Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Everybody Needs to Be Rescued

Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us that you can look nice but still be lost.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You don’t have to be a prostitute to go to hell. You can be sitting in the front row of church every Sunday and still be under the judgment and the wrath of God. What’s the qualification? If you don’t abide by everything that is written in the Book of the Law to do it. You say, “Well then, everybody’s hopeless!” You’re right. There is no hope for any human being apart from the grace of God.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, for Tuesday, August 11, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Last week and this we’ve been looking at the amazing mercy poured out on a woman with a rough past who came to know God. In looking at this story, we’ve addressed the lie: God couldn’t forgive my sin. But there’s a flip side to that lie just as damaging. It’s the lie: My sin isn’t so bad.

Today Nancy talks with those who think they’re a whole lot better than a woman of the street. The series is called, "Rahab and the Thread of Redemption."

Nancy: As I was thinking last night about the transformation that Rahab went through, I Googled “change your identity.” I wanted to see what it would bring up for me. Here’s a website I found about how to change your identity.

It says, “The only really effective way to walk away from your past problems is to create a new identity and an entirely new name supported by a full set of genuine identity documents. Only then can you forget your old problems and at the same time guarantee your future freedom.”

Now I don’t know exactly what they’re advertising on that website, but they tell you that you can get genuine identity documents from them—no fraud, no illegal ones. I don’t know. I don’t suggest you try it. But I do know that if you want to deal with your past and put it behind you and you want to move into your future, you do have to get a new identity.

We’re going to see in God’s Word today how that happened with Rahab and how it can happen with us. We’ve been looking at the story of Rahab from the Old Testament version, the book of Joshua. But now we move to the New Testament and there are three references to Rahab in the New Testament. I want to look at one of those today and then the other two in our next session.

The first New Testament reference to Rahab takes place in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, beginning in verse 1. The paragraph begins in verse 1. So the very first paragraph of the New Testament has a reference to Rahab.

Now this part of Matthew 1 is the part that maybe you skip over when you are reading through the Bible. It’s called the genealogies. You say, “I can’t pronounce all those names. I don’t know who all those people were, and I don’t know that I need to know.” I’ll tell you what. If you skip over the genealogies, you miss some good stuff. Let me show you what at I mean.

Matthew 1, verse 1:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers . . .”

So we’re continuing through this line and now we’re going to read about the line of Judah.

Go to the end of verse 4, still continuing in the line of Judah.

And Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

Now who’s going to come through this line that goes from Judah through David? Ultimately, that line will take us to Christ Himself. In that family line on that family tree we have the picture of Rahab the prostitute. Rahab the harlot. Here she’s appearing, not in Jericho, but in the family line of Christ.

This is an incredible example of the grace of God at work in a life, giving this woman a whole new identity, dealing with her past, giving her freedom to face the future without fear. It’s an identity change. Whole new documents. Here she appears in a whole new setting.

So we see that Rahab has been redeemed from destruction. She’s been rescued. She’s been taken out of Jericho, which has been destroyed. But she’s not just delivered and then left outside the camp of the Israelites or delivered from Jericho and then made a second class citizen of Israel. She is richly blessed by God. She is grafted into a whole new family. She’s made a part of a whole new community of faith, the nation of Israel.

She marries into the family of Nahshon, who we’re not told here, but we learn in the Old Testament, was a prominent prince in the tribe of Judah. He was the brother-in-law of Aaron, the first high priest. Rahab becomes the mother of Boaz, the great, great grandmother of King David, an ancestor of Joseph, who was the husband of Mary of Nazareth, who gave birth to Christ.

So God takes a pagan, idolatrous, immoral woman and redeems her life from destruction, gives her life value and purpose and meaning, makes her and her family honorable members of the Jewish nation, and then places her in the family line of Christ. Rahab’s not the only one on the list. We won’t go through the whole genealogy here, but aren’t you glad that this line includes the likes of Rahab? Does that not give you hope?

Now, you’d think that God would have been more choosy about the lineage for His Son. First Corinthians tells us that

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor. 1:27–29).

Listen, if you’ve got Rahab’s background, you can’t say when you get to heaven, “I got here because I was a good person.” Now, no one can say that. But everybody looks at Rahab and knows she didn’t get here on her own merit. Something happened to give her a new identity, to put her into this family line. No one can boast in the presence of God because God chose those who were lowly and despised and foolish and weak, not the ones we would have probably chosen had we been writing the script.

So Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, becomes Rahab, the Jewish princess. Talk about an identity change. Now she gives up her citizenship in Jericho. Big deal. I mean what is she losing? She gives that up, but she does have to give it up in order to identify with the people of the living God.

