Iliff and Saltillo Churches
February 13, 2005
“What We Can Learn in the Wilderness”
INTRODUCTION: Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Jesus is almost ready to begin his public ministry, but first He must go through some things as final preparation. He had to identify himself with sinful humanity at the outset of His ministry, and He did this by submitting to baptism. Then He had to face temptation. Mark’s gospel doesn’t list any specific temptations as you will find in the gospel of Matthew or Luke. Perhaps it is because each of us face slightly different temptations and yet we do not have to give in to any of them because Jesus is SUFFICIENT to handle whatever life brings our way. There are three main things I got out of Mark’s account of the temptation. Let’s see how we can apply these things to our daily life.
1. Wandering in Our Wilderness--Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John and heard God’s voice from Heaven saying, “Thou art my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” things began to change for him. He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness. Mark does not describe how Jesus felt about this, but Jesus was going from a very positive experience to an undesirable wilderness. A wilderness is any place we don’t want to be. This wilderness was a place where He found himself alone. His friends were not there. He had no support team to encourage him. Maybe He felt the aloneness intensely--maybe He wandered around for awhile thinking, “What do I do next? Where do I go? How do I handle this?” Mark is the only writer who says He was alone except for the wild animals. As He was in this environment, He was surrounded by danger--a person out there alone at night could have been torn apart by the wild animals.
There are many thoughts we can apply to our own lives from this experience of Jesus. We also have wilderness experiences where we feel alone, feel we are wandering around without knowing what to do or where to turn. We are surrounded by many dangers and temptations that are every bit as threatening to us, or more so, than the wild animals that Jesus faced. Scripture tells us that “your adversary, the devil as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). The devil wanted to tempt Jesus there in His wilderness in order to destroy his work and cancel His mission on earth. Satan did not want Jesus to accomplish the mission he set out to do. He wanted to sidetrack him and he had a perfect opportunity to do so when he was alone in the wilderness.
Satan especially wants to sidetrack all of us from accomplishing our calling for God. He can sidetrack you very subtly and easily. We live in a world of many dangers--danger not only of crime and violence and physical dangers to us but even more so the subtle attacks on our faith. Many people are succumbing to these dangers--first of all by being led away from church, from the teachings of the scriptures and by a greater tolerance to questionable things. We begin to compromise--the wild beasts of indifference and apathy toward spiritual things devour us. People more and more will say, “I believe in God and I am a Christian but I don’t go to church.” This is a trick of the devil because church is the place where we are to be built up and nourished in our faith.
The old song goes, “Through many dangers toils and snares I have already come,...” Jesus needed to experience a difficult wilderness experience in order to identify with us today--although the things he experienced were different from what we face in our 21st century technological age--there was the same pull of temptation for him to go ahead and give in to sin. Jesus needed to experience the invitation to sin because scripture tells us that He was “in all points tempted like as we are --yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15).
STORY: A man got tired of people telling him “Have a good day! He didn’t think it was sincere but just a routine saying.”
He began answering, “No thank you. I’ve got other plans for today.”
Jesus had the invitation to sin. He said, “No thank you. I’ve got other plans.”
Jesus was alone in the wilderness--he had no support group, and no one to give him advice. When things began to hit him adversely, he could have wondered, “Has God abandoned me? Is God not pleased with me? Does God not love me any more?” These are things Satan uses on us to make us doubt and feel discouraged.
STORY: Bill Jones’ wife told her husband one day, “You never tell me that you love me. Why don’t you? Why are you not like other men to let me KNOW that you love me?”
He said, “Martha, I told you once that I loved you when we got married. If it ever changes I will tell you.”
When God spoke at Jesus’ baptism, He had to rely on that Word, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” He was not hearing repeated confirmations of His Father’s love and concern while out there in the wilderness. God had spoken and He had to believe that Word. In the wilderness there was not the constant reassurance of God’s love. We, too, need to believe God’s Word to us because sometimes there are periods of SILENCE when we don’t feel God’s presence and we don’t hear His Voice reassuring us of his love and concern. We need to HOLD FAST to His promises and scriptures and not allow Satan to tempt us into believing that God has abandoned us or that He does not love us. We need to know what is in Scripture so that it is second nature to us and there when we need it. When God gives you a promise at least once, hang on to that promise. You don’t need to be reassured all of the time. Psalm 119:89 KJV says, “Thy Word Oh Lord is SETTLED in heaven.”
We face situations in our everyday life all the time of one sort or another. We are not the strong person we think we are. The wild animals of temptation sometimes devour us. But they didn’t devour Jesus. Why? He could have given in. He had choices to make just like we do. He had constant conflicts throughout his future ministry, not just during the wilderness experience. We do too. Don’t be surprised when things hit you hard at times. Don’t be surprised when your faith seems to be almost devoured. How do we tame the wild beasts that try to devour us in our daily life at work, at home, or any place else that we go?
