The Good News - Home
Our Eternal Inheritance
By David A. DePra
For many Christian people, the entire purpose of God can be summed up in a sentence: Getting people saved. Some of us don’t think beyond that. And so the goal becomes, "getting saved." And once that is accomplished, the goal is expanded to, "getting others saved."
Well, unless I am saved, I cannot even get started in the purposes of God. That is quite true. So we cannot minimize the importance of salvation. To do so would be like saying we can make plans for the future of a dead person. No. You have to first be alive in Christ or nothing else is possible. But our salvation is a birth -- the beginning of a new life. And all beginnings have SOMETHING in mind – a purpose. There has to be a reason WHY God saves us, and a purpose for which we are born again.
Everyone knows that eternal life is life that never ends. But more than that, eternal life is a KIND of life – an incorruptible life. But have you and I ever wondered what we are going to be doing forever? In other words, what are we saved FOR? What does this all lead to in an eternal sense? What is the eternal purpose for which God has redeemed us back to Himself?
The Bibles tells us a number of places. For instance, Ephesians states, "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:7) THAT is one general way to state the purpose for salvation. It is so that we might RECEIVE from God. But notice that Paul doesn’t even mention this life! No. Rather, it is a purpose which is started in this life, but one which is primarily realized beyond this life – "in the ages yet to come."
Have you ever realized that your salvation is not primarily for the HERE and NOW? That you are saved for THE AGES YET TO COME – unto a far greater purpose than any of us can imagine?
Ephesians isn’t the only place where God hints at this eternal purpose. There are other places:
But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom 8:16-18)
Pretty awesome, huh? Yet this is where salvation takes us. The salvation experience we have now is only a foretaste of what comes after we leave this life. It is THERE that the fullness shall be realized.
The Bible says that there is direct relationship between our salvation now, and all that God intends for us in the ages yet to come. It says that we have received the Holy Spirit NOW, but that this is only a foretaste, or down payment, on what we are yet to realize. God says that the Holy Spirit is a DOWNPAYMENT of all that is yet to be ours – a DOWNPAYMENT on a greater inheritance.
That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:10-14)
Inheritance – an eternal inheritance – is how God describes what He has for us. THAT is wrapped up in eternal life. It is what the Holy Spirit is a down payment of. Get that. The Holy Spirit is a down payment of a greater inheritance that God has for us – in the ages yet to come.
But in what sense is the Holy Spirit a down payment? What does that MEAN? Well, ask: What is the function and purpose of the Holy Spirit NOW? What is the Holy Spirit to us NOW?
Well, gifts, ministry, power, discernment, and all kinds of wonderful things are included in the Holy Spirit. But there is an even more basic function of the Holy Spirit – in the context and sense of INHERITANCE. There are two passages which best describe this Truth:
And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:6-7)
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom 8:14-17)
Notice the great Truth here: The Holy Spirit IS evidence that we are sons of God. The Holy Spirit in us MAKES us sons. And once we are sons of God, we are entitled to the inheritance of God. The Holy Spirit carries that as well. He is the evidence of our RELATIONSHIP with God as sons, and is presently a down payment on all that this relationship carries as an inheritance.
So let’s move quickly back to the bottom line. The Holy Spirit makes us sons and daughters of God, and is therefore a "down payment" of the fullness of that relationship, and of the inheritance which that relationship brings. Our inheritance is therefore the fullness of OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, and the fullness of what that relationship with God brings. This will be what we inherit and experience throughout the ages to come.
Do we realize that if we are a son or daughter of God – if this is our RELATIONSHIP TO HIM – that we are going TO LIVE WITH GOD FOREVER? And that this relationship will mean that we are going to inherit ALL THINGS through Jesus Christ? Yet that is exactly what God has for the redeemed.
The Father’s House
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. (John 14:2-4)
The term, "my Father’s house," is a clear reference to INHERITANCE. In those days, if you were, "in your father’s house," you were in line for your father’s inheritance – the biggest piece going to the eldest son. In contrast, if you forsook, "your father’s house," you were walking away from any possible inheritance.
Jesus was telling His disciples that there are many ABODES – places to live – in His Father’s house. He was also telling them that He was going to go, "to prepare a place for them," IN His Father’s house. Again – this was all about RELATIONSHIP – that of a Father to those sons and daughters, "in His house," and about the inheritance that they would receive. Jesus was making this great promise to them even then.
