Many Christians struggle with the balance between faith and works or grace and effort. When we recognize our continuing sins is the answer to just try harder or to believe more? Pastor Brian Hedges new book, Active Spirituality, helps to bring some clarity to these concerns. Brian has graciously consented to answer questions about this important topics.
SP: We read Pilgrim’s Progress to our children as they grew up. Would you recommend that Christians do the same? How does Bunyan’s work help address the balance between grace and effort?
Brian: Absolutely! The Pilgrim’s Progress is a great book, for both children and adults. Spurgeon reportedly read it over 100 times. I’ve certainly not done that, but I do keep returning to it again and again.
Bunyan is helpful because he uses pictures so powerfully to communicate spiritual truth. The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory about the journey every Christian is on. It tells the story of Christian’s pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City and sheds all kinds of light on the various temptations and escapes, trials and blessings, defeats and victories, and decays and renewals that we all experience along the way.
SP: If the Scripture invites us to rest, then why are we commanded to run?
Brian: Rest and run are just two of the many metaphors used in Scripture to teach us something about the Christian life. Scripture also invites us to abide, grow, walk, fight, strive, stand, endure, labor, and more. The thing with metaphors is that they have to be understood in context and not pressed further than the biblical authors intended.
Scripture does invite us to rest (e.g. Matthew 11:28-30), but this doesn’t cancel out the other more active language Scripture uses in other places. Putting it altogether can be a challenge, but I think there is a way of doing so that shows the beautiful harmony of Scripture. There is a kind of rest in Jesus that brings refreshment for the soul that at the same time invigorates us to run with endurance the race set before us.
SP: How can we expect to know the Spirit’s direction? Should we wait, as you say, for some mystical jolt to get us going?
Brian: The Spirit speaks to us through his word. The best way to know the Spirit’s direction is to pay attention to what he has already said in Scripture. That doesn’t rule out the ongoing personal ministry of the Spirit. But I believe that ministry is one of illumination, not new revelation.
SP: Brian, thanks so much for taking the time to provide your valuable insight into these important questions!