There are numerous reasons why some of us go back to “the world” tragic though it is. 2 Peter 2:1 speaks of those who bring destruction on themselves by—“denying the Lord that bought them.” For some it’s the backward call of an old environment (Demas, Paul’s friend and colleague in the gospel, was one like that). For others it’s the heavy burden of a tough life (see Christ’s parable of the sower, and Paul in Romans 8 lists life as one of the threats to our relationship with God). Some I have personally known, despairing of growth in Christlikeness, hemmed in by sins that clung to them despite all their tears and prayers and efforts until misery, shame and fear of public exposure overwhelmed them (we see that illustrated in the young preacher in Hawthorne’s brilliant, Scarlet Letter). * There are many among us very sensitive of our sins and in light of the Bible’s opposition to Sin and 1 John’s strong denunciation of sins we find our hearts condemn us. John is aware that his speech might trouble the hearts of repentant sinners and assures them that their hearts (mind and conscience etc.) don’t have the last word—their Savior does (1 John 3:20 and context)!
We’re not going back! Not ever! Not for any reason!
What follows is profoundly helpful in many ways. Please read thoughtfully.
Christian, John Bunyan tells us in his Pilgrim’s Progress, is on his way to Zion when he meets one of Satan’s right-hand men. Here’s what happened.
“So Christian went on, and Apollyon met him. Now the monster was hideous to behold: he was clothed with scales like a fish, and they are his pride; he had wings like a dragon, and feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke; and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion. When he was come up to Christian, he glared at him with a disdainful look and began to question him.
Apollyon: Where did you come from and where are you going?
Christian: I am come from the city of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and I am going to the city of Zion.
Apollyon: Ah, that means you are one of my subjects; for all that country is mine; I am the prince and god of it. How is it, then, that you have run away from thy king? If I were not sure that you did it so that you could do me more service I would strike you to the ground now with just one blow.
Christian: I was, indeed, born in your dominions but your service was hard, and our wages such as a man could not live on; for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). So when I was come to years, I did, as otherwise thinking persons do, I took stock to see how I could do better for myself.
Apollyon: There is no prince that will so easily lose his subjects and neither will I as yet lose you; but since thou complain of your service and wages, be content to go back, and what my country will afford I do here promise to give you.
Christian: But I have let myself to another, even to the King of princes; and how can I with fairness go back to you?
Apollyon: Hah, in doing this you have fulfilled the proverb, you exchanged a bad for a worse; but it is ordinary for those that have professed themselves his servants, after a while to give him the slip, and return again to me. You do the same thing and all will be well.
Christian: I have given him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to him; how then can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor?
Apollyon: Thou did the same by me, and yet I am willing to pass by all, if now you will yet turn again and go back.
Christian: What I promised you was in the days when I wasn’t old enough to have sense; and besides, I count that the Prince, under whose banner I now stand, is able to absolve me, yes, and to pardon also what I did while I served you. And besides, O destroying Apollyon, to tell the truth, I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country, better than yours so you can stop trying to persuade me: I am his servant, and I will follow him.
Apollyon: Consider again, when thou are in cool blood, what thou are likely to meet with in the way that you choose to go. Thou know that for the most part his servants come to an ill end, because they are transgressors against me and my ways. How many of them have been put to shameful deaths! And besides, thou count his service better than mine and yet he has never yet come from where he is to deliver any that served him out of their enemies hands. But as for me, how many times, as all the world very well knows, have I delivered from him and his servants, either by power or fraud, those that have faithfully served me; I delivered them right out of his hands! And so will I deliver you too.
Christian: The reason He doesn’t deliver them at present has a purpose: to test and enrich their love, whether they will cleave to him to the end; and as for the bad end you say they come to, they think and call it glory! They don’t much expect present deliverance and they are happy and content to wait for their glory; and then they shall have it, when their Prince comes in his and the glory of the angels.
Apollyon: You have already been unfaithful in your service to him so what makes you think you will receive wages of him?
Christian: In what way, O Apollyon, have I been unfaithful to him?
Apollyon: You fainted at first setting out, when you were almost choked in the gulf of Despond. You attempted wrong ways to be rid of your burden when you should have waited patiently till thy Prince had taken it off. You sinfully slept and lost your choice things and you were almost persuaded to go back at the sight of the lions. And when thou talk of your journey and of what you have seen and heard you inwardly desire vainglory in all you say or do.
Christian: All this is true, and much more which you have left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honor is merciful and ready to forgive. But besides, these infirmities possessed me in your country for there I greedily sucked them in but I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.
Apollyon: Then Apollyon broke out into a grievous rage, saying, I am an enemy to this Prince; I hate his person, his laws, and people: I have come here with only one purpose: to stand against you!
Christian: Apollyon, beware what you do, for I am in the King’s highway, the way of holiness so take heed to yourself.
Apollyon: Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare yourself to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that you will go no farther: here will I spill your soul.
And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that. Then did Christian focus his mind for he saw it was time to bestir him and Apollyon, just as determined, made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail, by which, in spite of all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This drove Christian back a little so Apollyon pressed after him even more strongly but Christian again took courage and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day and by this time Christian was almost quite spent for you must know, that Christian, by reason of his wounds, was bound to grow weaker and weaker.
Then Apollyon, seeing his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him slammed him down in a dreadful fall and Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, “I am sure of you now!” and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was just about to deliver the killing blow, to make a full end of this good man, Christian reached out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise,” (Micah 7:8) and with that he gave him a deadly thrust, which made him recoil as one that had indeed received his mortal wound. Seeing that, Christian made at him again, saying, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Hearing that, Apollyon spread his dragon wings and flapped away and Christian saw him no more. (James 4:7). In this combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard, as I did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all through the fight; he spoke like a dragon while and on the other side, what sighs and groans burst from Christian’s heart.
During that whole time I never saw him give so much as one pleasant look until he saw he had wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword; and then he really did smile, and look upward! But it was the most dreadful sight that ever I saw. So when the battle was over, Christian said, “I will here give thanks to him that has delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, to him that did sustain me against Apollyon.” And so he did!
Then there came to him a hand with some of the leaves of the tree of life, which Christian took and applied to the wounds he had received in the battle and was healed immediately. He also sat down in that place to eat bread, and to drink of the bottle that was given him to him earlier so, being refreshed, he got ready to journey on with his sword drawn in his hand; for he said, “I know not but some other enemy may be at hand.” But he met with no other affront from Apollyon.“
We’re never going back, not for any reason! If He loved us and came to save us when we cared nothing for Him; if He with wondrous patience works to enrich us and complete the glorious purpose He has begun, we’re staying. He will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us. We came at His call in our ones and twos, in our little groups, in our large congregations and gave Him our word. We’re not leaving—we’re not going back!
* I’ve modernized the Scarlet Letter and made it so much easier to read. I’m certain I haven’t hurt it. It’s a “must read” so to speak. God did us a favor through Hawthorne. The revision is available on Amazon.