The Defeated Enemy

Over the past few months, we have been considering the connection between our path to spiritual growth and the experience of the children of Israel on their path to the promised land.  We have compared Israel’s escape from Egypt with our initial salvation which set us free from sin’s penalty.  We have compared God’s promise to take Israel into the land with His promise to us of a Sabbath rest.  This is not a one-day-a-week rest.  This is a life of rest in Him.  A life of walking in the Spirit by faith.  A life of peace and victory.

Finally, when Israel shrunk back and refused to go into the land due to a lack of faith, they were destined for a generation of wandering in the wilderness.  This detour is a picture of today’s believer who shrinks back from God’s promise of freedom from the power of sin.  The wilderness Christian is content to live the life in his own power, going around in circles without direction; without progress along the path of spiritual maturity.

If this gospel analogy between Israel and us is awakening something in you, we have one more passage about Israel’s journey that, quite frankly, blows me away.

Let’s fast forward from Israel’s initial rejection of entry into the promised land.  Forty years of wandering in the wilderness have now passed.  A new generation of the children of Israel are camped across the Jordan River from Canaan, ready to cross over and enter the land of promise.  Joshua, Moses’ successor and leader of the nation, has sent two spies into the land reminiscent of an earlier spy mission forty years before.

When the spies arrived in the house of Rahab, the Canaanite, in the city of Jericho, they made a startling discovery.  Listen to it in Rahab’s own words to the spies.  “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away [become demoralized] before you.  For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.  And when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh. 2:9-11).

What did the spies discover?  That for forty years, Canaan had been a defeated foe.  The people of Canaan, who the original Israelite spies said were giants that would devour their woman and children, were only paper tigers.  They had already conceded victory to Israel forty years ago when Israel crossed the Red Sea.  Their Canaanite “hearts melted” and they had “no courage” to take on the children of Israel.  But instead of claiming this victory when they were on the doorstep of the promised land, Israel shrunk back and marched around the wilderness completely unaware that the so-called giants of the promised land had already given up; had already lost hope of defeating God’s people.

Faithless Israel had no idea that the victory was already theirs.  The enemy had already given up.  So how does this compare to our experience today?

When you look at the path ahead, do you see giants?  So you see besetting sins that cannot be conquered?  Do you see a past that holds you in prison?  Do you see unrelenting guilt and shame, fear and worry, pride and selfish ambition?

Did you know that all of these enemies were defeated by Jesus at the cross?  Yes, the victory is ours even when we are unaware or unsure if that is really true.  How can I know that for sure?  Because the Bible tells me so.  Because God not only told us about it; He promises to do something about it.  He sent Jesus to die in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, for two purposes.

One to take away our guilt before a holy God and remove the penalty of sin from our future.  But He also died to remove the power of sin in our present by literally coming to live His life in us.  This is what the Bible means by us “being justified by Christ’s death and being saved by Christ’s life” (Rom 5:10).  So in the here and now, He is offering you a promise to set you free from guilt, shame, fear, worry, idolatry, pride, and sin’s mastery in your life.

This is the lesson of Joshua chapter 2.  Read the whole chapter and you will see a beautiful picture unfold of laying claim to victory over an already defeated enemy.  For us, the power of sin still raises its ugly head in the life of a believer, but pick up your sword of faith and lay claim to the victory that is in Christ Jesus.

Faith is the Victory

The book of Hebrews lays out for us the idea that the children of Israel entering the promised land is a picture of us entering God’s rest in the here and now.  The promised land does not represent heaven.  After the children of Israel finally crossed the Jordan River and entered Canaan, there were still battles to be fought.  There were still enemies to contend with.  Likewise, in the Christian life of entering God’s rest and walking in the Spirit, there are still battles to be fought and enemies that we contend with.  But just like the children of Israel, we have the promise of victory.

Think this through with me.  When Israel eventually occupied the promised land of Canaan, it was not without a struggle.  But along with the ongoing battles was the promise of God that Israel would prevail; that Israel would be victorious.

Today, your life in God’s rest, your life in the Spirit, is not without challenges and difficulty.  We face many enemies within and without.  We hear the lying and deceptive voices inside our heart and head and outside in the world system that is controlled by Satan himself.  But, thinking about the picture of victory in Israel’s conquest of the promised land, we too have been promised the victory over our enemies.

The victory promised to you and I comes about through the same means as it takes to enter God’s rest; our faith.  “For whatever is born of God [you and I when we accepted Christ] overcomes the world [our enemies]; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes [that’s us] that Jesus is the Son of God” (I Jn 5:4-5).

A verse we have quoted often in this recent series is, “They were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19).  Israel could not enter the land due to their lack of faith.  Just as faith is necessary for Israel entering the land and us entering God’s rest; so faith is also necessary for experiencing the victory once we arrive.

What promises must we believe by faith to experience this promise of victory in living the Christian life?  Here are a few specific promises to those who have placed their trust in Christ.

  1.   Your separation from the Father has ended.  God is not waiting to love a future version of yourself.  He loves the you in the mirror that you see today!
  2.   Who you really are at your core is wrapped up in who Christ is because He is living His life through you.  Your true identity is who you are in Christ.
  3.   You have a moral resemblance to Christ.  Your new  and righteous nature is not something that earned your salvation.  It was a gift at your salvation.  Our righteous actions did not save us, but they demonstrate to the world around us that we are saved; that we are children of God.
  4.   A new power over sin is waiting for you.  I say “waiting” because the Christian life is not lazy, automatic, or on cruise-control.  We only experience this power when we rest in the Spirit; when we walk with an ongoing faith in the Power behind the power, when we practice what He has shown us as righteous behavior.

These promises require faith because they are not something we can necessarily put our hands on.  We don’t always see them in our lives.  We don’t always feel their power.  But based on God’s Word and character, we know by faith that the promises are real and true.  And faith is where victory begins!