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.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life,” Proverbs 13:12.
For years, my heart was sick. Worse, I had no idea how to heal it. Promises my husband and I had long hoped for had failed to manifest and I was losing the will to dream.
I was blessed with a mom, who had a teaching gift and dad, a prophetic mantle. Together, they laid a great foundation, but before I reached the age of 30, they were gone. We buried them along with the wise counsel I had once enjoyed.
But my questions were only growing.
As years unfolded and promises were delayed, I grew heartsick. Yet, I found a kindred spirit in David. Psalm 13:172, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
In the book, The Wilderness: Where Miracles are Born, Brian and Candice Simmons write, “Between every promise and the Promised Land of fulfillment, will be a wilderness.”
It was in the wilderness, between my promise and its fulfillment, that I found myself immersed in a battle for my soul; struggling with the disappointment of deferred hope.
It was there that I would learn that disappointment is a necessary crossroad on the journey to our promise. It is a defining moment where we step beyond ourselves and plunge into the arms of our Beloved or fall back into unbelief.
Disappointment is necessary because it exposes the inner Self that refuses to be crucified with Christ, Romans 6.
Brain and Candice Simmons write, “…between you and your Promised Land lies a wilderness of discovery and, at times, disappointment.”
We cannot enter our Promised Land unless we have first received the gift of salvation. Salvation is the birth of a new creation, but only if the old is dead. Redemption is, and always was, God’s promise of a new life.
It is the revelation of this rebirth that inspires us to enter the wilderness. God will never control or manipulate us. He will do nothing to interfere with our will, but He will extend the spark that we can fan into the flame of desire by presenting us with a vision of things to come. “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom's instruction,” Proverbs 29:18.
The impartation of vision is God’s way of bringing us into the person we already are in Him. Yet, the promise cannot manifest until Self passes away.
Things hoped for is the Spirit’s way of encouraging us to begin the process of facing every undead, uncrucified thought, will, and desire within.
To embrace hope, Self must be confronted, for Self cannot enter the promise. Therefore, God has provided a wilderness in which Self can be exposed, crucified, and buried.
Brian and Candice Simmons, “Most of us have an attitude that translates the wilderness into ‘something terrible.’ In fact, the Bible teaches that the wilderness is the place where miracles are born, the place where we hear God speak, and the place where He truly reveals Himself to us.”
The wilderness prepares us to face the giants in our promise. Without it, we are merely believers, who hope for something we cannot realize.
It was in my own desert experience that I learned that seasons of disappointment have purpose, but only if we surrender to the inconvenience of the wilderness.
There is a purpose in your promise.
God does not give us a vision of our future to taunt us. Rather, a promise is His way of moving us from our past to our future.
From the beginning, Self has controlled and directed our life, but God sends His promises to break former lies and release future faith.
How, when and where we end will be determined by our response in the wilderness.
God knows how easy it is for us to see the Self in others, but how blind we are to the very same inclinations within our Self.
The purpose of His promise is a new perspective. We cannot step into the future with the lies that shaped our will and formed our past.
The wilderness has a way of exposing the lies of the past, so we can step forward, into God’s perspective.
It is our fears that refuse to leave the comfort of former lies, thereby hindering the process of transformation. Like Moses, the choice to follow the voice of Self can bring our journey to an end on the wrong side of the promise.
The wilderness is the perfect graveyard for Self.
No matter how much we think we know our heart, no one does. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
We are all houses of clay that contain a treasure of inestimable worth.
Christ died for the sin that condemned us, but only we can die to the Self that keeps us from our inheritance.
It is the wilderness that reveals who we are so that we can become who we were created to be.
Only then, can we see the sins that have burrowed into our behavior and develop the character necessary to sustain the promise.
In a backdrop of negative, condemning ritual, God’s promise gave me hope. I longed for its fulfillment, unaware of the important role the wilderness played in my journey. Ultimately, the desert life became my saving grace.
