Affected by Truth

Shout to the Lord!

Truth has not captured us until it has conquered heart, mind, soul and body.

It is certainly true that truth must lay hold of our minds—that we must grasp the truth and understand it, as God is pleased to give us light. But we should never be satisfied just to see truth take root in our thinking—just to revel in understanding. God intends to conquer every part of us with His truth. And His conquest of our being is borne out in our affections, thoughts, choices and obedience.

Calvin asks the question in his Institutes:

“But how can the mind be aroused to taste the divine goodness without at the same time being wholly kindled to love God in return? For truly, that abundant sweetness which God has stored up for those who fear Him cannot be known without at the same time powerfully moving us. And once anyone has been moved by it, it utterly ravishes him and draws him to itself.”
—Calvin [Institutes 3.2.41]

It is not enough just to acknowledge truth in our minds or even just go through the motions of outward obedience with our bodies—God is concerned with our hearts. We need truth to penetrate us, capturing our will and laying hold of our affections—changing, sanctifying and delighting our whole being.

And so, when we come to worship, we should come expecting God to work in us—to change us, to affect us. We should come praying for understanding—and we should come, as well, praying that God would give us wisdom to make good choices, give us the courage and motivation to obey Him, and give us the passion that will captivate our hearts and keep us fixed upon Him in loving devotion.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “Engaging the Emotions in Worship” in the series Thoughts on Worship. You can read the full sermon text here.]

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

Faithful Confronts Talkative

Faithful: What would you have me to do?

Christian: Why, go to him, and enter into some serious discourse about the power of religion; and ask him plainly (when he has approved of it, for that he will) whether this thing be set up in his heart, house, or conversation.

Faithful: Then Faithful stepped forward again, and said to Talkative, Come, what cheer? How is it now?

Talkative: Thank you, well. I thought we should have had a great deal of talk by this time.

Faithful: Well, if you will, we will fall to it now; and since you left it with me to state the question, let it be this: How does the saving grace of God discover itself when it is in the heart of man?

Talkative: I perceive, then, that our talk must be about the power of things. Well, it is a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you. And take my answer in brief, thus: First, Where the grace of God is in the heart, it causes there a great outcry against sin. Secondly—

Faithful: Nay, hold, let us consider of one at once. I think you should rather say, It shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin.

Talkative: Why, what difference is there between crying out against, and abhorring of sin?

Faithful: Oh, a great deal. A man may cry out against sin of policy, but he cannot abhor it, but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the heart, house, and conversation. Joseph’s mistress cried out with a loud voice, as if she had been very holy; but she would willingly, notwithstanding that, have committed uncleanness with him. Some cry out against sin even as the mother cries out against her child in her lap, when she calls it a bad and naughty girl, and then falls to hugging and kissing it.

Talkative: You lie at the catch, I perceive.

Faithful: No, not I; I am only for setting things right. But what is the second thing whereby you would prove a discovery of a work of grace in the heart?

Talkative: Great knowledge of gospel mysteries.

Faithful: This sign should have been first; but first or last, it is also false; for knowledge, great knowledge, may be obtained in the mysteries of the gospel, and yet no work of grace in the soul. Yea, if a man has all knowledge, he may yet be nothing, and so consequently be no child of God. When Christ said, “Do you know all these things?” and the disciples had answered, Yes; he adds, “Blessed are you if you do them.” He does not lay the blessing in the knowing of them, but in the doing of them. For there is a knowledge that is not attended with doing: He that knows his masters will, and does not do it. A man may know like an angel, and yet be no Christian, therefore your sign of it is not true. Indeed, to know is a thing that pleases talkers and boasters, but to do is that which pleases God. Not that the heart can be good without knowledge; for without that, the heart is naught. There is, therefore, knowledge and knowledge. Knowledge that rests in the bare speculation of things; and knowledge that is accompanied with the grace of faith and love; which puts a man upon doing even the will of God from the heart: the first of these will serve the talker; but without the other the true Christian is not content. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”

Talkative: You lie at the catch again; this is not for edification.

Faithful: Well, if you please, propound another sign how this work of grace discovers itself where it is.

Talkative: Not I, for I see we shall not agree.

