I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
1-6: More on the person, nature, and spirit of the antichrist (see note on 2:18-27) but with one new command and one new insight. The command is to test these spirits. And the new insight is to remember that these spirits are not neutral.
In The Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian, meets many characters on the path to the Celestial City, and he always would press them with questions about how they came to be on the path and where they were going. He knew that not all who seemed to be going the same way as he were actually going to the Celestial City. Through a series of questions he could always tell whether or not these characters were truly believers, pretenders, or enemies.
By asking these questions he was testing the spirit of each traveller – were they truly of and for God or not. If they were truly believers, he invited them to join him on his pilgrimage. If they were pretenders, he quickly rebuked them, hoping they would repent and join him. However, if they did not repent, he rejected them and continued on his way, so as not to be slowed down to reach his destination. Finally, if they were enemies, he battled them.
While each of these categories represented many different things in the story, Christian’s example of testing the spirits highlights the value in doing so. It also segues nicely into the new insight that John mentions: no neutrality.
By testing the spirits, Christian knew whether or not these characters were for God or against him. Being for God meant obedience at all costs that was birthed out of a love for him. This love, which was evident in all characters who proved to be for God, always came from realizing that they were wicked on their own but Jesus was their beautiful Savior. Being against God, however, took two different forms.
The first form that enmity toward God takes is outright rejection. This is the more obvious form of enmity, that needs no real explanation. The other form is what looks like neutrality. In the book, these would be characters that knew the right language and wanted to talk about God but had no desire to admit they were sinful or that obedience was required – or it looked like people wanting to be moral but have nothing to do with the cross – or it was clergy that took positions for the material gain it would bring.
In the end, Christian and his companions would always reject these “neutral” travelers and warn them that if they are not wholly for God, they are not for him at all. Thus John says, “…every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” At best, this would allow for some to be “neutral” – they may not be for God but, at this point, it doesn’t mean that they’re against him. But then John brings it home with another black and white statement, and says, “This is the spirit [the spirit which does not confess Jesus] of the antichrist…” This removes any neutral ground.
“L’arlequin Assis” (Seated Harlequin), 1923, Pablo Picasso.
I’m not much of a modern art guy. I just don’t get it. I think a lot of it is ridiculous, highly pretentious, and talentless. So, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across this whimsical piece by Picasso (whose work I typically don’t get or value), during a day at Paris’ premier modern art museum, Le Centre Pompidou.
Of the many battles which Christian fought on his way to the Celestial City (City of Sion), none were more epic and dangerous than his battle with Apollyon (Rev. 9:11). After being fitted with armor (Eph. 6:10-18), Christian begins his journey into the Valley of Humiliation and comes upon the foe Apollyon. Christian is seized with fear and contemplates turning back but remembers that he has no armor for his back, and therefore resolves to fight.
Apollyon: Whence come you, and whither are you bound?
Christian: I come from the City of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and am going to the City of Sion.
Apollyon: …I perceive thou art one of my subjects for all that country is mine; and I am the prince and god of it. How is it then that thou hast run away from thy king?…
Christian: I was born indeed in your dominions, but your service was hard, and your wages such as a man could not live on, for the wages of sin is death…
Apollyon: There is no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, neither will I as yet lose thee…
Christian: But I have let myself to another, even to the King of Princes, and how can I with fairness go back with thee?
Apollyon: …it is ordinary for those that have professed themselves his servants, after a while to give him the slip; and return again to me: do thou so too, and all shall be well.
Christian: …I count that the Prince under whose banner now I stand is able to absolve me; yea, and to pardon also what I did as to my compliance with thee…and besides…I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country better than thine…
Apollyon: …Thou knowest that for the most part his servants come to an ill end, because they are transgressors against me and my ways: how many of them have been put to shameful deaths!…
Christian: His forbearing at present to deliver them is on purpose to try their love, whether they will cleave to him to the end: and as for the ill end thou sayest they come to, that is most glorious in their account…
Apollyon: Thou hast already been unfaithful in thy service to him, and how dost thou think to receive wages of him?
[Apollyon then recounts many of Christians failures]
Christian: All this is true, and much more, which thou has left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honour is merciful and ready to forgive…I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.
Apollyon: …I am an enemy to this Prince: I hate his person, his laws, and people…
Satan (Apollyon) may be the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) and “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), but, as Christian recalled, we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). Amen!
Bunyan, John, and Roger Sharrock. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Harmondsworth. Penguin, 1987. 51-53. Print.
How does this encounter encourage or challenge you? Does it expose any lies you are believing or remind you of any truths you should cling to? I’d love to get your thoughts!
Chapter 3 (cont’d)
16-18: Love will require sacrifice. Christ gave his life, we ought to be willing to do the same. Love through sacrifice will require the believer to willingly give of his material possessions for the good of a brother.
19-24: God is pleased when we keep his commands. At first glance these verses may seem to support some kind of works-based righteousness that believers can begin to build up and earn interest on, but verse 23 destroys this thought. The command is: faith in Christ and love toward one another.
The works which please God are the works of Christ. Therefore, man’s faith in the God-pleasing life of Christ is the work that pleases God.
Our work is faith.
The second part – to love one another – is going to come from obedience to the first – faith in Jesus.
So, these verses teach at least three things: 1) God the Father is satisfied with the work of Jesus, 2) he commands our faith in Jesus, and 3) knowing that God is satisfied with us, because of the work of Jesus, we are set free from the burden of depending on our ability to keep the law.
The other wonderful truth is that faith is a gift (Eph. 2:8)!