Now, Jesus, having told His disciples that He was going, "to prepare a place," for them, and having also told them that they knew the way to the Father’s house, the disciples were quite puzzled. Thomas asked, "Lord, we don’t know not where you are going. So how can we know the way?" Jesus answered him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me."
Jesus is the DOOR through which we must enter into the Father’s house. There isn’t any other way in. Yet despite the fact that there is only ONE WAY to God, it is an unlimited way – in the sense that God invites ALL to come. Jesus said, "In My Father’s house there are MANY abodes," but, "no one comes to the Father except through ME."
There is no such thing as a son or daughter of God except through Jesus Christ. There are no heirs besides Jesus. We only inherit from God because we are related to His Son, and are IN HIM. Thus, we see that we must come to Jesus and be saved, "by grace through faith," in order to get into, "the Father’s house." But once we do, we are co-heirs with Christ. We will inherit all things with Him.
We have seen that we are going to live with God forever, in the Father’s house. We are going to inherit all things through Jesus Christ. But here is the real question and the challenge: Throughout the eternal ages, will we be able to be faithful over our inheritance? Are we going to be able to live with God forever – in the way God intends?
The answers to these questions are really not that hard to find. If you want to know how well you will be able to live with God THEN, simply be honest about how you are living with Him NOW. If you want to know whether you will be faithful over the inheritance THEN, discover whether you are being faithful NOW. The Holy Spirit is a DOWN PAYMENT of a greater inheritance. Therefore, discover whether you are being faithful over the down payment, and you will discover whether you will be faithful over the fullness of the inheritance.
Some people live their entire Christian lives and never even see this Truth. But it forms the whole basis for the ages yet to come. Jesus continually told His disciples that if they were faithful over little, it would mean they could be faithful over much. He continually taught that there was a relationship between this life and the next. Parable after parable, teaching after teaching. In short, how you are living in relationship to God NOW – in this life, and on this level – is directly related to how you will be able to live with God THEN. Indeed, how we live with God now is DETERMINING how we will live then.
How could it not be so? You are you, and God is God. And when everything is said and done, it is going to be you and God – you are going to be defined by your relationship with God. If you are walking with God in faith and obedience in the here and now, it is true that all of the things over which you were faithful and obedient are going to pass away. But you won’t pass away. And God won’t. Therefore, what is going to be left for the eternal ages is YOU and God -- that relationship. It was begun with salvation, and developed through your faithfulness over the down payment you were given. Whether you were faithful under the impact of the down payment is what determines whether you will be entrusted with the greater inheritance.
Read in the gospel of John those things which the Holy Spirit is being sent to do. (Jn. 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-8, 16:13-14) Are we being faithful to let Him? Are we vehicles unto those ends? Or are we obstacles? Each must answer. But again: He that is faithful in little – over the things of God in this life, will be faithful in much. Not maybe. You are either faithful or not. You can’t be two people. This will determine whether we are faithful over the fullness of the inheritance God has for us.
The Land of Promise
The land of Canaan stands as type of our inheritance in Jesus Christ. But how so? Well, a land is where you live and move with possessions, and raise families, and really, do everything. It is your life being lived out in that environment or setting of a land. So this land typifies our inheritance in Christ being lived out through our relationship with God – in freedom and Truth. This will, of course, be eternal in it’s unfolding.
The tribes of Canaan land are those things IN US which keep us from living in freedom in the Holy Spirit. That are that which keeps us from fully experiencing our inheritance in Jesus Christ. They are obstacles. All of them boil down to sin and unbelief – but do so in the human personality in the sense of restricting our freedom and experience of Jesus Christ. They are, as it were, "walled cities," and large fortresses. These things cannot be bargained with if we want true freedom. They must be DRIVEN OUT.
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, and to this land, they refused to go in. Their failure carries with it many lessons for us, and stands as an admonition as to how we can avoid sinning in the same way.
The Grapes of Eshcol
And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. (Num 13:23-27)
Israel got a foretaste of what God had for them. The spies brought them some grapes and other types of food. They ate of the grapes of Eshcol – but from a position outside of the promised land. Indeed, because they rejected God’s word, it would be forty years before they actually entered the land from which the grapes came. But there is a lesson here for us. Are we content to rejoice over the things of God – but from a distance? God has a full inheritance for us. Will we settle for just the grapes OF the land?
