When Jesus was led into the wilderness after His baptism at the Jordan, He was full of the Spirit of God (Lk 4:1). Many days later He returned from the wilderness to Galilee, this time in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:14). Something happened in the wilderness that empowered Jesus more deeply to hear, obey and move in complete compliance with the Holy Spirit. Later He would say “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does… “(Jn 5:19). His wilderness experience was instrumental in enabling Him to both live and walk wholly by the Spirit of God. The scriptures record that often when Jesus was pressed by the crowds He would return to the wilderness (Lk. 5:16; Mark 1:35; Mark 6:32). For Jesus, the wilderness was not a forbidding desert, but a refuge of fellowship and intimacy with His Father.
It’s one thing to live by the Spirit but quite another to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). In the wilderness there are no sign posts, ten step plans, or crowds to follow. At best we may occasionally stumble across the footsteps of some who have walked ahead of us. For the most part though, we must learn to attune our ears to the lone voice of the Spirit who will teach us what it really means to walk with God, doing only what we see and hear from Him. Though we may have entered the wilderness full of the Spirit, we must now learn to walk in the Spirit.
As we saw in Part Two of this series, Satan had sharply honed his temptation skills in the Garden of Eden when he successfully manipulated the first humans with a three pronged attack: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn 2:16). Plan A, tempting Jesus to imagine stones as bread (lust of the eyes) had failed. So Satan moved on to Plan B.
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” (Luke 4:5-7)
What is this high mountain from which Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world? It is the mountain called ‘self’, the uncrucified flesh nature of mankind. In a nutshell, it is the lust of the flesh. The vast kingdoms Jesus was shown are in fact the false systems that man has been building around himself since departing the Garden of Eden. In humanity’s futile attempts to replace what was lost at the Fall, we have constructed a myriad of precarious kingdoms that continually seek to control and subjugate us. We have kingdoms called ‘banking’, ‘government’, ‘the military’, ‘education’, ‘entertainment’, ‘leisure’, ‘career’, ‘religion’, to name just a few of the thousands of kingdoms that now surround us on every side. Humanity in general now trusts in these kingdoms so thoroughly they believe they don’t need God. The Bible calls this myriad of human kingdoms “Babylon” (Rev. 11:15; 17:5).
Notice at this point Satan is no longer casting doubt on Jesus’ credentials as Son of God. All he wants is a little compromise….the kind of compromise where you take something that rightfully belongs to God and give it to someone or something else. And when Satan gets what is God’s, that’s worship.
And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ (Luke 4:8)
In His reply Jesus laid bare a profound truth: worship is really about who you serve. There is no question that we, as the Body of Christ are each called in mutual servanthood to one another. Unless that servanthood flows directly out of the worship of Christ, however, it is simply human flesh dressed up in religious clothing. Much of the “servanthood” that takes place in organized Christianity is simply worship of man and his kingdoms, rooted in the carnal life of man’s flesh.
Why is it that Christian history has been (and still is) peppered with multitudes who have blindly followed, served and financially supported false leaders who deceive and mistreat them? It is because those Christians serve such leaders from a place of carnality within themselves. Believing they are obeying Christ, they are instead worshiping the flesh of man, both in themselves and in those they follow. The Word of God can only be lived out through the Spirit of God, and the Spirit will only ever exalt Christ. If we are not serving one another out of the depths of the knowledge of Christ, we are indulging the lust of the flesh no matter how pious and holy we may appear to be.
From the beginning Satan has sought for humanity to serve him because he understands service is worship. Unimaginable authority on earth was offered to Jesus by Satan. Many men and women throughout history have craved that level of authority and sought it at any cost. Gaining authority, recognition, wealth and greatness in this world can even seem like we are being rewarded by God. But the kingdoms of the world currently are overseen by our enemy who seeks to share them only to gain our worship. In refusing to compromise, Jesus chose the pathway to the Cross.
In the wilderness we too will come face to face with the kingdoms of the flesh we have allowed to be built within ourselves. Each one of these kingdoms must be exposed to us by the Spirit, and with His help confronted, uprooted and toppled. This process is vital to our wilderness experience. In the great metropolis of organized religion we were trained to serve the kingdoms of denominationalism, tradition, law and fear of man. But the wilderness is about transitioning from the kingdoms of the world to the Kingdom of God.
In the wilderness the flesh life is denied and starved of nourishment: the things that previously were feeding it are removed. We are increasingly dependent on the fellowship of the Spirit, intimacy with the Bridegroom and communion with the Father. These now become our nourishment and sustenance, the ‘food you know not of’’ that Jesus spoke about to His disciples (Jn: 4:31-32). And to our delight we are learning that serving God is living for Him, not working for Him.
The Bride’s greatest enemy may not be what we think it is. It is not persecution, because persecution purifies and strengthens her, transforming her into an overcomer. It is not even sin because sin has been defeated (Rom. 8.2,3). Her greatest enemy is compromise, those small daily compromises over matters of truth, righteousness, mercy and justice that nobody else seems to notice. No one likes a flirtatious bride except the one with whom she is flirting. Every small compromise where the values of God’s Kingdom are not honoured is a spiritual flirtation with the world.
In the wilderness we are immersed into the value system of the Kingdom of God. The lip service and double standards of false religion will not pass the test here. Here, where Christ is all, we learn to desire and value what He desires and values. We will seek to be righteous because He is our righteousness; we will love truth and justice because He is the Just and True; we will demonstrate mercy because He is merciful. And none of these will bear the hallmarks of religious works. Instead they will flow freely and in unlimited supply because we are learning what it is to not only live in the Spirit, but walk in the Spirit. Only as we learn to walk in the power and strength of the Spirit of God can the lust of the flesh be overcome (Gal. 5:16).
In Part Four of Lessons from the Wilderness we will continue to follow Jesus in His own wilderness journey to understand more about our own!
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.