Tag Archives: Sovereignty

Salvation Is of Our Lord!

Sunrise over ocean waves

Here is another hymn from my archives. According to my journal, I composed my 2nd hymn 34 years ago (September 1985) as “a call to worship proclaiming God’s sovereignty in salvation as well as in creation.” The title is taken from the prayer recorded in the 2nd chapter of Jonah. In this prayer Jonah says: “Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God (2:6)” At the end of the prayer in verse 9 he declares: “Salvation is of the Lord.” 

Salvation Is of Our Lord!

But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.
(Jonah 2:9)

1. We, Your children, praise You, Father,
And receive Your love outpour’d.
We proclaim this truth in wonder:
Salvation is of our Lord!

2. We were sinners lost in darkness,
Bound to death by sin’s strong cord.
Your free grace has wrought our freedom;
Salvation is of our Lord!

3. We, Your saints beforehand chosen,
Called of God, by You adored,
Given part in Christ’s atonement;
Salvation is of our Lord!

4. Guide us, Father, as we worship,
Join our hearts in one accord.
Joyfully we sing before You:
Salvation is of our Lord!

Words ©1987, 2019 Kenneth Puls

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

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

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Ignorance and Divine Calling

Hopeful: Ask him if ever he had Christ revealed to him from heaven.

Ignorance: What! you are a man for revelations! I believe that what both you, and all the rest of you, say about that matter, is but the fruit of distracted brains.

Hopeful: Why, man! Christ is so hid in God from the natural apprehensions of the flesh, that he cannot by any man be savingly known, unless God the Father reveals him to them.

Ignorance: That is your faith, but not mine; yet mine, I doubt not, is as good as yours, though I have not in my head so many whimsies as you.

Christian: Give me leave to put in a word. You ought not so slightly to speak of this matter; for this I will boldly affirm, even as my good companion hath done, that no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father; yea, and faith too, by which the soul lays hold upon Christ, if it be right, must be wrought by the exceeding greatness of his mighty power; the working of which faith, I perceive, poor Ignorance, you are ignorant of. Be awakened, then, see your own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, for he himself is God, you shall be delivered from condemnation.

Ignorance: You go so fast, I cannot keep pace with you. Do you go on before; I must stay a while behind.

Then they said:

Well, Ignorance, wilt thou yet foolish be,
To slight good counsel, ten times given thee?
And if thou yet refuse it, thou shalt know,
Ere long, the evil of thy doing so.
Remember, man, in time, stoop, do not fear;
Good counsel taken well, saves: therefore hear.
But if thou yet shalt slight it, thou wilt be
The loser, (Ignorance), I’ll warrant thee.

Christian and Hopeful speak with Ignorance

Ignorance was gravely mistaken in his understanding of justification—how he can be made right with God. But his error extends further to divine calling—how he is able to respond to the gospel and come to Christ in the first place.

For Ignorance, it is no wonder that he is a pilgrim on his way to the Celestial City, for he fails to see the true wonder and amazement of salvation.

Ignorance believes himself to be a man of intellect and reason, capable of setting his own course and making his own choices in regard to following and serving Christ. For him religion is a personal choice—a choice he was wise enough to make.

Hopeful encourages Christian to ask Ignorance if God had ever opened his heart so he could understand the gospel and know Christ savingly. Ignorance thinks such a notion is whimsical and “the fruit of distracted brains.” How can these pilgrims question his devotion or doubt his salvation? See how far he was walked in the Way! He believes in God and wants to go to heaven. He is a religious man who acknowledges the goodness of Christ. He is trying to follow Christ and live according to God’s Law. What need does he have for “revelations”? He has already made it his goal to one day reach the Celestial City.

Ignorance’s error is once again rooted in his underestimation of his sin. He believes he is basically good and has never felt the weight of his sin. He denies that he is blinded by sin or in bondage to sin. His sin, as he compares it to others, is light, so he is perfectly capable of making amends. His religious devotion, blessed by Christ, more than makes up for any wrongs he has done.