Nothing is more liberating than bringing Self to the cross. Forgiveness opens the door to freedom. Looking through the eyes of Perfect Love, freed me to recognize attitudes and opinions, the wicked, egocentric nuances of Self in me.
In my former, religious state of mind, I pointed the finger at the outward, obvious sin in others, while defending the sin within me. Strife. Defensiveness. Pride. Resentment. Faultfinding attitudes of every sort. Self-pity. Self-righteousness. Self-seeking… I was born-again and full of Self. A walking oxymoron.
Self, kept me oblivious to my own state of being. It was my greatest stronghold and the purpose for my wilderness.
I was unaware that the measure of Christ is not found in living up to rules, but in Love.
And Love cannot bloom where Self exists.
God’s promises are always true.
More than once, we came close enough to touch our promise. We saw the other side. Yet, something kept us from stepping over. It took us years, too many years, but we finally came to realize that something was the undead, uncrucified Self still working within.
Somewhere along the way, we began to yield to the wilderness. It happened when we saw the inexplicable work being done in our soul. In the middle of the fire, God’s promise had embraced us. While Self and all its lies burned away, He kept us from being consumed by the flames.
It was then that I realized that in God’s eyes, the process is greater than the promise.
Brian and Candice Simmons again, “Yet, in the wilderness we find that the surprises of life yield the most beautiful fruit. The supernatural power of God is more often displayed in a wilderness than in a church service. God will use your wilderness to release the virtues of Christ growing within!”
My hope had been in a temporary resolution to my problem, but God’s hope was in the person I was becoming.
Submission to the wilderness process produces the maturity to carry the promise.
Spiritual maturity comes from endurance; enduring the process of purification. Wisdom is the consequence of applied truth; the testimony of those who have been anointed with the oil of His presence.
The word, “anoint” means “to smear” in Hebrew.
“When objects such as wafers and shields were smeared with grease or oil they were said to be anointed; hence the commonly used term was ‘anoint’ when grease or oil was applied to objects…” Biblestudytools.com
It is not the truth we hear, but the truth that has been applied to our lives that sets us free.
Notice this illustration from chaimbentorah.com:
“You get two types of oil from the olive. The first which is the most pure, the finest and, of course, the most expensive is the beaten oil. Actually, the word beaten is not the best rendering. The word in Hebrew is katith, which means, to break into pieces. The first oil to be extracted from the olive does not come from pressing the olives, but breaking, cutting or tearing them into pieces.”
How many times have you felt broken, cut to the heart or torn to shreds?
“Olives spring from a tree and turn a dark green. When they are ripe they turn black and inside the olive are a couple drops of liquid gold as it is called. This is the beaten oil, the purest and finest. This is used for anointing, medicinal purposes and other specific uses. After the liquid is drained from the olive by bruising it, so to speak, it is then crushed or pressed to extract the oil contained in the meat of the olive. This oil is not as pure and is used for cooking and put into lamps for light. However, for the light in the tabernacle the people were instructed to use only the pure, beaten oil. The beaten oil is considered to be the first fruit of the olive and it is this oil that is used to provide the light in the tabernacle.”
God was preparing us to serve as a light in His tabernacle, but Self had to be broken, first. “Broken and spilled out and poured at His feet.” [Bill George and Gloria Gaither]
Hard-learned lessons are often the reward of those who have been around the mountain too many times to count. What would Moses say to us, today, if we could ask him about striking the rock a second time? Sometimes, the greatest leaders are the most broken.
God’s promise is His invitation; His encouragement to step into the wilderness process of spiritual growth and understanding. To be smeared with the oil of His presence. Broken, but not extinguished. Crushed, but releasing a heavenly fragrance.
“Before each young woman was taken to the king's bed, she was given the prescribed twelve months of beauty treatments--six months with oil of myrrh, followed by six months with special perfumes and ointments,” Esther 2:12.