The bigger question is this: Do we want just a sample of the THINGS of God – just some pickings -- or do we want to experience GOD HIMSELF? Well, if we want the fullness of God Himself, we must ENTER THE LAND by faith.
Some Christians like to have a big party over the, "grapes of Eshcol." They celebrate and rejoice over those grapes. After all, the grapes prove God’s promises are true. There IS an inheritance, and it carries great blessings -- all in the land. Many even receive a, "grape" or two. But is this all God has for us? A grape or two? No. God has a whole realm for us in Jesus Christ. But to experience it, we have to actually GO IN!
There is always a danger that Christians will get comfortable with the grapes, and content with staying outside of where real conflict occurs. If you want to stay out of conflict, that is fine. You will also stay out of blessing. Some want to park short of what God has for us in Jesus Christ – because it is simply easier that way.
We may even think that the grapes are the whole promise of God – that THEY are the fullness. We may think that where we are, in Christ right now, is as good as it gets. But this is deception. If that is what we think, we have been sold a bill of goods. God has much more. He offers us ALL THINGS in Jesus Christ.
Another mistake we make is to think that because we have a good Biblical teaching about something that this means we have actually experienced what the teaching holds. God may have sent in some "spies" – in the form of spiritual ministry – into the "land," to bring back to us a taste of what God has for us. We may rejoice to hear about our inheritance. But the grapes these teachers bring to us are only a sampling – a taste. They are not THE inheritance. In order to get that, WE MUST PERSONALLY enter the land.
God gives us grapes to encourage us, and to show us what He has for us. The grapes were intended by God to prove to Israel that He had kept His promise. They were not to be a substitute for the inheritance. They were intended to be a witness of things yet to come – to give them courage to go into the land and take full possession of their inheritance.
Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. (Num 13:28-14:4)
There are ALWAYS reasons why we believe what we believe. Always. In order for me to cross the line and accept something as true – especially when my choice to do so carries great ramifications – there has to be some kind of appeal: Either positive or negative. The children of Israel – as a whole – had not spied out the land. They relied on the 12 witnesses to tell them about the land. The got conflicting stories: Ten of the spies gave a negative report. Two of the, Joshua and Caleb, gave a positive one. They believed the negative report, almost without blinking.
What really makes this terrible is that the testimony of Joshua and Caleb agreed completely with everything GOD HAD SAID. That is the key. This isn’t simply a matter of Israel getting conflicting stories, and guessing wrong. This is a matter of them believing people who contradicted God’s promise, instead of those who affirmed it.
Why did they believe the evil report, instead of the good one? Because the evil report found a place in their hearts. It agreed with their unbelief. Hebrews says,
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke…..and to whom swore he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should distrust it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Heb 3:15-4:2)
Israel hardened their heart – that is, they set it on their own way. A "hardened heart" is one upon which God cannot make an impression. It is not an INABILITY to believe or yield to God. It is the REFUSAL to believe and yield to God.
We need to understand that when someone hardens their heart towards God that they have cut themselves off from LIGHT. Thus, they are in darkness. The decisions which follow are therefore more than likely going to be ignorant decisions -- ones that they may not have made otherwise. But the problem here is not the ignorance. No. The ignorance has a cause: The hardened heart. It goes back to that every time. Thus, the decisions which are made because of a hardened heart are the responsibility of the one making them. They are responsible for allowing themselves to get into that condition – a condition which darkens them to the point where they make stupid choices. They are responsible for hardening their hearts – cutting themselves off from the Light -- for this is a condition which strikes directly at their personal relationship with God.
God has not required that we know everything. He has not required that we figure everything out ahead of time so that we can keep out of trouble. No. All that He has required is that we keep our hearts open to Him – that we keep ourselves open to the Light. If we do, then we will know what we need to know, when we need to know it. But if we do not keep ourselves open to God, we will reap what we sow. With the package of a hardened heart comes decision making in the dark, and possible consequences that we could not have bargained for. Again – everything pivots on our RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
Israel had seen the miracles of God. Everyone of them knew who had delivered them from Egypt – and the plagues which He had done. They had all come through the Red Sea. And now the spies had brought back proof of the promises of God: The grapes of Eshcol. Indeed, two of the spies, men of good reputation, had affirmed the words of the Lord. Yet despite all of this, they would not believe. They had already hardened their heart.
What They Saw
The ten spies which brought back an evil report were not telling Israel anything that God Himself had not told them. True, only the twelve spies had actually seen the people of the land, but all the way back, shortly after Israel had been delivered from Egypt, God Himself had told them that these tribes were in the land, and the He would drive them out.
