Warrior in the Wilderness

Chapter 5.....Proceeding from the Conflict

NOW we come to the last of our studies, the end of the temptation. "When the Devil had ended all the temptation," says Luke, "he departed from Him for a season."

It is worth noticing, just in passing that the whole of these three temptations is now classed as one: " When the Devil had ended all the temptation. "- confirming the impression of persistent attack, unrelentless, and intense.

Try and forget all that you know about our Lord's subsequent life, so that you can see Him now, at the end of this temptation. The Devil has withdrawn, as far as temptation is concerned, for a little time, and Jesus is left.

He is left, first of all in a state of starvation. He has withstood the enemy, but God has not yet given Him bread. He has refused to take bread by Satan's methods, but so far He has not received bread by God's methods. He has been permitted to see the uselessness of religion that God does not work through the spectacular. That has been His standard, but so far God has not worked at all. There has been no progress by God's method. He has seen the grip of Satan on the nations, and He has refused to compromise, but so far the nations remain in the same tight, efficient grip and Satan has become a sworn, avowed enemy. That is the position such as we would have seen it externally, how we would we would have summed it up as the nett result of this titanic struggle in the wilderness. Our Lord has not conceded ground to Satan, but it is equally true to say that Satan has had to concede nothing to Him by way of his own ground.

I mention these points because I am touching upon the line of common experience, and it is helpful to read one's own experience in the experience of our Lord.

But there is a difference: a difference not to be discerned by the natural eye, but still an essential difference, to which Luke draws our attention most vividly. After having recorded that " The Devil, having ended all the temptation, he departed from Him for a season," he adds: " And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee."

Now if you look at the beginning of that chapter in Luke's Gospel, the fourth chapter, you read this: " And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness." He came from the Jordan " full " of the Spirit; He came out of the wilderness "in the power of " the Spirit. Now that is a marked difference, experimentally as well as doctrinally. To be ""full " of the Spirit is different from being ""filled " with the Spirit. In Scripture, as a rule, when a person is "filled" with the Spirit it is occasional and critical, for some special occasion, as for instance, when Peter was speaking to Cornelius he was " filled with the Spirit." But to be full of the Spirit is not so much a condition; it is a habit of soul. It is very seldom mentioned in Scripture. Barnabas we are told was a "good man and full of the Holy Spirit" and twice it is recorded of Stephen that he was "full of the Holy Spirit." But after Barnabas and Stephen, none other in Scripture, save our Lord is declared to be " full of the Holy Spirit." And as One, who was full of the Holy Spirit, He had withstood Satan in the wilderness. Now He comes out from the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit; a difference that is represented by His victory over temptation.

These differences are important. You will note further that our Lord before Calvary, was One " full of the Spirit," but after Calvary, when He had gone to His death and had been raised from the grave, He became One Who could impart the Spirit; was able to communicate Him.

Therefore let us recognise: You can be a true Christian you may have had an experience of God the Holy Spirit even through the Baptismal waters, and yet not know the power of God, the Holy Spirit.

That comes not when we have completed our duties Godwards, but when like our Lord, we have faced up to Satan.

I think perhaps that is the weakness of Convention life in this country. We go to Conventions, and there is response and surrender and yielding. There is a glorious response Godwards, and yet who of us does not know that there is a terrible shrinking manwards and Satanwards? Good Christians, but not overcomers!

Now from that time, says Matthew, from the time when our Lord came back from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit, He passed from the passive to the aggressive. He was no longer content to take a passive attitude of resistance, but an Aggressor, a Challenger: and He did that, not because of feelings, but because of spiritual facts.

He came out of the desert in the power of the Spirit. He came to Nazareth, His home where He was brought up. Where, as St. Luke has told us already: " He was subject to His parents." And He walked into the synagogue. He had been there perhaps seven weeks before. He had gone there with His parents. He had gone there on the Sabbath day, like every other member of the community. Now, on this Sabbath day, having passed through an experience entirely unknown to anybody but himself, he walked into the synagogue.