To enter the king’s chambers without enduring the process was an insult to the king. How much more do we insult our King when we pretend to speak for Him without enduring the process of purification? How offensive when we serve in His tabernacle without being smeared with the oil of His presence?
Each girl received the same process, but it was the king who determined on whom it had fully served its purpose. Esther was a picture of the Bride of Christ because she was surrendered to the will of her mentor, who was a picture of the Holy Spirit. Following His voice. Obeying His instructions set her apart and made her beautiful in the eyes of the king.
It is obedience that replaces the Self in us with the fragrance of Christ.
Myrrh was an embalming spice, which speaks of death. Before each woman could enter the king’s presence, she had to die to her own plans and agendas. The strategies, desires, and appetites of Self always fall short of the thoughts and plans God has for us, but unless we die to our ambitions, we cannot step into His.
Myrrh was also known for its healing properties and fragrance. It worked differently on each candidate. In the same way, our wilderness is designed specifically for our brokenness.
The process of purification is individual, intimate, and personal.
It is in our personal desert that we are smeared with His anointing oil. The oil of His presence, heals our past and transforms our perspective. It is then that the fragrance of Christ can rise from every thought, every word, every action and every emotion we share with the world.
Those who have been long in the wilderness, are familiar with this verse. It was my comfort more times than I can count. “Who is this one? Look at her now! She arises out of her desert, clinging to her Beloved,” Song of Songs 8:5.
I longed for the day that I would arise and come out of my wilderness leaning on my Beloved.
There is no shortcut.
To shorten the process and yield to the fear of man, means falling into the hypocrisy of cold love. This is Satan’s counterfeit and the mask of Self. It traps us in the pretense that Love resides where Self rules.
Just as these oils had to be smeared on each woman, so anointed teaching only develops into the maturity of experience when we apply what we have heard.
Applying the knowledge of God to everyday encounters is the evidence we have been changed.
Submission to Christ is proof of an obedient heart. Obedience is the manifestation that we have died to Self-will and risen to His will.
Brian and Candice Simmons, in the book, “The Sacred Journey” write, “The deeper we go into the heart of Jesus, the more we confront our own weaknesses and shameful ways. It seems as though we get worse rather than better.”
Christianity, today, is suffering from the lack of spiritual maturity. Too many refuse to enter their wilderness and die to Self. Instead, we pretend we have been with the King.
Maturity is the fruit of obedience and the qualification for reproduction. It is the proof you have come out of the wilderness, smeared, healed, reborn and leaning.
God does not send us there to kill us, but so that we can see the Self in us, and reckon it dead.
Isaiah 26:3 is a wilderness word. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Peace is the proof our mind has been smeared with the myrrh of His presence and trust is the only way to receive it.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:7.
Brian and Candice Simmons, “When you have no place to turn and you feel like your progress is slow and your spiritual growth seems even slower, remember the words to the children’s song, ‘My Lord knows the way through the wilderness.’”
“All I have to do is follow.”
An offense is an accusation.
Whether real or perceived, a complaint is necessary to form an offense. Therefore, offense is a judgment we make against another person’s name.
Essentially, as it appears in scripture, offense refers to one of two things: 1. a breach of the law or 2. a stumbling-block that leads to sin.
Because we have all breached God’s Law, we are all offenders. We chose to be fathered by a liar instead of our Creator. We committed an offense against God, but did He harbor resentment? Did He talk among the God-head about how untrustworthy we are?
With no promise of an exchange, He forgave our offense; laid his life down and paid our debt.
Though absolute, forgiveness came with a single caveat: Matthew 6:14&15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Clinging to our right to be offended, we snap, “You don’t know the truth about the situation!”
But what is the truth?
There is probably no word more abused in the English language. We hear, “My truth…” “Your truth…” “His truth…” etc., but none of these represent “The truth!”
For the sake of this article we are using Truth in its purest form:
Truth is God’s perspective of a matter.
A Lie is Satan’s perspective.
There is no other perspective. To be offended, we must choose Satan’s perspective.
