The best example of occupying the land was Caleb, Joshua's faithful colleague when the 12 spied out the Promised Land 40 years earlier. J.O. Sanders uses Caleb to teach us that we should never stop growing, even in old age; his greatest achievement took place when he was 85 years old, and there is no evidence that he ever retired.
As a much younger man he was chosen to be one of the 12 spies -- a "leader in his tribe", Moses called him. He displayed great moral courage when he and Joshua stood alone against the other 10 spies. Then for forty years of wandering Caleb was consistent in his faith, he never became lukewarm in his middle life. He maintained his spiritual integrity and survived the 40 years without resentment or declining spiritual growth.
Now here he is in old age as adventurous as a young man, he's facing the challenge of occupying the Promised Land. He said to Joshua, "Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day" -- that day was the day Moses had told him he could have as an inheritance the land he had explored as a spy -- it was the land of the Anakim -- giants! Joshua 14:9-10 "And now the Lord has let me live…(vs. 11) I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now. ..(vs. 12) now then give me this hill country…the Anakim were there with great fortified cities, perhaps the Lord will be with me and I shall drive them out as the Lord has spoken."
And Caleb did drive out the Anakim (Josh 15:14). What was the secret of Caleb's courage and success? "I followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly" (Josh 14:8). God testified to his commitment in Numbers 14:24. Even though Caleb had to wait 40 years he still followed God obediently and accepted God's timing.
The one who follows the Lord wholeheartedly will grow increasingly like Him in character and outlook, "understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17). Direction in our spiritual life comes as we unreservedly obey, following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Knowing the Will of God
Ephesians 5:15-18 tells us that we can understand what the Lord's will is. What are the steps we need to take to understand God's will? Let's see what the mature Christian should do:
- Romans 12:1-2 "renewing our mind…we will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will." Study God's word; build a close relationship with Him by regularly reading, studying and meditating on the Word. Colossians 1:9-14 praying to "be filled with the knowledge of God's will…spiritual wisdom and understanding."
- Praying and meditation are closely related. That gives the Holy Spirit a chance to illuminate the Word and apply it to our life. Pray for the Lord to speak to you through His word then spend time meditating on it and waiting (Ps. 119:27, 97). To meditate is simply to focus on the Word with an attitude of dependence on the Holy Spirit's illumination. Ask the Lord to protect your thoughts from the enemy and help you fill your mind with His thoughts. Read the scripture and sit quietly. So much of the time we do the talking and rarely listen. Meditating is an opportunity for me to stop talking and listen to God
- It is important not only to study and meditate on God's word, but also obey it. This will lead me to have the mind of God, allowing Him to shape my life and character (Jms. 1:22-23). He wants me to be thinking His thoughts from God's word so He can change us from within. That's why Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8-9 to think on what is true, pure, excellent, and then put into "practice these things and the God of peace shall be with you."
- By developing a heart for the Lord, God's will will be the desire of my heart. I.e. as the Holy Spirit puts godly desires into my heart then I am convinced that I am pleasing God by doing what He would have me do. (Ps. 37:4). Paul calls this having the "mind of Christ" (I Cor. 2:16). As you learn to love Him He will conform the desires of your heart to match His desires. As I build a love relationship with Christ I can be trusted to have godly desires. My mind is made new, it thinks in a completely new way. That transforms my mind and my life, Paul adds "then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom. 12:2b). As you follow your heart's desire, you will enjoy God's perfect will. Paul follows his exhortation to present our bodies as living sacrifices with the reminder to "think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." In other words, building your faith will lead to dependence on the Holy Spirit and doing God's will.
- God guides us through the wise counsel of mature believers. But you must develop a heart for God personally, not merely rely on someone else no matter how godly they are. However, there is a time to seek wise counsel, to listen to the mature trusted voice of other Christians. This is increasingly important as we live in a post-Christian culture and are unsure what God would have us do. This is especially true when we have a conviction that the Lord has laid on our heart. Our convictions should be confirmed by the Body of Christ, that's why it is so important for us to surround ourselves with godly people who will pray with us.
