9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.??10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11And a voice came from heaven, ???You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.?????12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.??13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,??15and saying, ???The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.???
???And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.??? ??Baptism is supposed to be one of the pinnacle moments of our coming to Jesus. ??We are initiated into Christ???s holy Church, the Body of Christ; we are recognized as being people grafted into the Vine (as John says), adopted as Children of God and identified as citizens of His Holy Kingdom. ??But here, Jesus is baptized and driven immediately out into a desert wilderness. ??Is that right? ??Is that how it???s supposed to begin for him? ??I would say, ???Yes.??? ??
Most people who have taken up the mantle of discipleship and become followers of Christ will testify that this was the moment when REAL LIFE began; when the devil began to throw the big rocks and the weight of the world felt heavier than ever. ??Life doesn???t get easier when you give your heart to God. ??In fact, it often times gets harder. ??Ah, but as a child of God you are now equipped with a strength that before you never you knew was at your disposal. ??You have grace???that undeserved favor of God that acts as your motor, pushing your fragile boat through the chaotic waters of this world. ??And that???s what Jesus took out into the wilderness with him???God???s grace.
There he learned what it meant to combat the devil, to ward off temptation, to successfully exist in a solitary place by drawing on divine strength. ??Jesus??? presence in this wilderness, this desert of solitude, is necessary. ??But why? ??Why could he not just receive his baptism, begin his ministry, and fight the devil in the streets of every town he walked into? ??Because Jesus had to go before us, to face the trials of everyone???s inner life, their secret life, the life of the heart. ??Just as he went before us in death on the cross, so Jesus has gone before us into the desert, to face the wiles of the evil one, to put himself through the time of trial. ??What Jesus experiences is what we all experience when we remove ourselves from the presence of the many distractions that we try so hard to maintain in our lives.
???But not me, Pastor. ??I don???t maintain distractions!??? ??Yes, you do. ??And I do, too. ??Distractions keep us busy, helping us to push to the background the things that ultimately require the greatest attention. ??We all prioritize, sure, but we prioritize things in the order that WE want. ??But what would our priorities look like if we let God organize them? ??What would your life look like today if you allowed God to determine for you what needed to come first and what needed to go last? ??Is there something anxious inside you when you hear it that way? ??What is it about your life that may be going on that you don???t really want to face? ??What is it that you don???t really want to stop and take care of, right now? ??What is it that you are afraid will catch you if you stop running?
This is precisely why the wilderness, the desert of solitude, is so very important to the spiritual life that Jesus is showing us in our passage this morning. ??The moment we begin to step away from the responsibilities we???ve chosen for ourselves, we are forced to begin to deal with the ringing in the ears of our souls. ??We???re uncomfortable with that ringing sound???the sound that keeps us awake in our spiritual night-times. ??We???ve become professionals at ignoring that sound, though; at numbing it so we don???t have to be conscious enough to hear it; at burying it, underneath a pile of other tasks and roles that take precedence over giving it any attention. ??But Jesus has gone to confront life, to give attention to the matters of the heart.
The wilderness provides for Jesus the perfect place for him to face head-on the most dangerous and most important aspect of the Christian life???the self. ??The one most ignored aspect of our spiritual lives tends to be ourselves. ??We spend countless time pointing our fingers at others and blaming things around us. ??But the one thing that is required of us in order to get a handle on our spiritual life is vulnerability, which enables us to fully rely on God. ??
The wilderness here represents the inward life???the secret place of our hearts, where only you know what???s going on. ??When we turn inward and face ourselves, we discover those things about us that need to be turned over to God. ??Honestly, discipleship is a constant handing over unto God those things that only he can care for. ??Half of us spend our lives trying to fix our own problems, while the other half is trying to bury them. ??But for us to see results in our spiritual lives, we must stop trying to fix a problem we can???t solve, we must uncover the issues we???ve buried so deep, and we must take them out into the wilderness where Christ waits to minister to us, as the angels did for him.
By going out alone, Jesus was able to face and overcome any fear that existed with the love that he had for God. ??In Matthew???s Gospel, we learn from this same account that the devil had 3 very specific temptations that he used to try and take Jesus??? love away from God. ??But each time, Jesus put God first in his heart as he said… ??
One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.??
Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.
Simply put: Jesus feeds on God???s word for his strength and nurturing; Jesus doesn???t put God to the test but obey???s God, knowing that God???s will is to care for him and for God???s people; and Jesus worships God alone, making God???s will his first priority.
During Lent, you???ll hear more about the importance of reflecting upon yourself. ??When we take the time to get to know ourselves, we come face-to-face with our fears, our doubts, our frailties, and our failures. ??But the key is turn these things over to God. ??To come clean concerning these things and allow God to minister to us the way he did for Jesus. ??When we face our temptations, armed with the love of God, we can then receive the ministry that God desires to pour out on us, so that we may engage the world in saving ministry. ??Being lights in a dark place means that we must first rid ourselves of darkness and be filled with the light of Christ! ??Be filled this morning and may Christ shine on you! ??Amen.??
Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor,??New Liberty United Methodist Church
Devotional Blog – http://devoblog.posterous.com
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