Wednesday, November 02, 2011

In John Bunyan's classic "The Pilgrim's Progress" Faithful and Talkative have a meaningful conversation while accompanying Christian on the way to the Heavenly Country.  Christian is well acquainted with Talkative, since they are from the same home town.  He informs Faithful that Talkative isn't what he seems--from far away he is handsome, but as "unpleasing as one gets closer", that he may seem able to have a theological discourse, but has "no religion in his heart or his home.  They are as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of flavor.  Religion is only on his tongue." 

Faithful is not convinced, even though Christian warns him that Talkative has a bad effect on people, either by causing them to stumble or by cheating on them.  Faithful finally believes Christian and wants to get rid of him, and Christian advises him that all he has to do is talk to him and tell him the truth.

Then Faithful called to Talkative, "How does the saving grace of God manifest itself, when it is in the heart of a man?"

"So we speak about the power of things? It's a very good question, and I'm happy to answer you.  First where the grace of God is in the heart, it causes a great outcry against sin.  Secondly--"

"Wait a moment," interrupted Faithful.  "I think it shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin."

"Why, what's the difference between crying out against sin and abhorring sin?"

"Oh, a great deal:  A man may cry out because of a law against it, but he cannot abhor it unless he has a godly antipathy against it.  What was your second point?"

"Great knowledge of the gospel mysteries."

"That is also false.  Great knowledge may be obtained in the mysteries of the gospel and yet not work as grace in the soul.  Consequently, he would not be a child of God.  A man may know like an angel, and yet be no Christian; therefore your sign is not true.  Indeed, to know is a thing that pleases talkers and boasters; but to do is that which pleases God.  Not that the heart can be good without knowledge, for without that, the heart is nothing. There is therefore knowledge and knowledge--knowledge that rests in the bare speculation of things, and knowledge that is accompanied with the grace of faith and love--which puts a man upon doing even the will of God from the heart.  The first of these will serve the talker, but without the other, the true Christian is not content.  If a man 'can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge but has not love, he is nothing." countered Faithful.  "What is another point?" 

"None.  I see we shall not agree." 
 Faithful isn't through with Talkative yet.  Faithful accurately contrasts the difference between those who have grace working in their souls and those who merely observe it.  Those with grace at work in them are convicted of sin and the Savior and His holiness are revealed to him, and subject themselves in "faith and love to the power of the Word."  He goes on to eviscerate his acquiantence's lifestyle with the observation on how his life doesn't match his words, and how his words are actually foul lies.  His final point that Talkative is a shame to all followers outrages Talkative who in return accuses  Faithful to be a gossip and an "irritable, dismal man " who has no right to judge him and bids him a curt farewell. 

Christian returns to Faithful and reassures him that "I told you how it would happen.  Your words and his lusts could not agree.  He would rather leave your company than reform his life.  But he is gone.  Let him go," said Christian. "The loss is no one's but his own..."

Faithful hopes that Talkative will think about what he said to him, and maybe it would curtail his destructive activities in the future.  Christian appreciates Faithful's courage in being confrontive with Talkative. 

Faithful sang:

"How Talkative at first lifts up his plumes!
How bravely does he speak.  How he presumes
To overwhelm all minds near!  But as soon
As I did speak of heart, like waning moon
He shrivels to an ever smaller part:
And so do all, but those who know the heart."
While in college, someone older  used to call me "Thea-logical" because his impression of me was that I was always thinking about big theological issues.  Maybe he thought it was so cute that a girl would spend so much time "thinking deep thoughts" as he put it.  I didn't know whether to be flattered or to be annoyed that I wasn't taken seriously.  After awhile, I realized I didn't have to do neither.  I soon became concerned that my knowledge, such as it was at the time, was outpacing my obedience to God. 

Looking back, I had the impression that all I needed was more information, more truth and that would make me more holy.  So, I read a lot of books and got involved in a lot of bible study discussions.  Which is really a good thing.  But as Serena, my bible study leader for four years in college, pointed out, it's nothing without application to real life.  She didn't want us to be merely well educated in the Bible, she was trying to teach us to live for God in obedience to His Word. 

It wasn't until post college when I realized that my love for others was actually as thin as water.  I talked the talk, but when it came to really loving people when they were hard to love and partaking in true community and real fellowship,  I was blowing it big time.  God brought me down as I saw my selfishness, arrogance and self-righteousness for the first time.  Like Talkative, I could have walked away but I chose not to.  I had to face that I fell short--way short--in the things that pleased God the most.   Not long after that, worship was no longer a performance but a real expression of joy that God still loved me and still wanted me in His domain, as I knew I was the most unworthy citizen in His kingdom. 

As William Shell explains in "Come Follow Me" :

 "I will give God what he wants, regardless of whether he gives me what I want."  This is the biblical response to the fact that Jesus is Lord; it is the very heartbeat of discipleship and submission to his lordship.  Anything less than this is inconsistent and impoverished Christianity.