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From Slaves to Conquerors
By David A. DePra
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shall thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I swore unto their fathers to give them. (Josh 1:1-6)
The book of Joshua begins the account of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land. Israel had been in this position, at least geographically, once before. But they had refused to enter the land. God therefore had to send them into the wilderness for 40 years. This account in Joshua is therefore the second time they have come to this land. This time they would enter by faith.
You will note that forty years earlier Israel had spied out the SAME land. They had seen the SAME tribes dwelling in the land. They had been given the SAME promise of God – and had been given the SAME command to enter the land by faith, and the SAME command to drive out the inhabitants. And of course, they were being led by the SAME God. Forty years later, everything was exactly the SAME. Nothing had changed. Well, nothing except ISRAEL. The people of Israel had drastically changed. Forty years earlier they were in UNBELIEF. Now they were walking in FAITH.
Of course, part of the reason for this was that the entire generation of adults who had refused to enter the land had died in the wilderness. So this was a new generation who had spent 40 years in the wilderness, and who, because of that, were ready to believe God. In this, among other things, we see God’s purpose for the wilderness: To deal with unbelief. To bring under the power of the Cross – represented by the wilderness – everything in us that gives place to unbelief. And then to raise us up in Christ with a new perspective and submission to God, so that we can move on with Him into His greater purposes.
Some wilderness was always necessary – even if there had been no unbelief 40 years before. The trip from Egypt to Promised Land was at least 11 days. And because God wanted to deal with them, and establish His law with them, He purposefully extended that out to almost two years – all of this before any unbelief or refusal to enter the land. So one way or another, there is going to have to be SOME wilderness for each of us. Sure. Our natural thinking, and need for the work of the Cross mandates it. This is a principle that the OT is illustrating.
However, our wilderness need not take 40 years. You may be saved – delivered from Egypt by the Blood of the Lamb – and YES, you do have to go through a wilderness. Indeed, you will always have a wilderness experience in your life OVER SOME FACET of your relationship with God. But don’t make it take 40 years because of unbelief. Submit to God by faith. Let Him work in you. There may be some NECESSARY seasons in the wilderness – but save yourself much UNNECESSARY time in the wilderness.
Either way, the banishment to the wilderness is always intended to be a REDEMPTIVE act – even though it is a judgment. The wilderness is where God deals with us so that we might enter into the Promised Land. The time spent there depends on our response to God.
Now, of course, when we speak of the Promised Land, we are never talking about salvation. No. Salvation occurred for the Israelites back in Egypt – on Passover night through the Blood. By the time they got to the Promised Land, the power of Egypt over them had been broken. They were no longer SLAVES. The Promised Land, then, is not salvation. Rather, it is a relationship with God – based upon faith – wherein we live out, and experience, all that salvation HOLDS. Or to put it another way, salvation is the result of being saved by Christ, "by grace through faith." The Promised Land speaks of a relationship with Christ – it speaks of experiencing the Christ who has already saved us. This results in God getting Himself glory in my life, and of me living in the growing freedom knowing Him means.
Some practical thinking shows that this is true. You are saved in a moment when you repent of the sin of running your own life, and put your faith in Christ. At that point, you are delivered from your Egypt. Your salvation is NOT a process, but a finished reality. However, despite the fact that we are no longer slaves to the realm of darkness, we still act like it, think like it, and live like it. We may be out of Egypt, but there is still a lot of Egypt in us. It takes a lifetime to know Christ, and to experience all of Him. Many of the foundational issues that prepare us for a deeper walk with Christ are settled – if we respond to God – in the wilderness. But it is in the Promised Land that we actually live them out through faith.
What we see in this with regards to Israel is that they had once been slaves to Egypt. God delivered them all in one night through the Blood of the Passover Lamb. At that point, they were as free from the power of Egypt as they were ever going to be. God brought them through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness, over to the Promised Land. But they refused to enter. Despite being freed from slavery to Egypt, they were still very much in bondage to themselves – to unbelief. The wilderness was where God dealt with this. And when He was done, they were no longer slaves, but an conquering army ready to enter the land by faith, and drive out the inhabitants who they once feared.
Again – we see that everything was the same except Israel. They had been slaves, but now were more than conquerors. What had happened? And why did it happen? These are important questions because they speak directly to God’s dealings with us today.
