Becoming God’s Dwelling Place

Sept. 27, 2019 Dannah Gresh

Session Transcript

Dannah Gresh: It is so good to be with you! I’m so honored to share with you, and I’m so terrified to share with you what I’m about to share with you tonight. Nancy assigned me the topic of “Humility.” Now, herein lies a lot of problems, beginning with: I don’t usually say the word correctly!

I have a problem every time there is an “hu” in a word. I usually say, “I have a ‘ ’uge’ problem, instead of a “huge” problem. So I think that the beginning lesson in humility for me was learning how to say the word. and if I say “’umility” tonight, you all know what I mean! (laughter)

I don’t know how your heart is as you come here tonight, but my heart has been through quite a summer! My daughter, Autumn, calls is our “family summer of joyful chaos.” I became a grandma for the first time! (applause) I became the mother of the bride for the first time, for Autumn. I saw two of my young adult children buy homes for the first time. And we sent our tween ministry on tour throughout the United States under the name True Girl for the first time! 

So I kind of crossed the finish line of all these firsts on Labor Day, and I was like, “Whew!! I did it, I made it!” And on Labor Day night, I was in the ER in crippling pain!

It put me on my back for about a week, and I remember for about a week feeling, “My body doesn’t just hurt. My spirit hurts, too!” I looked at my husband, and I said, “My thinking isn’t right. My feelings are not right. I hope I’m depressed.” (laughter) Have you ever been like that? You’re like, “I am off!”

Here’s the thing: I wasn’t just like that—worn out—because I had had a lot to do. I was worn out because of some sin in my life, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about that in a minute. But first I want to ask you: “What has you worn out?” What has you in a place where you are at the end of your rope, at the end of your hope? What has you in a place where you deeply need revival?

I want to tell you something . . . Jesus deeply wants to give you revival as deeply as you want it and need it. And He did it for me. In the last couple of weeks He has revived my heart, and joy has returned to my heart. Joy has returned to some relationships that were being tested by my condition, and He wants to do that for you.

But I had to ask myself a question, and it’s the question that you need to ask yourself tonight. It’s this: “What kind of heart does God choose to revive?” I have to tell you that, when it comes to the topic of revival, there are a lot of things that I love. I love the topic of studying the Word; I love the topic of forgiveness and repentance. I really love that. I love to see people experience that. I love experiencing the Holy Spirit and HIs presence . . .ut humility didn’t really excite me. 

So I had to ask God to really find verses for me that would get me excited about this topic. And in finding one of them, I found the answer to my question, “What kind of heart does God revive?” It’s found in Isaiah 57:15, and I want to ask you to stand just to honor God’s Word and read this passage out loud with me. 

For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (NKJV emphasis added).

You can be seated.

He will come to revive you if you are humble! Of course, that’s not an easy thing if your sin is pride. And that is what I discovered was my sin. Now, I wouldn’t have discovered that had I not been working on this message for you tonight. But, by God’s grace, I was working on this message for you tonight.

And so, I was able to see that what brought me to a place of being literally on my back, in need of revival, was pride. As I studied the topic of pride and the topic of humility I found that, really, there are two polar opposites, or two types, of pride. 

The first one is boasting. Now, very few of us wake up in the morning and say, “I am ‘fine!’ And I think I will tell everybody about it today!”

That’s generally not how the pride of boasting shows up in our hearts and our lives, but there are ways that we speak with exaggeration and pride about ourselves, and it’s usually in our actions. And one of the things I found is that you can go online and find all these lists, because we’re trying to figure out the sin of pride, right? Because we know it’s the root of all our other sins.

As I was reading these inventories, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. It said, 

One of the signs of pride is that you have no ability to say “no,” because you think everyone needs you and could not get by without you. If you did say “no,” everything would fall apart. 

That couldn’t possibly be pride!

I mean, it would fall apart, right, if we didn’t take care of it all! Listen to me: even God rested on the seventh day; it’s called the Sabbath (see Gen. 2:2). And He invites you and I to partake of it. Now, maybe that’s not how your pride shows up. Maybe you are not the woman who is trying to hold it all together. 

