But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew, and they were in dread of the children of Israel. – Ex. 1:12
At this point in history, the Israelites were in Egypt because of God’s sovereign work through Joseph. They had been living in freedom and peace, when a new pharaoh comes into power and sees their prosperity. He does not regard Joseph’s memory, and he became concerned with Israel’s growth so he and the Egyptians begin to oppress God’s chosen people, but the more they afflicted them, the more they grew.
Within this historical truth we find a spiritual truth. Many people live in fear of Satan, but as children of God we need not fear, for he is fulfilling God’s will in our lives. He is so blinded with pride that he thinks he is thwarting God’s plan but is in fact helping to fulfill it.
When the Lord allows Satan and his demons to mettle in a Christian’s life, it is for a good reason. We know this because all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). God has started a good work in us which He will finish, and the more we are afflicted, the more we grow. Until, to Satan’s demise, He is in dread of us.
An example of this can be seen in the life of Peter. Satan, during the crucifixion, asked to sift him, and God allows him to do so. As a result of this sifting, Peter commits one of the most heinous sins possible, he denies Christ three times. Failure and affliction have hit hard, but to Satan’s dismay, it is this fall that the Lord used to grow Peter’s faith and make him more like Christ. After Jesus restores Peter with three affirmations, the same number as Peter’s denials, Peter then goes on to lead thousands to the Lord, and his testimony is still encouraging people today. After Satan thought he had defeated him, Peter became a dread to Satan. You can be sure that Satan regrets ever tempting Peter in that way.
Now many may say, it’s how you respond to affliction that matters. But we need to look at why Peter responded correctly. He responded correctly because God convicted him of his sin. God broke his heart instead of letting Peter harden it. God did it all. Why? Because Peter was one of His, and of us, He will not lose one. Sanctification is what God does in us, it is not what we do for God. What we end up doing for Him is merely a response of what He is doing in us.
As we face the schemes of the Devil, remember, God is always working in His Children, and He uses many things to grow our faith: even afflictions, temptations, and failures. So when you feel that the prince and the power of the air is winning the fight, remember he is only playing right into the hands of our Father.
To quote John Bunyan, let us never forget, “When Satan, death, the grave, and sin have done whatever they can do, we are still more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”
Finally, let us never forget that, ultimately, it is not us that Satan dreads, it is God’s Spirit who is at work within us. For greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. – John 6:37
The words of John 6:37 reveal the purpose of the Father in giving his elect Jesus Christ. The Father’s purpose was that they might come to him and be saved. This, says the Son, shall indeed be done. Sin, Satan, the flesh, or the world shall never hinder their coming to Christ. The Lord Jesus positively determined to perform such a sufficiency of grace, that it will effectually perform this promise, and use all of the means necessary to accomplish this purpose. The Father’s end will not be frustrated (John 6:39). By coming, we understand it to be the coming of the mind to him, and the moving of the heart towards him. It is a coming with an absolute desire to be justified and saved. There needs to be the sense of a lost condition to move him to come. This made 3000 come; it made the jailor come; and indeed makes all others come effectually. Death is before them and they see it and feel it, and it feeds upon them, and eat them quite up if they do not come to Jesus Christ. They come of necessity, being forced into by the sense they have of their being utterly and everlasting undone, if they do not find safety in him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This coming to Christ is a running to him, a flying to him from the wrath to come. When all refuge fails, and man is made to see that there is nothing left in him but sin, and damnation, unless he flies to Christ for life; then he flies, and not until then. There is a sense of absolute need of Jesus Christ: “Lord save me or I perish!” There is an honest and sincere forsaking of all for him: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27). He who truly comes must forsake all, cast all behind his back and cling to Christ Alone.
Charles Spurgeon once said of John Bunyon “prick John Bunyan…he will bleed Bible.” I am currently reading through Pilgrims Progress for my umpteenth time, and, as always, I am amazed at how many nods to verses of scripture can be found on every page. So with that in mind here is the opening paragraph from when Christian meets Faithful. How many bible verses can you find alluded to in this passage?
“As Christian went on his way, he came to a hill which was cast up on purpose that pilgrims might see before them. Up Christian went; and looking forward, he saw Faithful before him upon his journey. Then said Christian aloud, “Ho, ho! So-ho! stay, and I will be your companion.” At that Faithful looked behind him, and Christian cried again, “Stay, stay, till I come up to you.” But Faithful answered, “No, I am fleeing for my life, and the avenger of blood is behind me.” At this Christian was somewhat moved; and putting forth all his strength, he quickly got up with Faithful, and outran him: so the last was first. Then did Christian boastfully smile, because he had gotten in front of his brother; but, not taking good heed to his feet, he suddenly stumbled and fell, and could not rise again until Faithful came up to help him.”
