Walking Through Vanity Fair: the Christian and the World, Part 3 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #34)

Pilgrim's Progress
Pilgrim’s Progress



TEXT: John 17:14-18

14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

Walking Through Vanity Fair: the Christian and the World, Part 3 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #34)

From this passage, which is actually part of a prayer which Jesus prayed for His disciples, we have already learned a couple of things about how we should deal with being in the world but not of the world. First, we are to abstain from the evil, the temptation, and the sin that is in the world. And, second, we ought to live like Jesus Christ in the world.

Today, I want us to recognize how that we are on a mission in the world. We are not here to just bide time until Jesus returns or until we die and go to Heaven. Each of us has been commissioned by Jesus to fulfill a specific mission. Jesus Christ prays to His Father, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

Why did God send Jesus Christ into the world? In Luke 4, Jesus explained, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” That was Jesus’ calling. That was the mission He had to fulfill. Throughout His time in the world, He was tempted by the devil, He was criticized by people who did not believe, He was lied on and slandered, and He experienced hatred and humiliation. Yet, He fulfilled His mission in the world so much so that as He died on the cross, He said, ‘It is finished; I have done all that I came to do.’

The mission that we have to fulfill in the world is similar. We don’t have to die on the cross, but we have to preach the Gospel of the Cross — the good news — that Someone has already died on the cross. We still have to take the message of salvation to the poor, tell the broken-hearted about the Great Heart Healer, let those who are in bondage to sin know that they can be set free, and to declare that today is the day of salvation. If we are determined to fulfill our mission in the world, we will also be tempted by the devil, criticized by nonbelievers, lied on, slandered, hated, and humiliated. However, we ought not to let that discourage us. Our goal ought to be to finish like Jesus Christ finished, and to be able to say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…”

In the classic book, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan uses the depiction of the city Vanity Fair as a metaphor for the world and for what Christians experience in the world. Let’s read how Bunyan describes the experience of Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair:

So beholding the strange behavior of these men, one scornful trader happened to address them: “What will you buy?” But the pilgrims soberly replied, “We buy the truth.” At this, opportunity was taken all the more to pour contempt upon these men. Some mocked, some taunted, some spoke reproachfully, and some called upon others to strike them. Eventually things came to a great commotion and disturbance in the Fair, so much so that disorder was everywhere. As a result, word was brought to the governor of the Fair who quickly came down and appointed deputies, some of his most trusted friends, to examine these pilgrims concerning why they had brought about this disturbance of the Fair.

So the men were taken aside for investigation; and those who presided at this enquiry asked them from where they came, and where they were going, and why they were so unusually dressed. Christian and Faithful told them that they were pilgrims and strangers in this world, and that they were traveling to their own country, which is called the Heavenly Jerusalem, and that they had not given any cause for the men of the Town or the merchants to abuse them, and to delay them in their journey. The only possible exception could be that when asked to buy some goods there, they responded that they would only buy the truth.

But the appointed examiners did not believe them, though they did regard them as madmen and lunatics, and likely to be the sort who would bring confusion to the Fair. Therefore they were detained to be beaten, then besmeared with dirt and caged in such a way as to be made a spectacle to all the men of the Fair. And there they lay for some time while being made the objects of any man’s sport or malice or revenge. Meanwhile, the governor of the Fair only continued to laugh at their plight.

Satan tries ­­­­to portray the world in an attractive light in order to distract us from our mission. He did that with Jesus when he took Him up into a high mountain and showed Him all the glorious kingdoms of the world and promised to give them to Him if He bowed down and worshiped him. When that doesn’t work, as it didn’t with Jesus, he will turn on us and begin to show us the hostile and hateful side of the world because the two sides — darkness and light, God and Satan — cannot co-exist peacefully. In fact, Jesus pointed out this difference in His dealing with some who did not believe in Him. In John 8, He said, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world…” He goes on to tell them, “If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God… Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”

Jesus was emphasizing the difference between His origin and their origin. He was of Heaven and had a heavenly mindset; they were of this world and had a worldly mindset. And Jesus was on a mission to save people from a lost and dying world. Because we were adopted into God’s family when we accepted Christ as Savior, we share the same origin as Christ — God is now our father. And our mission in the world is to show as many people as possible how they, too, can become the children of God.

Now, in the process of doing this, we will face opposition. The children of the devil will oppose the work of the children of God. On top of that, our own human shortcomings and weaknesses will sometimes hinder us as we try to carry out the mission that God has given to us to fulfill. But, we can take comfort in the fact that we have been “sent” — “even so have I also sent them into the world,” Jesus says. The Greek word for “sent” is the word “apostello” — from which we get the word apostle. We did not go on our own; we were sent by God. F.B. Meyer notes that the construction of this verse places the One doing the sending first — thus giving it “pragmatic weight.” “For as Jesus could not execute His mission without the divine consecration, so neither could they who were sent by Him.” This is encouraging for us today because it lets us know that we are able to fulfill our mission because we are filled with and sent out by the power of God.

We are not alone in the world. We do not have to fear the hatred, slander, persecution, and negativity that we will face in the world because Jesus Christ is always with us. Nor do we have to succumb to the attractions and temptations of Vanity Fair because we have the confidence of knowing that our true home lies in Heaven — and it is far better than anything the world can offer.

Note these words from Pastor John Piper: “I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth ‘home.’ Before you know it, I am calling luxuries ‘needs’ and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set.”

Ladies and gentlemen, in this world, let’s keep a war-time mindset. Let’s stay focused on the mission that Christ has sent us into the world to accomplish. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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