A Pleasant River

I saw, then, that they went on their way to a pleasant river; which David the king called “the river of God”, but John, “the river of the water of life.” Now their way lay just upon the bank of the river; here, therefore, Christian and his companion walked with great delight; they drank also of the water of the river, which was pleasant, and enlivening to their weary spirits: besides, on the banks of this river, on either side, were green trees, that bore all manner of fruit; and the leaves of the trees were good for medicine; with the fruit of these trees they were also much delighted; and the leaves they eat to prevent surfeits, and other diseases that are incident to those that heat their blood by travels. On either side of the river was also a meadow, curiously beautified with lilies, and it was green all the year long. In this meadow they lay down, and slept; for here they might lie down safely. When they awoke, they gathered again of the fruit of the trees, and drank again of the water of the river, and then lay down again to sleep. Thus they did several days and nights. Then they sang—

Behold ye how these crystal streams do glide,
To comfort pilgrims by the highway side;
The meadows green, beside their fragrant smell,
Yield dainties for them; and he that can tell
What pleasant fruit, yea, leaves, these trees do yield,
Will soon sell all, that he may buy this field.

So when they were disposed to go on, (for they were not, as yet, at their journey’s end,) they ate and drank, and departed.

A Pleasant River

After Christian and Hopeful ponder the meaning of the pillar of salt, warning them to guard their hearts and flee from sin, they come to the bank of a pleasant river. This is more of God’s gracious provision for His pilgrims. God is faithful, not only to warn us of His wrath against sin, but to comfort us with His mercies in Christ. His Word not only implores us: “Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die…?” (Ezekiel 33:11); but also, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The river represents the peace and joy that God abundantly supplies us in Christ. It is the assurance and delight that refreshes and revives our hearts as we meditate on the riches God has given us in His Son. It is through Christ alone that we can draw near to God and enjoy His presence.

We see all through the Scriptures this pleasant river pointing us to Christ.

In Genesis 2 a river flows from the place where God communes with man—the Garden of Eden:

“Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads” (Genesis 2:10).

In Psalm 65 King David sings of the Temple where God manifested His presence in the Old Testament:

Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.
(Psalm 65:4)

Later in the psalm he rejoices in the “river of God” as evidence of God’s gracious care for His people:

You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
(Psalm 65:9)

The people of God can rest in safety on the banks of this river.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
(Psalm 23:1–2)

The firstborn of the poor will feed,
And the needy will lie down in safety;
I will kill your roots with famine,
And it will slay your remnant.
(Isaiah 14:30)

Bunyan draws much of his imagery of the river and its banks from Ezekiel, where the river flows from the Temple.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side.

And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river.

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:1–12).

This vision is repeated by the apostle John as he describes the “river of water of life” flowing from the throne of God in the final chapter of Revelation:

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1–2).

Here is Christ with His people, “the tabernacle of God is with men” (Revelation 21:3). In Bunyan’s story, Christian and Hopeful are not yet at the Celestial City, but their meditation on the beauty and glory of Christ are a taste of heaven on earth.

It is Jesus who has brought God near. He is the source of living water, the fountain of life. He is Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The Old Testament anticipates the joy of His coming:

And in that day it shall be
That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem,
Half of them toward the eastern sea
And half of them toward the western sea;
In both summer and winter it shall occur.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
In that day it shall be—
“The Lord is one,”
And His name one.
(Zechariah 14:8–9)

And it will come to pass in that day
That the mountains shall drip with new wine,
The hills shall flow with milk,
And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water;
A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord
And water the Valley of Acacias.
(Joel 3:18)

Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
(Isaiah 12:3)

The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:11)

They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.
(Psalm 36:8–9)

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
(Psalm 46:4)

Just as God nourishes and replenishes the earth with rivers of water, He revives His people with rivers of His pleasure and grace. God’s pleasure and grace come to us through Christ. Jesus declares Himself to be the source of living water and He invites us to come and drink.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37–39).

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 14:10).

It is in Christ that our souls are fully satisfied. In Him is all we need. In Him we can rest and find peace. Bunyan describes his own spiritual refreshment meditating on Christ and the gospel:

Now had I an evidence, ‘as I thought, of my salvation’ from heaven, with many golden seals thereon, all hanging in my sight; now could I remember this manifestation and the other discovery of grace, with comfort; and should often long and desire that the last day were come, that I might forever be inflamed with the sight, and joy, and communion with him whose head was crowned with thorns, whose face was spit on, and body broken, and soul made an offering for my sins: for whereas, before, I lay continually trembling at the mouth of hell, now methought I was got so far therefrom that I could not, when I looked back, scarce discern it; and, oh! thought I, that I were fourscore years old now, that I might die quickly, that my soul might be gone to rest (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 128).

