Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Crumbling World, Unshakable God

Dannah Gresh: It’s sure easy to think there’s security and permanence in things that actually won’t last. Today Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth explains.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: All that is earthly, no matter how impressive it may be or how enduring it may seem, it’s all going to come to an end. What are you trusting in? When the world around us crumbles, will you be able to stand firm and hopeful and joyful and patient in tribulation because you’re being held by the God who cannot be shaken?

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender: The Heart God Controls, for October 28, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

We’ll hear from Nancy in just a minute, but first, let us take a moment to cry out to the Lord. Here’s Karen Loritts to lead us in a prayer of confession.

Karen Loritts: Psalm 51, verses 1–4:

Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
   and cleanse me from my sin!
 
For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
   and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
   and blameless in your judgment.

Oh, Lord, we lament over the sin that breaks Your heart. We’re complicit in addressing the ravages of pride, of the insatiable grief for power, prominence, of being an anemic witness to the truths of the gospel. We weep for the lost, those that have sinned, and those that have been sinned against. For the lingering scars of racism and the increasing social injustices that remain, that we are slow to embrace the racial reconciliation, with this we are culpable.

Oh, Lord, may we be haunted by Your goodness, Your grace, and Your steadfast love. With this, we cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” Amen.

Nancy: Well, I’m so grateful for all the women around the world who have been joining us in the month of October for this emphasis on crying out to the Lord. We’ve had thousands of women getting the daily emails and joining us in those devotions—31-Days of Crying Out.

This is the last week for that, but I hope it’s not the end of our crying out, because we don’t need to just cry out in the month of October. We need to cry out to the Lord in November and December, not only in 2020, but also in 2021 and every year until Jesus comes, because we need Him so desperately.

If you’ve experienced some fresh mercy or grace from the Lord during this season of crying out with the Revive Our Hearts’ resource we’ve sent and the programming we’ve had this month, I want to encourage you to contact us.

You can write info@ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can post a note on our Facebook page, social media. Just let us know how the Lord has been working in your heart and maybe in a group you’ve been praying with or others that you’ve joined with and how you’ve seen the Lord at work in this season of crying out. Maybe the work has just been in your own heart. I know it has been in mine, and in our team as we’ve been crying out together.

It’s never in vain that we cry out to the Lord. He hears. He answers. And He will be glorified.

Now, having said all that, we know, and there would be no disagreement for me to say, that our world is in turmoil. If you’re one of these people who follows the 24/7 barrage of breaking news, you find your blood pressure keeps going up, and you feel stressed, you feel unsettled.

There have been over these last several weeks storms of all kinds in our country and in our world. When I say “our country” I’m speaking of the United States, but we have listeners from all around the world.

  • There have been literal storms and fires and hurricanes and storms of various weather types.
  • There have been political storms galore here in the United States. We’re still very much in the middle of one, and I don’t think Election Day that’s all going to go away. I’m sure it’s not because there’s pride, and there’s anger, and there’s contention, and there’s storms.
  • There’s violence in our streets.
  • There’s social unrest and upheaval.
  • There is injustice. (There has been since the book of Genesis, and there will be until Jesus comes back.)
  • There’s deception.
  • There’s mudslinging.
  • There’s vitriol.

I don’t know what other words I can use to describe the kind of environment in which we are living today. And as Christians, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of that. It’s a tidal wave of ungodliness on every side. And we just feel like—whew—it’s pushing over us. It’s pushing us down. It’s exhausting.

We’ve experienced that in the politicization and the polarization related to the pandemic. And if it’s not that, it’s something else. And to add to all that, there’s this blatant rejection of biblical morality and a biblical worldview in all venues and on all fronts. And to experience Christians being the object of such antagonism and disrespect, this is hard. It’s wearying. It’s turbulent.

So what I want to address today and in the next couple of days is: As Christians, how are we to understand what’s happening? What’s a perspective that will help us see this thing, not in the micro, but to step back and say, “What in the world is going on?”

And not only how do we understand what’s happening, but how do we respond? What’s our role?

I’m so grateful that I don’t have to look to cable news to tell me the answers to those questions. I’m grateful for the way that this Book, the Scripture, provides perspective and direction and hope in every era, including ours.

So let’s go to the Scripture. Open with me in our Bible, if you have it, or scroll to it if you can, to the gospel of Mark, chapter 13. We’re going to camp there for the next few days.

This passage is often referred to as the Olivet Discourse. It’s a passage that in a pretty similar form appears also in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, and in Luke, chapter 21, as well.

In my journaling through the Scripture over the last couple of years, I have spent quite a bit of time in the Luke version of this passage, just journaling it recently. It took my mind back to something I’ve taught in the past, but I wanted to freshen it and update it for what we’re going through in our day. It’s such a timely word for us today.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of those first-century believers who first read the gospels that are in our Bibles today. What were they going through? Well, they were being persecuted for their faith. And the world was awash in ungodliness.

