Written by :   Zac Poonen Categories :   Foundational Truth Disciples
WFTW Body: 

The land of Canaan, in the book of Joshua, is not a picture of heaven (as some believers sing in their hymns) because there are no giants to be killed in heaven! Canaan is actually a description of the Spirit-filled life of victory, where the giants of sin - the lusts in our flesh - are crucified. All the giants were not killed in a moment. They were killed one by one.

The people of Israel had to go across two bits of water on their journey to Canaan. One was the Red Sea and the other was the River Jordan. Both these speak of death. We see in 1 Corinthians 10 that going into the Red Sea is a picture of water-baptism. The River Jordan is a picture of another kind of death. This was where John the Baptist baptised Jesus 1500 years later.

The Bible teaches that our old self was crucified by God on the cross (Rom.6:6). We cannot crucify our old man. The old man (the mind that wants to sin) was crucified with Christ on the cross. It was God who did that. But there is something else that we have to crucify - our flesh (the storehouse of desires). Galatians 5:24 says, "Those who are Christ's have crucified their flesh with its lusts and its affections."

The flesh is different from the old man. The flesh with its lusts is like a gang of robbers that tries to come into our heart to pollute us. The old man is like an unfaithful servant who lives inside our heart and opens the door every time these robbers come to steal. Which of the two does God kill? He kills the servant. The gang of robbers is still hale and hearty. This is why we are all tempted in exactly the same way after we are converted as we were, before we were converted. That proves that the robbers are still alive. They still want to enter our heart - even after we are converted. But something else has died within us - the servant who opened the door for these thieves (the old man). God killed him and put a new servant within us when we were born again - a servant who does not want to open the door for the thieves. When temptation comes now to us, the new servant says, "No." Then how do believers fall into sin? Because they don't feed the new servant well! Then he is not strong enough to keep the door shut against the robbers. And the robbers push their way in. That's how a believer sins.

But there is a vast difference between a believer sinning and an unbeliever sinning - because the believer doesn't want to sin and the unbeliever wants to sin. In fact that's the test of whether you are really born again or not. The proof of being born again is not whether you sin or not, but whether you want to sin. If you still want to sin, I would say you are not converted. When people come asking for water-baptism, I ask them one question, "Do you want to sin any more - even once?" I don't ask them, "Will you sin?", because nobody can say they will not sin. It is the 'want to' that is the old man.

These are the two deaths the New Testament speaks of. Both of these are pictured beautifully in the history of Israel. The army of Pharaoh was buried in one moment under the Red Sea. That's a picture of the old man. Who did that? God. The old man was crucified on the cross by God. Then the Israelites crossed Jordan, which speaks of another death. We accept our co-crucifixion with Christ to our lusts. Those who are Christ's take this attitude towards their lusts. The lusts are still there and the giants are still ruling the land. But Joshua and the Israelites had determined to kill them one by one. It is we who have to kill our lusts - one by one - as we are tempted. We must put to death the deeds of the body ourselves - by the power the Spirit gives us (Rom.8:13). This is very different from the Egyptian army being buried in a moment by God.

Scripture is so exact when it comes to its application in the New Testament. If we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, He will reveal these hidden things to us. The Bible is an exciting book. It's so perfect and exact in its Old Testament typology of new covenant life. Those godly men in the Old Testament did not understand all this then, but we can understand what these events typified today. The land of Canaan symbolizes our body that has been ruled by the giants of many lusts for many years. But we have taken an attitude towards those giants that says, "I am going to consider myself dead to sin." Jesus said we have to take up the cross every day. That's not killing the old man. The old man has already been crucified. To take up the cross is to put our self-will (which is what the Bible calls our "flesh") to death daily, in the power of the Spirit.

If you take a relaxed attitude towards sin in your life, you can put on the old man once again (Eph.4:22). A person who "continues to live according to the flesh" will die spiritually - even if he was alive once (Romans 8:13, which is written to believers, is crystal clear on this).