Entering Our Promised Land – Moving beyond the deception of works and religious tradition to reach the fullness of our inheritance in Christ Jesus
Like the Israelites of old, here we stand, hesitant, hovering, unsure whether we truly desire to enter our Promised Land.
Behind us lay the ruins of a life without Life; stretching before us, an avenue of blessed hope and opportunity. Hope and opportunity that could lead to a faith-based transformation of our very souls. A place of veritable rest for our souls that could truly become our own Promised Land (Matt.11:28-30).
In accordance with His compassionate nature, our God has graciously granted us the privilege of new spiritual life. From this place of privilege, we are now entitled to participate in the continuing opportunity before us; the progressive sanctification of our souls unto Him. God has blessed us with divine privilege by placing His Holy Spirit within us to perform an ongoing work of holy transformation within our souls.1 This extraordinary supernatural transformation is intended to provide us with the opportunity to experience the spiritual blessings of inner peace, joy, and holy living as daily portions of our blessed inheritance in Christ Jesus. Yet, incredibly, this very opportunity, this very privilege, merely looms as an unwelcome burden to some. Those who choose to remain scripted in the blueprint of yesterday will always refuse to participate in the progressive adventures of new spiritual inspiration (John 7:37-52). Instead, familiar religious practice affords for these children of yesterday a sense of moving forward without the actual “burden” of significant inner change. A change that must accompany the privileges and opportunities afforded by God’s grace.
Ensnared by the deception of religious tradition, multitudes of Christians today have scarcely begun to experience the magnitude of the spiritual entitlement into which they have been “born again.” And thus, being out of touch with the daily benefits of their spiritual inheritance, these multitudes are gradually declining into a spiritual paralysis. A paralysis that is leading to a severe impairment of God’s design and purpose for their lives.
Many Christians are still entangled in the works mentality methodology of listening and learning and then simply trying to do their best. And, as a result, they forsake the process of becoming like Christ by the power of God, embracing instead the mentality and methodology of works.
As Paul exhorts us, in Galatians 3:1-3:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
Works Methodology versus Grace Process
“After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?!” Yes! This is what we do. After beginning with the Holy Spirit, we so easily submit to the deception that we must now try to attain our goal of becoming more Christlike primarily by human effort!
By the traditional methodology and mentality of works, people receive training and then try to act righteously based upon what they have learned. In accordance with traditional works methodology, people believe that they become best equipped to meet God’s call upon their lives primarily through the accumulation of information about God and the daily life application of that information. But through the grace process of sanctification, we believe we become best equipped to fulfill our calling by becoming more like Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the methodology of works tradition, it is believed that learning and then doing is the primary process of becoming more like Christ. But, through the grace process, we come to understand that our souls cannot be transformed simply by learning and doing. Rather, we are required to forsake our dependence upon our own efforts and embrace faith in the power of God to perform the necessary inward transformation of our soul (Phil. 2:13).
As we read in Romans 1:17:
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
This transformation of our soul into the character-likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is much more than just a labor of obedience based on cognitive agreement. It is, instead, a supernatural transformation effected by the sanctifying power of the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ that is within us for that very purpose. As it is revealed, in Second Corinthians 3:18:
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Forsaking our religious self-effort is a necessary prerequisite to experiencing the transformation of our souls unto the character likeness of Christ Jesus. We must be willing to surrender complete control of our lives to God. If we are ever to experience a significant cessation of our compulsion to be in control, we will need to be willing to reject our deeply rooted, performance-based philosophies of self-reliance.
Our example is Abraham:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Surrender Brings Peace to the Soul
True surrender of our wills to God can not be successfully accomplished solely by the disciplined application of repetitive efforts. Surrender has legitimate substance only as it emerges from the ashes of true brokenness. And true brokenness only occurs as we consistently choose to relinquish the control of our lives to God.
Resisting brokenness, we may cry out to God, “Show me; then I will surrender.” But God always seems to reply, “Surrender; then I will show you.” For God knows that we will not truly embrace what lies ahead of us until we have forsaken our reliance upon the blueprints of the past.
