December 31, 2005
In the Wilderness
This morning I want to consider Jesus, and his ministry. I want to know him better. I want to understand
why he did and said everything that is written of him in the Word. What a lofty and high goal. Why did he start out his ministry
in the wilderness-being led there by the Holy Spirit? Why the wilderness first? He was the Son of God, full of the Holy Ghost,
full of the power of resurrection and life, able to work any miracle needed. But he was setting an example for his people
after him to recognize and follow. He said take up our cross and follow him. I want to walk closer to him than I ever have.
Than I ever thought possible. He went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Scripture tells us this.. Why did that
have to be? I looked up the word wilderness. When I think of wilderness, I think of this world. The church world is not what
it was meant to be. She has fallen far away from her first love, and now you have so many different denominations. I can't
find scripture for that kind of diversity in the Body of Christ any where. I read we have one Lord, one baptism, one faith.
But people have allowed division and disagreement to split them up. Surely, this must always be the work the of the enemy,
and the works of the flesh. Because where there is the fruit of the Spirit, there will be love, and unity. People won't be
so willing to write one another off if they truly have the love of God in their hearts. They will pray for that person, remembering
they are another man's servant, not to be judged by them. You have sin, all around, abounding darkness in this wilderness.
You can't hardly bear to stand in line at the grocery store to pay for your groceries without having to look up or down-anywhere
but the magazine rack-for it's a banqueting table of lust and sensuality and greed and covetousness and gossip. In the factories,
in the stores, on the streets, drugs, divorce, abuse, murder, mayhem, suicide, angry young people, hatred, racism, division,
self-pity, self-help, self-focus, it's the aim of most today.
Our political leaders are foxes in charge of the hen house by and large. Thank God for our President, but many of those
under him, and in our Congress are seeking what is best for their campaign not the people and they have little or no fear
of God. God is being pushed out of the schools, the courthouses, all government, and our country is falling into chaos just
as the rest of the nations of the world whose God is not the Lord. There are many paths to trod in this world, all branching
out from the wide road that Jesus warned leads to destruction. But in the midst of this wilderness, there is a bright Light,
and He goes down a straight and narrow path, going before God's people through this wilderness, just as surely as He went
before the children of Israel through the desert, and the wilderness when they left Egypt. The wide road has a very gradual
decline, it is descending. Everyone on it is going down. There are many exits that lead to sudden destruction. The descent
of this road is such a gradual thing and they are all blinded by pleasures, and the hectic pressures and cares of life they
do not realize, like sheep being led to the slaughter, where they are going to end up. They get offended often, if you try
to warn them. Sin hardens the heart. It allows pride and arrogance to puff up the heart. To deceive the heart.
But, parallel to the wide road, there is a narrow road. And it is ascending. It's rising higher. It's straight, with no
turns, the travelers on it are warned not to take any exit. Not to the right or the left. But keep their eyes on the Light
that is lighting their path. And follow the One who is leading the way. These sheep have their eyes open. They know where
they are going. And those on the broad road can see those on the narrow. Sometimes they taunt, mock, and scorn those on the
narrow road. Sometimes the enemy of their souls will try to allure them to take an exit, to step off, trying to convince them
it's okay to sidestep just for a little while. Relax, and live a little. Give yourself a break from the warfare. You don't
have to be so uptight about things. God really doesn't expect such and such from you. It'll be okay.
Oh, didn't David
say his enemy's words were smooth like butter, (Ps. 55:21) his words softer than oil yet they were drawn swords, meant to
God help us, not to be deceived. As long as we keep our eyes single, focused only on the Light, stay on our knees, looking
up, following him, carrying our cross, and I think our cross is simply this- we give up our right to run our lives and let
him. I've heard it complicated. I've heard it explained other ways. But the message of the gospel is simple. And that rings
true in my spirit. He will call for sacrifices that our flesh will loathe. But the flesh doesn't want to die. It must. And
his Spirit in us will strengthen us, if we yield to Him, if we come regularly for our Daily Bread to the table he has spread
for his children. If we ask for meat with the bread, the meat of his word and his will, it will crucify the flesh and the
closer we get to his presence, the consuming fire of the Lord will burn up the chaff, shake the idols loose, and cleanse and
purify the vessel. Natural progression. You can't walk with him if you can't agree totally with him. That is my concept of
the wilderness in this world.
So I looked up the word wilderness. In the Strong's Greek, it means "of uncertain affinity, lonesome, waste, desert, desolate,
solitary. " In Matthew 4, Jesus is led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He leaves his home, his
family, to go be tried and tested. He fasts forty days and nights. He shows that in the wilderness the Bread of God will sustain.
What is the bread of God? It's his written word. His promises. His commands. It's like the manna from heaven that his people
need every day if they are to sustain the life he gave them when they were born of his Spirit. That is the life of Christ
in us that begins when we are saved. And we must needs come to his table often and in faith, seeking nourishment. Open his
word, and Lord, where are we going today? Where are you taking me today? What idols or giants are you going to conquer today?
For the battle is his, not ours. All we have to do is follow in faith, seek his face, trust and obey. The hardest thing is
to let our flesh die when he sends forth the word that will kill it. To obey that word-we can call on the power of the Greater
One in us for strength. He knows every second of every day what we need. He listens to our thoughts, he watches us rush through
our day and I believe his heart longs for us to stop long enough to remember him. To love him. To worship him because he is
worthy. To recognize he is there, wanting to help us more than we realize. He doesn't want us led away from him. He doesn't
want us weighed down with depression, discouragement, and fear. That's no testimony to his glory! That's not what the world
needs to see. He's there watching when his saints open their eyes in the morning. Longing to be the desire of their heart
so he can bless them and reward them with his abundant supply of all we need. For like he told Abram, he is our exceeding
great reward, our shield. He wants us to look to him for answers, and help, not books, or people, or the telephone, or the
talk shows or the world, or the pastor. He wants us to come directly to him. But often, we don't have the patience to wait
in faith for his response. There is a very real spirit in this world that plagues the people of God, and we need to learn
how to fray it off. It's a spirit of "hurry up, hurry, if you got to read that Bible, hurry up read a few verses, your duty
is done, say a quick prayer, you've got to go. Too much to do. The house needs cleaning. That needs fixing. Got to go here.
Can't be late. Got to call this one back. Got to go to the store. Hurry, five miles an hour or ten, over the speed limit will
be alright. Must hurry." It's like a litany chanted constantly at us, at everyone. God help us slow down and lay hold of the
Rock, and say stabilize me, Lord. I am so guilty of this. Thank you Father, for opening my eyes. Help me not give in to this
spirit of this age that wants me to neglect your salvation, your table, and the secret closet of prayer where I can connect
with you, and know you, and be transformed in to your image.
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