From our beginnings, we left God’s perspective to follow Satan’s. Offended with the truth, we followed the lie. This is original sin.
Though He could have demanded a pound of flesh, God chose mercy. The Way, the Truth, and the Life entered the courtroom and paid our penalty with His own blood.
God bankrupted heaven to persuade the Law that we were worthy of another chance.
When we fail to identify with our offender, we have lost sight of the truth. “How could they?” And “I can’t believe they said (did) so and so!” are the statements of a liar’s perspective.
Even the most egregious crimes are possible when we follow the Liar and all of us potential criminals.
The truth is that without His grace we could. We would. And we have…
Which brings me to the most common use of the word offense and that is the stumbling-block that comes from a person or situation that catches us off guard.
When we stumble over another person’s uncrucified flesh, we fall short of the truth. To harbor resentment is to believe a lie.
When I was in my late 30’s, I experienced a traumatic situation that almost crippled me spiritually. Self-pity was a daily battle. Every waking moment was plagued by the pain of my experience and tears flowed freely. One day, I asked Jesus to show me where He was when I endured this suffering. To my surprise, He walked in the door, smiled at me, and went to the one who was the source of my anguish. His arms encircled the tormented soul as they tucked their head into His shoulder and wept.
The most common form of offense is misunderstanding. Emotions are liars. They have been nurtured and trained by the Liar. Yet, we trust them, reacting from our flesh and not our spirit; from the lie and not the truth. Hence, we allow a breach in our Love, which causes us to breach God’s Law.
To be offended is to be an offender of the cross.
Every violation of Love is a violation of the Truth.
“We hate sin, but not the sinner,” my dad used to say. I have discovered that unless I hate the sin that thrives in me, I will hate the sinner that sins against me.
To believe that my perspective is greater than God’s is to accept the Liar and reject the Truth. That’s what our first parents did. Sin by omission.
The crux of the matter is that offense is on the rise in the American church. Interestingly, Jesus said that this would happen in the last days.
Matthew 24:10-12, “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.”
Offense has always been present. From our first infraction of the Law to this very day, offense has permeated the atmosphere of creation. Cain’s offense ended in murder. In Luke 1:17, Jesus said that “it is impossible but that offenses will come…” So, “How do you respond when offense comes?” The Bible says that if you hate your brother, you have committed murder, I John 3:5.
We have a lot of murderers in Christianity. Worse, I am among them.
The fact is that offense is thriving in the house of God. It is both hidden and flourishing in leaders and congregants, alike. We are failing our tests. It is impossible to grow in spiritual maturity or lead God’s people without facing the trial of offense and yet, how we respond determines our future.
Self-pity is the fiercest, vilest, and most destructive spirit in the demonic realm.
Religion, which is man’s attempt to worship God without being submitted to His voice, thrives on the fuel of offense. In other words, we build a fence of protection against the sin (offenses) of evil-doers, considering their breach to be greater than our own. Our “fence” determines what we believe and what we don’t believe; who we can associate with and who we must avoid. It predicts validation, establishes reputations and verifies or denies promotions. Tucked safely inside our religious attitudes, we believe the lie that I am good, and you are evil.
Religion is the business of exploiting sin. Love releases sinners from guilt.
Relying on the Holy Spirit to build a church is time-consuming and humbling. Hearing God’s voice and yielding to His perspective requires the intimacy of faith, patience, and the long-suffering of loving through disagreements.
When God’s perspective is silenced, offense fills the void and shapes church policy.
To be fair, we are a generation that has not been taught the truth. The spirit of religion has led to spiritual immaturity, which has led to the Lie that offense is not a very big sin. We shrug it off. It’s bad, but not THAT bad…
But let’s take a closer look.
According to Matthew 6, an “offended Christian” is an oxymoron and a spiritual impossibility. It is a contradiction in terms. One cannot be “like Christ” while nursing an offense.
We cannot be “filled with the Spirit” and “full of offense” at the same time.
