Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Forgiveness

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth tells us about a woman whose history was full of hurt. She fell at the feet of Jesus.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Her focus was not on the sins that had been committed against her but on the incredible gift of forgiveness that she had received for her own sins.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Brokenness, for May 23, 2019.

All week Nancy has been in a series called “Who Loves More?” Let’s listen as she continues.

Nancy: Many years ago we were doing a recording session for Revive Our Hearts in Little Rock where we recorded the program for the first several years of this ministry. I was teaching a new series on the life of Rahab. Remember her from the book of Joshua? The “harlot” she’s called, who lived in Jericho.

As she spared the spies’ lives, God spared her life and that of her family. As the Lord would have it, there was a woman who came to the recording that day. We did it just like we do here. We would record a whole eight programs in one day. What do they say? It’s kind of like “drinking from a fire hydrant, a fire hose,” something like that.

This woman “happened” to bring several gals with her that day who were from a ministry that was about an hour-and-a-half away from Little Rock. It was the first time these women had been at the recording session. It was a halfway home for women wanting to break free from various addictions and self-destructive behaviors: substance abuse, sexual addictions, and so on.

That’s the only time they came, and it was the day I was teaching on Rahab the harlot. We had that day the usual group of our regular attenders—mostly long-time Christian women from affluent west Little Rock who were churched, well taught in the Scripture, knowledgeable about doctrine, high moral standards and conduct.

And here they were, sitting side-by-side with these, I came to call them, the “Rahab women” who were sprinkled throughout the room. Their backgrounds could hardly have been more different! Two of the women who came from this home had lived as prostitutes in order to support their drug habits—one for more than thirty years.

We heard a testimony this morning from a women who’s here today from a similar group home in our area, who had something similar in her testimony—years of addiction. There was another woman in this group back in Little Rock who had just recently been released from prison. All of them had been involved in substance abuse and sexual immorality.

The youngest gal in the group—twenty-two years old—had come to the ministry just three days earlier when she had been picked up by the police at a truck stop, miles away, where she was trying to sell her body in order to buy more drugs. She’d been picked up and mercifully taken to this home where, as we spoke, she was in the process of drying out.

And here I was, in God’s providence, teaching for a whole day on the life of a woman who made her living through prostitution. Throughout the day, it was an amazing, beautiful thing. I watched as the Spirit worked in the hearts of these broken “Rahab women,” guilty of sins of the flesh—immorality, substance abuse and more.

But I tell you: what was equally sweet was watching God bring conviction to those sophisticated west Little Rock women, guilty of sins of the spirit—spiritual pride, unforgiveness, lack of compassion for the kind of women who were sitting next to them in this room. These were women with different backgrounds, with different sin struggles of their own.

And one of the most dramatic moments of the day (there were several) was when I, in the course of this teaching (I didn’t know these women were coming; they didn’t know what I was going to be teaching on—this was all God’s providence) I read Jesus’ words to the religious leaders in Matthew 21:31.

It’s where Jesus said to them (and Scripture tells us these were the chief priests and elders of the people; these were the Pharisees), “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”

You think that didn’t resonate in that room!?

That’s what Jesus said to these super-religious people who weren’t humble, who weren’t truly righteous (they had a façadeof righteousness). They weren’t interested in Him; they were interested in promoting themselves.

And these “Rahab women”—most of whom had never heard this passage before, didn’t know anything about Rahab—listened intently as I shared how God had rescued this Old Testament prostitute, given her a new identity, and used her to showcase His grace. What a sweet thing it was to see how hope was awakened in their hearts that God could do the same for them, struggling as they were with huge issues in their lives!

When I finished the day’s teaching on Rahab, we opened it up for a time of sharing in the room. “How did God speak to you today? How did this passage minister to you?” The first ones to pop up out of their seats were the “Rahab women,” not the west Little Rock women.

Now some of them had things to share, too, but it was the women from this home, and they were transparent, and they were open, and they weren’t guarded. They had nothing to hide, nobody to impress, and nothing to lose. So there was no pretense, just uninhibited passion for Christ!

And today I mentioned the women that were here from a similar home in our area. Some of them came to the last recording and we talked afterwards. I had the same impression that I did that day in Little Rock . . . that these women love Jesus!

