Being without a church home is what some call “being in the wilderness.” This message will show why God leads his children through the wilderness and why it’s necessary.
Originally published February 19th, 2017. Updated with sermon audio on January 16th, 2019.
The wilderness is defined as an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. In history, Israel was led into the wilderness after leaving Egypt (Exodus 5:1). Much later on, the Hebrews under Roman rule, were led into the wilderness to listen to John the Baptist prepare them for the coming of the Son of God (John 1:23-27). Jesus was led into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1). Today, the Saints, figuratively, are led into the wilderness after leaving the false church system.
In all the instances above, God led people into the wilderness, and he led them out. So, it’s important to note that the wilderness is temporary. Being without a church home is temporary.
Every time God took his people through a hard place he cared for them. God fed and clothed John while he preached in the wilderness, angels were sent to serve Jesus after he passed his tests, and God provided manna, quail, and water from a rock for Israel. So we have to believe that God will take care of us while we’re in the wilderness.
What’s the wilderness for?
In three words: separation for preparation. While some might think being away from the Body of Christ is a dangerous thing, I know it to be a good thing (for a season). I believe all Saints have to go through it, and as I said before, they won’t be alone—God is with them. I know it can be painful, but you should liken the experience to pruning, as Jesus mentioned in John 15:1-2.
Just like Israel had enough of the bondage of Egypt and cried out for salvation, you too, realizing the bondage of the church system, and wanting freedom, were released by God.
The Institutional Church was just one of the worldly systems that held you captive until God delivered you. In some way, being apart of the false church system was the Lord’s test to see if you longed for God’s kingdom or a religious version of Satan’s. You passed the test, now it’s time to travel through the wilderness to prepare.
Prepare for what, you say?
For Israel, it was understanding who God was and preparing for life in the Promised Land. For John the Baptist’s students, it was receiving the coming Messiah. For the Son of God, the wilderness was preparation for his upcoming ministry. For the saints, it’s all the above. Before we talk about preparation, I need to talk about the importance of separation for a season.
Separation and holiness
God says, “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). To be holy means to be sacred, a saint, set apart. God can’t transform your life while you’re joined to a congregation that’s polluting your soul every week. So he separates you.
Contrary to what some might say, you can’t eat the meat and spit out the bones—you will choke at the table of Jezebel. So the Lord calls you completely to himself, away from the drama and theatrical shows, where it’s quiet so he can speak to you.
If you’ve been in the wilderness for some time, you may have noticed your Bible studies have been extremely revealing—nothing compared to what you got Wednesday nights at church. It’s because the Spirit is speaking through the Bible now, and not some carnal man and his misinterpretation.
While you may be without a physical teacher, God has used anointed ministries online who’ve taught you things you would’ve never known if you hadn’t left the false church system.
Also, being apart from a group allows God to strengthen you to stand alone. The wilderness breaks that crowd dependency we all have in us, leaving the Spirit as our only support—which is how it’s suppose to be in the first place.
Some people feel if they don’t have a fellowship to keep them accountable, they’ll fall off and die. My questions to those people are: Who is empowering you? Is it the Holy Spirit, or mere humans?
A complete dependency on God is the norm and the main thing you’ll learn as you journey through the wilderness. With that said, let’s look at all the wilderness is designed to do for you.
Preparation for the Promised Land
God showed Israel he was a deliverer from slavery, the god above all other gods, the provider of all needs, healer and much more. He taught them holiness and the difference between right and wrong.
After the Lord had revealed his character, he made a covenant that stated if they continued to keep his laws, he would bless them, and if not, the curses would fall on them (Deuteronomy 28).
So the wilderness was used as a place to help Israel learn God’s way of life so they could hold on to his blessings. This new lifestyle often meant cutting off certain people—people who wouldn’t go along with the program. Unfortunately, many Israelites had to die before they could enter the Promise Land.
Likewise, with us, God must clarify who he is. The worldly church systems gave us a false image of Christ, our Father, and the Holy Spirit. We were deceived. God wants to correct that in the wilderness. He wants to show you who he is so you can testify, “I know God is a provider, a healer, a deliverer… because he did it for me.” No longer do you believe because the Bible says so but from personal experience.
You’ll also learn about the new Promised Land, the Kingdom of God, and everything he has in store for us. So during the journey, expect to hear a lot from God through Bible study, prayer, fasting, and even online teachers. He’s preparing you for eternal citizenship in his kingdom.
Preparation for fellowship
God is also preparing you for fellowship with the rest of his family on earth. But too many of us aren’t ready due to open wounds. We’ve been abused, and have yet to go to God and be healed. If the Lord placed some of us in a godly fellowship today, we’d be more of a problem than a help.
God is aware of this and wants to repair us so we can be an asset to the Body and not a liability. The Church is on the mission to save souls, and its members must be emotionally mature. New converts can’t come into the church just to be abused and experience the same stuff from the world forced on them. Therefore, the wilderness is for repair and healing of his children.
Just like a person shouldn’t jump into a new relationship shortly after a messy breakup, likewise, Saints must take some time off from fellowship and heal after breaking up with Satan. Side note: Humility speeds up the healing.
