Heart disease is the number one cause of sin in the church.
Not the physical ailment that took my husband’s life, but the spiritual condition that crept into his soul long before we met. A heart that has grown frail from lack of hope, has opened itself to disease and is in danger of losing faith in God. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God,” Hebrews 11:6. In that fragile and weakened condition, sin is magnified, and Self-control is diminished.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life,” Proverbs 13:12.
In the book, The Wilderness: Where Miracles are Born, Brian and Candice Simmons write, “We often resent the way God leads us and the paths we end up walking to find our Destiny Road.”
Sometimes, the only way to our destiny is through the wilderness.
Religion diminishes spiritual encounters, but faith reaches into the unknown and brings heaven to earth. Faith believes that everything that touches my life has purpose.
Faith believes that every offensive, unlovable person, every painful crisis, every troubling predicament is designed specifically for my transformation.
Johnnie often said, “Nothing occurred.” In fact, he emblazoned it on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and signs. It became his mantra because it was in our wilderness that his faith, which had long been lost, began to blossom.
It was there that he remembered who he was.
It was there I learned that each wilderness is unique to the traveler. No two are alike. My personal wilderness is designed specifically for my personal lack. Which is why I cannot blame others for the torments that rise and fall beneath my breast.
But there is another side to the wilderness; the danger of judgment. Because no two wildernesses are alike, because we are all struggling with our own demons, we are tempted to excuse our wilderness while judging the desert God designed for our brother.
Their lack is being exposed…
Because the wilderness is the place where death meets life, Self must die so that Christ can live.
Therefore, the desert is the place that separates the seekers from the pretenders.
Those who get trapped in judgment will circle their sin until love wins.
If “nothing occurred,” then God is in my distress, just as He is bigger than the desire that tempts me to sin. Seeing Christ in my tormentors is the beginning of triumph.
Problems lead me out of temptation and into purpose. Problems clear my vision.
Finding purpose in my problem, ensures blessing and attracts victory.
Blame confines us to our wilderness.
Twice, Moses disobeyed God and twice, he blamed others.
1. When he committed murder, Exodus 2:12.
2. When he struck the rock a second time, Numbers 20:10-12.
No doubt, there were those who used the occasion to judge his heart, but this was personal between God and Moses. God was revealing a hidden fracture in his soul.
As the opposite of Love, Self is the embodiment of sin. When we choose to follow the thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, or willful decisions that please Self, we treat God with contempt.
Moses followed his emotions. He defied God and obeyed the voice of Self.
It is through Self that sin is expressed in the world. When Self ignites, souls are injured.
Christ cannot be formed in us so long as we are yielded to the impulses and triggers of Self, but at salvation, we reckoned ourselves dead to sin, Romans 6. At least, we were supposed to.
Sometimes, it takes a wilderness to expose the Self that thrives in our soul.
“Kings and those with great authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, like tyrants. But this is not your calling. You will lead by a completely different model…” Matthew 20:25&26. [PT]
When Moses blamed the people for his rebellion, his sin was exposed.
Sin initiates shame, which incites blame.
Shame provokes us to blame others for the sin we commit at the instigation of Self-serving Self. When he killed the Egyptian, Moses blamed political injustice.
And God sent him into the wilderness for a season of transformation and training.
The wilderness exposes sinful behavior, revealing what is in our heart.
Religion condemns behavior, enflaming our heart.
But God designs our wilderness to transform our behavior, renovating our heart. The remedy to spiritual heart disease lies in our willingness to study ourselves in the mirror the wilderness provides.
Only then can we see what others already know.
Grace greater than our sin
God’s grace covers our sin. Not to condone it, but to change it.
Once, we were sinners who became sons. Now, we are a Self becoming Love.
Salvation is the reformation of every past wound, trauma, and lie we once believed, Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:22-24. It is our soul being renewed by the Knowledge of God, Romans 12:2; Proverbs 2:6.
If our behavior isn’t changing, we have not been born again.
“To change what we are in the flesh will take a wilderness, a desert that exposes all that’s hidden inside of us,” Brian and Candice Simmons.
The first time Moses endured the wilderness, he yielded Self-will to follow God’s will. Pride was broken. He led with humility, Numbers 12:3, which means, he grew in grace.
With greater responsibility comes greater accountability. His next act of disobedience was met with a different result. He received his miracle but activated unchangeable consequences.
Discipline is grace revealing sons.
“My son, don’t underestimate the value of the discipline and training of the Lord God, or get depressed when He has to correct you. For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of His faithful love. And when He draws you to Himself, it proves you are His delightful child. Fully embrace God’s correction as part of your training, for He is doing what any loving father does for his children. For who has ever heard of a child who never had to be corrected? We all should welcome God’s discipline as the validation of authentic sonship. For if we have never once endured His correction it only proves we are strangers and not sons,” Hebrews 12:5-8. [PT]
I often told Johnnie, “I know you are a son because you never get away with sin!”
The same was true of Moses. Despite all previous achievements, the door to the Promised Land was closed.
God is not impressed with our achievements. He is moved by our obedience.
But no matter how you explain it, this was a strange ending to an impressive life. Could it be that the promise we dream of is not the prize? Could the event we see as failure, actually be the moment of our greatest success?