There is no question that the change that took place in Israel was the result of their 40 years in the wilderness. The wilderness experience takes place between deliverance from Egypt and the entry into the Promised Land. Thus, it is the wilderness experience that delivers us from the Egypt that is within us, and it is the wilderness experience that prepares us for the Promised Land – for our actually living in and standing in our inheritance in Christ Jesus.
How does the wilderness do this? How does it turn slaves into conquerors? Well, first of all, we need to remember that when we describe the change that happened to Israel, from slave to conquerors, that we are not simply describing improvements that they made to their conduct, or describing something that God magically did to them. No. We are really talking about a change in their RELATIONSHIP with God Himself. When we forget this, or omit this, it is where we usually get off the track in so many ways.
This is a vital point to see. So often, when Christians speak of things like, "Christian character," or, "overcoming," or, "spiritual power and authority," we treat them as if they are THINGS. We say, "I have overcome this THING – this problem in my personality through the Holy Spirit." Or we say, "I used to be troubled by many THINGS -- but God changed me, and now I’m not troubled by them." Sometimes we treat Jesus like He is a big blueprint. We think God wants to make us like Him. Or perhaps we think it is up to us to act like Him, be like Him, or that we are supposed to mold ourselves into a little version of Him. To many Christians, this is what Christian growth is – it is us becoming like Jesus.
Today there are many examples of this thinking. In some places, Christianity is little more than self-help – the focus is about making ME a better person. Of course, we say we want to be better people because we want to please God, but often it is because we want to be happy with ourselves. It might surprise many Christians to learn that God is not interested in making them happy with themselves, or – and here is a shocker – God is not interested in making you a better person. Not if what you mean by that is that God wants to mold your flesh into a religious specimen that looks and acts like Jesus. Of course, many today would not even know what I’m talking about – we haven’t a clue about the difference between religious flesh and real spiritual life.
Ok. But then what does God want to do? Well, instead of making, "you like Jesus," what God wants to do is crucify the YOU out of the way so that Jesus can be seen in and through you. I’m not saying God won’t use your personality, or that you will become any less human, but what I’m getting at is the big, "I," the big, "YOU," and the big, "ME" – these must come under the Cross. Then Jesus can be seen. Instead of operating with ME as the center of my universe – oh yes, religiously, and, "for God’s glory," ALWAYS THAT – instead of that, I must be adjusted to where Christ is the center of my universe. And of course, if this would happen, then my true identity in Christ would be whole.
Christianity is CHRIST IN US. And the Holy Spirit wants to do a work in us whereby the Christ in us can be seen in and through us. This is NOT a matter of the Holy Spirit making us like Jesus. It is a matter of, "death to us," that the life of Christ might be seen:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7-12)
Well, I’ve said all of that, to get to the point I started with – that all change in a Christian is a matter of change – not in themselves as a thing unto itself – but is the result of a change in their relationship with God Himself. You cannot divorce who you are IN Christ from your personal relationship with Christ. You cannot become spiritually mature as a CONDITION – independent of your personal relationship with Jesus. Again – Christianity is not a glorified self-help program. It is not about ME becoming a better person for God. Rather, all spiritual growth is the direct result of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
For example, if you want to be strong spiritually, you will be as strong spiritually as you are weak in yourself, and dependent upon Christ. Get that. Spiritual strength is the result of dependence upon God. It is the result of your RELATIONSHIP with Christ. Another example: If you want to be mature in Christ, you must become a little child. We could go on and on. But the bottom line is this: Who you are as a Christian is defined by who you are TO CHRIST. It is NOT defined by your gifts, your service, your brains, your education, your personality, your success in ministry, or even by WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO CHRIST. No! Who you are as a Christian is defined by who you are to Christ, and by who Christ is to you – your personal relationship with Him.
Here is where the wilderness comes in. The wilderness experience is where God intends to establish basic essentials in that relationship. And we see this by the time Israel was ready to enter the land by faith. Why were these former slaves now able to conquer? Had they taken courses in warfare? No. These former slaves of Egypt were now about to conquer in the name of the Lord because in the wilderness the Lord had conquered THEM.
Can we see the place of personal relationship here? Victory in the Christian life is not a THING, or a STATUS, or a GIFT, or a BADGE. It is not a THING God hands us simply because we are saved. Rather, victory in the Christian life is the result of Christ first having victory over us personally. I can operate in NO spiritual authority except that I have first submitted personally to the authority of Jesus over me. His victory over ME is God’s intended purpose for the wilderness time. But once His victory over me is established, I can move into the Promised Land as a victor IN HIM.