And here they were, these little tiny islands of churches trying to be godly and trying to think straight. But they are just surrounded by secularism and ungodliness and persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. They were tempted to become discouraged, to give up, or to assimilate into the world around them.

There’s a lot of pressure to do that in our day as it was in theirs, to compromise, to not just take such a strong perspective on holiness or God’s values or God’s law as being good and for the good of human flourishing. The world doesn’t believe this, so we’re tempted to mold our thinking to the world’s thinking. These first-century believers have the same temptations.

And this passage in Mark 13, and as well as in the other synoptic gospels, gave those believers perspective and encouraged them to hold fast to Christ even when there was a tempest around them. This passage does the same for me every time I come to it in the New Testament. It does the same for believers of every era who are facing trials and storms, and I’m praying that it will do that for you as we look into it this week.

Now, the context is: Jesus has already made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on the back of a donkey at the beginning of what we call His Passion Week. So this is the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. There is an escalating tension between Jesus and the religious leaders (as there always was, but it was getting worse and worse).

You would have thought the religious leaders would have been the ones who would have welcomed Jesus as their Messiah, because He’d been promised for thousands of years. But, no. They were proud. They were arrogant. They felt threatened. They didn’t want their control over the people removed, so they resisted Jesus at every turn. Whatever He did, they were against it.

And at this point, they are plotting His arrest. There’s no secret about it. They are trying to kill Him without the people getting mad at them (because many in the crowd did applaud and love Jesus). They didn’t want to get the people mad at them, but they wanted to get rid of the Jesus problem.

Now, Jesus had told His disciples repeatedly of His coming death and His resurrection that would follow. They heard about the death, and they were sad about that, but somehow the part about the resurrection just didn’t . . . It went over them. They didn’t catch that until after the resurrection—then they remembered what He had told them.

But they were still expecting that Jesus would soon and quickly usher in this Millennial Kingdom, which is what they understood the Messiah would do when He came. They were on a different timetable than God was. And Jesus gave this passage to help them understand that.

So here we are, Passion Week, we’re actually Wednesday of Passion Week. It’s just very soon before the crucifixion of Christ and at the end of this Holy Week. In chapter 12, Jesus has been teaching in the temple. In chapter 13, verse 1, the Scripture says, 

As he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!”

Now, let me just stop there. Herod’s temple in Jerusalem was not even completed until approximately A.D. 64. It was massive. It was one of the architectural wonders of the world, but it wasn’t even finished yet. It was still under construction. “It was built,” one commentator says, “with large white stones, polished and generously decorated with gold.” The disciples were wowed by the magnificence and the structural beauty of the temple.

Now, before we go on in chapter 13, I want to take your attention back for just a moment to the previous chapter. (Context is everything when you’re studying Scripture.) In chapter 12 you see that God was more concerned about what was going on inside the temple and inside the hearts of the people in the temple.

So, for example, in verses 28–31 of chapter 12, Jesus talks about the greatest commandment—to love the Lord your God with all your heart. And then the second greatest commandment—to love your neighbor as yourself. He’s talking about our hearts, our affections, what we love. He cares about this.

Then beginning in verse 38, Jesus had warned against religious leaders who did their spirituality, their religious stuff, for show. They took advantage of the vulnerable. They were making pretense. They were play acting. They were hypocrites. And Jesus was concerned about that. He expressed that that was a problem.

And then look Mark 12, verse 41 (right before the passage we’re going to be looking at in just a moment),

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums.

It was impressive—just like the temple itself.

Now the treasury was the part of the area, the porch on the temple, where people gave their offerings. In that area there were thirteen wooden boxes, big boxes, that sat on the floor. They had bronze, kind of trumpet-shaped funnels on top. So people would drop their coins, their money, into that bronze trumpet-shaped thing, and it would fall down, clanging on the way, into the box where the offerings were collected.

The contributions of these wealthy donors made a huge racket as they fell into the offering receptacles . . . so everybody knew they were wealthy. People were thinking, Wow! Look how generous he is! Look how generous he is! And then in verse 42,

Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.

You can just imagine that her offering barely made a sound as it dropped into the offering box—nothing very impressive about that. Right? But, you see, Jesus weighs things differently. He counts things differently. He sees things differently than we do.

Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, [what they had left over. It was chump change for them, even though it was large amounts that made a loud racket] but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had —all she had to live on” (v. 43).

That’s the end of chapter 12. Jesus is impressed with this poor widow, nameless, unimpressive to anybody else. But He singled her out. That’s what impressed Him, not all these rich people putting in all their money.

Okay, come to the very next verse, Mark 13, verse 1,

As he was going out of the temple, [this had just happened] one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!”

