Tag Archives: saving grace

Hopeful’s Testimony Part 7 Coming to Christ

Christian: And did you do as you were bidden?

Hopeful: Yes; over, and over, and over.

Christian: And did the Father reveal his Son to you?

Hopeful: Not at the first, nor second, nor third, nor fourth, nor fifth; no, nor at the sixth time neither.

Christian: What did you do then?

Hopeful: What! why I could not tell what to do.

Christian: Had you not thoughts of leaving off praying?

Hopeful: Yes; an hundred times twice told.

Christian: And what was the reason you did not?

Hopeful: I believed that that was true which had been told me, to wit, that without the righteousness of this Christ, all the world could not save me; and therefore, thought I with myself, if I leave off I die, and I can but die at the throne of grace. And withal, this came into my mind, “Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” So I continued praying until the Father showed me his Son.

Christian: And how was he revealed unto you?

Hopeful: I did not see him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of my understanding; and thus it was: One day I was very sad, I think sadder than at any one time in my life, and this sadness was through a fresh sight of the greatness and vileness of my sins. And as I was then looking for nothing but hell, and the everlasting damnation of my soul, suddenly, as I thought, I saw the Lord Jesus Christ look down from heaven upon me, and saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

But I replied, Lord, I am a great, a very great sinner. And he answered, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Then I said, But, Lord, what is believing? And then I saw from that saying, “He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst”, that believing and coming was all one; and that he that came, that is, ran out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ. Then the water stood in mine eyes, and I asked further. But, Lord, may such a great sinner as I am be indeed accepted of thee, and be saved by thee? And I heard him say, “And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Then I said, But how, Lord, must I consider of thee in my coming to thee, that my faith may be placed aright upon thee? Then he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” “He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” “He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.” “He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” “He is mediator betwixt God and us.” “He ever lives to make intercession for us.” From all which I gathered, that I must look for righteousness in his person, and for satisfaction for my sins by his blood; that what he did in obedience to his Father’s law, and in submitting to the penalty thereof, was not for himself, but for him that will accept it for his salvation, and be thankful. And now was my heart full of joy, mine eyes full of tears, and mine affections running over with love to the name, people, and ways of Jesus Christ.

Christian: This was a revelation of Christ to your soul indeed; but tell me particularly what effect this had upon your spirit.

Hopeful: It made me see that all the world, notwithstanding all the righteousness thereof, is in a state of condemnation. It made me see that God the Father, though he be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. It made me greatly ashamed of the vileness of my former life, and confounded me with the sense of mine own ignorance; for there never came thought into my heart before now that showed me so the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life, and long to do something for the honor and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus; yea, I thought that had I now a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus.

Come to Christ

When Hopeful heard the gospel invitation, he responded as Faithful encouraged him to do. He prayed and sought God for understanding and mercy. But Hopeful confessed that he was not successful at first. Though his prayers were sincere, his coming to Christ was a struggle. He faced many obstacles. His life condemned him. His sins filled him with guilt. Fears and doubts clouded his mind. He still lived in the midst of Vanity and the town Fair sought to lure him back. Temptations bludgeoned him with guilt as fiercely as his sin. Even his pride turned against him, convincing him that his sin was so great and so vile that God would never want him.

These obstacles continue to hinder people from coming to Christ. The enemy of our souls would discourage, distract, oppress, oppose—anything to keep us away from the mercies and kindness of God in the gospel. Each obstacle offers another excuse to delay.

  • I would come to Christ, but I still have unanswered questions.
  • I would come to Christ, but there are statements in the Bible that I just don’t like.
  • I would come to Christ, but I just don’t have time to attend church.
  • I would come to Christ, but I need to get my life straightened out first.
  • I would come to Christ, but I don’t think God would save me. You just don’t know the terrible things I’ve done.

Hopeful prayed and sought relief many times before he truly laid hold of Christ in the gospel. His experience is similar to Christian’s who, upon arriving at the Wicket Gate, “knocked therefore more than once or twice” and when seeking instruction to find relief from his burden, “knocked over and over” at the House of the Interpreter.

So, what brought Hopeful finally to a saving knowledge of Christ?

How was Christ revealed to Him? Take note of three observations from Hopeful’s testimony.

