Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Legacy of Rahab

Dannah Gresh: Does your life show evidence of your faith? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Our churches today are loaded with people who say, “I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus.” But they’re getting drunk. They’re living immoral lives. They’re running their own lives. They’re controlling their own lives. They’re not surrendering to Jesus’ lordship.

They’re living lives of pride and greed and selfish ambition and lust, and they’re giving in to the lusts of their flesh, sins of the spirit, sins of the flesh. There’s no victory over sin. There’s no desire to have victory over sin. There’s no heart, no appetite for the things of God. There’s no hunger for the Word of God. There’s no fruit!

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, for Wednesday, August 12, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

God doesn’t only save you from past sin. He also gives you a future. That’s what we’ll learn from an Old Testament story. If you ever wonder if God can use you despite your past sins, keep listening as Nancy continues in a series called, "Rahab and the Thread of Redemption."

Nancy: We’ve been on quite a journey with Rahab the prostitute. Did you ever think we could get so much out of that Old Testament character? There’s not a lot written about her, but isn’t it a wealth and a deep well of spiritual riches that the Lord has given to us from her life?

As we’ve recorded this series, I’ve seen tears on a lot of faces. I think God has been giving us a fresh sense of His amazing grace and what it cost Him to save us from destruction. God is a redeeming God who goes out of His way, so to speak, to find fallen sinners and to restore and rescue them. Aren’t you glad?

I think some of us, in Rahab, have felt that we’re hearing our story. It may be that you’ve had a background similar to Rahab’s life of prostitution. Perhaps it’s another sinful bondage or behavior or addiction.

But I think we’ve all seen that there’s a Rahab in all of us—that apart from Christ, we are all likewise under the judgment of God.

Now, we’ve looked at the book of Joshua and where Rahab appears. We’ve seen her in the Gospel of Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus Christ—Rahab the prostitute! That’s an incredible thing.

Today I want us to look at two other New Testament passages that refer us to Rahab. They give us just a bit more insight into her life. Both of these passages make a similar point, so you may want to put your finger in both of them.

First we’ll look at Hebrews 11, and then we’re going to turn to James chapter 2. We’ll be back and forth between these two passages through this session—Hebrews 11 and James chapter 2.

As many of you know, Hebrews 11 is a list, an account, of many great men and women of faith in the Old Testament times. Some have called it the “Hall of Faith”—not the Hall of Fame, but the Hall of Faith. There are two women who are named in the Hall of Faith. The first is Sarah, the wife of Abraham and the mother of the Jewish race. The second is Rahab. Sarah and Rahab.

Now, in some ways these two women could not be any more different. There are a lot of contrasts in their lives. But in some ways they could not be any more alike. Both of these women, Sarah and Rahab, were redeemed out of their lost condition by the grace of God. And both of them are examples of faith.

So we come to verse 29 in Hebrews 11. This sets us up to read about Rahab: “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land.” Then verse 30: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.” Verse 31: “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish.”

I love that phrase. Rahab the prostitute—parenthesis implied, who deserved to perish—did not perish!

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

So how was Rahab saved? How come she didn’t perish? She was saved by faith. The grace of God came to her, and she received it by faith. Her willingness to express hospitality to the spies was an evidence of her faith. It was an expression of her faith.

She was not saved because she harbored the spies. She was saved because she believed in God. And the evidence that she believed God was that she harbored the spies.

One paraphrase puts it this way: “Because the prostitute Rahab trusted God, she gave the Israelite spies a friendly welcome.”

You see, what she did—her action—was an expression, an evidence, of the faith that was in her heart. Now, don’t lose Hebrews 11 because we’re going to be back and forth here, but turn to James chapter 2.

Here we see Rahab the prostitute linked not this time with Sarah, but this time with Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith. So she’s in some pretty good company in both of these passages.

Don’t you love how God does that? He takes prostitutes and puts them with spiritual leaders. It’s amazing grace. It was grace for Abraham. It was grace for Rahab.

And both Abraham and Rahab in James chapter 2 are used as examples of the nature of genuine, saving faith. We come back again to faith. Let me read in James 2, beginning in verse 14.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?

Nothing to prove the faith, nothing to demonstrate it. “Can that faith save him?” Is that saving faith?

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works [it doesn’t exist] and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (vv. 15–20)

And then he goes on to give two illustrations to demonstrate this thesis point that faith apart from works is not saving faith. It’s dead; it’s useless.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.

It’s the faith in God’s grace that justified him, and the faith was evidenced by his works.

And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham [what’s the next word?] believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (vv. 21–24)

Now, that could be confusing because we believe and we preach that people are justified by the grace of God through faith in Christ alone. What is he saying?

He’s saying, “Faith that doesn’t have works is not faith." The faith that justifies you will demonstrate itself in your behavior—in your obedience, in your following the lordship of Jesus Christ in your life.

