. And so he continues to serve them to that end.

An Evangelist has an abiding confidence in God’s Word. Evangelist doesn’t offer his own advice or ideas. He knows that there is but one message that pilgrims need to hear and heed. Christian and Faithful are soon to face fierce temptation and trial. Evangelist speaks God’s Word to them faithfully and unashamedly. He knows that God will do all He has promised He will do and so he proclaims that Word with boldness.

From this encounter, we can also learn from Christian and Faithful’s example. They are delighted when Evangelist comes to them. They welcome his counsel and are attentive to his concern. May God make us continually grateful for those who care for our souls and have invested their labors for our spiritual well-being.

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 ©2016 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

No Greater Passion

No Greater Passion

This past Sunday Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Dr. Tom Ascol serving as pastor. I have had the privilege of serving with Tom and leading music at Grace since 2003. As part of the celebration I wrote a new song  with the help of Becca Sissons entitled “No Greater Passion.”

The chorus of the song has words very familiar to our church family. Pastor Tom has taught us to remember that the gospel is all about Jesus: “Who He is, what He’s done, and why it matters.”

The idea for the verses came from another pastor, whose words Tom borrowed as an encouragement to our church. Inspired by Spurgeon’s first words at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, these were the first words that Pastor Tom spoke from the pulpit when we began meeting in our new building on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012:

This building has been prepared to serve the advance of the gospel here in Southwest Florida and around the world. Because of that I propose that the theme of all the preaching and teaching that will come from this platform shall be the person and work of Jesus Christ. We believe many things in this church. We love the law of God and delight in it because it is not only right but it is good. We love the great doctrines that are revealed in the Bible, especially those wonderful doctrines of God’s sovereign grace in salvation. But if asked what is our creed our answer must now and forever be, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” The one message that we have to proclaim to our community is simply this: “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” His life, death and resurrection is our joy and our passion.

No Greater Passion

“For I decided to know nothing among you except
Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

We have no greater passion,
No greater joy we own;
No other cause so great unites us
Than making Jesus known.
We have one simple message
That Jesus came to save;
To rescue dead and helpless sinners,
His life He freely gave.

Let our lives and our lips
Declare the gospel.
All praise to Christ we give!
Who He is, what He’s done,
And why it matters,
He’s the reason that we live.

We have no other answer,
When asked about our creed.
It’s Christ alone, His love compels us
To reach a world in need.
We have a great commission
To preach His Word to all,
At home, abroad and to hard places,
Wherever He may call.

Let our lives and our lips
Declare the gospel.
All praise to Christ we give!
Who He is, what He’s done,
And why it matters,
He’s the reason that we live.

We have no other refuge;
“To whom Lord shall we go?”
In You alone is life eternal,
No other hope we know.
We have one sure foundation
That can’t be overthrown.
We’re anchored firm in Christ our Savior,
Our Rock, our Cornerstone.

Let our lives and our lips
Declare the gospel.
All praise to Christ we give!
Who He is, what He’s done,
And why it matters,
He’s the reason that we live.

No other passion,
No other creed,
No other refuge,
This we believe.
No other passion
No other creed,
He’s the reason that we live.

Words by Ken Puls; Music by Ken Puls and Rebecca Sissons
©2016 Kenneth Puls and Rebecca Sissons

You can hear a recording of the song from our evening service on June 5, 2016:

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

—Ken Puls

And Can It Be?

Amazing Love

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all, the Immortal dies:
Who can explore this strange design?
In vain the first born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above.
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all! Immense and free!
For O my God it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown through Christ my own.

Words by Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Download a transcription of this hymn for classical guitar (PDF sheet music) to the tune SAGINA.

More hymn tunes for classical guitar
More music for classical guitar