1. God opened the eyes of his understanding.

Hopeful said: “I did not see him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of my understanding.”

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:17–19).

Salvation is not automatic. It is not easily dispensed as if grace were a refreshing soft drink and God were a vending machine. Salvation is a sovereign work of grace that turns the darkness of our hearts to light, the enchantment of our sins to dread, and the “foolishness” of the gospel to “words of life.”

2. The Word of God took root in his heart and mind.

Coming to Christ is the Lord opening the heart (Acts 16:14) as the Spirit of God powerfully wields the Word of God that we might understand, heed, and obey. To be set free from the bondage of sin, we must know the truth.

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).

God’s Word is truth.

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).

And God’s Word points us to Christ.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6).

It Is clear from Hopeful’s testimony that his thinking was saturated with God’s Word. When he was distressed and despondent, truths from Scripture came to his mind. He had a deep sense of his guilt and sinfulness. But promise after promise melted his chains and freed him to pursue Christ. When he was tempted to stop praying, the words of Habakkuk 2 came to his mind:

Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.
“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.
(Habakkuk 2:2–4)

When he grieved over “the greatness and vileness” of his sin and looked for “nothing but hell” and “everlasting damnation,” he remembered the answer Paul and Silas gave to the Philippian jailer’s question:

And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30–31).

And when he thought himself to be too great a sinner, he remembered the words Jesus gave to Paul:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

This was Bunyan’s own experience as recorded in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

Therefore I still did pray to God, that he would come in with this Scripture more fully on my heart; to wit, that he would help me to apply the whole sentence, ‘for as yet I could not: that he gave, I gathered; but further I could not go,’ for as yet it only helped me to hope ‘there might be mercy for me,’ “My grace is sufficient”; and though it came no farther, it answered my former question; to wit, that there was hope; yet, because “for thee” was left out, I was not contented, but prayed to God for that also. Wherefore, one day as I was in a meeting of God’s people, full of sadness and terror, for my fears again were strong upon me; and as I was now thinking my soul was never the better, but my case most sad and fearful, these words did, with great power, suddenly break in upon me, “My grace is sufficient for thee, my grace is sufficient for thee, my grace is sufficient for thee,” three times together; and, oh! methought that every word as a mighty word unto me; as my, and grace, and sufficient, and for thee; they were then, and sometimes are still, far bigger than others be.

At which time my understanding was so enlightened, that I was as though I had seen the Lord Jesus look down from heaven through the tiles upon me, and direct these words unto me. This sent me mourning home, it broke my heart, and filled me full of joy, and laid me low as the dust; only it stayed not long with me, I mean in this glory and refreshing comfort, yet it continued with me for several weeks, and did encourage me to hope. But so soon as that powerful operation of it was taken off my heart, that other about Esau returned upon me as before; so my soul did hang as in a pair of scales again, sometimes up and sometimes down, now in peace, and anon again in terror.

[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 206–207]

As Hopeful struggled, many more verses of Scripture came to his mind and turned his thoughts to Christ.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:35).

But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:36–37).

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification (Romans 5:25).

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:5).

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:24–25).

It was the promises of God’s Word that revealed Christ to Hopeful. Hopeful saw in Scripture “the beauty of Jesus Christ.”Christ alone can “save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him.”

3. He gave up hope in himself and believed God’s Word that Christ is the only hope of salvation for sinners.

Hopeful finally laid hold of the hope found in Christ when he gave up all hope in himself. He realized that if he were to be saved, Christ and Christ alone must save him. He could offer no righteousness of his own. He had nowhere else to turn. He was justly condemned to die for his sins. He was determined to come to Christ or die trying. And so, he continued praying, pleading at the throne of grace.

To come to Christ, all Hopeful had to “do” was believe. He finally understood “that believing and coming was all one; and that he that came, that is, ran out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ.”

Coming to Christ is not something that we can earn by doing enough good things to convince God that we are serious. It is not something we can merit by saying prayers, serving in ministry, or attending church. It is not saying the right things, doing the right things, or having the right experiences. Coming to Christ is simply believing. It is realizing that you are a needy sinner and fleeing to Him for mercy and grace. It is trusting Christ, resting in Him—anchoring yourself in Him as your only true haven and refuge.