Though Ignorance is confident that his faith is “as good as” Hopeful’s, Scripture teaches otherwise. Apart from God’s grace, we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We would remain ensnared “in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” and be under God’s condemnation as “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), “BUT” for “God, who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4).

God must open the heart if we are to heed His Word (Acts 16:14). God must give light if we are to escape darkness.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Only God can draw us to Himself and grant us salvation in Christ.

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 6:37).

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).

And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:65).

We need the power of God’s Spirit if we are to come to Christ and submit to Him as Lord.

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

We need the power of God’s Spirit to open the eyes of our understanding. Paul prays in Ephesians 1:

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).

It is the gracious power of God that calls us, draws us, and saves us. It is not our works—including our own good sense, intellect, or reason. It is all of God—

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Timothy 1:9).

God alone can save us and He alone receives the glory.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).

Apart from the grace of God, we will continue to walk in ignorance.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17–18).

Christian tells Ignorance plainly that “no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father.” Only God can give sight to the blind, light to those in darkness, and life to those who were once “dead in trespasses and sins.” Yet Christian then calls Ignorance to repent and come to Christ: “Be awakened, then, see your own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, for he himself is God, you shall be delivered from condemnation.” Here Christian echoes Matthew 11 where Jesus prays in verses 25–27:

 “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:25–27).

Jesus affirms in His prayer that the truth of the gospel is hidden to some and revealed to others. God must open the eyes of our understanding if we are to find rest in Christ. But He follows His prayer with a consoling call to repentance and faith.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

Here we see the glorious union of two essential truths: the sovereignty of God (He must give us understanding) and the responsibility of man (we must come to Christ). In Christian’s counsel to Ignorance, Bunyan points us to both truths. We must give God all the glory, for He alone saves. And we must ever plead with men to repent and believe in Christ, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

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 ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Right Thoughts About God

Ignorance: What are good thoughts concerning God?

Christian: Even as I have said concerning ourselves, when our thoughts of God do agree with what the Word says of him; and that is, when we think of his being and attributes as the Word has taught, of which I cannot now discourse at large; but to speak of him with reference to us: Then we have right thoughts of God, when we think that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; when we think he knows our inmost thoughts, and that our heart, with all its depths, is always open unto his eyes; also, when we think that all our righteousness stinks in his nostrils, and that, therefore, he cannot abide to see us stand before him in any confidence, even in all our best performances.

Word of God

Ignorance was hindered from coming to faith in Christ because he did not believe the truth about himself. His heart was darkened by sin. His life was in defiance of God’s Law. He was a justly condemned sinner in need of God’s grace and mercy. But he simply could not believe that his heart was that bad. His heart told him so!

If we are to rightly understand ourselves, we must measure ourselves according to God’s Word. This is true of what we believe about ourselves and it is true of what we believe about God. Having good thoughts about God is not necessarily thinking highly of Him or hoping that He will answer our prayers just as we desire. We are not free to imagine God as we want Him to be. He is not defined by our feelings, our felt needs, or our own sense of justice. If we are to know God truly, we must know Him as He as revealed Himself in His Word.

Consider for a moment some of what the Bible says is true about God.

God is solitary. He alone is God; there is none like Him.

Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
(Exodus 15:11)

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
(Psalm 18:31)

Now see that I, even I, am He,
And there is no God besides Me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.
(Deuteronomy 32:39)

No one is holy like the Lord,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
(1 Samuel 2:2)

God is holy. He alone is perfect, pure, and righteous.

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.
(Revelation 15:4)

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16).

And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

Because He is holy, He hates sin and He will judge sin.

God is a just judge,
And God is angry with the wicked every day.
(Psalm 7:11)

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.
The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;
You hate all workers of iniquity.
(Psalm 5:4–5)

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:5–6)

God is supreme. He is above all things; He is first and primary. Nothing is greater; nothing is higher. Nothing is more vital or more important.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.
(1 Chronicles 29:11)

“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)

God is omniscient. He knows all thing. He knows everything about us down to the smallest detail. Nothing can be hidden from God. Nothing can surprise Him or catch Him off guard.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
(Psalm 139:1–3)

Known to God from eternity are all His works (Acts 15:18).

