Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve accepted the philosophy that it’s okay for Christians to look and think and act like the world. We’ve made it an offense to confront people over their sin, to admonish people over their sin, either privately or, if necessary, publicly.

Leslie: It’s Monday, October 15, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. God is ready to love and teach you. Have you been seeking Him? That’s the name of our current series, a 12-week look at the marks of personal revival.

If you’ve missed any, you can catch the programs on humility, honesty, repentance, and grace by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. This week we’ll start to understand some of the beauty and joy that comes from holiness. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: What would you say gives a local church a powerful witness for Christ in its community? I think some might answer that question by saying, “Well, if they have a great kid's program, a lot going on for the kids. That gives it a great witness for Christ in the community.”

Some might say it’s the music program, praise and worship teams, maybe activities for every age group, great programs for the youth, maybe fabulous Christmas and Easter productions. Some would say it’s great preaching that gives a church a great witness. But one of the greatest preachers who ever lived and one of the greatest pastors who ever lived, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said this about the local church.

He said, “In proportion as a church is holy, in that proportion will its testimony for Christ be powerful.” Have you ever thought about that’s what makes a church have an impact in its community? In proportion as a church is holy, in that same proportion will its testimony for Christ be powerful.

Now, if that’s true, we ought to be motivated to see our churches be holy. Great to have the kid's programs, the youth programs, the music programs, but what about the holiness program? Well, I guess it’s easier to have children and youth programs than it is to have holiness because you don’t have a program that makes you holy.

Yet if it’s holiness that gives us our greatest witness, we have to ask the question, can we honestly say that most of our churches have a powerful witness for Christ in their community?

We see the advance of so many false world religions today in this country. I sometimes wonder why is it that our churches aren’t making more of an impact for Christ in the secular world. Perhaps one of the reasons, if we were to get honest, we’d have to admit that our churches are not holy. People don’t think of our churches, of Christians, as being holy people.

The lack of testimony in the community perhaps says something about our lack of holiness. That should be something that concerns every one of us as children of God.

Some of you have heard me talk, if you’ve listened to Revive Our Hearts over a period of time, about the epidemic of sin in the church today. You know this is something that’s very much on my heart. I hope it’s on your heart.

I get letters, emails, calls, reports constantly, and that is no exaggeration, about open, blatant sin going on within our churches, the lack of holiness. I’ve asked myself why? Why does there seem to be such an epidemic of sin in the church today?

Well, I think high on the list of reasons would have to be the fact that for over a generation the evangelical church by and large has abandoned preaching on sin and on holiness. You just don’t hear much of it today.

Now, we don’t mind preaching on sin or holiness as long as it doesn’t get too specific, as long as nobody names sins, or as long as they preach on sins of other people. But if they get to our sins, then they’re meddling. We don’t like that. That’s legalism, we’re quick to say. We don’t want preaching on sin or holiness.

As a result we’ve tiptoed around many passages both in the Old and New Testaments that proclaim the holiness of God, God’s hatred of sin, God’s wrath and His judgment against unrepentant sinners. When is the last time you heard a sermon on the wrath of God? When is the last time you heard a sermon on the final judgment of God?

We would rather focus on references to God’s grace, His mercy, and His love. We need to be preaching those things, but we haven’t been quite so eager to preach or hear preaching on the wrath and the judgment and the justice of God.

So as a result we have promoted something we call the gospel, though it really isn’t, a gospel that says it’s possible to be a Christian while at the same time stubbornly refusing to deal with practices or behaviors that we know to be sinful. You can be a good Christian and you can still practicing ungodliness in a consistent way.

We’ve accepted the philosophy that it’s okay for Christians to look and think and act like the world. We’ve made it an offense to confront people over their sin, to admonish people over their sin, either privately or, if necessary, publicly.

Sometimes I think if only we were as loathe to commit sin as we are to confront it. That’s private. That’s their business. Don’t get involved. So some people hear about the whole subject of church discipline, for example, and that’s enough to bring about a lawsuit today.

Lest you think I’m overstating the case, let me just give you some illustrations, and I could multiply these many times over. I got a letter from a woman who expressed deep concern about the lack of a commitment to holiness on the part of so many people who call themselves believers.

She said in her letter, “Worldly entertainment and coarse talk are rampant in our churches. Just this week at a women’s luncheon, the conversation was about how aggravating it is to go to an R-rated movie and see people bringing their children in with them. I listened for a couple of minutes, and then I couldn’t keep silent any longer. As graciously as I could, I said, ‘Ladies, we’re Christians. I can’t believe we’re even talking about attending R-rated movies.’”

Now, I don’t know what kind of response she got, but I know that many people would look at her like she was from another planet.

I got an email from a graduate of one of this country’s most respected Bible colleges. She told about how God had dealt with her on the whole thought that holiness is more than a matter of just keeping manmade rules. So God had been dealing with her heart about that issue. She talked about how today’s 25-year-old Christians casually go to bars and addressed a number of other issues from immodest attire to what is appropriate conversation for mixed company.

