In the Old Testament’s development of the nation of Israel, the people started out as a slave nation to Egypt. They were in complete bondage to Egypt, doing their will and living the only life they had known. For 400 years this nation had been subjected to Egypt’s rule. I imagine generation after generation, they were living and knowing their truth. As the years passed, the dire situation went from bad to worse, and they were calling out for something better. There simply was no satisfaction in the life they were living.
I equate this to my life prior to Christ. I had some basic ideas of God that were placed into me by my Catholic upbringing, but it was all a very distant imagery that made no sense to me. I was growing up as another generation of American, pursuing everything I was taught to pursue. My parents taught me about life based on their experiences, the experiences of their fathers, and their father’s fathers. I was essentially a slave of those ideas and thoughts, just living according to how I was told I should live.
Bondage and slavery are only bitter to those who have tasted the sweetness of freedom. Those in bondage have no concept of freedom when they do not realize they are slaves.
Something amazing happened for Israel. It was something they didn’t do, it was purely a gift from God. God afflicted their masters with plagues, revealed the weaknesses of Egypt, and miraculously delivered Israel out of their hands by having the nation walk through the Red Sea on dry ground.
When I was 16, God revealed Himself to me. I attended a Wednesday night Bible study led by a man (maybe still a boy at that time) just three years older than me. It was my first time to attend that study. During our time of study that night, God revealed all the weaknesses of the goals and ambitions that my American upbringing had commanded me. Suddenly all the basic truths of those Catholic studies made sense, and a new relationship started. I recognized Jesus as truth, and Lord. I didn’t do anything, God did this work and took me through the parted waters on dry ground.
Freedom cannot be pursued by people who do not realize they are slaves. Freedom, even the concept of freedom, is a gift that awakens and vitalizes the soul.
I wish the story read that Israel saw the amazing miracles that God had performed in taking them out of their bondage and leading them to a place where He would establish them as a nation. The story doesn’t go that way. Instead, for 40 years, the nation wandered around in the desert complaining and grumbling against their new situation. They actually conveyed remorse or regret. At times, they called out to Moses to let them return to Egypt!
My story was really the same. After recognizing Christ as Lord and seeing truth at 16, I would go on to spend many years wandering in my own desert. It was so difficult to walk away from all the dreams and desires that were planted deep inside of me. Accepting Christ for salvation was easy, because that was really something He did for me! Choosing to follow him every day, dying to my previous way of life… that was (and is) hard. That required my commitment, it required taking up my cross and allowing my dreams and desires to be nailed to it. Many times I would look at the cross, read the Bible, and think, “Let me just go back to my previous way of life! Let me erase salvation from my mind and put myself back under the slavery of my American dream!” The duration of my time of wandering went well into my married life. We told people we were born again, but the way we lived our lives indicated our desire to return to Egypt.
A man in slavery grows accustomed to his bondage, and often will struggle to grasp a new identity separate from his previous master.
While they were in the desert, the nation of Israel was shown the promised land. They were given promises that this land was theirs, and that God would go ahead of them in battle and deliver this land to them. God was calling them to further obedience, and He assured them that He would go with them. After all the miracles they had seen, surely they would put their trust in Him and follow! Instead, they sent spies into that promised land who came back with word that the people inhabiting the land were giants! Fear overtook them, and they refused to enter the land of God’s promises.
As a single man, and then as a married couple, we read the word of God and the life the Bible was calling us to. We knew His promises, and we had seen Him work miracles in our own life. The Sunday sermons and the ways He spoke to us through the circumstances of life were very real. However, when it came to actually being obedient and following Him into the battles that He laid before us… No way!! We just couldn’t bring ourselves to go there. Those battles were against giants! How could we fight against those enemies? No, we were quite content to live our lives saying one thing, but living another way. We just weren’t ready to cross over the Jordan river to enter into a life of obedience to God. Despite His great promises, we were still holding on to Egypt.
A mature reasoning of freedom will reveal that freedom is only the breaking away from one master, but it always results in the necessary choice of a new master. Inevitably, freedom requires a decision to submit to the new master, or else you will be lured back to the first.
