What about the old man? What about sin? Does Christ indwelling us mean that now we can trust Him in us every morning and then just go about our day walking in the Spirit, never being tempted or sinning?
It is just in this tight spot that we find the story of the Exodus useful.
The Hebrews were saved from Egypt’s dominion over them. But then they had to make a journey. They were not only saved from something; they were saved to something.
They were saved to the Promised Land – from bondage to freedom. But nearly the entire first generation didn’t make it there. Their un-faith in God’s promises produced fear, which brought the desire to control their own lives. “Let’s go back to Egypt.” “Not Thy will, but mine be done.”
After years of this, God had had His fill, and after the carcasses of that generation fell in the Wilderness, Joshua and Caleb went in and took possession of the Land by a process – a continual process of faith. Whenever they resorted to their own human effort rather than relying God’s power and their identity as His chosen people they lost that particular battle. But eventually through faith they subdued the Land – more or less.
The Land was theirs already by divine decree, in the Unseen. All they had to do was seek God’s face, trust Him, and walk in that trust, and that Land would progressively become theirs in the Seen. God would go before them, sending hornets, being their strength, confusing the enemy.
Likewise, in Christ we are saved from something – the bondage and power of Sin. Mr. Sin, in fact. We are cut off from his dark domain.
But there is a Wilderness – the no-man’s land between bondage and freedom. This is the believer’s Wilderness.
Christ has redeemed you from sin, from bondage. He has loved you, called you His chosen. He has put His Spirit in you, made you one Spirit with Him. The old you in Satan (Eph 2:2) died, and the new you in Christ is risen to walk in newness of life. You are called to enter the Land and subdue the giants, the fierce inhabitants. All this happens by faith, not by exertion of human power. We seek the Lord’s face, trust Him, and go forward in that trust.
The problem is that most of us won’t enter the Land. We spend years in no-man’s land – the Wilderness. Mix one part salvation and one part longing to return to bondage. “I’m such a sinner. An awful sinner, and I can’t change. Thank God for grace.” Or, “I’m doing better than Joe down the street. At least I go to church and read my Bible.” Or worse, “I’m involved in this church program and I host a Bible study and I’m doing this and that and these other things for God (and what an excellent fellow I must be! I’m so much better than all those other people!).” We give up and refuse to trust God; we trust our own effort, our own programs, our own ways, our own thoughts. We believe in sin’s power over us. And we trust God to “get us to Heaven.”
One foot in Canaan and one foot in Egypt. Doing the splits makes it a little hard to walk.
The question for us is this: Do I really believe the Word? Am I dead to sin? Am I dead to the Law, to using my own effort to become good? Am I a new creation? Am I holy?
That’s what God says is Fact. Immutable. Eternal. These things are true right now. And we must deal with Fact, face it – believe it, or choose to believe our eyes, because this subduing of Canaan starts and continues and ends by faith.
We can look at the giants. We can look at the fierce inhabitants. We can cower in fear. I can look all day at things in my psyche and think, “Oh man. This is never going to change.”
Or we can look at God’s Word. His promises. His reliability. His love. His power to accomplish what He says He will do.
What He wants is those who will go forward – not those who look back. He wants us reaching for the prize – a Holy Spirit empowered, gigantic butt-kicking of all the junk we were saddled with in our psyches, junk that we have followed our whole lives. It’s all got to go. And it does – as we faithe.
That new man in us wants to push through the accretions of years of wrong thinking, falsely independent attitudes, and self-reliance, to break through into the Land and take it over. This of course is a process, like the land of Canaan. We are “being made holy” in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, because in Christ we are filled with the Godhead by the Spirit. We don’t have just an outer, transcendent God, but an inner, immanent one.
That’s the real you, the real me. The new man – a union between the human vessel and Deity, just as the old man was a union between the human vessel and the false deity. God wants to turn this new union into a unity of thought and being, where His will is our will at all times and in all situations. But we’ve been fooled into thinking that the old man is still alive. We’re to put off his deeds because he is dead; although Satan still shoves his thoughts into our minds he has been circumcised right off of us and is no longer a part of our identity.
God wants faith-warriors. When we hook into that Power by faith, we become unstoppable. One by one, the inhabitants fall. The question is do we want to subdue the Land “more or less,” or totally?