Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Forgetting Who You Are, Day 1

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Leslie Basham: When we interact with the outside world, it’s easy for believers to respond in anger rather than reflect the love of Christ. Russell Moore sees this in some of our online interaction.

Dr. Russell Moore: If all I knew about Christianity is some of the things I see posted on Facebook, I wouldn’t want to be a Christian either. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It seems like we live in an entirely different world than the one I grew up in. As I was growing up, although many people weren’t serving the Lord, most people knew some basic things about God and about the Bible. There was some common ground we could find to talk about morality and a common sense of what was right and what was wrong. So what’s the situation like today? In many circles, if you talk about the existence of right and wrong, you’ll be looked at like you’re crazy—even, sadly, in some churches.

So as never before, we need to hold steadfastly to the truth. At the same time, the world around us is much more divisive and polarized. It seems like warring groups can’t even talk with each other. So while holding fast to the truth, we need to do it in a way that creates bridges of kindness, civility and compassion. How do you do both of those?

Dr. Russell Moore has thought a lot about this. He’s the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, and in that role he has a lot of opportunities to speak to both the church and the mainstream media. He has had to grapple with this tension—speaking the truth, but speaking it in love.

Dr. Moore spoke at the opening session of True Woman conference a couple months ago, and he showed us how the church can present a winsome picture to the world by embracing our own brokenness and neediness. We’ll hear his message from True Woman today and tomorrow here on Revive Our Hearts. Let’s listen to Dr. Russell Moore.

Dr. Moore: Mark 5, let’s begin reading with verse 1. 

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 

Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 

And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.”  So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.

The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Let’s pray.

Holy Father, if we had any idea of the glory surrounding us right now, I think we would fall forward on our faces. Lord, as we gather here in worship, as we gather here under Your Word, we’re not just gathered together with a group of fellow conference goers. But we are here in the name of Jesus Christ. We are standing here in the presence of the heavenly Mount Zion. And surrounding us right now are innumerable angels and a great cloud of witnesses—a number that no man can number.

And Lord, we wish to agree with all of them that Jesus Christ is Lord. And so would You silence any spirit in this place that would exalt itself above or beside the name of Jesus Christ? Would You strip away from our hearts anything that is not Christ-shaped? Would You by Your Word and by Your Spirit conform us into the image of Jesus, that He might be the first born among many brothers and sisters? We ask this in His Name and in His Name only, amen.

You may be seated.

I came under deep conviction of sin one time really early in my ministry in one of my first ministry positions over a church bulletin. And it was because this church that I was serving was a really, really programmed church. They had the same programs they had had for a long time.

Every Sunday morning we would have Sunday morning worship at 11:00 and we would have Sunday evening worship at 7:00. Every Sunday morning, in the morning we would have Sunday school right before the morning worship service for everybody from the babies all the way up to the senior adults. And then on Sunday nights we would have kind of like a Sunday school at night that would happen right before the evening worship service that we called Discipleship Training.

The programs had been around so long in that church that everybody kind of knew them all by their acronyms. So on the bulletin we would just have “SS” for Sunday school at 9:45; Worship—11:00; “DT” for Discipleship Training—6:00; Evening Worship—7:00 PM. Everybody knew what this meant. That bulletin had probably been the same cover of the bulletin for who knows how many years. We all just knew that that’s what it was.

Until one day there was this woman who had moved in from some other place. She came up, and she was really excited when she saw “DT” because she assumed it was “detox” for people who were drying out after being drunk.

She wanted to know about that ministry, and so she came up and said, “I’m really interested in the fact that you have DT every Sunday night.

And I said, “Yes.”

She said, “How many people come to DT?”

I said, “About 150.”

She said, “That’s fantastic. Now do the people who come for DT, do they stay for worship after?”

And I said, “Well, yes, it’s kind of the core of our church. It’s all our deacons and our women’s ministry leaders, and it’s the backbone of the church.”

I could tell she was really confused. It took us several minutes to try and figure out what we were each doing with these abbreviations. Suddenly, I started getting under some deep conviction for two reasons.

One of them was that we had been in such a cocoon there in that church that we just assumed that we were just talking to ourselves—that we would just know what all of these little abbreviations meant and everybody could figure that out because we were just talking to us.

But the other reason and the more important reason is because I had been so embarrassed when I realized that she thought that I had said that the core of our church was in detox, and I wanted to assure her that that wasn’t the case.

But the problem was that the core of our church was in detox. We were all in detox from something. Some people from substance abuse; some people from idolatry; some people from sexual hedonism; some people from a thousand different kinds of brokenness. All of us were in a process of detox.

