Christian: Met you with nothing else in that valley?
Faithful: Yes, I met with Shame.
Christian: Why, what did he say to you?
Faithful: What! Why, he objected against religion itself; he said it was a pitiful, low, sneaking business for a man to mind religion; he said that a tender conscience was an unmanly thing; and that for a man to watch over his words and ways, so as to tie up himself from that hectoring liberty that the brave spirits of the times accustom themselves unto, would make him the ridicule of the times.
Yea, he did hold me to it at that rate also, about a great many more things than here I relate; as, that it was a shame to sit whining and mourning under a sermon, and a shame to come sighing and groaning home: that it was a shame to ask my neighbor forgiveness for petty faults, or to make restitution where I have taken from any.
He said, also, that religion made a man grow strange to the great, because of a few vices, which he called by finer names; and made him own and respect the base, because of the same religious fraternity.
And is not this, said he, a shame?
The above scene from Pilgrim’s Progress gives a glimpse into the unrelenting pursuit Satan has towards the believer. When Satan knows he can no longer keep us out of eternity with the one and only true God, his mission shifts.
True to his name, he persistently presents us before the Lord with accusation after accusation hoping to paralyze us with guilt and shame. If he can keep us from walking in the freedom bought by Christ’s blood on the cross, then he can prevent others from the freedom as well. What better way to do this than to accuse us of our sins.
Accused But Rescued
As a follower of Christ, our sin has been forgiven, and we have been justified before God. However, we still live in a fallen world and battle against the flesh inside of us that still needs to die. The enemy knows this and continually brings our sin before us and God with the hope that we will succumb under the weight of our guilt and shame.
Zechariah the prophet records in the book of Zechariah the visions he receives from the Lord to His people after they return from being exiled in Babylon. God Himself rescues them; yet, Satan still desires for the people to remain guilty before the Lord.
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.
The Lord said to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Zechariah 3:1-2
God is a redeeming God and one that continually saves and rescues us from daily trials and temptations.
Nothing can thwart God’s plans for His people and His creation. Even when His people have walked in sin and turned their back on Him, God is still faithful to protect and save His people. The Holman Christian Study Bible for Women states:
Though still “burning”—influenced and afflicted by the dominant pagan culture from which the Lord was removing them—God’s people were not subject to Satan’s efforts to thwart God’s purpose for them.
Whether we have been in exile as the Israelites in the book of Zechariah or whether we have walked in a pattern of sin that needs rescuing, God snatches us out of the fire and rebukes the enemy on our behalf and for His Name’s sake.
Guilty But Righteous
Not only does God rebuke the enemy, but He goes even a step further and dresses us with Christ’s righteousness.
God could have forgiven us of our sins and left us on this earth in the state we were in until His return. Instead, He chose to elegantly dress us in clothing that befits a king. Zechariah’s vision continues:
Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel.
So He spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!”
Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”
Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the Angel of the Lord was standing nearby. Zechariah 3:3-5
We no longer wear the garment of shame and guilt but the garment of righteousness.
Our guilt is removed!
We are free!
Paul excellently proclaims this truth in Romans 8:1-2 :
Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Yes, we have been in bondage. Yes, we have been in exile. But God says we are free and we do not have to walk around with shoulders slumped over wearing our old clothing of guilt and shame.
Grace and mercy have been bestowed upon us, and our shoulders can be held back with full assurance of the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Repeatedly Paul tells us in the New Testament to put off the old and to put on the new. Why? Because as believers who have been dressed in the righteousness of Christ, we no longer have to wear our old clothing.
With brand new clothes to wear, why would we continue to dress in our filthy rags when there are splendid robes to be worn!?!
But with this new clothing also comes the responsibility of a new purpose.
Used But Repurposed
With new clothing, one is now dressed for success. However, the garment does not make the person. God clothes us in splendid robes because He has a purpose and a plan.
Zechariah’s vision concludes with a call of God to His people as well as an affirmation of their guilt being removed.
Then the Angel of the Lord charged Joshua:
“This is what the Lord of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.
“Listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring My servant, the Branch.
Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”-the declaration of the Lord of Hosts-“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day.
On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. Zechariah 3:6-10
After dressing His people, God beckons them to walk in His ways and keep His instruction. He desires to let them manage and care for His house. To do this, one must be willing to obey.
Paul reminds us in Romans 8:13 that we are no longer obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh. We do not have to walk around in our old filthy rags and ways. Through the Holy Spirit inside of us, we can carry out God’s call to obedience, and He will fulfill all His promises, including the removal of guilt.
This relationship with Christ enables us to come boldly before the throne day in and day out for the continual receiving of grace and mercy in our lives.
While our obedience does not earn us anything, our obedience is one way to express our love and gratitude for the work Christ has done for us on the cross.
From Genesis to Revelation, the great accuser has been seeking to paralyze the believer from experiencing the abundant life God has for them here on earth. Satan actively seeks to prevent believers from sharing the glorious freedom with others.
Should we be fearful and give in to the enemy?
Faithful and Christian give us a right view towards our response to the enemy of our salvation.
Christian: And what did you say to him?
Faithful: Say! I could not tell what to say at the first. Yea, he put me so to it, that my blood came up in my face; even this Shame fetched it up, and had almost beat me quite off. But at last I began to consider, that “that which is highly esteemed among men, is had in abomination with God.”
And I thought again, this Shame tells me what men are; but it tells me nothing what God or the Word of God is. And I thought, moreover, that at the day of doom, we shall not be doomed to death or life according to the hectoring spirits of the world, but according to the wisdom and law of the Highest.
Therefore, thought I, what God says is best, indeed is best, though all the men in the world are against it. Seeing, then, that God prefers his religion; seeing God prefers a tender conscience; seeing they that make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are wisest; and that the poor man that loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him;
Shame, depart, you are an enemy to my salvation!
Shall I entertain you against my sovereign Lord? How then shall I look Him in the face at His coming? Should I now be ashamed of His ways and servants, how can I expect the blessing?
But, indeed, this Shame was a bold villain; I could scarce shake him out of my company; yea, he would be haunting of me, and continually whispering me in the ear, with some one or other of the infirmities that attend religion; but at last I told him it was but in vain to attempt further in this business; for those things that he disdained, in those did I see most glory; and so at last I got past this importunate one.
And when I had shaken him off, then I began to sing—
The trials that those men do meet withal,
That are obedient to the heavenly call,
Are manifold, and suited to the flesh,
And come, and come, and come again afresh;
That now, or sometime else, we by them may
Be taken, overcome, and cast away.
Oh, let the pilgrims, let the pilgrims, then
Be vigilant, and quit themselves like men.
Christian: I am glad, my brother, that you withstood this villain so bravely. For of all, as you say, I think he has the wrong name. For he is so bold as to follow us in the streets, and to attempt to put us to shame before all men, that is, to make us ashamed of that which is good. But if he was not himself audacious, he would never attempt to do as he does. But let us still resist him, for notwithstanding all his bravadoes, he promotes the fool and none else. “The wise shall inherit glory,” said Solomon, “but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”
Faithful: I think we must cry to Him for help against Shame, who would have us to be valiant for the truth upon the earth.
Christian: You say true.
The next time the enemy stands with you before God, do not allow his accusations to hit your heart.
Instead, humbly come before God with your sin, let His grace and mercy clothe you with Christ’s righteousness and walk away with great purpose in spreading the Good News with others.
Movie: Pilgrim’s Progress
Song: Greater by Mercy Me
Notes and Commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress by Ken Puls