Seven Secrets of the Spirit-filled Life

Seven Secrets of the Spirit-Filled Life

Jack LevisonBy Jack Levison9 Minutes

Seven Secrets Spirit-Filled LifeExcerpt taken from Seven Secrets of the Spirit-filled Life by Jack Levison.

Chapter 31
Head Into the Desert

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And im­mediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness (Mark 1:9-12).

Still wet to the touch from his baptism, Jesus looked up and saw a dove descending. This was Jesus’ moment, his inti­mate experience of the Holy Spirit. Jesus even heard God say, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

This is what being filled with the Spirit should look like: the perfect realization that we are God’s beloved children.

Abba! Father!

It should look this way — but it doesn’t always. Not for Jesus, anyway.

The Spirit turned on a dime, hurling Jesus immediately into the desert. As soon as he had a moment of clarity, it was torn from him. The truest measure of clarity would emerge for Jesus, not in the Spirit-filling at the Jordan River, however idyllic that was, but in the days of testing to follow.

So the Spirit drove him out — ekballein in Greek, as in bal­listic missile — in the same way that Jesus drove out demons (Mark 1:34, 39), drove out leprosy (1:42), drove out money changers from the temple (11:15). Jesus urged, “If your eye causes you to stumble, drive it out” (9:47, my translation). The gentleness of a dove gave way to the violent force of the Spirit.

It’s tempting to see spells in the desert, periods of spiri­tual drought, interludes without the enthralling exercise of spiritual gifts, as times of emptiness, of desolation. The story of Jesus tells us otherwise. The Holy Spirit could eas­ily have kept Jesus along the grassy shore of the Jordan River, in earshot of words like “beloved” and “My Son:’ But the Spirit didn’t let him linger in those pleasant confines, with heaven opened, a divine voice whispering words of love, a dove’s docile descent.

The Spirit instead sent Jesus to a place he otherwise would never have gone, where his very existence was at risk. There, in the desert, God’s provision was put to the test-and proven to be true.

Take a few moments today to identify a situation you would de­scribe as a desert. Ask yourself, If the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to learn what he couldn’t on the peaceful shore of the Jordan River, what will I learn if the Spirit drives me into the desert for a time? Then, as you have the strength, take one practical step today to prepare to enter that desert, where the going gets tough.

Holy Spirit,
I hunger for your fruit — love, joy and peace But for the food of the desert?
Locusts. Honey.
Desolation. Isolation. Separation.
No. Thank you.
Into the desert you’ll need to drive me — like demons, leprosy, and money changers
Like an errant eye pluck out, driven away.
If you do — when you do — drive me there, help me to say
Yes. Thank you, Amen.


Chapter 32
Follow Your Guide in the Desert

 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-2 NRSV).

In Mark’s gospel, we just saw, the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. Whew! Mark left us reeling will the Spirit drive us into the desert? — but Luke is gentler. The Holy Spirit did not toss Jesus out. The Spirit escorted Jesus, guiding, leading accompanying him through the desert.

The Greek verb translated as led in today’s passage is bland. The scene itself is anything but. Jesus came out of the Jordan River, the Spirit descended upon him, and that same Spirit led him into the wilderness for forty days.

If you know your Old Testament, this will sound familiar. The Israelites emerged from the Red Sea, where an angel, along with pillars of cloud and fire, led them in the wilderness for forty years.

Israel’s story must have been on Jesus’ mind in the desert. Three times while he was tested, Jesus rejected Satan’s advances by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:16; and 6:16), which features how God “led you [Israel] for forty years in the wilderness. The clothes on your back have not worn out, and the sandals on your feet have not worn out (Deuteronomy 29:5).”

So what do we learn for ourselves from how the Spirit led Jesus in the wilderness?

We learn again the second secret of the Spirit-filled life: The study of Scripture is vital for a robust Spirit-filled life. Jesus, led by the Spirit in the desert, quoted from the Old Testament when he was confronted by a cunning opponent. Jesus, Spirit-filled, knew his Bible by heart.

Just as indispensable, but maybe tougher to stomach, Jesus’ Spirit-filled life was chock-full of hostility. The desert. The devil. The drama of temptation. The Spirit did not this is the key deliver Jesus from testing. The Spirit might have led him, as the pillars and angel led Israel through the desert, but the Spirit never rescued Jesus from that fitful, fateful, forty-day test.

Yesterday, you were asked to take a few moments to identify a situation you would describe as a desert and take one practical step toward that desert. Today, your application may be harder. Take a few minutes to identify how you might be guided by the Spirit in that desert. After reading the first thirty-two reflections in this book, try to answer these questions: How can you prepare for that leading in the desert? What will such leading look like? What will be the goal of the Spirit’s leading?

Holy Spirit,
When I am put to the test
When you put me in a place to take the test
Train my mind to recognize I need this test
Train my heart to believe I can face this test
Train my eye to see you there
Guarding me through that test. Amen


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