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  • Kristan Dooley

Off the Beaten Path


Hungry for something

Jesus hadn’t eaten for forty days when Satan first approached Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread,” (Luke 4:3, niv.) The temptation was to reduce what He needed to mere physical substance. To believe the lie; I am what I have, instead of the truth; I have what I need. Had Jesus turned the stone to bread, He would have been operating out of the fear of not having enough, rather than trusting the truth, God is enough. The desire to have enough isn’t wrong in and of itself. It simply becomes an idol when we step out from under the umbrella of the Father’s provision and seek to secure life ourselves. I don’t know what security looks like to you. I tend to find security in the people around me. Do I have who I need? When we live with an unhealthy need to have enough, we miss our opportunity to rest in His enough and thus are robbed of the peace promised for our journey. Suddenly we work and live to experience security rather than work and live from His security.

We work to make sure we have. Jesus silenced the devil, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.” Next Satan hits Jesus with an opportunity for quick approval. The worship of all of Jerusalem would catapult Jesus and His mission on earth. Here He thought He had to gain the favor of men through the hard work of grace, truth and love, but the enemy was offering it to Him instantly and painlessly. All He had to do was hand over His affection and attention for the Father and people everywhere would be talking about Him, following Him, worshipping Him.

“The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world and he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours,” (John 4:4-7, niv.) See how skewed and yet subtle the enemy is? Sometimes we don’t give him credit for his craftiness. He isn’t offering Jesus something He won’t one day have. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will praise in heaven and on earth. It’s going to happen, it’s just a manipulation in the way and the length of time it takes for it to happen.

I get this. There are times I don’t want to experience what I am trying to teach. I simply want to teach it. I want to outwardly know instead of inwardly grow. Inner work is hard. Character takes time to develop.

Our faith will only combust if left in the microwave from which we prefer to live our lives from.

I believe we were created to turn effortlessly. That our spiritual maturity can be measured in the amount of time it takes us to turn and follow Jesus in a new direction. Dallas Willard defines discipleship as, “the intentional process of becoming more like Jesus. It’s being with Him to learn from Him how to live like Him if He were me.”

My prayer is for your participation. That you realize you’ve been promised goodness and He who promised is faithful. The story of the Israelites is simply a sad story of a group of people who never really believed what they had been promised. Discipleship is our invitation, the side streets and back alleys are our direction.

Again, Jesus stands strong in His place of identity, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,”(Luke 4:8, niv.)

Next Satan takes Jesus to the highest point in all of Jerusalem and tells Him to throw Himself off the cliff so all of God’s angels can rescue Him. From this place everyone in town would see the magnificent display of God as He sweeps down and rescues His Son. Jesus would be an instant celebrity. No one would doubt the power and authority He carried. Over time the world would witness God’s power displayed through the resurrection of His only son. Satan was just fast tracking Jesus to the end game. “Here, do it on the main path. In front of all the people. Quicker, easier, less messy.” The enemy was offering Jesus a way in. Perform for the people and they will like you. Show them who you are as a way to earn their favor. Be popular, it will lead to power.

“Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test,’ "(Luke 4:12, NIV.)

And with those final words, the enemy walked away defeated. Our effectiveness comes from our connectedness. We know our identity because we know our Father. It was Jesus’ secret. He didn’t need what the enemy offered because He already possessed it. The devil does not have the authority to take away who we are, He only has the ability to skew the way we see ourselves and what our identity gives us access to.

He lives his life in pursuit of keeping us on the highways and byways because the trails and test that form us unfold on side streets and back alleys. He throws around significance, security and belonging around like confetti, pulling us to stay where we are rather than taking the risk to follow.

Jesus started His journey with a completely clean slate and grace invites us to do the same. From the moment we open our hearts to Him we have full access to the Kingdom. There’s nothing we’ve done to deserve it and nothing we can do to earn more of it because we have it all. He has given us all of His entire inheritance. The keys to the Kingdom.