For many of us, our past has shaped our soul into wounded patterns and tones, which blind the eyes and deafen the ears of our soul to the vision and voice of God. Instead, we “see” and “hear” and interpret the present circumstances of our lives based upon judgments arising from the injuries of our past. Responding to the circumstances of our lives today, our souls seem to invariably cry out, “What about me?”, “It’s not fair!”, and “I’m not valued.” We typically react to these grievances by tenaciously striving to gain more control over the ongoing circumstances of our lives. As we are caught up in this defensive, self-centered striving, our anxiety increases and the health of our personal relationships begin to decrease. Truly, the mind of the self-reliant man can never rest. But true surrender quiets the plaintive cries of the wounded soul.
As Christians, our Promised Land is our new life in Christ Jesus. And adaily attitude of surrender positions us to view the tangible possibilities available to us within that Promised Land. This daily positioning through surrender is vital; it allows our soul the opportunity to envision what lies ahead of us through increasingly clear and unhindered spiritual inspiration. This inspiration serves to encourage us, helping us to continue to be willing to forsake the old and embrace the new. That which is new is the character of Christ being developed within us. And that which we must resolutely embrace is faith. For faith is the pathway to our Promised Land.
Faith is Our Guide
Faith has been assigned to us as the primary guide to our Promised Land, and yet, faith refuses to give us more than a glimpse of the road map. Hebrews11: 1 states, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Still, the way is not entirely hidden from us; for the Spirit is also given to us that we might receive guidance, and by this, develop hope:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
-1 Corinthians 2:9,10
Yet some, who stand at the gateway to our Promised Land cannot envision how faith can become the trusted vessel by which they may cross over to claim their inheritance:
‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
It is when we have focused our eyes on that which we feel we need to control that we find ourselves crying out faithlessly, “Lord, save me!” It is when we have taken our eyes off the treasure that is Jesus that we become afraid that we might sink beneath the waves.
If we continue to treasure our life and our ways more than we treasure His ways and His life in us, we will never come to clearly envision or properly value our inheritance in Him. And we will never receive significant revelation revealing the pathway to our spiritual destiny by continuing to focus on what we feel we must preserve and protect. Instead, Jesus declared, in Matthew10: 39 that “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” If we never seem to actually arrive at a place of lasting fulfillment, it is because our hopes remain anchored in our purposes and in this life. With our hopes so anchored, the pursuit of our own purposes becomes for us, moment by moment, the primary objective of our misplaced faith. (Rom.1:18-32).
As Jesus has warned us:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6: 21
To experience lasting satisfaction and fulfillment during this life, we must on a daily basis, come to realize it in Christ’s purpose for us and through His life in us. His life in us gives us true purpose. But it is only after we identify and surrender our own self–motivated purposes that we are able to fully experience the benefits of His life within us.
We must come to the full realization that we have, most of our lives, been practicing a faith based on our ability to secure for ourselves the benefits of temporary satisfactions. This self-serving humanistic faith is the universal religion of unredeemed humanity.
One common example of this misdirected faith in action is the eagerness of people to believe the promises of politicians. Politicians know that they must promise to meet the wants and needs of as many influential groups of people as possible before Election Day. Typically, the politician will try to develop positive associations with diverse organizations, even if these organizations are obviously diametrically opposed to each other in their views. Nevertheless, it is an effective strategy, even with its obvious contradictions, because each group ignores the contradictions believing that the other group will be the one that was deceived.
This kind of voluntary resignation to delusion is one of the predictable outcomes of a humanistic faith. It starkly reveals to us what the hearts of men are really focused on, really listening to, and how willing we are to be deceived. We hear what we want to hear. We see what we want to see. And we gullibly believe whatever seems to suit our purpose!
Faith is the pathway to the Promised Land.
But faith cannot guide us to where we will not go.