I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. (Exo 23:27-31)
So we see that there were NO surprises here. The twelve spies saw exactly what God told Israel that would see. But God had promised that He would take care of the problem. Yet Israel would not believe.
How many verses in the Bible promise us trials? Tons. Yet when trials come, we think that it is because God is unfaithful, or perhaps because we are out of His will. Why? God has said we are going to have trials and tribulations. He has PROMISED this, for it is necessary. This ought to comfort us, knowing that the Lord has gone before us. But some of us still don’t get it. We still think that God is a, "blessing machine," and that Christianity is a picnic.
Israel believed what their eyes saw, and what their fears concluded, rather than what God has said. There is always a choice. Rarely do we look God in the face and call Him a liar. No. Rather, what we do is, "shift our faith," FROM GOD, onto what our eyes see, and what our understanding tells us. But the result is the same. We end up, by default, saying that God is a liar, and that we know better than He does.
Israel cried, "Why has the LORD brought us to this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey?" What an accusation? But there is a Christian counterpart. Have you ever realized that you are going to face perils, as a Christian, that you would never have faced as an unbeliever? That’s right. You are also going to receive blessings. But make no question about it, when you gave your life to Christ, you took on a whole new set of problems.
If you are a Christian, you have already committed yourself to seek God’s will and then live in it. This is not a negative, but a positive. But in order to do so, you must face obstacles to God’s will – tribes in your land. The ONLY REASON you are facing these tribes, and the ONLY REASON you must drive them out, is because you want God’s will and freedom in Christ. Otherwise, you could just avoid them; settle down beside them. But no, you must drive these obstacles out and find God’s will. THAT brings problems and conflict – and the unbeliever knows NOTHING about such things, for he is not seeking the will of God.
Sometimes we forget this, and think that when we encounter problems it must be because there is something wrong. It may be that everything is right. God has already told us such conflict is assured. But have you ever made such an accusation against God? Have you ever said, "God, I trusted you! I believed you; gave my life to You. You promised to be faithful to me – to take care of me and to bless me. So why have you brought me into this strange place? Why have you led me into this place of oppression, trial, and warfare? This doesn’t seem fair. In fact, how can this be happening if You are faithful?"
It is easy to see ourselves in the children of Israel. We see the obstacles between us and what we know God wants. We see our complete inability to overcome them; to come into the freedom to live to the glory of God. At that point there is a temptation to accuse God of expecting too much of us.
But notice what is going on here: Our faith is in ourselves. Really? How can that be? We hardly feel as if we have faith in ourselves! I mean, the whole problem is that we know we are NOT ABLE! So how is this faith in ourselves?
It is exactly that. It is faith in ourselves – although it is now a frustrated and defeated faith. Can we see that there is no way we would lament at being UNABLE to overcome unless we had put our faith in our ability to overcome to begin with? That’s right. It is not only, "faith in self" to feel like you can win a victory, it is likewise, "faith in self" to be afraid because you see you can’t. It is still you sizing up the situation, seeing that it is bigger than YOU, and then you despairing because of that.
Faith in God never foolishly rejoices that we are bigger than a problem, nor does it lament because the problem is bigger than us. WE aren’t in the equation. Faith in God carries a certainty that God is bigger than both myself and any problem. Thus, it is not a matter of whether WE are able. It is a matter of God’s will.
You will notice that God doesn’t expect us to conquer everything at once. Israel was to enter the land and take possession of it step by step – as they encountered the enemy. They were to take possession in the knowledge that the outcome was assured by God Himself. He had given them the land.
Salvation is free. But if we want to move on into the fullness of what our salvation carries – our eternal inheritance – we are going to have to take possession of it. Why? Because it’s not free? No. Because it is free. That’s why we can take it. But we must take it, step by step, choice by choice. Otherwise, we will never grow to experience the things of God.
Now why do things work this way? They MUST. If eternal life was simply a matter of God handing us a bunch of stuff, then I suppose we would just receive the stuff and that would be that. But in the final analysis, eternal life is a RELATIONSHIP with God. We are going to live with Him forever. God GIVES us that relationship free. But can we see how we will never actually LIVE IN IT unless we make choices to rid ourselves of obstacles to it, and make the choice to actually OBEY and BELIEVE God?