This woman is not going to keep a dual citizenship. I know some people do that today, but no dual citizenship for Rahab. You know what? There’s no dual citizenship for you. You’re a citizen of the kingdom of this world, or you’re a citizen of the kingdom of God. You can’t have dual citizenship. She marries in the faith of her new people, her new identity. She brings up children in the faith.

Now that raises a question. As you go to the Old Testament, you find that the Israelites were forbidden from associating with Canaanites. Rahab was a Canaanite. The Jews were forbidden from intermarrying with the Canaanites. So how then could Rahab live in Israel and marry an Israelite?

The answer is, she wasn’t a Canaanite anymore. By faith she became an Israelite, part of the Jewish community of faith. She was no longer a pagan, no longer a Canaanite. I think of that wonderful verse in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 17. It tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” New identity. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Let me tell you, if you are in Christ, you are not who or what you once were. Yes, you were that, but no longer. You’re a new creation. New. You have a new identity. New identity papers. A new future. Your past is dealt with and there’s hope for your future.

The grace of God is such that there are no hopeless cases. There is no sinner God cannot save and that’s what the story of Rahab tells us. If God could save someone like Rahab with her history of immorality and idolatry, He can save anyone. 

I read recently about a well-know lesbian activist. She’s the founder of a gay-lesbian publication who has been converted to Christ and is now using her publication to help those who are trapped in a homosexual lifestyle to find freedom through Christ.

Some woman found her and just believed that God could rescue this woman by His grace, shared the gospel, and this woman believed. God put faith in her heart. That’s what happened to Rahab. It’s what happened to this former lesbian activist.

I think of Charles Colson. He and his wife Patty have been dear friends to our family for many years. He was the counsel to President Richard Nixon. He was known as the White House hatchet man. Some of you are old enough to remember this. In 1974 he was indicted for conspiring to cover up the Watergate burglary.

He was born again shortly before he started a prison term that lasted seven months. Now, I want to tell you what born again means. It means you get a new identity. You’re a new person. You’re not who you were.

When news of Mr. Colson’s conversion to Christianity leaked to the press, The Boston Globe reported, “If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody.” Amen! And Mr. Colson would agree.

After leaving prison, some of you know the story, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which is today the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. What a great, redeeming God. The man has a new identity. He’s not who he was. Neither are you if you’re in Christ.

So the story of Rahab reminds us there’s no sinner God cannot save. Let’s make it a little more personal than that. The story of Rahab reminds us that you can be saved regardless of your past. You may feel, you may think, as you remember what you’ve done and where you’ve been and who you’ve been, “God couldn’t save me. My sin is too great.” Or maybe you think, I don’t know enough about this Christianity thing.

I want to tell you Rahab’s testimony takes all those excuses away. Rahab was the least likely. Her position, however, was no better and no worse than ours. We are all Rahabs. We were all born rebellious against God. We were all born going our way, doing our own thing. Some have done it with prostitution. Some have done it by substance abuse, drugs and alcohol, and some have done it with pride and self-sufficiency and religion.

But we’re all moral bottom-feeders, hopeless and helpless apart from Christ. You may be thinking, Well, I don’t really relate to Rahab’s story. I haven’t done the kinds of things she did. I’m not a prostitute. Galatians 3:10 tells us that, “It is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’”

So you don’t have to be a prostitute to go to hell. You can be sitting in the front row of church every Sunday and still be under the judgment and the wrath of God. What’s the qualification? If you don’t abide by everything that is written in the Book of the Law to do it.

You say, “Well then, everybody’s hopeless!” You’re right. There is no hope for any human being apart from the grace of God. The intervening mercy of God, that scarlet cord, the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed in our place as a substitute and in payment for our sin.

Rahab’s salvation was not based on her character or anything good that she had done. She lived in a wicked city. She practiced a wicked lifestyle. She was saved, not because of her goodness, not because she cleaned up her act, but by the grace of God. It was undeserved.

That’s what the gospel is all about. The gospel is the story of abounding sin—Rahab the prostitute—and super-abounding grace. That’s the good news. Charles Spurgeon in his message on Rahab says, “The chief of sinners is as welcome to Christ as the best of saints.” We all need Christ.

I think about John Newton who lived a rebellious, profligate life in the 1700s. He was a slave trader for years. He’s the one who wrote that hymn "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me." I want to tell you what, if you’ve never known yourself to be a wretch, you won’t really be able to sing "Amazing Grace" because not until you have felt the weight of how your sin separates you from God will God’s grace seem to be amazing to you.

Near the end of Newton’s life—he was, I think, eighty-two years of age at the time—he said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things—that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.” That’s all you need to know. You can forget everything else but remember those two things. I am a great sinner. Newton never got over the wonder of the fact that God would have saved him.

