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Destroying the Nations Within Us

To set the tone for what we are about to read, let’s get the context of how Paul first said it. He and Barnabas are in Asia Minor in a place known as Antioch in Pisidia, attending synagogue on the Sabbath. They are invited to speak any encouraging and comforting word they might have and Paul stands to speak.

His goal is to bring those in attendance to the understanding that Jesus, the Messiah, has already come. To do this, he has to take them from where they are in their comprehension so that when they get to his news about Jesus they will have an optimum chance of receiving Him as Lord. Paul begins with Abraham and then quickly moves to the exodus from bondage in Egypt. Then, he speaks to their time in the wilderness.

While studying to teach this text recently, I realized that there is a parallel between what they experienced as the Israelites and what we experience as Christians. It seemed to be good for me to share what I was seeing.

“Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness.” (Acts 13:18)

I like how Paul puts it: “He put up with their ways”; this literally means that “He endured their habits”. No one ever has to “endure” things that are pleasant to them. This implies, correctly, that it was very difficult for God to put up with the rebellious habits of the Jews.

Imagine that. God endured the irritating ways of His human children just like any good and patient father on earth does. Have you ever considered the parallel between the people of God walking out of bondage and into a wilderness in which all their irritating ways were so evident…and how we are as people?

We were lifted out of bondage to sin and death when we were born again and then we walk in our own wildernesses and trials after we are saved. This is what sanctification is all about. The trials we experience are allowed by God to reveal our irritating ways. They aren’t revealed to God; He already knows everything. These are made visible so WE can see them and, perhaps, be motivated to cry out to Him to fix them.

And, guess what? Father puts up with our irritating ways. He loves us. He doesn’t expect us to be instantly perfect.

Institutional Christianity often seems to expect instant perfection because that earthly system is made up of people just like us. We even expect perfection out of ourselves at times regarding our performance and habits. We seem to expect perfect appearance and performance of our brothers and sisters in Christ, too.

The truth is that we have a sort of “spiritual muscle memory” that really has to do with the neuro-pathways in our brains that cause us to habitually sin. We instinctively know how to live in the flesh as the “old man” (Romans 6:6) because, prior to being born again, that’s all we knew. It is programmed into our brains the same way a tennis player might be programmed to move in certain ways without consciously thinking about it. These bad habits are ones that prevent him from becoming everything he could be as a tennis player. The good news is that he can be retrained…if he has a humble heart and an earnest desire to reach his full potential.

We, as children of God, are being retrained…sanctified. While we are learning to live a new way, in total dependency upon the Lord, Father puts up with us. He endures our irritating ways and then what does He do? He loves the unlovable by supplying what they need so they can change.

“And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.” (Acts 13:19)

On behalf of and for the benefit of His children, God “destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan”. The word “destroyed” literally has to do with “casting down”.

What does the number seven represent to Jews? It represents completeness.

I wonder if this refers to something God does with us in sanctification. I wonder if in our analogy “nations” represents strongholds in our souls. I wonder if it has to do with areas of hurt and areas of reaction to hurt as in strongholds of pain, anger, fear, anxiety, depression, drug addiction, and on and on. I wonder if God’s desire is to destroy completion.

It seems to me that all I have wondered about those things is true.

As I studied for this teaching I felt led to check into something. (I love it when the Lord does this.) I learned that the Greek word translated as “destroyed” in Acts 13:19 is the exact same one used in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 for pulling down strongholds and casting down arguments.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)

This is so cool! Let’s see what else Paul tells those people in the


“And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.” (Acts 13:19)

When God had destroyed those seven nations, He then redistributed the land to the Israelites. Let’s zoom in on what happened to us prior to our salvation.

What happens when satan builds strongholds in us? He captures ground in our souls. Territory, if you will, in our souls becomes overrun by him and, after that, he functionally rules in that area as long as his dominance is allowed by us. This means that the devil strongly influences or controls our thinking and emotions and decisions.

Then, when we are born again, we are liberated from the bondages into which satan has brought us. We are led by God into our “wilderness” time, so to speak. This is a season in which belief systems and habits we developed as slaves to sin and the systems of the earth are revealed to us.

It is sad to note that, due to the almost non-existence of true and PERSONAL discipleship in the Church as it operates today, most Christians are pretty much taught that their role today is to coast along, pay to keep the church system running, and try not to screw up too much until its time to die and move on to heaven. There is a LOT of emphasis on acquiring information…being taught, the third element of the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Making disciples, however, the primary element is grossly neglected and the result has been that most modern Christians remain in their own wilderness time for the rest of their days on the earth. They never address the systems satan has placed in their souls. These beliefs and habits keep them in the wilderness. So, they wander.

They often never enter God’s rest for them…their own “Promised Land”, being too busy with their own works to do that. The writer of Hebrews addresses this about the Israelites so WE could understand why so many of us wander in the wilderness of clueless unbelief.

“…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. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” (Hebrews 3:18-4:1)

The writer to the Hebrews further explains why the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites is a picture of ALL Christians after being born again.

“For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:8-9)

He encourages us to let God do what He wants to do in our souls so we might enter His rest (the Promised Land for us today...that we can experience BEFORE dying and going to heaven.)

“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:10-11)

“And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.” (Acts 13:19)

As the Israelites entered the Promised Land it had to be prepared for them by the Lord. It contained “nations” which were areas filled with beliefs and practices that would harm God’s people. These had to go so as to optimize the chance that God’s people would flourish. God destroyed the “seven nations” that occupied the territory He intended them to occupy.

God does this in our lives too after we are saved. The Lord sets about destroying the “nations” within us. He destroys those strongholds of fear, anger, depression, drug addiction and on and on and He redistributes that “land” in our souls. That land now belongs to God and, in His love, He gives it to us. He gives us our souls so they are free to be a dwelling place for Him and so we can truly LIVE.

The thought of this touches me deeply. Ministry in discipleship (and, sometimes, in counseling and deliverance) is what this is all about. It is about walking with people as God liberates aspects of their human souls.

This is delicious.

“And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.” (Acts 13:19)

God allots or portions out that ground to us on an individual basis, based on our needs and our ability to use them wisely.

You know, it’s our earthly nature to HATE the trials that come to us because they hurt. The pain we feel as our “nations” are being exposed is inspired by our enemy, the devil. He uses that to obscure the truth that having those “nations” in our souls actually costs us dearly and hurts us more than it hurts us to participate in their destruction.

Satan does not want us to be free.

Because it hurts and because we hate the pain, many of us spend a lot of our time praying for God to remove the trials HE allows in our lives so we can be free, move on out of our wildernesses, and into our Promised Land, His rest.

I’m going to suggest something I have learned to be effective…something that no one wants to do.

EMBRACE the trials!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Also, be ACTIVE in the destruction of the “nations” in your soul. If we were to read the story of the occupation of the Promised Land we would see that Joshua led the people through a series of battles.

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

“But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.” (Deuteronomy 7:5)

Those people took that land because they obeyed God and committed themselves to the fight. They were ACTIVE in their own purification. They did their part. As we come to understand OUR part in the destruction of the “nations” satan has placed into our souls let’s do the same. Let’s obey God and commit ourselves to the fight.

We are no longer passively languishing in our Egypt; we have been freed from bondage. Let’s actively rise up in Christ and do our part in the cleansing and restoration of our souls.

I close with this encouraging and beautiful statement from Moses to the nation of Israel, which is also true for us. Let it be a motivation to stay in the fight alongside the Lord as He continues to heal our souls.

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

Decatur, TX

© October 29, 2019

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