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On God’s Side
by David A. DePra
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art you for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Neither. But as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What does my lord say unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou stand is holy. And Joshua did so. (Josh 5:13-15)
Israel had finally finished wandering in the wilderness after 40 years. They had crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land. This was no small event. The purpose for which God had delivered them out of Egypt was now ready to commence. They had entered into His rest.
It is important to note that when Israel crossed the Jordan that they entered into an entirely NEW phase of their relationship with the Lord. They had left Egypt as slaves. They were entering Canaan as conquerors. Instead of fleeing, they were invading. Instead of the bare essentials for survival in the wilderness, they were entering a land of plenty. Indeed, instead of talking about, "some day," THE DAY had arrived. Finally.
If there is one thing that is vital to see about why Israel was now ready to enter the Promised Land, it is this: THEY had changed. Get that – THEY had changed towards God. God did not need to change towards them. In fact, virtually the entire unbelieving generation that had been delivered from Egypt had died out. A new generation had been born who could enter the land by faith. So the right of Israel to enter the Promised Land was NOT because God had changed in His attitude, or because God had changed His plan. No. God had changed Israel – the wilderness was used for that purpose. Thus, now BECAUSE Israel had been changed from a people of unbelief over to a people of faith, God was free to take them into the land.
These things, as Paul tells the Corinthians, were written for US. They are, in fact, types of the NT Christian experience. These historical records are intended to teach us and comfort us. If we would just read them, and put them before the Lord, we could be able to see more clearly what He is doing with us.
Israel was banished into the wilderness because of unbelief. But don’t think of this of a vindictive punishment from God. God doesn’t do that. God sent Israel into the wilderness, yes, because they would not believe Him, but He sent them there so that He could build in them the faith they lacked – so that they could THEN enter the land. In other words, God never changed His heart, and never changed His plan. When Israel refused to enter the land the first time, He simply raised up another generation in whom He built faith, and worked His plan through them. Thus, we see that God if completely faithful. He always is.
What we see here is that the wilderness is a REDEMPTIVE and RESTORATIVE place. Now, it is only that if we continually turn to God – and certainly the wilderness is a place which will continually press us to God so that we will have to turn to Him. We will have to, that is, if we really want Him. It is entirely possible to die spiritually in the wilderness. People do that all the time. God never forces anyone. Grace is NOT irresistible.
The wilderness, by definition, is a place of WANT, of NEED, and at times, a place of desperation. For a Christian, this is primarily spiritual, but God can and will use the temporal and material to make us face some very real spiritual issues. Sure. The wilderness is absolutely geared to bringing us to settle basic questions of faith about God. If God has you in a wilderness you may even find yourself questioning your Christian faith. That is not necessarily a BAD thing. It is not a BAD thing because if you are questioning basics, then they probably weren’t quite as solid as you thought – maybe they were only doctrinally settled. But now you have to come to terms with the REALITY and TRUTH of them. And if you do question things, in a spirit of really wanting to know the Truth, God will show you. The end result will be a stronger faith, based not merely about intellectual assent to doctrine, but upon an actual experience with the Lord.
The wilderness is necessary to turn a slave of Egypt into an overcomer of the Promised Land. Note again that the change must be IN US. I am not talking about a change in our circumstances, or in our lot in life, or a matter of us having our problems solved. All of these things will eventually fall into place under the hand of the Lord, if we let Him change US. But the change that God wants, and for which He uses the wilderness, is in our heart, in our faith, and in our spirit – towards HIM.
Never think that Egypt, the wilderness, and the Promised Land stand for circumstances in life – or stand for some phase of material blessings. That is nonsense. No. These things stand for our spiritual condition – they stand for where we are in our eternal relationship with God. We are either slaves to the realm of darkness, learning Christ in the wilderness, or overcoming with Him in the Promised Land. We can actually be all three at once – on different aspects of our Christian experience. But in the end, ONE of these predominates and defines us in our relationship with God.
The wilderness is intended by God to get, "the Egypt," out of us, and to get the Promised Land in us. In other words, the wilderness is intended to bring us from unbelief to faith. Only then can we enter into rest and victory in Jesus Christ.
Thus, if you are in a wilderness, it is NOT because God is punishing you. Rather, it is because God wants to BUILD you. But in order to BUILD you up in Christ, God has to tear you down in yourself. In order to build up His kingdom in you, God must topple your kingdom. In order to do His will in you and through you, God must break the back of your self-will. In order to build up faith, God must destroy unbelief. The wilderness experience is where He does this.
The wilderness really stands for the ongoing work of the Cross. You cannot enter into victory in Christ Jesus until everything about yourself is dismantled as to merit, strength, and personal agenda. Then you cross the Jordan and enter a new spiritual situation, because YOU have been changed by a new revelation and relationship with God. Thus, the wilderness is God’s gift to us to build us, and prepare us, so that we can actually enter into the fullness of His purpose.
What is Christian victory? You hear many suggestions of this, especially on Christianity TV. For example, many say that you have the victory when you finally get God to solve your problems. Too often victory is applied to that which is material. For some reason, we have this notion that if anything causes suffering or discomfort for us, that this is something that needs to be removed – and only then will we have the victory. To listen to some, victory is comfort, and defeat is suffering.
No. I’ll tell you the meaning of true victory. Victory is when God Himself gets His full will to His glory. Get that: Victory is when God has His will to His glory. But note that this is not simply a victory for God. It is actually victory for us.
It is absolutely impossible for you and I to enter into victory in Christ Jesus unless Christ Jesus has first gotten victory over us personally. Anyone who tells you otherwise is in error. And I don’t care if God, under certain circumstances, does solve your problems, or does bless you. Even if He does, there is no true victory unless God first has victory IN YOU.
