In the last few days I’ve been reading John Bunyan’s book, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved (in a nice paperback here and free here on Kindle). I’ve read from it a few minutes each night, before hitting the lights, and I’m about halfway through now. The English is a bit archaic, but it’s good!
The book is about how Christ offers his gospel to notoriously bad sinners. Bunyan is quite moving at points, and I can see why thousands of people would flock to listen to him preach. There’s a vividness and robust brevity in his writing that I like a lot. His preaching was like that too, I’ve heard.
At one point in the book Bunyan reflects on the story about Jesus’ dinner with Simon the Pharisee recorded in Luke 7:36-50. While Jesus was sitting there, a notorious woman who had found forgiveness in Christ came and anointed his feet with her tears, her hair, and ointment. You may know this story well, but just imagine seeing that happen! It would be shocking.
Simon the Pharisee objected to the whole proceeding and especially to Jesus’ compliance to it. Jesus told him the reason she was so extravagant—her heart was full of love to her savior; her massive love came from her realization of how much she’d been forgiven. He says to Simon, in effect, “You haven’t shown me affection because you don’t know how much of a sinner you are.” The point can be stated quite simply: a person who has been forgiven much loves much. A person who thinks his sin is little loves little.
Bunyan makes a comment on this that struck me as powerful, and I think it is important for people in our day and age to hear it. Here is a paraphrase of what he says:
There are many dry-eyed Christians in this world, and these Christians carry out their duties with dry eyes too. They carry them out with no tears of sorrow for their sin. Their works are not sweetened with repentance. They do not see that they have great sins to be saved from. They lack a due sense of what they are. If they were honest they would admit they are sinners of a rather large size. But their awareness of their own sin is like eyesight in twilight, so their heart is not moved by God’s grace. This is why so much gospel has been sown in the world, yet Christ gets so little produce from it. When sinners flee to Christ with real self understanding, then Christ will get people who love him the way he wants.
I know that the heart of God is that we will see Christ for what he is—a great savior. But we won’t see it if we don’t see ourselves as great sinners. My prayer for all of us, and for the Christian community at large, is that God would restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psa. 51:12). This will come when we can say with another well-known Christian, “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great savior” (John Newton).
May there be a harvest of souls brought into the kingdom, souls soundly and decidedly converted, precious people with tears in their eyes, praise on their lips, and a fervent desire to serve Christ in their hearts. May our time in quarantine be a blessed time of personal revival and of good Christian reading. “Whoever walks with the wise will be wise” (Prov. 13:20).
PS: I’d encourage us all to read Luke 7, and Bunyan’s book is available here.