So why must things work this way? One reason: Free will. Free will is required for relationship.
RELATIONSHIP is all about free will. God wants LOVE, and God wants TRUST. But the moment I take free will out of those things, love is no longer love, and trust is no longer trust. What you have is something else – very fake and unreal. By definition, love is totally voluntary. You can’t force love and trust. If you do, you aren’t loving. Again, you are doing something else.
God created man for an eternal relationship with Himself – built on love and trust. This mandated FREE WILL. But it also carried a great risk. For the moment you create a free will man – intending a relationship of love and trust – you MUST risk the opposite. It is precisely because love and trust require free will that man is able to totally reject God.
Love and trust have NO VALUE at all unless they are products of a free will. Indeed, they carry no value at all unless hate and unbelief are likewise possible. God wants people who, through the power of their free will, love and trust Him for HIMSELF – without a gun held to their head. But to get this, He risked the possibility of some rejecting Him eternally.
God actually has a secret in all of this. He knows that if we would just hang in there and get to know Him, that we WOULD love and trust Him forever. How does God know this? Because He knows that He is love worthy and trustworthy! In other words, once we see who God is, and what He is like, we are going to love and trust Him. It’s all we can do if we see the Truth. God knows this. He wants to show Himself to us.
Free will is required for relationship that is real. Always. Therefore, God CAN give us everything we need to make our choices. He can give us salvation, and can give us a revelation of ourselves – and of HIMSELF. But we must decide whether we are going to drive out the obstacles to our relationship with God – by the Spirit, of course – or make a peace treaty with them. God won’t force this upon us. The RELATIONSHIP God is after demands these free will choices.
Suppose standing between us and greater freedom in Christ were a problem – let’s say drug addiction. That’s an obvious problem – and we could name others. Try self-righteousness, for instance. Or anger, lust, pride, etc. You name it, we’ve got those tribes parked on, "our land." God says to go in, take possession, and drive out drug addiction. How does this work?
Well, first of all, NONE of it works unless two things are settled: We must WANT to be free, and we must BELIEVE that Christ has already won the victory for our freedom. If those two things are firmly established in our hearts, then we will not only go in and take possession, but in time, we will be free. It is guaranteed.
But let’s look at this for a moment and see what goes on internally. Let’s suppose that our drug addict is delivered from drugs all at once. That HAS happened to some people. Note that this happens because the person first ASKS for help. Or accepts it once confronted. God is not going to deliver someone who refuses to be delivered. They must at least WANT freedom. But once delivered, then what must this newly delivered person do? He must take possession of the land by making choices not to go back to drugs. He must replace the old habit with new ones.
But how about someone who is not delivered in a minute? Well, he must drive out the enemy by bringing GOD IN. He does this by prayer, surrender, and faith. And sooner or later, the moment in time is going to arrive when he stops the drugs – either strictly through the power of the Spirit, or through rehab help. But either way, there will come a change in conduct if there has been a change of mind and heart.
Can we see CHOICES here? WE, it might be said, are driving out the enemy. But it is really GOD, isn’t it? Sure. Our faith in Him is our motivation. But we have to make the choices and live out those choices. Free will MUST come into play or else nothing about any of this works.
A Change of Heart?
Israel did not believe God, but, in fact, accused Him of betraying them. They were so distraught that they actually spoke of returning to Egypt. After all, they knew the rules there. Even though they were slaves in Egypt, at least they were alive.
Of course, there really was NO GOING BACK to Egypt, was there? Nope. Most of Egypt was laying dead on the shores of the Red Sea. The Egypt which Israel once knew had had it’s power totally broken by God. Plus Israel had gotten out of Egypt through the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. What did they think, that God was going to part the Red Sea again so that they could go back to Egypt?
Once we are born again, there is no going back. We cannot lose our salvation because there is no way to be, "born again backwards." This is true, of course, only if our new birth is real.
Thus, the question is not whether we can lose our salvation. It is what we are going to DO with it? Will we enter into the fullness of what salvation holds – an eternal inheritance; an eternal relationship with God? Or will be see the obstacles and refuse to proceed?
When Israel refused to enter the land, God had to pronounce a judgment upon them. This was not simply a matter of God getting mad at them for not believing. Rather, it was His mercy. For if they would not enter the land by faith, then they would not have lived IN the land by faith – let alone driven out the tribes by faith. Thus, they would have been overrun and absorbed by the enemy. They would have ceased to be as a nation. So God spared them all of that by denying them entry into the land.