So how did SLAVES become CONQUERORS? They became slaves all over again – but not to Egypt, but to GOD. Become a slave to God – a person who is fully submitted to Jesus Christ – and you will be more than a conqueror.
My personal relationship with Jesus Christ is going to govern all of my spiritual condition and my spiritual life. It defines, not only who I am in God’s eyes, but it also defines what I can do, and with what God can trust me. No part of our Christian experience is separate, divorced, or supplemental to our relationship to Christ. We are defined by our relationship to Him.
The Gospel of Satan
It is at this point that it is important to step aside and discuss what is certainly Satan’s greatest desire for God’s people – indeed for all humankind. Satan has been promoting this desire right from the start, and since it has worked for him, he continues it today. What am I talking about?
Well, we are discussing the necessity of the wilderness if we are to enter the Promised Land. This is equal to saying that we need the work of the everyday Cross if we are to come to know Christ, manifest Christ, and to become a conqueror in Him. Otherwise, our personal relationship with God will be governed by OUR agenda, and OUR pride, and OUR self. Only the Cross – the wilderness – can deal with this. It cannot be dealt with by theories, theology, and self-help. There are many drastic dealings necessary in the life of the Christian if we are to no longer act like slaves, but become, "more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
The gospel of Satan, however, suggests that we can SKIP the wilderness. It teaches, in it’s many guises, that we don’t need the work of the Cross. Those who teach this gospel loudly proclaim that the Cross of Jesus Christ was for HIM – and that Christ, through HIS Cross, won all kinds of blessings, rights, authority, and inheritance, for US. But they never teach that in order for us to be able to LIVE in our inheritance, we have to come into a relationship with God that will make us fit to live in it.
You will remember that when God judged Israel for unbelief and sentenced them to 40 years in the wilderness, that they rebelled, and tried to enter the land anyways. They were routed by the tribes within. This is what happens if you try to live in the things of God void of FAITH – if you try to live in your spiritual inheritance with a personal relationship with God that is not based in faith. You will be overrun by the very enemies God intends you to conquer. In short, if you won’t allow God to conquer YOU, you cannot conquer. If Christ has no victory over YOU, over your life, your agenda, over ALL of you – then you can have no victory. It is only to the extent that you are surrender to Christ, that you have any spiritual power or authority. This is taught all through the Bible:
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. (Rev. 3:21-22)
You will note the contingency in this verse. We must overcome AS Christ overcame. But how did Christ overcome? By submitting to God. Furthermore, you will note that if we do, we will sit WITH HIM in His throne. We have NO THRONE of our own! We sit with Him in HIS throne – that is, we have only HIS authority. We aren’t given a THING called authority, or a POWER, to do things for God, or to do what we think is best. All authority IN CHRIST is only to do what Christ would do, which is the WILL OF GOD, and only that.
Can we see something here? If I submit to Christ, I am submitting to His will. This will result in me having authority WITHIN His will. What is so hard to see about that? And why would we want it any other way? Do we actually think that God is going to hand out authority to people just because they profess Christ, and let them do things in His name? Do we actually think that we have authority to the disregard of our personal accountability and submission to God? That our personal relationship to God doesn’t matter?
The gospel of Satan suggests exactly that. Today, the Word of Faith teaches proclaim that we are fellow-heirs with Christ, and therefore we possess all the power and authority He possesses – but they NEVER mention the necessity of the Cross, or the wilderness. This is exactly what Satan offered Christ in the temptation – he offered Him everything God wanted to eventually give Christ, but offered it to Him WITHOUT the Cross.
The gospel of Satan offers the kingdom of God without submission to the King. It offers LIFE without the necessity of the DEATH of the old – "Your Best Life Now." In effect, the gospel of Satan exalts ADAM as a substitute for Christ. This is why the gospel of Satan is the gospel of antichrist.
The gospel of Satan also offers the Promised Land without the necessity of faith. The result is not so much that the inhabitants overrun the Christians who buy into this lie. Instead, today’s gospel of Satan teaches Christians how to enter a land and make peace through compromise with those things that God said to drive out. Thus, everything seems well and at peace. Sure. There is a peace treaty instead of God-ordained war.
