The Christian’s Attitude Toward the Pastor (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #30)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”

The New Testament has much to say about the responsibility of a pastor to his people. The pastor is a representation of who Jesus Christ was to His disciples. Just as Jesus Christ won men to himself, trained them, and then sent them out to do His will, it is the job of every pastor to win people to the Lord, train or disciple them, and then send them out to fulfill God’s plan for their Christian lives. The pastor is sometimes referred to as an undershepherd who serves a smaller flock under the leadership of the Great Shepherd who is over the entire body of believers.

The role of undershepherd is portrayed in Pilgrim’s Progress by the man named Evangelist who appears several times in the classic story. Evangelist not only preaches the Gospel in the city of Destruction, but he comes alongside those who are on the way to the Celestial City to instruct them, warn them of temptation, and tell them what lies on the road ahead. Let’s read from Pilgrim’s Progress as Evangelist visits with Christian and Faithful: Continue Reading…

Growing in Faith Through Christian Brotherhood, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #29)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: 1 John 3:13-18

Last week, we began talking about the importance of being a part of a community of other believers in your Christian walk. Using the example of how, in Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian found Faithful and they continued their journey to the Celestial City together, we focused on the fact that the world is not friendly to those who are followers of Christ. If you don’t have other believers around you to support you, encourage you, and hold you up, you can easily become discouraged in your Christian walk.

Today, we want to take a closer look at the second mark of true Christians: not only are they hated by the world, but they love each other. Our passage states, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”

One of the first marks of a follower of Jesus Christ is that he or she loves other believers and the church as a whole. In his fine work on The Letters of John, Colin Kruse states that John points out that mutual love is the mark of true children of God. Those who love are those who have passed from death to life. ‘The expression ‘we have passed from death to life’ has a close parallel to the same phrase found in the Gospel of John where the idea of passing from death to life is synonymous with escaping condemnation and obtaining eternal life. The closeness of the expressions and the relationship between First John and the Gospel of John justify interpreting this statement to show that love for fellow believers is the mark of those who have escaped condemnation because they have come to know God through Jesus Christ.’ Basically, what John is clearly showing here is that if you are truly born again, you will love others who are also born again.

The word used here for love is agape. This indicates that the love we have for others in the body of Christ is not based on feelings or based on what they have done for us or how they have treated us. We simply choose to love them just as God chose to love us despite our faults, sins, and failures. Just as in any family, because we are all human, people in the body of Christ will offend you, betray you, and do things that you do not agree with. What do you do? You love them anyway. Love is the mark of the body of believers.

John calls those who do not love other Christians “murderers.” Is there somebody in your church whom you hate or despise — somebody whom you avoid at all costs, somebody whom you wish you didn’t have to see every time you went to church? The Bible classifies your attitude toward that person as murderous. Remember, God looks on your heart. Just because you have never said or done anything negative to that person, that does not negate your attitude. Kenneth L. Barker states, “In the heart there is no difference; to hate is to despise, to cut off from relationship, and murder is simply the fulfillment of that attitude.” Charles Spurgeon also stated, “Every man who hates another has the venom of murder in his veins. He may never actually take the deadly weapons into his hand and destroy life; but if he wishes that his brother were out of the way, if he would be glad if no such person existed, that feeling amounts to murder in the judgment of God.”

Dear friend, you need other believers, and other believers need you. Together, we grow stronger in our faith, encourage each other, and “provoke” each other to do what is right. Don’t ruin the fellowship that you could have by holding a grudge or becoming bitter toward another brother or sister. The Bible says, “How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity.”

Charles Wesley wrote this song which is applicable to our relationship with others in the body of Christ.

All praise to our redeeming Lord,
Who joins us by His grace,
And bids us, each to each restored,
Together seek His face.
He bids us build each other up;
And, gathered into one,
To our high calling’s glorious hope
We hand in hand go on.

Now, in the body of Christ, you ought not to always be a receiver. No matter how much the preaching, the singing, or the service of others is a blessing to you, you ought to be on the giving end some time. In fact, most of the time, you ought to be seeking to serve others — and not just to be served. Listen to these words again: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

Jesus Christ came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He could have easily demanded that everyone bow down and acknowledge Him as God before He died on the cross for them. But, He didn’t do that. He came and humbly served as the sacrifice for sin even though we didn’t deserve it. Are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to lay aside the trappings of whatever status or position you hold in the church or in the world and humbly give of your time, abilities, money, and provisions, in order to serve others?

In this passage, the word “perceive” tells us that we know that God loves us not just because He says so, but because He demonstrated that love by sacrificing His Son on the cross. We don’t have to guess and wonder about how God feels about us. We know because of what He has said and done. We ought to make it our business to make it plain that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ by acting in a manner that demonstrates that love to them — ‘not just in word and tongue; but in deed and in truth.’

If we commit to showing love to other believers and fellowshipping with other believers, we will have a much more effective, encouraging, and empowered walk with Christ.