What I wanted to do was assure this woman, “No, no, no. You’re not coming to a church where you have to worry about the people here in detox. We might do that to minister to people on the outside. But the people in this church are people who have everything together, and therefore we’re the people who are able to minister to you and to minister to your children. You don’t need to go away from us. You can come to us.”

My assumption was that if we admitted to brokenness and woundedness, even just in a misunderstanding over a bulletin, that somehow we would lose our opportunity to minister—and I was on the exact opposite side of Jesus.

Scripture here is sent out to the people to tell them who Jesus is; what Jesus is like. And instead of showing us Jesus meeting with some influential figure; Jesus meeting with some powerful figure, instead, Mark goes out of his way to show us Jesus talking to someone who is as far gone as he can possibly be—a demon-possessed man who is cutting himself in a graveyard. And says to us, “If you want to follow Jesus, you will follow Him there.”

You and I are living in a place right now where there are a lot of people consumed with fear and with panic. There may be some of you here tonight who are consumed with fear and with panic.

Some of you are fearful, and you’re panicking when you look at the culture around you. You wonder what’s going to happen. What’s going to happen to our country? What’s going to happen to our neighborhood? What’s going to happen for my children and their children and their children? You’re fearful, and you’re anxious, and you’re on edge.

Some of you are fearful and you’re anxious when you look at your situation, and you don’t know what you’re going to do in terms of your job. Or you don’t know what you’re going to do in terms of maybe a marriage that’s falling apart. Or you don’t know what you’re going to do maybe with a prodigal child. Or you don’t know what you’re going to do with a situation where you’ve prayed and you’ve prayed and you’ve prayed until you’re right at the edge of despair and ready to give up. You’re fearful, and you’re almost at the place of panicking.

The reason that we become fearful is we have forgotten who we are. This Scripture reminds us. I want you to notice first of all the problem here.

This man, the Scripture says, is among the tombs. He’s in the graveyard. Now, it could be, some people have speculated that maybe this man had lost someone and in his grief he is someone who found himself drawn to the tomb and drawn to the place where that person was buried.

But it’s more likely that instead, this is someone who is so terrorized by these unclean spirits that he is finding his life in a place of death. He is going to the place where death is, to the graveyard. This means that he is cut off from the rest of the people.

People don’t like to go into graveyards unless they have a reason to go, in virtually any culture, much less in a culture where being with the dead and being with dead bodies is something that would make you unclean. This is a man who in this place of death is cut off and isolated from someone else.

And not only that, this man, here in this graveyard and in these tombs, is someone who is under a deep spiritual warfare. As a matter of fact, he has lost this spiritual warfare. Scripture says that he is inhabited by unclean spirits—too many here to number. Now, that would have further isolated him from the people around him.

You think about even in our culture right now, even in the most secular place in America, if you go in and say, “This house you’re considering buying, yes, there was somebody that was murdered here one time. People say it’s haunted. People say they hear moaning at night. People say they hear chains that are moving along the floor. But I wouldn’t worry about that.”

Even the most rationalistic, secularistic, scientifically-minded people will be kind of creeped out by that. They’ll want to go on to look at another house. Much less people who are connected and understand and they know what it is to see unclean spirits. They know about a spiritual world that is dark, that is evil.

He is someone who is there in bondage to these spirits. He is in the graves and notice what is happening. He is someone with great power and with great strength. And that power and strength is hurting him. The chains they put on them he is able to pull apart.

But the freedom that he has isn’t a freedom that is bringing him joy. It isn’t a freedom that’s bringing him fulfillment. It is a freedom that is leading to moaning—to a crying out—not like the crying out that we’re talking about here, but a crying out of desolation and of despair. He’s cutting himself here. He is harming himself here. His power is being turned against him.

Now, what I want you to understand and see is that this man’s situation is extreme. But this man’s situation is not any different from the situation of the world outside of Jesus Christ.

The Scripture says that all of us outside of Christ are following a way that leads to death. All of us outside of Christ are under a reign and a rule of death. All of us outside of Christ are those who are living in a world that is being governed, Ephesians 2 says, by the prince of the power of the air. That is, John says, lying under the sway of the wicked one.

We are living in a demon-haunted world. All of us apart from Christ are those who are under the deception of that dark spirit world. All of us apart from Christ are under the accusation of that dark spirit world. All of us left to ourselves will want to find power, and will want to find strength, and will want to find freedom. And in all of that, we will only end up harming and hurting ourselves.