Preparation for Ministry
We all have a purpose. You’re not some spectating-tithing-focus-on-the-family-attendee as these delusional pastors would lead you to believe. No. You have a specific purpose. You’ve been given special abilities—gifts—to help in the expansion and maintenance of the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit wants to prepare you for use.
This is why it’s so important for Christians who know they called to be leaders to detox from the world. Too many leaders see the evil in the false church and rightfully reject it, only to start a ministry and bring along other elements of the wicked system. The end result is another Babylon church—this has to stop happening.
Future leaders must count everything they know as dung, as Paul did, and exchange it for Christ (Phil 3:8). Teachers, pastors, and prophets must do a complete detox, hit the reset button, and relearn everything they thought they knew.
All that seminary schooling, years of Wednesday night teachings, and hours of audio sermons must be questioned. What I mean is that you need to study the Bible with fresh eyes, with no filters in place, no denominational biases, or preconceived world views, just you, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit.
If you’re humble enough and love the truth he’ll reveal to you whether or not your beliefs are sound. I’ve personally found that most of what I was taught was inaccurate and the rest was flat out lies.
Sadly, too many new evangelists and apostles ever detox. They’re ambitious and proud, looking to build the next great thing without a firm grasp on the Kingdom of God!
Brothers hit the reset button! Don’t repeat the same mistakes of your predecessors! Let the wilderness cleanse you to be effective for the Body of Christ, and not just another producer of false Christians.
The wilderness teaches discernment
In the wilderness, you will learn discernment. Part of the detox will leave you angry as you realize you’ve been deceived. Not just in doctrine, but just in everyday interaction with people and the world systems.
You’ll begin to detect truth and deception when you watch TV and movies. You’ll begin to discern whether someone is of the Spirit of God or full of the devil. God is making you wise in the wilderness, and you’ll be tested, so watch out for the Amalekites.
When Israel was in the wilderness, the Amalekites were a nomadic group that would rob people passing through. They tried Israel but were defeated because God was protecting them (Exodus 17:8-13). Likewise, with you, there will be people, groups, agents looking to “spy out your liberty” and jack you (Galatians 2:4).
Most of these people use the Internet to target Saints without a church home. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing claiming to be the true church, preying on your desire to be in a fellowship. Once you take the bait, they’ll abuse, misuse, and turn you out just like the Harlot church did.
These spiritual Amalekites are really extensions of Babylon out to get those who escaped. If you straggle, not keeping up with the process of transformation, or forget why you’re in the wilderness, you could be victimized; so stay close to the Lord and he’ll protect you.
Temptation and Testing
Finally, just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, so much so will God allow the enemy to tempt you. Jesus was tested to see if he had any part of the devil in him (John 14:30); this had to happen before he could go into ministry. You’ll be tested to see if you’re ready to join his fellowship, and fully serve his Kingdom.
In the wilderness, God commanded leaders of Israel, one from each tribe, to spy out the Promised Land—it was a test of faith. He knew they’d see giants and great walled cities, but just as ten out of twelve spies didn’t believe the Lord could give them the land, and were killed as punishment (Numbers 14:36-38), so also any unbelief in your soul will be killed. After all, without faith, it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Whatever God is trying to work out in you, he’ll probably tell you, or you’ll find out after you make enter the Promised Land. The important thing to remember is God is trying to bless you, he doesn’t want you to fail. All you have to do is let him transform you as he guides you through the wilderness to the next stage of your life.
When Israel failed the test of faith, it delayed entry into the Promised Land. What was suppose to be a few weeks, ended up being 40 years until all those who agreed with that “evil report” of the ten tribes died off (Numbers 14:28-33). Don’t let an evil report delay your blessing.
In the wilderness, just as God cut off many Israelites, God’s going to do some cutting in your life. It may be things, places, family, friends, and people who are holding you back from entering into your Promised Land. Be like the Levites in (Exodus 32:26-28) and take the initiative to remove any person, place or thing element that would delay your destination.
What to start doing in the wilderness?
Now that you understand what the wilderness is for, embrace it and be led by the Spirit. Seek after your purpose, and if you already know it, learn all you can to be effective at it. Study the word of God and allow him to transform your soul.
Overall, it’s the Spirit of God that will bring you through the wilderness, follow him, and you’ll make it through. I’m not saying you can’t connect with other Saints online, but the focus is about establishing a firm foundation in God.
When I started an online fellowship for Saints in the wilderness, I got a handful of people who wanted fellowship to calm their loneliness but had no real desire to get closer to God. I’d encourage you to watch out for people like this. Real Saints want to be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29); they desire God more than anything else, and it’ll show.
Remember, the goal is to prepare for fellowship, ministry and eternal citizenship in the kingdom of God. This means that God will use the wilderness to teach you how to draw power from him alone and not other people. While we still need each other, we get our strength from God; this unifies us because we’re all plugged into the same person who moves us in unison by the Spirit.
The wilderness experience isn’t designed to perfect us, it’s just another phase of growth, but shapes and places us together so we can move and showcase the glory of God. Then, when we stand as the Body, the world will see the power, the love, and unity of Christ and be easier to win because we represent him correctly. So, the wilderness is a good thing, stay there until God has made you ready for the next phase of your life.