God has given us the direct teaching of the NT, and the pictures of the OT, to show us the Truth on these matters. You cannot enter the Promised Land unless there is first a wilderness. You cannot experience God’s kingdom, unless your kingdom is first torn down, and you submit to the King. You cannot live unless you die. You cannot obtain the THINGS of God apart from God Himself.
Submission to God
Submission to God sounds like a negative thing, but only because we don’t know Him. If we did know Him, we would run to Him and submit. Of course, there are folks who limit submission to God to nothing more than obeying rules and laws. But submission to God is really much more.
Submission to God means that I open myself to God and give Him freedom to do whatever He wants to do WITH me, IN me, TO me, and in my life. In short, I belong to God. And I am entering into a relationship with Him without any limits. I want HIM. And so I give myself to Him. This surrender is then LIVED OUT. As God does begin to do what He wants to do, I submit to Him in each step.
When a person gives God freedom, then that person is free. There are no longer any limits, or agendas, that I am placing between myself and God. This is one of the foundational issues that God wants to settle in the wilderness. He wants us to open to Him in this way. If we do, then He does have a foundational victory in us. And if so, then we can move forward into a deeper relationship – no longer a slave, but a conqueror. In fact, in a very real sense, if we surrender to God in this utter way, we HAVE ENTERED into the Promised Land by faith, because we now have a, "Promised Land relationship with God."
But again – you will notice that this isn’t a matter of God denying us a deeper relationship until we do certain things, or a matter of God changing the rules every so often. No. Everything but US is always the same – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Promised Land is always there as our inheritance to experience NOW. So this is about God, in His love and purpose, calling us into trials, circumstances, and spiritual conditions that – IF we respond to Him by faith – will bring us into His deeper purposes for us. This is about God doing all of this FOR US – not about God making demands upon us.
Right now, God is taking each Christian on a journey to the Promised Land – into a relationship wherein we can experience Jesus Christ on deeper levels; into a relationship where our inheritance in Christ can be personally experienced. It is all FREE. But WE aren’t free! Someone who isn’t free cannot do much with that which IS free! So God must put us through various wilderness seasons whereby through full surrender to God, He can have victory over us, and we can become FREE, and more than conquerors.
A conqueror in Christ is not perfect. But there are foundational relationship issues settled in Christ. Chief among these is the fact that IT IS FINISHED. In other words, the issue is not whether we have victory in Christ. Rather, the issue is whether we BELIEVE IT – and are willing to allow His victory to become articulate OVER US personally. Again – submission. We cannot expect to get far unless this issue is settled.
And then there is the matter of being able, by faith, to STAND in His victory over that which would come against us. Practically speaking, the question here is whether we are able to stand by faith regardless of what life throws our way – or whether when something negative happens we lose faith. Is our faith determined by what is happening to us in life, or is it determined by the finished work of Jesus – regardless of what life does to us? When something bad happens, are we able to rise above it and say, "I’m not going to allow this to get victory over me. I will trust God." Or do we allow the bad thing to get INSIDE of us and trash our faith? If so, we aren’t operating in victory.
Some of us believe or don’t believe based on circumstances. And if that is the case, we need another lap around the wilderness. We aren’t ready to move on very far in Christ – we aren’t driving out the inhabitants of the land. They are still overrunning us.
Other folks continue to put their faith in themselves – in their ability to believe. But really, this is faith in how I feel. We have to cut through this and come to see that God has not offered us the Promised Land as a part of a deal. It is free and does not depend on us. It is a great victory when we see that we can enter into a deep relationship with Christ no matter how unworthy we think we are.
The finished work of Christ is the basis of all of this. Paul continually pushed home this Truth:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Eph 6:10-17)
You will notice that this whole passage begins by telling us to be strong IN THE LORD, and in the power of HIS might. Impossible unless we are first submitted to Him. But if we are, then what Paul describes is clearly a STAND. It is a wrestling to HOLD ground already won!
But STAND in what? Stand in my relationship with Christ that is based in faith in HIM. Stand in the fact that God has already given me the Promised Land. And if I stand, then the inhabitants will flee, because they must flee. It would seem that the biggest battle of all is that of FAITH – we just don’t believe it is finished, and that our victory is assured. All we need to do is personally submit to God.
The change of Israel from a slave people to conquering people was the direct result of a change in their relationship with God. Slave people aren’t submitted to God, and so they become a prey for someone else. But a submitted people to God become FREE INDEED, because they are slaves of Christ.
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:13)
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
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