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Jamie Johnson
3 July 2021

Glimpses in the Wilderness

I was recently having a conversation with a young Christian man about forgiveness and extending grace to others as he struggled practicing them. This was characterized by his saying, "It depends on the day" for when he feels like forgiving others or extending grace to them. I communicated to him the danger of reasoning out of emotions alone, that regardless of how we feel, we must operate out of the truth of Scripture.

Emotions can be dangerous. Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV) says the following:

"The heart is deceitful above all things
     and beyond cure.
     Who can understand it?"

James 1:5-8 (NIV) captures the danger of emotional reasoning:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I am not against emotions as they play a critical role in relationships and good can come out of them. God gave them to us, but they are affected by the Fall of man in Genesis 3. Emotions need to be rooted in truth (particularly in a culture that tries to base truth in emotion even to the point of attempting to redefine love as something it isn't). Otherwise, they can do great harm.

In thinking of that young Christian man with whom I spoke of forgiveness and grace and the dangers of emotional reasoning, I found that I, too, am guilty of similar errors when it comes to emotions. While it isn't unforgiveness or lack of grace, it is loathing myself into a rut. Sometimes, I belittle myself as if I haven't done enough for God or for being found yet again in that desert place.

However, it is in these desert places where we can see God at work. Think of the times in the wilderness where God worked in the Bible -- calling Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans in Genesis 11:27-12:9, the wandering of the Israelites en route to the Promised Land and the lessons thereof, and the temptations of Jesus and His victory over them in Matthew 4:1-11.

There are glimpses in the wilderness -- times where God has worked in my life and even moved me in obedience in the times where I feel I'm in a spiritual rut. If you are in Christ, the same is true for you. The glimpses may be small things such as a short, simple conversation to encourage someone towards Christ as He waits for her -- or even like the conversation with that young Christian man. There are glimpses in the wilderness. For even to become in Christ is an act of God to move you into a proper relationship with Him and while instantly justifying you based on His work, He also sanctifies you -- yes, even in the wilderness -- this side of Heaven. His grace is sufficient for when I am weak, He is strong.

Besides, it's not about you or me or how we feel. Apart from Christ alone, none of us are good. It's about Him. His grace is sufficient. His work on your behalf is sufficent. I know, I know: good work is to flow out of our faith (see James 4:14-26), but it is His work which saves and the Holy Spirit who produces the good works through us. It's not a performance. Be ready and willing and available.

You will have desert moments -- or even longer -- as I have. A concern about that is a concern about spiritual things, a sign of God working in you. Are you trusting Jesus to do His work in you? It's not about how you feel. It's about the truth of what He has done on your behalf at the cross and what He will do in the heart available to Him. Recall Philippians 1:6 (NASB):

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.

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