2. Examining the Darkness of our Lives--Jesus had to be alert to the dangers surrounding him as he walked around in his wilderness. He had to be aware of what was lurking around the bushes ready to pounce on him unexpectedly. He had to be aware of the deception of Satan who came to offer him, “A good deal.” “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8). You say, “Well, what can I do about that? I don’t have any control over the circumstances of my life.”
I Peter 5:9 gives us some answers. “Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” We have to examine the darkness and wilderness areas of our lives and then begin to RESIST the devil in those areas just as Jesus did in His wilderness. The beginning of the Lenten Season is a good time to begin. Just where do we stand in our relationship with the Lord? Have we allowed our faith to be devoured in certain areas? Have we allowed the things of the world to subtly tear us apart to where we no longer know what to believe? Have we become Christian in name only? Has our church attendance become “once in awhile? and our Bible become lost somewhere in a stack of papers? Let us examine our wilderness. Where are the places we are losing the battle? What are the things that are constantly attacking us--addictive habits, procrastination, conflicts and anxieties. Worries of all kinds that eat away at us? What is trying to come against you to tear you apart? Paul says, “Let a person examine himself to see if he be in the faith.” (II Cor. 13:5).
Are you doing this? Are you thinking about the things in your life that really get you down? What are your greatest temptations? What do you give in to time and time again? Things that just seem to have a hold on your? We need to be able to IDENTIFY those things in our own individual lives. Mark does not point out specific things. Maybe it is because there are all kinds of “wild animals” trying to get to us--to endanger us in our spiritual journey. What are your “wild animals” that need to be tamed?
3. Reclaiming God’s Call on our Life--You may say, “Yes, Jesus was successful. He didn’t give in because He was Jesus.” He had the opportunity to make a choice just like we do. He made the choice. He could have made a bad choice and never have gone on to fulfill His mission to bring salvation to humankind. He could have checked out when the going got rough. He could have made other plans when he felt alone and abandoned by His Father. He could have “called 10,000 angels to get him down off the cross.” He could have....
During this Lenten Season, how can we reclaim God’s call on our individual lives once we have identified the things which so easily tempt us and drag us down to failure.
In Psalm 25, David begins by saying “Unto thee O Lord, do I lift up my soul...(Psalm 25:1). I believe that the three accounts of the temptation shows us that Jesus did exactly that. Alone in the wilderness, where did he turn for help? Did he try to do everything himself? No, he put his dependency upon God and His Word to defeat the trickery of Satan. In the Old Testament times, David had also learned this--to look up in his wilderness--to deliberately lift up his soul to the Lord. By doing this David professes his desire toward God--he had a fixed thought and active faith. I am turning my face toward God--I am putting my dependence in God.
Today have you turned your thoughts to God in your daily life? Not just on Sunday morning but in each day of your life? David did this first of all. Then in the next verse he asks for several things. Rather than asking for a pat answer to his problems he asks for something better than that.
verse 4 He says, “show me thy Ways oh Lord
“teach me thy paths
verse 5 “lead me in thy truth
Many people today just call the psychic hotline for a specific answer to a problem. Here David is not asking for specific answers to one problem--he is asking for God to continually show him the Total Ways of the Lord.
He asks direction from God and also prays to God to teach Him. We can Walk in the Spirit throughout our day--not just once in awhile --because God will be showing us His ways--he will be teaching us to choose one path over another--he will lead us into truth
How does this apply to us? Remember that Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” When we follow Him we know that we are being led in His ways
In our wilderness, we learn that we must intentionally Lift Up our soul to the Lord. It can’t be just once in awhile that we think about the Lord. It needs to be intentional and consistent. We have to make a decision to go to church. A deliberate decision to learn the Scriptures. Not a haphazard “once in awhile” thing.
Then when we ask the Lord to show us his ways, we must intend to follow the ways or why else would he show them to us. We can say, “Lord show me your ways and if I like them I will accept them or if not I will ignore them.” We must determine that we will make every effort to accept His ways once we know what they are.
Can you make your prayer,
1. Lord I lift up my soul
2. Show me your way
3. Teach me
4. Guide me and instruct me
We have the assurance that He will do exactly that. Psalm 25:8-10 says,“Good and upright is the Lord--therefore, he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right, And Teaches them his way.
CONCLUSION: On this first Sunday of Lent we can learn from Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. We, too, have wilderness experiences throughout our journey of faith. Don’t let these experiences throw you. Don’t let them discourage you.
1. We must examine our wilderness experiences and identify the things that are attempting to devour us.
2. We must deliberately lift up our souls to the Lord and be willing to follow his ways, be taught of His spirit, and to be consistent in our walk and choices.
Let us pray: