The Process of Conversion

The Kingdom 
of Darkness
Enslaved in Sin
The Kingdom
of God
of Repentance
The Red Sea
Decision to 
Follow Jesus
The Desert
of Sinai
The Wilderness
of Zin (Sin)
of Sin
The Wilderness
of Shur (Sure)
of Truth
The Wilderness
of Paran (Parents)
the Cost)
into Christ
The Jordan
Faith in Christ
The Promise

Israel's Exodus from Egypt and sojourning in the desert, while actual history, also represents two things: The individual Christian and the Church. It can be likened to the journey to the Millenial Kingdom in which Christians will reign, having been born-again in the desert. But it can also be likened to the process of conversion.

The Conversion of the Individual

A Baptism of Repentance

A person makes a decision to get right with God in view of his experience of the enslaving power of sin and in view of the promises in the Bible about the benefits of following Christ. The Red Sea Crossing is a baptism of repentance, like John the Baptist offered. This was in preparation for following Christ. Many may hear the gospel, but not get it. They hear, but they don't fully understand the essence of the message. They may get water baptized and make a verbal confession in all sincerity, but in their heart not yet really received the message. And it may take years in a church environment before they receive the revelation. They may become very active Christians, not realizing that they haven't come to understand the message, and not having been born of God yet. Paul ran into some of these brethren.

The Desert of Development

As Jesus himself was baptized by John and was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, so also He represents the Christian who has decided to follow Jesus into the desert and there to be tempted by the devil. First he is led to Mount Sinai where he receives the Law. For the Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith.
The whole wilderness experience prepares the Christian to enter the promise land. It does this by developing humility, which leads to convictions which are essential prerequisites to entering the promise land. When Jesus was in the wilderness, he also mentioned this, quoting from the Law which was received in the desert, from Deuteronomy 8:2,3
Humility is the most essential character quality. It is the reason why all followers of Christ must pass through the desert. Isaiah mentions of the qualities of a person that make one to be esteeemed in the eyes of God:
Humility also leads to Conviction that the Bible is God's Word, and as such he derives his life from it, meaning that he reads it with a mindset of application and submission.

Humility leads to Conviction of Sin. Unless one is convicted of sin, he will not be born of God.

Death in the Desert

There are many who follow Christ presumptuously. At one time Jesus was in the desert with a multitude of people. And they were hungry, so Jesus miraculuously gave them lunch. Then he went to another place and they followed him. But Jesus told them There was a whole generation of Israel that left Egypt optimistically. They are those who are motivated to follow Christ with a "what do I get out of it" attitude. But they had not prepared their hearts to submit to Christ as Lord. They expected Christ to be like Santa Claus to them, giving them free gifts but not demanding anything of them. As a Christian starts to follow Christ, he may have false expectations and complain when those expectations are not met.

So in John 6, when Jesus told this crowd that they must change their way of thinking, that He must become their source of life, many deserted him, even of his disciples. These are like those of Israel who deserted God in the desert. They wanted to go back to Egypt. Ever meet those who have claimed to have been Christians before, but they fell away and consciously no longer follow Christ? John writes of them:

And Jude also Peter also writes of them: Many parents, even unbelievers, may send their children to church and Sunday shool, hoping that it will make them into better kids; morally superior kids. And it does. There is no question that Christianity has had a positive impact on the society. So also with individuals. In following Christ, in repenting from sin, a person will experience an escape from the corruption of the world. But then having escaped, they may look back and say, "You know, I really prefer my former way of life to the Christian life." They are like Lot's wife who looked back to her home in Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt. In Luke 17:32,33 Jesus warns:

The Wilderness of Commitment

And this is the attitude that one must develop in the desert, or else you cannot enter the promise land. We must count the cost of following Christ and burn our bridges. We must never again look back and prefer our former way of life. In John 6, while the crowds deserted Christ, the the Twelve did not, saying: The Christian life may be difficult, especially during the process of conversion. But for those who have the quality of faith that saves, there's really no where else to go. For them there is no other option. They have committed themselves to following Christ wherever that leads.

The generation that entered the promise land had to follow their parents around in the wilderness, waiting for them to die. Their parents representing a deficient faith, as the writer of Hebrews describes them:

They had a faith that wavers and looks back and doesn't have salvific value. Such a faith is not characteristic of Abraham's faith, which represents the quality of faith that saves: Rather they had to leave their parent's dead corpses in the desert. Jesus demands no less of us Let us leave behind our doubts and worldly expectations. Let us not look back, but press on forwards. "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62 Let us leave also behind our fears. For the final challange that Israel faced was overcoming its worldly fears. Saving faith is a fearless faith. Though fearful of God, it is bold, confident and courageous. The first in the list of people who will go to hell according to Rev 21:8 are the cowardly. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.Heb 3:14 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Heb 13:6

"What can man do to me" is what Israel was afraid of. But the next generation, though they may not have seen the miracles in Egypt, walked by faith and not by sight and crossed the Jordan River boldly, having had their hearts circumcised. They belonged to God and no man could touch them.

The Crossing of the Jordan River

While in the desert, they were Christians in name only, those who cross the Jordan River are those who have been born of God. They have been baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit whom they have received. Formerly the Holy Spirit was beside them, in the cloud by day and in the pillar of fire by night. It was leading them into a relationship with Christ. And as they cooperated with the Holy Spirit, so they were led in the right way. Those who are in the desert and sin against the Spirit with finality, they can never be saved, having rejected the Spirit's guidance, as Jesus said: John baptized with water. It cleanses the flesh, but not the spirit. But Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. It transforms the person permanently. Not only is the person justified, having had their sins forgiven, but the Holy Spirit also has an inevitable effect on the person's behavior. Every single person who has been born of God overcomes the world, it is not burdensome for them to live the Christian life, but natural. Those with "overcoming faith" will have a characteristically different behavior than those who will go to hell.

The Church

Israel's exodus and desert wandering also represents the Christian church. In fact "The Kingdom of God" has had various representations in history. But whether it be Israel, the Christian church, or the Millenial Kingdom, it's always a mixture. Jesus speaks of this in his parables where he likens the kingdom of God to the following: Not all who claim to be Christians have been born of God. Thus John wrote the letter of 1John to clarify the distinction. The generation that perished in the wilderness represents those Christians whose faith was not of salvific merit. They did not have the quality of faith that saves. Thus they were only nominal Christians and died unsaved. But those who entered the promise land, these were those who had been born of God. Though during the desert stage, they were yet to be born of God, they continued on in their faith persevering through the desert and so their faith was acceptable to God.

When the apostles, and even when Jesus, is speaking to the churches, they are speaking to mixed groups of people. Many have been born of God, some have not yet. And of those who haven't, some would later fall away and lose the opportunity to be saved. It is from this context that many of the warnings in the New Testament to Christians I believe should be viewed. When Paul writes in 2Cor 13:5 "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test?" He is concerned for their salvation status. As he was also concerned for the Galatians. Ga 5:4 "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."And thus he thinks he may have wasted his efforts on them. Ga 4:11 "I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." It is a waste for people to follow Christ and fall away. As I quoted before, Peter says that such people are actually worse off. Let us not be like that.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources