Questions on the Wilderness and Loss
Questions on the Wilderness and Loss
By Fred Pruitt
Another question and answer.
You ask a great question. I do deal somewhat with that question in the book, but you have really asked about two things.
I. The "wilderness" experience is to me, in a nutshell, our progress from Egypt (under the dominion of darkness as a slave of Pharaoh who is type, in this instance, of the devil), through baptism in the Red Sea after Passover (Christ's sacrifice for us as the Lamb and our baptism into Him -- Paul talks about this in 1 Cor 10), through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. We cannot get to the other side of the wilderness, i.e., to cross over the Jordan and into the Land of Promise, except by this route and a confrontation with the law. The reason why it is necessary -- and this is something the Spirit does and not as a "church program" or any kind of thing planned and instituted by man -- is because coming out of Egypt we are still bringing with us this consciousness of ourselves as indepedent, that is, sort of islands of self unto ourselves, and now we try to "become" what we are supposed to be by donning all these new attributes (love, peace, joy, gentleness, wisdom, righteousness, etc.) that a "Christian is supposed to have." I don't care if we go to a "grace" church or a pure legalistic church, it really doesn't matter, because no matter how it is preached, until we are shed of this false consciousness of independence we have inherited from the Fall, we hear it all as law, i.e., something WE are supposed to reach, attain to, etc.
People have wondered why Romans 7 is in-between chapters 6 & 8. It seems a contradiction to those chapters. It is because though we may first learn the truths of Romans 6, which says we have died to sin, until we are confronted with a brick wall of something I cannot attain to, like Paul's struggle to overcome his covetousness, we don't find our way through to the freedom of living in the Spirit in Romans 8. Romans 6 is the facts. Romans 7 is the negative experience it takes to get the facts into us as living realities, which comes to fruition in Romans 8. So Romans 7 is absolutely necessary.
It takes this, "I want to but can't make it happen," experience of Romans 7 to finally drive the nail all the way down into the coffin that we have "died with him in his death," and simply cannot, by trying by self-effort, reach our goal.
The man of flesh -- which is independent self-mindedness (or Paul's term, a mind set on the flesh), cannot exist in the kingdom. That is why at Sinai Moses could go up on the mountain amidst the fire, smoke, lightning, and terrible darkness, and come down unscathed -- actually even glowing -- but the children of Israel could not even touch the mountain or they would die. They represent being "flesh minded," -- just myself alone, trying to be obedient to God, whereas Moses, through his previous 40 year stint in the wilderness, through the burning bush has come to be representative of the man who knows it is "no longer I, but Christ," having put off that man of the flesh, and now living entirely as the man of the Spirit.
Then the people finally get to the edge of the Promised Land, the first time, and of course they cannot go in because of unbelief. This has lots of meaning for us, but for this discussion I realized one day that OF COURSE they were in unbelief. They were still in the flesh, i.e., consciousness of independence instead of "I and my Father are one," and OF COURSE they saw themselves as grasshoppers when confronted with the obstacle in the land. So because of all that they are sent back for another 38 years trek in the wilderness, in which all that generation which had been born in Egypt (consciousness of themselves as independent and separate from God) that was of age at that first confrontation, perished in those 38 years, so that when they come back the second time to the edge of the Promise, this time poised to go in and take the land, it is a completely new generation (new creation -- Christ formed in them) -- all born in the wilderness and knowing nothing but God's provision of daily bread, water, shoes not wearing out, and continual guidance by the Spirit. THAT generation was ready to take the land. And such are we, because now we have cast aside the old as dead, and we are this new generation, born in the provision and leading of the Spirit, ready to walk over Jordan on dry ground.
And that story is all a type for us to realize that we are the same. God takes us that same way.
II. Now, considering the issue of loss, what God is doing with that is simply teaching us through experience that we can trust Him as our only sufficiency in all things. You really can't know that God can furnish a table in the wilderness unless you've walked in it and you have experienced it. You may know it conceptually, but we are about more than that. God will have no other gods before Him. He is jealous. Not from a selfish point of view, but He is jealous for our purity in Him. So He sees to it that we "suffer loss" (which can be anything, physical, mental, emotional, etc.) so that we might know Him the sufficiency for and in all things. Paul said, "I have learned to be content in all things ... whether I am abased or whether I abound, whether I am full or whether I am in lack," and notice he used the word "learned." So he didn't just start out that way because he was such a holy man already. No, this was something the Spirit taught Paul by taking him through experiences where He learned the sufficiency of God in positive and negatives -- God's sufficiency is the same in both. That's why these times of lack and privation and even failure are holy times, times when the Spirit is working in us that consciousness of Himself as our everything, that He is our fullness, He is our joy, He is our substance, He is our breath and food and life, even if we do not have any of those things in the world.
Job is the greatest example of "suffering loss" in the scripture, and I'm sure you know he lost his business, his livestock, his children, his property, and was sitting on a dust heap. At one point he says something about "that which I feared worst has come upon me." Now for a long time I thought for myself that if I could get rid of fearing anything, then I couldn't have something "which I feared most" and therefore could not suffer such a loss. But God penetrates deeper than we can in ourselves, knowing us better than we do (which just shows how close and intimate He is with us -- actually one spirit -- cannot be any closer than that), and one day I realized that even when we experience that "which we fear most," what happens in that moment is that GOD PROVES HIMSELF to be greater than that thing which we had held so dear, that whatever it was we feared most becomes as nothing, "Oh, that's all that was," because when that "prop" is gone from us, then we see and experience the most wonderful thing of all. We are like the man who found a pearl of great price in a field and went and sold ALL HE HAD to buy that field. We GLADLY suffer the loss of all things, that we may win Christ -- not Christ as salvation but Christ as our every moment sustenance and Life. No impediments -- nothing between He and I.
So that is one aspect of this idea of suffering loss.
The other aspect Paul picks up in Romans 9, when he "wishes himself accursed," i.e., outside of Christ, if he could win his Jewish brethren. That is the intercessor spirit, which is the highest pinnacle of our spiritual lives. Moses in Exodus, when the children of Israel had sinned with the Golden Calf, stands in between the people and the wrath of God, by telling God he is willing to have his name blotted out of the book if he would not destroy this people (Ex 32). God even tells Moses that he'll raise up a new people out of Moses to be His people, but Moses would have none of it, but would not budge. And that was exactly what God was after. THAT is the spirit of Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth, a lamb that dies to give life to the very ones who kill it. And that is the life that has been born in us.
So, for the one who takes that life by choice, we do continue to experience death in ourselves, that life might be manifest in others. (2 Cor 4:5-12). We learn that there are negative situations every day that are the preamble to the Positive that God is sending. We learn that need is the evidence of supply. We learn that when turmoil and strife are building and seem to be all there is, that a great and mighty wave of Spirit is coming. I have seen it over and over and over and over for years. Great negatives bring even greater positives. And we are or become God's agents for that. We declare it -- speak it -- so that we can be in a really really crappy situation which is about to destroy everyone, whether literally or figuratively, and we call those things which be not as though they are, and some are rescued by that.
Well, I guess that's enough of that. Whole books have been written on all this. I've given you enough to chew on and other reading material as well. I'm really glad you asked these things. This is the real deal. Learning grace is not for myself, so that I can have a happy, great life. No, we are part of the kingdom of Christ, whose principle it is that "a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die -- and brings forth much fruit." It is something the Spirit teaches us in our own lives through the circumstances He walks us through. Not only are we victorious and live in the peace of God, but we lead others into that same victory and peace.