Titus 3:3-7 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
In 1678 a man by the name of John Bunyan wrote a christian allegory on the life of a believer who chose to follow Christ. The book was titled, “The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come“, and featured the man named Christian who discovered how the journey from hopelessness to God’s celestial kingdom comes with a price.
Christian’s journey began where he lived, the City of Destruction. Born with the name graceless, Christian was weighed down by a great burden—the knowledge of his sin—which he believed came from reading “the book in his hand” (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Hell, was so unbearable that Christian sought deliverance. He meets Evangelist as he is walking out in the fields, who directs him to the “Wicket Gate” for deliverance. Since Christian cannot see the “Wicket Gate” in the distance, Evangelist directs him to go to a “shining light”, which Christian thinks he sees. Christian leaves his home, his wife, and children to save himself: he cannot persuade them to accompany him.
Obstinate(the man who stubbornly refuses to change his position) and Pliable(easily influenced) go after Christian to bring him back, but Christian refuses. Obstinate returns disgusted, but Pliable is persuaded to go with Christian, hoping to take advantage of the Paradise that lies at the end of his journey.
The journey mirrors many of the spiritual entrapments and likewise victories that a follower of Christ encounters in life. There are those who show Christian the way, others who give him help, and many who strengthen and supply him on his journey. There are attacks by the enemy, people who try to lead him astray, and other tests of Christian’s faith throughout his adventures.
In many ways, we have lost the ability to see life for what it is, an epic journey of faith that is not to be regarded lightly. We forget about the dangers that lie along the way and can easily take our eyes off the path of life if we aren’t careful. Even if we lose sight of all the ways Jesus (the Celestial King) helps and strengthens us along the way, there is always an advocate (Holy Spirit) to redirect us on the course of life.
Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
We can be reminded of the great adventure to which we have been called by looking again at this timeless book and being prepared for all we are to expect.
When christian first discovers the book he is enthralled by what he reads, left by another who discovered the way, he reads the Book day and night, enraptured by the life it reveals. The city of destruction that he lives in keeps all of its inhabitants without hope. For christian to follow the path of the Book, he must forsake everything to follow the straight and narrow way.
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
The city of destruction stands as a symbol for the world, with all of its sins, corruptions, and sorrows. No one living there can have any hope of salvation because the world has nothing to give. Convinced that the city is about to be blasted by the wrath of God, Christian flees and sets out alone on a pilgrimage which he hopes will lead him to Mount Zion, where the Celestial City is found, there he can enjoy eternal life in the happy company of God and the Heavenly Host.
Evangelist represents the one sent by God to bring the good news to the lost. The call of God occurs and then God shows christian how to follow. The faith necessary to step out and forsake everything is not a decision that is to be taken lightly. The journey is perilous and difficult, the burden can be heavy, and there are many reasons to fear.
Ephesians 1:18 “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,”
Obstinate and Pliable represents those who hear the Word but cannot receive it. Obstinacy governs the heart of those who think they know better. The stubborn refusal to change one’s position is often supported by fear and pride. Pliable may be moved by the thought of a greater hope but is easily swayed by fear, temptation, or a worldly view that steals the joy he almost acquired. The slough of despond catches many in it’s trap, it becomes far too easy to return to the life they knew, thinking the journey too difficult.
The Difficult Journey
After struggling to the other side of the slough, Christian is pulled out by Help, who has heard his cries and tells him the swamp is made out of the decadence, scum, and filth of sin, but the ground is good at the narrow Wicket Gate.
Psalm 27:13 “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.”
The journey of the life of a believer is not to be done alone. The Lord helps us along the way but He also uses other believers to strengthen and guide. When we fall into despair, the Lord is faithful to draw us out that we might continue on the path He has set before us.
There will be those like Mr. Legality, who tries to lead Christian up the impossible hill of justification by the law. Evangelist exposes Worldly Wiseman, Legality, and Civility for the frauds they are: they would have the pilgrim leave the true path by trusting in his own good deeds to remove his burden.
At the Wicket Gate begins the “straight and narrow” King’s Highway, and Christian is directed through it by the gatekeeper Goodwill who saves him from the archers at Beelzebub’s castle and shows him the heavenly way he must go.
John 10:9 “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
Jesus is represented by Goodwill in Bunyan’s story. Unaware that Goodwill is the King who Christian will meet in the Celestial City, Christian thankfully passes through the Wicket Gate and along the King’s highway.
How often do believers meet people who help them along the way, people who have been directed by the Holy Spirit and represent the arm of the Lord reaching into their lives. It is these obedient faithful who comprise the church of God, it is these who we will rejoice with one day in glory.
The Narrow Way
The narrow gate to eternal life is small because it is defined by only one entrance–Jesus. If anyone wants to enter into the path of Life, Jesus is the only one who can grant the opportunity to come by the grace He provides.
John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Christian wants to be relieved of his burden and so Goodwill directs Christian to the house of the interpreter(Holy Spirit). There, Interpreter shows Christian the aspects of faith and life. From the House of the Interpreter, Christian finally reaches the “place of deliverance” (allegorically, the cross of Calvary), where the “straps” that bound Christian to the burden begin to break and roll away.
John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Freedom in Christ
After Christian is relieved of his burden, he is greeted by three angels, who give him the greeting of peace, new garments, and a scroll as a passport into the Celestial City. Encouraged by all this, Christian happily continues his journey until he comes upon three men named Simple, Sloth, and Presumption. Christian tries to help them, but they disregard his advice. Before coming to the Hill of Difficulty, Christian meets two well-dressed men named Formality and Hypocrisy who prove to be false Christians that perish in the two dangerous bypasses near the hill, named Danger and Destruction. Christian falls asleep at the arbour above the hill and loses his scroll, forcing him to go back and get it. Near the top of the Hill of Difficulty, he meets two weak pilgrims named Mistrust and Timorous who tell him of the great lions of the Palace Beautiful. Christian fearfully avoids the lions since Watchful the porter tells him they are chained and put there to test the faith of pilgrims.
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
The allegory of John Bunyan reminds us of the many difficulties we will encounter in this amazing journey of following Christ. It can be disheartening to meet those who claim to be believers but discover they only live a lie. The deception can be misleading, many will try to convince you how their way is the correct path and they will lead you from joy to misery.
The chains of sin are lifted by Christ for those who believe but there are deceivers along the way who will try to weigh you down with something else. We must beware of all the trappings of the enemy, there is no shortage of ways that Satan has devised to corrupt your journey.
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
How are you progressing in your journey to the Celestial city? Have you been on this journey for many years or has it just begun?
If your still living in the city of Destruction and this journey is one your ready to begin, all it takes is a heart change. Moving from skepticism to belief is to first accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, that He died for your sins and He now prepares a place for you to join Him.
As Christian discovered, the journey is difficult, but there is joy in the journey. Stepping out in faith is to trust that the Lord will guide you as you follow Him. The reunion of pilgrims will be glorious, that will be a day to look forward to with great anticipation.