Unbelief Prevents Us from Entering His Rest
In the book of Hebrews, we are instructed to “make every effort to enter” God’s rest or risk falling into the same sin of disobedience as the Israelites when they faithlessly refused to take hold of their inheritance by entering into their Promised Land. This sin of disobedience is specifically attributed to their unbelief. Their sin of unbelief was founded in their natural tendency to trust in their own ability to determine what is best for them. Because of the Israelite’s reliance upon their own ability to determine what would be best for them, they could not bring themselves to trust God and, by so doing, enter the Promised Land. Their extended and restless journey through the dry places can be for us a symbolic representation of our inability to enter God’s “rest” as long as we are depending upon our natural abilities to determine the direction of our lives. (Heb. 4:11)
Like the Israelites, we also resist the journey to where our inheritance can be realized – because that destination will not be a place where we will be allowed to be in control. It is not the natural way of man to fully submit and entrust ourselves to a process or a power over which we can have absolutely no control. By nature, our faith is in ourselves and in our own ability to determine what we want and what we need (Rom. 12:2).
It is only by God’s grace that we can develop the faith to trust in God to the same degree that we have come to rely upon our own determinations. If we are, in this life, to receive a substantial portion of our inheritance in Christ Jesus, our faith must be in God’s power to do, supernaturally, for us and in us, what only God can do! (Acts 20:32) Only God can impart to us the faith necessary to convince us to systematically abandon our preconceptions and accept the paradigm shift that accompanies the development of the character of Christ within. We cannot come by this faith apart from the power available to us through the grace of God (Rom. 3:11,12). It is God who grants us the necessary faith to desire change and also the necessary faith in His power to effect this change within our soul! (Rom.12:3; Eph. 2:8)
Specifically, it is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, inspiration, and revelation regarding the specific roots of unbelief in our souls. Then, it is our trust in the power of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves that conveys an invitation to the Holy Spirit to begin a specific work of sanctification within us (Rom. 2:28,29). It is only when we look at the self-centered lies and behaviors associated with our unbelief and confess that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us in those areas, that the character of Christ can be effectively developed within us. 2
As Christ’s character is increased within us, faith will be increased within us. And, as Christ is allowed to rule in our life, our faith in Him will become evident through the fruit that is produced in our lives. This fruit will not be like the old accomplishments, eked out through the tedious and tenacious labor of self-reliant striving founded in our self-determination. This will be fruit that grows and ripens in direct proportion to our capacity to have faith in God (John 15:4,5)
Focusing on the Solution.
Consider this scripture:
“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:23,24 (The underlying assumption, of course, behind the promise of this scripture from Mark is that we have looked to God for direction in our prayers so that our prayers may be in accordance with His will.)
Observe that we are not told to focus on the problem to be fixed, but, instead, to have faith that the solution will be accomplished. We are told that if we believe that what we are desiring will happen, “it will be done for him.” And if we believe that we have received it, “it will be yours.”
We are being directed to focus on the possible solution to a perceived problem, the eventual answer to our prayer, not the problem itself. There is a very good reason for this. We are being directed to focus on the solution, because God wants us to direct our faith toward what He is going to do.
We live in a sin-damaged world overflowing with problems, and our natural tendency is to focus on what we think must be done. We are focused almost continuously on these problems as they arise day after day in our lives. We daily labor to overcome the difficulties inherent in making a living, raising our children, keeping up our homes, and maintaining our health. We are encouraged and counseled to become proficient at dealing with these problems through a combination of life experiences and educational processes designed to empower us to live successful, independent lives. We have, through living in this fallen world, developed into creatures that depend strongly upon our own abilities to survive. We have become fundamentally self-reliant. We will not easily surrender the control of our life to God. Our intent is to stay in control (which is focusing on the problems), instead of surrendering control to God (which would be focusing on the solution).
As much as we would prefer it, God is not in the business of fixing all of our problems. Not yet anyway. It’s not that He doesn’t fix any problems. He just won’t fix them all, the way we would like Him to. And that’s a good thing. Because the truth is, if He did fix all of our problems the way we would like Him to, we would be so contentedly lazy that we would never be motivated enough to desire God’s best solution to all of our earthly problems.
God’s best solution is to offer us the opportunity to feel, think, and act differently in reaction to the circumstances of our life by being changed inwardly. Specifically, this solution is the process of the character of Christ being perfected within us. As Christ is perfected within us, our perspective of the world around us begins to change. As we are able to apply God’s perspective to our daily circumstances, we feel less compelled to try to maintain our self-centered control of the world around us. And we begin to see that in one way or another, Christ within us is the best solution to every problem. The life cycle of unbelief, which had blinded us to seeing God’s finest solution, is broken. Our faith is no longer primarily in our own ability to manage the circumstances of our lives.