A whole generation of Israelites had to die before they would finally raise the courage to enter into God’s promises. Finally, though, they went. God miraculously provided, again. This new generation was strong and courageous, and they boldly went into the promised land. This didn’t mean that they went in perfect obedience, but they learned submission as they went. They battled hard. At times they battled in their own strength and lost. Then they would come back to battle according to God’s command and achieve victory. God’s ways never made sense, but they always proved His faithfulness and assured the Israelites that God was fighting for them.
From 2006 through 2008, the word of God spoke to us by the reading of His word and the teaching of our pastors, and we finally worked up the courage to obey. As we entered into those first acts of obedience, God blessed our path and assured us of His faithfulness. We saw the fruit of obedience in our lives. God did miraculous things in our finances, our marriage, our health, and all areas of our life. God even used us in the lives of others during that time, something that I wouldn’t have imaged He would have counted us worthy to do after so many years of wandering.
True obedience to your chosen master will produce a profit approved by him. If your profits reflect the goals and ambitions of your previous master, you must join in resistance. You cannot serve one master while profiting the other.
Israel made many mistakes in their battles for the land God promised them. They were disobedient at times. At other times, they compromised and chose to pursue peace with their enemies, when God clearly instructed them to destroy and eradicate. God knew the wickedness of those enemies, and knew that any pursuit of peace would result in the demise of the nation. Still, Israel continued to compromise and it cost them dearly. They could justify themselves and make it seem right in their own eyes, pursuing peace. However, this was against God’s instruction, and God knew better.
For us, we’ve continued to battle. At times, though, we’ve elected to compromise. God has shown us by the truth in His word that we can live by that truth, but still we like to go our own way and justify those acts. One way we have done that is in taking wine or alcohol. I can justify it, even by the word of God. It’s not necessarily sin, so long as you aren’t a drunkard. It’s kind of like how money isn’t the root of all evil, but the desire for money. It’s not a sin to be rich, but it’s a sin when the pursuit of money consumes your life and becomes your god. So, surely we can drink wine with our meal on a date night or our anniversary, right?
My own justification cannot hold any weight in the scales of God’s justice. God measures the heart, and my heart is wicked. The truth is God has told me many times that I am a man that should separate himself from all alcohol, because I am a man that always desires more. Even if I can force myself to moderation, my heart is still longing. It’s sin, and not something I should even be playing with. The Bible would tell me that sin is crouching at the door, and I should rule over it. By even having one glass of wine, I am refusing to rule over the sin at my door. Instead, I am giving way for the sin to rule over me. Taking a little wine with your meal is not a sin for everyone, but it is for me, because God knows my heart.
God has brought this to me many times, and I have had sorrow and regret over my disobedience. Still, I have continued to compromise and pretend that I am ruling over sin by allowing it back into my life so that I might prove that I can control it. God says that true sorrow leads to repentance, a complete turning away from it. Worldly sorrow produces only sadness, but the behavior continues because there is no heart change.
I believe that part of the reason God has brought me to this understanding is because there are more areas of my life that I need to crucify. For us as a couple, we must crucify them together, because her sins are mine and mine belong to her. Alcohol should be an easy one, but what about anxiety? What about seeking the approval of men, instead of God? This promised land is full of battlefields, and we will continue to march to the orders of our Lord. This isn’t just for our benefit, but for the glory of the Father and His testimony in us.
Consider these things, and join the battle with us:
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
2 Corinthians goes on to say that this kind of godly sorrow and repentance has returns of diligence, clearing of the soul, zeal, and vindication. Let us walk on this narrow path, the one He has called us to, and let us reap a heavenly reward in rejection of what this world has to offer.
If you are not sure of your salvation, won’t you investigate the truth of God’s word more closely? If you believe you are saved, but wandering in the desert, what act of obedience are you fleeing out of fear? If you have crossed to the land of God’s promises through obedience, what unrepentant sin hides in your heart and holds you back from the works God has prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them?