“Mr. Worldly-Wiseman is not an ancient relic of the past. He is everywhere today, disguising his heresy and error by proclaiming the gospel of contentment and peace achieved by self-satisfaction and works. If he mentions Christ, it is not as the Savior who took our place, but as a good example of an exemplary life. Do we need a good example to rescue us, or do we need a Savior?” John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.
Last year, I read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan for the first time. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend that you do so. It’s a fairly short book, but very meaningful. I plan on rereading it again within the next few weeks. The story follows a man named Christian, who is converted by Evangelist, and leaves his home, friends and family in order to get to the Wicket Gate. During his travels, he meets several people. I could talk about every one of them and come up with a pretty timely post, but the one that impacted me the most was possibly Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Christian, on his way to the gate, was distracted by Mr. Worldly Wiseman and his secular gospel. He was temporarily tricked into seeking deliverance from his burden from the law rather than from Christ Himself. He reminds us that the only way to this gate, the only way to salvation and to Heaven, is Jesus Christ, through His blood. We can not get to Heaven based on the Law, although the Law is incredibly important, it is not the only thing necessary. We can follow every commandment and still lack salvation – remember the rich young ruler in the Bible. He had kept the commandments from his youth, had lived his life very well. Of course, he had sinned, because he was human, but he had probably lived a better life than most of us have. But remember what happened to him! Despite the fact that he had lived a very careful and really, a quite holy life in comparison to how many people live, he was on his way to Hell because he did not have salvation. He cared far too much for this world than he did about salvation and eternal life and he did not put his trust in Jesus. Jesus did not tell him, “Because you have kept my commandments and live a good life, you will go to Heaven.” Let’s look at Matthew 19 verses 20-22 and see what Jesus told this man.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
You can live a fantastic life, you can be as sinless as a human can possibly be, but if you cherish this world more than God, you will not be saved. If you try to get into Heaven based on the law and how you follow it, you will not be saved. We must remember that everything we have, every bit of our salvation, every second chance God gives us, it is because of Jesus Christ and His blood. It is because of His everlasting grace. It is because of His sacrifice, not because of us and how great we may be. We are nothing without Christ.
If you read the book, you will see that Mr. Worldly Wiseman presents one of the first true tests. He tempts Christian and tries his best to get him to sway away from the Gospel and leave his journey to the gate behind. He tells Christian to ignore the Evangelist’s advice and to go into the town of Morality to follow the guidance of a man named Mr. Legality and his son. I will refer to another bit of scripture here, because this Mr. Worldly Wiseman reminds me of a group of people we hear about in 2nd Peter. Remember when Peter warned the church of the False Teachers, or, as he referred to them, “scoffers”? Let’s look and do a bit of a comparison. These verses are from 2nd Peter 2 if you want to study further.
1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
Mr. Worldly Wiseman…think of him as a typical false prophet. Think of him as those people you see preaching a false gospel every day. The ones that tell us that we can either, A.) Get into Heaven by being a good or sincere person (ex: if the atheists, muslims, and etc are sincere in their beliefs then Jesus will still save them even if they don’t believe in Him, or if they are good people He will allow them into Heaven despite the fact that they don’t believe in Him.) and/or B.) That we don’t need Jesus or salvation at all.
Mr. Worldly Wiseman tried to tell Christian that he didn’t really need to go through all of that pain to get to Heaven (remember, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.) and all he really needs to do is simply be a good person. He tried talking Christian into believing that we didn’t really have to go through so many trials for Jesus’ sake, all he needed to do was go to a city and live well. But as Christians, we know that in this life we will, not may, face many trials for Christ’s sake.
Throughout the book, John Bunyan writes about the trials and how difficult Christian life can be. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from it,
“This hill though high I covent ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way of life lies here.
Come, pluck up, heart; let’s neither faint nor fear. ”
― John Bunyan,
We can learn a lot from Christian and the trials he faced. We have to ask ourselves…are we willing to climb that hill? Are we willing to face the difficulties, are we willing to stand against all of those people who will fight to stand in our way, to talk us out of living for Jesus? Do we trust Jesus enough? Like I touched on in my last post, we will all face our own trials. We will all be persecuted, whether it is how I was, online, or if it is in person, or if it is emotional or physical. Whether we go to a mission field in another country and become martyrs for Him like Jim Elliot, or if we stay safe at home while still preaching the Gospel unashamedly. No matter who we are or where we are, we will meet our own version of Mr. Worldly Wiseman who does his best to turn us away…and let me tell you, he will be very convincing. He will use the best words. He will flatter us, and make us wonder if we really have to go through such heartache for God. And if you aren’t careful, if you aren’t in constant prayer, studying the Bible and growing closer to Him, you will end up becoming a backslider. We learn from 2nd Peter chapter 2, later in the chapter, that God will judge everyone. No one, not even a Christian, is safe from His judgement. We can rest easy if we are saved knowing He will never condemn us to Hell, but we know that He judged even the angels who fell. If they were capable of falling, so are we. We have to be on guard.
“One leak will sink a ship, and one sin will destroy a sinner.”
― John Bunyan