Monday, September 28, 2009

The Greatest Trick Ever Pulled...

Last week I was reading The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan for the first time (don't be shocked, growing up Lutheran, we rarely venture out of the Lutheran world of reading). One thing that struck me was the character Ignorance. Halfway through the pilgrimage we meet this guy who has hopped over a fence and started on his pilgrimage. Christian tells the guy that he needs to go through the Wicket-Gate in order to be received at the Celestial City, but Ignorance is quite convinced that he will be just fine. He tells Christian that his city is really quite far from the Wicket-Gate and closer to the Celestial City, so the Lord of the C.C. won't mind that he is coming this way.

By the end of the book, it is clear that Ignorance does not truly understand what Christ's righteousness and justification are, and that he believes he will be accepted into the C.C. by his own law-abiding merit. Ignorance is blind to his sin, and I believe that part of his blinding is due to the fact that the road seems to be quite easy for him to travel on. Christian and his companion, Hopeful, have to deal with a lot of obstacles and trials along the way, but Ignorance seems to always have some sort of help along the way that makes those hard trials almost obsolete to him.

It is interesting that he gets through these trials while others turn away at them. For example, lions on the path cause two other characters, Mistrust and Timorous, to go back home and cease the pilgrimage. By-ends, another character, is killed by falling off Hill Lucre and does not finish his pilgrimage. Most people in this book that are not true Christians fall into the traps. But Ignorance is helped along through these traps all the way to the very end. It is almost as if Satan wants Ignorance to think that he is successful through these "trials" because he is doing well on his own. He makes it over the River Death with help from a boat. Both Hopeful and Christian had to walk through the river and focus clearly on Christ in order to make it through (Christian nearly making it in this process), but Ignorance hops on a boat with ease! He marches up the Celestial City's gates and is ready for the pomp and splendor of being received, but his reception is not as he imagines. He is asked where his certificate is that he would have received at the Wicket-Gate. He fumbles in his pockets, but his own good merits cannot produce this certificate. Instead of being put on their shoulders and brought with much joy and jubilation into the Celestial City, Ignorance is brought to a door on the side of the hill that is the gate to hell.

While others in this book are easily turned aside by the trials that Satan puts in their way, Ignorance is helped through these trials by Satan only to be shown that this easy road taken was not the way of the Lord at all in the end. The story of Ignorance had me thinking that Satan can easily work through life being easy for us. When was the last time you had to face a hard trial? When was the last time that you felt perseverance being stretched in your very core? If the answer is hard to find, I want to submit to you to beware the greatest trick that the devil ever pulled. I say this in full reference to The Usual Suspects, that "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist." Satan is working hard, my friends, either through much trial and tribulation in your life, or through much ease and help along the way. Let us hold fast to the faith which comes only through one gate and persevere till we are before the heavenly throne!

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