What If God Is Leading Us Into the Wilderness?

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)

What if God is leading us into the wilderness? As I’ve written before, the wilderness is that place of judgment, purification, and renewal with God. What purpose does God have for such a work in our lives? In Deuteronomy, Moses offers insight about it:

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Moses reminds the people that the wilderness was God’s way of humbling and testing them on their way to the Promised Land, and it serves a similar purpose in God’s work with us.

The wilderness humbles us as we are brought face to face with our weakness and inadequacies. God wants us to realize our own powerlessness, so that we might turn to Him. The Apostle Paul experienced a wilderness of his own weakness revealed with a persistent thorn in his flesh. While we do not know exactly what that thorn was, the wilderness experience led Paul into an encounter with the all-sufficient grace of God. In light of God’s grace, he declared: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The humbling of the wilderness brings us into that true encounter with our need and God’s provision.

The wilderness also tests and reveals what is truly in our hearts. When we are brought to the end of ourselves—humbled more than ever before—what we love and who we are is brought out into the light. We cannot hide it any longer, even from ourselves. Of course, God does not need to test us to see what is in our hearts. He already knows it. But He tests us so that we, too, might honestly see who we are and what we love, and be moved toward change through that testing.

There is humbling upon humbling in the wilderness. It is not easy and we often resist it. But through the wilderness, God intends to bring us to a crossroads. At that crossroads, we grapple with many penetrating questions. Will we serve God or serve ourselves? Will we build our lives around love for God or around love for ourselves? Will we walk in obedience to God or obey other masters? Will we bow down to God or bow before other false gods? The wilderness forces us to wrestle with these questions beyond superficiality and into the deep places of our souls.

In the wilderness, we are humbled and tested. The wilderness is a great revealer in the spiritual life. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can be assured that God has a purpose. He takes us into the wilderness both for our good and His glory in us. May we respond to Him—and not flee from Him—when He leads us into the wilderness.

The Way of the Wilderness

As we continued our series “Power in Preparation” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church my good friend, Will Branch, explored Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11. I appreciated the insights that Will shared in this message, and I hope you are encouraged by it as well.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Matthew 4:1

The Wilderness: Where will my provision come from?

The Wilderness: Where will my protection come from?

The Wilderness: Where will my praise go?

The Weekend Wanderer: 31 October 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Abood - Asher Imtiaz“Grace Under Pressure: A photo essay” – A friend, Asher Imtiaz, has a very special photo essay in Comment that I would encourage you to take a look at. Asher writes: “I have been doing documentary photography for almost a decade now. Very early I asked myself this question: Why do I take photographs? The answer was: to honour people living under pressure. To give those who we consider as other’ a voice and a story….So when in 2016 I finally decided to start a long-term, self-assigned project to collect stories and photographs of immigrants, I wanted to produce work that is not just a report. Work that would evoke enough feeling in people to change their attitudes about immigrants. In the process, I found myself changed.”


George Yancey“I see nothing, I know nothing!!!” – George Yancey writes an extended blog post jumping off from his observations of Professor Eddie Glaude in his encounter with Rod Dreher on the Morning Joe show. As a sociologist and conservative Christian, Yancey explores how bias against conservative Christians in academia parallels other biases we have. The post is wide-ranging but looks at the interplay between our blindspots, the evidence we need of wrong in differing domains, and how that shapes who we defend and who we do not.


public engagement“The Early Church Saw Itself as a Political Body. We Can Too.” John Piper’s article that I shared last week highlighted one of the weaknesses of 20th century Christianity: we do not have a very well-considered theology of public engagement that touches on the individual and the corporate aspects of what God’s kingdom looks like. This is at least part of what I was trying to get at in the five-week series we walked through on the kingdom of God recently at Eastbrook. Tish Harrison Warren looks at the issue from a different angle in this recent essay in Christianity Today: “We have an impoverished and inadequate political theology. It took us generations to get here, and this one election, regardless of the results, will not undo that. So before we know who wins or loses, we as a church must begin to reexamine how the good news of Jesus shapes us politically.”


Nice attack“Three dead as woman beheaded in attack in French church” – France has faced shocking events in the past weeks with religious-based extremist violence. Just a couple days ago, an attack at Notre Dame church in Nice left three people dead. This followed an earlier attack just  over a week ago where a schoolteacher was killed in a suburb of Paris after exhibiting satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in a lesson on free speech.  This is part of a long conflict around a series of depictions of the Prophet Muhammed that goes back to 2005. Let’s all pray for wisdom, peace, and healing in France and for an end to acts of terror, reprisals, or mistreatment in any direction.


Wilton Gregory“Wilton Gregory: Pope Francis names first African-American cardinal” – “Pope Francis has said he will appoint 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals, among them the first African-American clergyman. The Pope announced the 13 cardinals from eight nations in a surprise address from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday. Wilton Daniel Gregory, the progressive 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington DC, will be one of them. The cardinals will be installed in a ceremony at the Vatican on 28 November. Cardinals are the most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church below the pontiff.”


The_Temptation_of_Christ_by_the_Devil-768x402“Forget the Horns. Ditch the Pitchfork. What Do We Really Know about the Devil?” – One of the questions I often receive as a pastor is from folks wanting to know about this or that term or idea in the Scripture. One of the most frequent is related to the devil or to demons. I came across this simple summary of our understanding of the devil at the Lexham Press blog and thought I’d share it for those who are interested in the biblical backgrounds related to our understanding of the devil or Satan.


Music: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Killing the Blues,” from Raising Sand

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

A Crash Course in Spiritual Conflict (Ephesians 6:10-24)

Ephesians

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I concluded our series “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity.” I explored Ephesians 6:10-24 through the message: “A Crash Course in Spiritual Conflict.” This is the well-known “armor of God” passage, with a lot of attention to the principalities and powers that we as Christians face in our earthly sojourn.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

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||40days|| week one: a journey like Jesus

Can you imagine 40 days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness? That was Jesus’ journey as recorded  in the Gospels. As it says in Mark 1:12-13: “At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” Matthew and Luke tell us of the encounter Jesus had with the evil one himself during this trying time (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

This ||40days|| journey leads us into the desert like Jesus, where we will struggle with the raw temptations and trials that the evil one puts before us. We face the cravings of the world that the Apostle John described as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16, NIV).

Watch this video below, Read More »