There is much talk today of the wilderness experience. Some people fear it, some are ashamed of it, some dread that it might happen to them. We feel safe in the familiar. There is also much exposure of the failures and shortcomings of the Church today.
Not any one particular sect or denomination, but across the board. Everything bearing the name Christian is polluted. We are aware that the Church is full of mixture and corruption, but we still feel like we have to defend it, or some how try to fix it, after all, it's all we've ever known. There has to be a Church.
We all have different and yet the same experiences. We all encounter rejection, slander, disillusionment and disappointment. At the same time our Church life is seemingly falling apart, we can also experience a closer personal awareness of God's presence within. We may go places and do things that we never thought we would do. For some of us our marriages have broken up, our families have wrongly judged us, the world as we once knew it has drastically changed, and apparently for the worse by the way we are being judged. On the outside we may appear to be lost and wandering, we no longer seem to fit in anywhere. How could God's hand be in this? We must have messed up somewhere along the way, right?
I think it is important for us to take a moment, catch our breath, and stop struggling and fighting against the inevitable. Often times we thrash around like a drowning man beating the water for anything to keep us afloat. It's interesting how alike we all are, how similar our sufferings may be, and yet how alone and cut off we feel. Let's get our perspective straight. Just what was our crime? Having a heart to know God? Being grieved over the hypocrisy and merchandising being perpetrated using the name of Jesus? Resisting being controlled and manipulated by others to do what they want rather than what the Lord was speaking to our hearts? This morning I did a word study on "follow me." Jesus said it 20 times in the New Testament. It is a commandment. We cannot love the Lord, and not follow him.
Luke 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Hello! Jesus, and only Jesus, is our example. Jesus is who we are commanded to follow. So why are we feeling so guilty and like such failures when we find ourselves on the wilderness road? It's because it is contrary to everything we have ever been taught. Man's quickest response to something that did not originate with them is usually, "God wouldn't do that." Try telling that to Korah & company.
Everyone knows and acknowledges that Jesus was taken into the wilderness for 40 days and tempted there before he started his earthly ministry. If it was good enough for the preparation of the Son of God, why do we think we should somehow be exempt? Look at what Jesus said while in the wilderness.
Luke 4:4 It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Luke 4:8 Get thee behind me, Satan: For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Luke 4:12 It is said, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Jesus could have said many things, he could have responded many ways, but these statements are how he answered Satan. Therefore, these three things must be critical to coming out of the wilderness experience triumphantly.
- Our very sustenance in this life must be every word of God. This goes far beyond memorizing bible verses. Jesus went into the wilderness following his baptism in the Jordan by John. At his baptism the Holy Ghost descended upon him like a dove. The Word tells us that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all Truth. 1John 2:27 But the anointing which you have received of him abideth in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, you shall abide in him.
- Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and him only shall you serve. We are commanded to worship and serve God and God alone. Not leaders, not causes, not things.
- Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. Tempt in this verse means to test thoroughly. We must make a distinct choice here. Are we going to align ourselves with those who consider themselves to be authorities on interpretations of scripture and doctrine? Or are we going to lay aside and reject the wisdom of this world, the understanding of the carnal mind, and subject ourselves to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit?
We must choose whether we will believe God or not. As we walk in our own wilderness, the Spirit will quicken our understanding. As we learn humility, we stop trying to dictate to God how we think things should be from our limited understanding. We gain the priceless revelation of Who God Is. The more we see, the more willing we are to let God be God, the more we must truthfully acknowledge that we do not know anything yet as we ought.
To tempt God is to walk in unbelief.
Ps.78:41 And they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
Ps.78:56 Yet they tempted and provoked the Most High God, and kept not his testimonies.
James 1:13, 14 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempted he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Tempting or testing God will not bring us the desired result. Questioning and doubting God's Word is setting ourselves up for the rod of correction.
Jesus entered the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have the same power today as we walk our own wilderness road. Being placed in the wilderness is not a punishment, it is an act of love. What we do with the opportunity afforded us is up to each individual. Are we willing to follow Christ? This is the road Jesus walked. We do not go through the wilderness walk alone, or in our own strength.
Jesus promised us "I will never leave you or forsake you." This walk may well take us through dry times, when we feel alone. Yet after a time, we can look back and see clearly that even at our darkest hour, when we were bereft of feeling anything, He was there sustaining us. We all have to be purged of every thought, idea, belief and attitude that is not pleasing to God. This is a painful process.
Broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are walking in it. Few there be that are willing to pay the price to walk the narrow path that leads to life. Over and over again, Jesus said, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. We have all heard it many times, but few comprehend the depth or meaning of this statement and what it entails.
To come after... is to get behind, to walk as Jesus walked.
To deny himself... is to utterly disown your own conceits, to put self to death. Only the operations of the Spirit of God can bring this about in man.
To take up his cross... is to bear or lift up our own self and expose it to death; self denial.
And follow me... is to be in the same way with, to accompany as a disciple, to follow Christ.
The wilderness walk is a necessary part of following Christ. The result of Jesus' wilderness experience was that he returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about (Luke 4:14).
We too can look forward to the same reward, if you will. If we will subject ourselves to the Spirit, we too will be endued with power from on high. We will be conformed to the image of the Son of God. We will be vessels, molded and shaped by God, that He can use to set the captives free, heal the sick, raise the dead, and open the blind eyes.
I have never heard anyone speak on this. I was raised in Church. I believed everything I was taught. Down through the years it has not always been pretty, and not a walk that I would wish on anyone else. Yet I am so grateful and thankful to God for putting me in the places He has, because it was the only way to work out of me all the self-righteousness I had acquired. It was the only way to strip me of the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge I relied on. It was the best way to bring me to the end of myself and into total dependence and reliance on Him. It is important that we do not try to circumvent the process.
God sends us to the wilderness for a very good reason. Because He loves us and wants us to reach the potential for which we were created. At times the misery is so great, the loneliness so unbearable, we will try and escape. We will try and return to Egypt, we will seek anything that will give us even a temporary relief. But we find that we cannot escape. There is no substitute for walking it out.
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
The day will come when we will gratefully embrace this experience, but not while in the depths of being brought to the end of oneself. One day we will be able to look back and see the hand of God in our lives where before we saw only darkness and confusion. We will be able to rejoice that we were called and chosen to suffer these things, because of the newness of life this wilderness walk brought forth within our hearts and minds.
Hebrews 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Hebrews 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.
How will we respond to our Lord when he calls to us, "Follow me?"
There is no other way to come to God, but through Jesus Christ the Son. Jesus has commanded us to "Follow ME." He went through the wilderness experience. Where do we get off thinking we have somehow been absolved of following our Lord in this area? We are willing to be used of God in the ways we perceive to be acceptable according to the religious standards man has created. We accept the teachings of men and assume that we are thinking the same way the Apostle's thought.
When we are introduced to the wilderness we don't understand what is going on. It doesn't fit in with any of the things we were taught. In fact, it is a flagrant contradiction to our expectations. Maybe what we should glean from this is that our expectations have not been as in line with the will of God as we thought they were. What if the wilderness walk really is an integral part of God's plan for his children?
If you have found yourself plunged into the wilderness, rejoice, you are not a bastard. Instead of trying to fix things you don't understand in the first place, just rest in HIM. There is a coming out, and if we have come to the end of ourselves, it will be in the power of the Spirit of God.