When Hopeful understood the truth of God’s Word concerning salvation in Christ, it changed his view of the world. The world no longer held the same allure and attraction. It could no longer hold captive his affections. He realized the dazzle of Vanity Fair was but a facade that masked it vileness and emptiness. Christ now claimed his heart and affections. He found true joy in knowing and loving Christ, who “while we were still sinners” died for us (Romans 5:8), not in pursuing the fleeting pleasures of the world. He found his greatest satisfaction in the pursuit of holiness out of a heart of gratitude for all Christ had done for him, not in the pursuit of fame, or riches, or worldly success.

What then can we do to come to a saving knowledge of Christ?

What are we to do if, like Hopeful, our sins seem too vile and our attempts to seek God’s mercy seem unsuccessful or unanswered?

1. Don’t give up praying. God is the One who opens hearts. He is the One who gives understanding. So pray and ask that He grant it to you “over and over and over.” If you “leave off” praying, you will die. So, resolve to stay at the throne of grace for as long as it takes.

2. Don’t give up reading and hearing God’s Word. If you desire to receive understanding from God, if your desire is to find His mercy and grace, then go to where He speaks. God speaks in His Word. If you desire to hear God’s voice, then don’t neglect God’s Word! Read His Word, study His Word, sit under the preaching of His Word—and pray as you do so, that He will help you understand and come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

3. Don’t look at your sin without looking to Christ. Be honest in confessing and owning your sin. Believe what the Bible says about the vileness of sin and the judgment due sin. But don’t think long about sin without remembering the glories of Christ. If you honestly assess your sin without accessing the mercies of God in Christ, you will most certainly fall victim to Despair. You will be beaten down with fears and imprisoned in doubts. If you try evaluating your heart without turning your ear to God’s Word, you will miss the truth—you will miss Christ. Christ is the only One who can make you free (John 8:32, 36). He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Listen to the wise counsel of Robert Murray M’Cheyne and heed his words.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9. Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!

(from Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne(Edinburgh, 1894)

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 ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Faithful Explains Saving Grace

Faithful: A work of grace in the soul discovers itself, either to him that has it, or to standers by.

To him that has it thus: It gives him conviction of sin, especially of the defilement of his nature and the sin of unbelief, (for the sake of which he is sure to be damned, if he does not find mercy at God’s hand, by faith in Jesus Christ). This sight and sense of things works in him sorrow and shame for sin; he finds, moreover, revealed in him the Savior of the world, and the absolute necessity of closing with him for life, at the which he finds hungerings and thirstings after him; to which hungerings, and etc., the promise is made. Now, according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Savior, so is his joy and peace, so is his love to holiness, so are his desires to know him more, and also to serve him in this world. But though I say it discovers itself thus unto him, yet it is but seldom that he is able to conclude that this is a work of grace; because his corruptions now, and his abused reason, make his mind to misjudge in this matter; therefore, in him that has this work, there is required a very sound judgment before he can, with steadiness, conclude that this is a work of grace.

To others, it is thus discovered:

1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ.

2. By a life answerable to that confession; to wit, a life of holiness, heart-holiness, family-holiness, (if he has a family), and by conversation-holiness in the world which, in the general, teaches him, inwardly, to abhor his sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family and to promote holiness in the world; not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection, in faith and love, to the power of the Word. And now, Sir, as to this brief description of the work of grace, and also the discovery of it, if you have aught to object, object. If not, then give me leave to propound to you a second question.

Talkative: Nay, my part is not now to object, but to hear; let me, therefore, have your second question.

Faithful: It is this: Do you experience this first part of this description of it? and does your life and conversation testify the same? Or does your religion stand in word or in tongue, and not in deed and truth? Pray, if you incline to answer me in this, say no more than you know the God above will say Amen to; and also nothing but what your conscience can justify you in; for not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. Besides, to say I am thus and thus, when my conversation, and all my neighbors, tell me I lie, is great wickedness.

In the last post Faithful confronted Talkative and attempted to engage him in a serious conversation about his soul. Talkative is dangerously deceived. He professes to follow Christ and knows a lot of doctrine, but his life betrays his profession. Now Faithful presses him with truth and tries to help him see the deception. Faithful’s counsel to Talkative is insightful. He not only clearly explains truth; he makes an urgent appeal to apply truth.

