Pilgrim’s Progress – A Biblical Message Not Aligned With Prosperity Gospel and Hypergrace Teaching

Watched Disney’s animated version of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in church yesterday (Rock of Ages Church), an amazing movie that depicts in allegorical form the journey of a true believer, one that is filed with temptations, trials and tests that require the faithful follower of Christ to be patient, persevering, focused, disciplined, determined and faithful even to the point of death – a truly biblical message! It may have been written 200 years ago, but it’s message is still relevant in today’s church – maybe even more relevant now than ever amidst a Christian climate filled with prosperity gospel, hypergrace teaching, over-emphasis on the love of God and under-emphasis or non-mention of the holiness of God by false teachers.

Mt.7:13 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (New International Version)

He Is No Fool

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot (missionary to the Auca people in Ecuador who lost his life, murdered by the people he planned to reach)

Problem is, many people today including some in the church, keep what we should give and lose what we should gain!

Jn.12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Sometimes God Permits What He Hates …

“Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” – Steve Estes (quoted by Joni Eareckson Tada in one of her books – probably “A Step Further”)

What an amazing statement that lends great perspective to our understanding of suffering. The Bible says in 1Jn.4:8 that God is love, thus everything God does is motivated by His unconditional love. The Bible also tells us that the Lord is righteous (Ps.119:137), that means God can do no wrong!? This is the reason why we can continue to trust God and have full faith in Him even when things don’t go our way! We need to remember that it is not all about us – which is why we pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done”.

Our Faith – Flesh or Fresh?

Christians and Christianity can become too much flesh today while we should really be evidenced by spiritual freshness and power! We serve a mighty and powerful God who is able to powerfully: heal the sick, deliver the oppressed from demonic spirits, transform a wretched sinner from a life of ungodliness and unholy addictions into someone who lives whole-heartedly to honor God, free us from self-centredness, self-indulgence and pride, enable us to love each other sacrificially and unconditionally. When we let the Spirit of God perform these works in and through us powerfully, the world will know that we are His disciples!

Eph.3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing of Unity

In Ps.133, we read that where there is unity amongst fellow believers (from the church members to pastors and church leaders), there the Lord commands blessing and life forevermore. Yet it is not often easy to foster and maintain such unity and one key reason is because of close friendships. While we encourage deeper friendship and bonding, we must be careful not to let such closeness between a few people become a group with political power. It has happened many times and it must stop. Close friends must remain objective and fair when it comes to church matters, otherwise such relationships will become toxic and ruin the unity amongst fellow believers and God will not bless such a church!

Ps.133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Shallow Christianity?

Has Christianity become shallow today? It may have. The most popular message of the church today is “believe because you will benefit”. But is that what the Bible says about believing in Jesus? Well, there is certainly a high degree of benefit when we receive Christ. However, is that the core message of the gospel? Is that the starting point? It is clear in Scriptures that our message should be “believe because you need to be saved from your sins”, and that’s Peter’s message to the people on the Day of Pentecost. Why do some preachers preach “believe because you will benefit”? Maybe it’s because it makes Christianity more attractive, more palatable, less offensive; and it would get more people to come to church. The hardness of human hearts might just have brought about a dilution of the Christian gospel, and that’s a serious concern.

Ac.2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Paul’s Unpopular Teaching in Today’s Church

What Paul said to Timothy in 2Tim.2:3-7 is not a popular thing to say in church today. Think about it, how many Christians today would want to share in suffering as a good solder of Christ? Wait a minute, do we even know that we are soldiers of Christ, called to fight invisible spiritual battles against invisible spiritual enemies and that Jesus is the Captain of the hosts? The impression we often give people today is that Jesus is ALWAYS & ONLY the Lover of our souls who calls us to be His precious precious children. Not wrong, but it’s only half the truth. Half truths produce half-baked Christians. We have been misled to think that being a Christian is merely about being a child of God. We are not just a people of love, we are a people of power too! Paul went on to say, “no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (v.4). Oh this is so hard today because we are so entangled in civilian pursuits or everyday life. So many amongst us in the church want the exact same things non-believers want in life and our aim seems to be to please ourselves! Sometimes you can barely tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian whether in the workplace, school or neighbourhood. Competing according to the rules (v.5)? Well, not every Christian likes to be told what to do. We prefer the freedom bit In Scriptures, not the rules bit. Huge theological issues we have! The hard-working farmer gets the first share of the crops (v.6) – I beg your pardon, have we not been told by popular preachers today that Christians live by grace and to work hard as a Christian is pure legalism? Well, maybe these preachers didn’t read the whole Bible, but we must.

2Tim.2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.