Conditions to Moving Forward
The first chapter of the book of Joshua illustrates the goal and conditions of Christian living. Many Christians say “believe” and all of heaven is ours—with the emphasis on the “all.” It is true that everything received from the Lord is by faith. We believe for salvation, and salvation in all its parts is ours actually or potentially. However, there are aspects of salvation that we enter into only as we appropriate consciously and actively what God has provided for us.
We learn from 1 Corinthians 3 that there will be some Christians who will be saved yet so as by fire. This is what Paul writes in v. 13-15. “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” It is possible for a believer to get to heaven and yet have no rewards. Apparently there will be no abundant entrance in a case such as this as Peter speaks of it in 2 Peter 1:11—“For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The book of Joshua teaches that there is a race to run and a crown to gain. It is true that everything we have is by faith, but it is a faith that results in action. Salvation to so many is deliverance from the penalty of sin and hell and assurance of going to heaven, but that seems to be the extent of their view of what salvation involves. In this way they are very much like the Israelites who were emancipated from Egypt and then lived the rest of their lives in the desert. But who wants to live in the desert? God’s plan for Israel was not only to bring them out of Egypt, but also to bring them into Canaan. It is the same with us. We have been brought out of sin through salvation in order that we might be brought in to the abundant life which is also part of salvation.
There are many Christians who have been taught that they should expect nothing but frequent if not constant defeat in this warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil. Such persons seem to believe that on this side of glory is defeat, and that victory will not come until we have entered into eternity.
This is far from the truth. The book of Joshua teaches us that when we meet the required conditions, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. The defeatist attitude toward the Christian life is seen at Kadesh-Barnea where ten of the spies brought back the report that the land could not be conquered. They said they could not subdue the enemy and take possession of the country (Numbers 13:31-33). If we interpret that into modern Christian living it would be the same as those Christians who say we have to struggle along the best way we know. Eventually we hope to get to heaven, but there is really no expectation of victory over evil forces today. They are too great and too many.
Such an attitude leads to the disaster. We need to read Numbers 13 and 14 so as to be reminded of what happens to God’s people when they reach a Kadesh-Barnea—the decision point—and go back into the desert. The rest of their lives is lived in defeat. This happened to the generation of adults who left Egypt. God did not desert them even though they did not obey Him. He went with them, provided their food—manna and quail—and waited 38 years until that whole generation was gone. The book of Joshua sets forth by example and illustration the requirements necessary for a successful and overcoming life. In the New Testament the books of Ephesians and Hebrews are the counterpart to Joshua.
First of all, in the book of Hebrews we find the land of Canaan is pictured as a place of spiritual rest and victory which every believer on earth may enjoy (Hebrews 4:3). This rest of faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is why we read such statements as found in Hebrews 3:5-6, “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
Remember that God has highly exalted the Lord Jesus and given Him a name which is above every name. He holds a place of authority, a place with absolute victory over all His enemies. The wonderful thing for us is that we are partakers with Christ in this. We have been raised with Christ and are to be partakers with Him and have victory over all our enemies. There is no need for any of us to remain frail, defeated, emaciated Christians. And a believer who fits that description is in that condition by choice. He either does not have what it takes to believe God and follow after and to grow in grace and knowledge, or he does not want it, or he is ignorant of this great truth.
We are told we are made partakers “if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast under the end.” Again, the subject here is not salvation from sin’s penalty but the life of victory the should follow. If we continue on in faith, there is nothing that can stop us from enjoying all that God has for us. The danger is that, like the Israelites, we may harden our hearts. The warning is: “For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware 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.” There is the same problem today. Some do not believe that God has a place of victory for us. We too ought to fear “lest, a promise being left of us entering into his rest” any of us should seem to come short of it.
There is a rest remaining that is a rest of faith. Such rest does not mean that there will not be any problems or enemies or troubles. It does mean that we may have all of these things and yet our hearts will be at peace because we rest in Christ.
There is something left for us in Christ besides salvation from sin’s penalty. There is victory and rest in Him when we completely turn our lives over to Him. Ephesians speaks of life in heavenly places. this is not heaven itself but our experience of oneness with Christ. We start from victory, we do not struggle toward it. He has accomplished everyone for us, so it is for us to now enter into victory through Him. This is the kind of life the book of Joshua illustrates for us.
Complete salvation is ours today, both as a privilege and as a birthright. Our inheritance is not all future. There is a possession and enjoyment of it that we may have now. Esau, despised his birthright. It was a spiritual matter but he was interested in physical and material things rather than spiritual things. In this he was like many Christians who today are despising their spiritual birthright.
“…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)