Victory can be said to be a RELATIONSHIP word. That is because all victory is based upon our personal faith in Christ. When I get to the place where I want only the will of God, and believe God will do it, then there is victory – and God will then DO His will. Note that all of this first happens IN US – between us and God. God will never bypass US and ignore our relationship with Him, and simply hand us a THING called victory.
If this was not the case, God could have taken Israel directly from Egypt right into the Promised Land. It was only a journey that would have taken less than two weeks. But no. God had to get victory IN and OVER those people if they were to be able to LIVE IN His victory – and conquer the enemy. The wilderness did this job. The wilderness conquered Israel under God. Then Israel was able to conquer the enemy under God.
Here we see a vital Truth. I can operate in the victory and authority of Jesus Christ only to the degree that I am UNDER His victory and authority. Authority and power are not THINGS that God hands to me to use – not even in HIS name – to the disregard of whether I am submitted to God. No. Authority and power are based in my relationship with Christ Himself – because authority and power are ONLY to do the will of God.
It is deception on this point that the Word of Faith heresies emerge. Those who teach Word of Faith rarely mention the necessity of coming under the absolute Lordship of Jesus. They almost never teach about the work of the Cross and how this ties directly to the power and authority of God in the believer. Instead, they speak of the FACT that Jesus was crucified, rather than our need to carry our Cross behind Him. They speak of authority and power as being given TO believers, but rarely of the need that authority be established IN the believer. Word of Faith denies the personal work of the Cross. It has fashioned a way to possess, "the authority of the believer," through other means – such as positive confession and Bible study.
Kenneth Copeland, for example, makes it a point to proclaim, "Jesus is Lord." Well, He is Lord. But what does that mean to him? That is the question. I’ll tell you want the Bible means by, "Jesus is Lord." The Bible means that you and I must come under the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Everything about us that is contrary to that must be crucified – works AND attitudes. THEN, God might choose to work thorough us. But if He does, the work He will do through us is going to be more of the same – Jesus will be exalted as Lord.
I will say it again – you cannot overcome IN Christ until Christ has overcome YOU. You cannot sit with Christ in His throne in heavenly places unless you are absolutely under His throne. Otherwise, God cannot trust you. He will not trust you. He cannot give you authority. It isn’t a matter of any deliberate intent on your part to rebel. It is a matter of having passed through a wilderness and work of the Cross that has put to death everything about yourself that you acquired in Egypt. It is a matter of seeing Jesus and being set free.
So if VICTORY is when God gets His will to His glory, we can see that this begins with us – in our personal relationship with God. If God gets a person, or a people, over whom Jesus is Lord, and who are unconditionally committed to HIS will, then He can use that people. How could it be otherwise? To the degree that I am rightly related to God by faith and surrender, can God use me for HIS will. Otherwise, I’ll abort the will of God, and perhaps without even knowing it, superimpose my own.
On God’s Side
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12-13)
Christians spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get God on our side – trying to figure out how to get God to do this or that for us. Most of us do this because we think we are supposed to do it. We think we are simply asking God for help. We are sincere enough. But if you haven’t noticed, the answer you get is often SILENCE. Something must be wrong.
What is wrong is the violation of a basic Truth. That Truth is this: God is going to do ONLY His will. Everything He does works towards that end. God has apprehended us FOR this. Therefore, instead of trying to get God to do things – things we want -- we need to be seeking Him for what HE wants.
In Philippians 3, Paul says that he was APPREHENDED by God. In fact, he says that his entire life was wrapped up in apprehending that for which he was apprehended by God. But if you think about that, this was not a matter of Paul walking through his life, encountering problems or issues, and then inviting God to come in and help him, or even inviting God to come in and take over. In other words, Paul did not try to apprehend – or grab hold – of God. Instead, Paul knew that God had already apprehended HIM. So he spent his life trying to apprehend what God wanted.
Can we see this Truth? The Christian life is not one of trying to apprehend God – not one of trying to drag down God from heaven into our troubles. Rather, if you are born again, God has already apprehended you, and already has you in His purpose. Thus, instead of trying to figure out how to get God, "on our side," we need to realize that everything God does is unto the purpose of getting us on HIS side.
Now, when I talk about, "God’s purpose," and that for which God has apprehended us, don’t think in terms of THINGS, and circumstances in life, or a calling into ministry. NO. God’s purpose is Christ. God’s purpose is victory IN US. Without that nothing else works. With it, God can accomplish His full will in our lives.
You will note in the passage from Joshua that when God sent His angel to help Israel conquer Jericho, he clearly stated that he was not on, "Israel’s side." No. God doesn’t have any, "sides," except His own. The angel came to do GOD’S will. And it was only as Israel was on GOD’S SIDE that they could have the victory.
If we want to go on with God, we have to get this settled. God has apprehended us for HIS will. God has called us out of this world to HIMSELF. God is NOT going to do YOUR will – even if you think it ought to be HIS will. He isn’t going to listen to your arguments and logic and attempts to convince Him of anything. Rather, HE wants you to listen to, and surrender to, HIM. God wants us to apprehend that for which He has apprehended us.
I can tell you the place to start. You ask God to do whatever it takes to get His will done IN YOU. That’s right – whatever it takes. THAT is surrender. And it is the beginning of victory possibilities. When I reach the place where I will not settle for less than the full will of God, and am willing for God to do whatever it takes to accomplish His will IN ME, God has something to work with. Victory as the outcome will be assured.
I say to God, "I want to know the Truth no matter what it takes for me to know it. I want You to have your will God, not just in the circumstances of my life, but in my inward parts – I want to be one with You. Do whatever You need to do to bring this to pass." God will answer that prayer. I am apprehending that for which God has apprehended me. I am then on GOD’S SIDE.
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