Faithful: Well, if you will not, will you give me leave to do it?

Talkative: You may use your liberty.

Faithful Confronts TalkativeAfter hearing the truth about Talkative and listening to Christian explain the fallacy of Talkative’s thinking, Faithful can no longer esteem Talkative as a “brave companion.” Talkative’s words have a shallow ring and Faithful has grown weary of his company. But Faithful makes one last effort, taking Christian’s advice to “go to him and enter into some serious discourse.”

Talkative is at first eager. He was ready to jump into a conversation when Faithful first greeted him. As they begin, Faithful chooses the question—the one suggested by Christian: What are the evidences of saving grace in the heart? Talkative hints that it is not the question he would have chosen, but he gives a reply. With each of his answers Faithful offers correction:

1. Talkative suggests first that grace is evident in the heart when there is a great outcry against sin. Faithful corrects him. It is not enough just to speak out against sin and decry it. We must hate it and flee from it. Talkative fails to see the difference between denouncing sin and disowning sin, so Faithful illustrates his point: First he gives an example from Scripture: Potiphar’s wife cried out with indignation against Joseph (Genesis 39:15). Her pleas sounded righteous, but her words were feigned. She still harbored sin in her heart. Second, Faithful uses a simile: Those who coddle sin in their lives while condemning it with their words treat sin as a mother treats a small child: they embrace it, adore it and nurture it, until it causes trouble or embarrassment; then they speak up and scold it.

2. Talkative’s second evidence is “great knowledge of gospel mysteries.” Faithful tells him that this evidence should have been mentioned first, but it is also false. It is possible to know much about the gospel and the things of God, “yet be nothing, and so consequently be no child of God.”

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–2).

Faithful points to Jesus words to His disciples: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17). It is not enough to know truth if our knowledge “rests in the bare speculation of things.” We need knowledge that compels us to obedience, “knowledge that is accompanied with the grace of faith and love; which puts a man upon doing even the will of God from the heart.” Faithful concludes with the resolve of the psalmist to be a doer of the Word:

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
(Psalm 119:34)

So what can we learn from Faithful’s attempt to engage Talkative in a serious conversation? Faithful’s confrontation with Talkative highlights two important needs in the Christian journey:

1. We need to be willing to offer correction and reproof, even when it might not be received well.

Faithful made the effort to confront Talkative, even though he suspected that Talkative might not listen. He was willing to have a hard conversation when a more pleasant conversation would have been easier. Why did he do it? Why stir up contention? After all, Talkative knows a great deal. He is professing to be a pilgrim; he is on the pathway of pilgrims; he loves to talk with pilgrims about the things of God. Faithful confronts him because his soul is in danger. Talkative is professing a love for truth while holding on to sin. He knows truth intellectually, but his life does not show evidence of a changed heart. It would have been easy for Faithful to simply walk away and leave Talkative to his own ideas, or just keep to polite conversation and resist pressing him with truth. But eternity is at stake; it would not be kind or loving to allow Talkative to continue in error and deception. Faithful is willing to engage him. God may yet “touch his heart, and turn it.”

2. We need to be willing to receive correction and reproof without becoming suspicious or defensive.

Sadly, as Christian and Faithful expected, Talkative does not receive correction well. When Faithful points out his errors, he become defensive and suspicious. Twice he accuses Faithful of trying to trap him with words, saying, “You lie at the catch.” Though Faithful tells him, “I am only for setting things right” (showing him the truth and encouraging him to walk in it), Talkative’s retreat to contention makes it hard for Faithful to help him.

If we are to benefit from walking together in Christ we must be willing to engage others for the sake of their souls. We need to watch out for one another and encourage one another in the pursuit of holiness. And we must be humble and open to others who will speak truth to us in love. We need to be accountable to one another and invite correction and reproof without taking offense at those who are kind enough to give it.

Talkative resists Faithful’s attempts to correct him. He claims the conversation “is not for edification.” When asked to give another evidence for the work of grace, he refuses, saying: “Not I, for I see we shall not agree.” Faithful then offers to provide an answer to the question. In the next post we will hear Faithful’s instruction as he explains the nature of saving grace.

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.