Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Crying Out from a Heart of Brokenness, Day 2

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Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth knows how long-time church goers can be tempted to look at new believers.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: So people are coming to Jesus, and they’re not all put together. They don’t talk and look and act like everybody else. Some of us are looking at those brand-new baby Christians, and they’re just so full of joy, and every time you sing, they don’t know the words, they don’t know the tune, they just make noise, and they cry, and they lift their hands. And you’re thinking, Give them a few months, they'll get over it. They will if they sit next to you. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, November 1, 2016.

Yesterday, Nancy began a three-day series called “Crying Out from a Heart of Brokenness.” She gave us a picture of humility. She talked about a house with the “roof off and the walls down.” The roof off means we’re completely open to the Lord. Today she’ll talk about letting the walls down—being honest and humble with others. Once the roof is off, it’s time to let the walls down.

Nancy: I think sometimes that’s harder because God, I know, already knows everything that’s going on so I can’t really fool Him. But you don’t really know. And I’ll tell you, I’m learning in the last ten months, nowhere does this get lived out more, this walls down thing, than in the context of our homes and marriage in particular.

You see, I’m choosing every day: “Am I living with walls up or walls down toward Robert? Am I being honest? Am I being transparent about what’s going on in my heart?” Now, that doesn’t mean you just blurt out everything you think every time you think it. That would not be wise. But it means we’re not putting up walls, and we’ll talk more about what that looks like over these next moments.

There are a lot of examples in Scripture of people who were broken, humble, contrite, repentant. And frequently, those examples are set in contrast to people who were not broken. I want to give you three of those examples from the gospel of Luke in just a moment, but in each of these cases you’ll see that it’s not a matter of who was the worst sinner. We’re all sinners. We’re all in need of God’s grace. So it wasn’t a matter of who sinned more or whose sin was worse. What it is, is a matter of is the person’s response to the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit. That looks very different in each of these two pairs, in each of these pairs of two people.

First of all, in Luke chapter 18:9–14, we see an illustration of two churchgoers. We’re going to look at two churchgoers, two brother at a dinner. The two churchgoers in Luke 18.

Jesus told a parable, and He’s telling us in the Scripture who His audience is. It says “He told this to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous (self-exalting) and treated others with contempt.” (“I am something. You are nothing.”) Now, none of us would say that, hopefully, but how often are we thinking of ourselves in a better light than our mate, or our family, or our coworker, or that neighbor?

So Jesus was speaking to those who thought they were something and others were less. Now, Jesus was perennially dealing with these people called Pharisees, and they were in the crowd that day, and so He used a Pharisee as one of the two people in this illustration.

A Pharisee, who went to church to worship supposedly, but he gets in the presence of God, and he looks around, and he sees this tax collector. “How dare he come into this holy place?” For tax collectors were known notorious sinners. They were cheats. They were thieves. Everybody hated them. They were despised. They were vile. They were scum. They were the lowest of the lowly.

And there’s this Pharisee. He’s got a Ph.D., a Th.D. in theology, and a few other things. These were the holy men of God. They knew the Word of God. They were the pious men. They were the pray-ers. They were the pastors. They were the teachers. They were the Bible study leaders.

So the contrast is great. But the Pharisee exalts himself, and seeing this tax collector out of the corner of his eye, he goes, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other sinners I know, not like this tax collector. I fast. I pray. I tithe.” He starts listing all his spiritual credentials to God.

Now, Jesus may be exaggerating the way that this Pharisee might have talked, but He probably wasn’t exaggerating the way the Pharisee might have thought. And Jesus says, “Those two men left church that day, and one went home justified.” It wasn’t the Pharisee. It was that tax collector.

What was his prayer? The Scripture says he couldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but he bowed his face to the ground, and he said, “Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” No pride. No pretense. No covering. No trying to look better. Just transparent before God. Roof off, walls down.

Which one did God listen to? Which one got his prayers answered?

I think there’s some women in McPherson Women’s Prison who are serving life without possibility of parole for murder one, whose prayers God may hear some days more than He hears my prayers. I don’t have their history, but sometimes I have so much pride, so much performance, so much caring about image.

When I get with those women, you can sense it from the women on the platform, they don’t care what you think about them. They don’t have anything to hide. They don’t have anything to lose by being honest. And so here’s me trying to protect my reputation, public, person. Whose prayers does God hear, theirs or mine, in that moment?

Well, Jesus told a story about two brothers in Luke chapter 15:11–31, and, again, in the audience this day there were two kinds of people. There were the tax collectors and the sinners. They came to hear Jesus. They were sponges. They just soaked in His words. They were humble. But the Pharisees and the Scribes were there. I envision them kind of around the outskirts of the crowd. They’re not going to try to get too close. But the sinners are pressing in to Jesus. They loved Jesus because they knew they needed Him.

The Pharisees, the Scribes, teachers of the Law, they’re the ones with the folded arms, sitting back there scrutinizing, evaluating, critiquing, murmuring. “Where did He go to school? Where did He get His education? I never heard of it that way before.” We’ve got some of them in some of our churches. And aren’t many of us sometimes in that place?

Well, those were the people in the audience that day, so Jesus said, “Let Me tell you a story. There were two brothers.” You know the story. He tells about the younger brother who was hard-hearted, willful, independent, rebellious. He spent his father’s living. He said, “I want what’s coming to me.” He took it early, took the inheritance, squandered it, prolific lifestyle. And then when he’d spent it all, he began to be, the Scripture says, “in need.”

When God puts you in a place where you are in need, thank God. That’s the best place we can possibly be, where we have no solutions. His money ran out. His friends left him. He thought his family was gone. He was desperate. He was destitute. He was in need.

And the Scripture says “he came to himself.” He came to his senses. It’s like a wake-up call. I asked these women a few moments ago, “When did you have a wake-up call?” It’s when they came to themselves. They came to their senses. They got honest about their failure. They admitted their need.

Then there’s repentance. He says, “I will get up out of this pig sty, and I’ll go back to my father.” He was going in one direction: his own way. He was willful. Then he stops. He has this wake-up call. He turns around, and he says, “I’ll get up, and I will go back to the place where I left grace.” That’s repentance.

You can just see him practicing his speech all the way home. He’s scared to death, because if a son was rebellious in those days, and you were caught, they could stone you. He didn’t know would happen, what kind of reception he’d be met with. So he was practicing. “I’m going to say to my dad, ‘Oh, Dad, I’ve sinned against God (roof off). I’ve sinned against you (walls down). I’m no longer worthy to be your son. Would you just let me be one of your hired servants?’" Because he’s thinking, I’m starving here in this pig pen. I’ve nothing to eat, and my dad has hired hands who are better off than I am. Maybe he’ll just let me work out in his field.

His dad sees him “while he was still a long way off,” Scripture says. Why? Because he’d been waiting, longing for God to turn the heart of that son and bring him back. Notice, by the way, he didn’t, in that case, go pursuing after his son.

And let me say, moms and grandmoms, a little parenthesis here, you may have a wayward, rebellious son or daughter or grandchild, and you cry yourself to sleep at night, just so burdened by how they’re destroying their lives. Don’t rescue them from the cross.

Now, I don’t know what that means in your case, in your situation, that doesn’t mean necessarily don’t do anything, but I think there’s some people who think they love their kids who are really enabling them to stay away from God. Let God deal with them. Sometimes you just need to take your hands off and say, “You’re God’s.” That’s hard. I’ve watched a lot of moms go through that. That’s hard.

But this dad let God deal with his son. And the dad comes running out. You see the two. You just picture them embracing, before the kid can even get home. He doesn’t even get the whole speech out of his mouth. “I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against you.” Before he can say the rest of it, his dad is saying, “Welcome home, son. Let’s celebrate. Let’s have a party.”

And they kill the fatted calf, and the music begins, and I think that family had probably been morose and morbid, and everybody was sad all this time. They’re just grieving over this son. Now the lost son has come home. They’re celebrating. Everybody’s joyful except the older brother, who never did anything wrong.

He’s dutiful. He’s firstborn. He’s performing. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do all the time. He’s out in the field, and he hears music, and he’s thinking, There hasn’t been any music around here since my cruddy, younger brother left home. What in the world is going on? So he asks a servant, “What’s happening?”

The servant tells him the facts, but he doesn’t tell him the truth. He says, “Your brother has come, and your dad has received him safe and sound.”

