A Walk into the Wilderness

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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.”

There’s Jesus. He’s a 30 year old carpenter about to begin a 3 year ministry that changes all of human history and its future, and he’s emerging from the waters of the Jordan River. The hand of John the Baptist lifting him up – “He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” Yes, Jesus is the Son of the Most High, but he’s also a human at this point. Imagine yourself in his shoes. “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'” Mark 1: 10-11

Have you ever been baptized for real? Not as an infant. But by decision led by the Spirit? For me, it was 3 years ago. 2013. I was baptized as a baby in the United Methodist Church. But God put in my heart a deep desire to make a more conscious decision. A commitment. The image I’ve chosen for this entry was taken from that day in the very spot. Honeymoon Island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Dunedin, Florida. I sat my beach chair up on a non-crowded weekday morning and gazed out over the gulf. It was just me playing the role of both baptizer and the baptized. I’d long since publically declared my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my salvation. This was a moment with just God and his servant. I walked far out into the shallow waters until I felt it was right. There is a sandbar a good bit offshore, and I walked out to it in chest high water until I could sit.

I was very calm and I prayed in those calm green waters. Then I submerged my entire head in the act of baptism and then emerged back to the surface. Fate sealed. The heavens didn’t tear open when I looked up into the sky. My Father didn’t speak to me in the form of a dove. But, with me, he was well pleased. My heart told me so. Then he sent me into the wilderness.

Funny, it says in Mark that Jesus was with the wild animals. Right after this moment, I was walking back towards shore about waist deep and I turned around just to admire where I was. I saw a large black shadow coming in my general direction. It was a shark. It swam about 10-15 feet in front of me at an angle as I stood perfectly still. As the shark swam away from where I was, I briskly walked back to my chair. I never did panic. From a human standpoint, I figured it was black tip which are common in the area and mostly harmless, and from a spiritual standpoint, if God wanted me to get eaten that day at least I knew where I was going. But the wilderness…

Jesus had just entered his ministry moments earlier. God the Father came to celebrate his baptism. Then he’s immediately sent to the wilderness for 40 days. With Satan. The ultimate on-the-job training. There was no tote back of literature for him to peruse. “Hmm, I like the sound of this chick by the well in Samaria. I think I’ll choose that option as my assignment.” God sent him right away to be hammered by Satan for 40 days. Starved, tempted, mentally strained, and relentlessly tested of his loyalty. He only answered Satan in scripture. Never bargained. Never reasoned. Never waivered. Never caved. Scripture. He passed the test.

It’s a good thing I’m not Jesus. We’d all be in a big peck of trouble. After the shark, and in these past 3 years, my Father has sent me into the wilderness too. I’m there again right now during Lent. My call is not to bear the sins of all mankind so that we may live. I’m just to be a messenger. That’s it. Pretty simple job really. I screw it up all the time. Royally. The sins Jesus would take to the cross with him being the reason. I’m not capable of such and I badly needed rescued. God rescued me that morning in the Gulf of Mexico. Now he cleans me up, he purges me with both fire and love, and he uses me. The single greatest moment of my existence was dunking my head in that water by my own choice.

Have you had that moment? Have you been to the wilderness afterwards? It’s a horrible place, but filled with His grace and His glory. Before my baptism I failed in the wilderness each and every time. It was a 100% certainty that whatever I was trying to defeat on my own, would easily defeat me and would become worse. Every. Single. Time. Then I submitted it all to my King. I began to know victory. Glorious, eternal, life-giving victory. This is gone. That is gone. More still to be purged. So much more.

The Spirit hugs me now when I pray. There is a voice in my ear that tells me not to be afraid. I cry almost daily in worship. I went about 15-20 years of my life never shedding a single tear. Now I can’t shut it off even if I wanted to. My heart is of the living Christ and let me tell you, He FEELS THINGS. Deeply. What is it that’s blocking you from him? What do you think you can’t be forgiven for? I see so many good people’s hearts that are so lost in that same wilderness, but the angels are powerless to attend to them. They sink slowly into the darkness refusing to take the hand of salvation. Why?

If you read this post all the way through then God has meant for you to have his message. He wants to rescue you. Wash you. Purge you. Pull those demons away and give you the peace you’ve never dreamed could come. Speak to him now. Tomorrow the window might close. My prayers are with you.

Peace.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

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