God is sovereign. He rules over all things. He is LORD and King. He directs all things and “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases
(Psalm 115:3)

Whatever the Lord pleases He does,
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places.
(Psalm 135:6)

God is immutable. He never changes.

For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
(Malachi 3:6)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).

His Word is certain.

Forever, O Lord,
Your word is settled in heaven.
(Psalm 119:89)

His plans are certain.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations
And His love is everlasting.
(Psalm 33:11)

And His love is everlasting.

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
(Jeremiah 31:3)

God is good. He always does what is right and just.

He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
(Psalm 33:5)

For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
(Psalm 100:5)

God is merciful and gracious. He has provided a way of hope, forgiveness, and life in Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who 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).

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4–5).

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

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
(Psalm 86:15)

These are only a few of God’s attributes revealed to us in Scripture (see The Attributes of God by Arthur W. Pink, 1975 for an excellent study on what the Bible teaches about God).

Ignorance thought he knew God. But he was not thinking “good thoughts concerning God.” His concept of God was shaped by his experience and imagination. Christian affirms that the only way to think rightly about God is to “think of his being and attributes as the Word has taught.”

The problem with Ignorance is not that he is dispassionate or indolent. He is devout and has walked a long way on his journey. He is intent on going to the Celestial City. He has not been dissuaded to turn aside or turn back. It’s not that he is openly rebellious or intentionally deceptive. He is sincere in what he believes. He is earnest in his conversation with Christian. His problem is the standard by which he walks. As he grapples to understand life, God, and the world around him, he looks to his heart rather than God’s Word. He has made himself the standard and believes what he wants to believe. Where Scripture affirms his fancies, he heartily agrees with it. But where Scripture confronts his notions, he readily ignores it. It is his unwillingness to submit to God in His Word that has bound him to walk in Ignorance.

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.

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.

Be Still and Know That Thou Art God

Still Waters

A prayer for those facing suffering and affliction.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
(Psalm 46:10)

Let me, Thou sovereign Lord of all,
Low at Thy footstool humbly fall;
And while I feel affliction’s rod,
Be still and know that Thou art God.

Let me not murmur nor repine
Under these trying strokes of Thine;
But while I walk the mournful road
Be still and know that Thou art God.

When and wherever Thou shall smite,
Teach me to own Thy sovereign right;
And underneath the heaviest load,
Be still and know that Thou are God.

Still let this truth support my mind,
Thou canst not err or be unkind;
And thus approve Thy chastening rod,
And know Thou art my Father, God!

When this afflicted soul shall rise
To ceaseless joys above the skies,
I shall, as ransomed by Thy blood,
Forever sing, “Thou art my God!”

Amen.

“Be Still and Know That Thou Art God”
Words by Samuel Medley (1738–1799)
Music by Tom Wells, 2001
Words ©Public Domain
Music ©2001 Tom Wells (Used by Permission)

Tom Wells (Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas) composed the tune for this hymn. Download free sheet music (PDF), including a guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune TROUT for classical guitar.

More Hymns from History

More hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

 

The Death of Faithful

They therefore brought him out, to do with him according to their law; and, first, they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; after that, they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords; and, last of all, they burned him to ashes at the stake. Thus came Faithful to his end.

Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses, waiting for Faithful, who (so soon as his adversaries had despatched him) was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate.

Brave FAITHFUL, bravely done in word and deed;
Judge, witnesses, and jury have, instead
Of overcoming thee, but shown their rage:
When they are dead, you’ll live from age to age.

But as for Christian, he had some respite, and was remanded back to prison. So he there remained for a space; but He that overrules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it about, that Christian for that time escaped them, and went his way. And as he went, he sang, saying—

Well, Faithful, you have faithfully professed,
Unto thy Lord; with whom you shall be blest,
When faithless ones, with all their vain delights,
Are crying out under their hellish plights:
Sing, Faithful, sing, and let your name survive;
For though they kill’d you, you are yet alive!