They get it! They know what it is to be truly sinful, to be truly forgiven, and to truly love Him. What a sharp contrast those Rahab women were, in some respects, to the other women in the room who tended to be more restrained, more polite, more closed, more guarded, more protective of their image, more concerned about what others might think. Can you say, “Pharisee”?

Now, I’m not saying they were all Pharisees, because you can be a prostitute and have a Pharisee’s heart, or you can be a Pharisee and have a broken, contrite heart. It’s not the job you have that matters, it’s the heart you have behind that job.

I spent the final part of that day interviewing some of these “Rahab women,” listening to their stories. It was a powerful time! One woman shared how she had lost custody of her four-year-old son just a few months earlier because of her addiction. And she sobbed as she just shared how desperately she wanted to have her family back together!

And then, emboldened by what God had done for Rahab, I asked her (this was now a smaller interview, just a small group of these women around the table), “Do you believe that Jesus can set you free from that addiction?” And through her sobbing, through her tears (think of the Luke 7 women), boldly she said, “Yes I do!”

God gave her faith, even though this was something that had plagued her and something that she had been involved in for years. It was something that some would say, “You really can’t get free of those chains, that bondage!” It reminds me of the distinction between Simon the Pharisee and the sinner woman in Luke 7.

So let’s go back to Luke 7, verse 36. I’ve read this passage each day, but I just want to wear a groove with this passage into each of our hearts. We can’t hear it too many times! I’ve read it many times over the past several weeks and it gets sweeter each time.

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping [deluge, heart tears, “heart waters,” as Martin Luther said], she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment (vv. 36–38).

This was passionate, this was intimate, this was vibrant, this was exuberant, this was extravagant love and worship!

We just read it in the context of our put-together, calm, orderly services. This woman doesn’t fit in that picture; she makes a whole new picture! Verse 39,

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Pharisees are condescending. Remember, he saw her sin with a microscope . . . and his, not at all.

And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” [Then this parable from Jesus.]

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay [either of them], he cancelled the debt of both. [He graciously, freely forgave the debt of both!] Now which of them will love him more?” (vv. 40–42).

Remember that word. We’re going to see that again in this passage. Love is the issue, to have been loved by Christ, so much so that your sins having been forgiven enables you to love Him in a way that would not be otherwise possible.

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment” (vv. 43–46).

Sometimes Pharisees just need Jesus to come into the room and tell them what they really come across like, who they really are!

Simon is, you know, strutting his spiritual credentials until Jesus comes in and strips it all off and says, “You’re exposed; you’re caught; you’re found out! Your façadeis gone! You’re not who everybody thinks you are!”

“Therefore I tell you [Simon], her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (v. 47).

Her sins, which are many, are forgiven. Now the Greek verb there, “are forgiven,” is actually in the perfect tense that describes action completed in the past with continuing results in the future.

So you know the better translation (and some of your versions will say this) is, “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven!” I think the NASB says that, the Christian Standard Bible and the NIV. “Have been forgiven.” It suggests that she had been previously forgiven but there were continuing results in the present.

So she had come back to thank Him for forgiveness she had experienced earlier, when she had heard Him or encountered Him or met Him or He had met her. We don’t know how or when or where, but we believe that she had been forgiven and was coming back.

So Simon says of this woman, “She is a sinner” (v. 39). Jesus says of this woman, in verse 47, “Her sins, which are many [you’re right; she is a sinner! But her sins] have been forgiven” (NASB). Simon says, “She is a sinner!” Jesus says, “She is forgiven! She has been forgiven.” Simon saw her past as her identity, what defined her.

Jesus saw her past as forgiven! And therefore, she had a new identity and a new future. She’s a new woman! So in verse 48 He turned to the woman and, “He said to her, ‘Your sins have been forgiven.’” He had first told Simon, “Her sins have been forgiven.” Now He turns to the woman.

And what sweeter words could you hear when you know yourself to be a wretched, miserable, overwhelmed, addicted sinner than to hear Jesus not only say to someone else, “She’s been forgiven!” but to hear Jesus say to you, “You have been forgiven!” That’s what Jesus does! Jesus wanted her to have complete assurance that her sins—all of them—had been pardoned.

Now, she’s probably new at this stuff; she probably hadn’t been forgiven for long. She may or may not have felt forgiven, but she had His word that her sins, which were many, were forgiven. She had to trust His word. She had to take His word for it.

