“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil”.
- Matthew 4:1
The Wilderness... this was the subject matter for Bishop Sherwood Carthen's (the first session speaker at this year’s National Youth Workers Convention) speech. He was a preacher far more than he was a speaker. On an insignificant side-note, I generally don’t learn the best from a southern Baptist preacher style delivery; it tends to beg for some shouts of ‘hallelujah’s’ more than I care for. Sherwood however – he had the room feeding out of his hands while reciprocating his amen’s.
It was undoubtedly his sermon that captivated my attention rather than his pulpit poundings. The wilderness is an uncomfortable experience that I intimately resonate with because of my own two-year journey. Sherwood used the foundation of Matthew 4 to ascend the audience into a greater understanding of the purposes behind Jesus being lead into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, and why the Spirit of God continues to lead his beloved into their own seasons of transformation.
Countless poignant enlightenments were made and the first of them was this - prior to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the Spirit led him into the wilderness. From here every other reason for the Spirit alluring Jesus stemmed forth, creating a gorgeous vine of humility, dependence, revelation, and blessing.
The lessons from the wilderness that were spoken consisted of the following:
1.) The wilderness crucifies false spirituality. It strips us naked of every façade.
2.) The wilderness reinforces our dependence upon God.
3.) The wilderness precedes revelation.
4.) The wilderness will always come before blessing.
5.) The wilderness is necessary to wash away all confidence we have in ourselves.
And the over-arching purpose of the wilderness is brokenness. Sweet broken humility. With each lesson I reflected upon the journey that The Spirit led me into. For two years I was crucified of my false coats of identity and the truth that my dependence, life, and love comes from Christ alone. Through my wilderness I was broken – completely and perfectly broken. And only after I was crushed, did revelation come to light. Only after I was standing naked before the cross did the blessings of God flow. Only after I was faced with my utter depravity was I able to rise as the mature bride of Christ. Just as the Son of God had to die in order to live, so too we must die.
What begins as a voyage of lonely pain and strong temptations comes out as a gleaming masterpiece of grace. Yes, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and the Spirit will lead those that He calls into a life of radiant surrender into the wilderness. Following Christ will cost you every comfort and sense of control. I have learned however, that to Not follow passionately after him is a much costlier price to pay.