Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Far Better than Cotton Candy

Leslie Basham: Today, if you visit the Chattanooga Convention Center, you’ll find everything you might possibly need for building a home. There’s a trade show in Chattanooga all this weekend. The contractors and manufacturers gathered there want to build beautiful homes and communities that will last a long time.

Say money was no object and you could walk the aisles of that trade show in Chattanooga buying anything you wanted. There’s no guarantee that home would be beautiful. True beauty doesn’t come from fancy gadgets or figures. It comes when those living inside a home base their lives on God’s Word.

After this weekend the home show will clear out, and in a month a different kind of meeting will take place at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Women will arrive from the surrounding area and around the world. They want their homes, churches, and communities to truly last, reflecting the beauty of God’s holiness. So they’re coming together to learn from God’s Word, hear about His plan for them as women, and encourage each other.

We want you to be there. Get more information on the True Woman Conference at ReviveOurHearts.com.

You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, February 26.

Nancy recorded today’s program during a time of great transition. For several years Revive Our Hearts was primarily recorded in Little Rock, Arkansas. There we partnered with FamilyLife. While recording in their studios, the women who gathered session after session experienced true community and deep friendships.

So when we moved our production from Little Rock to Michigan, the final recording was a meaningful time. On that day, Nancy based her teaching on Paul’s final comments to friends he had ministered to. Let’s listen.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: On December 11, 1859, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who is, as you can tell if you listen to Revive Our Hearts, one of my favorite preachers of all time. I love reading his sermons. He preached for the final time at the Surrey Music Hall where the church that he was pastoring at the time had been meeting. He called that message, “The Minister’s Farewell.” Let me read to you just a paragraph from that message. He said,

Often I have come into this pulpit in great weakness, and have far more often gone away in great sorrow, because I have not preached to you as earnestly as I desired. I confess to many errors and failings, and more especially to a want of earnestness when engaged in prayer for your souls. But there is one charge which my conscience acquits me of this morning, and I think you will acquit me, too, for I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God.1

Now that phrase, that last phrase, is taken from Acts chapter 20 that we’re looking at in this series. I think I could not say it as eloquently as Dr. Spurgeon said it, but the sentiments he expressed would be mine as well as I think about bringing this season of ministry here in Little Rock to a close.

We’re looking at Acts chapter 20. Let me just recap what we looked at in the last session beginning in verse 18:

And when they came to him, he said to them, "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord [or as we learned, slaving the Lord, being the Lord’s bond slave] with all humility [lowliness of mind] and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews (verses 18-19).

In those two verses, he talks about his life and the example of his life.

Now, beginning in verse 20, he talks about his message, his ministry, his teaching, and what was the nature of that. We pick up in verse 20 of Acts chapter 20:

[You know] how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.

Now, keep in mind that the church in Ephesus probably did not have a central building or meeting place. Rather, there were many churches in the city that met in homes—house churches. So Paul says, “I preached publicly—in the public square, in the Hall of Tyrannus, but I also went from house to house to these little groups of believers that met for worship and church."

Verse 21:

Testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. . . .

For three years I did not cease day or night to admonish everyone with tears (verses 21, 26, 31). 

Some of your translations say to warn everyone with tears.

Now, as you read these verses, you get a sense of the awesome responsibility that the apostle Paul felt about being entrusted to proclaim God’s truth. He didn’t take this lightly. I have taken my cues from this kind of ministry and have tried to remember over the years the awesome stewardship and responsibility it is to hold this Book in your hands and to minister it to others.

You’re doing that as mothers. You’re doing that as disciplers. You’re doing that in your various spheres of influence. It is a huge, sacred stewardship to be involved in ministering to others, discipling them, nurturing them in their faith.

We see a similar thought in Ezekiel chapter 3, beginning in verse 16:

The word of the Lord came to me [to the prophet Ezekiel]: "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul (verses 16-19).

So what Paul is saying in Acts 20 is: “I am free from the blood; I am innocent of the blood of all men because the word that God gave me to give, I gave to you. Now what you did with it, that’s another matter, but I have been faithful in giving to you the word of the Lord.”

You see in this paragraph that Paul had a well-balanced, well-rounded ministry. He proclaimed the whole counsel of God to all people: Jews and Greeks; in all settings: public and from house to house.

The nature of his teaching is interesting to me. There are four or five verbs used to describe the kind of ministry he had among them. Let me just give them to you briefly.