Offense is an accusation; a judgment we make against another. To nurture an offense, we must refuse God’s perspective and embrace Satan’s.
Which means, offense requires a spiritual connection with the Accuser of the Brethren. How humbling it is to realize that we are born again and following the wrong voice. Maybe this is the reason we play the word game. “I’m not offended, I’m hurt.” “I’m not offended, I’m just disappointed in you.”
A.B. Simpson, in his writings on “The Holy Spirit” and “Power from on High” says, “Someone has said that it is half the battle of life to call things by their true names.”
Herein lies the problem: Changing the words silences the voice of conviction and opens the door to delusion, 2 Thessalonians 2:11.
Our defense reveals our offense, but our delusion prevents us from hearing our deception.
According to Matthew 24, nurturing offense leads to deception and deception is revealed through “cold love.”
I learned many years ago that Love is an action and not a feeling; a verb and not a noun. Without that revelation, my offense would have been greater than my ability to forgive the one who sinned against me. Worse, I would have remained forever blinded by my own “rightness.”
When we operate by feelings and not by faith, what begins as a lie, grows into a stronghold.
And we exchange God’s Love for cold love. It begins with our refusal to deal with the truth that an offense is Love under attack. When we fail to fight for Love, we pretend to love. We avoid our offender at all cost. If forced to see them, we “act” like a “Christian,” but refuse to heal the gap in our communion. We ignore Love’s command to go out of our way to restore what Satan has broken. We will not lay our life down or do whatever it takes to prove that we desire restoration with our brother.
This is cold love.
God’s Love is doing the hard thing. God’s Love is always the opposite of what we feel.
Love is an action that kills our pride and opens our heart to experience the impossible.
Love is embracing God’s perspective no matter how hard our emotions fight against it. Love is seeing our accusation against another as an offense to God. To walk in Love is to go to the one we have made a judgment against, humble ourselves, and die to our own conclusions.
As I tell my kids, “Beware of jumping to a conclusion. You might miss the other side.”
Love cannot slander because it has seen its own evil character.
Quoting Simpson again, “Self clothes itself in so many disguises that nothing but the piercing sword of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures can compel it to take its true place, and own its evil character.”
Without humility, we cannot receive God’s perspective. Without humility, we cannot Love.
Humility allows us to see a thing as God sees it. Consequently, without humility, we become the author of our own deception.
King Nebuchadnezzar’s life testifies that God is not a respecter of persons. Instead of kings, we have apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists and we are held to a higher standard than them. Instead of Moses’s Law, we are held accountable to the Law of Love, but like the kings of old, the greater the responsibility, the weightier the accountability.
The wider the influence, the heavier the culpability. Without Love our task is impossible.
Again, from Simpson, “I would not like to have orphan children and widowed wives cry out against me to God. I would not like to have the little hand of wronged and innocent children pleading to heaven for my punishment… I would rather play with the forked lightning, or take in my hands living wires with their fiery current than speak a reckless word against any servant of Christ or idly repeat the slanderous darts which thousands of Christians are hurling on others, to the hurt of their own souls and bodies.”
Hence, the reason “offense must come.” Only the man or woman who has faced the fire of offense and refused to point the finger of accusation, only that person can fulfill the Law of Love and direct God’s people without crushing the least of these.
Only an unoffendable leader can lead us into revival.
Fear and pride are the guardians of an offended heart and grace the only remedy, but God gives grace to the humble, James 4:6.
We pray for revival; for an awakening in our nation, and it will come. When pride is exchanged for humility. When fear is replaced with faith. When we renounce the Lies we have accepted as truth and embrace God’s perspective. When the fence of offense falls, revival will come.
To be revived is to be awakened to the unrighteous judgments that thrive in our soul; to consider offense sin, again.
When the name, Christian, comes to mean examining our own heart and pulling down every stronghold, every lie, every deception and every delusion offense has created, we will see an awakening in the body of Christ.
Revival will begin where offense ends.