Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pressing for a Victory, part two

The nation of Israel, in the time of Moses and Joshua, reveals a great illustration of the Christian life. Israel in captivity is a picture of the Christian before he is born again. The Passover lamb is a picure of the Lord Jesus' death for us. Crossing through the Red Sea is a picture of baptism. The wilderness is a picture of our struggle to grow in Christ. It's also symbolic of the carnal believer. A carnal believer is that believer who depends more on himself than on God. It is that believer who never achieves the full victory that God desires for him.

Please note: We need to be careful with our illustrations. As with every illustration, if you look hard enough, you can poke holes in it. You cannot make every single aspect of the wildnerness time, or the land of Canaan, to be a perfect picture of the Christian life. I don't intend for this illustration to do that, so please don't make that assumption. Now, on to the story....

We find ourselves on the banks of the Jordan, looking over into The Promised Land. Israel has been waiting years for this day. Now it comes. Now come the victories and the blessings God had promised. Israel, as a nation, had brought on itself the 40 years they had spent in the desert. They did not believe God the first time he had taken them to this place. But they believed him this time! They are ready to go.

You can read about this in the first few chapters of the book of Joshua. You will find an anxious nation and a fearful leader. After all, all they had known for years and years was the leadership of Moses. But God tells Joshua time and again that God will be with him as leader, to go forward. So he does. Perhaps with some fear and trepidation, but he does. And within a few days, the victories start.

I suspect all of us would like to experience more victory in our Christian life than we currently do. I think all of us hunger for a palpable presence of God with us. In Joshua, chapter 3, we have the steps for such a life. The first few verses follow:

1Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed.
2At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp;
3and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.
4"However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before."
5Then Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you."

If you truly want victory, then your victory begins as theirs did: with CONSECRATION.

Now the experts tell us that in this time period the way that God's children demonstrated consecration (sanctification) was by bathing. Water was not a common commodity. They did not bathe daily. So when the order for consecration came down, the people would wash their clothes and wash their bodies.

You and I need daily consecration to live in victory. We need to wash up. John 13 taught this when Jesus washed the disciples' feet. Jesus said we needed to wash up. Then in John 15 Jesus said this: "Now you are clean through the word that I have spoken to you."

Do you see that? The word of God washes us! If you want to be consecrated, spend time in the word. Let God speak to your heart. Let him reveal with the word what needs to change in your heart and let him change you. As God shows you what is out of order in your life, repent of it. Request his forgiveness. And let him have his way. This is how to press on for a victory.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pressing for a Victory

Maybe this and the subsequent posts are influenced by March madness. I love college basketball, after all; and this is the time that is most interesting in that great sport. Sixty-four teams began (last week) pressing for a victory. The invitation alone was a great honor for them. I imagine that most, if not all, of the teams all imagined themselves in that final game on April 6th. I don't think any coach, team, or player began the season thinking, "I am going to to my deadlevel best to strive for mediocrity. Lukewarmness is enough for us!" If they did, they got what they deserved. At this point in the season, those remaining teams are beginning to believe that the ultimate victory is just a game away.

So I want to take a few days to speak about victorious Christian living. I scan a few blogs, read a number of Christian websites, and I seldom see a study or exhortation towards victory in Jesus. [I guess that it's not a popular way to say things anymore. After all, I am often surprised with some of the pop language I hear. It's a sign of being left behind, culturally-speaking--the hazard of living somewhere in South America.]

Victory is not automatic, even though we have the sure promise and great truth that Christ has already won the victory for us. There are many verses in Scripture that assure us that victory is ours. We even sing about it in many churches, from that great old hymn, "Victory in Jesus," to some of the modern praise songs about victory. It's there. It's ours.

There are two aspects about victory that we need to understand. One is that we already have the victory. Christ won it. We fight our spiritual battles from a place of victory; that is a "positional truth." That is, it's the truth about our position in Christ. One day I will write more about that. But for now I want to focus on a second point about victory.

That point is that, practically speaking, we have to press forward towards personal, practical victory. In your daily life--in the practical outworking of the Christian life, that victory is not automatic. But it is promised. It is achievable.

Our lessons about victory will come from the story of the Hebrews as they enter the Promised Land. Briefly, let me say that The Promised Land, Canaan, is not a good symbol for heaven. Why? There are wars in Canaan. There are none in heaven. There are enemies there; not in heaven. Canaan is not about heaven. But it does teach us about daily Christian living. It's found in the Old Testament book of Joshua.

We will learn more about that tomorrow. Get ready to press on for a victory.