Saints In The Wilderness

Many Christians I’ve spoken to have voiced their opinion that the professing church has lost its power. The fear is well-founded. It seems that wherever we look, godlessness and infidelity are gaining ground, while true Christianity becomes more and more scarce. It’s easy, of course, and ofttimes tempting, to point the finger at some one division of the church or one set or body of men, and to lay the blame at their door. But is that how Christ would have us diagnose the problem? I think not.

In contrast to many, I attribute the weakness of modern Christianity not to people or persons, so much as to one principle fault. The church has forgotten that she is no longer in Egypt, but on a wilderness journey. She has forgotten her true place as being “in the world, but not of the world.” As a consequence, her witness has suffered, and she (like Demas) evinces signs of succumbing to the allurements of this present evil age.

To help us get back on track, we must return to the Word of God — to the pure Gospel, as it was delivered to the churches. But that is not all. The Old Testament also contains many precious lessons for our consideration. Its typology speaks so loudly in “pictorial” form, that wayfaring men, though they be fools, need not err therein.

We recall that when Israel was in Egypt, they were commanded to slay the Passover lamb preparatory to making their departure at night (Exodus 12). They had to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the two sideposts and upper door-posts of their houses. This they did, and the avenging angel slew them not. The Israelites were safe and secure once they applied the blood. That was not the end of their obedience to Jehovah, however. They were to await further orders.

After witnessing the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts, they came into a wilderness country, where their real pilgrimage began. It was then that Israel was put to the test. During this time, God sustained them with manna. He gave them angel’s food, bread from heaven, to allay their hunger (Psalm 78: 23-25). He gave them water out of the rock to allay their thirst (Exodus 17: 5-7). And yet how did the children of Israel react to these blessings? When we recall the complaints, murmurings, and other signs of discontent, can we really wonder why God was so angry with them?

The manna was not like the garlic and leeks and onions upon which Israel had feasted while in Egypt. It was “light bread” (Numbers 21: 5). It was nothing like the flesh which as bondmen they had eaten to the full. It was from heaven, and must have been sufficient to satisfy their needs. But they longed for the fleshpots.

The church today has forgotten Israel’s wilderness lessons. Like the holy people of old, we’ve been called out of Egypt (a type of the world) and into the wilderness. We are provided with such heavenly blessings that the heart can scarcely ponder them to the full. And yet many of us are still spiritual citizens of Egypt. We have no craving for the manna, but long for the flesh-pots of Egyptian bondage. Instead of separating from the world, we build highways from Egypt into the wilderness. We become merchants of “Egyptian” things. We pander to the loves and lusts of the old life. With so many professing Christians seeking the things of the world, it is no surprise to find the church so spiritually bankrupt.

The truth is this: While Christians are eternally saved the moment they apply the precious blood of Jesus Christ to their hearts by faith, that is not the end of their discipleship. Once we believe, we pass from death to life (John 5: 24), and yet here is where the real journey begins. Reminding the saints of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, Paul sends us warning: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10: 12).

What does it mean to “fall”? Surely it does not imply that we can “lose our salvation.” Let us purge our minds of any such Romanistic drivel. What it means is that we may miss out on the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ. As long as Canaan — type of our Millennial rest (Hebrews 4: 9)– lies ahead, we are to press forward for the prize of the high calling (Philippians 3: 14). This means patterning our walk after the example of Caleb and Joshua. It means being overcomers! “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Hebrews 4: 1).

The main problem with today’s church is not that the Gospel has lost its power, or that God is no longer willing to work on behalf of His saints; but that so few realize that the Cross is something which must be taken up daily (Luke 9: 23). They consider their Canaan inheritance already sure and certain, forgetting that they are still in the wilderness and prone to fall. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10: 11).

Christian, let no man rob you of your prize. Seek that “abundant entrance” that can only come by adding charity to kindness to godliness to patience to temperance to knowledge to virtue to faith (2 Peter 1: 5-11). As John writes: “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things that we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 John 8). Learn the lessons of Divine deprivation, and grow in knowledge and in grace. Above all, look for the imminent coming of our Savior, Who could even today whisk us without dying into His presence, that we may cast our crowns of victory before His worthy throne.

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