Community Baptist Church Ladies’ Book Study

Pilgrim’s Progress Chapter 15; June 14, 2016

I.                    Review last lesson

a.       Last time we looked at Christian’s experience at the Hill Difficulty.  Unlike his travelling companions Formalist and Hypocrisy, he chose the steep path going straight up the hill.  He made use of the spring of refreshment, which was provided to prepare for the journey.  This separated him from the other two. Just as the trials and distresses of the Christian life many times separates the true believer from the mere professor. 

b.      Christian began the ascent by running, but soon slowed and then clambered on all fours as he struggled under the taxing steepness.  He comes across a place of rest provided by the Lord of the Hill.  He takes out his scroll to read and takes a fresh look at his garment, finding comfort in those assurances given to him.  But he soon falls fast asleep, giving up his watch, unaware that he drops the scroll.  He is startled awake by an unknown voice telling him he needs to move on.  God provides comfort and rest for us along our Christian walk, but he does not intend for us to grow complacent and let down our guard.  When we are weak, we are susceptible to one of our most fierce enemies:  unbelieving fear.

c.       As Christian arrives at the top of the Hill, he encounters Timorous and Mistrust who are overcome by fear and doubt and retreating to their place of birth.  In this we see the possibility of one struggling with a lapse in faith, which always produces fear, and entertaining the idea of turning back.  The true believer cannot ultimately do so.  “To whom shall I go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.” 

d.      After this latest encounter, Christian is shaken and goes to pull out his scroll only to find that it is missing.  He retraces his steps weeping and groaning as he goes.  He recovers the scroll and at the same time learns valuable lessons in moving forward.  He cannot give in to his flesh without suffering setbacks his walk.  The Lord of the Hill provides refreshment and rest in the way, but never intends for us to fall into a complacent slumber.   The traveler will be robbed of peace, assurance, joy, fellowship, time and advancement and left vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.  Yet, as we get back on the path, God is gracious to comfort and to encourage us to move forward.

e.      Lastly, we watch Christian face lion-sized opposition as he made his way to the Palace Beautiful.  He was encouraged by Watchful to press forward, stay in the center of the path, and he would make it safely, which he did.  We discussed how this was representative of the tyranny of the state church of Bunyan’s day to which many succumbed.  Bunyan here encourages commitment to the true church even amidst persecution.  We talked about our own possible personal lions such as pride, self-sufficiency, walking in the flesh, misplaced priorities (family, job, pleasure), worldliness, ambition.

II.                  Christian Under Investigation

a.       As we take a look at Christian’s qualifying for entrance into the Palace Beautiful, we must keep in mind Bunyan’s belief in local church membership of a Nonconformist church vs. membership by baptism into the State church.  We can also see the parallels to our experience today in the local church body.  God has preserved and perpetuated His Church through the ages.   What a blessing and privilege is ours to be among that number.

b.      To qualify for acceptance to enter the Palace, Christian undergoes questioning from five people.  The first of which is the porter who encouraged him past the lions, whose name was Watchful.  Watchful informs Christian of the builder and the purpose of the Palace.  It was built by the Lord of the Hill for the relief and security of pilgrims.  It is only meant for genuine believers, not for the unbelieving.  Read I Peter 2:5 It is made up of LIVING stones.  Only living stones have the capability of offering SPIRITUAL sacrifices.  Only spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God.

c.       Watchful asks for a personal testimony of where Christian had come from and where he was going.  Christian provides an answer.  He is on the journey from death to life and needs this place of refreshing.  His name was formerly ‘Graceless’, but he is now Christian.  His travels heretofore have not been without distraction, temptation, weariness, and even wandering, but he is transparent, not seeking to think of himself more highly than he ought, but reveals genuine sorrow in his confession.

d.      Watchful calls for ‘Discretion’ to question Christian and hear his testimony, which seems to resonate deeply within her.  She then calls for help from ‘Prudence’, ‘Piety’, and ‘Charity’ to provide further confirmation that Christian meets the qualifications for acceptance.  Christian passes these checkpoints and is embraced warmly by the ‘family’.

e.      We see here the church pictured as a place of spiritual residence providing encouragement and rest and distinguished by wisdom (Prudence), devotion (Piety), and love (Charity). 

III.                Christian Fellowship

a.       As Christian was received into the ‘family’ of the Palace Beautiful, he immediately began to enjoy the company of the other residents.

b.      Note that Christian desired fellowship with other believers in the way.  Is that not the natural desire of those who have been rescued from destruction and committed to making their way to the Celestial City?  We desire and need the fellowship of other believers.  The straight way is not a way of isolation.

c.       Piety, Prudence, and Charity were appointed to have discussion with him.  What was the nature of this fellowship? What ‘specific matters’ occupied their conversation?

i.                     The testimony of Christian’s conversion:  his awakening to his true condition and need before God and leaving behind all that was familiar to embark on his spiritual journey, his travel to the Celestial City.

ii.                   The providences of God that brought help to him in the form of Evangelist.

iii.                  His time at Interpreter’s House where he was taught about Christ’s work of grace in the heart and the warnings of the prison of a life given over to lust and of the sure judgment to come.

