Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goals and Conditions of Christian Faith

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by Theodore H Epp

Theodore H Epp
The first chapter of the Book of Joshua illustrates for us the goal and conditions of Christian living.  A careful examination of its contents will rescue us from the one-sided approach to Christianity that so many persons have.  We say “believe” and all of heaven is ours—with the emphasis on the “all.”   This is not a contradiction to what I have said so often: that everything we receive from the Lord is by faith.  That is true.  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 I Corinthians 3 that there will be some Christians who will be saved yet so as by fire.  This is what the apostle tells us:  “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” (vv. 13-15).  It is possible, then, for, a believer to get to heaven and yet have no rewards.  There will be no abundant entrance in a case such as this as Peter speaks of (II Pet. 1:11).  This would be getting to heaven barely by the skin of our teeth.  Would not his detract from some of heaven’s joys?

  There is a phrase current today concerning a poor man’s city or a poor people’s city.  Will there have to be a poor people’s heaven?  If so, they will have made it so by their own lack of active faith in Christian living.  God’s people lose so much when they have no more truth than to believe Christ for salvation from sin’s penalty but know nothing about deliverance from sin’s power and how to live the abundant life.

The Book of Joshua teaches us that there is a race to run and a crown to gain.  It is true that everything we have is by faith, but faith that results in action.  Salvation to so many is emancipation from the penalty of sin and hell and the 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 a 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 into the abundant life which is also part of salvation.

One night an elderly lady called me asking for spiritual help.  She had been listening to the broadcast and was under conviction thinking that perhaps she wasn’t saved because as she said, she had not done a thing for Christ.  She had been saved very late in life and could not go out and win souls and do work that she saw others do.  For this very reason she doubted her salvation.  At least she was concerned.  Many of God’s people are not.  If the glories of heaven depended on what some Christians accomplish for the Lord while down her, the heaven they would go to would be a poor people’s heaven!

Then 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 be 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 met the required conditions, we can do all this as through Christ who strengthens us.  This is what Paul taught later and this what Joshua believe and practiced.

The defeatist attitude toward the Christian life is seen at Kadesh-barnea where then 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.  If we interpret that into modern Christine 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 the 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 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 flesh—and waited 38 years until that whole generation was gone.  There were only two exceptions to this, as we have already seen, Joshua was given leadership of the nation and led them into the Land of Promise.

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.

Canaan in Hebrews

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 (Heb. 4:3).  This rest of faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  This is why we read such statements as: “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:  (3:5,6).  Some may stumble over the expression “if we hold fast” thinking that we must hold on in order to be saved.  The commenting on entering into the hope that God has set before each believer.  In salvation, God holds fast to us.  We are kept by the power of God.  But the hope that we have of a victorious life, a life of rest and victory, a life of overcoming, a life of rejoicing is dependent upon our attitude toward God.

The passage goes on:  “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness…).  But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin… Heb. 3:7-14).  According to this we are to receive everything that God has for us in Christ.

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 of absolute victory over all His enemies.  And one of the glorious thing for us is that we are 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.  Any believer who fits that description is in that condition by choice.  He either does not have what it takes to believe God and to 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 unto the end.”  Again the subject here is not salvation from sin’s penalty but the life of victory that 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 se that they could not enter in because of unbelief”  (Heb. 3:16-19).  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 us of entering into his rest,” any of us should seem to come short of it.  We too have had the gospel preached to us, not the gospel of salvation from condemnation only, but the gospel of overcoming also Our hearing of it needs to be mixed with faith if it is going to profit us.

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 them in Christ.

In our morning devotions sometime back, we read about a servant of God who was passing through a region infested by robbers.   He had perfect peace in his heart, believing that God would give him grace for whatever took place.  He was accosted by a robber who took everything he had of material value.  It was not much, but as the robber was turning away from him the servant of God said, “Wait a minute, I have something more for you.”  And he gave him a copy of one the Gospels. Later on this minister of Christ found out that the robber was delivered from his evil ways through reading and obeying what he read in that portion of Scripture.

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 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 everything for us, so it is for us now to 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 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, you will recall, 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.

God has great things, wonderful things for us.  It was not until 1955 that I personally came into the knowledge of this greater truth of the Word of God.  What this has meant to my own spiritual life is beyond expression. END…
                                                      

A Word from the Book’s Foreword:

(“By today’s standards Joshua should have long been on the retirement list when he was appointed Israel’s leader.  He was 85 years of age at the time but, like Moses at 80, was of unusual vigor of mind, body and spirit.

In addition to his administrative tasks Joshua was General of the Army.  Six years of rigorous campaigns followed his appointment as leader until the land was subdued from Mount Seir in the south to Mount Harmon in the North.  He continued to serve Israel until his death at the age of 110 (Josh. 24:29).

The course of Joshua’s life is quite fully disclosed in the Bible, and it shows his conduct was not marred by some special sin as were some of Israel’s other leaders.  He had weaknesses, but he lived on a high spiritual level.  It is very evident that the principle he stated at the end of his life was one that he had followed most of his days.  He said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Thus Joshua’ record is that of a man who actively sought God’s control for his life and willingly followed wherever God led.

The studies in this book were originally given as messages over the special international radio network of the Back to the Bible Broadcast.  Incidents from Joshua’s life and his experiences with Israel serve as illustrations and guides with regard to the life of victory in Christ, the kind of life that Joshua so well exemplified.)

(An adaptation from the book Joshua Victorious by Faith. By Theodore H Epp.
This book is available for a reasonable price from the GNBS Office and Book Shop)


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