Recently, I have been reading through the wonderful allegory by John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. We were also blessed to obtain an audio dramatization from Master Books that we would highly recommend to anybody who loves this story.
One scenario stands out in my mind and I have been pondering for some time now. The characters involved in the scene are Christian and Pliable, both of whom come from the City of Destruction. The first carries a weight of sin upon his back and is plodding on the way to the Celestial City as quickly as he is able, while the latter has nothing that seems to be holding him back.
Pliable is a clear reflection of the defining of his name. Pliable means easily influenced or easily bent. From the beginning, we know that he is a follower and not a leader. He follows Obstinate in trying to get Christian back to the City of Destruction, but quickly changes his mind when he hears of the wonders of what is in store for those who reach to the Celestial City.
As I considered Pliable, I thought of Christian’s early attempts at seeking to be an evangelist and how similar it is to much of what we find in evangelical circles today. Christian’s methods of reaching the unconverted changes later in the story, but to begin with, they are far from appropriate and certainly not Biblical. Let’s us think about some of the problems with Christian’s approach to reaching Pliable.
1) Pliable is not in dire straits as is Christian. As mentioned previously, Christian has become aware of the burden of sin, but Pliable has not. No person has ever come to Christ who has not been first brought to the awareness of the danger he or she is in. If they do not believe they are fleeing from the wrath of God, then there is no true conviction.
2) Pliable is easily swayed first from Obstinate’s viewpoint and then to Christian’s, and it is not long before he returns to the City of Destruction because he does not like what he finds on the path to the Celestial City. A person who is convinced to follow another, other than Christ, will not follow for long until another comes along with a more persuasive argument. We will be like King Agrippa who told Paul, “Almost you persuade me to be a Christian.”
3) Pliable then listens to the wonders of what heaven will be like and becomes enraptured with all the glories that will soon be his. It is in this way that Christian makes a mistake. He seeks to share with Pliable that which is designed to gain the attention of a worldly person, but he forgets some of the most important factors of evangelism. He fails to address that Pliable is not aware of his sin, he is not aware that his city will soon be destroyed, and he is not aware that trials and tribulations are the lot of all who live godly in Christ Jesus.
4) Pliable soon learns the reality of the Christian life and he is not impressed. In seeking to follow the way of Christ, he, like millions today, thought that this would be his best life now. He thought that there were no troubles to assail him and that life would become easy. He sought to come to faith for the wrong reasons, namely, because of what he thought he could get, and not because of what had already been accomplished through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5) Pliable falls into the Slough of Despond which Bunyan describes like this:
This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
This became too much for Pliable for he cannot stand to be mired in such filth. Instead of fleeing to the cross as Christian does, Pliable immediately climbs back out of the Slough and makes a beeline for the City of Destruction. Christian learns that for all to be well with his soul, he must flee from his sin. It is only when our sins are nailed to the tree that we can know the joy of forgiveness and no further condemnation.
Pliable is like many today who think that they can come to Christ with their own good works or apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. For those who know Christ, we must seek to share the truth of the Scriptures that no man comes to Christ who does not realize the depths of his sin and the matchless wonder of the Savior. Truly, Pliable’s wrong motives for wanting to be a follower of the Way produced no lasting joy. Fellow believers, if we use wrong motives to seek to entice people to follow Christ, we cannot be surprised when we find that we have only made false converts.
Major Ian Thomas shares insights on evangelism. Major Thomas was in the British Army and later founded Torchbearers International.
Paul hits another one out of the park with this little sermon jam. It is well worth just under 7 minutes of your time to watch this video. May we be encouraged to continue moving forward for Christ instead of staying stagnant. As Paul exhorts in this video, let us live for Christ in such a way that we will have no regrets when we die.
Several authors have described salvation with a vivid word picture that warrants scrutiny. I’ve added a bit to it as I reflected on several things recently.
Let’s begin with a baseline on a couple of issues with scripture. These aren’t the only verses that address these issues, maybe not even the best ones – but they are His words on the topic.
- Galatians 3:24 tells us “…the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The purpose of the law is not save us, but to show us that we cannot save ourselves.
- In John 6:65 Christ tells us “that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” In our natural, sinful condition we are unable to seek after God – He pursues us.
- Acts 3:19 says “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” The call to salvation requires a change of heart, as no heart of flesh can inherit the Kingdom of Christ.
- Ephesians 2:8&9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Nothing we can do can cause God to love us more or love us less.
- In Acts 4:12, Peter – speaking of Christ – tells us “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” No cheap substitute can pay the price to gain you and me admittance to heaven.
- Finally, consider John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” A guarantee that we are sealed by God unto life eternal.