Open Bible

Faithful had raised the question: What are the evidences of saving grace in the heart? How do we know that “God has begun a good work” in us (Philippians 1:6)? Talkative answered, “a great outcry against sin” and “great knowledge of gospel mysteries.” But saving grace compels us to do more than just denounce sin with our words and delight in truth with our minds. True saving grace causes a change of heart that is made evident in a changed life.

Faithful explains that saving grace in the heart is evident both to the person in whom that grace is at work and to those around him.

To the person who has saving grace:

1. He feels the weight of his sin. The Spirit works in his heart convicting him “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He grieves over his sin and is convinced of the certainty of impending judgment due his sin. He believes God’s Word that “he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). He senses his great need for rescue and relief. He cries out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24) and with David, “For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin” (Psalm 38:18).

2. He turns away from sin and looks to Christ for hope and forgiveness. He repents and believes in Christ alone to save Him. He has no hope in himself or in any other. Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). He believes God’s Word and trusts in the promises given to us in Christ in the gospel. We are “justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law” (Galatians 2:16).

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11–13).

3. He has a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Saving grace changes his desires. He learns to love what God loves and hate what God hates. He desires to live a life pleasing to God. He pursues holiness and obedience to the Word of God.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

“And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6).

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

4. He finds his joy and peace in knowing Christ and living for Him. He is humbled and grateful for all Christ has done for him. He is indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in his heart to produce fruits of righteousness and break old patterns of sin. His life is no longer marked by selfishness and vain ambition. His joy and delight is to serve the Lord.

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:17–18).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–25).

“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).

Saving grace is evident to the person who has it, though he may not always be able to discern these evidences because of the ongoing struggle with remaining sin. This is one reason why we need others to walk with us in the Christian life—to help us see how far we have come, to encourage us along the way, and continue to exhort us to press on, flee from sin and follow Christ.

Saving grace is evident to others around the one in whom that grace is at work:

1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ. Others will be able to observe the person and see that the bent of his life is in line with what he is professing. They won’t just hear words confessing faith in Christ, they will see the fruits of that confession borne out in a changed life.

2. By a life answerable to that confession. Others will see his life and hold him accountable. They will pray for him and encourage him. He will live before God, himself and others with integrity and humility. Beginning in the privacy of his own heart, he will seek to live a life of holiness, fleeing from sin and resting in Christ. Salvation is more than speaking true words. It involves both mouth and heart. It is a confession with the lips and a transformation of the heart.

“… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9–10).

His change of heart will be made visible in a changed life. His faith in Christ will be evident in his relationships in the home (with his family) and in the world. His love for Christ will be manifest in his choices and conduct before others.

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27).

“If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

“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” (Matthew 5:19).

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God”
(Psalm 50:23)

True saving grace is made evident not just in our words but in our walk. In salvation we are both justified and sanctified.

We are justified—we are declared righteous. In Christ we are completely forgiven and perfected forever. He has taken our sin upon Himself and paid our debt on the cross, so that we may no longer fear condemnation. He has given us His righteousness, so that when God looks upon us, He sees not a sinner, but a son and a daughter, adopted and brought into His family.

And we are also sanctified—we are given a desire for obedience and delight in God’s Law. We love to walk in His ways. We are conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The result of justification is a decree by God that we are made righteous. That decree is made in the courts of heaven and is unseen. But the result of sanctification is a changed life that can be seen by all.

Faithful is diligent to teach Talkative the Word of God and give him a more accurate understanding of what it means to be saved by grace. But he is not satisfied with simply explaining the truth. Were the conversation to consist of mere explanation, Talkative would be quite content. But Faithful presses him with application by raising a second question. He asks him plainly, Is this your experience? Does your life and conduct fit your talk and confession? Is your religion in word and tongue only, or is it in deed and truth? He implores Talkative to be honest.

If we are to help others truly understand and lay hold of truth, we must not stop short, content with mere explanation. We must drive for application. Faithful calls Talkative to account. In the next post we will see how Talkative responds.

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.