Sermon:
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In 1660, a Baptist preacher named John Bunyan was put into prison in England. What was his crime? His crime was simply that he was a Baptist and was preaching the Gospel in England. At first, his sentence was only three months. At the end of those three months, the prosecutor asked him one question—will you stop holding your illegal meetings. He answered his accuser boldly: “If you release me today, I will preach tomorrow.” His imprisonment was extended another 12 years. It was during that 12 year time in prison that he wrote one of the most beloved books of the Christian faith ever written. It was a book called Pilgrim’s Progress. If you’ve never read Pilgrim’s Progress, you should. Next to the Bible, it ought to be required reading of every Christian of every age. Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of the Christian life. The main character is a person named Christian. And the book takes us on his journey from his hometown called “City of Destruction” to his destination called “Celestial City.” He starts his journey very difficultly because he’s carrying a huge burden with him. Of course, the burden that he’s carrying represents his sin. He meets a man named Evangelist who puts him on the path to the Celestial City and tells him how to be relieved of his burden. He meets other characters along the way. Characters like Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Mr. Legality, Obstinate and Pliable meet him and try to distract him. But then he arrives at the place of deliverance and his burden is rolled away. Is that the end of the story? Is that the end of Christian’s journey? No—it’s really just the beginning, because all of that happens in the first few pages of the book. The rest of the book is Christian’s struggle and journey to the Celestial City without his burden. Along the way he is distracted by places like By-Path Meadow and Vanity Fair. He is captured by the giant called Despair and taken for a while to a place called Doubting Castle. Friends like Faithful and Hopeful help him along the way until he eventually makes his way to the Land of Beulah, and crosses over the River of Death to the Celestial City. It is a wonderful book about the Christian walk. A walk that isn’t over when Jesus saves us. Because that’s just when it begins. Just because the burden of our sin is lifted doesn’t mean our journey is through. It just means that we are able to walk the path that ends in Glory. Sometimes bad choices might get us captured in Doubting Castle. Sometimes we might lose our friends Faithful and Hopeful on the filthy hill called Lucre. We might be tempted to avoid the hill called Difficulty and end up on the easy roads called Danger and Destruction. But when Jesus saves us, He will lead us back to the right path. And one day, that path will lead us to the Celestial City He has promised us. One day our journey will be complete. One day we will meet our Savior face to face. And when we meet Him,