Community Baptist Church Ladies’ Book Study
Pilgrim’s ProgressOctober 13, 2015
I. Opening thoughts
As we embark on this study of Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan’s allegorical work, rich with essential Bible doctrine and practical application concerning the Christian’s journey from the wilderness of this world to the Heavenly Kingdom, I want to encourage us to keep in mind a few essentials.
a. This allegory depicts intense spiritual warfare. It is REAL. A careful study of Pilgrim’s Progress will leave us with a more keen awareness and appreciation for the fact that all of the powers of hell and our own flesh are working against us to keep us from entering into the Celestial City. There are hidden powers at work along with remaining sin in our own hearts. These forces are so strong that if it were not for GOD, we would never make it. We CANNOT make it in our own strength. I want to encourage you to revisit Ephesians 6:10-18. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood…” God gives us important instruction on spiritual victory.
b. This allegory is an account of the eternal destiny of a never-dying soul. What value do we place on our soul? Each step of the journey is significant. This is not a game to be played frivolously; this is serious business with eternal consequences. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:36-37. What value do we place on the souls of others?
c. Be encouraged to search your heart in identifying with various characters. We tend to automatically read ourselves into the part of “Christian”, but seek to examine to see what other characters may be lurking in your heart/life i.e..“Am I ‘Pliable’? Am I easily swayed? Have I counted the cost?”
II. Journey’s Beginning (Read paragraph 2, pg. 9)
a. Appearance of the main character (Graceless) From the beginning we get the sense that this man stands out from those around him. He is in a solitary place, though family and friends still surround him. When it comes to our standing with God, it is between us and God alone.
i. Clothed in rags –. Representative of a sense of his sin. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..Isa. 64:6a He was made aware that even those things thought of as “good works” carried the putrid stench of a menstrual rag before God. He felt a sense of dread, a burden of guilt. He was nothing, yea, less than nothing.
ii. Face turned away from his own house – Jesus said “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 He realizes that what he needs cannot be found in the place that he was formerly content to dwell. His family and friends did not understand his inner turmoil and could not provide what was needed to give relief to his burdened soul.
iii. Book in his hand – The Word of God bringing light and conviction of sin. I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled… Bunyan says of his early days of pilgrimage, “I was then never out of the Bible, either by reading or meditation; still crying out to God, that I might know the truth, the way to heaven and glory.” This book will be the pilgrim’s guide to the journey’s end.
iv. A great burden on his back – For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. Ps. 38:4, 5These verses clearly express our character’s condition, being bowed down with the weight of his guilt.
v. APPLICATION: Do you remember a time when the sense of your sin before a holy and righteous God penetrated and plagued your soul? Can you relate to the isolating experience of having your soul shut up to God to find relief from the burden that He alone can remove? Does the light of God’s Word continue to shine on your heart, leading you to a daily dying of self. turning your face away from family comforts and false security and looking to an all-sufficient God to cover your sin and lead you in the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake? What makes you to differ from others close to you who have not experienced this?
b. Family concerns
i. Burden - With his new knowledge and sudden awareness, it is natural that he becomes burdened for those dearest to him. It is not long and he cannot contain himself, but has to warn them of imminent danger although he is ignorant of the way of escape.
ii. Opposition – His family thought he was out of his mind—a lunatic. At first they weren’t combative, hoping it would pass, but as time went on and he was of the same mind, they firmly resisted him. They derided, chided, and neglected (or separated from him). And so he prays for and pities them.
iii. APPLICATION: Who of us has not experienced the pain of this separation from family who reject the Gospel, the Savior that we love and follow? Who does not feel the burden of knowing that it is not we that are delusional, but they, as they reject the message of accountability to our Creator and impending judgment? But this is part of the cost of following Christ. If I am to be called a Christian, I have to be willing to forsake all to follow Him. Luke 14:26, 33 says, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. In this passage in Luke 14, Jesus talks about counting the cost of following Him. Part of the cost is being willing to forsake all to follow Him. In Matthew 10:21, 22, He tells us that children will rise up against parents, etc., and that we will be hated for His Name’s sake, BUT HE THAT ENDURETH TO THE END SHALL BE SAVED. Where does my allegiance lie?