In verse 20 and then again in verse 27, he says: “I declared to you.” That’s a word that means "to announce." It’s a word similar to the word angel—"to announce, to declare to you."

Then he says in verse 20: “I taught you.” That’s another word that means "to instruct by word of mouth." It’s not just to impart information. This word, teachingaims at shaping the will and the behavior of the student. It’s not content just to give people content. Paul says, “I gave you content, but I wanted you to do something about what you heard. So,” he says, “I taught you.”

Then in verse 21 he says, “I testified to you.” That’s a word that means "to bear witness, to testify earnestly or repeatedly"—to testify.

Then in verse 31: “to admonish.” That’s a word that means "to instruct, to warn, to admonish with reproof."

So sometimes the person who is being faithful to communicate God’s message has to do it in a way that could hurt people’s feelings. It could upset them. It could make them unhappy. You have to fear God more than you fear man if you’re going to be effective at delivering the Word of God to others.

As you read this description of Paul’s teaching ministry there, it’s very clear that he did not give them fluff. His ministry was not just surface cotton candy sort of teaching to people’s ears. Fluff is popular today, and it probably has been in every era. Fluff attracts crowds, but it doesn’t transform lives. It doesn’t further the kingdom of God.

Paul says, “I did not shrink from declaring to you,” verse 20, “anything that was profitable.” Then in verse 27, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” As the King James says there, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you.”

Now, Paul didn’t just give these people selective parts of God’s Word. He didn’t just teach the things that would build an audience or that would get good press. He didn’t just give them what they wanted to hear. He gave them what he knew they needed to hear.

“I didn’t keep back from you anything that was profitable—anything that you needed to hear to come to know Christ and to be discipled in your faith.”

He didn’t just preach on current, popular topics of interest, but he preached on hard ones, too. You see this in Paul’s ministry, you see in Paul’s epistles. There’s some passages we all love and we read easily. Romans 12 is one of those.  It’s got a lot of practical insight and wisdom in it. It’s not as easy to plow through Romans 9, 10, and 11, but Paul gave it all—the whole counsel of God.

He didn’t just share with his listeners the opinions of men, but he gave them the counsel of God, the Word. The emphasis that Paul placed on the Word of God, on the authority of Scripture comes out in this passage.

Now in the book of 2 Timothy, Paul warned Timothy, who was then a pastor of the church in Ephesus, that in the last days people would not endure sound doctrine. They would look for teachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear, teachers who would scratch their itching ears (see 4:3).

Sadly, that is what so many communicators of God’s Word are doing today. In fact, many of them are not really communicating God’s Word. They’re telling people religious things, “spiritual things,” popular things, but not getting into the whole counsel of God.

That’s why, if you have a pastor who preaches the Word of God, exposits the Word of God, teaches through the Scripture—and there are different ways to do that—but if you have a pastor who does that, realize you are very blessed. Be grateful for that man and listen to his teaching.

Paul preached repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Now in many ministries today, you don’t hear both of those. You hear more emphasis on one than on the other, but Paul had those tensions in balance.

The Gospel is not complete without the proclamation of both repentance and faith—repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul didn’t soft-peddle the message. He didn’t dilute it. He didn’t water it down. He didn’t say, “Oh, people have short attention spans, and they’re not really interested in doctrine.” He gave them doctrine. Now, he did it in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you do it without the power of the Holy Spirit, you will put people to sleep. But people came alive when Paul ministered, or they reacted and threw stones, but they did something. They didn’t just sit there. They reacted. They responded.

When we started the ministry of Revive Our Hearts radio, I knew that it would be a temptation to focus mostly on topics that were likely to generate listeners, response, and, frankly, donations. I know that’s a temptation in ministry today, generally. Before we ever went on the air, I had a talk with the Lord about this. I covenanted with Him, if He would give me the grace, that I would be faithful to proclaim whatever He put on my heart to teach from His Word, regardless of how that might impact our ratings, our station counts, or our donations.

There have been times as I have been teaching over these years when I have taught on a topic—it’s not real hard to do that here, where everybody is pretty much agreeing with you and smiling and saying, “Isn’t that wonderful.” But then I’ve thought, “We’re sending that out over the air waves? Will this be our last time on some of these stations?”