Maybe your boasting shows up in one of these other ways: 

  • You’re so important and have so much to do that you’re busy on your phone even though there are other live people right in front of you. (Okay, I stepped on a toe or two there.)
  • You talk about yourself rather than asking about others. Ouch!
  • You’re easily agitated by the needs or neediness of others. 
  • You have to have the best seat in the house. (Oh, that one applies at Christian women’s conferences! And how about this one?) 

You’ve stopped truly seeking Him. Pride sets in; it sets us in opposition to seeking Him, because we don’t think we really need Him.

Maybe boasting isn’t the kind of pride you struggle with. Maybe it’s belittling yourself. Okay, here again I had a little bit of a problem because, I don’t think I dismiss my importance. I feel purpose in life, but I came to this list and the list said, 

When you belittle yourself sometimes you don’t ask for help because you “don’t want to be a bother.”

I don’t know anybody like that, do you?

Maybe your pride shows up like one of these other ways: 

  • You’re naturally withdrawn from others and you excuse it as “introversion” or “shyness.”
  • You’re terrified to pray in front of others. 
  • You are paralyzed by fear of failure and so avoid trying new things or stepping out into your purpose. 
  • You’re easily hurt if your work is not noticed.
  • You feel like “the weak link” or “the black sheep” in your family or group of friends. 
  • You’re self-conscious about your appearance, having to approve photos before they are posted on social media. (laughter) 
  • Maybe you’re the one who hides your body in group photos to make sure that only what has to be is peeking out.
  • Maybe the way you belittle yourself is you hold tightly to the shame of your sin and you won’t receive the grace of God. 

I don’t know about you, but when I listened to these things I realized I needed a prescription for pride! Does anybody else feel that, too? Do some of these things hit a little too close to home?

You might be saying tonight, “I need the prescription, please! Tell me how to overcome my pride!” Well, that’s what I want to give you tonight. Quite honestly, I can’t tell you how to have humility, because, if I have learned anything as I have studied, I don’t have it! At least to the degree to which Christ is calling me at this point in my walk with Him.

But I do want to show you how I began to have a desire to have it. I love teaching the Word to little ones. I’m talking about seven- to twelve-year-old little women. And God, as I was looking at this passage of wanting to be revived and knowing that it took a humble heart to be revived, and also that verse says that He dwells in a humble place . . . 

I want to be God’s dwelling place. I want that! So I was praying, “Lord, help me! Help me to understand humility!” 

I was studying all the passages I could on the topic, but it just wasn’t hitting me until I looked at a passage I was preparing to teach tween girls. There, in a very familiar passage, God taught me something about pride and humility that made me want it. And I want to share it with you tonight. It’s a familiar passage. It’s Psalm 139, verses 13 and 14. It says, 

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 

What I learned is that this verse is proof that we have a problem with pride!

Because we slap this verse on T-shirts; we post it on Pinterest, and we put it on posters in an effort to make ourselves truly wonderful! And when I really studied it and really looked at it, that’s not exactly the point of it all. So let me share with you the two things God taught me are an important part of humility.

The first one is to know this: you are wonderfully made! You are wonderfully made. Now, what does that word “wonderfully made” mean? It means you’re wonderfully made. He did not make a mistake. It says in that verse that He “knit you together.” Has anybody here ever done any knitting? Okay, it takes math. Math and I are not friends; therefore, Dannah has never done any knitting! (laughter)

But my daughter, Autumn, has. For her senior project she learned how to knit. She was trying to make this wonderful little beanie cap with a pom-pom on top. And she got bored with counting, and she made a pancake instead—a nice, little yarn pancake! (laughter) It didn’t look so cute on her head!

Listen to me: when God says He knit us or He wove us together, He is saying that He took care and precision when He crafted us! He did not make a mistake when He gave you the brain that He gave you; He did not make a mistake when He gave you the learning style that He gave you. He did not make a mistake when He gave you the weaknesses that He gave you.

He did not make a mistake when He gave you the personality that He gave you. He did not make a mistake when He chose your hair color or your skin color or your eye color or how tall you would be or how short you would be. He is perfect, and He is a fantastic artist! Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are his workmanship,” or we are His artistry, or we are His masterpiece. 

He did not make a mistake when He made you. You are wonderfully made! Stop belittling yourself! Step into the wonder of man. Stop hiding in group pictures; that’s belittling. Stop hiding from your life’s purpose; that’s belittling. 