Keep these truths in mind as I paint this picture, as told to me by others.
You are in your 6th floor apartment, where you live a comfortable, carefree life. Everything is fine, your problems are minimal; you have no need of a savior – no need at all which you cannot meet.
Suddenly, you hear a fire alarm and, as you open your door, you discover your entire floor in engulfed in a raging fire! You cannot make it to the stairs; so back into your apartment, you rush. Not so safe and carefree any more. Frightened, anxious, unsure of how – or if – you will survive.
The fire shows us our need for a way out of our circumstances.
The “Crises of Belief”
In the midst of your fear, you hear a voice calling you to the window. As you peer through the opening, you see the firemen on the street below, urging you to jump!
You know that jumping from the window of a sixth floor window is normally suicide. Before the fire, your apartment was luxurious, comfortable, safe – you had no sane reason to jump. You would never have considered it! But now your apartment is a dangerous place where you will surely die if you don’t get out. Jumping may be worth the risk. Moreover, the firemen are telling you that you must jump if you want to save your life.
As you look out the window, you see that the firemen are holding a safety net for you to jump into. The firemen look professional, the net looks strong. But it’s a long way down from your window. Can the firemen and the net be trusted? If you jump and the net turns out be made of brown paper rather than canvas, you chose wrong and are dead. If you jump and the firemen are sadistic or untrustworthy and yank the net away or let go of it, you chose wrong and are dead. Only if the fireman who’s calling you to jump is trustworthy and his net strong can you be assured of survival.
Yet no matter how strong the net, how reliable the firemen – you’re dead unless you jump. No amount of knowledge about the net or the fire brigade will keep the fire from consuming you. The fire demands you to choose. The fireman calls you to jump.
You consider the situation. It’s not fair! You didn’t cause the fire, yet your life is wrecked. The fire has caused all the vermin that inhabited the apartment with you – unseen, unnoticed – to come out into the open seeking escape. You had no idea so many nasty bugs were in your walls! The fire didn’t cause the bugs to live with you; the fire simply forced them into the open. The fire revealed the filth of your environment, the squalor of your life and forces you to look elsewhere for life itself.
The “Irrational” Answer
You can’t escape on your own – you have to trust someone telling you to jump 80 feet into a net! Your own reasoning tells you to lay low until the danger passes; that the fire isn’t all that dangerous and will soon be put out. But hotter and louder it roars and you know it will consume you. If not for the fire, you might not have ever known you were living in filth.
So you jump – knowing that jumping won’t save you. Jumping is worthless unless those firemen and that net are there and do their job. Will they? You won’t know that unless you jump. So you jump.
And the firemen are all they claimed to be and the net was strong and sure. You were in danger of losing your life to the fire, but were saved by the firemen and their net after you heard them calling you and jumped from your “safe” apartment, falling securely into their grip.
No Turning Back
One more thing about jumping out of the window – once you jump, you can’t go back. Having trusted the firemen and the net enough to jump out of the window from 80 feet up, there’s no way for you to un-jump and get back into the fire even if you wanted to.
So our lives are here in the flesh. Often comfortable to the extent that we fail to recognize the dangers of evil. Living with all sorts of hidden evil, trying to manage our sin in the same way that we manage ants and roaches – with a superficial treatment to eliminate the evidence.
Then comes the law, exposing what was in darkness and driving us to the knowledge that we are dead and in desperate need of a savior. Faithful to His promises, almighty God calls you to accept what makes no sense – another died that you might live. All you need do is answer His call and fall – jump out the window – into His safety net of saving grace, held tightly by Christ Jesus – the One who will never let go.
What Saves You?
As with the fire, the law doesn’t save you – it convicts you that are sinful and need Christ. As with your jump, your faith isn’t what saves you – it’s the One in whom you place that faith that saves. Christ saves to the utmost, beyond what man can imagine, beyond what man or Satan can affect or undo.
The Call to Action
A fire is sweeping across our country and the world. Filth is being exposed. People are looking for answers, seeking security. Tell them about Jesus! He saves! Tell your neighbors – Jesus saves! No other name in heaven – there’s no name on earth or in hell that saves – only Jesus. And Jesus saves completely, beyond all your sin, beyond all the enemy’s accusations, beyond your wildest dreams. You can trust Him – we must trust Him completely or be consumed in the fire of His judgment.
This is a good video from Pastor Michael Durham of Real Truth Matters. It should be watched and considered by anybody who thinks that good deeds will grant you any grace before God. Modern American Christianity has been redesigned in a way that seeks to make you feel good about yourself, but it does not match up with true Biblical Christianity.