i. “Evangelist” is a compassionate messenger sent by God to bring help to this one suffering under the load of sin. He speaks to Christian about his condition, encourages him to flee from the wrath to come, and points him towards the Wicket-Gate.
ii. APPLICATION: God is faithful. He does not awaken us to our sin and then leave us to flounder without direction. He provides direction, instruction, and encouragement through ambassadors and teachers.
d. The Shining Light and the Wicket-Gate
i. Evangelist pointed the pilgrim to the goal of the Wicket-Gate. What does it represent? The Wicket-Gate represents entrance to the Narrow Way. How do you get there? In John 10:9, Jesus tells us that he is the Door. Read pg. 12-13 from GA if time allows
ii. Pilgrim could not see the Wicket-Gate from where he was standing, but he thought he could make out a shining light in the distance. What does it represent? Ps. 119: 105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. II Pet. 1:19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts; God’s Word is that light on our path.
iii. APPLICATION: Jesus is the entrance, the Door to the relief of the burden of sin and guilt and to life eternal. The light is the word and He is the Word made flesh; He is the Light of the world. The Word of God points us to Christ and lights our way. Christ is everything; our all in all. HALLELUJAH!
III. Pilgrim flees the City of Destruction
a. Running against resistance
i. Read from last paragraph pg 11 to first paragraph pg 13. Pilgrim runs. He doesn’t slow down; he doesn’t look back. Do you wonder why they cared so much? Why they were so intent on dragging him back? The world and the prince of this world do not easily relinquish their sons. Opposition will be met.
b. Two friends
i. These men seem to be representative of categories of responses to the Gospel. Obstinate – hardened against it; Pliable – initially softened and inclined to follow; Christian – a real pilgrim.
ii. Obstinate – definition: Stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action; immoveable.
iii. Obstinate shows disdain for the Word of God calling it a “foolish book”. He resorts to degrading and name-calling. He was aggressive and abusive in his mission.
iv. Pliable – easily bent, easily influenced.
v. He was easily persuaded to join Christian even though he had not read the Book nor did he have a burden on his back. He was easily swayed and impulsive and had no depth of understanding or soul-stirring encounter.
vi. APPLICATION: When we turn our backs on this world of sin, there will be no shortage of opposition. Satan does not want God to win. We must be as Christian and run with our fingers in our ears, crying, “Life! Life! Eternal Life!” We must be aware that this is a spiritual BATTLE. We are engaged in warfare. There is no war without enemies that are out for our very lives. We also need to be aware that all of those that begin on the journey do not continue to the end. While this is always a grief, this should not surprise us, but cause us to cry out to God, make our calling and election sure, and make sure our armor is in place. Do we look in any way like Pliable? Are we in the Book? Have we counted the cost?
IV. The First Snare: The Slough of Despond
a. The slough – a muddy parcel of ground – a bog or swamp.
i. A place for unsuspecting travelers, if not watching closely, will slip, fall, and begin to sink.
ii. Christian, in particular struggles to break free because of the burden on his back.
iii. Pliable, since he expected only happiness and an improved condition, quickly becomes angry. He quickly changes (in keeping with his name) from wanting to quicken the pace to derision. In his heart, he had never really left his original state, and as soon as he could, he crawled out, leaving his ‘friend’ to fend for himself.
iv. What does the slough represent? It represents paralyzing fear and desperation at the deep sense of one’s own guilt before a holy God. It cannot look outward at the mercy of God for the most wretched of sinners, but can only look inward and know sure doom and despair. And if one stays there, they will sink.
b. The steps through the slough
i. “HELP” arrives as Christian struggles to free himself on the side towards the Wicket-Gate and pulls him out, placing his feet on solid ground.
ii. The steps through the mire signify the promises of God (2 Peter 1:4) by which we are able to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. His promises are our standing ground. We will see this throughout the book.
iii. This slough experience separated Christian and Pliable. This trial served to prove the genuineness of purpose in the journey.
iv. APPLICATION: The book of James says that a double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways. If we waver in our minds and are moved by our circumstances, we are showing characteristics of pliability. It is not that Christian avoided the slough or that he didn’t struggle or even despair, but his heart was resolved. He was intent on making it to the place where his burden of sin could be removed. Who makes the difference? It is GOD. Let us seek Him for reinforcement of vision, purpose, and perseverance.