I recently taught a class through Pilgrim’s Progress. Below are the discussion questions for each chapter. An introductory lecture along with audio for the discussion time for each chapter can be found here.
1. What is the book Christian has in his hand?
2. What is the burden that Christian is carrying, and have you ever felt this burden? If so, what did it feel like?
3. Christian reads the book and prays but still has the burden on his back. How is this possible?
4. Pliable has no burden on his back yet still follows Christian. Why would someone do this, and have you ever ran across people like this? What kind of “churches” appeals to people like this?
5. What do you think the “Slough of Despond” represents?
6. Where, and to whom, does Mr. Worldly Wiseman direct Christian, and what false view of salvation does this represent?
7. Read Heb. 10:38 – How does this verse fit with Christian trying to remove his burden with morality and the law.
8. Do you ever find yourself trying to find relief for the conviction of sin by attempting to be moral rather than laying it all on Christ? What do you do in those times?
9. Worldly Wiseman is a false teacher, and Evangelist gives Christian three reasons to abhor him. What are they, and do they still apply to false teachers today?
10. When Christian is grieved by his sin of listening to Worldly Wiseman, Evangelist tells him is sin is very great. How is this different than what you may hear in many churches today?
1. Christian runs to the wicket gate and knocks more than once or twice, what do the running and the knocking teach us?
2. Goodwill pulls Christian through the gate. Why does he do this, and what do these dangers represent?
3. Christian goes through the wicket gate and enters the narrow path. Some people view this as the moment of his salvation, but he still has his burden on his back (which he will lose later). What do you think about this?
4. Who do you think the interpreter represents?
5. How does Christian explain to Goodwill that he and Pliable are alike? What does this teach us about Christian’s attitude?
6. Who or what do you think the man in the picture, who is authorized as Christian’s guide, represent(s)?
7. How is the heart of man like the dusty room, and what happens when the room is attempted to be cleaned with the broom of the law? What does this teach us about the law?
8. What do Passion and Patience represent in the Christian life, and what do we learn from them? Can you think of any Bible passages that relate to this?
9. What happens to the fire burning near the wall, and what do we learn from it? Can you think of any Bible passages that relate to this?
10. The picture of the man in the iron cage is one of the most shocking scenes in Pilgrims Progress. What was your reaction when you read it and what do you think it means?
1. How does Christian lose his burden, and what does this represent? Have you heard of any testimonies that would illustrate this scene?
2. Last chapter we discussed whether entering the wicket gate in chapter 2 was his conversion. What do you think now that you have read of his burden being removed?
3. Three beings come to Christian, what do they represent and what do they do for him? Where do we see these things in Scripture?
4. How do Formalist and Hypocrisy get on the road of salvation? What lesson do they teach us? How do they defend their not entering at the wicket gate?
5. When Christian was climbing Hill Difficulty, he finds a place set by the Lord for refreshing weary travelers. What does this represent, and what does it mean that he fell asleep there?
6. What does it mean that Christian loses his scroll, and what does it teach us that it took a while before he realized it was gone?
7. What is the role of the chained lions, and what do their chains teach us?
8. What does Christian say his name was before it was Christian?
9. What is Christian’s reason for wanting to go to Mount Zion? How do these thoughts align with your reason for desiring heaven?
10. What does Christian say is his wife’s reason for not following Christian? Do you ever see the same tendency in your own life?
1. Christian has no armor to cover his back when he meets Apollyon, what does this teach us?
2. Who does Apollyon represent? What descriptions to do see in the book that leads you to that conclusion?
3. Apollyon says, that “many of the Lord’s servants have come to an ill end.” To what is he referring, and how does Christian respond?
4. How does Christian respond when Apollyon accuses him of many sins?
5. Christian loses his sword while battling Apollyon. What does this look like in the Christian life?
6. Christian receives leaves from the tree of life to heal his wounds, what picture is Bunyan painting here? How do the bread and wine fit?
7. Why do you think the way to the celestial city goes through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?
8. Bunyan refers to the quag that King David fell into, to what do you think he is referring?
9. The valley is so dark that “when [Christian] would lift his foot to go forward he knew not where, nor upon what he should set it next.” What Scripture does this bring to mind?
10. Bunyan describes the giants Pope and Pagan as no longer a real threat, what do you think he is alluding to, and do you think he is correct?
1. Why does Faithful say Pliable is now seven times worse than before? To what passage of Scripture does this allude?
2. Who is Adam the First, and what are the names of his children? What doctrine is Bunyan talking about here?
3. Why do you think Bunyan portrays Moses as beating faithful, and what saved faithful from death?
4. What friends are dishonored by going through the Valley of Humiliation? What was Faithful’s response?
5. What were some of Shame’s arguments against faithful, and where do you hear these today?
6. What does it mean that Talkative was more comely [attractive] at a distance than up close?
7. Talkative says many true things, what then is the problem with him? Do you ever have to guard your own heart against being like that?