Well, that was the facts, but it wasn’t, like, the whole truth. Look at what kind of condition he was in, and he’s humble, and he’s broken. “Come on, let’s celebrate.”

But the older brother, he’s a picture of those Pharisees, standing at the back of the crowd, scrutinizing, evaluating, critiquing, murmuring. “What?! I never! He ought to have to suffer for what he did.”

His dad hears, “Your son’s out sulking in the field. You better go talk to him.” The dad leaves the party. I’ve been told that in the Jewish culture when the dad or the man of the house would leave the party, the music stopped, the dancing stopped, the party stopped. Well, the dad goes out and deals with this hard-hearted older brother who is a Pharisee, proud and unbroken.

Isn’t that a picture of what’s going on in some of our churches? There’s not a lot of celebrating. There’s not a lot of life. There’s not a lot of joy. You know why? Because the pastors are always having to deal with the Pharisees, the proud, unbroken people. “You took that parking space away? That’s been my parking space, since 1946 I’ve been parking in that space. You’re letting those youth, those teenagers meet in our Sunday school classroom? Listen to them. They’re so loud. Look at them. They’ve got holes everywhere and tats everywhere.” These poor pastors are always putting out fires with the Pharisees.

So people are coming to Jesus, and they’re not all put together. They don’t talk and look and act like everybody else. Some of us are looking at those brand-new baby Christians, and they’re just so full of joy, and every time you sing, they don’t know the words, they don’t know the tune, they just make noise, and they cry, and they lift their hands. And you’re thinking, Give them a few months, they'll get over it. They will if they sit next to you.

Listen, our heavenly Father receives broken sinners. That’s who the gospel is for. It’s not that the Pharisees aren’t sinners. It’s that they’re not broken. They don’t realize their sin. They don’t realize how much they need God’s grace.

Some of us can’t rejoice when God is doing a new work, a fresh work, a sweet work, a deep work, and it’s not neat, it’s not tidy, it’s not exactly as we would have planned it or scripted it. Listen, the longer you’ve been in this Christian life thing, the higher up you go in terms of position and responsibility and influence, the greater the temptation to become a twenty-first century modern-day Pharisee. I know, I know.

We had a prayer call the last week or two ago with speakers for this event. I don’t know if Janet Parshall is here this morning. She had some difficulty getting here yesterday, but Janet prayed (you’ll hear from her tomorrow morning, Lord willing). She said, “Lord, I want to pray for women coming to this conference who’ve been saved thirty, forty, fifty years, and they know the routine, but they’ve lost the relationship with Jesus.”

Now, I know there are some women here like that, but as she prayed that in that moment. I haven’t had a chance to tell her this—Janet, if you’re here, I want to thank you for what you prayed because sitting where I was in my home on the phone, my heart, my hand went up in the air, and I said, “She said that for me.”

I’m so busy. I know the routine, but just not a sweet, fresh sense of relationship with Jesus. Roof off. “Lord, that’s me.” Walls down. I found my husband, and I said, “I want you to hear what God just said to me through Janet and her prayer.”

I was able to take some steps over those next days, over the past couple of weeks, to just draw near to God in a fresh way, a sweet way, to come home, not as a proud, older brother but as a needy prodigal. God races to meet us with His grace when we do.

Well, two churchgoers, two brothers, two people at a dinner is the third one, in Luke chapter 7:36–50.

Again, there’s a Pharisee involved here. Simon is his name. He hosts this dinner for Jesus. He’s named. The woman in this case is not named. We’re just told she’s a woman of the city who was a sinner. That means, probably, that she was an immoral woman. She had a reputation. Everybody knew her. You didn’t need to name her. They knew who she was.

How she got in that dinner, I don’t know. She came, probably uninvited. She wasn’t on the VIP list. She wasn’t on anybody’s list. She was an object of scorn and derision and shame and guilt. But she makes her way into that dinner. As I’ve studied this passage over the years, I think that what had probably happened was she had heard Jesus or encountered Him somewhere prior to this moment, and He had changed her life. He had given her His grace, and now she was coming back to say, “Thank You. I love You. I’m so, so grateful.”

She makes her way into this dinner, and everything this woman does is at the feet of Jesus. She’s the lowly one. And the contrast here is between her and Simon the Pharisee. He’s watching all this going. First she “stands behind Him,” Scripture says. What does that mean? You remember how in the East, at the dinners they would eat reclining, propped up on their arm, feet stretched out behind. So she comes, and she stands behind His feet, just quiet.