Growing in Faith Through Christian Brotherhood, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #28)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: 1 John 3:13-18

As we continue our series, allow me to read from the story of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan as a prelude to our topic for today. Christian has now come out of the Valley of Humiliation, and as he proceeds on his journey, he meets another believer who is also walking the straight and narrow way. Bunyan writes:

Now as Christian went on his way, he came to a slight ascent which was specially designed so that pilgrims could more easily see ahead of them; therefore Christian went up and, looking forward, he saw Faithful in the distance intent on his journey. Then did Christian call out loudly, “Here, here, look here. Wait, let me catch up and I will be your companion.” At this Faithful looked behind him, causing Christian to again cry out, “Wait, wait till I catch up with you.” But Faithful replied, “No, I travel with my life at stake, and the Avenger of Blood is close behind.”

This reply somewhat moved Christian, so mustering all his strength he quickly caught up with Faithful and in fact raced past him so that the last had become first! As a result Christian smiled with a sense of self-congratulation; he felt proud of now being ahead of his brother. Yet not paying attention to his feet, he suddenly stumbled and fell to the ground, and was unable to get up, that is until Faithful came up to help him?

Then I saw in my dream that both of them went on very lovingly together; and they had delightful conversation about all of the things that had happened to them on their pilgrimage.

You’ve heard it said many times that everybody needs somebody. When Christian left his home in the city of Destruction, he left alone, but he did not stay alone for long. All along the way to the Celestial City, he met and conversed with other servants of the King who helped him on his way. And, the fact of the matter is, none of us can make it on our own either. We need the friendship and companionship of other believers to help us grow and become stronger in the Christian faith. Today, I want to share with you one of the main reasons why this is the case.

One of the reasons why you need Christian friendships is because the world will not be friendly to you if you are a Christian. The apostle John writes, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” Yes, the world will hate those who are committed to Jesus Christ. Don’t be shocked, don’t be stunned if the world hates you. Once you become a follower of Christ, you are no longer a part of the world. You are no longer a part of Satan’s family. You are a part of God’s family, and the two are sworn enemies.

You need Christian friendship and companionship in order to live and grow as a Christian. One of the first things Jesus Christ did when He began His public ministry is he gathered twelve others around Him to work with Him. Even He did not try to go it alone. When Jesus Christ sent His disciples out to preach on their own, he sent them two-by-two. He did not send them out alone.

One of the basic marks of a follower of Jesus Christ is that he or she has a love for the church and other believers. Our passage states, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” You ought to want to be around other believers. You ought to want to fellowship with other believers. If you do not love your brothers and sisters in Christ — if you would rather hang out with worldly people than with other believers — then you ought to examine yourself to see if you are truly saved. John states, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”

Your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ ought not to be perfunctory, and it ought not just to be shown by your words. John tells us that we show our love for other believers through our actions. Using Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of someone who showed love by His actions, he states, ” Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The word “perceive” means to know. We know that God loves us not just because He tells us so, but because He demonstrated that love by sacrificing His Son on the cross. The basic point of this verse is that believers ought to help other believers. We ought to care for each other and supply each others needs if we are able to do so. Verse 17 reads, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

Part of the reason why Jesus Christ established the church is so that believers might have a place of friendship, companionship, and refuge in a hostile world. Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Jesus’ words let us know that we will be hated by the world simply for the fact that we choose to identify with and follow Christ. If you try to walk in the world and among worldly people as a Christian, one of two things will happen: Either you will slowly but surely slip back into worldliness in order to fit in and receive the approval of the world, or you will be isolated and ostracized if you refuse to backslide and instead point out the evil in the world. Oftentimes, the result of this isolation, especially if you do not have a community of believers around you, is depression and growing weary in well-doing.

John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress, was a Puritan preacher. The Puritans placed a high value on sharing their experiences with other believers in order to build each other up and strengthen each other in the faith. Richard Sibbes, an Anglican theologian, wrote: “For our better encouragement in these sad times, and to help our trust in God the more, we should often call to mind the former experiences, which either ourselves or others have had of God’s goodness, and make use of the same for our spiritual good. We should take notice of God’s dealings with us in sundry kinds; how many ways he hath refreshed us, and how good we have found him in our worst times. This hath formerly been the custom of God’s people, ‘Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.'”

The experiences we share in the body of Christ are part and parcel of being a Christian. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” We live in perilous times. As the second coming of Jesus Christ draws near, times will get harder and harder for Christian people. This world is not our home and it is not our friend. Satan’s influence in the world seems to get stronger and stronger as our society is turning away from basic moral principles and Judeo-Christian values. Things which would have been unspeakable just a few decades ago are commonplace and celebrated today: atheism, homosexuality, transgenderism, secularism, sexual relationships between students and teachers, just to name a few. The battle lines between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light have been drawn starker than ever before. The middle ground is shrinking. You must be on either one side or the other. And, if you are on the side of Christ and the church, you will be hated by the world which is controlled by Satan.