The eyes of all those who were present were fixed on Him. He took hold of the roll of the prophet Isaiah. He took it down, unfolded the roll and began to read: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." Oh, every Rabbi had uttered those words from time to time when this particular Scripture came to be read. Now He reads .it. " The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." So He goes on to preach "the acceptable year of the Lord." Then He added: " This day the Scripture has been fulfilled. " That is to say: " You people in the synagogue, you know this is the declaration of the Messiah: now this very instant, as I utter these words, they have become true on My lips; they are true of Me. The Scripture is now being fulfilled in Me."

You do not wonder the congregation looked at Him! They had been familiar with the droning out of Scripture all through the decades, and now One stands and says: " Here it is; this message which has come down through the centuries, finds its fulfilment in this very moment: I am the Messiah: In Me there is deliverance for the captive.

Oh, if there is one thing that He has learned in the wilderness it is the reality of the captivity of men, in their souls, in the sphere of religion; in their bodies, in the sphere of economics, in their whole governmental economy, and in the sphere of internationalism, they are in the grip of Satan. " The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me to deliver men out of it; to give recovery of sight to the blind. You people, you who have been blinded all through the years, you have never seen the realities of God, you have got eyes but you see not, and God has given Me the commission to open your eyes." Men do not like to be told they are blind.

Matthew tells us it was not long afterwards, down by the sea shore, He was talking to the fishermen, and with acute discernment saying to this one and that one: " Follow Me, I will make you fishers of men." He revealed a mind embracing a worldwide vision, a glorious task.

And He performed miracles, miracles of healing, communicating life to tortured bodies and suffering minds, so much so that when they had heard Him in the synagogue and had turned with that open contempt that is characteristic of the mind that cannot solve a problem, they said, "Is not this the son of Joseph? We know Him; He cannot impose upon us; we know whence He comes." But He insists, "Do you understand this: there were many widows in Israel, but when Elijah needed succour he was not sent to a single widow in Israel, save unto Sarepta. There were hundreds of lepers in Israel, but when God would heal a leper, He never healed the unbelieving Israelite: He healed Naaman the Syrian."

And they were filled with wrath, and would have cast Him out! But as they try to cast Him down from the dizzy height outside the city, He sees Satan now trying to do by brute force, what he has tried to do by insinuation in the wilderness. The Satanic hand has now taken the glove off to reveal the naked enmity of the powers of darkness.

What is this power? Well, this is the power of the Holy Spirit: the putting into action of the resolve to do the Will of God. Satan resolved to test that and possibly to break it. The critical thing in the life of' everyone of us is when the Truth of God has broken upon our souls, and, we having seen it, are resolved - resolved -that the Will of God shall be done. By every artifice Satan will keep us back from the authority of the Will of God. If like our Lord, we come to the place where we have recognised the authority, he will test out the resolve. But the man who becomes critical to Satan is the man who is determined to do the will of God. And that is a wilderness struggle for any man who knows spiritual experience. You come to the place where the resolve is made, after a struggle as intense, in measure, as our Lord had in the wilderness-a resolve that the Will of God is going to be done.

From that moment Jesus went forth to preach, to teach, to deliver, to heal and to bless! Now as I come to the summing up of this study of the temptation, let me ask this. What of ourselves? And because I want you to search yourself, I ask the same of myself ? For this is a plain statement of fact. You and I have been caught in the toils of the tempter. However much we have come to any place of blessing, and however much we may find in the wilderness experience that which corresponds with our own experience, everyone of us has to say " If only I had stood like He stood, how different life would be!"

That is a useless thought. It is entirely vain. It only leads to depression of the spirit. The fact is, we have failed! But, blessed be God, when our Lord took the victory He took that victory not merely for Himself, He took it for you, He took it for me. What does that mean? It means this, surely, that it is an actual fact that if I have failed, yet by the Grace of God I can be brought to the position where I get the fruits of victory, not through myself, but through Him.

And it is into that, that I want to look for a moment, to make it perfectly clear. I want you to have the fruits of His victory.

So where shall we start? Well, there must first of all be confession of sin. You never get very far with God without that. Confession of sin may be considered in three distinct directions.

First, has God brought you to this that you are now confesssing sins which, a few years ago, never seemed to you to be sins ? Others may be calling you narrowminded, but it is inescapable to you. Five years ago you would never have put the label " sin there", but you do now. Thank God for that.

