An Application of Bunyan – Truth Matters

February 27, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

Having made the acquaintance of the shepherd’s tending their flocks upon the Delectable mountains, the pilgrims quickly became the recipients of the shepherd’s warm hospitality.  There were wonders to be seen in the Delectable mountains, and the shepherds, whose names were Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, determined to reveal those wonders to their new friends, Christian and Hopeful. Their first destination was a hill called Error, one side of which was quite steep.  Being encouraged by the shepherds to gaze down over the edge, they saw at the bottom of the cliff the broken bodies of several men who had fallen from that great height. Christian inquired concerning the identity of these men, and that which had caused them to fall and to be dashed upon the rocks below.  The shepherds explained that these were men who had followed after the errors of Hymeneus and Philetus concerning the resurrection of the body (2 Timothy 2:17-18).  Surely it must have been a terrible sight to behold, just as it is a terrible sight for us to behold the wreckage of one who has made shipwreck of their faith.  And yet, even here is grace.  “Where?”, you might ask.  “Where can grace be seen in the broken bodies of those who have been smashed upon the rocks of error?” The answer comes in the final words uttered by the shepherds before moving on to the next sight they wished Christian and Hopeful to see. “Those that you see lie dashed in pieces at the bottom…have continued to this day unburied, (as you see) for an example for others to take heed how they clamber too high, or how they come too ear to the brink of this mountain.” There is the grace.  It is found in the example of those who have gone before.  It is in the warning that their example sets for us.  Give heed to it.  Do not stray off the straight path, either to the right, nor to the left.  Do not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  Do not chase after theological novelty, or the next spiritual experience.  Rather, stand upon the solid rock of the word of God.  Place yourself under solid and sound teaching, and continue on the right way, all the way, to the...

An Application of Bunyan – Emmanuel’s Land

February 26, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

His promises are true.  Christian and Hopeful have known this, but now they are learning this. The One who began a good work in them is bringing that work to perfection, and though that perfection often be accomplished through suffering, their Lord also knows when rest is necessary. The One who is the goal of their pilgrimage knows when those who are traveling on His highway need to be encouraged with a glimpse of what is to come. And so, having escaped Doubting-castle, and the Giant Despair, Christian and Hopeful found themselves back on the King’s Highway, and before long arrived at the Delectable Mountains.  Here they found a place of refreshment. There were gardens, orchards, and vineyards from which to eat, and there were fountains from which to drink and wash.  At the top of the mountains were Shepherds tending their flocks, with whom the pilgrim’s entered into conversation, and from whom they received generous and pleasant hospitality. “Whose Delectable Mountains are these?  And whose be the sheep that feed upon them?”, asked the travelers.  The shepherds responded, “These mountains are Emmanuel’s land, and they are within sight of His city; and the sheep also are His, and He laid down His life for them.” “These mountains are Emmanuel’s Land, and they are within sight of His city.”  How the hearts of the pilgrims must have leapt at the sound of such words!  After so long a journey.  After so many difficulties and dangers.  After so much suffering.  After so many foolish departures from the right way.  Finally, they are within sight of the city. How could this news have failed to fill them with renewed determination to finish the course which they had begun?  Surely, such news would strengthen both their bodies and their resolve.  Surely, this is a means by which the Lord of that city encourages pilgrims to endure to the end. Are you weary of the journey?  The Lord says, “Look!  My city is in sight!  Just a little further.  Don’t give up. Persevere. One more step, and then another. And when you arrive, we shall be together, and you shall find rest and joy, forever.”  It is for this reason that God’s word is sprinkled with encouragement to finish the race, looking ahead to the finish line and what is to come. “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”  Revelation 3:21 “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Revelation 2:10 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  1 Peter 1:3-5 On and on we could go.  These great and precious promises are the means by which we keep our destination ever before us.  And though we cannot yet see that great city with our physical...

An Application of Bunyan – Danger! Danger! Go Back!

February 25, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

One might think that having escaped Doubting Castle and the sufferings there inflicted upon them, that Christian and Hopeful would think only of getting as far away from there as possible, and doing so as quickly as possible.  And yet, their actions at this crucial point in their journey reveal quite clearly that they are not who they once were.  Rather, they are being conformed to the image of that One they love, who suffered and died for the sake of pilgrims. Having escaped, their thoughts turned not to themselves, but to others whom they knew would follow.  Those coming after would likewise be tempted to depart from the right way, only to find themselves in the clutches of the Giant, and despairing of life. A warning must be given.  The two companions erected a pillar upon which they engraved this sentence: “Over this stile (a set of steps for getting over a fence), is the way to Doubting Castle, which is kept by Giant Despair, who despiseth the King of the Celestial country, and seeks to destroy His holy pilgrims.” This is grace. This is love. This is what the Lord says to Ezekiel. “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.”  Ezekiel 3:17-19 Yes, if we know the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are pilgrims. We are on a journey, striving to reach a destination.  But along the way, we must not forget to sound the warning: “This way is life, but that way is death!”.  Having received the grace of God, how can we keep the wonderful news of the gospel to ourselves?  Shout the warning from the rooftops!  “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”!  Romans...