And we have God’s Word for it! Romans 4:7–8 (if you need some passages); Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 43:25–26. Look up these verses on forgiveness and claim the power and truth of Christ’s words, “You have been forgiven!”

In 1829, there was a man named George Wilson who robbed a U.S. mail carrier in the state of Pennsylvania. He was indicted on six counts, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging. It sounds a little severe, but some friends appealed to President Andrew Jackson on his behalf, and the President extended a full pardon to Wilson and the charges were dropped.

However, incredibly!, Wilson refused the pardon. Which raised the question: “If you’re granted a pardon but you refuse to take it, are still pardoned?” Well, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court and the Court said the pardon must be delivered and accepted. It said if the person receiving the pardon rejects it, “We have discovered no power in this Court to force it upon him.”

The decision was made that if the prisoner does not accept the pardon, it is not in effect. Now, if you take that example too far it will break down theologically, so don’t draw too many conclusions from that, but this story struck me as illustrating the way that many people respond when it comes to receiving God’s forgiveness.

They struggle to accept it, to believe that they are truly forgiven and to live as forgiven people. In the case of George Wilson, the Attorney General said, “The court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon unless he claims the benefit of it.”

Do you want the benefit of God’s pardon and forgiveness? You’ve got to claim that by faith! You will only experience the full benefits and blessings of His forgiveness if you are willing to claim those benefits.

Psalm 32, beginning in verse 1, says to us, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” That’s a benefit! That’s a pardon! Verse 5:

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Pause. Think about that. Receive it . . . and receive the blessings and benefits of being forgiven! Walk as a forgiven woman. Luke 7:47, Jesus is speaking, “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Jesus is saying, “I know she has sins; I know she has sinned. She has sinned much; she had many sins, but because they are forgiven—all of them!—she loves much!” Many sins, much forgiveness. Much guilt removed, much love. Do you think your sins are few in comparison perhaps to hers or some of these women dealing with serious addictions, immorality, etc.?

Do you think your sins are few? Then you’re going to be forgiven little, and you’re going to love little. Her forgiven, transformed life resulted in a great outpouring of love—warm, expressive, lavish, sacrificial affection for Jesus. Simon, on the other hand, Pharisee: calculated, measured, restrained, no sin (as far as he was concerned), no forgiveness (as far as Jesus was concerned), and no love.

You see how the measure of your love is determined by what you see to be the measure of your sin and how much you realize you’ve been forgiven? To Simon the Pharisee, Jesus was just another man. To the sinner woman, Jesus was everything! Simon didn’t feel like he needed anything. The woman knew she did, and in Christ she found all that she needed.

Now, just a little parenthesis here: this woman had lived an immoral life. Keep in mind that for every immoral relationship she had—we don’t know how many (her sins were “many”)—for every one-night stand, for every adulterous affair, there was also a man involved—every time. Now, the Scripture doesn’t give us any details about that, so we don’t want to speculate.

As is often the case when women choose an immoral lifestyle, very possibly she had been the object of sexual abuse, inappropriate sexual advances, perhaps as a child. We don’t know that, but it’s often the story. This woman could have had every reason to be angry, bitter, vindictive toward the men who had used her, abused her, neglected her.

But you see in this passage, there’s nothing said about those men. It’s not because God isn’t paying attention to them, but because this woman’s focus was not, at this point, on those men who might have wrecked her life . . . but on the Man who had saved her life. That’s part of the healing.

That’s not to say that those men don’t need to be dealt with. On the Judgment Day, it’s all going to be dealt with (sometimes sooner, sometimes not). But you see, she’s not fixated on that, on dealing with her past, dealing with all those people. I’m not saying there aren’t some things that we need to process and deal with.

But I just think it’s interesting that she doesn’t bring anything up about those men. Where were they? What had they done to her? Her fixation is all on Jesus! Her focus was not on the sins that had been committed against her but on the incredible gift of forgiveness that she had received for her own sins.

Verse 49: “Then those who were at table with him . . .” Remember, this is some kind of banquet, special dinner, festive occasion. Jesus kind of turned those dinners into something more or different than they were intended to be!

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves [some translations say, “to themselves”], "Who is this, who even forgives sins?"

This Man claimed to be able to forgive sins! Now, they’re doing the logic here. They knew—and it’s true—that only God can forgive sins. So if Jesus says He can forgive sins, what is Jesus claiming? That He is God! This is a claim to Deity.

