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Monday, July 11, 2022

Canaan and Heaven - How God’s Grace Gives

How God’s grace gives to men is not only an interesting study but also one of utmost importance as it relates to our salvation, a salvation which is clearly set forth in the scriptures as being a free gift of God to man.  “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24 NKJV)  It is by grace through faith we are saved and not by works. (Eph. 2:8-9)  Salvation is specifically said to be “the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8 NKJV)

Many more or less assume this gift of God freely given has no conditions attached, that it is unconditional, or else works would be included in its obtainment.  We sometimes jump to conclusions rather than crawl to them the latter being the much safer route as it involves thought and process, study and meditation, rather than the fire of emotionalism.

While salvation (and thus heaven itself--our promised land) is said to be a free gift from God it is no more said to be a free gift than was the promised land to the children of Israel in the Old Testament beginning with the original promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:7, “To your descendants I will give this land.” (NKJV) (See also Gen. 13:15, 17)

To Moses God said, regarding Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel, “I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan.” (Exodus 6:4 NKJV)  Look up the word “given” or “give” in any Bible concordance and you will find time and again passage after passage stating that God either had given the children of Israel the land of Canaan or would do so.

But if it was a gift from God freely given then surely there was nothing the children of Israel had to do to obtain it other than believe - was there?  The way people reason today, if they were to be consistent, they would have to answer “no there was not” but they know better.  They will not do that for they know their Old Testament history well enough to know that while God had given them the land and they were assured of it they still had to fight battle after battle to drive out those who lived there.

How can a person say a gift is free if effort is required to receive it?  That is a fair question deserving an answer.  By definition, a gift is the giving of something that does not have to be given.  There is no legal necessity to give a gift.  I give to the government tax money but none of us would say that is a gift.  On the other hand, if I give to an orphanage that is a gift freely given for there is nothing compelling me to give other than the desire of my heart to do so.  If God gave the land of Canaan to the children of Israel, as he did, what forced him to do that?  Was he under obligation or was it the desire of his heart?

Man can complain all he wants about the children of Israel having to fight all those battles and say to himself “what kind of gift was that?”  It is an argument with God for he is the one who said he was “giving” the land.  Man would say man was earning the land, earning it the hard way with combat, but God called it giving.  There is an important lesson here.  We need to learn to think the way God thinks, not the way mankind thinks.  “My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8 NKJV) is what God says.  When God gives to man a gift it does not necessarily mean no effort is required to take possession of the gift.  It does mean, however, because God is giving it, obey and you will succeed (no doubt about it) and you will become a recipient of the gift of God.   

God speaks in the New Testament of salvation as being a gift.  Men thinking the way they do this means to most “sit back, relax, and dump it into my lap.”  Bad mistake!  The children of Israel received the land of Canaan by God’s grace.  It was a free gift that did not have to be given.  They defeated the inhabitants of the land not because they were a stronger military force but because God was fighting with them and for them delivering the inhabitants into their hands. 

God’s gift of grace means opportunity.  God’s grace in giving the children of Israel the land of Canaan meant believe and obey and I (God) guarantee your success.  It is no different today with us other than the location of the Promised Land.  By God’s grace, we are given an opportunity to reach the promised land of heaven itself and our success is guaranteed if we will believe and obey.

Lest the reader thinks I am setting up an analogy that is invalid comparing the children of Israel and their promised land and God’s children today and our promised land this is the very thing the writer of the book of Hebrews does beginning in Heb. 3:7 and going through about Heb. 4:11.

In Heb. 3:18-19 the writer says a thing of utmost importance to you and me if we are to learn the lesson he desires us to learn.  “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who did not obey?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (NKJV)  The reader ought to note carefully how the Hebrew writer ties together faith and obedience or unbelief and disobedience.  Those who believe obey; those who disbelieve disobey.

Why did the adults of that group we refer to as the children of Israel who left Egypt with Moses to go to the Promised Land fail to enter in?  They disobeyed God who told them, “Go up and possess the land which I have given to you.” (Deut. 9:23 NKJV)  They feared the inhabitants of the land and did not believe God’s word that he had given them the land (and thus would fight with them in all their battles allowing victory).  Moses speaking to them says, “You rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and you did not believe him nor obey his voice.” (Deut. 9:23 NKJV)

When men do not believe they do not obey.  Obedience then is a matter of faith, disobedience a matter of a lack of faith.  Why are people today, people who claim to believe, not baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38 NKJV) as Peter preached and commanded in the very first Holy Spirit inspired gospel sermon ever to be preached?  The answer is because disbelief leads naturally to disobedience.  The Hebrew writer sums it up well, “the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Heb. 4:2 NKJV)  Yes, he was speaking of a generation long gone but speaking for our benefit today so that we can learn from it.  Will we learn?

The Hebrew writer goes on in speaking of those Israelites who failed to enter the promised land saying, “those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience” (Heb. 4:6 NKJV) and then warns us not to fall “according to the same example of disobedience.” (Heb. 4:11 NKJV) 

What should we learn from all of this?  Genuine faith that saves is a faith that when it hears believes and obeys.  Men can call obedience salvation by works if they want to, that is their choice, but the wise man will obey and not seek salvation without obedience.  To seek salvation without obedience is to seek salvation without any real faith.  “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NKJV) and things that are dead no longer have life and are ready to be buried.  Willful disobedience manifests a lack of faith and is rebellion.

God’s gifts and grace, in the context of the subject of which we are talking, always require more of man than a dead faith that refuses to act.  When God speaks (gives a command in his word) our obligation is to obey and not sit around and meditate on how doing so means works and not grace.  The children of Israel would have been glad to walk into Canaan under other circumstances more pleasing to themselves.  They were just not willing to believe God and do it his way.  His grace, his gift, was not to them sufficient grace.  Will we be that way about going to heaven?  Are we only going to heaven if we can get there our way?  Are we only willing to go if God requires absolutely nothing of us?  I hope that does not prove to be the case.

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