Ch.2 The Paths and the By-Paths: The Hike

It has certainly been a long time since I last updated this chapter write up. If the previous section write up is a little fuzzy you can go here to give it a little bit of a refresher. Today we will be looking at what J.I Packer calls “The hike.”

In this section, Packer, equates the life of a Christian as a hike. The reason he does this is because, like a hike, our lives go through various stages and challenges. This section borrows heavily from John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress. Rather, Packer references Pilgrims Progress quite a bit. Packer and Nystrom note that Christians (the character in Bunyan’s book) progress can be split into four parts.
1) In the first part Christian finds saving, converting Grace. He sees and believes the Cross and finds himself a new man and his burden gone.

2) The second part is conflict. This is where Christian fights the destroyer and ventures through the valley of the shadow of Death. Where thoughts of despair surround him

3) The third part is companionship. Christian sees Faithful and they swap stories. He will lose Faithful during his journey but be joined later on by Hopeful, where they will journey the rest of the way together.
– it is here that J.I Packer states, and I agree (after learning the hard way), that every believer needs another person where they can walk closely with.

4) In the fourth part, Hopeful and Christian explores moral and spiritual compromise through a meeting with a man named By-ends and also by another man named Demas. They escape those two men but are later locked up in Doubting Castle.

Packer notes that through Bunyan’s writing, we can see that if we are not faithful, we will undoubtedly lose our assurance of salvation. Before I go on, I would like to state that Packer doesn’t seem to be implying that we will lose our salvation. It seems that Packer is saying that we will lose our confidence that we are saved, we will call into question whether or not the Gospel changed us. We will question whether or not we are playing church rather than living a Gospel-driven life. And in our doubts, not only will we lose our assurance of salvation (though not necessarily our salvation. It is vitally important to remember that) but also the Truth of the Gospel.

Packer then states that the authentic Christian life is a many sided affair if it is viewed from the outside. However, from the inside of this life it is just a quest for more of God and more of life both here and later.

The way that Bunyan describes trials, truimphs ditches and deliverance essentially describes the path that Christians walk in which so many by-paths seem to call. These by-paths MUST be resisted if we are not to go astray.

Packer and Nystom want to paint the Christian life in three stages. Of course, like all analogies it isn’t perfect, but I do believe it does paint a fairly accurate picture.
Like a painter who lays down first the green and blue hues, then red and gold and finally the pinks and oranges. The hike is just like the green and blue. Next is God is with us in faithfulness which is like the reds and golds. and finally to finish off the painting, the love of our “best friend” Jesus, who is always beside us is the pinks and oranges. Using all three hues completes the picture that is the Christian life.

This one was a relatively short section. However our next one combines the section entitled “The good companions” and “Hiking with Jesus Christ.”

Some things to remember before ending this entry:

– Packer notes that when we do not press into Jesus (through prayer, reading meditation etc) we, not only lose our assurance of salvation but also the truth of the Gospel. Losing the truth of the Gospel is very much tied to losing our assurance of salvation. Let me be clear, I do not necessarily believe you will lose your salvation. However you will very much lose the confidence that you are saved by Jesus, and in all honesty, you may very well not be. It is during these storms of doubt that we find out whether the Cross of Christ has made us alive, or if we have been playing religion for most of our lives.  Press in, wrestle, Study the Word, Pray and Seek.

– Our lives are very much like a picture. Just as a painting loses some of it’s beauty when one or more colour is missing, so too, does our lives. If we forget about the faithfulness of God and/or forget that Jesus is always beside us, our lives do lose it’s beauty. again Press in, Wrestle, Study, Pray and Seek.

Hansen

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