Now, I am confident that this woman never intended to make a scene, to be seen, to be noticed, much less us standing here talking about her in this meeting thousands of years later. As she stands there, I think she just wanted to be near Him, to say from her heart, “I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful. You saved me. You changed my life.”

As she stood there, the tears began to flow. She didn’t say, “I’m going to cry now.” You can’t script that. But it flowed down from her eyes, down her cheeks, and down onto the feet of Jesus. It’s almost as if she’s embarrassed. She gets down lower at Jesus’ feet and begins to wipe His feet with her hair. I don’t know how long her hair was, but she had to get down at the feet of Jesus.

Then she takes this bottle of ointment that she’d brought with her. Something, perhaps, that she’d been saving as an instrument of her trade (could I say it that way?) to be used on a special man. But now she’s met THE MAN who’s redeemed her life, and what else is she going to do with this?

She breaks open that flask. She pours it, that expensive ointment, pours it on Jesus feet. Quiet, humble, no scene, no performance.

Well, Simon, he’s the host of this fancy dinner. He’s looking around. He sees this woman. (They’ve always got their arms crossed. I’m just actually cold up here.) He’s thinking to himself, If Jesus knew what kind of woman she is, He would not let her do that. How unseemly.

Well, Jesus not only knew who that woman was and what she was doing and what her past was, Jesus knew what Simon was thinking. And Jesus tells a story to Simon. He says, “Let Me tell you . . .” I won’t go into all the details, but He talks about two people. One owed a lot, a huge debt; one owed a little bit, and he got it paid off. The other owed a lot, and he got it paid off. “Which one will love his master the most?”

Simon goes, “Well the one who’s been forgiven the most, of course.”

Jesus goes, “Right. You don’t get it Simon. I came into this house, you didn’t give Me water to wash My feet. You didn’t give Me a kiss (a normal sign of greeting that you would do with a honored guest in your home). You didn’t have oil to anoint My head. (These were signs of hospitality.) You didn’t do any of that because you were too proud. You think you’re the highest thing in this house. Your love, your affection for Me is measured, it’s controlled. But this woman, it’s just all real. She loves Me. And why? Because she knows how much she’s been forgiven. It’s not that you don’t need to be forgiven of a lot, it’s just that you have no idea how much you need to be forgiven.”

In each of those pairs, which one do you most identify with? Do you identify with the prodigal, the shameful, sinful woman, the tax collector, the cheat? You say, “No, I’m not . . . I’d never end up in McPherson Prison. That wouldn’t be me.”

Well then, do you identify with the Pharisee? The proud, older brother, unbroken?

You see, it’s not in the nature of your sin; it’s in the nature of your response. Let me ask you this: Which one in each of those pairs did Jesus feel most comfortable with? Who was He drawn to? He was drawn to those who were broken, and contrite in spirit.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been telling us three powerful stories contrasting broken people with proud people. That’s part of a series called “Crying Out from a Heart of Brokenness.” If you missed any of it, you can hear it or read the transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com. Revive Our Hearts is able to bring you messages like this—messages that get to the heart of the gospel—thanks to listeners who support the ministry financially.

When you provide a gift of any amount, we’ll say thanks by sending you Nancy’s book, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. You can revisit the themes you heard today and let them sink in your heart when you read this classic book by Nancy. Ask for Brokenness when you call 1–800–569–5959, or you can donate at ReviveOurHearts.com*.

Tomorrow we’ll hear part three of this message. You’ll hear a moving list that contrasts proud people and broken people.

Nancy: 

  • Proud people are self-conscious. But, broken women are really not concerned with self at all.
  • Proud people keep others at arm’s length. But, broken women are willing to risk getting close to others and take the risk of loving intimately.
  • Proud people are rigid and stiff and formal. They’re the ones that want to make sure they don’t cry so their makeup doesn’t run, and “somebody might think I’m like this horrible sinner.” But, broken women, they’re warm, they’re loving, and they don’t care, the tears can flow because they know they’re just sinners who need God’s grace every moment, every day of their lives.

Leslie: Prepare for some helpful conviction, and join us again tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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