My dad never got over the wonder of the fact that God would have saved him. Throughout his Christian life until he went to heaven, when he would talk about where God found him and how God had delivered him from his past life, he would tear up because he knew he was a great sinner, but he knew that Christ was a great Savior.

I want to tell you ladies, you and I do not deserve an iota of the grace of God any more than John Newton or Rahab did. We’re no better off. Psalm 14:2–3 tells us, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

You’re no better. I’m no better than Rahab the prostitute; than John Newton, the slave trader; than Charles Colson, the White House hatchet man; than this former lesbian activist who has recently come to faith in Jesus Christ. We are all, all, all under God’s judgment apart from His intervening mercy.

Are you getting that message? Is it precious to you? Remember that old song we used sing:

Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled
By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child.

From the most defiled to God’s dear child. From Rahab the prostitute to Rahab in the line of Jesus Christ. That’s a miracle.

Purchasing peace in heaven, for all eternity
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.1 

I am so thankful that the wonderful grace of Jesus reached down to me. Are you? Let me just say as we close here that not only can you be saved regardless of your past. The story of Rahab also reminds us that the most hopelessly lost people you know can also be saved—friends, loved ones you’re burdened for, children, a mate, a sibling, people at work, neighbor.

I’m astounded as I read the story of Rahab at the lengths to which God will go to redeem and rescue hopelessly lost sinners. Think about the fact that God sent those two spies into Jericho. The information those spies got from that trip really wasn’t necessary. I mean, God knew how He was going to take that city and the information they got had no bearing on how the city was conquered.

So why did God send them there? I think it was for Rahab’s salvation. It reminds me of Jesus going to Samaria. Why? Because there was a woman—a woman who had been married five times, a woman who was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. God in His providence sent His Son to that town to bring that woman to saving faith, to offer Himself—the living water.

Why did God send those spies? To find Rahab, to rescue her from destruction. What a redeeming God we have who will spare no expense, will go to any lengths, any means to the point of sending His Son Christ to this earth to bring about your salvation.

Do you feel like Rahab the prostitute? Maybe you’re a religious one. Maybe you’re an irreligious one. I want to tell you Jesus offers to you an identity change. He offers it to those around you, those that you pray for, those that you care for.

Don’t stop praying. Don’t give up crying out to God, asking God for their salvation. He is a miracle-working God who can change Rahab the prostitute into Rahab the Jewish princess in the line of Jesus Christ. It’s a miracle. It’s a wonder. And it’s available not only to her, but to you and me. Praise God.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been opening our eyes to the wonder of the gospel. That message is part of the series "Rahab and the Thread of Redemption." Thanks to this series, a lot of women have learned to appreciate the biblical character, Rahab, who was a prostitute.

Nancy: Yes, Dannah, and I've sure grown to love her myself as a result of soaking in this account of her life. Women's ministry leaders have been working through our newest Women of the Bible study on Rahab, online. They’ve been sharing their own stories of redemption and what God is revealing to them through the study. Here’s what one woman told us:

When I was twenty-seven, God, by His mercy, allowed me to go through a very humiliating and painful situation, that made me see who I really was: a sinner in desperate need of His forgiveness. It’s hard to realize that when you’ve learned to do the right thing and when you believe that you are a good person. When I understood who I really was, God forgave me, cleaned me, and gave me a new mind and heart. It was the first time that I really wanted others to be free as I was, and that they could know God as I was doing it.

Dannah: That is so beautiful, Nancy. The Lord’s redeeming work gave her a fresh start. That’s our theme for this month—fresh starts. Hope is possible because Jesus brings redemption for any who trust in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Nancy: That’s what we’ve been learning throughout this series about Rahab, and we hope you’ll make it personal and discover God’s redemptive work in your own life. And I hope that you'll be a part of experiencing God's redemptive work in their lives. That's what happens when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. For your donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you a copy of this newest Women of the Bible study on Rahab. It's called Rahab: Tracing the Thread of Redemption.

Dannah: Get an even better perspective of Rahab’s life and God’s character through this six-week study. There’s a podcast to go with it, too. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com or call 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the Rahab study with your donation.

Is there evidence in your life of genuine, saving faith?

Nancy: Our churches today are loaded with people who say, "I'm a Christian. I believe in Jesus." But they are getting drunk; they are living immoral lives; they are running their own lives; they are controlling their own lives. They are not surrendering to Jesus' Lordship. They are living lives of pride and greed and selfish ambition and lust and giving in to the lusts of their flesh—sins of the Spirit, sins of the flesh. There is no victory over sin. There is no desire to have victory over sin. There is no heart or appetite for the things of God. There's no hunger for the Word of God. There is no fruit.

Dannah: I’m Dannah Gresh. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds you that we’re all in need of saving. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV. 

1Words & Music: Hal­dor Lil­le­nas, 1918.

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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.