Friday, March 24, 2017

Characters from Pilgrim's Progress -- Valiant for Truth

There are aspects of John Bunyan’s famous allegory Pilgrim’s Progress that have more details as you read on through the second portion of it concerning Christian’s wife and children who flee from the City of Destruction.  As their story unfolds, we read about some events that Christian went through but is not as detailed in the first half of the story as he is relating a first person account.  The story told by one of those characters in the second half is who I want us to visit with now.  The character is Valiant for Truth.  What a powerful name that Bunyan picks out for this young man, this young soldier, this young minister.  Bunyan is playing off Jeremiah 9:3 where the weeping prophet notes that there are some who aren’t valiant for the truth.  One of the chief characteristics of John Bunyan is pointed out by Charles Spurgeon and it is observed very clearly in this segment of the allegory.  Spurgeon noted that in reading all of Bunyan’s works and actually having read Pilgrim’s Progress more than 100 times, he said that when you read Bunyan, “he bleeds bibline.”  That means that his writings are so loaded with Scripture that you cannot help but notice how familiar that Bunyan is with the Word and he brings forth its application to us in a very helpful way. 

Christiana and her children meet up with Valiant for Truth at a very important piece of ground in the story.  They are being led by Great Heart who has led them to this point out of the City of Destruction.  Just as Evangelist played a very important pastoral role for Christian, Great Heart does the same for Christiana and her children.  Again, I would reiterate the great need for active pastoral ministry in our times.  Programs, causes, schools, and events can never take the place of a godly pastor who is honoring his calling of prayer and ministry of the Word in the local church.  As he leads them, they come to a place in the journey just beyond where Turn Away, from the City of Apostasy, had attempted to dissuade Christian from going on any further.  At that point in their journey, Great Heart spies a man standing in the road with a drawn sword and blood all over his face.  His clothes are a bit disheveled as if he has extended a lot of energy.  It is obvious that this man has just been engaged in a battle that was quite violent.  This young man soon introduces himself as Valiant for Truth. 

Valiant for Truth had grown up in the city of Darkland which was along the coast not very far from the City of Destruction.  The citizens were once visited by a preacher whose name was Mr. Telltruth that came to Darkland on an evangelistic endeavor.  While he was preaching, he referred to Christian who had forsaken the City of Destruction.  He was a man who had left all, wife and children, material possessions, job opportunities, and social relationships to go to the Celestial City.  There was nothing that had been important enough for him to give up for entrance into the Celestial City.  Mr. Telltruth told of Christian fighting with a serpent along the way and prevailing against it.  This reference is the place in the allegory where Christian fights with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation.  Mr. Telltruth then goes on to recount the victorious ending that Christian has not just in that battle but at the end of his journey.  He notes the company of the Shining Ones that come to receive him immediately after crossing the river.  Mr. Telltruth then turns that testimony into how the power of the gospel works and Valiant for Truth is converted as a young man and he too starts his pilgrimage on to the Celestial City by leaving Darkland.

After Valiant for Truth related his conversion to the travelers, Great Heart introduces him to Christiana and her children.  When Valiant for Truth realizes this is the family of Christian he is overjoyed by their exit from the City of Destruction.  It is then that Bunyan starts describing Valiant for Truth almost casually as he talks to him and draws out through the conversation what he has experienced in his own personal walk.  I would like to note just three very abbreviated points from that scene: 

He has a Jerusalem blade.  This is a very special sword that has been crafted with great authority.  Great Heart exclaims that it is important for every man to have a blade like this one and a hand to exercise it and use it.  It has edges that are never dull and it can cut flesh, bone, soul, and spirit (Heb. 4:12).  It has the ability to cut through every remarkable lie and deception the enemies of that of the faith can throw at a traveler.  Every believer and every minister must make the Blade a priority in their life.  D. A. Carson said, “There is no long-range effective teaching of the Bible that is not accompanied by long hours of ongoing study of the Bible.”  Your Blade must become your priority!  Your Blade is inerrant, authoritative, accurate, and sufficient.  You can believe in it for it has the power to allow you to know what God’s mind is.    