An Application of Bunyan – The Great Escape

February 24, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

Sometimes, the answer to our difficulties has been right there all the time.  After enduring great suffering at the hands of Giant Despair, that was the discovery made by Christian and Hopeful. Though the Giant had encouraged them to take their own lives, arguing that their future would consist of nothing but further suffering and pain, the pilgrim’s remembered the command of the Lord of the country to which they traveled.  That Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not kill”, and Christian and Pilgrim understood that command to forbid the taking of their own lives, as well as the lives of others.  And so they had determined to endure their trial until a way of escape presented itself. Neither the Giant, nor his wife, could understand how the pilgrims could continue living, day after day, imprisoned in their dungeon, enduring beating after beating, and yet maintain hope.  Of course, this evil couple knew nothing of the Lord to which the pilgrims belonged. Christian and Hopeful were sustained in their suffering, through their communion with the Lord they had come to know.  On one night in particular, beginning around midnight, they began to pray, and continued throughout the night, almost until dawn.  It was then, just before daybreak, that Christian broke from his prayer and cried out excitedly. “What a fool am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty!  I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.” Hopeful encouraged him to use the key in their cell door.  Perhaps this would be their way of escape. Christian took the key and placed it in the lock. The bolt turned, the door opened, and Christian and Hopeful fled, finding that the key also opened the outer doors leading to the castle yard, and the Iron Gate, as well.  In moments, they found themselves once more on the King’s Highway, and continued on their way to the Celestial City.  Such is the power of the promises of God.  Like the key utilized by Christian and Hopeful, the promises of God are ours even in the midst of trial, and suffering, and pain.  When all around is darkness, when hope seems lost, when despair has overtaken us, when we believe the lie that there is no help to be found, the promises of God yet remain.  We must simply remember…and trust. Remember the promise that He is always with us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 Remember the promise that God is always in control. “I am the Lord, and there is no other.  The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity.  I am the Lord who does all these things.”  Isaiah 45:6-7 Remember the promise that God is always good. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.  How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8 Remember the promise that God knows your suffering. “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry.” Psalm 34:15 Remember the promise that...

An Application of Bunyan – The Giant Despair…I know him well.

February 20, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

Melancholy.  That’s what they called it in the “olden times”.  Today we call it “Depression” and think of it as some kind of unusual condition which necessitates a pharmaceutical cure.  Certainly, there are those who find help in that way.  There are those for whom this is a chronic condition which finds its root in some kind of organic origin. Praise God for the help that medication provides. The melancholy experienced by Christian and Hopeful was not that kind, however.  Neither is that the experience of most of us, though all of us, at one time or another, have, do, and will experience those dark times, no matter what it may be called in any particular age.  It is a common human experience, and those who know the grace of God are not immune.  It has been the experience of men and women of God in every age. Having left the path looking for an easier way, and then finding they had fallen into great error in doing so, Christian and Hopeful, repenting of their foolishness, sought to return to the hard, but right, way. By then, however, it was getting dark, and so, finding a shelter, they laid themselves down to await the morning, unaware that by doing so they had placed themselves in danger once again.  The place where they lay was close by a castle, called Doubting Castle, and the castle and all the property which surrounded it, including their resting place, belonged to the Giant Despair. The giant, rising earlier than the pilgrims, came upon them while they slept, took them captive, and placed them together in the dungeon below his castle.  There they remained, for days on end, without food, nor drink, nor light, lamenting the foolishness which had brought them to such a state, and falling deeper and deeper into despair, seeing no way of escaping their desperate situation. Is this not one very common cause of our melancholy, our depression, our despair?  We find ourselves facing some seemingly insurmountable obstacle, some seemingly inescapable situation, and like the pilgrims, all around is darkness.  We can’t see a way out.  We can’t even imagine a way out.  Our vision becomes narrow, and all that can be seen is the circumstance.  The situation.  The problem.  Christian and Hopeful found their trouble increasing, for Giant Despair had a wife who convinced him that the best course of action was to go down to the dungeon and beat the pilgrims severely.  Having beaten them, and speaking to them only of the promise of a future filled with nothing other than continued misery, the giant suggested to them that the best course of action would be for Christian and Hopeful to take their own lives.  The two men found themselves in such a state that their self-destruction actually became the subject of their conversation. This is the danger of the giant Despair.  While we find ourselves in the midst of affliction, he whispers lies.  Lies of hopelessness.  Lies of suffering without end.  Lies that seek to convince us that there is no possibility of escaping the darkness in which we are enveloped.  And then, there is the suggestion of an easier way.  The end of suffering.  An end to the darkness.  But they are lies.  All lies. Hopeful...

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