8. What are some of the ways Faithful says the work of grace is discovered in the life of a person?
9. When Talkative is exposed as a hypocrite, what is his response to Faithful, and do you ever see this type of response happen to Christians today?
10. Christian commends Faithful for talking so plainly with Talkative and laments that it rarely happens. Do you think this is still true and why?
1. Evangelist tells Christian and Faithful, “You are not yet out of the gun-shot of the devil; you have not yet resisted to bloodshed,” What does this mean? Read Hebrews 12:4 as you consider this.
2. What are some of the other things Evangelist tells them?
3. As you read of Vanity Fair, what aspects of today’s world come to mind? Has any of these aspects made it into the church?
4. Why were the people of Vanity Fair stirred up when Christian and Faithful arrived? What do these things look like in the Christian life?
5. What does it mean that Christian and Faithful said, “they would buy the truth?”
6. What were Christian and Faithful charged with by Lord Hate-good?
7. Which three people came forward to testify against Christian and Faithful?
8. Pickthank said Faithful railed against several men, what were their names?
9. What was Faithful’s response to the charges of the three men?
10. Knowing that John Bunyan was in jail for the faith when he wrote this, as you read the names of the jury that convicted Faithful, do you think this was an expression of how he saw the men who convicted him?
11. How is Faithful the most blessed one in this situation, even more than Christian?
1. Who are some of the citizens of the town of Fair-Speech, and against what is Bunyan trying to warn us?
2. What does it mean when Christian says “you must also own religion in his rags, as well as in his silver slippers; and stand by him, too, when bound in irons, as well as when he walk in the streets with applause?”
3. What scripture did Mr. Hold-the-World twist to defend his right to cling to the things of this world?
4. How does Mr. Money-love defend using religion to get rich? What is wrong with his arguments?
5. Demas, who calls the people to the silver mine, is also a biblical character. What is his story in Scripture (See Philemon 1:23-24, and 2 Timothy 4:10?)
6. What is the River of the Water of Life where Christian and Hopeful walked? Where do we see it in Scripture?
7. Bunyan says the pilgrims had to go with Giant Despair because he was stronger than they. What does this teach us?
8. Why was Christian in double sorrow in the dungeon?
9. What were some of Hopeful’s arguments to Christian as to why they should not end their own lives?
10. What does the key represent that unlocked the door to Doubting Castle, and what does it look like in the Christian life?
1. What were some of the sights the shepherds showed the pilgrims in the Delectable Mountains?
2. Why does Ignorance think he will be accepted at the gate of the celestial city?
3. What is the story of Little-faith, and what do we learn from it?
4. Bunyan describes Faint-heart, Mis-trust, and Guilt as powerful. Who were some of the Biblical examples that Bunyan gives who where injured by them?
5. What warning does Christian gives us about desiring to meet our enemies, and what two things must we do if we do meet them?
6. Why did Christian and Hopeful not recognize Flatterer, and what does this teach us?
7. What were some of Atheist’s arguments to Christian and Hopeful?
8. The Enchanted Ground had air that makes pilgrims drowsy, what situations in life have this effect on us?
9. How do the pilgrims keep from falling asleep? What does this look like in the Christian life?
10. What aspects of Hopeful’s conversion do you find interesting and encouraging?
1. Where did Ignorance ground his hope when asked whether he was right with God or not? What are some examples where we hear similar things today?
2. What does Christian say to set Ignorance right about whether his thoughts are correct or not?
3. What is Ignorance’s understanding of justification? Where might we hear a view like this preached?
4. What are Christian’s four responses to Ignorance’s false view of justification?
5. What problem does Ignorance have with Christian’s response?
6. What is Christian’s response to Ignorance’s objection to justification?
7. How does Christian say that correct fear can be detected over a wrong fear?
8. How do some people try to stifle the conviction of sin?
9. What reasons does Hopeful give for Temporary’s backsliding?
10. What does Christian say are the ways people like Temporary backslide?
1. Why do you think the grapes of the vineyard caused Christian and Hopeful to talk in their sleep? What is Bunyan trying to tell us?
2. Why do you think that Bunyan decided to use a river to represent death? What Scriptures come to mind?
3. The golden beings tell them that the river is “deeper or shallower as you believe in the King of the place.” What does this mean in the Christian life?
4. What do you think it means that Christian “in great measure lost his senses” as he crossed the river?
5. Why were Christian and Hopeful able to climb the hill to the Celestial City so easily?
6. Christian asks what they would do in the holy place, what were some of the things he was told by the ministering spirits?
7. What did you find interesting or encouraging about the reception the pilgrims received and the description of the Celestial City?
8. What was the name of the ferryman the helped Ignorance cross the river so easily?
9. Now that we have finished Christian’s story, what were some of the aspects of the book that had the biggest impact upon you?