iv.                 His Cross experience where he viewed the bleeding One and at last lost the burden that he had been carrying.   He spoke about his new coat that replaced his rags, the mark in his forehead, and the sealed scroll.

v.                   He speaks of those that he had seen in the way that served as a warning against slothfulness, presumption, trusting in the works of the law, and of hypocrisy.

vi.                 He speaks of times of struggles with his flesh, remembrances of his past life and periods of carnal reasoning.  Yet these things now grieve him.

vii.                He speaks of how during these times he remembers what he saw and received at the Cross and how this is the impetus that drives him forward in the Way.

viii.              He speaks of his hope of heaven and to see the One who was on the Cross alive and to be finally rid of those things that remain that are a constant annoyance to him and to enjoy the company of those who continually cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy”.

ix.                 He speaks of the burden he carries for those that he loves that are in a lost condition and his efforts to witness to them and to live a godly life before them.

d.      Application: What is the nature of our fellowship?  Around what themes are we drawn together?  While we can and do discuss things pertaining to this life…gardening, homeschooling, food, health concerns and….paint color (!), I can discuss this with anyone.  These things do not require that you are walking the narrow way with me.  What is at the heart of our ‘fellowship’ together?  Certainly it should be all of the above:  our conversion, the providences of God throughout our life, the things that God has taught us from His Word and through the work of the Holy Spirit, our fresh looks at Christ and His redemptive work on the Cross, to which we are continually drawn for encouragement and help to conquer the struggles of our flesh, our hope of Heaven, and the burden we carry for those we love who are yet outside of Christ.

e.      Bunyan says, “It is the ordinance of God, that Christians should be often asserting the things of God each to others; and that by their so doing they should edify one another.  The doctrine of the gospel is like the dew and the small rain that distilleth upon the tender grass, wherewith it doth flourish, and is kept green.  Christians are like the several flowers in a garden, that have upon each of them the dew of heaven, which being shaken with the wind, they let fall their dew at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of one another.  For Christians to commune savorly of God’s matters one with another, it is as if they opened to each other’s nostrils boxes of perfume.”

IV.                The Lord’s Table

a.       Next Christian is invited to sit at table with the rest of the ‘family’.  As they partook, all of their conversation was about the Lord of the Hill. They spoke of what he had done and the purpose for which he had built that House.

b.      They spoke of the fact that he was a great warrior and had conquered him that had the power of death with the loss of much blood.  That which ‘put the glory of grace into all which he did was the fact that he did it out of pure love for his country’. 

c.       There had been some of the household that had seen and spoken with him following his death on the Cross and testified that there was not such a love of pilgrims to be found from the east to the west.

d.      He stripped himself of glory so that he might do this for the poor and that they would dwell with him in Mt. Zion.  He had made many pilgrims into princes, though they had been born beggars and their nature originated in the dunghill.

e.      What a beautiful picture that makes our hearts sing!  How precious is this ordinance instituted by the Great Warrior of Heaven around which we gather to remember the glories of His work on the behalf of dunghill dwellers so that we might reign as kings and priests with him forever.  Read Revelation 1:4-6

f.        What a privilege is ours to gather and remember the Lord’s death until He comes.  May our hearts and minds be renewed if we have grown cold and take this for granted.

V.                  Before He Parts

a.       Christian was preparing to leave the Palace Beautiful, but the ‘family’ pressed him to stay yet two more nights.  They spoke again of the Lord of the Hill, as if they never tired of this topic of conversation.  It was at the very center of it.

b.      They went on to share with him historic papers documenting prophecies that were certain to be fulfilled.  They led him into an armory in which was stored military weapons provided for pilgrims.  They showed him artifacts used in great conquests and finally the sword which the Lord would use to kill the Man of Sin on that day of final victory.  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.  Rom. 15:4

c.       They showed him sights of the Delectable Mountains for his encouragement and comfort.  When he reached them, he would be much closer to his final destination.

d.      He returns to the Armory to equip himself for the journey ahead.  He will certainly need it for his next stop will be the Valley of Humiliation.

VI.                Conclusion

a.        Here, at the Palace Beautiful, we see the essence of the visible local church.   It has been established by Christ Himself for the encouragement, instruction, equipping, and accountability of His people.  It is good to be reminded of these things lest we lose sight of the value that should be placed upon it and the respect it should be given. 

b.      The church is to be made up of living stones, which alone can offer spiritual sacrifices to God.  The ‘process’ through which we must go to be received into the church, though not flawless, is essential.

c.       There we receive the benefits of mutual fellowship around the things of God, which is something the world cannot offer.  May the center of our fellowship consist of recounting our conversion, the providences of God in our lives, fresh looks at the redemptive work of Christ, what God is showing us in His Word, etc.  God has given us this gift; let us take full advantage of it.

d.      Lastly, we see the privilege that is ours to regularly gather around the Lord’s Table, remembering together the work of Christ for our guilty souls, encouraging one another of His promise to return and the realizing the end of our salvation, which is nearer than when we believed, dwelling with Him forever in the place of no sickness, sorrow, or death, forever rejoicing and offering praise to this One who has released us from our burden and Who through His work has made us fit for Heaven.  Wonder of wonders!