Pilgrim’s Progress…Crossing the River
There’s a fine line between genius and crazy. The company Google has a venture fund planning on investing one billion dollars over the next five years in a wide-range of startups with the goal of looking for entrepreneurs.
Google in their billion dollar fund wants to change the world for the better by funding startups in the life sciences. Some of the areas the manager of the fund hopes to get off the ground are radical life extension, cryogenics and nanotechnology. The idea of cryogenics caught my attention as it has Hollywood stars. Paris Hilton is said to want her body frozen in order that some day she could come back to life, thanks to this as yet unproven technology. But for me, I see it another way. I read the Bible saying this life, this body will pass away. It will decay. But for those in Christ, the there is a new resurrected body and that body lives forever.
Welcome to Haven Today and a program called, “Crossing the River”.
The benefit is that you are going to find your story along the way as you follow Christian's progress. I thought one thing that could be added would be if Charles shared an example of how he found a piece of his own journey within Pilgrim's journey.
In our last benefits conversation we talked about using the word "encourage" sparingly. Without making it even more wordy here's something we could have toward the end.
"We are all on our own journey's with our own unique temptations. I want you to follow Pilgrim on his journey. Maybe there is a sin in your life you didn't realize was an issue. Or maybe Pilgrim will be tempted in a way you are tempted every day. Let Pilgrim's story give you the strength to face whatever it is in front of you and drive you further to rely on God's divine help for those things you cannot face on your own."
Something like that.. The idea is pointing the listener to exactly how they may find their story in Pilgrim's journey.
Song: The River
Performed by: Brian Doerksen
This is Haven Today and a program called, “Crossing the River”. You know, we’re all going to die someday but I think our prayer needs to be that as Brian Doerksen expressed it in his song “The River”. We need to pray and ask the Lord to take our hand and lead us over to the other side. In Hollywood Paris Hilton is said to be interested in having her body frozen at the Cryonics Institute in Los Angeles. She also wants her dogs Tinkerbelle and Cinderella to join her. The Cryonics Society is, and I’m quoting now, “Dedicated to the proposition that death is an imposition on life and ought to be eliminated.” If you sign up and have the money to pay then at the moment of death your body will be placed in an insulated container called a cryostat and it will be kept frozen by liquid nitrogen until science has advanced enough to know how to reanimate you and cure whatever killed you. Well, Paris Hilton aside, I think most of us don’t want to die and that’s pretty clear from the farfetched lengths that people will go to try and avoid it. Death is frightening. And we all know someday it’s not going to be somebody else’s problem. It’s going to be our problem. There’s no way to buy your way out of it no matter what the Cryonics Society may say. But how do I know this? Well, because the Bible says that death is an enemy that has only been defeated by Jesus Christ. Any other plan to escape death is just an illusion. This is the Lord speaking to us, Isaiah 28 verses 15-18, “You boast, ‘We have entered into a covenant with death. At the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our abiding place.’ So this is what the Sovereign Lord says, ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation. The one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line. Hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place. Your covenant with death will be annulled. Your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it.’” What an amazing passage. God just sweeps away any hope that we can buy our way out of death. He says any false illusions that we have of tricking death are a lie. We’re just whistling in the dark. We’re making a lie our refuge. Those cryostats, they’re just a lie, a false refuge. But we have all kinds of refuges that we try to hide in from death, don’t we? All kinds of ways we try to reassure ourselves that it’ll be alright. These verses I just shared say that when the Day of Judgment comes the flood waters will overflow our false hiding places. Water, it’s an image of death and judgment in the Bible. When God’s judgment comes it’ll be like a flood that overflows your hiding place. What a terrifying picture that is and it tells us that death is not the real problem. The real problem is judgment to come and there’s only one true refuge, one safe hiding place and you find it in verse 16. Remember what I just read? “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation. The one who trusts will never be dismayed.” Well who is that tested stone? Jesus. It’s Jesus, he’s is the sure foundation. If you turst in him you’ll never be dismayed. The floodwaters of death and judgment won’t sweep over you. You’ll pass safely through to the other side, across the river, figurative speaking and on into glory. His death delivers us from judgment. His death has made a way through death so we can pass through it with our feet on the solid rock and know that he’ll be there to meet us on the other side. He’ll take us by hand and carry us across. Who needs cryonics? We have Jesus. John Bunyan in his famous book “Pilgrim’s Progress” wrote a powerful description of what it’s like for a believer to pass through death. He lived in the 1600’s and “Pilgrim’s Progress” was his most well known work. It’s never been out of print. It tells the story of a man who begins to fear judgment and starts looking for a way of escape. He’s told to go through a narrow gate and he does that. And then he’s taken to a hill. He looks up and there he sees a cross. As soon as he sees it the burden of his sin falls away and he starts on this journey home to the heavenly city. It’s what’s called an allegory. It’s an allegory of our life as believers. And finally after many dangers, toils and snares he makes it to the end. He’s almost there, but first he has to pass through death and he’s afraid.