Stop hiding your sin and your shame, because when you do you are making much of it and belittling, not only yourself, but the grace of God that is extended fully to you. You are wonderful; you are wonderfully made. Do you believe it about yourself? If you don’t believe that, you will veer quickly into the territory of pride that looks like belittling. 

But here’s the thing: as I was thinking about that and meditating on it. I wonder if we know it about ourselves, but I wonder if we know it about the person we’re sitting next to right now. I wonder if we know that that person is fearfully and wonderfully made? I wonder if you know it about your boss that drives you crazy! “Fearfully and wonderfully made!”

I wonder if you know it about the hotel maid that forgot to clean your room today (how dare she!)? “Fearfully and wonderfully made!” I wonder if you know it about the woman who did get your seat tonight! (laughter} “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” I wonder if you know it about that guy that wounded your heart. “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” I wonder if you know it about your mom or your dad who just didn’t know how to be one because nobody told them that they were fearfully and wonderfully made. 

We can’t just think we are fearfully and wonderfully made; God tells us all through Scripture that we’re supposed to have the eyes to see that others are fearfully and wonderfully made.

In fact, that passage in Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship—His masterpiece—for the purpose of doing good works. That means we see the needs of others and we meet them. That’s why you are wonderful—not because you are wonderful, but because He wants you to be equipped to do things with that wonder.

Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Do you understand that the people near you in your life are fearfully and wonderfully made?

And listen to me, I especially want to talk to you about those you are in conflict with. Do you know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made? Because here’s the thing: our conflicts are served well by our pride, aren’t they? And as I was thinking through this tonight, Nancy pointed out that Proverbs 13:10 actually says that pride creates conflict.

If you forget that the person you’re in conflict with is fearfully and wonderfully made, and you forget to look at them with eyes of esteem, you will feel the conflict and the brokenness of your heart and their heart. God does not want you to belittle yourself, but God does not want you to belittle others either! It’s ugly, and it’s sin. Let’s stop!

C.S. Lewis wrote this in Mere Christianity:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. 

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less. You know why? So that you can think of others more! Are you doing that? Are you? I’m not! I’m not living in that space consistently and to the degree that Christ is calling me at this point in my walk with Him.

Do you know what I wrote in big letters for me? (And I’ll just share it, in case you need to write it in big letters for you.) This is for me: “It’s not about you!” That’s what I wrote for me. Copy my writing if need be. You are wonderfully made! The person next to you is wonderfully made! 

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.

But you are fearfully made. As we were working on this curriculum for tweens, my husband said, “What does that mean to a ten-year-old girl? Is she supposed to look in the mirror and be afraid of what she sees?” And so I had to dig a little bit more deeply for this, but I found something that was the nugget that changed my heart about how I experience and express humility.

You see, that word isn’t really about us. We’ve made it about us. We think it’s about us. We think the word “fearful” is about us, but it’s not. If you look at the whole context of Psalm 139, Psalm 139 is not really about us. It’s about God! It’s a poem about His great power, His omniscience. It’s about Him!

The Word “fearfully” right here in this passage, it’s about Him! When David looked at himself, he saw the power of God within His creation! And that was before we even had the science that we have today, to understand how we’re created and how miraculous it truly is. So, let’s look at ourselves and see if we can understand this fear.

Let me show you a picture of how you began. This is a blastocyst (all the homeschoolers in the room are so happy that I know that word!). This is how we begin; we’re so small that only a microscope can see us. We are smaller than a speck of dust. In fact, we are dust. We are nothing more than dust.

I want to show you what the chemical make-up is of a sampling of the earth’s crust and a sampling of the human body. If you look at this with me: the human body, as well as the earth’s crust, is made of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, silicon . . . and the list goes on.

Now you see that the really, really big significant difference there is the amount of oxygen that is within each of us. And that’s where I want to land a little bit tonight, for just a second, to understand the fearfulness of God . . . what it means to be fearfully made. This is maybe not as exciting to you; I am a little bit of a Creation geek, a little bit of a science geek.

I’m not really educated or trained to handle both of them well. (laughter) But I get very excited about science and Creation, and so this gets me very excited! We are dust! You and I are dust. Science tells us this and God’s Word tells us this. 

Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” How, how, how did someone who wrote the Bible that long ago know that we were made of dust? How did they know!? Unless it was by the omniscience, omnipotence. How did they know?

Does anybody else? No, it’s just me. It’s okay, it’s alright, because I’m excited! (laughter) How did they know that we were made of dust and what makes us different? Well, I’ve got to go back to the word “knitting” again, because what makes us different is breath . . . the breath that we breathe. And why is it that we breathe and a piece of dust from the earth doesn’t? Well, knitting.

So I want to introduce you to, I want to show you God’s thread. When you were born, you were born with sixty-thousand miles of blood vessels in your little itty-bitty body. And by the time you were an adult that was a hundred-thousand miles of blood vessels in your body! That would wrap around the earth four times!

And do you know how long it takes for the blood to go from your heart all the way through that hundred-thousand miles, back to your heart again? Sixty seconds! Try to get around the earth in sixty seconds four times. It won’t happen! It is the oxygen moving through our bodies that gives us the ability to be alive, to be different!

And you know, we’ve been trying for twenty years to figure out how to fix people who have broken blood vessels, and you know what? The only thing that they know is that they can take human skin and other cells and knit them together. And they know that, if they figure out how to knit correctly, one day they will be able to create a blood vessel.

God knit us together in our mother’s womb, and when He did, He pushed breath through us and that breath—only powered by Him—is what gives us the ability to live. Every breath that you breathe is a gift from God! He is worthy of every breath that we breathe.

Listen, I didn’t fully understand this to a degree that I would rather have not learned until this year when I became a grandmother. I didn’t become a grandmother once for the first time, but twice—twin girls, Addy and Zoey. And here’s the thing: they had to be born early. We knew that that would be hard. We were prepared for some time in the NICU.

What we weren’t prepared for was that Addy’s lungs would collapse within twenty-four hours. I want to tell you that when you walk into the NICU and you see your son and your daughter-in-law looking helpless . . . and then look to the right and see a team of nurses and doctors opening your brand-new baby granddaughter up . . . you cry out to God!

And an hour later you sit with those doctors and those nurses and they are telling you words with their mouth that are neutral—they don’t make a lot of sense to you—but their eyes are telling you that they’re terrified! You pray; you cry out to God.

I didn’t expect that the first twenty-four hours of being a grandma would be spent by a bassinet in the NICU. All I knew was that, “God, if You don’t breathe into this child, she will not breathe! Because the doctors have said there is nothing else they can do. Breathe, breath of God! Breathe, breath of God! Breathe, breath of God!”

And you know, here’s the thing, something in me needed to bow when I called out to Him. The NICU nurses are amazing—they’re heroes! They’re also very scary when it comes to the topic of germs. And if you put anything on the floor, such as your purse, they would grab it and could take it from you, and you weren’t allowed to have it anymore.

And so, if I bowed on the ground, I wasn’t quite sure what the NICU nurses would do with me! (laughter) But the longer I went through the day, I had a compelling need to be on my knees! I don’t know if you’ve ever been there before with God, where you just need to be on your knees.

And so, I went to the cafeteria (because there were no NICU nurses there). I got on my knees before God . . . and listen! As I prayed all the Scriptures I knew, asking God to breathe life into that little girl, I was very, very, very, very mindful of my sinfulness and having a clean account before God. I had the fear of God in my heart that day.

I’m grateful that God gave me that window to see the stench of my pride and to be humbled in a way that I had to be utterly dependent on Him. I bowed there, and I begged Him, and I confessed one sin after the other. I don’t know if this is the right thing to say, or if it is fair to say this, but I hope that one day you need Him so desperately that you feel the need to be on your face before Him and confess every little thing in the corner of your heart. 

I’m thankful to say that the Lord answered those sweet prayers, and many of you prayed with us as we called out to you through social media. I just have to show you what I think I know that Addy thinks of those prayers that you prayed for her.

Listen, you’re not promised the next breath; you’re not promised that you’ll breathe to wake up tomorrow morning; you’re not promised that you’ll get home tomorrow night . . . except that God chooses to breathe into your life. We are utterly dependent on Him! He is worthy of every breath that we breathe!

