This article will attempt to answer the following questions that are common to wilderness saints [those who have left the tenets of organized religion and mainstream, cultural Christianity]:
Why are we in the wilderness?
What is the purpose of the wilderness?
How does the wilderness experience alter how I practice my faith?
Why won’t others listen to us when we try to tell them what the Lord has shown us?
Our lives are prophetic outpourings of the Spirit’s manifestation.
We see this in Jesus’s life (John 5:19, 12:49)–and we know likewise that it is true in our lives as well–as we are all following the narrow path that Christ forged for us in the wilderness:
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.
We have not left the system of organized religion of our own accord:the Holy Spirit has driven us into the wilderness.
Those who condemn us condemn God.
Yet, we are comforted by this simple truth: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (Romans 12:1).
And Jesusbeing full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, andwas led by the Spirit into the wilderness… and when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
–Luke 4:1, 13-14
Notice, Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost when He entered the desert, but He returned from His wilderness experience in the power of the Spirit.
The purpose of the wilderness is as follows:
To teach us how to walk alone with God.
To teach us how to worship in Spirit and truth with our brethren.
To remove the leaven of corruptible habits and beliefs.
To receive the vision of the Lord.
To prepare us for ministry.
Pointedly, there are aspects of understanding the Lord’s vision that are reserved for those in the wilderness.
Consequently, those who are still entangled in the trappings of religion possess a fragmented understanding and view of the new and better way of living that Christ made available to us through His sacrificial, atoning death: and this corruption infects the manner in which they practice their faith.
So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness:and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
Like John, on the Isle of Patmos, most of what we learn about God should come from God Himself. The wilderness experience grants us intimacy with God, as He tutors us Personally in His word and the ministry of His Spirit.
Of course, with great liberty comes great responsibility and personal accountability to God to leave the secret, hidden desires of the heart [as He reveals them], including the rudimentary principles and customs of this world [those culturally comfortable habits that minster to the flesh].
The narrow way is restrictive to the flesh, as Jesus noted in His conversation with the leaders of the religious system in His day:
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.(1) And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.(2) And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.(3) The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.(4) And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.(5)
A few points relative to the above passage and corresponding numbers:
We cannot walk with Jesus in the wilderness, until we are willing to be accountable to His standard of righteousness and justice.
The personal attacks against Christ [and those today who herald the liberty of Christ] are attempts to deflect from assuming responsibility for the forbidden, secret loves and hidden, sensuous desires of the heart.
The fact that religious errors are popular does not excuse the sins of those who practice them.
The narrow way is not an easy path. Notice, we must press into the kingdom of God, for traversing the passage comes at a cost to the flesh. For example, the scriptures record that Jesus set His face like a flint for Jerusalem (Isaiah 50:7; Luke 9:51). In another passage, Jesus proclaims, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force,” (Matthew 11:12). The violence that is done is to our flesh [our sinful propensities and worldly inclinations].
God will not alter His truths or change His mind about any of these things.
We who have been called to prepare the way for the Lord’s return [like John the Baptist who prepared the people for His first coming] must content ourselves with locusts and wild honey and the affirmations of God, instead of men:
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Those who refuse to hear the voices of saints crying out in the wilderness provide a silent testimony of their yoke to the things of old, that which has perished for the lack of using: things which neither profit nor inspire.
We know this is true because, if they are even willing to admit the errors of organized religion [that which is organized and inspired by man, instead of God], they refuse to leave it.
Rather, they attempt [at best] to reform it from within [and many simply prefer its errors to the truth].
God does not initiate reform movements; man does. What Christians have historically thought of as reform movements are simply God’s invitation to leave man-inspired religion altogether.
Yet, men would not answer the call because it requires them to forsake all of their father’s traditions [like Paul did] and trust God alone in the wilderness, counting all things but dung compared to the excellency of Christ: as much as they may claim to love God, they are not willing to suffer the loss of some things for Jesus’ sake (Philippians 3:8).
All reform movements are works of the flesh[for they are an attempt to take something the Holy Spirit has given us and infuse it into an old wineskin manner of understanding and practice]. We know this is true because they inevitably fail to deliver men from the bondage that inspires error, which is a ritualized practice of religion that restricts the liberty of the saints under the guise of offering some form of protection to the people, as if the ministry of the Holy Spirit is insufficient to protect them harm.It is impossible to reform a system that is founded upon the ministry of men in place of the ministry of God.
Moses attempted to initiate a reformation movement when he slew the Egyptian for beating the people of God (Exodus 2:11-12): notice, it did nothing to improve the lives of God’s people because it left them trapped in bondage.
Moses’ passion was admirable, but his efforts were misguided, as his sense of righteousness and justice strayed far from the mark that God desired to establish: he overshot righteousness because his wrath did not work the righteousness of God; and he undershot justice because God desired to draw His people entirely out of bondage (James 1:20).
To be effectual, the gift of God must be tempered by maturity [godly character].
Notice, Moses was not qualified to lead Israel out of bondage, until he first spent time alone in the wilderness with God: the wilderness experience removes the leaven from our lives and consecrates as holy vessels fit for use in a great house.
Those who point out the errors operating in the denominational systems [and their non-denominational off-springs] are rejected on the basis that ‘they will not honor the customs of the Pharisees,’ even as Jesus was rejected for destroying the old covenant temple He built by His obedience, a temple He had every right to destroy (Hebrews 8:13).
Yet, even upon the cross, He was mocked for His obedience to the Father:
Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Jesus built the Old Testament temple through perfect obedience to the commandments of God, only to destroy it by laying down His life in atonement for sin, and by this sacrifice building a new temple in His people by the power of Grace.
Yet, still today, those who acknowledge His work on the cross, not only for salvation but for teaching us a new and better way of living with God, are mocked for their obedience to the Father’s will.
Therefore, let us rejoice in these condemnations, as they are proofs of our obedience!
We were always meant to worship in the wilderness: for it represents the death of the old man [old ways and understandings of how to worship God] for all those who are crucified in Christ [and then raised to newness of life].
Tragically, most of what passes for spiritual peace and order in the traditional churches today is nothing more than cultural conformity promoted by the political-ecclesiastical leadership of men.
Those trapped in the bondage of vain, religious practies are in many cases saved, but they are miserably saved: like the Jews who could not enter into the rest of God’s salvation due to unbelief, many modern saints cannot enter into the rest of a new and perfect way of living.
Just as truly as Paul said of the Jews in his day, we can say of many of the people of God in our time that there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God; but they cannot enter it until they cease from their own works, as God did from His (Hebrews 4:9-10).
It is appropriate to cease from the trappings of man-made religion once that which is perfect has come, even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: we may not have received the possession of our full inheritance [our glorified bodies], but at least we should walk in the truth of the Savior (1 Corinthians 13:10).
And here is a picture of the life of God’s wilderness saints:
Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place. Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.
It has always been God’s plan to lead His people into the wilderness.