Bunyan was amazed that Christ would suffer and die for him. He knew himself to be sinful and wretched. Yet he found the abundant mercy and love of God in Christ to be a peaceful, pleasant river. He was among the blessed whose—

… delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:2–3)

Believer, drink deeply from this pleasant river! Delight in God’s Word. Meditate on its promises. The gospel affords an invigorating taste of heaven, even as we press on in our journey here on earth. May God lead us often to the banks of this river to refresh and encourage our weary souls.

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

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

O Father Make Us Like the Son

Church Reflection

As Christians, how are we to relate to God’s Law? We know that our obedience to God’s commands could never make us right with God. The Law reveals our sin and shows us our great need of salvation. But the Law cannot save us. Yet, we are called to follow Christ, who is both the great Law-giver and Law-keeper. We are called to be imitators of Christ. Paul encouraged the church:

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1–2).

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 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. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17–20).

How then, especially in light of Jesus’ teaching and fulfillment of the Law, are we to relate to the Law as Christians?

This was the question I had in mind when I wrote the hymn “O Father Make Us Like the Son.”

The hymn had its beginning on Thursday morning, April 16, 1992 at the Grandy’s on Seminary Drive in Fort Worth, Texas. Several men from Heritage Baptist Church had gathered for Field Education and breakfast with our pastor, Dr. Fred Malone. That morning we studied chapter 8 from John Murray’s book, Principles of Conduct on the Law and Grace. I was especially intrigued with the truth that God is at work conforming us to the image of His Son.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

We are called to be like our Savior. One day when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face, we shall be like Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

It is our hope and aim to be like Jesus. How then can we be made like our Savior, without loving God’s Law? To be like Jesus is to obey God’s commands and delight in doing His will. Certainly, we are not bound by all the ceremonial and civil laws that foreshadowed and prepared the way for Christ’s coming. But God’s Moral Law, especially manifest in the Ten Commandments, is to be a rule of life for all Christians. Jesus died to free us from the Law’s curse and condemnation, but not from its blessing and benefits. We are not to see the Law as a rigorous covenant of works to gain God’s favor and acceptance, but as a rule of life revealing God’s character, holiness, and goodness. Our efforts to obey the Law are done in gratitude and love to Christ, who has perfectly fulfilled and exemplified it for us.

I finished writing the hymn early in the morning on the Lord’s Day, April 19, 1992 and sang it in the morning worship service at Heritage. The hymn is prayer that God would work in us and conform us to the image of Christ.

O Father Make Us Like the Son!

O Father, make us like the Son
That we may walk as He,
Delighting in the Law of God
And bringing praise to Thee.

Our Lord’s great joy was loving God,
Obeying His commands.
He lived a holy, perfect life,
Fulfill’d the Law’s demands.

O Father, clothe us in the Son
His righteousness we need
That we might be declared as “just”
From condemnation freed.

O Father, we adore the Son;
He is our righteousness!
For we can now obey with hearts
Of love and thankfulness.

O Father, may we love Thy Law
And walk within its light,
And love the Gospel that can turn
Its rigor to delight.

We long to be made like our Lord,
Arrayed in truth and grace,
And we long for the day when we
Shall see Him face to face.

O Father, finish in each heart
The work that was begun.
Prepare us for the Lord’s return,
O make us like the Son!

Words ©1992, 2017 Kenneth A Puls

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

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

How Shall We Stand in That Great Day?

Perhaps the most fertile ground for hymn writing is meditation on the preached Word of God. There is always great value, especially as we weather the storms and trials of life, of staying under the faithful preaching of the Bible. And there is even greater value in taking time to ponder, pray through, and preach that biblical truth to our own souls.

That has proven to be true with the recent sermon series through the book of Ecclesiastes entitled “Real Life in a Fallen World” preached by Dr. Tom Ascol at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida. This is the third hymn I have written while meditating on messages from the series. The other two are: “What Can Be Gained by All Our Toil?” and “Eternal God Exalted.” When you consider the vanity of life, the wages of sin, and the certainty of coming judgment, how great is our need of a Savior!

Storm Clouds

How Shall We Stand in That Great Day?

For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
(Ecclesiastes 12:14)

1. How shall we stand in that great day
When secrets are revealed,
When thoughts and motives are laid bare
And nothing is concealed?

2. On that great day when God will judge
Our every word and deed,
Without excuse, our mouths will close,
For guilty we must plead.

3. The deeds we do, the thoughts we think
Will matter on that day;
Each sinful act, each secret thought,
Each careless word we say.

4. O sinner, if you face that day
Alone, you will not stand.
The Law will charge and you will fall,
Condemned by just command.

5. Our only hope when that day comes:
That Christ died in our place;
He bore Himself the wrath of God
That we might know His grace.

6. O sinner, come before that day,
Come look to Christ and live!
Take refuge in His righteousness;
Your sins He will forgive.

7. With certainty that day draws near,
O why would you delay?
Tomorrow is not guaranteed,
Come trust in Christ today!

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

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

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.

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How Shall I My Savior Set Forth?

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

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

Brilliant Sunlight

How Shall I My Savior Set Forth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find more Hymns from History

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.