Death of Faithful

Earlier in the allegory Evangelist had foretold that one of the pilgrims would be martyred in the town of Vanity. Now, at the trial’s end, Faithful is cruelly put to death. Bunyan describes Faithful’s death in a manner familiar to his readers. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was first published in 1563 and was widely known; Bunyan had a copy of the book, along with his Bible, in his prison cell.

Bunyan begins with a physical description of Faithful’s martyrdom. His words point us to Scripture. Hebrews 11 speaks of many who “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (verse 13).

“… Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy…” (Hebrews 11:35–38).

Bunyan also alludes to Jesus’ death. Jesus was scourged before he was delivered to be crucified (Matthew 27:26). Pilate delivered Jesus to the Jews to be judged according to their law.

Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law” (John 18:31.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7).

The cruelty of Faithful’s death is dreadful. If all we saw were the events in the town of Vanity, it would seem that Faithful came to a horrible end. But Bunyan does not just give us a physical description. He takes us behind the veil of apparent tragedy and shows us the glory of spiritual reality. Behind the crowd that came to gawk at Faithful’s demise was a chariot and horses waiting to take Faithful at once to the Celestial City. He is carried up through the clouds with the sound of a trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) in a manner resembling Elijah’s departure from Elisha in the Old Testament:

“Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11).

Faithful is lovingly ushered to the very gates of the Celestial City while Christian remains behind to eventually press on in the Way.

This account of the true end of Faithful’s life on earth offers three important lessons:

1. God regards the death of His saints as precious.

God cares for us in life and He will care for us in death. Even if our death comes in way that seems sudden, unexpected, tragic, painful, unjust or cruel, we can trust that God will enfold us in His love and safely bring us home.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.”
(Psalm 116:15)

2. For the saints of God, death is gain.

Paul concluded: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He said that while he saw the need to labor for the gospel, he had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Departing is to “be with Christ.” Paul reasoned that to be “at home in the body” is to be “absent from the Lord,” but to be “absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6–8). This is what Jesus promised to the repentant thief on the cross: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). It is this promise that emboldened Evangelist to tell the pilgrims that the one who would die at Vanity Fair would “have the better of his fellow.” Though Faithful died painfully and soonest, he escaped the ongoing toil and dangers of the journey and was soonest to enjoy the immediate presence of Christ.

3. God is sovereign over life and death.

God has sovereignly determined the number of our days as well as the occasion and circumstances of our death. Death is by God’s sovereign decree and will not come a moment before His predetermined will.

Why did Faithful have to die, but Christian escaped? How could God permit such agony for one while sparing the other? This is a great mystery, but we can trust that God, “who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32), is working for the good of both in a way that will bring Him the greatest glory. The Lord holds the king’s heart in His hand (Proverbs 21:1)—and even the hearts of a cruel judge and jury. One pilgrim is delivered to death, faithful to the end, as a testimony of the supreme value of life in Christ. The other is released to press on in the faith as an encouragement and hope for others. And God, who “overrules all things” is glorified by both.

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

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

A Hymn for the New Year

Eternal God Exalted

God is always faithful and He is always with us. He is ever with us, not just in space: wherever we may go. He is with us in all of time: our past, our present, our future—with us every moment! We can rest in Him and trust Him as He works out His good purposes.

The heart of man plans his way,
But the Lord establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9)

Eternal God Exalted

1. Eternal God exalted
Above both time and space;
You hold my life completely,
A trophy of Your grace.
Both time and space a canvas,
You craft all history
To show Your grace and power
Through eternity.

2. You planned before creation
My birth and life and death;
In mercy and in kindness
You give me every breath.
You’re everywhere in fullness,
Wherever I may go;
And all my days and moments
All at once You know.

3. Each day Your Word sustains me,
Your Spirit guides and leads;
You never will forsake me,
Your grace is all I need.
For time is but a teacher,
A patient means of grace
That I might learn to trust You,
Ever seek Your face.