Like the disciples, we tend to be impressed and dazzled by what we can see—big donors, big churches, big homes, big buildings, impressive resumes, impressive accomplishments, successful ministries, best-selling books, high approval ratings, glowing reviews, gazillions of “likes” and followers—platform, big platforms. That’s what impresses us, naturally.

I mean, it’s true. Right? That’s what gets you a name. That’s what sells books. When people want to publish a book, the first thing publishers want to know, I don’t care how Christian the publisher may be, they want to know, “What kind of platform do you have? Do lots of people follow you?”

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with large platforms, but that’s not what impresses God. God’s focus is on the heart, as we saw with how He was impressed with this poor widow. His focus is on what can’t be seen. God’s focus is on the eternal versus the temporal. He’s not impressed with temporal things but looking toward the eternal.

And furthermore, we want things to be secure and certain, not just big, but sure. But that’s just not the way things are many times on this fallen, sinful planet. Look at verse 2:

And Jesus said to [this disciple], “Do you see these great buildings? [Of course he did. That’s what the disciple was pointing out—"Look at these great buildings!”] Not one stone will be left upon another—all will be thrown down.”

The temple wasn’t even finished yet, and Jesus is already talking about it being destroyed. These were amazing words because the temple was the pride and joy of the Jews, and Jesus had just predicted that it would be utterly destroyed—not one stone left standing upon another—razed to the ground.

In the Old Testament, Solomon’s temple, the destruction of the temple by foreign powers was an expression of God’s judgment on His wayward people. When they lost their heart for Him, even though they kept going with their religious stuff and activities, when they lost the heart of it, when they lost the substance of it, when they started just being impressed with the outward, God said, “I’m doing away with the outward. I’m going to bring a foreign power, a foreign nation that hates Me, but they’re going to destroy your temple.” And they did.

And this Herod’s temple was one that was being rebuilt to replace Solomon’s temple. Jesus says, “Look, if this becomes your god, I’m going to do away with it. It’s going to be gone.”

Now, in chapter 11 of the gospel of Mark, Jesus had already expressed His displeasure over the abuses that were going on inside the temple. Remember how He cast out the money changers? He did it at the beginning of His earthly ministry, and He did it now on the last week of His earthly ministry.

They were serving for personal gain, for profit. They were taking advantage of people. They were using people for their own ends rather than encouraging people in the worship of God. Jesus had thrown them out. He cares about this.

All through this passage Jesus sees beyond the visible, external façade that we would look at and say, “Wow! That’s impressive!” Jesus sees inside to the inner reality of the temple that had been built to showcase the glory of God—not the beauty of man, but the glory of God. That glory had long since departed and had been replaced with corruption, corrosion and hypocrisy.

The inner workings of their worship in those days (so-called worship) were riddled with spiritual decay. God Himself would bring down this institution both literally (the building) and figuratively (the Jewish worship).

Now, the prediction of Jesus in this moment was fulfilled within one generation because in A.D. 70, Roman soldiers demolished the city. The temple area was burned and the buildings were leveled to the ground—the temple that had only recently been actually finished in its construction.

And this reminds me that all that is earthly, no matter how impressive it may be or how enduring it may seem, it’s all going to come to an end. Not even this temple, which was constructed as a place of worship and was so central to the faith of the Jewish people, not even that temple would be spared.

The things we place our hope in on this earth are not going to last—even those things that seem indestructible and invincible. Do I need to remind us that—the Titanic? the Twin Towers? But those are past. Maybe today it’s been a leader that you looked to and trusted in.

Hardly a week, certainly not a month passes that we don’t hear about some person we trusted in terms of being a faithful teacher of the Word or a minister of the gospel who turns out to be, at least in some area of his or her life, a sham, a fraud. We thought we could trust them.

Maybe it’s your marriage. You thought it was stable and solid. You didn’t go to the altar thinking, This thing is going to fall apart. You thought this was going to last, but it hasn’t.

Maybe it’s your health. You counted on good health. Robert and I have thanked the Lord again and again and again for good health during the nearly five years we’ve been married. And now we’re facing a season where Robert doesn’t have good health. I don’t know how long it will be that I will have good health or that you will have good health.

We don’t know that we’re depending on these things until they’re taken away sometimes, and we realize, “I thought that was going to be forever!” Nothing that is earthly is forever, no matter how impressive or permanent may seem.

You see this in Hebrews chapter 12. I’m going to read the last paragraph of that chapter. You have to follow it closely. It’s a little hard to understand, but I want to pick out one major point out of this paragraph. Hebrews 12, beginning in verse 25,

See to it that you do not reject the one who speaks. [That’s God.] For if they did not escape when they rejected him who warned them on earth, even less will we [escape] if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven. [He’s talking about things of time and things of eternity.] His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

And when you think of shaking the earth, what do you think of? Earthquake. Things that you thought were solid, things you thought were firm, things you thought were lasting—they shake. They quake. They quiver. And God says, “I’m going to not only shake the earth, but also the heavens.” Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.

