Friday, February 21, 2020

Bird's eye view of the Bible - The theme of victory

Image result for spiritual victory in Joshua

      Have you ever watched any sport where one team scored nearly all the points? If you have, it is likely you heard such descriptions of that game as: "it was a shut out" or "that team dominated the other". In other words, the winning team was able to obtain not just a victory, but an "upset victory". 

      In our bird's eye view of the Bible thus far, we've considered five themes: creation, fall, catastrophe, patriarchs and redemption. We saw how God chose to relate to all He made by way of "covenants" or "binding promises" in two main covenants:
Image result for sin in the Garden of Eden 

1. A covenant of works (which Adam 
    and Eve broke, leading to the  
    catastrophe of the fall).
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2. And a covenant of grace (which God 
    made with them, based on grace, 
    through faith and shedding of 
    innocent blood). 

    We also noted that God regulates the moral state of mankind (that is, mankind's continued rebellion against Him) by conscience, government, promise and God's law. The next theme we will consider in this section is that of "victory". The Book of Joshua illustrates the Christian life and the call to spiritual victory.

1. God the Holy Spirit calls believers to spiritual victory.
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      Now imagine a last-place basketball team that plays a championship game against a first place team - who would you expect to win? Once the game is over, we may expect the first place team. However, if the last place team got a victory over the first place team to win the championship, we would wonder how did such a win come about? A few may begin to wonder if the conquering team had help from above? 

      In the Biblical book of Joshua, we find the Hebrew people called by God to victory in the promised land. The promised land was rightfully their home by the promise or covenant He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God had given them the promises, but now they needed to take possession of the them. 

      Christians are spiritually compared to Israel in the book of Joshua (Hebrews 3-4). We have a better set of promises than they did because Jesus died and raised from the dead in our place (Hebrews 8). What is also better for Christians is that God lives inside each one by the Person of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20). 

2. Believers must choose to rely on 
    Jesus to lead them.
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    A Christian is called by God to spiritual victory, however, they need to choose to trust Him to lead them. The Exodus out of Egypt and crossing of the Red Sea pictures salvation, since Christians are people freed from sin's enslavement to enjoy freedom through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:12-14; 8:7-9). We can illustrate salvation by the Exodus. When God brought the people out of Egypt, He was "getting the people out of Egypt". Yet, the remainder of the Christian life is about the Holy Spirit working with the Christian to get their love for the world, or former life (illustrated by "Egypt") out of them. 

         The Hebrew people became publicly identified as a rescued people when God gave them the ten commandments at Mt.Sinai through Moses. Like Adam and Eve, they broke God's covenant to them, resulting in their wandering in a desert for forty years. However, God did not give up on them. He kept His promise of grace which He had given to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This ever reminds us that whenever a Christian messes up, God is ever forgiving and faithful to keep His promise never to leave nor forsake us (2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 13;5).
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     What the people needed to learn was how to trust God to lead them - a concept called, "Lordship". For the Christian, Jesus becomes their Lord at salvation, but learning to enjoy His authority over them is a life-long experience. In order to cross over into the promised land, there needed to be a Jordan River that was flooded and flowing. Trusting God's Lordship meant they had to rest in His ability or "Lordship" to help them cross what was otherwise a "river of death". 

     Christians too are called to have a willingness to follow Christ as the One who leads (Hebrews 4:1-4). The Jordan River teaches us the lesson of reliance upon God.

 3. Spiritual victory requires the     
    believer to cooperate with God.
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     We've seen then that believers must rely upon Jesus as the heed the call to spiritual victory. To remain victorious in the Christian life, the follower of Jesus must exercise cooperation with God. 

      As Christians begin their relationship with Jesus Christ, they must fight the good fight of faith (Ephesians 6:11-18; 2 Timothy 4:6-8). Israel had to fight their opponents at various cities (Joshua 4-10). They then had to secure whatever progress they made by continually trusting God to lead them. Once Israel crossed the Jordan River to begin their taking back of the Promised-land, it was not going to be easy. There was a necessary cooperation with God if the people were going to remain in victory. 

      The people who lived in that land inhabited it for centuries. For anyone who trusts in Jesus today, following Him isn't easy. Whatever sort of life anyone lives prior to saving faith is still remembered, with old habits and thinking not completely forgotten. The Holy Spirit's job back in Joshua's time and today is to strengthen believers to deal with those things which stand in the way of following Jesus more closely. 
       Furthermore, just as the Canaanites in Joshua weren't going to give up without a fight, so too, our internal desires to still sin will daily clash with the believer's new inward desires to follow Jesus (see Romans 7:14-23). Furthermore, unless God helped them every step of the way, and unless they cooperated, they would never possess the land that was their land by promise. 

       The Christian life is about fighting against the desires of our heart to disobey God (called, "the flesh", Romans 8:7-8). Moreover, the Christian has to also resist the temptations of the world (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 John 2:15-17) and the Devil (1 Peter 5:8). Getting victory won't happen if we don't cooperate with God by daily reading our Bible (Joshua 1:8), praying (Philippians 4:6-7) and weekly church attendance (Hebrews 10:24-25). In other words, we must work with God as He works in us to grow as those who have trusted in Jesus by faith. 

4. Spiritual victory involves 
    continuing in the way obedience 
    to the Lord.
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       As we come to the end of our flight through this theme of victory, we noted that the Christian is called, must choose to trust God and cooperate with Him to live in spiritual victory. The Book of Joshua emphasizes one more truth: the need to continue in obedience to the Lord. 

      We find Joshua giving his final farewell to the people. He warns them that the challenges they faced in the promised land won't go away. Furthermore, times will come when they have to choose between what is popular and what is right. Whenever the Christian gains victory, it is much tougher to remain victorious. Romans 12:1-2 reminds us that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, acceptable unto God, which is our spiritual act of worship. We must also make sure we're not trying to "fit in with everyone else" (what Romans 12:2 calls, "not being conformed to this world"). Rather, we must be changed in the renewal of our minds. 

       Following the Lord everyday doesn't just "happen". Following Him must happen on purpose. Israel is challenged to "choose this day whom you will serve". The Christian who decides to keep on walking in spiritual victory can say, just like Joshua: "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord".

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