Walking Through Vanity Fair: the Christian and the World, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #33)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: John 17:14-18

14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

Walking Through Vanity Fair: the Christian and the World, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #33)

Last week, we learned that while we are in the world, we are not of the world because we abstain from the evil that is in the world. As the Bible says, we do not allow ourselves to be overcome with evil. Today, I want us to look at how we are like Jesus in the world. Jesus describes His disciples, and us, with these words: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Continue Reading…

Walking Through Vanity Fair: the Christian and the World, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #32)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: John 17:14-18

14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

Walking Through Vanity Fair: the Christian and the World, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #32)

“In the world, but not of the world,” is a common phrase among Christians, but what does it really mean? The answer to this question has important implications for how we live our lives every day. A famous depiction of Christians being in the world but not of it is found in the description of Vanity Fair in Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan wrote:

Then I saw in my dream that when Christian and Faithful had come out of the Wilderness, they immediately saw ahead of them a Town which was named Vanity. Now at this Town, a fair is promoted there that is known as Vanity Fair. It is maintained all the year long and bears the name Vanity Fair because the Town where it is located is regarded as lighter than vanity; and also, because all that is sold there, as well as those who come to buy, is vanity [worthless]. As is the saying of the wise man, “All that this world promotes is vanity.”

This Fair is not some newly constructed business, but an enterprise going back into antiquity. Let me tell you about its origin. Almost five thousand years ago, even then there were pilgrims walking toward the Celestial City, just as these two honest persons are doing. So Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, along with their associates, noticing that the path along which pilgrims traveled toward the City passed through this Town of Vanity, they determined to construct a fair; it was to be a festive market in which there would be sold every sort of vanity, and it would be open all the year long.

Historians believe that the inspiration for Vanity Fair in Pilgrim’s Progress came from the annual fair that was held in a town called Sturbridge, a city near Cambridge in England, which John Bunyan would have been familiar with. In a biography of John Bunyan, this yearly event is described as follows: “When business was over it was succeeded by pleasure. Round the square, in the center of which rose the great maypole with its vane at the top, there were coffee-houses, taverns, music-halls, buildings for the exhibition of jesters, magicians and tricksters, itinerant charlatans, wild beasts, monsters, dwarfs, giants, rope-dancers, and the like… Year by year, the country populace for ten or twelve miles ­around came in with their sons and daughters for the diversions of the place.” Continue Reading…

The Christian’s Attitude Toward the Pastor, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #31)

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

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TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

The Christian’s Attitude Toward the Pastor, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #31)

Last week, we began talking about how we ought to relate to our pastors and the other leaders whom God has placed over us in the faith. We learned from this passage in First Thessalonians that we ought to show appreciation for those leaders who demonstrate the following three characteristics: (1) they are called by God to their position, (2) they have the spirit of true servanthood, and (3) they are willing to admonish, correct, and warn you about negative behavior and temptations.

In the classic story Pilgrim’s Progress, the role of the pastor is fulfilled by a man named Evangelist. As you will recall, the two pilgrims, Christian and Faithful, were met by Evangelist as they traveled together to the Celestial City. Let’s listen in on some of their conversation. Continue Reading…

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

Pilgrim's Progress According to the Bible

PART A

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PART B

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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

PART A

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PART B

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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.

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