Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
From the day we are born we are conditioned to think, sense and judge in accordance with appearances, that is, the natural world and how it presents itself. When we are born again it is vital that we learn how to perceive the kingdom of God which is contrary to everything we formerly know. Even if we have been involved in other religious systems which claim to know the spiritual world we need this renewal of the mind, because what characterize every religious system is self effort; what you must do to change, what you must do to satisfy the gods, how you must perform to make yourself acceptable to the deity.
The Old Testament conveys the most astounding and precious spiritual truths when the Spirit enlightens and renews our minds. Without this paradigm shift in our understanding this part of the Bible will remain nothing but pictures of lives lived and occurrences in ancient times. It will not render any deeper meaning than being a receipt for shoulds and oughts.
There came a day after forty years of wandering in the desert when the Israelites finally were in a position to cross the Jordan River (Joshua 1). But, Moses, representing the law, was not allowed to cross the river and had to die in the wilderness (Deut 32:48-52). The law’s presence was banned from the Promised Land, which is Christ. So, when the people entered Canaan they entered Christ who has fulfilled the law in us.
The promised land was abounding with milk and honey and flourished with fruit the Israelites had not cultivated. This is a magnificent picture of the fruit of the Spirit which is manifested when we are in Christ. The fruit of the Spirit characterizes God and his being. When you read Gal 5:22-23 you can meditate at God’s perfection which is portrayed in those two verses, and which through faith is a mirror of you. In the same manner as the Israelites received the abundance of Canaan we receive the fruit of the Spirit when we are in Him.
In the desert there was only bareness and hard work – there is no abundance of fruit when we are subject to the law. In the wilderness every man did what he thought was right in his own eyes (Deut 12:8), which denotes a Christian life of self effort and self reliance. In this religious system you are as holy as your best deeds. In Canaan holiness is imparted to you because of Christ (Hebr 10:14). We now clearly see that no fruit can grow and blossom under the law. In this system every self-effort will be devastated when tested by fire.
God led the Israelites to the threshold, but Joshua was the one who led the people across the river. They could dimly behold the realities of the new life ahead of them on the other side of the river, but they had to walk over themselves. The similarities to how we enter God’s rest are stunning. This entering in is a conjunction of revelation and faith. We are given to see the shadows across the river (Deut 32:49), and we then take a leap of faith to possess what is our inheritance. Unbelief will cause us to continue our tedious march in the wilderness where the only thing which will sustain life is manna from above. But, when the diet has been manna for too long a period it grows bitter in the mouth , and this will be reflected in a person’s whole being.
When you are in the desert you cannot return to Egypt and your unregenerate life, even though you long for those days when the law didn’t condemn you. You long back to the evil taskmaster and the food he served you. But, the Red Sea is closed again. Your salvation is perpetually secured, but the desert doesn’t offer much comfort or promise. You are saved, but you do not carry any fruit in the wilderness. In the Red Sea all the enemies who were against you, and who asserted ownership over you were obliterated. The Holy Spirit urges you to take the leap of faith into the unknown, but as the Israelites you are scared of what lies ahead. Those of us who have crossed the river can promise you one thing: Canaan really is overflowing with life and freedom in Christ.
Notice again that Moses had to die before anyone could enter the Promised Land. We cannot bring the law into Canaan, because there a different law operates; the law of life. It is only by the renewal of the mind that we can understand the spiritual realities which all are contrary to what we have always beheld in this natural, temporal world. We are unable to see grace and the union life – Christ in us – us in Christ, and our new identity in Him when we are in the desert. All these wonderful truths are obscured under the law, that is, in the wilderness.