This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain.

What is that? In a sentence, what did that passage just say? It says, “Everything that can be shaken, will be shaken so that the things that cannot be shaken will remain.”

  • God cannot be shaken.
  • His gospel cannot be shaken.
  • His Church cannot be shaken.
  • His Bride is enduring.
  • His Word is true and endures forever.

You see, the things that can be shaken, will be shaken, so that we can put our trust wholly in the One who can never be shaken.

So, verse 28 of Hebrews 12,

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

What does a consuming fire do? It consumes things that aren’t eternal. Things that can be consumed, will be consumed so that our God and His truth will remain supreme forever.

So what are you trusting in for security, for safety? Is it a strong national defense? Is it a particular system of government or political party or candidate?

What are you trusting in for happiness? Is it your husband? Or maybe getting a husband that you don’t have and you long for? Is it having a child? What are you trusting in?

Will the things you’re trusting in last? Are they eternal? You see, if you’re trusting in things or people that can be taken away from you, you will be insecure. The people who were trusting in that temple and those great massive stones, that amazing, impressive architectural wonder of the world, they were going to be disappointed because it was all going down. The things that can be shaken, will be shaken.

Are you prepared for your world as you know it to be shaken? And when your world and the world around you crumbles—as it has been doing here in the United States and may do even a lot further—but when the world around us crumbles, will you be able to stand firm and hopeful and joyful and patient in tribulation because you’re being held by the God who cannot be shaken?

We can’t place our hope in any human institution, but only on Christ, the solid rock, who will never be thrown down or destroyed.

Not everything that appears impressive is of true, lasting value. All institutions, programs, entities, possessions that do not honor Christ and that do not exist for His glory will be destroyed. So highly esteem and put your hope in that which is true, which is pure, which is of eternal value.

Even once faithful and beautiful edifices that become corrupt from within will one day be brought to nothing. I’ve lived long enough to see that happen now with respected Christian leaders, respected ministries. And I would be foolish to think it couldn’t happen to me or to our ministry if we don’t bank our lives on Christ.

Don’t assume that because these things look impressive today that they’re going to be standing months or years from now. Usefulness in the past is no guarantee of usefulness (or even existence!) in the future. We’re too easily impressed—just like those disciples were. Jesus sees beyond the exterior to the underlying rot that compromises the integrity of the whole structure.

And let me say this: In God’s wisdom, He sometimes causes or allows some of the things we think are important or permanent or reliable or trustworthy to be dismantled, to crumble. But remember that what seems like irreparable loss is not outside His control. When that temple fell, when those grounds were burned and the city of Jerusalem was ransacked by the Romans, that wasn’t the end of God’s plan because God’s plan outlasts all of that. He is still in control. He’s ever fulfilling His purposes.

Dannah: I don’t know what feels like it’s falling apart in your world, but this was a powerful reminder for me—and I hope for you—from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy’s going to be right back to continue encouraging us and to lead us in prayer, but first I want to give you an idea of how you can continue to powerfully remind yourself each day that God is in control and that He has a good plan. And, of course, that plan is illuminated in the Christmas season—it’s coming up so very soon.

I’d love to share with you how you can get a copy of Nancy’s newest book, a 31-Day Advent devotional called Born a Child and Yet a King.

Spending time in God’s Word in the pages that celebrate the arrival of Jesus through His birth is a wonderful way to stay grounded in the truth that He is in control. And even though we’re just about to turn the corner into November, I don’t think it’s too early to go ahead and get a copy so that you can prepare your heart. That way, in another month, you’ll be ready to dive in with us on December 1.

The devotional is our “thank you” to you for your donation and support of Revive Our Hearts. I want to remind you that we’re a listener-supported program, and your donation at this time is so important, and, I might say, so very appreciated.

Visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Be sure to ask for Nancy’s newest Christmas devotional when you contact us.

Now, here’s Nancy again.

Nancy: As we continue in our next session in our journey through Mark 13, we’re going to talk about: What do these turbulent times look like? What can we expect in these end days in which we’re living? And how can we not just survive those turbulent times, but how can we thrive in the midst of them?

Father, I pray that You will help us to anchor our hope and our lives and our joy and our contentment in Christ, the solid rock, and not to be impressed with things that can be taken away or done away with or can crumble or fall. Help us to care as You do about the inside, the character, the heart, what’s going on inside of our own hearts and of our country, our churches, our world. Help us to be impressed with things that impress You and to cling to You tightly, even when all around us is crumbling.

I pray that as we continue in this passage that You would fill our hearts with hope and perspective and joy as we serve You and walk with You in these troubled times. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages roof-off and-walls-down living. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the CSB.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.