A Strategy for Conquering Sin
When God promised Abraham He would give the land of Canaan to his descendants (Gen. 12:7), it was not something that would happen for another 400 years or so, but that was as God planned. When Joshua led those descendants [the Israelites] into the land and conquered it and settled it, it is then stated, “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Josh. 21:43-45).
For anyone who knows the character and nature of God, this should come as no surprise, for God could say with absolute certainty they would obtain the land because He knows all things, and is not bound by the constraints of time as we are. He could see the ‘future’ events as if they had already happened, and there would be no “But what if” doubts that would call that promise into question. As with all events foretold by God, the foretelling does not necessarily mean He directed every action to accomplish it, but it does mean He knew exactly what would happen, how it would happen, and when it would happen.
The conquest of the land of Canaan and the fulfillment of God’s promise is a story worthy of our consideration, too, for we see hidden within a strategy for conquering sin. From beginning to end, there are some parallels worth noting, so let us consider just a few:
God’s Plan for the Saved. The Promised Land, as you might have guessed, is the parallel to heaven itself. As He had planned for His people, the Israelites, to enter and conquer and settle Canaan, so He has planned for His people — the saved of all time — to enter into heaven. In this, there is no “what if” regarding who will, and who will not, be in heaven. That is settled. Canaan was not also promised to the ungodly nations, and neither is heaven promised as a place of eternal rest for the disbelieving, the ones who reject God’s rule over their lives, or the one who simply refuses to believe God is real.
And as you probably remember, there was a struggle for the Israelites to get there. When we are first introduced to this plan for the Israelites, they were in bondage in a foreign land [Egypt]. He told Moses, “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites” (Exod. 3:7, 8). The point here is that God had a plan; that plan included the Israelites leaving Egypt, traveling to Canaan, and battling, driving out, and conquering the ones who were then living in that land. Likewise, if we are to conquer sin, we must have a plan for defeating it. We cannot just expect to face temptations without a plan to overcome and defeat them, and neither can we expect heaven will be ours without a plan. That plan we must follow is God’s plan.
Fighting Required. When God promised Canaan to the descendants of Abraham, nowhere and at no time did God ever say it would be granted to them without effort on their part. They were told they would do battle against the inhabitants, and when the Israelites doubted they could take the land, Moses reminded them, “The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you” (Deut. 1:30), but he did not tell them God would do all the fighting. Furthermore, on occasions such as Jericho, where God had told Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand” (Josh. 6:2), that did not mean the Israelites could just sit back and watch the Lord do all the work or all the fighting.
Now, of course, the victories the Israelites achieved were because God fought for them, but they still had a part. They had to, first, believe God [otherwise known as faith], but they also had to do what He commanded. The battle of Jericho is a prime example, with the writer of Hebrews reminding us, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days” (Heb. 11:39). Faith and obedient action on the part of the Israelites, coupled with the power of God, was what brought victory. That was the pattern for every victory in Canaan.
As with the Israelites and their victories over the enemies in Canaan, if anyone today wants victory over sin, they must believe God, but they must also take part in the fight. Remember the admonition to the early Christians still applies: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7); you must resist — fight — against the enemy; it is not all on God to give you victory. Many people have been told, falsely, that God will supernaturally give them victory over temptation and sin and, believing it, they do nothing — and are overcome simply because they did not resist. Fighting is required.
Drive Out The Bad Influences. Before they entered Canaan, the Israelites were told not to make any covenants with the people, and to“drive them out before you…lest they make you sin against Me” (Exod. 23:31, 32). They were told more than once that they were to “drive out all the inhabitants of the land” (Num. 33:52), and the Lord would be with them to drive those people out but, again, it was a combined effort. If the Israelites did not do their part, the Lord would not do it alone. [Note: The question is not whether or not He could have; the question is: What did He do, or not do?]
And, again, like with the Israelites and the people of Canaan, one who desires to conquer sin must do his or her part in driving out the bad influences if victory is actually desired. The disciple is admonished to “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22) and “put off the old man with his deeds, and…put on the new man” (Col. 3:9, 10). As Paul put it in his letter to the brethren of Galatia, “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). In other words, those enemies of righteousness and holiness must be driven our from us and not allowed to reside within us.
And, again, some have been told falsely that God will supernaturally prevent a Christian from sinning, or that his or her sin will not affect their salvation. First, God has certainly promised He “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13), but He will not force you to take that way of escape. Let us not forget, “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (Jas. 1:14); if we do not resist, and we do not take that way of escape God has provided, we will not conquer sin; it will conquer us. God has already done His part in fighting for you [remember, He sent His Son to die for your sins], but you must do your part, else you will be overcome.
There is a way to conquer sin, and God has provided the way and the means; but do you really want to conquer it? — Steven Harpers