LESSONS FROM THE WILDERNESS
“The wilderness”…. what is it?
What does the term wilderness mean applied to us as individual saints and to the church as a whole? What does “the wilderness” mean to us as the people of God—especially to those of us as a prophetic people?
The wilderness is something we hear a lot about in prophetic discussion. In this series of articles, I want to consider what the wilderness is, how it applies to us specifically as a prophetic people, and what it means for our fellowship and destiny in Christ as a community of faith.
The Sword of Inner Separation
First, let’s distill what we mean when we speak of being “in the wilderness.” The wilderness refers to a place of spiritual separation to the Lord from the mainstream of whatever it is God is doing. It is a separation from the more visibly recognized and affirmed work of God among His people to a deeper more hidden work in the inner man.
This separation begins as a divine work within an individual or a smallish group of saints. It is the result of an internal ministry of God’s Word which acts as a sword to sever the soul from the spirit (Heb. 4:12). That severing creates an inner awareness of the Lord that contrasts from what God is doing (or “said” to be doing) in the larger surrounding body of God’s people—a body in which the same inward separation has generally not occurred.
A Separation of Churches
Such severing of soul from spirit usually (but not necessarily) leads to a physical separating out of affected saints from the rest of God’s people. This is because this inner work is not communicable to those who have not experienced it and who retain an unsevered soul-based identity in Christ. To those of us smitten by the Hebrews 4:12 sword, the piercing strikes so deeply to the core of how we see ourselves in Christ that we find we can no longer share the same mixed basis for identity in Christ with the rest of those not so touched.
Whether or not physical separation occurs from the rest of God’s church, this internal identity separation creates an inescapable sense of isolation and aloneness. This is in part because of the inner nature of the work itself, and partly because it affects individuals as a minority within the larger body. It’s from this inner isolation that the concept of wilderness is derived—the chief characteristic of wilderness (or “desert”) being that of a place of isolation. The hallmark verse describing this wilderness consciousness is Heb. 13:13, “Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”
So it is that the Spirit’s inner sword ultimately manifests corporately in what appears as “two churches.” The sword that severs individual soul from spirit ultimately divides a more earth-attuned soulish church from a more inwardly-attuned spiritual church. The one is more visible, more definable and easier to identify on the surface of society (the “mainstream church”). The other is less visible, less definable and harder to identify because of its scattered nature away from society (the “wilderness church”).
Perceptions Within the Divided Church
Despite the division, it’s vital to point out that both the mainstream and wilderness churches are of the Lord, and that He is at work in both. In fact, there are not really two churches, but two dimensions of the one church. I say this because from the perspective of those in the one, those in the other are generally seen to be not part of the “true church.” (To those in the wilderness, every one left in the mainstream after their own departure is considered to be part of the “false harlot church,” while to those in the mainstream, all who leave “the body” are considered to be part of a “false cult.”)
But the truth is there are true dimensions in both sides of the two-dimensional church, and there are false dimensions in each as well. For purposes of this series, that is as far as we will go with this observation. But this is a necessary foundation to lay for helping us as wilderness saints come to grips with our relationship to the larger mainstream.
Addressing myself to wilderness saints—once we enter our personal wilderness by the dividing work of the Word, our entire perception of and expectation concerning the outlying church body changes almost overnight. From this new separated vision, we become shocked that the same separation has not taken place in the main body of saints. And so we may be quick to judge the rest of the church as a harlot.
Yet we shouldn’t be surprised that this separation hasn’t occurred around us. After all, the mainstream is what it is because we all start as soulish people, and the soulish can only be attracted to what God is doing on the visible surface of life experience—which is where the larger church always is. This is something we must learn to understand and accept on the road to understanding what has happened to us.
Three Factors of the Wilderness Prophetic
Let’s look now more deeply into the nature of the separated God-awareness (and self-awareness) that befalls us under the heart-circumcising sword of the Holy Spirit. The inward separation produced by the Spirit’s sword is marked by three distinct factors, each of which greatly alters our psyche:
First is our illumination to negative corrective spiritual revelation—specifically to the spiritual deficiency of all around us that has not undergone this same internal separation. Second is an inner arousal of the righteous, zealous anger of God against all that is not likewise separated. Third is an experiencing of deep inner woundedness and rejection due to misunderstanding by and confrontation with those of the mainstream soul-bound body as we seek to faithfully walk out our newfound destiny based in new internal spiritual reference points.
As a people whose piercing awakens them to a new revelation of Christ, these three factors characterize what we call the “wilderness prophetic” as opposed to the mainstream prophetic. The difference between these “prophetics” is the fact of or lack of the internal separation on which our revelation of the Lord is based.
Wilderness Prophetic Vs. Mainstream Prophetic
There are two kinds of revelation. There is revelation that acts upon the soul. And there is revelation that divides the soul from the spirit. Revelation that acts upon the soul and touches only the things of this life is not necessarily invalid. But it is significantly incomplete. Revelation that divides the soul from the spirit works to accomplish the eternal purposes of God beyond this life. These two types of revelation drive the two types of prophetic ministry that figure so greatly in our prophetic discussions.
The mainstream prophetic is concerned mainly with the things of this life. The wilderness prophetic is mainly concerned with the things of the inner man. Mainstream prophecy is oriented toward the soul (i.e., it is “soulical” as Watchman Nee might have put it.) Wilderness prophecy is oriented toward the issues of the eternal spirit. Thus the same sword that divides soul from spirit in the individual also divides the prophetic revelation of the more soulish mainstream from the more spiritual wilderness stream. This is why there are two prophetic camps, and why they tend to enmity.
First Love: The Still Deeper Prophetic Challenge to Wilderness Saints
While the preceding explanation is helpful, it is not the end of the story pertaining to wilderness saints. It is not enough for those in the wilderness to understand they are different than mainstream prophetic saints. Submitting to the sword of God to become a wilderness saint is not all God requires. Rather, as a wilderness prophetic people, it is how we respond to the three factors of wilderness experience after we submit to the sword that determines whether or not we will complete our full destiny in Christ as intended.
Contrary to what most wilderness prophetics believe, coming to a division of soul from spirit in our revelation and hence a separation between wilderness prophetic and the mainstream prophetic is not the be all and end all of what God seeks to make of a people. Rather, the Father is after a wholeness in Christ—one that begins with division, but that ends with higher union. Prophetic Separation is not an end in itself. Separation toward a greater new wholeness is what God is after. In order to find that wholeness, those who have tasted of the prophetic sword must gain a new positive ground in Christ out of the sword-creating divisive factors they have come to know. That positive ground is the ministry of First Love.
The rest of this series is dedicated to looking at the handling of the wilderness factors under the greater vision and goal of First Love. For this is what lies as the make or break place for wilderness saints. We either come to these wilderness factors as their own end, or they lead us to a greater whole love in Christ. As ends in themselves, these factors form deadly cultic pitfalls and lead to the destruction of the soul. But as means to a higher end, they become a stewardship and trust to be maturely developed toward a more perfect knowledge of the Son of God, in whom alone is life eternal.
New Meadow Neck, RI
Page created October 5, 2008