- There is an element we do not control called "providence" and that too is God's will. He is at work in the circumstances of our life. It is possible to have a goal, have the affirmation of the Body of Christ and yet have circumstances prevent us from carrying out our plan. There is nothing wrong with making plans, but "plans" are not our God. We need to say to the Lord, "Here is what I am planning, I think it is the right step and I believe it is pleasing to You. So if it is Your will I am planning o do this." Always leave room for God to change your plans by bringing a person or situation into your life to surprise you. Just remember God cares for you and He know what is best for you. The fact is, we do not always understand the providence of God. Do not put circumstances above God's word; don't allow your circumstances to contradict scripture.
- After seeking God's will through His word, prayer, waiting on the Spirit, wise counsel and circumstances, then at that point I should rely on sound judgment (e.g. Acts 15 about the gentiles). We must think within the framework of God's revelation of His plan. We also need to evaluate our own abilities and gifting and be content within those limitations. Decide on an overall strategy according to your heart's desire on how to serve the Lord, then you will have a context for making long-term decisions. This will significantly improve your ability to make decisions in light of God's overall plan for your life. As Christians we rely on God's guidance. But as He leads, we make decisions within His revealed will on the basis of sound judgement.
Ask yourself if your motivation in life is to glorify God, to live "to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:6,12,14). If you are struggling with a specific question, rather than trying to immediately get God's answer and find out His will, try spending time drawing close to Him. As you draw near to Him your character and perhaps your perspective will change. As you become transformed, God will shape your desires. Then you will have the mind of Christ.
Joshua's Last Challenge to His People
Here is the other great her. Joshua, in his old age addressing his fellow Israelites about all that God had done for them and their responsibility as the chosen people of God. He focuses on the past, the future, and the present.
- In the past (v. 3) "you have seen all that the Lord has done…He has been fighting for you."
- In the future (v. 5) "the Lord your God…will drive them out from before you and you shall possess the land, just as the Lord your God promised you."
- In the present (v. 6) " Be very firm then to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left." He goes on to say:
- Do not become like those idolators who remain among you, do not coexist with evil
- Cling to the Lord, He is the one who fights for you
- Be diligent to love the Lord your God.
In Ephesians we can see Paul laying out these very same principles for us in our Christian walk.
1. In the past God has given us great blessings in Christ. We, as God's inheritance, can possess all that the Gather, Son and Holy Spirit have provided (Eph. 1, 2:4-6).
2. In the future, in the "ages to come"" God will shower on us the "riches of His grace" (Eph. 2:7) and He will also, here in this life, fight for us against the "world forces of wickedness" as we put on His armor and are dependent on Him with faith and prayer (Eph. 6:10-18).
3. In the present, be diligent to walk worthy of our calling, building up the Body of Christ by using our gifts, serving the Lord, and most of all, loving Him just as He has loved us (Eph. 4&5).
Joshua pointed out that there needs to be constant vigilance, especially in time of peace. They should not take their heritage for granted and overlook God's laws or turn aside from Him to the right or to the left through negligence. Out of gratitude to God and deep love for Him, Joshua challenged them to serve Him as faithfully in peace as when He was fighting their battles for them in war.
How profoundly important this challenge is for us. So often the fighting edge of our Christian walk is lost in the lap of luxury when we don't sense the "need" to depend on God as we do when our very spiritual life is in danger. The steps of spiritual declension start when we "co-exist with evil", i.e. we try to cling to our flesh, make it over, improve it and make it religious. Our "body of sin" is a snare, we are not convinced that "in my flesh there is no good thing" Rom 7:1. So we don't see ourselves as having been crucified with Christ and then count ourselves as "alive to God in Christ Jesus" -- a new creation (Rom. 6:11). The result is progressive co-existence with our flesh, complacency, loss of spiritual zeal and power and no fruit-bearing, and finally lack of joy or love for the Lord and no love for others. It's a slippery slope, a dangerous condition when we tolerate complacency. Instead, Hebrews 12:1 tells us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus". Having a close and intimate companionship with Christ motivates us to serve Him faithfully in our days of rest and peace as in days of trial. We are acutely aware of all His gracious gifts and use them to share with others in the Body of Christ and those outside not yet saved. We are stimulated to serve the Lord and flourish in our spiritual life; we are daily delighted to spend time in His presence following the Holy Spirit's leading.