Is it possible that while we press toward our vision, God is pressing toward us? Could it be that we are His prize? His Land of Promise?
Is it conceivable that the transformation of our hearts is His singular and relentless pursuit?
Freedom to Fail
Failure is often God’s means of restoring our soul.
To fear failure is to miss the joy of transformation.
Unlike us, God is not ashamed of our failures.
Johnnie’s favorite message was, “Freedom to fail.” Having grown up in a pastor’s home, the pressure to appear perfect was both unbearable and unsustainable. In fact, it led to a fractured soul and sinful choices.
If we don’t know who we are, we will imitate our surroundings.
What separates Prince William from his peers is not a physical crown, but the knowledge of the crown he represents. He acts according to the knowledge of who he is.
Knowledge matters. The knowledge of the good of evil causes sons of God to pretend to be slaves.
I Corinthians 10:4, “For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.” [NLT] Moses real purpose was to bring the people out of a slave mentality and into the realization that they were sons, but when he struck the rock a second time, his staff came down on Christ, Himself.
Is there any failure greater than that?
Every act Moses executed at God’s command was a prophetic decree that pointed to Jesus, the Rock, from whom living water would satisfy every thirsty soul.
But not this act.
This act was blasphemy.
The spotlight of success is blinding. Rarely do we see our true Self in its glare. For most of us, it takes a wilderness to acknowledge our failures, especially when it means facing the fact that we have struck the Christ we love.
In God’s kingdom, failure is a rite of passage, not a disgrace. In fact, freedom to fail is the freedom to keep getting up until hope becomes sight.
True failure is the failure to acknowledge our failure.
Without Christ, the Rock, Moses was only a murderer and a pretender. Like us. We were all murderers, assassins, and thieves who left that life behind to become true sons. Which is why He takes our actions seriously when we steal a brother’s reputation, shatter a sister’s hope, or shackle weary souls with the condemnation of rules and ritual. We are striking the Rock.
The One New Man Bible says, “The Jewish teachers had known since the earliest times that the tongue was a great problem for most people. They say slander is the equivalent of murder, that what is called character assassination is exactly that – assassination, murder.”
It is one thing to judge an atmosphere. It is entirely another to judge a heart.
We strike Christ each time we judge others instead of judging ourselves.
Wagging tongues and waggling fingers only confirmed the lies that had been carefully woven into Johnnie’s fractured soul. Trying to live up to the constant expectations of an outward appearance without inward transformation convinced him that he was, indeed, a failure.
Like too many young seekers before and since, he became the person others believed he was.
Encouragement is a fragile gift; easily broken.
Discipline is proof of Love
In God’s kingdom, discipline serves His purpose. God uses correction to bring sons out of slavery and into their inheritance.
Like the children of Israel, Johnnie’s wilderness became his mirror. To the casual observer, what appeared to be chaos, was his personal desert. Like the children of Israel. God wasn’t being cruel when He led them into a wilderness where thirst waited around every corner. He was using the natural craving of the body for physical water to reveal the spiritual condition that had brought them into slavery in the first place.
Like failure, privation has a way of humbling us so that we can see the truth about ourselves.
James 3:1 reveals that there will be a special judgment for those who are called to lead God’s people. What we say and what we do, matters. Moses would not enter the land of his dreams because he intentionally disobeyed God. His disobedience resulted in the failure to present an accurate picture of Christ to the people. In response, God revealed His love for Moses through an act of correction and as he submitted to the hand of His Father, Moses taught his greatest lesson.
Only a true son yields to correction.
How many leaders disobey Christ, but fear the people finding out more than they love God? How many leaders struggle to keep a façade active, hoping no one will discover the reality beneath the image?
God still disciplines those He loves because discipline can turn failure into freedom.
Matthew 21:43&44, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
It is better to fall on the Rock than to have the Rock fall on you.
The one who falls on the Rock will be broken. There’s no doubt about that. Failure breaks our pride, crushes our resistance, and tears down our walls, but when we allow our failure to bring us to the Rock, brokenness takes on new meaning.
Jesus is the “healer of broken hearts.”
Mom often sang a song by that title at our Sunday evening meetings at the Salvation Army in downtown Houston. She would look into the glassy, intoxicated eyes of failure and lift her voice, “He’ll mend your shattered dreams.” She would reach her arms out as though she held knitting needles in both hands, moving gracefully in a sewing motion. “He’ll pick up the threads of your broken life and weave them together, again.” The unforgettable melody would float over the broken congregation and the worst among them would begin to weep as hope swelled in hearts that had long forgotten how to dream.
When we fall on the Rock in submission and repentance, hope births something more beautiful, more perfect and more amazing than we had ever imagined possible.
We see beyond ourselves.
It is here, in his surrender to correction, that we find his greatest legacy for Moses had finally overcome the enemy of his soul. No more Self-reliance. No more blame. He, alone, took responsibility for his actions.
When Moses was free to fail, God was free to bring Him into His glory.
But here again is the real wonder because even in his act of disobedience, Moses was, unwittingly, still preaching the gospel message.
In this event of greatest weakness, when sin’s failure seemed to have grasped all victory from a life of promise, mercy flowed from the Rock.
Self-rightness is the cosmetic of religion and the mask of pride.
But those who embrace their failure will see God.