Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Foundation of Holiness

Leslie Basham: Do you realize what a big impact you could have on other people? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I wonder how many people have been dissuaded from believing in Christ because of something they have heard or experienced from those of us who bear the name of Christ.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, August 31.

Think about someone who has influenced you through their example of godly living. Do you realize that you could have that same kind of impact on those who follow? Here’s Nancy in the final part of the series called, Why Be Holy?

Nancy: We’ve been talking about motivations to pursue holiness. I’ve given you six, and today I want to give you another one, and that is that we’re to be holy because the spiritual wellbeing of others, in some measure, depends on our commitment to holiness.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a nineteenth-century Scottish preacher who said, “The greatest need of those around me is my personal holiness.” Think about that . . . the greatest need of your mate, of your children, of your fellow workers, of the people in your small group at church . . . their greatest need is to see in you a reflection of what God is like, and of the transforming power of the gospel.

Whether we realize it or not, our holiness, or our unholiness, has a profound effect on the lives of those around us. Your life can create hunger and thirst for God in other people’s lives. Your life can be a powerful instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit to draw others to Jesus Christ, and it’s likely that all of us are here today because of someone else that God used to create in us an appetite and a hunger and a thirst for God.

On the other hand, your life can cause irreparable damage to others. Adam could not have fathomed, I don’t think, how the effects of his sinful choice would reverberate through all of human history. Romans 6 tells us, “Many died through one man’s trespass.”

“Many” . . . that’s an understatement, isn’t it? Sin entered the world, and death by sin because of one choice that one man made. So we cannot calculate all the lives that may be turned astray and devastated through what we might consider inconsequential acts of disobedience.

By contrast to Adam’s disobedience, the obedience of the Lord Jesus to the will of His Father brought incredible blessing to the whole human race, and that’s what Paul says in Romans 5. “Through one man’s righteous act, the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” (v. 18 paraphrased). Do you see the contrast there, between Adam’s disobedience and the Lord Jesus’ obedience?

Jesus said in his high priestly prayer in John chapter 17, “For their sakes, I consecrate myself ,so that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (v. 19). So when I’m tempted to secretly indulge my flesh with excessive food or excessive sleep or by watching a video that condones immorality . . . when I’m tempted to be slack in my work, to be harsh with my words, or to yield to self-centered emotions—as we all are tempted—it helps me to stop and think about the impact of my life on those who look to me as an example.

Other believers are impacted by our choices. So, also, are unbelievers impacted. To a significant degree, the lost world determines its view of God based on the lives of those who profess to know Him. I wonder how many people have been dissuaded from believing in Christ because something they have heard or experienced from those of us who bear the name of Christ.

J. C. Ryle—again I’ve quoted him in this series—he wrote a classic book on holiness many years ago. He said,

I believe there is far more harm done by unholy and inconsistent Christians than we are all aware of. Such men are among Satan’s best allies. They pull down, by their lives, what ministers build with their lips.

They cause the chariot wheels of the gospel to drive heavily. They supply the children of this world with a never-ending excuse for remaining as they are.

Who’s he talking about? Unholy and inconsistent Christians. He says they’re among Satan’s greatest allies

First Corinthians chapter 7, by the way, talks about the impact of a wife’s choices on her husband and of a husband’s choices on his wife. Perhaps far more than you can imagine, your children’s personal and spiritual wellbeing is affected by your obedience to God.

In Deuteronomy chapter 12, Moses said, “Be careful to obey all these words that I command you that it may go well with you and with your children after you” (v. 28). Parents seldom realize—and I know I’m speaking here to women who have children who’ve gone far from the Lord—but I think they would agree with me on this.

Parents seldom realize, until it’s too late, how determinative their example is in the lives of their children. Now, I’m not saying if you live a godly life that that’s a guarantee that your children will, but your children see when you are warm and gracious and kind and loving with people when you’re at church, while you’re rude and irritable with people in your own home. Your children see that.

