The Progress of the Pilgrim: A Great Burden.

“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, ‘What shall I do?’” – John Bunyan

The Apostle Paul described the condition of the lost soul without Christ. It is a bleak picture. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”  

If Paul concluded his thoughts at this point in the biblical text, the unconverted would be without hope. We, as believes in Christ, would have been without hope. However, praise God that is not where the text ends.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—“ (Ephesians 2:4–5 (ESV)

But God! What wonderful words. Grammatically, these words introduce a contrast to what was previously written. What a contrast! The solution to our great burden of sin and guilt is the amazing grace of God. He made us alive by grace alone, through God given faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. He did not have to, but He chose to do so (Eph. 1:1-6).

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “When preachers announce from their pulpits that God loves people unconditionally, there is hardly any reason for the hearer to feel any burden or cry out with any lament, saying, “What shall I do?” If indeed God loves us unconditionally and requires nothing of us, then obviously there is no need for us to do anything. But if God has judged us according to the righteousness of His perfect Law and has called the whole world before His tribunal to announce that we are all guilty, that none of us is righteous, that none of us seeks after God, that there is no fear of God before our eyes, that we are in the meantime, before the appointed day of judgment, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, then anybody in his right mind (and even those in their wrong mind) would have enough sense to cry out the same lamentation, “What shall I do?”

“The story of Christian is the story of a man who is burdened by the weight of sin. His conscience was smitten by the Law, but where the Law is eliminated in the church, no one needs to fear divine judgment. Without the Law there is no knowledge of sin, and without a knowledge of sin, there is no sense of burden. The pilgrim knew the Law, he knew his sin, and he realized he had a burden on his back that he could not, with all of his effort and his greatest strivings, ever remove. His redemption must come from outside of himself. He needed a righteousness not his own. He needed to exchange that weighty sack of sin on his back for an alien righteousness acceptable in the sight of God. For the pilgrim there was only one place to find that righteousness, at the foot of the cross,” concludes Dr. Sproul.

That foot of the cross moment for me occurred on a Sunday evening in October, 1974 when I heard my pastor preach and say these words; “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity? Heaven or Hell?” That evening, the Holy Spirit regenerated my soul and enabled me to cry out in faith to God to save me from my sin. I repented of my sin and received Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord (John 1:12-13). It was at that moment that the great burden of my heart rolled away.

What about you? Have you repented of your sin, and the sinner you are, and received the righteousness of Jesus Christ as your own by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone? Respond in repentance and faith and be converted. May today be the day the great guilt of your sin roll away at the foot of the cross.

Soli deo Gloria!

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