4. Finally, Joshua commissions those leaders over Israel to not only cleave to the Lord their God and love Him themselves, but that they should guard and guide the whole nation away from the presence of evildoers and keep them in the path of the Lord.
Ruth Paxson says that, Life on the Highest Plane demands a radical reversal in man' affections. The natural man lives unto himself because he loves self supremely; the spiritual man lives unto God because he loves God supremely. The relationship of the spiritual man to God is marked also by loyalty. Loyalty to his heavenly country and to the interests of his Father's kingdom takes precedence over other loyalties. He is a servant of the Lord and Christ requires uncompromising faithfulness. He is a soldier in the army of Christ and has definite instructions from His Sovereign, he cannot act independently of them; Christ has committed to him the Gospel as a sacred trust and requires loyalty to Himself and His Gospel.
Read the following passages:
- Romans 1:1
- 2 Timothy 2:3-4
- 2 Corinthians 5:20
- 1 Timothy 1:11
- Romans 15:16
Life on the Highest Plane
It is a life of deep, vital, growing spirituality with three outstanding marks.
- It is an abounding rich life. In Christ the believer may be as full as we choose to be when we desire with a deepening intensity to "be filled with all the fullness of Christ" we experience the riches of God's inexhaustible grace. II Cor. 8:7, "as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in love" (9:11) "being enriched in everything".
- In grace: II Cor. 9:8 "God is able to make all grace abound toward you"
- In hope: Romans 15:13 "Now may the God of hope fill you…that you may abound in hope."
- In joy: John 15:11 "that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."
- In peace: Colossians 3:15 "and let the peace of God rule in your hearts"
- In thankfulness: Ephesians 5:20 "giving thanks always for all things to God"
- In knowledge" I Corinthians 1:5 "that in everything you are enriched by Him in all speech and all knowledge"
- In love: Philippians 1:9 "and this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment."
- The second mark of life lived on the highest plane is an overcoming life. The believer can live in the heavenlies in an atmosphere of triumph. We can have victory over sin and we see Satan as an already defeated foe. Living in our identification with Christ we can reckon on our death (the old man) and count on being alive to God in Christ Jesus (the new life). Romans 8:37, "in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." I John 5:4, "this is the victory that overcomes the world -- our faith."
- The third mark of life lived on the highest plane is an overflowing life. The believer is assured by Christ that out of our "innermost being will flow rivers of living water" to bring his abundant life to others, John 7:38.
A life lived on the highest plane is a continuous miracle of God's grace.
Read the following articles:
- The Sin of Prayerlessness, from The Prayer Life, Andrew Murray.
- The Fight against Prayerlessness, from The Prayer Life, Andrew Murray.
- Salvation From the Power of Sin, from Major Bible Themes, Lewis Sperry Chafer.
- Relationships of Spiritual Man, from Life on the Highest Plane, Ruth Paxson
- Life on the Highest Plane, from Life on the Highest Plane, Ruth Paxson.
- Christ Our Lord, from Life on the Highest Plane, Ruth Paxson.
- Filled With the Holy Ghost, from The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Man.
- Recognizing "The Thing in Hand", from Release of the Spirit, Watchman Nee.
February 1999 - Assignment #4
Occupying the Promised Land
- Paul calls on us to "walk in a manner worthy" and Ruth Paxson calls this living life on the highest plane. Using her articles and Ephesians 4:1-3; 5:1, 2, 5-21, answer the following questions:
- What is the proper motivation to walk worthy?
- How do we prioritize the character strengths we should be developing? In what order should we deal with our weaknesses?
- In Ephesians 4:13-16, Paul describes the goal, which Christ is seeking to achieve through us as members of His church.
- In your own words describe this goal
- What factors prevent the accomplishment of the goal
- How does "speaking the truth in love" (v.13) help accomplish this goal? Describe what this imperative really means.