Dramatic reading: Pilgrim’s Progress
Performed by: Ted Stotten
“Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan, an excerpt read by Ted Stotten here on Haven Today and a program called, “Crossing the River”. We know as believers what’s on the other side of death – Heaven. The home our souls long for where we’ll see the face of our Lord Jesus Christ and find relief from pain and suffering. Heaven, it’s the fullness of joy but to get there you have to pass through death, you have to cross the river. Believers for centuries have described death as crossing the river because of the story of the Exodus. The Israelites had a land of milk and honey waiting for them but to get there they had to cross the River Jordan. Heaven is our Promised Land but to get there we have to through river, we have to die. As the old spiritual puts it, “The River Jordan is chilly and cold but there’s milk and honey on the other side.” What’s it like to cross that river? What’s it like to die? The believers in Bunyan’s time were very concerned about that question and I think when any of us are facing death or have someone we love facing death we ask that same question with some fear and trepidation. What’s it like to die? In Bunyan’s day the family and friends would gather around the bed of a dying believer and they would witness the crossing and they would lean over and strain to hear the last words of the dying one they loved. They wanted to know what the dying person saw as that dying person was passing over, at that moment when they could see the other side and yet were still able to speak and tell others what they saw. Dr. J.I. Packer, the biblical scholar and writer says “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan has been a great help to him in his life as a believer but now as he’s gotten older and death is getting closer he’s especially touched and comforted by the description of this figure in Bunyan’s novel, Christian, going through the river. He talks about what the Puritans believed about the experience of death.
JI Packer: “They were quite sure that in the dying process, the Lord Jesus who said, ‘If I go and prepare a place for you I will come and receive you to myself that where I am you may be also.’ That, they were sure, had reference to every Christian’s death. It wasn’t just a reference to the second coming although of course there will be a terminal generation for whom the second coming publicly, will be the way in which the Master comes for them. But this, therefore, the expected presence and help of the Lord Jesus through the Spirit is part of the preparation for death that people were taught and that people were to expect. And in the crossing of Jordan at the end of the first part of “Pilgrim’s Progress” you’ve got Christian at first out of his depth in the river. See what an adapt way that is of focusing the sense of ominousness and dreadfulness of what you’re going into, never dying before. But then come the key words. Hopeful, who is crossing Jordan with Christian, holds him up and then Christian says – and these are the key words – “Oh, I see him again!” And it’s the Lord Jesus who he sees and after that he’s able to get across the river without turmoil or trouble. The river is calm for him and over he goes to the Celestial City on the other side. “Oh, I see him again!” And Bunyan leads us to understand that this is typical Christian experience.”
Dr. J.I. Packer a Puritan historian and biblical scholar talking about what the Puritans believed about the experience of death. Are there any dying words of believers recorded for us in the Bible that tell us what it’s like to die? Well, yes. There are the words of Stephen in the book of Acts. He was being stoned to death for testifying about Jesus and as he was dying he told the onlookers what he saw. It’s there in Acts 7:56, “Look,” he said, “I see Heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Thank you Stephen for sharing what I think to be important final words. We know from Colossians 3:1 that when Jesus was resurrected he was seated at the right hand of God the Father but Stephen saw him standing. Why? Well, it’s because he’s standing to greet Stephen, to welcome him home. He’s on his feet and that’s our great comfort as we face death. Jesus will be there. He’ll be there to see us through. He’ll welcome us to the other side. Can you imagine the joy he must have felt as he died? “I see Jesus!” What a great hope for every believer! What an answer to the question, “What will death be like?” We will see Jesus. He’ll be there. We get to see his face! The Apostle Paul put it in very simple terms, “You’re absent from the body but that means you’re present with the Lord.”
Thank you Jesus for this great assurance for all of us as we consider what it’s like to die but dying with Jesus Christ to get us through.
I’m reminded today of a friend of mine, he lives in Chicago in the Wheaton area. His name is Will. And when he heard about our son Jeff’s death he wrote me an email and here’s what he said, “Dear Charles, I’ve been thinking about the turmoil I felt when my dad died. My dad had a long, slow death from emphysema and related problems. When he died I felt such loss. The loneliest thing for us, it seemed to me, is to die. We do it alone. I couldn’t die for my dad but Jesus died with him. He died in his place. He was with my dad the whole way through everything in a way that he could not have been if it had not been for the cross and the empty tomb. Charles, what I’m trying to say is that God died with my dad and he died with your son. His love is so much higher, so far beyond us.” Thanks Will for just that reminder today. Maybe you are facing death today, crossing the river. Maybe someone you know has died recently, they’ve crossed the river. Let’s pray right now.
Father in Heaven, I would ask today that you would remind us one more time that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has gone there before us. The river has been crossed and when it comes time for each of us and those we love who are in Christ Jesus to pass over to the other side Jesus is there, standing, face smiling, waiting to receive us. We don’t have to go it alone. Please remind us of that. Thank you for the testimony of John Bunyan and this novel. It’s carried over and given comfort to so many people for so many years. May it be a blessing to all of us today and may the truth of the riches that we have in Jesus Christ who awaits us and calls us home and allows us to be present with him the moment we die, may Jesus Christ be living with us and comforting us all and it’s in his name we pray, amen.
This is Haven Today and the program is called, “Crossing the River”. I want to encourage you in your journey with the single most important book most Christians have never read, but need to. Pilgrim's Progress was published before the Revolutionary War, and even in that time period sold more copies than most of today's bestsellers. How did it accomplish such a feat?
The answer is simple ... Pilgrim's Progress is unique. Everyone who reads Pilgrim's Progress eventually discovers their own story inside it. The allegory follows a man named Christian on his journey. He encounters every category of temptation and trial a Christian can face and, with divine help, he overcomes.
We are all on our own journey's with our own unique temptations. I want you to follow Pilgrim on his journey. Maybe there is a sin in your life you didn't realize was an issue. Or maybe Pilgrim will be tempted in a way you are tempted every day. Let Pilgrim's story give you the strength to face whatever it is in front of you and drive you further to rely on God's divine help for those things you cannot face on your own.
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Millions of Christians have cherished John Bunyan's allegorical tale of the journey Christian and Christina made to the Celestial City. Written in the 1600s, this immortal classic is now available in a modern-day, understandable text, making it clearer and more forceful to the modern reader. Join Christian and his...
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