Problem is, by the time this happens most of us have grown accustomed to what it looks like to live with the counterfeit ways of the world. We’ve settled for short term significance, security and belonging. The way of the Kingdom proves to be a difficult transition. We haven’t grown up living from a place of approval. We’ve fought hard for our acceptance, performed well for our placement and proven worthy to our surroundings.

A transformation must take place if we are going to be able to live in the freedom we’ve been freely given.

Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The Father invited His Son off the beaten path again and again as they ministered throughout the region. Off the beaten path, Jesus and His disciples were released from the expectations and affirmations of the world around them and able to connect deeper in the love of the Father within them. Ask them where their story of Christ in them unfolded and they wouldn’t point to those crowded sea shores. Surely they would tell you about unmentioned conversations as they walked for hours in the heat of the sun or sat rocking back and forth in a boat out at sea.

Had Jesus only stayed in the crowded place, the disciples would have learned that the way to the heart of the Father was in the largest crowd possible, under the limelight, on the stage, in the midst of a miracle. But this isn’t their story and it’s not supposed to be ours either. Jesus turned left again and again inviting His disciples into back alleys and side streets so they could experience relationship and grow in responsibility. We might find Him in the crowd, but we get to know Him by ourselves.

I spent years living for something instead of from something. Unbeknownst to me the enemy skewed my identity in such a way that left me doing what I did in order to receive something I actually already had. My search for significance, belonging and security left me looking for love in all the wrong places.

In my early years it was obvious - as I compromised who I knew I was in order to be a part of something I didn’t really want. Later on though, it got more difficult to discern. The temptation wasn’t to do the wrong thing, it was to the the right thing for the wrong reason.

Have you ever looked all throughout your house for you phone only to discover you were on it? When we hand our lives over to Jesus, He hands us the keys to the Kingdom. We carry in our pockets the answer to all we need in life and yet some of us allow days and weeks to go by without ever pulling them out. We go on a search to discover who and what might unlock the doors we deem necessary to live a full life when all the while the key is within us. Jesus left the desert the same way He entered; fully confident and secure in His place of significance, security and belonging. He was the Son of God and from that place he would move forward. It’s the invitation we all have before us, but we won't find it on the highway. Our fight for identity happens off the beaten path. In the back alleys and on the side streets where we encounter His goodness in ways we haven’t earned and in places we could never deserve. We simply cannot walk out the call He has for our lives without some time wrestling with the shadows in our alleys. There is a left turn and a side street encounter waiting for every single one of us. These hidden alleys are our allies as they become the places of our formation. Sometimes we turn on our own and other times we are thrown there without permission. The way of our arrival isn’t as important as the focus of our stay. This is our journey of freedom. There is somewhere Jesus wants to take you. A place you won’t find on your own. You can’t get there by following everyone else. You don’t have to worry about the way because He is the way. If we spend our time getting our hearts right before the Lord, He will spend His time getting His path right before us. The only way to follow Him is closely. Our calling and our closeness are completely connected.

Jesus’ life with the disciples proved to be one of unexpected twists and turns all the way to the very end. Had they only gone where they were comfortable they would have missed the best of what He had to offer. Instead they mustered the courage to turn left, to step away from life as they knew it and embraced the unknown of Jesus. Off the beaten path, they found the life they never knew they needed and yet always longed to have. Off the beaten path they became learners and leaders, studying the words of their Rabbi. Off the beaten path, they became world changers compelled, not by the culture around them, but from the culture within them.

Sometimes God pulls you away from the world so He has time to pull the world away from you.

I believe we were created to turn effortlessly. That our spiritual maturity can be measured in the amount of time it takes us to turn and follow Jesus in a new direction. Dallas Willard defines discipleship as, “the intentional process of becoming more like Jesus. It’s being with Him to learn from Him how to live like Him if He were me.”

My prayer is for your participation. That you realize you’ve been promised goodness and He who promised is faithful. The story of the Israelites is simply a sad story of a group of people who never really believed what they had been promised. Discipleship is our invitation, the side streets and back alleys are our direction.

#discipleship #leftturns #faith #growth #direction #spiritualguidance #godsplan #Temptation #security #significance #popularity #belonging #freedom #repentance #Jesus #journ

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