I had to come to the place where I said, “You know what? If it is the last time, as long as it’s biblical, and as long as it’s not me creating the offense, as long as I’m saying it in a winsome and a gracious way, with compassion in my heart; then we have to let the chips fall where they may, wherever the truth falls.”

The truth is counter-cultural. We have challenged women in these sessions to be like salmon swimming upstream. It’s one thing for you to sit and nod when I say that. It’s another thing for me to say it, and then we air it, and then we get the letters and emails and the disagreement—because we are salmon swimming upstream. When you swim upstream, you need to be ready to encounter some opposition. We have at times, but by God’s grace, I have tried to be faithful to proclaim the whole counsel of God.

I have lived over these years with an enormous sense of the responsibility that is mine for the stewardship that has been entrusted to me, to be faithful to God’s Word, to teach the whole counsel of God. Over these last days, I’ve been thinking back over some of the different series that we’ve done, that we’ve recorded here in Little Rock, some of the different teachings. I made a list of what some of those kinds of topics were, just to show you that it’s been my heart to give to you the whole counsel of God.

We’ve talked a lot about the authority of Scripture, the integrity of Scripture. I’ve tried to use the Scripture as my text and to give you a high view of Scripture, of its inerrancy, its authority, its sufficiency.

I’ve challenged you to evaluate everything you hear, everything you read, everything you think, everything you feel—to evaluate it through the grid of this Book, the Word of God, instead of making your determinations based on culture, or traditions, or emotions.

I’ve taught a lot about the character of God and tried to give you a balanced view of that, in my very feeble and faltering way.

We’ve talked about the holiness of God, the faithfulness of God, the mercy of God, the sovereignty of God, the fact that God is trustworthy, and He is good.

I’ve talked about the grace of God, the love of God.

And I’ve also talked about the wrath and the judgment of God. We don’t like hearing so much about that today, but we need to hear both because the mercy of God is never precious to you if you don’t realize that you need to be saved from the wrath and the judgment of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t good news until you know that there’s bad news that you need to be rescued from. So I’ve taught both.

I’ve taught the promises of God, and I’ve taught the commands of God.

I’ve taught about the nature of man, about sin.

I’ve talked about the person and the work of Jesus Christ.

I’ve tried to weave the gospel of Jesus Christ into every thing that I have taught, to take everything back to Christ and the gospel. So when I taught the book of Habakkuk, when I taught the book of Ruth, when I taught the book of Esther, Old Testament passages, New Testament passages, I’ve always tried to make a beeline to Christ, to show you how it takes you to the gospel.

I’ve talked about the necessity of repentance and faith.

I’ve talked about my burden for professing church members who do not have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s a burden that’s been on my heart for many years, and it’s come out in my teaching many times.

I’ve challenged you to consider biblically the evidence of true conversion. I've reminded you that true faith, if you really have faith, the evidence is not that you sit in church on Sunday. The evidence is not what you say you believe. The evidence is shown in the way that you live. If you don’t have a heart and a hunger for truth, I’ve reminded you that you have no basis to have assurance of your salvation.

It’s been my prayer over the years that God would convert lost church members. When we have the great revival for which we’re praying, I believe that one of the marks of that revival is going to be that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who consider themselves Christians in this nation who’ve realized that they do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now, in some people’s hearts I’ve tried to place doubt. In other people’s hearts, and God only knows who is who, I have tried to place assurance and hope and confidence that if you have put your trust in the Lord, you are safe; you are secure. Your salvation is guaranteed.

I’ve talked about the need for revival in the church. You know, people don’t mind when you talk about sin unless you talk about their sins. If you talk about sins out there in the world, and I could name a few of those, people would say, "Amen! Preach it! Yes, that’s great!” But I haven’t preached a lot about those sins. I have talked a lot about our sins—the sins we need to repent of. Sometimes it gets a little quiet in these recording sessions, and I take that to mean it points to conviction. My own heart gets quiet at times as I’m studying, and I realize, “This is for me. I need to repent.”

I’ve talked about the call to holiness—something you don’t hear a lot of today—the call to brokenness, the call to surrender. Listen, no marketing team will tell you to emphasize those messages in your ministry because people don’t walk into Christian bookstores and say, “Can you tell me how to get a book on how I can get more holy, more broken, and more surrendered?” They want a book on how to be more happy, more whole, more put together, more joyful.

What I’ve said over the years, “The way up is down. The way to resurrection power is through the cross.”

