John Bunyan was born today–November 28, 1628. Most of us know him from his classic, Pilgrim’s Progress. However, he also wrote a great treatise entitled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. It serves as an autobiographical account of his salvation and sanctification, as well as his call to full-time ministry.
If John Bunyan understood anything, it was the presence of sin–his sin. As God began a work of grace in his heart, Bunyan began to change. First, his change was “outward.” He wrote,
“Wherefore I fell to some outward reformation, both in my words and life, and did set the commandments before me for my way to heaven; which commandments I also did strive to keep, and, as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes, and then I should have comfort; yet now and then should break one, and so afflict my conscience; but then I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and promise God to do better next time, and there get help again, for then I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England.”
He would later add,
“But, poor wretch as I was, I was all this while ignorant of Jesus Christ, and going about to establish my own righteousness…”
In other words, Bunyan began to grasp the truth that he required an inward change rather than the alteration of particular actions and reactions. The following account is particularly moving:
“But upon a day, the good providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work on my calling; and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God; and being now willing to hear them discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker also myself in the matters of religion, but now I may say, I heard, but I understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach, for their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told to each other by which they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, of their unbelief; and did condemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness, as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.”
Did you find it moving as well?
I wonder–Have you undergone an inner transformation as well? We are tempted to think that doing certain good activities and avoiding certain bad activities can be enough to convince God that we’re really–when it comes down to it–rather decent human beings. The fact of the matter is, however, we are anything but decent! Following in the footsteps of our first parent–Adam–we sin because we are sinners. And–if sinners require anything–it is a radical transformation, working itself out from the inside. We need grace abounding in our hearts, changing our lives and the lives of those around us. It is an absolute must that we experience what the three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun did–new birth.
John Bunyan deeply grasped the concept of regeneration–of being born again. Is that your testimony too? Please understand that being born again is a requirement for entrance into heaven. Jesus made that point very plain in his conversation with one of Israel’s noteable teachers (John 3:3). A supernatural work initiated by a sovereign God, who produces dramatic effects like the unseen wind (John 3:8) must take place in our lives if we are to know Jesus both now and throughout eternity.
Has God done such a work in your life?
If you do not know whether or not He has done so, ask Him today! That is a prayer He loves to answer with “Yes!” And when He does, you will slowly begin to comprehend “grace abounding.”