God’s judgment upon them was severe:
Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. (Num 14:28-34)
This judgment of God was not a temper-tantrum on His part. This was the outcome of much that had gone on, going back to the unbelief of Israel since they left Egypt. God’s judgments are always right.
What we see here is that God has the perfect cure for unbelief: The wilderness. It is in the wilderness that the unbelieving generation would die out, and a new one, which was of faith, would be brought into the land. So it is with us. We will wander in a wilderness until the unbelief is out of our system. Then we can enter into the things of God by faith.
Now notice: The wilderness doe NOT qualify us to enter the land. No. The wilderness shows us we are NOT qualified. It shows us that it never did depend on us. Only now, we see it. And because we see it, we can put our faith in God.
Israel had refused to enter the land because they had put their faith in themselves, took inventory, and found out they could not overcome the tribes. God was pretty much out of the picture. The wilderness is where you and I, like Israel, discover two things: One, we are unable to provide for ourselves. Two, God is our provider. The wilderness whittles us down to size. Then we trust God. Then we enter the land by faith IN HIM.
But before Israel was sent out into the wilderness, they seemingly had a change of heart:
And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly. And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned. And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you. But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah. (Num 14:39-45)
Just the day before, God had told Israel to enter the land. They had refused. God therefore pronounced judgment upon them. In reaction to this judgment, Israel now changed their mind. They said they would go into the land. Thus, we have the same congregation, the same God, the same land of promise, and the same command to enter. But it was too late. God’s offer was closed. They were NOT allowed to enter the land. Why?
Because their change of mind was not repentance. Once Israel heard God judge them into the wilderness, all of a sudden the promised land didn’t seem so bad. In effect, Israel was simply trying to cut themselves the best deal. Their attitude had NOT changed towards God. Their attempt to enter the land was nothing more than an extension of the same unbelief by which they refused to enter the day before. Except now, instead of refusing to enter the land, they now tried to enter through unbelief. They were, of course, defeated.
The same defeat awaits anyone of us who tries to do in unbelief what can only be done in faith. There are many Christians who do not really want to be free of sin, but give lip service to obedience because they want to avoid the consequences they think God will pronounce upon them. There are others who don’t really believe the victory is won in Christ, and then wonder why they are defeated in these battles. The reason is clear: We can enter into the things of God only by faith.
There is also another valuable principle in this story: It is NEVER FAITH to obey God simply to avoid the consequences for disobedience. Do you see that? If the reason I obey God is to avoid punishment, or even to try to merit a reward, then this is NOT FAITH. In fact, it might even be the outcome of unbelief.
There are many Christians who obey God, not because they believe Him, but because they don’t. By that I mean that in their case, obedience is not the outcome of being rightly related to God by faith. Rather, it is the outcome of not being rightly related to God by faith. Their obedience is a substitute for faith. In short, they are walking in legalism.
Obedience, for a Christian, is supposed to be the OUTCOME of being rightly related to God by faith. If I believe, I will at least WANT to obey – even if my execution is flawed at times.
Once we see that motivation for obedience is a key here, it brings us right back to free will, and the fact that God wants LOVE and TRUST. Love and trust are never the outcome of God holding a gun to our head, and saying, "Love Me and trust Me, or else!" Never. This is a fact, despite the reality that not loving and not trusting God does carry negative consequences. God does not hold us hostage to His will. The fact that people choose hell forever is not indicative that God does hold us hostage. It is, in fact, indicative that He doesn’t. People are going to get exactly what they choose.
If I obey God to avoid a punishment, or to earn a reward, then it WILL keep me out of trouble. Sure. But it will also keep me out of the land. In the end, I will fall in love with myself and my supposed reward, and not in love with God. Besides, if we understood the Truth, we would know that God has already given us all things freely in Christ, and that Christ has paid the penalty for all sin. So what are we trying to escape that Christ has not delivered us from? And what are we trying to earn that Christ has not already given us?
God’s faithfulness to His people is illustrated by the fact that He sent them into the wilderness and brought them again to the promised land. He did not give up on them. Israel did enter the land the second time, but sadly, never did drive out all the inhabitants. In the end, they lost everything. Today’s church needs to learn from this. Hopefully, none of us will need more than one long trip through the wilderness. And then we will hopefully enter into God’s purposes and find our eternal inheritance in Christ.*
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