Then she said, “When the television show Friends was hot, it was very hot among 20-something Christian women, which was a marvel to me with the overt sexual content of that show. I had two Christian roommates who watched it weekly.” This just was troubling to her as it ought to be to us.

I know of a Christian mom who is active in the life of her church who shared how she and her accountability partner meet weekly to watch a particular reality show on TV that’s filled with sexual innuendos while the husbands take care of their kids. Then she got upset when a friend in her small group asked her how this could be consistent with her profession of being a Christian and just thought that was so inappropriate and rude of her friend to even raise the question.

I subscribe to a weekly online message illustration service. Every week I get ten new message illustrations, some of which I sometimes incorporate into teaching on Revive Our Hearts. What’s amazing to me is that up to 50% of those illustrations on some weeks are drawn from profane movies, regularly using those movies as sources for sermon illustrations.

I’m thinking to myself are pastors being encouraged to get up in their pulpits on Sunday and use these illustrations from movies that are profane, blasphemous, immoral? Are they encouraging their people that it’s okay to listen to these movies?

Some people would say, “Well, they’re just connecting to the world.” I say, “Get your heart disconnected from the world. Get it connected to the kingdom of God and you will have far greater impact on the world than if you’re just like the world.”

One of the things that should concern us most about the way that the church has so accommodated to the world is the impact this is having on our young people. I have some friends who lead in their home a Bible study for teenagers who go to their daughter's Christian high school. These students would be considered the cream of the crop. Some of their parents are on the staff of a large parachurch ministry.

Recently at that study my friends distributed a set of lyrics to several popular songs and asked the young people to discuss whether they agreed or disagreed with the message of that song and the behavior that it was advocating. Three of the songs, as I understood it, had lyrics that were blatantly offensive. For example, one song was by rock star Eminem who sings in graphic terms about murdering his mother and accompanied by an endless stream of profanity.

After analyzing the words, the kids discussed the fact that some of this behavior really was very awful, some of the language was very awful. Then they were asked would you continue to listen to the song even if you disagree with its message? With two exceptions those kids said, "Yes, we would continue to listen to this music even with these kinds of degrading messages."

Now my friends who saw this happen were so grieved. They knew I was working on a book on holiness at the time, so they wrote to me about what had happened. Here’s what they said.

“They said our hearts are breaking. This is one lost generation. We adults and the Church have failed to pass the baton of holiness on to the next generation. Frankly, we don’t blame these kids. How can they aspire to a life of holiness when they haven’t been presented with a standard of holiness in the home or from the pulpit.”

Now I’ve thrown out several illustrations here. I have others in my notes I won’t take time to share, but you need to understand that these kind of examples are not rare. They’re not exceptional. I am reading these kinds of things, hearing these things all the time.

That would be cause enough for concern, but the reality is that this kind of twisted thinking about right and wrong has become characteristic of a growing number of evangelical believers and is even being promoted in some cases and defended in the evangelical world. I have heard these perspectives expressed over and over and over again by people in some of our most respected ministries and churches around the country. Why it’s okay to accommodate to the world.

I don’t know if you know the name Vance Havner, but he was an old-time preacher and he had a way with words. He said something many years ago that had a prophetic ring to it. He said, “The world and the professing church first flirted with each other, then fell in love, and now the wedding is upon us.” The church marries the world.

Well, what does God’s Word have to say about that? Psalm 85, verse 13: “Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for His coming” (paraphrased). Holiness, a pathway of holiness.

Isaiah chapter 35 describes the millennial kingdom of Christ that will one day be on this earth. It says in verse 8, “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way.”

Ladies, our job between now and the return of Christ is to be preparing a highway of holiness. Righteousness, holiness goes before Him. It prepares the way for His coming. If we want to see the Lord come in revival in our day, we need to build a highway of holiness. We need to see the world and the church get a divorce.

Not that we don’t care about the world anymore, but we’re in no position to minister the gospel of God’s grace to the world if we ourselves are not holy. So the church once again needs to be a pure bride of Christ so that she can have the impact God wants her to have on this world.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with more on the subject of holiness. It’s a subject that’s near to her heart, as you’re about to hear.

Nancy’s written a book called Holiness: The Heart God Purifies. Would you like to explore this topic more thoroughly? It’s a topic that you’ll find throughout the pages of Scripture, yet it doesn’t get as much attention today as it deserves. To order Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy’s back to talk about some of the things she’s discovered while researching this crucial topic.

Nancy: Several years ago when I first started doing serious study on the subject of holiness, I took time to read through the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and then the New Testament Epistles (the letters to the churches) and to write out by hand every verse that I could find that had anything to do with holiness.

I think I actually started in the book of Exodus because that’s where you have a lot of emphasis that comes in about holiness. I filled page after page of a legal pad with verses in just those books of the Bible about holiness. For example, in the book of Leviticus alone 386 times you find words that are related to holiness: clean, unclean, holy, sanctified, purity, wash, defile. Words that are in that family of words, just in the book of Leviticus.

You remember if you’ve waded through the book of Leviticus that in that book God gave His people minute, detailed instructions about cleansing, about ceremonial purity. You have to ask yourself as you’re trudging through the book of Leviticus, why? Why did God take all the time and effort to spell out these detailed instructions about every aspect of daily life and worship and ceremonial cleansing?