Your children hear you call in sick to work when they know you’re really going shopping with a friend. Your children hear you use language at home that you’d never use in public. Your children hear how you belittle your husband, and then the only time you open your Bible at home is when you’re preparing your Sunday school lesson.

They know, they see, they know what your moral standards are, not because you’ve told them what your standards are, but because they’ve seen what they really are. How? They know the kind of videos you rent, they know what kind of movies you go to see. They know what you laugh at on TV. They know what kind of books and magazines you bring into your home.

Now, again, I’m not laying the fault of all wayward children at the feet of parents, but I’m saying I don’t think we realize the significance of our impact on those around us who see what we’re really like.

I remember talking with a man who’s now a Christian worker, but who for years went far away from the Lord. He said that the first time he ever saw pornography was under his missionary dad’s bed. Now that’s extreme, but you know what, anymore, it really isn’t all that extreme.

The spiritual wellbeing of those you know and love is affected, it’s impacted, by your choice for holiness. And if these kids who are not seeing Christ lived out—they’re seeing parents who profess Christ, but not parents who live Christ—if those kids grow up loving the world and having no hunger, no appetite for spiritual things, will that come as any great surprise?

I don’t want to just put the blame on parents. I think as an adult generation of believers, we share responsibility for what’s happening to the hearts and to the lives of our young people. They’re not just watching their parents, they’re watching all of us, and they’re seeing something that is making them have no heart, no hunger, for holiness and for God.

Will we be prepared to give an account for the way our lives have influenced their choices? In a very real sense, our heart for holiness, or the lack thereof, is shaping the heart and the character of the next generation.

Helen Roseveare was a missionary surgeon in the 1950s in what was then the Belgian Congo. She said something that has stuck with me for many years. She said, “There must be nothing, absolutely nothing, in my daily conduct that, copied by another, could lead that one into unholiness.” 

Is there anything in your life—any habit, any behavior, any pattern—that you could not encourage your friends, your mate, your children, your co-workers to imitate? And do you love your sin so much that you are unwilling to relinquish it for the sake of others?

Do you care more about indulging your fleshly appetites, than about the eternal wellbeing of those who are following behind you? Ezekiel 36:23: “The nations will know that I am the Lord, when I show myself holy, through you, before their eyes.”

Leslie: Your actions have a big effect on those watching you. That should be a huge motivation to pursue holiness. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been teaching a group of women, and she’ll be right back with Part two of that message.

First, she’s here with an example of the way holiness affects others. On Revive Our Hearts, we encourage women to pursue God-given femininity. This has influenced one listener who wrote to Nancy.

Nancy: Ladies, when we embrace biblical womanhood, it has a big effect on those around us, including men who aren’t used to seeing God-designed femininity lived out. I’m thinking of a young man who heard a discussion on Revive Our Hearts that involved a number of women.

He then wrote to us and said, “Thank you all for your modesty and grace. Really, thanks. I needed to know that these virtues are not dead. You graceful women have given me hope.” Well, that was so encouraging for me to hear, and I know that as women live out God’s design, it encourages men to embrace God’s role for them, as well.

When you support Revive Our Hearts, you’re helping us continue to call women to be all God designed them to be. This will have a huge effect as those women influence others.

Now, during the summer months, we generally see a decline in donations. Yet our expenses and the ongoing needs continue, so would you consider what you can give at this time to help Revive Our Hearts  continue speaking much-needed truth to a world that desperately needs to hear it?

Leslie: When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll say thanks by sending you Nancy’s book Holiness: The Heart God Purifies. Ask for it when you donate by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now let’s get back to Part two of today’s message. Nancy is finishing the series, Why Be Holy?

Nancy: I know of a church that decided to renovate their auditorium, and when they went to tear up the platform area, they discovered a trap door underneath the pulpit. And under the door they found—this is a true story—a compartment that was filled with pornographic magazines.