He has been in several battles with this blade.  Valiant for Truth had fought with this sword until the blood of his enemies and even some of his own mingled together and had run down the sword onto his hand.  The blood had dried in the heat of the battle and his hand had “clave” to the sword so that it had to be pried out of his hand after the battle had taken place (2 Sam. 23:10).  Great Heart makes an application here that needs to stand out to every saint, Valiant for Truth had fought so hard in the battle that it had cost some of his own blood.  Great Heart commends him for his resistance that had been so great it had come to the point of the shedding of blood against his own sin (Heb. 12:4).  We can never forget that as saints of God, there still should be an ongoing mortification of the flesh that Paul called us to in Romans 6.  We live in day where there seems to be very little mortification of the flesh.  It is clear that worldliness has a grip on the American church.  Lower things to the lowest common denominator, tell people what are the heaven/hell issues so they can live way below the high calling, church attendance isn’t nearly as important now as in the past, and a host of other matters have us on the ropes.  Despite what might be touted as the modern church being as powerful as the early church, that obviously is not taking place in America.  Social media has ripped away a façade and has allowed many to see the lifestyles of Pentecostals that isn’t much different from worldlings 10-15 years ago.  I constantly remind myself that if some of the old saints were removed from their graves and dropped into our lifestyles, I have a feeling they would be appalled at the drift of things.  Get in the battle with your Blade.  Live up to your high calling, O man of God!

The immediate battle was worth describing.  Great Heart soon gets to Valiant for Truth’s appearance indicating he had been in a ferocious fight.  Valiant for Truth said the worst battle he had fought was with three ruffians.  They were Wildhead, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic and they came after him with a vengeance.  These scoundrels nearly got the best of him before he was able to prevail with the work and power of the Spirit of God.  What is particularly insightful is where these enemies had come from.  The fight with these fellows had not taken place in the Valley of Humiliation or along some ambush at the edge of the path in the dark.  Valiant for Truth said the biggest enemies he faced were the ones that came from his own heart.  When we hold the truth in high regard, when we honor sound doctrine, when we place a priority on holy living that is separated from the world, there is a high tendency to be wild-headed about your beliefs, inconsiderate of sinners and slipping saints, filled with pride and conceit, and arrogance (and some may feel this was demonstrated in the previous section).  If truth was attacked, Valiant for Truth could be counted on to battle with an intensity that unnerved ordinary men.  He would have died for the truth without a second thought because he loved it so much and refused to sell it.  Because he was inconsiderate of others, he could never put himself in a place where he might walk a mile in their shoes.  He wasn’t able to extend any patience at all for the backslidings, luke-warmness and apathy that sometimes comes to even the best of saints and preachers as well.  Valiant for Truth had to destroy those enemies or they would have taken him down. 

This scene is filled with a host of other matters that I trust you will want to hunt down for yourself.  However, I cannot conclude without telling about Valiant’s crossing over into the Celestial City.  When he comes to the end, he starts passing along the things that were his personal belongings.  He passes on his sword, his courage, and his skill to the man who can attain to the ability to use them.  Then he pauses, “My Marks and Scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who will now be my Rewarder!”  In my opinion, this is another one of the most powerful statements in the entire allegory.  My encouragement for you is that you will be valiant for the truth and that you will have some marks and some scars to present to your Redeemer, your Rewarder.  Be valiant for the Truth!   
           
Thanks for reading. . .

To be continued. . .              


3 comments:

Shaun Butler said...

"We live in day where there seems to be very little mortification of the flesh. It is clear that worldliness has a grip on the American church. Lower things to the lowest common denominator, tell people what are the heaven/hell issues so they can live way below the high calling, church attendance isn’t nearly as important now as in the past, and a host of other matters have us on the ropes. Despite what might be touted as the modern church being as powerful as the early church, that obviously is not taking place in America. Social media has ripped away a façade and has allowed many to see the lifestyles of Pentecostals that isn’t much different from worldlings 10-15 years ago. I constantly remind myself that if some of the old saints were removed from their graves and dropped into our lifestyles, I have a feeling they would be appalled at the drift of things. Get in the battle with your Blade. Live up to your high calling, O man of God!"

Amen! And thank you for pointing out zealots need to be merciful. May God continue to bless you and this blog!

Born Again John 3:1-8 said...

I love these character studies! I identify with this character the most. I want to buy Pilgrim's Progress and also read the book written about each character.

Born Again John 3:1-8 said...

I love these character studies! I identify most with this one. I'm going to purchase Pilgrim's Progress and the book about each character! Being a Christian really is war! It can be so exhausting. I just received this precious truth 5/29/16 and attend a little UPCI church in Orlando.