What does it look like to Dwell with God, in the desert?
In today’s passage in Luke 4, Jesus is led into the desert for forty days, for a really hard time of temptation. If you’ve been in church for a while you have probably heard the story. But this time when I read it I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. He’s dwelling with the spirit when he goes into the desert, and still seems to be when he leaves. In fact when he goes in it says “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit … was led by the Spirit into the wilderness”. And as he leaves the wilderness verse 14 says, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” Maybe dwelling with the spirit has something to do with being able to resist temptation. If we could learn how to DWELL with the Holy Spirit, would we be able to be more holy?
Another interesting thing is that when Jesus is tempted, he responds with quotes from Deuteronomy. But back in Deuteronomy where he’s quoting from, guess what they were doing. They were walking through a desert. 40 years like Jesus’ 40 days. But was the spirit with them during this time? You bet! Do you remember the pillar of smoke and flames that led them? But they weren’t doing so well with resisting temptation. But still God did not abandon them. Here’s what he did.
He calls Moses up onto a mountain right in front of the people. And he shook the mountain with an earthquake. He set the mountain on fire. There was a huge storm cloud that descended on it. A big crazy, scary mess. It personally made me think of the Wizard of Oz, when they come to the wizard and he’s surrounded by a big voice, lots of smoke and fire, but they discover behind a curtain it’s just a sad man trying to sound big. I wondered why would God want to try and look so big? Anyway, as the people watched Moses, he went up to meet with God. And while he was up there God said, “I've decided to make you my nation, if you will just obey me.” Well when he comes down to tell the people what he said, the people say, “Keep that guy away from us! He’s too big and scary.” And I can almost hear Moses’ heart break because he realizes they totally misinterpreted what God wants. He says, “He didn't want you to be scared of Him! He still wants to live intimately with you. He just wants you to be scared of sinning!”
And I think maybe this is how we should dwell with God. Intimately close to a God that has a passion for our sinlessness.
I like to picture him as my heart’s roommate. Sitting on a couch next to my soul, closer than my sin, closer than what anybody thinks of me, closer than my performance, closer than my history. We can tell him anything on our heart. In fact he prefers us to be honest. If we were to pray most of the psalms from the pulpit, it would make us uncomfortable because the psalmists are so honest.
But he wants us to be honest so he can be intimate with us. And He also wants us to be holy. He knows what we can become.
I remember recently I had to repent of something I had done very wrong. And then in church that week when we were singing songs about God’s great forgiveness. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of His beautiful grace, I found myself wanting to find more sins I could surrender to him as well. And I loved the feeling of being freed from that thing that had been holding me back. The rest of that day I just felt like I was living in His purpose for me. My interactions were richer. I could be my true self, not hiding anything. My words were more sincere. And I loved how it felt like God used me even more when my heart wasn’t encumbered by sins that brought me down.
So maybe tomorrow as you sit down for prayer, remember he is intimately close and cares infinitely for you, but also that this powerful God is big enough to shake mountains and has a passion for our sinlessness.
If you have a scary God in your head, remember that he wants to be near and intimate with you. If you have a buddy Jesus in your head who is simply there for your comfort, remember that he is also the holiest, biggest most powerful thing in the universe and he wants us to stop sinning.
If we could hold both of those in tension, maybe we could resist temptation and experience more intimacy with God?
To read a story about what it's like to dwell with God and how he purifies us, click here.