Here’s what I’ve come to understand: if I don’t live in that space of the fear of God, I will very quickly veer into the pride of boastful living. That’s what I did this past year. I lived in a place of boastful living. Here’s the deal: we have forgotten the ampersand [&]. We have forgotten that we are wonderfully . . . & we are fearfully made.

I have an ampersand in my bedroom, and I want to have an ampersand in your heart as I wrap up here tonight. I want to have an ampersand in your mind, because, listen to me. If you live in just the fear of God, you are very likely going to veer towards a shame-filled Christian walk, that belittles yourself. You will very quickly be somebody—out of self-defense—that belittles others.

You cannot live in only the fear of God. You have to live in the love of God—the love of God which is what caused Him to create you with such wonder, which is what caused Him to create you to be a masterpiece! You have to live right in the center of the ampersand. That is where humility is; that is what humility looks like.

It’s not thinking less of ourselves; it’s just thinking less often of ourselves . . . so that we know truly who He is! We know that He is worthy of every breath, and because of that we see the needs of others, and we’re drawn towards the needs of others. Without humility, we cannot honestly call ourselves true believers. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

I can’t call myself a true believer unless I’m chasing after this. I don’t know that I’ll ever arrive, but what I have decided is that I have to chase after it! It’s a direction; it’s a pursuit. A true believer does not idolize herself, nor does she make less of herself. What she is no longer concerns her. 

She understands that she is made in the image of Christ, that she is crucified with Christ, and that she is the dwelling place of God’s Spirit, because her focus is on Him. And because of that, she focuses on others just like Jesus did . . . just like Jesus did.

What I’ve learned is this: it’s very easy for me to get caught up in the fear of God and live in my shame and live in my brokenness and live in my belittling. That’s easy to do. And it’s very easy for me to live in a place of self-esteem. Listen to me! We live in a world that cries out “self-esteem” every day.

You do not need self-esteem; you need God-esteem! If you understand who He is, you will understand your value but not make too much of yourself. And you’ll live in a place of truth, because humility is the truth—the truth about us, the truth about God, and the truth about the fearfully and wonderfully made person right next to you.

But here, I need to come back to that word “fear,” and this is where I want to end. As I looked through all of the Old Testament, the definition that God has planted in my heart for fearing Him is: “to stand in awe of, to worship, to bow before, and to submit to.” 

And as we bow before Him in humility and are honest about the sin in our lives—including being upset about not getting that seat, including not getting the attention we wanted today. We have got to get honest with God about our pride. We have got to get honest with God and we’ve got to get honest with others.

So you know what I had to do this week? I had to call my friend, Lynn, and I said, “Lynn, I’ve got to teach this lesson on humility, and I think I’m not very humble. I’ve confessed a bunch of it to God, but I really feel like I need to confess it to a girlfriend.”

 So she got together with me, and as she shared with me, she said, “You know, Dannah, the funny thing about Psalm 139 is that it ends this way:”

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’” (Ps. 139:23–24). 

So, my fearfully-wonderfully-made friends, will you let God search you tonight? Will you see if there are any grievous ways in you? Is there some pride in your heart that has to go?

Listen to me, if you’re struggling with sin and you can’t stop, I promise you, you’ve got a lot of pride in there, because pride is the root of every sin. It has to go! And if we don’t start here, it’s like picking up dandelions at the top of their heads and not getting to the root of all our brokenness and our problems.

Will you be honest with God tonight about who you are and what you need to confess and what grieves His heart?

Jesus, I don’t know if what I just said is as big in their hearts as it has been in my heart. I just know that You’ve changed me, and that I hate the pride in my life. I’m tired of thinking about myself, Jesus. I’m tired of thinking about me all the time. 

I just wonder if anyone else here is consumed with exhaustion from all of the prideful thoughts in their heart and their life. I wonder if they’re worn out about the conflict that their pride is causing in their lives. I wonder if they’re really having a hard time seeing how fearfully and wonderfully made the people in their lives are, who’ve hurt them. 

God, will You change us tonight? Will You help us enter into the fear of God and let You search our hearts and be honest with You about this ugly sin that consumes us and strangles the life out of us? 

God, we want to be revived. If we want that, if we need that because we’re worn out, we cannot be until we first get humble before You. So will you help us to do that tonight? I pray this in the precious, awesome, powerful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!