4. I need not fear the future
For You’re already there;
And in the past You’ve brought me
Through every trial and care.
In every present moment
You faithfully are near;
So help me now to trust You,
Cast away all fear.

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

A Crescendo of Praise

Crescendo Wave

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
(Psalm 97:1)

True worship is centered on God. We see this in Psalm 97 from the very first verse. We are to be glad and rejoice. Our God reigns! Our Lord is Sovereign over all. This knowledge should season every thought and flavor every prayer!

Notice that Psalm 97 begins with praise. The psalmist lifts his voice with confidence and joy starting with the very first verse. Not all the psalms begin this way. Many open with cries of distress or sorrow. The psalmist is afflicted, persecuted, facing suffering or weighed down by trials. In these circumstances, as the psalmist pours out his heart before God, you will find petitions, prayers and laments. But as you read the psalms, you will also discover that the focus doesn’t remain on the problems and difficulties and trials. Over and over throughout the psalms, the concern of the psalmist turns from his petitions and laments to God’s glory and praise.

Look, for example at Psalm 13. David begins the psalm in desperation:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
(Psalms 13:1-4)

But then David turns his thoughts to God’s love and there is a noticeable shift:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalms 13:5-6)

Do you see the change in David’s focus as the psalm begins compared to how the psalm ends? As he meditates and remembers the God to whom he is praying, his heart is turned from sorrow to praise!

In fact, if you read through the entire book of Psalms, you will see a noticeable shift in its content. Early in the Psalter you find many petitions and laments, but as you grow closer to the end of the book, the petitions and laments grow fewer and fewer until from Psalm 145 to the end there is pure praise. The Psalms culminate in a crescendo of praise that builds to the last verse (Psalm 150:6) and resounds in the final command: “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

The Book of Psalms begins with a blessing. Psalm 1 tells us that we are blessed when we turn away from sin and evil, and we delight in the Law of God and meditate upon His Word day and night. Those who know God—know His name, His character, His promises, His salvation—those who delight in Him will be:

… like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Psalms 1:3)

The remainder of the Book of Psalms is a glorious testimony that this promise is true. In every distress and storm where the psalmist feared that he would wither or fall, when the psalmist looked to God and trusted in God and clung to God’s revelation of His character and promises and will, when he was confident that God would accomplish His purposes, then his focus turned from petition and lament to praise and rejoicing.

This is why Psalms is called in Hebrew a Book of Praises (Sepher Tehillium).

This has great implications for our worship today. If our desire is to have worship that honors God and enriches, encourages, and nourishes our souls, our greatest need to stop focusing on ourselves and remember God.

Think of this when we gather together for worship on the Lord’s Day. Think of this when we come together for prayer on Wednesday nights. As you voice your concerns and share your heart, honestly confess your difficulties and struggles, tell God your sorrows and troubles, but don’t stay there! Look to God! Our God reigns! Let your words dwell upon Him!

[This excerpt is from a sermon on Psalm 97 entitled “The God We Worship.” You can read the full sermon text here.]

More Sermons and Articles

O Sovereign God, How Great Your Grace

Hymn1

Thirty years ago I made my first endeavor writing a hymn. It  was prompted by two significant events that God brought into my life in 1985. During that year I began serving God in the music ministry, and as a result, was introduced to the Doctrines of Grace.

On February 10, 1985 I was called as Music Minister at Raven Oaks Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska (the name of the church was later changed to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church). During the morning worship service on that day, Pastor Bill Lollar preached from Ephesians 2:8–9 as part of a series of messages on “The Greatest Verses in the Bible.” Bill’s preaching, along with a Wednesday night study through the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith that spring, challenged and deepened my understanding of God’s Word. Bill also encouraged me to read Loraine Boettner’s book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. After reading Boettner’s book in May and June, I wrote the hymn and shared it with the church on June 23, 1985. It was a celebration of the truths I was learning and a milestone that would set the course of my ministry.