Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where do you live?

One of the greatest mistakes that create erroneous Biblical teaching occurs when those who seek to teach the Word take the passage or verse they are teaching from out of context. When a verse or two from Scripture is quoted out of context, it is possible to make that verse support whatever bias the teacher wants it to support. This results in error and does a disservice to Biblical wisdom.

But context isn’t only for studying the Bible. Context is also important in understanding what God is trying to do in your life and in the lives of those we are trying to lead. Knowing your current spiritual context, will unlock God’s wisdom for you and your ministry.

Recently, the Lord has been showing my wife and I the importance of understanding our context. He pointed us to the story of the Israelites and their journey from Egypt into the wilderness and eventually into the Promised Land. The insight and the challenge for us was inspired by this question: Where do you live? Egypt? The wilderness? The Promised Land?

These three contexts provided a framework of understanding where we were in our journey and became a source of understanding and assurance.

Living in Egypt means that you are not living the life God intended you to live. You are a slave to someone else’s agenda. Rather than pursuing your God-given dream, you are building someone else’s dream. Instead of fulfilling your purpose and realizing your destiny, you are creating the desired future from someone else’s purpose and destiny. In Egypt, you are a slave to someone else.

If you realize that you are living in Egypt, know that this is not all there is. There is more. You have a Savior who is mediating on your behalf. As Moses liberated Israel from the land of slavery, Jesus desires to liberate your from your context of slavery. From the cross, Jesus is saying to the powers that keep you in your Egypt, “Let my people go!”

Egypt is the land of not enough. It is a place of extreme hardship for our lives; a place of lack. How does one survive in Egypt? Who is God to us in Egypt?

When we find ourselves in Egypt, we must look to God as our only hope. We hang on to the conviction that there is a greater destiny in store for us. We must believe that there is a God-sized dream waiting for us; that we have a Promised Land that we have yet to enter. In Egypt, we hold onto hope.

And when we hear the voice of our liberator calling us to rise up and leave Egypt, we must turn that hope into action and leave the land of slavery behind us.

The Wilderness
Leaving Egypt behind does not automatically bring us into the Promised Land. Rather, abandoning Egypt brings us into the wilderness. Most people think the wilderness is a bad place to be. It is a place that seems barren. A place that seems vast and uncertain. But the wilderness is a place where many lessons must be learned before entering into the Promised Land. We cannot enter the Promised Land without first going through the wilderness.

The wilderness is a place of revelation. It was in the wilderness that God revealed His laws and statutes. It was in the wilderness that God taught Israel how to be His people. The wilderness was the place from which the Law was received by Moses. It was a place of revelation.

The wilderness was also a place of temptation and testing. It was in the wilderness that Israel’s obedience was tested. This was the place where their faith would be proved. It was a testing ground for Israel’s confidence in the goodness of God. The time in the wilderness was to determine who really would be the god of Israel.

Unfortunately, a whole generation of Israel failed that test. A whole generation would be lost before Israel could move on. It would be a whole new and different generation that would actually see the Promised Land.

How long does it really take to walk from Egypt to Canaan? The journey should have only taken around 40 days to complete. But they ended up wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years! Disobedience will delay your destiny.

The wilderness is the land of just enough. Time and time again, over 4 decades, God proved Himself to be capable of supplying all the needs of Israel. Every day, God provided manna for food to eat. This was heavenly food. But it wasn’t a time to store up any excess manna that was left over. No, manna would be provided on a daily basis. Just enough for the needs of the day.

When we find ourselves in the wilderness, our faith will be tested. But God will reveal Himself as the daily provider for our needs each and every day we are here. Our time in the wilderness is not a time of abundance. It is a season of just enough.

What lessons must we learn in the wilderness? Careful obedience. As God reveals His secrets to you, He will show you what you must you are to be His people in this season. Whether we obey or not will determine how long we will stay in the wilderness.

Let me offer hope for the wilderness. Remember, Jesus overcame the wilderness. He was tempted just as we would be tempted. But he overcame. In the same way, we must look to Jesus to get through the wilderness. And like the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, Jesus and His Spirit will lead us through the wilderness to the place of promise.

Carefully obeying Jesus can only come from the conviction that in the face of our most pressing basic needs...Jesus is enough. The bottom line is that the wilderness is a place where we must learn to trust Jesus. In the wilderness, we trust and obey.

The Promised Land
Of course, ultimately, we all want to be living in our Promised Land. But the Promised Land context is not the place where we rest and kick up our feet and sip exotic drinks by the beach all day. There is much to do when we enter our Promised Land. There are battles to win. Kingdom culture to establish. A destiny to fulfill.

The Promised Land is the land of more than enough. It is a place of abundance. And while every promise is yes in this place, we must still be careful to fulfill the purpose of God in this place. The Promised Land is something that must be fought for. We have an enemy that wants to steal, kill, and destroy our purpose. There is nothing that this enemy would want more than for us to squander the opportunities that the Promised Land offers. The enemy will try to deceive us into thinking inwardly and focusing our attention on ourselves rather than on the mission Jesus has set for us.

God said to Abram about His people, “You will be a blessing to many nations.” The role of Israel in the Promised Land was to be a blessing to the people’s of the world. The land of Israel was to be a base of operations from which God would bless the world.

We must remember that even while we may find ourselves in a context of abundance, we have a purpose to fulfill. The problems that Israel faced in the Promised Land stemmed from losing sight of their purpose. Seduced to pursuing other gods, they put themselves outside of God’s purposes. They lost their distinctiveness as God’s people.

That is the danger of the Promised Land...the seduction to idolatry...when good things become god-things. In the Promised Land, we must hold on to Jesus as the God of purpose and destiny.

Where do you live? Egypt? The wilderness? Or the Promised Land? Understanding our context will give us the wisdom to respond accordingly.


Mel Mendoza, MD said...

Very true...we as Children of God must understand our position under God's Kingdom and find ourselves in the Promise land. The problem of some of us we bring some baggages from Egypt and from the wilderness making our stay in the promise land miserable. More than 2000 years ago Jesus Christ got back what we lost in the Garden...the POWER is again given to us but why are there more powerless, impoverish and sick Christians today...God's message through you is really a big blessing...God bless

Mel Mendoza, MD

オテモヤン said...