They finally traced it back to the previous pastor who admitted that he’d been addicted to pornography and that he’d stashed the materials under the pulpit thinking that no one would ever find them there. Week after week, that pastor stood in that pulpit to proclaim the Word of God, and week after week he’d been knowingly covering up a lifestyle of sin.

I tell that story, not to make look pastors look bad. I know many pastors who stand in their pulpits week after week with clean hands and a pure heart, and a fervent, pure love for Christ, and I’m so thankful to be in a church with a pastor like that.

But I tell that story because I believe that what happened in that particular church is a graphic picture of the church at large today, and of countless individual professing believers—men, women, young people, laypeople, full-time Christian workers—who proclaim Christ with their lips and are considered to be good Christians, but they’re covering up ungodly lifestyles and heart attitudes.

We’ve been talking about motivations to pursue holiness. Why should we be intentional about pursuing holiness? We’ve given several . . . I want to talk about the eighth today. We’re to be holy because we’ve been set apart to serve God as priests. I’m talking here about—not just a few select believers—but every believer.

We’ve been set apart to serve God as priests. First Peter chapter 2 says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” As we think about priests, we normally think about the Old Testament priests, so let’s talk about them for a moment.

The Old Testament priests did not have to be especially talented or intelligent. They didn’t have to have great personalities, but one thing had to be true—they had to be holy. In fact, before they ever began their ministry, they had to be consecrated and cleansed and anointed. Then every time they went into the holy place to serve, every time they approached the altar—the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offerings—first they had to wash their hands and their feet at the bronze laver, that washing pool, symbolically suggesting that they were being cleansed, consecrated, sanctified by a holy God.

The high priest wore a turban with a gold plate across his forehead, and engraved on that plate were these words: “Holiness to the Lord.” Do you know, every believer ought to have engraved in his heart, across his head, his mind, his heart, his life, those words, “Holiness to the Lord.”

It’s true of all believers, but I want to say a special word to those of us who are in vocational Christian service, vocational ministry, who have the privilege of serving the Lord vocationally. There’s a verse that has spoken to me many times over the years. Isaiah 52:11 says, “Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.”

And that’s not just vocational Christian workers, it’s also those who teach Sunday school classes, those who lead small groups, who serve in the church in any capacity, those who volunteer in Christian ministries, ”Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.”

As God’s servants, whether we’re paid to do it, or we do it as volunteers, as our labor of love, our lives must be blameless and above reproach. And it’s not enough to just measure up to the standard of those around us, we’ve got to be committed to God’s standard of absolute purity.

Ours is a high calling, a holy calling, and it demands that we embrace the highest possible standard of personal and corporate holiness. Let me read that verse again in 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” . . . why? . . . “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

What is that saying? And again, as you look through the book of 1 Peter, you see how this all lives out in human relationships and everyday life.  Peter is saying that our lives should be as different from the world as day is different from night. What we love, how we think, how we forgive, our priorities, how we treat others, our appetites, our desires, our choices should be as different from the world as day is from night, because we are to proclaim the excellencies of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

I want to suggest that the most compelling case for the truth of the gospel in any era should be found in the lives of those who profess to know Christ. That should be what makes the world stop and pay attention to the gospel.

Unbelievers in the first century could not explain away the obvious difference that the gospel made in the lives of those who followed Christ. People in high positions wrote about it. Some of their writings have been preserved.

“We can’t understand, they’re such good citizens, they’re such hard workers, no matter what we do to them, no matter how we torment them or persecute them. They’re honest, they’re hardworking, they’re faithful to their marriages.” There was this difference that people could not deny, they could not explain away.

Imagine the effect if the unbelieving world today could look at Christians and see that we keep our word, that we’re generous when others may hoard their resources, that we take care of our own . . . no one goes without necessities of food or clothing or shelter . . . that we’re not idle but we’re diligent . . . that we have power to overcome sinful behavior . . . that we don’t fret in times of scarcity, when the stock market crashes, but the we trust God to meet our needs.

