Unlocking Doubting Castle: Excerpts from "The Way of a Christian: Life Lessons from Pilgrim's Progress"

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Unlocking Doubting Castle: Excerpts from “The Way of a Christian: Life Lessons from Pilgrim’s Progress”

August 12, 2022 - John Bunyan

© boule1301/stock.adobe.com

© boule1301/stock.adobe.com

The following excerpts are from The Way of a Christian provided by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2022. Used by permission.

Introduction

The Pilgrim’s Progress deals by means of allegory with the Christian life. At the time of writing (Part I: 1678, Part II: 1684), it was not uncommon for the Church of England to persecute authors who wrote works that questioned some aspect of state religion. Writing by allegory became a way of protecting the author, as it put a wrap of mystery around what was being said, as well as being something akin to the parables of Jesus for inciting interest and debate.

Pilgrim’s Progress is John Bunyan’s most enduring work out and has been published around 1,500 times in over 200 languages, at times being second in popularity only to the Bible. Bunyan, a nonconformist puritan preacher who was jailed for twelve years for refusing to stop preaching, wanted to help the reader to discover the true path to heaven. So he was inspired to write his book as the dream of a traveler and describe his journey in terms of the difficulties and helps that he encountered along the way, which form valuable life lessons for Christian pilgrims following the same path.

Bunyan narrates the journey of Christian from the City of Destruction, where he first believed and realized his need to get out. After multiple trials, Christian and his companion traveler, Hopeful, finally reach the Celestial City.

The devotions below will show the transcendent and eternal truths contained in Bunyan’s story. We trust they will provide insight and faith to defeat the enemy, empower you to live a more victorious Christian life and bring you encouragement and joy on your pilgrim journey.

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2 | A change of mind

Christian no sooner leaves the World but meets Evangelist.

Great conflict often leads to a fight-or-flight response. In this century, hundreds of thousands have fled worn-torn countries or those ruled by despots. God sometimes allows us to feel disappointment, dissatisfaction, disillusionment or even despair in our lives to get us to turn away from the world we have known and go out in search of something deeper, more meaningful and longer lasting.

After coming under deep conviction, the pilgrim of Pilgrim’s Progress tries to persuade his wife and children that they should all leave the City of Destruction. He knows his city is no longer safe and that it will soon come under God’s judgment. The pilgrim knows that he needs to leave, but he needs someone to show him where to go. The pilgrim laments his pitiful condition with tears. Yet his wife and family consider him deranged, so in his disturbed state, he wanders about the fields, reading his book, until he meets Evangelist, who counsels him about what he should do; he begins a change of mind.

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. —2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB

Repentance in its root sense simply means a change of mind leading to a change of behavior. It is when your changed mind begins to produce changed actions that God will send help to direct you further into a good path (see Matthew 3:7–8).

It is often only when one is somehow all alone that God can deal deeply with that individual (see Genesis 32:24). You may be reluctant to be first among your family or friends to follow Christ, but it is far better for you to set out on your own than to be forever lost.

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62 | The secret of promise

A key in Christian’s bosom, called Promise, opens any lock in Doubting Castle.

Some have said that the Bible contains hundreds of promises, enough for every day of the year. While we may debate the number of promises, we ought not to debate their surety. Some are conditional promises that are only binding upon the Lord if we act in certain ways, but others are unconditional, meaning that we can always claim them. We must learn to live in such a way that every promise becomes available to us by faith in the Lord.

The two pilgrims have endured great sufferings locked in a dark dungeon within Doubting Castle before Christian suddenly calls to mind that he was given a master key to open any door. That key holds the secret of promise.

Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; everything came to pass. —Joshua 21:45 NASB

When we face a difficulty or see another believer facing a challenge, we need to look for an appropriate promise and take hold of it by faith. For instance, suppose you feel all alone and helpless, then meditate upon the promise of Christ to never leave you without comfort but to send the Holy Spirit to be with you (see John 14:18). Remember that the secret of promise is to believe it.

Also remember that some promises are conditional. Christ promised to send the Spirit to those who ask His Father (see Luke 11:13); the apostle Peter and his companions declared that the Spirit is given by God to those who obey Him. To profit from a promise of God, we must believe it if it is unconditional (see Mark 16:17) and meet the conditions when it is conditional.

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88 | The end of our pilgrimage

Then each of the Pilgrims gave to them individually his certificate, which they had received when they started out; and those were brought to the King.

Each of us ought to make sure of our own salvation, not by our own good deeds, but rather by trust in the atoning work of the cross of Christ, and the subsequent transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which leads us to godliness and demonstration of Christ’s life in us.

The pilgrims present their carefully guarded certificates to the gatekeepers, who send them on to the King. The King personally checks them and inquires where the men are. Being told they are outside the gate, the King commands that they be brought in. As the pilgrims enter, they are clothed with what looks like shining gold. Praises resound all around, and the pilgrims join in the joyful song of praise to God and the Lamb.

Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. —Revelation 21:27 NASB

Like Christian and Hopeful, we must persevere and press through, enduring countless dangers and trials, until we at last reach heaven itself. That was the end of their pilgrimage, and it is also the end of ours.

How can you be sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? You must ensure that you have sincerely repented of your sins, turned to Christ for salvation, and trusted that He paid the price for your sins, and be diligently following Him and the leading of His Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 1:10–14). Do these things, and you can be sure of reaching the end of your pilgrimage.

Excerpts from The Way of a Christian provided by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2022. Used by permission.

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