The inhabitants of Canaan, the Canaanites, were not Israel, God’s chosen people. They were usurpers of the Land. Israelites were not to identify with the inhabitants, were not to make agreements or bargains or befriend them.
Romans 8:13, For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
When I sin it is no longer I that sins, but sin which dwells in me. The usurping forces inside me are “not I” but sin – remnants of sin-tribes, fears, etc., I have not yet slain. And if I go on identifying, making agreements, and basically partying with the Canaanites, I am not living in Eternal Life; I’m not abiding in Christ. I’m “walking according to the flesh.” And that is a living death to a believer; it’s a halfway house where sin is no longer enjoyable and yet we can’t stop doing it.
Rom 6:12-18 says,
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
In other words, you are not to be identified with, in bondage to, or under the rule of sin: Take no prisoners.
A warning: If your indwelling Canaanites seem less than that of others, if you grew up in a good home and are relatively well-adjusted, have good relationships, are popular, and life seems to go great for you, beware of the wilderness in the land and the beasts that arise. It’s an uncultivated land with vicious animals. Pride is a stronger animal than Fear, Doubt, Dependence on Others, and the rest, and harder to overcome because it is so insidiously deceptive, quick, and stealthy. It will wipe you out. For more on this subject read C.S. Lewis’ chapter in Mere Christianity, “Nice People or New Men.”
The Israelites were not related to the Canaanites, except from way back in their history before they had their new identity of “Israel.” Through Noah, they were related. But that relation was cut off when Jacob (“heelcatcher” “supplanter” “layer of snares”, the conniving schemer) wrestled with the Angel of the Lord and had his name changed to “Israel” (“God prevails” or “God commands”) Gen 32:28, “And He (the One who wrestled him) said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”
This new identity, the exchange of natures from being a manipulating heel-catcher trying to gain blessing by effort to being God-directed (and so commanding and having power with God, in a sense, through faith in His promises), is the source and spring of the new identity in Christ. We exchanged Satan for Christ, the false lord for the True, and now “the old has gone; the new has come.”
We’re not to identify with Canaan. We’re not to make agreements. We’re not to have any kind of relationship with these sin-tribes, because to do so is to commit adultery against our true identity in Christ.
Various Fleshly Means of Coping With Inner Canaanites
Psychology says, “Let’s talk to the inhabitants, figure out where they came from, and learn to deal with having them in the land. We can work around them.” Psychology identifies the inhabitants of our inner Land as part of “I”.
Hedonism also identifies with them. But Hedonism says, “Canaanites? Let’s party!”
New agers, Christian Science, and other groups just say, “What Canaanites?” They deny that the inner inhabitants exist.
Legalism: “Let’s live with the inhabitants, but make sure we hide them and feel ashamed of them. Hide them away when anyone comes over to visit.” Legalism identifies the Canaanites as part of “I” as well.
The half-gospel of Jesus-Died-To-Pay-Our-Sin-Debt says, “I’m just a lowly half-Canaanite/half-Israelite, saved by grace. I sin a lot. But Jesus died and rose again so I could go to Heaven. I ask forgiveness for my Canaanite ways every day. I’ve got a little bit of Israelite in me. But there’s nothing I can do about the Canaanite part.” This attitude also identifies with the Canaanite, probably more so than any of the others. And it keeps us bound to continue in Canaanite ways.
How do we overcome the Canaanites?
1. We trust God to guide and lead us in the process. We ask him to expose any and all Canaanites on his timetable. When Israelites dove in presumptuously for battle without checking in with God they came back covered in their own blood.
2. We acknowledge their existence. We don’t rationalize; we face the facts. God has a certain way of stating the facts without being condemning. If you’re hearing condemnation as a believer it isn’t God – period.
3. We refuse to identify with the Canaanite tribes. They are not “I.”
4. We refuse to make any kind of agreement with them. The power to do this comes by reliance on our real identity in Christ. We “divide good from evil” by recognizing that evil is “not I, but sin.” And we recognize that righteousness is “not I, but Christ.” And Christ has made Himself one with us. So we get familiar with our real identity by studying the Word of God to find out what He says about His people. And we eat that Word continually – feed on it – rely on it as true no matter what.
5. We battle through faith, trusting in Christ as our real inner identity, our strength, our power to overcome. We refuse flesh-effort and hypocrisy and faithe that it is already done in the Spirit. We believe God even if we encounter the Anakim – a giant that looks indestructible.
God wants us to take this Promised Land by faith. It is a “fair and fertile Land,” ready to be productive and powerful in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a process which involves total faith in God, guts, and stepping out in faith-action. But we’re called to it by God Himself, Christ within us, our Sanctifier.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.