Summary: The wilderness is an important place to visit, but not a place to stay.

Mark 1:9-15

“Come Out of the Wilderness”

By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer

Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA

Jesus’ wilderness time came immediately after His baptism and the powerful affirmation of Who He was: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Wilderness time is a part of our lives as well.

They are those times when we feel that we are being tested to our limits.

Our faith journey may feel desolate, lonely, trying, difficult…

…even agonizing.

But these “wilderness times” will be much more easily overcome and endured when we realize that they are times for learning.

One of those email lists that made the rounds a few years ago…

…you know what I’m talking about…

…listed significant things that children have learned about life.

Here are just a few of them:

“You can’t trust dogs to watch your food for you.”

“Don’t sneeze when somebody is cutting your hair.”

“You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.”

“When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.”

“No matter how hard you try you cannot baptize a cat.”

These are the kinds of accelerated learning experiences we might call: “learning the hard way.”

And so it is with the hard time in the wilderness.

Jesus’ time in the wilderness came just before He began His public ministry.

It was a time of sorting out what mattered most and to get clear about God’s will for His life.

A key is that Jesus did not stay in the wilderness forever.

He was there for forty days, “being tempted by Satan,” and after coming out of the wilderness He went into Galilee, “proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come…The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Like I said before, we follow Jesus into the wilderness as well.

We are tempted by Satan…

…and sadly enough, we, unlike Jesus, often give into Satan’s temptations.

This may cause our wilderness experience to last longer than forty days.

If we are not alert.

If we do not repent and believe the good news…

…our wilderness time could end up lasting a lifetime…

…a lifetime of wandering, lost, this way and that…

…without the peace of Christ…

…without accomplishing much for God’s kingdom.

We could spend countless years in the wilderness of life…

…and that, my friends would make Satan very happy…

…because a Christian who is just spinning his or her wheels in the wilderness is not doing much…

…not enjoying much…

…not giving much…

…not loving much.

The wilderness time is necessary for our education…

…so that we can be refined in the fire…

…so that we can be made stronger…

…stronger in order to make a greater impact for Christ…

…but the wilderness is a very dangerous place to set up a tent, build a home, or ultimately have our grave dug.

Sometimes we enter the wilderness time because of our own doing.

The most common cause of the wilderness time is a sin of one kind or another.

Our sins usually bring about the confusion and misery that lead us into the wilderness.

First there is the sin of commission.

This is a sin that is known, willful…

…we do it on purpose.

John Wesley taught that such sins…

… “such an abuse of God’s goodness and so great a contempt for His love [can] cause an immediate alienation from God—‘a darkness that can be felt.’”

Have you ever entered the wilderness time by committing a sin of commission?

I have.

Thank the Lord that God is merciful and will forgive us, if we repent, and will lead us back out into the light.

The greatest thing we can learn from committing a sin of commission is to remember how bad it it made us feel.

To remember how dark the darkness was…and to allow that to cause us to think and pray…

…and not fall for the same thing again.

To learn from our mistakes.

There also are the sins of omission.

These are the sins that tend to gradually lead us into the wilderness time.

If sins of commission can be compared to pouring water on a fire; sins of omission can be compared to withdrawing fuel from the fire…

…until the fire goes out.

Some examples of sins of omission would be not taking the time to have private prayer and devotion, not attending church on a weekly and faithful basis, putting off studying the Bible, not ministering and sharing our faith with others.

Neglecting these essential spiritual disciplines can and will lead us into the wilderness….

…where our lives take on an empty quality…

…our faith is quenched…

…we do not feel the power of being close to God…

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