Those regulations were intended to be an object lesson for the people of Israel. What did God want them to see in those object lessons? He wanted them to see first that He is holy, that God is holy. They were a picture of the holiness of God. Then God wanted His people to realize that God is concerned about holiness in every detail and aspect of our lives. That it matters to God that we be clean, that we be pure, that we be holy and that holiness affects every area of our lives.

I’ll tell you something else God wanted His people to understand, and that we have lost sight of today, and that is the blessings that come with holiness, that holy living is a blessed way to live. God also wanted His people to see that sin has consequences, that when we don’t live holy lives, there are consequences. There are results that are not pleasant. They’re deadly in fact.

Now we sometimes think that God had higher standards for His people in the Old Testament than He does in the New. In the Old Testament God is this holy God who judges sin. People who violate God’s commandments or His laws in the Old Testament, they get struck dead sometimes.

Then we think when we come to the New Testament we can breathe easy. God is a God of mercy and love and kindness, the gospel, the good news. But as you read through the whole Scripture, what you come to realize is that God never changes. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament, and the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old.

All through the Old Testament you see the grace and the mercy of God. In the New Testament you also see the justice and the righteousness of God. It’s at the cross of Christ that these marry each other. As the Psalms say, "righteousness and peace kiss each other." That’s where they come together in great relief.

The New Testament places no less emphasis on holiness than the Old. Over and over again Jesus and the New Testament authors call us to a life of purity. Let me just read several of those verses. Most of them will be familiar to you. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5, verse 48, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (NKJV). Now, I don’t know how you could get much higher than that standard. That’s New Testament.

First Timothy chapter 5, verse 22, Paul says, “Keep yourself pure.” First Thessalonians 4:3: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” First Corinthians 15:34: “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (NKJV). Second Timothy 2:19: “Let everyone that names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Romans 12, verse 9: “Abhor what is evil. cling to what is good” (NKJV).

You can’t read those and other Scriptures carefully without being gripped by a sense that holiness matters to God, that God takes holiness, His and ours, very seriously.

Now as I wrote out these verses in the Old and New Testament, I was forced to ask myself why is it that something that is so vitally important to God is of so little concern and priority for so many professing believers? If it matters that much to Him, how can it be that it matters so little to so many of us?

As I think about those verses I just read from the New Testament, several things are clear. Number one, holiness is not optional. It’s not: Become a Christian and then if you want to become holy, that’s a second course. You can take that one if you want to. It’s not an elective. This is the will of God, that you be pure, that you be holy. Your sanctification.

Then it’s obvious as we read those verses that God’s standard for holiness is absolute, that there’s not to be even a hint of sin in our lives. The question isn’t: How do we compare to some other family member or some co-worker or somebody else in our church? We can point to them and say, okay, compared to them we’re doing pretty well.

The question is: How do we measure up to the holiness of God? That’s an absolute, and I might add, impossible standard for fallen human beings. That’s why we need Jesus. That’s why we need the grace of God. That’s why we need the cross of Christ.

Now as I read those verses, I also realize that we have a responsibility to be proactive and intentional in our pursuit of holiness. It’s not something that happens by osmosis. It doesn’t happen by going to bed at night and just being surrounded by your Bibles and your commentaries and your Bible software programs. Having all that stuff doesn’t make you holy. This is something that we need to go after, that we need to pursue, that we need to be intentional about.

Then I see also that holiness is not just for some select few pious people: pastors, missionaries, evangelists. Of course, they’re supposed to be holy. That’s what they get paid to do, right?

According to these verses, holiness is an obligation and a privilege for every single child of God. As the Scripture says, “Let everyone that names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us understand holiness, growth, and grace. It’s something all of us need to be growing in. Nancy will be right back to pray that we will be growing in holiness.

This week’s message on holiness is part of a twelve-week adventure called Seeking Him. It includes week-long series on grace, repentance, honesty and other characteristics of personal revival.

If today’s program has gotten your attention, you’ll benefit from the entire series available on CD. Let me also invite you to reflect on these topics by studying the Seeking Him workbook. A listener wrote to us and said the Seeking Him workbook was “truly a work of art, brilliant, the best workbook I’ve ever done; keep up the good work.”

Discover personal revival for yourself. Order the Seeking Him workbook at ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s also where you’ll find the complete Seeking Him teaching series on CD and DVD.

What does it mean to be different from the world? Nancy will pick that back up tomorrow. Now let’s pray.

Nancy: O Father, we confess to You that the Church today is a soiled bride and that grieves our hearts. Lord, we confess that we have loved the world more than we have loved You, that we have wanted to indulge in the world’s pleasures. It’s been like really drinking out of a sewer, and it doesn’t fulfill the deepest thirsts of our hearts.

So, O God, how we pray for revival of holiness among Your people, starting, Lord, in my own heart. Starting in our hearts would You give us a love for holiness and a hatred for sin so that we can love sinners and point them to the highway of holiness. I pray for Jesus’ sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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