Secondly, are you now conscious that God, in His mercy gives you a very quick prompting to confession; that somehow or other it is not long after the commission of a sin, before the Spirit of God is touching the conscience, bringing commission and confession into, close proximity? - Do you experience that? The bigger the gap between comission and confession, the greater the distance in fellowship between yourself and your Heavenly Father. A prompt confession of sin that is much more than asking for forgiveness is what God requires. It is confession that is needed, confession that declares sin in the same detail as it is presented to the conscience. So many ask for forgiveness whereas God pledges forgiveness whenever confession is made and it is the confession that is all important. It is the sin that is confessed that God forgives.

The third thing is this that God will take you through a strange experience. He will take you back to the confession of sins hidden in the recesses of the past that were never perhaps recognised as sin or truly confessed or covered b the Blood of Christ, through faith. You will discover that God's Holy Spirit will take you back even perhaps to childhood and school-days, and in a strange way you will be constrained to go over it again, and tell God there was sin there that really you felt was long ago disposed of.

Now out of that confession, God will do two things.

He will give forgiveness and He will give cleansing. You will remember when the high priest; was consecrated there was blood placed upon the right ear, that his hearing might be cleansed; and blood upon the thumb that his actions might be cleansed, and blood on the great toe of the right foot, that his walk might be cleansed. When the blood had been placed upon the ear and the thumb and the big toe, then oil was placed on the blood on the car, on the thumb and on the big toe, that where the blood had been applied for cleansing, the Spirit of God would come in to give capacity for the new life. That is always God's ministry. As soon as sin is confessed, the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin and God the Holy Spirit comes in with all the strength of God, to that very place where sin has abounded. A wonderful thing! Power to conquer where we have fallen.

Take that position quickly, in faith; because it means that you are in very truth right at the brink of Revival. God is showing you now what there was of failure when you were tested out in your wilderness. Let it be confessed unreservedly, and renounced.

And be sure that as soon as it is confessed from the heart, the Blood becomes active, and the Spirit of God becomes creative. Do not doubt. Then you will step out to know Revival. What sort of Revival? Well, the revival of Satanic energy. Do you know why there is so much demon activity in the Gospels? It is because our Blessed Lord was such a Prince of God. He it was Who challenged the depths of Hell. Do you know why demon activity slumbers to-day, in our Churches ? Because we are not challenging the depths of Hell. Who is the man who laughs about demons? Why, the man who is not going on with God. Where are the Churches that say: " We do not believe in demons?" They are the Churches who do not believe in Prayer Meetings and do not believe in conversions. It is impossible to go on with God without coming face to face in the wilderness with the powers of darkness.

So we may expect demons to be active. If you step into it you will see how active the powers of darkness can be. You may expect an increase of the enmity of man. Do you know why a lot of people are so nice to us as Christians? Because we do not challenge them. We try to be kind and it is right we should; we try to be courteous, but we do not challenge them about their need of Christ. We are passive, we are pre-wilderness Christians!

But then, they marvelled at His grace. John Wesley, we are told by his biographer, was a man possessed of amazing grace. Never did he lose his temper, and always was he prepared to endure a blow, if the dealing of it would, relieve the hysteria of his assailant. Repeatedly, when struck by a stone or a cudgel, he quietly wiped the blood away and went on preaching, without as much as a frown on his face. That is grace.

Are these things real? Are we coming out of the wilderness to be aggressive for God? John Wesley it is recorded, was never in conversation with a man more than a minute or two by himself, before he spoke to him about his need of a Saviour. When we begin to interpret the Will of God like that, the power of the Spirit will come upon us, for that is God's Will and purpose.

Think of it! Thirty years of passive life. Nearly thirty years He had lived a passive life, until He came to the Jordan and was baptised and the windows of heaven were opened. Then forty days, having passed through the hunger of the wilderness, He came out in the power of God, the Holy Spirit.

How long have you lived? Have you lived the thirty years? The forty? The fifty? And yet they are still the silent years of Nazareth- not sinful years, but silent years. And yet it may be that in experience as we close this study, you have passed through the forty days, and you are confident God hears your cry.

Are you going forth to do the will of God, at all costs, in the power of the Spirit?

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