Pilgrim's Progress

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A lot of times our Christian life can seem like a journey or a pilgrimage that is filled with various ups and downs as we make our way through life until the Lord calls us home. The truth is, it feels like that, because it is! The Bible calls us aliens (1 Peter 1:2), pilgrims on a journey just passing through. One of the most common words for our Christian life is a ‘walk.’ This word is used 7 times in the book of Ephesians to describe our behavior on our journey in this life. The Christian ‘walk’ is to be worthy, to be in good works, to be in love, to be not as unbelievers, to be in the light, and to be wise. But our ‘walk’ doesn’t end until the Lord brings us to heaven.

There is a book that vividly describes the Christian life in the image of a journey and this is the book I recommend for this month’s Voice Article. The book is called Pilgrim’s Progress. The book is a full length allegory of the Christian life. In the book, a man named Christian sets out on a journey to the Celestial City. The story begins with Christian living in a town called Destruction. He meets a man named Evangelist who urges him to leave Destruction and head to the Celestial City. Christian tries to get his family to join him on this journey, but they refuse and Christian sets out alone.

Along the way he encounters many other characters. People like Worldly Wiseman who tries to convince Christian to just live a happy life without God. He also encounters Apollyon who hurls darts at him but Christian defeats him with a sword. There are positive characters as well like Goodwill and Faithful. I think one can start to see the parallels in the story with the realities of the Christian life.

There are also locations in the story that Christian must travel through. Places like Vanity Fair is a town that Evangelist warns him about as a place of great temptation. And the allegory gets very complex and very deep when you read the section of Christian, and a new friend Hopeful, who are locked inside of a dungeon in a castle called Doubting Castle. The castle is run by a giant named Despair who holds them captive, but they are able to escape when they remember they hold the key of Promise. The parallel to the Christian life is obvious: when despair holds us in doubt we must remember the promises of God. The knowledge of Scripture that the author John Bunyan has is absolutely remarkable.

The book is actually divided up into two parts, with the second part being the story of Christiana (Christian’s wife) who attempts to lead her children to the Celestial City. The story is of course not a story of salvation by works, teaching us to successfully navigate life in order to earn your way to heaven. But it is an ingenious way to describe the pilgrimage of the Christian in this life.

When you consider how the book was written, as well, it makes the purposes of God even more remarkable. John Bunyan was a believer in Christ, who became a deacon in his church but felt the call of God upon him to preach God’s word. However, in 1660, you had to have a license to preach. Since he was not an authorized speaker for the Church of England he was arrested and put in jail for preaching Christ. He was actually arrested right in the middle of a sermon! But it was in prison that Bunyan would take his pen and write the story of Pilgrim’s Progress. Even though he had a wife and children, he would not leave the prison if the authorities wouldn’t let him preach Christ openly without restrictions. He spent years in and out of prison throughout his life, but it was that time in prison that allowed him to write this famous story. God’s sovereignty and God’s providence is really amazing. This book has gone on to be the greatest selling book in the history of the world, besides the Bible. I encourage you to pick it up, and read it, looking for those wonderful analogies to the Christian life.

-Pastor Mark Scialabba