And they’re astonished at this! “Who is this man? It’s one thing for him to be a rabbi who has some meaningful teachings . . . and maybe he can do a few signs and miracles. But he says he can forgive sins?! He must be claiming to be God!” This was outrageous and blasphemous if it wasn’t true! So they’re faced with a really serious dilemma.

And then, notice in this verse, they said among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgive sins?” (v. 49). Her story, her life, her action, her behavior toward Christ, her worship, her love pointed others to Jesus. They were amazed; they were in awe! Everyone was talking about it, everybody was talking about Him!

They weren’t just talking about the woman who had done all this—that was Simon’s focus. But they’re saying, “Who is this?” Not, “Who is this woman,” but, “Who is this man who says he can forgive sins?” Their attention went to Jesus. Her life made Jesus the issue for others around her.

There are people in your life who know where you’ve been, what you’ve done, that may have been involved with you in a sinful lifestyle. They may have been aware of your reputation . . . and that doesn’t have to be prostitution, by the way, or drug addiction or alcohol addiction. It could be any one of many sins: sins of the spirit and sins of the flesh.

But the people who know you best, who have seen you at your worst, when they hear your testimony in which you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner (many sins, much sin) and then when they see evidence of His forgiveness in your life for all of that sin . . . Don’t you think they’re going to want to know more about the One who has forgiven you?

What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? Love. Love God, love others (see Matt. 22:37, 39). (You already love yourself!) What did the apostle Paul say? Above all, put on love (see Col. 3:14).

So here’s my question—whether you’re a Pharisee or a prostitute—do you love much? Or do you keep God and others at a polite arm’s length?

If you don’t have much love, why not? I’m asking myself these questions. I meditate on this passage, and I think that woman’s way of expressing her love to Jesus is so far beyond what I’ve experienced in, now, nearly fifty-six years of walking with Jesus.

  • Why don’t I love Him and others more?
  • Why is there not more overflow out of my heart?
  • Is it maybe because we don’t recognize how much we’ve sinned, how great our sin is against a Holy God? You see, we’re too busy comparing ourselves with “those women,” rather than with God!
  • Maybe it’s because we’re not in awe of His forgiveness. You can’t make this up; you can’t manufacture this.

You know, a temptation for those of us who are not as expressive as this woman is to kind of beat ourselves up and think, Oh, I wish I could cry more! I wish I loved Jesus more! That will flow out of our hearts as we come to see ourselves for who we really are apart from Christ, as we come to see His beauty, His love, His grace, His forgiveness. . .

Little by little we’re going to be transformed until we love Him as we ought, as we want, and as one day we will.

Oh Father, thank You for the transforming power of Your grace, Your forgiveness! May we who have been forgiven much love much! I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: You know, when you love someone, you want to spend time with them. When we discover how much we’re loved by God, it makes us want to spend time with Him. So Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and all of us at Revive Our Hearts, make a big deal of encouraging you to spend time alone with the Lord each day.

If you need help jump-starting that process, we have a new resource to help. We would like to send it to you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size. Did you catch that? Send a gift of any amount and you’ll get the new resource. Nancy’s here to tell you about it.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie, it’s called the Refresh Kit, and it’s a beautiful tool to help you refresh your walk with the Lord each day for thirty days. And as we’ve been telling you, that includes a booklet that has devotional readings and a set of cards with practical personal reflection questions to help you reflect on your walk with the Lord. And then there is a place to journal and write down your thoughts in response to God’s Word and those questions as your heart is being refreshed in His Word.

You can see a picture of the Refresh set for yourself at our website ReviveOurHearts.com.

And that’s also where you can go if you want to be a part of helping us to meet the fiscal year-end need that we’ve been sharing with you over the last few weeks. We’re encouraged to see how the Lord has begun to provide for that need, and excited to see what He will provide over this next week or so before we come to May 31.

Thanks so much for praying with us about what God might have you to give to help meet this need. If you want to see where we are to thus far, go to our website. There’s a progress bar that we’re updating each day to show you exactly where we are. And again, if you want to give toward that need, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Leslie: “You just have to forgive yourself.” Have you ever heard that phrase? The Bible has a true solution to shame, but it doesn’t involve forgiving yourself. Nancy will talk about how to be truly free. Please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to know that forgiveness is found in Jesus Christ. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.
 

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