That is why we need each other. It can be a lonely world for a Christian who tries to walk the straight and narrow way on his own. He can easily become discouraged and frustrated. But, when we have each other to lean on, and when we can encourage each other with our shared experiences, we gain the strength to continue on our journey and to not grow weary in the faith.

There’s a hymn that expresses the unity that ought to exist among believers. It was written in 1782 by John Fawcett — “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.”

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.

We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

Have You Been Broken? Part 3 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #27)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:12-13: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

As we continue our series on Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible, allow me to read from the story of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan as a prelude to our topic for today. As you may recall, Christian was in the Valley of Humiliation when he was approached by Apollyon. Apollyon began to attack Christian with his fiery darts. Christian used his shield to deflect most of the darts, but Bunyan tells us that he was wounded in his head, one of his hands and one of his feet.

Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, “I am sure of you now.” And with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life; but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise.”

And with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”. And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon’s wings, and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.

We have already learned that one of the reasons why we need to be humbled and broken is so that we will be spiritually vigilant so that we will not fall into temptation. We also learned that we need to be humbled and broken so that we will grow stronger in our Christian faith by applying what we have learned and using the tools that we have been given.

Today, I want you to notice that we need to be humbled and broken in order to realize that it is only through God that we will be victorious over the enemy. Our passage states, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Notice that God is the one who provides a way of escape for us out of our temptations, trials, and difficulties. We like to think that we are able to make things happen ourselves, that we can find our own way out of trouble and distress. Most of us are not eager to lean on God or anybody else. One of the qualities that people have hailed about America is that of being able to “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Well, with God, it doesn’t work that way. When we get in trouble, we have to humble ourselves and depend on Him to get us out of it.

We see this in the story of Moses. Moses thought he could deliver the children of Israel his way. He went out among his people, saw what was going on, got angry, and ended up killing an Egyptian. God had to put him in the desert for 40 years. Once, he was the prince of Egypt; now, he was a fugitive helping to take care of sheep in the wilderness. What was God doing to him? God was humbling him and breaking him down. God was letting him know that he couldn’t do things his way. God was saying to him, ‘If the children of Israel are going to be delivered and freed, it is going to happen My way, Moses, not your way.’ God was not finished with Moses. God still planned to use Moses. But God needed to help Moses understand some things first. When Moses went back to Egypt to deliver the Israelites, he did it with God’s power, not his own.

He often has to do the same thing with us. When we face our trials and difficulties in life, our first instinct is to employ the human knowledge and capabilities that we have in order to get out of that situation. However, God wants us to not depend on our human capabilities, but to depend on Him and what we have learned from His word. In today’s reading from Pilgrim’s Progress, how did Christian defend himself and defeat Apollyon? He used the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Those weapons were his “way of escape” and they had been given to him by God.

One commentator wrote, “The Valley of Humiliation in The Pilgrim’s Progress represents our coming face to face with the reality of our own neediness. We are humbled when we cast down pride and recognize that we are undone before God and bring nothing to the table that would commend us to God.”

The only way we can be delivered from our trials, be victorious over our temptations, and successfully pass our tests is if we depend on God for the way of deliverance. And, in order to do that, we must be broken and humble before Him. We must be willing to no longer do things our way, but His way. We must take the way of escape that He has provided us. Matthew Henry said, “There is no valley so dark but he can find a way through it, no affliction so grievous but he can prevent, or remove, or enable us to support it, and in the end overrule it to our advantage.”

All things work together for our good. Even in the difficult moments of trial and temptation, or when we are going through a desert experience like Moses, God is working so that we will become humble and broken people who are vessels that God can use for His glory.

Have You Been Broken? Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #26)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

As we continue our series on Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible, allow me to read from the story of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan as a prelude to our topic for today.

Now, in this Valley of Humiliation, poor Christian was hard put to it; for he had gone but a little way, before he espied a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him; his name is Apollyon. Then did Christian begin to be afraid, and to cast in his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground. But he considered again that he had no armor for his back; and therefore thought that to turn the back to him might give him the greater advantage with ease to pierce him with his darts.

Therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground; for, thought he, had I no more in mine eye than the saving of my life, it would be the best way to stand.

So he went on, and Apollyon met him. Now the monster was hideous to behold; he was clothed with scales, like a fish, (and they are his pride,) he had wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke, and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion. When he was come up to Christian, he beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to question with him.

Last time we saw Christian, he was on his way into the Valley of Humiliation. And, in that valley, he met the great enemy of every believer — the devil, here given one of his many names, Apollyon. Christian’s first test was whether or not he would turn and run or face his foe. And that provides a great starting point for our message today.

Last week, we learned that one of the reasons why we need to be humbled and broken is so that we will be spiritually vigilant so that we will not fall into temptation.

Another reason why we need to be broken and humble is so that we will grow stronger in our Christian faith by applying what we have learned and using the tools that we have been given. Our passage states, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Now, the word “temptation” involves not only an invitation to sin, which we dealt with last week, but a test or a trial. Continue Reading…

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