I’ve talked about hard counter-cultural truths, things that are politically incorrect to say in our current climate. I have challenged over and over again the prevailing winds of culture.

I’ve talked about biblical womanhood—getting a biblical perspective on marriage, on motherhood, on having children.

I’ve talked about the responsibility of men to provide spiritual leadership in the home and in the church, and that rubbed some cats the wrong way. That just was not popular with everybody who heard it.

I’ve talked about—and this is less popular—the responsibility of women to submit to God-ordained authority in the church and in the home.

You think it’s easy saying these things? But what gives me the courage to do it is knowing that the truth will set people free, and that’s what we need.

I’ve talked about the permanence of marriage. I’ve taken it on the chin for that stand at points, saying that “What God has put together needs to reflect the covenant-keeping nature of God.” In our divorce culture, that’s not popular teaching. Now, I’ve tried to say it with compassion and tenderness and grace toward those who have violated God’s standards or who have been sinned against, but nonetheless, to hold high God’s ideal standard.

I’ve called people to swim upstream. I’ve talked about the vision for spiritual motherhood and mentoring and challenged you to leave a legacy of faith and righteousness for those who are coming behind you.

I’ve challenged you to live an examined life, an intentional life, a fruitful life—not just to coast. Realize that God put you here on this planet for a purpose. I’m not the only one who has a calling. You have a calling. And I’ve challenged you to embrace and fulfill God’s calling on your life as a woman.

I’ve tried to encourage you by reminding you that God is enough, that He can be trusted, that anything that makes you need Him is a blessing, that you don’t have to be a victim of your past, that you can have victory over sinful habits.

My prayer is that you’ve been encouraged through the ministry of these last years, but I’ve also sought to warn you.

I’ve talked about the dangers of playing with sin.

The first day we ever recorded in February of 2001, I did a series from Proverbs 7 on the immoral woman. I talked about how many of us as Christian women have the characteristics of the Proverbs 7 woman.

I’ve taught those kinds of things with fear and trembling, but God has used them to help and to bless and change so many lives.

I’ve warned about false teachings that are prevalent, even in the church today. Some people have strenuously disagreed with me, and all I can say is, “Take it back to the Scripture. Let the Word be that which guides your thinking.”

I have pled with you in this room, with those who have listened in these recordings, and then with those who’ve listened over the air. I’ve pled with people to repent, not to hold on to their sin, but to let go of it, to turn from it for Christ’s sake.

So my question to you is—as I’ve tried to be faithful in teaching the whole counsel of God, as feeble as that might be—my question would be: Have you obeyed what you have heard? And are you obeying now what you know to be true—not just what you have heard from me, but what you’ve heard from your pastor, what you’ve heard from mentors and godly people who minister the Word of God to you?

In his message called “A Minister’s Farewell,” that I quoted at the beginning of this session, Charles Spurgeon said, “I cannot shut my eyes to the fact, that there are still many of you who have long listened to the Word here, but who have still not give your hearts to Christ.”2

What a heaviness and a sadness I know that was to Mr. Spurgeon, and what a heaviness and a sadness it is to me to think that we would leave this season of ministry and there might be some who have sat under my teaching and other biblical teaching for weeks, months, years, or perhaps decades, and have still not waved the white flag of surrender and said, “Yes, Lord.”

So I have tried to be faithful to the whole counsel of God. Now the question for us—we’ve all heard a lot of God’s counsel, a lot of His Word: Are we being faithful to respond in surrender and submission to everything that God has said to be true?

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She recorded that message during the final Revive Our Hearts’ recording session in Little Rock, Arkansas. For eight years our radio production took place there, and we’ve been in transition back to Michigan where the rest of the Revive Our Hearts’ staff are headquartered. That message is part of a series called Farewell. It will help you think about what really matters during the big transitions in your life.

Get more information on ordering the series on CD by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

This week many of our listeners have been memorizing Proverbs 31:30-31.

Woman: “Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruits of her hand. . .”

Leslie: It’s been part of Revive Our Hearts’ monthly memory plan. Why don’t you join with us in March? Get more details on how you can memorize the Bible with Revive Our Hearts’ listeners at www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, a wise choice may not be the easy choice. Sometimes you make a big decision knowing you’re about to move into the biggest challenge of your life. Nancy Leigh DeMoss will explain on Monday. Please join us then for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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