This man is here in a state of complete desolation. Notice that he assumes that Jesus is the problem. Despite all of these burdens, when Jesus shows up, now there is a crisis.

The man falls on his face. The spirits within him start to cry out because they recognize that Jesus is going to disrupt things. Jesus is going to turn things around. Jesus is going to wreck their lives. They understand and know what is actually going on.

When you’re thinking about the people around you; the people that you have a burden for; the people who disagree strongly with you; the people that you are praying for right now, do you consider the fact that this is not just a matter of winning a few arguments?

This is about something that is so deep that when Jesus encounters “lost-ness,” “lost-ness” sees that as a problem, as a threat. The Light comes into the darkness, and the darkness hates the Light and loves the darkness. That is the judgment.

But notice Jesus here. There is no fear. Jesus is not fearful of the graveyard. Jesus is not fearful of the strength of the man. Jesus is not fearful of the unclean spirits. Jesus is not fearful of being contaminated by somebody who is unclean. Jesus is not fearful of being seen with this man who is as far gone as one could possibly go.

One of the problems facing our churches right now is that we are not only fearful of the outside world and panicking about the outside world, but we are also afraid to be seen with sinners.

The Scripture calls us to be separated from sin but never to be separated from sinners. Jesus chooses to go into the graveyard where this man is. He goes intentionally to be with him, and He does it with a confidence.

Jesus is not fearful that He will be overcome by the unclean spirits. Jesus is not fearful that He will be overcome by the man. Jesus is not fearful that His reputation will be overcome by being seen with that man. Jesus has confidence in the Spirit of God. He has confidence in the mission that His Father has given to Him. He has confidence in the gospel.

One of the reasons you and I are so often so fearful and panicked about the situation in our lives or about the situation in the outside world is because we lack that confidence.

Jesus understands the problem here. But notice also, the solution. Jesus comes and does not offer a feat of strength. Jesus doesn’t have a competition with the demon possessed man to see who’s able to pull chains apart.

Instead, what does Jesus do? He does not come in with raw power. He comes in with His voice. And the word that He says is, “What is your name?”

One of the reasons, I think, that the outside world often thinks that Christians are angry, that Christians are always outraged, that Christians have their fists balled up at the outside world. One of the reasons I think the outside world thinks that is because they read Facebook. And I have to tell you, if all I knew about Christianity is some of the things that I see posted on Facebook, I wouldn’t want to be a Christian either.

Jesus doesn’t come in to win an argument. Jesus doesn’t come in in order to demonstrate His power. Jesus comes in with His presence, with His personal encounter, and He says “What is your name?”

He gets to the most personal reality about that man. Your name is at the very core and the center of who you are. That’s why when they misspell your name on the Starbuck’s cup, you probably don’t get offended, but you notice. You notice because that’s you. That’s personal to you.

Jesus says to this man exactly what God says to Adam in the garden, “Where are you?” “What is your name?” And He does so, why? Because even this man is not too far gone for the power of Jesus Christ.

Nancy: We’ll have to take a break here in this message from Dr. Russell Moore. He’s been reminding us of something important. When as the church we remember our neediness and brokenness, when we’re honest about our weakness and need before the Lord, we can speak effectively in a world that is growing more divisive. Dr. Russell Moore delivered that message at True Woman '16 in September.

You can listen to all the plenary messages from the conference at no charge, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You’ll also find a video our team has posted about the influence of one woman in Dr. Russell Moore’s life. He credits her for him walking with the Lord and speaking and writing today. You’ll find that video at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, all the videos, all the online audio, as well as this podcast are possible because women like you believe in what God is doing through Revive Our Hearts. This is a listener-supported ministry. We can’t keep calling women to freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ without the prayer support and the financial support from listeners like you.

When you donate any amount this month, we want to encourage you by sending the 2017 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. Our listeners look forward to receiving this wall calendar every year. I may be biased, but I have to say, I believe this year's calendar is the most beautiful, stunning calendar our team has produced in many years. And best of all, it will remind you of important biblical truth month by month when you hang it in your home.

This year’s calendar features quotes from my new book coming out in the spring, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. You can’t find the calendar in stores or at Amazon because this is just for supporters of Revive Our Hearts. To make your donation of any size, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can see some samples of the calendar’s design there, too. Or ask for the calendar when you make a donation by phone. The number is 1–800–569–5959.

Tomorrow Dr. Russell Moore will be back with us. He’ll tell you about his experience as a pastor when a woman with Alzheimers started blurting out inappropriate comments during his sermons. Please be back 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.

 

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