The Alpha and the Omega of Our Daily Walk
The dividends of our inheritance in Christ Jesus are available to any and every Christian who is truly willing to surrender the direction of their life to God. When we are willing to admit that our lives have not been entirely founded in Christ, we begin to make ourselves available to the inwardly transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It is a transformation from the ways of death unto the eternal Way of Life. God has summarized for us the process by which we might come to access this transforming power in this simple verse:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
This is to be the alpha and the omega of our daily walk in this world. This simple biblical verse has profound implications that cannot be completely discerned nor followed to conclusion by human ability alone (1Cor. 2:14-16). It is a summons to a lifelong process of voluntary surrender (“Humble yourselves before the Lord”) in response to personal conviction and inspiration by the Holy Spirit. And it is a promise of spiritual vitalization (“and he will lift you up”) for our souls. This verse is like a spiritual beacon illuminating the source of power for living a holy life. It is both process and promise, journey and journey’s end, to be utilized and traveled throughout our lives.
Humility is a fruit of the spiritual and emotional maturity that increases within our souls as the character of Christ is being developed within. We can cooperate with this development, but we can never legitimately take credit for it. As we submit to the process of soul sanctification through the work of the Holy Spirit, we will experience a godly humility that expands into those very areas of our soul once ruled by pride-based, self-reliant attitudes.
Humility was probably Moses’ greatest leadership asset:
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
Humility enabled Moses to submit himself to God’s direction for his life. And through humility, Moses was afforded the privilege of interceding with God and exercising the godly authority and power necessary to lead the chosen people to the Promised Land. Moses “humbled himself before the Lord” and was consequently lifted up into godly service. In being lifted up, his life was to be a model of proper attitude for all to observe. (Prov. 18:12)
We can see how important to God, the visible modeling of humility was in Moses’ life. When Moses took matters into his own hands at Meribah Kadesh, he was immediately disqualified to lead God’s people into the Promised Land.
God had said, “Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.” But Moses said to them:
‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
-Numbers 20:8-11 (Italics mine)
Moses was told to speak to the rock. Instead, he struck the rock and spoke to the people. Frustrated with the people’s grumbling and perhaps fearing that they would once again not be permitted to enter the Promised Land, Moses implied that he and Aaron were the suppliers of the people’s needs. 3 Because of this, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron:
‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’
By this seemingly drastic judgment toward Moses and Aaron, God was demonstrating to His people that to Him, self-reliance was prideful unbelief (trusting self more than God). This same sin of unbelief had kept the Hebrews from trusting God the first time they were to enter the Promised Land (Heb. 3:19).
Personal humility is a godly leadership quality that reflects the proper attitude of the heart from which we may cultivate the necessary faith to enter our Promised Land. The humble of heart will experience faith as a guiding light on their journey to the fullness of their inheritance in Christ Jesus.
By virtue of faith, the humble heart is not bound up by the vagaries of indecisiveness nor is it directed by the force of prideful self-determination. It is able to be steered by the wind of the Spirit and restrained by the conscience of Christ. It turns to God for direction and returns to God for sustenance.
The heart of the humble trembles with eager expectation as it kneels before the cross of Christ. It has come to a place of limitless opportunity. A place of transformation for the soul. A place that leads, from the portal of dying to self, to the attainment of holy vision and purpose.
The cross of Christ is the guidepost of the humble heart; it points the way to the place of new life. By this guidepost, the humble of heart will understand the way to their inheritance.
And they will enter their Promised Land.
- William Evans, The Great Doctrines Of The Bible, (Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois) pp. 165-1692. Charles Stanley, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee) 1999, pp. 57-673. Matthew Henry, The NIV Matthew Henry Commentary, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan) 1997, pg.170Note: All scriptures are from New International Version, (NIV)
Copyright © 2000 by R. Thomas Brass
All rights reserved.