  • What if they could look at us and see that when we’re wronged, instead of retaliating or getting bitter, we forgive? 
  • What if they could see that we love our enemies? 
  • What if they could see that we work to resolve conflicts, rather than letting them fester, and that when we’re provoked, instead of returning evil for evil, we’re meek and we return good for evil?
  • What if they could see that Christians are morally chaste, morally pure, saving themselves for marriage, not indulging in sexual fantasies, or buying sexual or sensual magazines or movies or pornographic materials, and not living in the passion of lust like those who do not know God, as Paul says in 1Thessalonians 4?
  • What if they could see that Christians keep their marriage vows, for better and for worse? What if the world could see that in those who claim to know Christ? I want to tell you that that kind of Christianity would be persuasive, and it would be contagious.

Not all will surrender to the truth when they see it, but no one will be able to deny it. As Ezekiel 24 says, “You will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the Lord.” Let me go back to that picture I painted just a few moments ago, that true story, about the church where the stash of pornography was found underneath the pulpit. Let me ask you in light of that picture, when you stand up to minister the Word of God, when you share Christ with an unbeliever, when you teach your children at home, or you’re having family devotions, when you teach a Sunday School class, when you lead a small group, when you lead a prayer time, when you’re serving the Lord in your church or in your community, when you lead a discipleship group, what kind of foundation are you standing on?

What’s underneath that foundation? Is it a foundation of purity and holiness . . . a life that is blameless and above reproach? Or is it a foundation of uncleanness. What’s the platform you’re standing on? Does it back up your message?

I came across a verse this week in the gospel of Luke chapter 8, verse 17, that says, “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” I don’t know what your secret things are. I don’t know what’s hidden underneath your pulpit. It may not be pornography, it might be something very different.

No one else may know what’s hidden under my pulpit or your pulpit. It may be well hidden, but one thing I can tell you for sure. One day, the truth will be exposed for all to see. It will be. Jesus said it, “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”

That’s why the psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, know my heart.” Look underneath the platform of my pulpit, where no one else sees, no one else knows . . . the innermost parts of my heart. The attitudes, the values, the thoughts, the envy, the bitterness, the jealousy, things I harbor there . . . the lusts, the addictions, the selfishness. Oh Lord, just search me, know it all, bring it out into the light, and then cleanse me by the blood of Jesus.

You see, if we’re willing to come into the light now, to be uncovered, to be opened up, then we will not have to fear being ashamed in that day when all is exposed. As we pray, I just want to ask you if there’s something underneath your pulpit, hidden from view of others. Only you and God know  . . . an attitude, a lifestyle, a behavior, an addiction, a pattern of wrong choices.

People at church don’t know it, people in your small group don’t know it, but you know it and God knows it. I want to ask if you would be willing in your heart, right now, to open up that trap door and come out into the light with whatever is there.

Say, “Oh, Lord, I’m just willing to get honest about what’s in my life. I’m proclaiming Christ, I’m professing something, but here’s the reality—this is what I’m really like.” It may not be pornography, it may be a critical tongue, it may be anger toward your children . . . whatever it is bring it into the light, confess it, repent of it with the intent to forsake it.

Proverbs 28, verse 13, “He that covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes it will have mercy.”

Leslie:  Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been praying for all of us to pursue a lifestyle of holiness. I hope you’ll study this topic further and make holiness a more important part of your life. Nancy has written a book that will help you. It’s called, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies. We’ll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size.

To take us up on this offer, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for the book Holiness when you call with your donation. The number is 1-800-569-5959.

On Monday, Leslie Ludy describes set-apart femininity. Also next week, Nancy describes true servanthood, and Ney Bailey will transform your thinking of negative situations. All that is coming next week on Revive Our Hearts.

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

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.