Entering the promised land

Entering into God’s promise and your purpose.

I want to circle back to the weekend’s message and delve a little deeper into the struggle that goes on within the life of every believer regarding God’s purpose for them. I mentioned it ever-so-briefly in my teaching and felt that I didn’t do it justice at that time. I’m going to try to do that here. This is very important stuff. So, here we go.

I begin with the reminder that John’s purpose for writing his gospel is that all those who read it would believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God (see John 20:30-31). This, according to verse 31, would provide for the believer “life in His name.” I spent a little time explaining that these two aspects of belief in Jesus (as “Christ” and “Son of God”) were not synonymous, but were two different and equally important parts of what we must believe about Jesus.

Think of them as two sides of a coin. The coin is belief in Jesus. On one side is belief in Him as “Christ” or Savior. On the other side is belief in Him as “Son of God” or Lord. I use the terms “Savior” and “Lord” intentionally because these titles for Jesus are more familiar and are accurate in seeing what the New Testament paints as a picture of true belief. When we believe in Jesus like this, we not only receive His gift as our Redeemer, we bow before Him as our Master. This was James’ point when he wrote about true faith:

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him…so also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
James 2:14, 17

Without exception, the evidence of a redeemed life is a changed life. The outward actions reveal an inward attitude. If Jesus isn’t your Savior and Lord, then you need to get on your knees right now and surrender to Him.

I’m directing these words primarily to those who have truly believed in Jesus. You are saved from your sin, and your desire is that Jesus would be Lord of your life. This is the struggle I want to zero in on.

Israel is such a perfect illustration of what we experience, as the struggle in our own Christian lives, now that we have “believed” in Jesus. It began for them, like us, with a miraculous deliverance. Freed from literal slavery to the Egyptians, God protects them from the angel of death, takes them out of Egypt, parts the Red Sea, and destroys their former slave masters, rendering them unable to pursue Israel anymore. What a great picture of our salvation. This is what happens when we believe. We are freed from the penalty of sin - death. We are freed from slavery to sin - our former master. Like Israel, we should celebrate our deliverance. Yet, God wasn’t finished with Israel after they crossed the Red Sea. He was just getting started.  Our salvation is just the beginning for us too.

God’s ultimate purpose for Israel was yet future. They hadn’texperienced the fullness of His promise. For them the promise would be a parcel of land. The Bible even calls it, “The Promised Land.” It was a land “flowing with milk and honey.” The perfect place for God’s people. However, very few of the men and women saved from Egypt ever stepped foot into the promised land. In fact, only two adults out of all who came out of Egypt got to enter in - Caleb and Joshua. The rest died during a forty year period of wandering in the Sinai desert, a pretty miserable time as you can imagine wandering in the desert would be. Some have considered the picture of the promised land and Israel and drawn the spiritual parallel as heaven. That our promised land, as Christians, is where we go when we die. That doesn’t fit very well. Much more fitting is that the promised land represents to us a life fully abandoned to God’s purpose and His mission no matter what the opposition. This seems to be the life lived by Joshua and Caleb. As young men, they were sent as spies, along with ten others, into the promised land. They saw the same giants the other spies saw. They knew, just like the other spies, there were quite a few inhabitants in the land that would not welcome them with open arms. Yet they were the only ones who believed, in the words of Joshua, “If the LORD delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do no rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them” (Numbers 14:8-10). Joshua and Caleb were severely outnumbered, and so Israel did follow God’s plan for them. They chose to stay in the wilderness instead of the land of milk and honey.

Are you still wandering around in the wilderness? You’ve been saved from your sin. You believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. But when God showed you where He wanted you to go and what He wanted you to do, instead of remembering God’s power and His promises you became obsessed with the giants in the land. Fear of what might happen gripped you. Fear of what people would think. Fear that God’s promises wouldn’t come true. The wilderness has its own sort of provision. Like God was with Israel in the desert, so He is with us. We don’t go without. He won’t let us starve to death. We can even find ourselves useful to Him while we wander, but make no mistake, the life of mediocrity is not the abundant life Jesus talked about. God has a specific purpose for you. When you find it, the only regret you’ll have is that you didn’t find it sooner; that you didn’t give your life up to His purposes and His plan sooner. That’s the spiritual place where He wants to take you. It’s called surrender. It’s called abandonment to God. It means, very practically, seeking His Kingdom first, and trusting Him to take care of everything else. You don’t have to stay in the desert any longer. You can enter the promised land at any time. Isn’t it time to stop wandering?