Another illustration:

And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (vv. 25–26)

Now, we don’t have time to unpack that whole passage and to do a detailed teaching on justification by faith. But I think it’s clear in this passage—and if you put it in the context of the whole of Scripture—that both Rahab and Abraham were saved by the grace of God through faith.

That faith and that grace are “the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” Ephesians 2:8 tells us. We’re not saved by works. We are saved by the grace of God expressed and exercised in our faith. But their works—Rahab’s and Abraham’s—demonstrated that they had in fact been made right with God, that they had saving faith, that they had been justified by faith. Their works proved that.

If you say, “I’ve been justified; I’ve been redeemed; I’ve been saved; I have faith,” but there’s no evidence to prove it in your life, James says, “That’s not saving faith. That kind of faith will not justify you.”

  • It may be intellectual faith.
  • It may be emotional faith.
  • It may be some kind of religious exercise you’ve been through.
  • But it’s not saving faith if it doesn’t change your life.

We’ve seen that Rahab’s life was transformed. She believed God, and the evidence that she really believed God is that her life was transformed.

In these two passages, Hebrews 11 and James 2, we see the negative and the positive side of her conversion. The negative we see in Hebrews 11. It says, “Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient.”

Again, that phrase, “Rahab the prostitute did not perish,” just stuns me. It should stun you. That’s what God’s amazing grace is all about. Sinners deserve to die. Rahab was a sinner. She was a prostitute. Your sin may have that title or it may have some other title, but it’s sin nonetheless, and sinners deserve to die.

But Rahab the prostitute did not perish. Why? By faith, through grace, not due to any inherent goodness on her part. She just believed God.

And then we see the positive side. She did not perish: that’s the negative side. But the positive side is in James 2: “Was not also Rahab the prostitute justified?”

Rahab the prostitute did not perish. Rahab the prostitute was justified.

I love both sides of that coin. Not only was she spared from judgment—that’s good news—but she was also declared to be right before God. She was blessed to be justified, and that is even better news.

In both cases, Hebrews 11 and James 2, the evidence of Rahab’s faith was her works. That’s what demonstrated that her faith was genuine. Her faith led to action.

So as we read in James, we see this whole balance of faith and works. We see the relationship of faith to works. James says that you cannot have faith if it is not evidenced by your works. If your life doesn’t back up your profession of faith, if it doesn’t demonstrate what you say you believe, then you cannot claim to have saving faith. There’s no proof. There’s no evidence. And genuine faith will always have evidence.

Rahab’s faith led to a transformed life. And that’s the point. Genuine, saving faith will always lead to a transformed life.

Does that mean you never botch it? You never blow it after you get saved? No. If you’ve been saved longer than about six minutes, you probably know the answer to that question.

You know we do at times still sin as redeemed sinners. We have not yet been delivered from the presence of sin. We still live in these sinful bodies in this sinful world. We still experience temptation. And sometimes saints sin greatly.

But the inclination of a saint’s heart is not to sin. It’s to please God.

Rahab turned to God from idols, as it was said of the Thessalonian believers (1 Thes. 1:9). She turned from sin to God. Saving faith always sanctifies.

Now, it doesn’t sanctify you overnight. It doesn’t mean that overnight you’re sinless or perfect. None of us have arrived there yet. Not until we’re face-to-face with Christ, delivered from these bodies, will we be perfectly sanctified. But saving faith always transforms and sanctifies.

You say, “Why are you harping on this so much?”

Because our churches today are loaded with people who say, “I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus.” But:

  • They’re getting drunk.
  • They’re living immoral lives.
  • They’re running their own lives.
  • They’re controlling their own lives.
  • They’re not surrendering to Jesus’ lordship.
  • They’re living lives of pride and greed and selfish ambition and lust.
  • They’re giving in to the lusts of their flesh, sins of the spirit, sins of the flesh.
  • There’s no victory over sin. There’s no desire to have victory over sin.
  • There’s no heart, no appetite for the things of God.
  • There’s no hunger for the Word of God.
  • There’s no fruit!

I talk with mothers and grandmothers whose hearts are broken over their sons, their daughters, their grandchildren. Here’s what I’ll hear parents say: “My son or daughter, yes, they’re a Christian. They became a Christian when they were a little girl or little boy. But now they’re not living at all for Christ. I know they’re a Christian, but there’s no evidence. There’s no heart, no hunger. There have been years of rebellion, years of running from God.”

Now, I can’t tell those parents if their children are believers. But what I can say is, “You’d better not assume that they are, because they may well not be.”

  • They may have made a profession of faith as a child.
  • They may have walked an aisle.
  • They may have signed something on the dotted line.
  • They may have joined your church.
  • They may have given some evidence in behavior as a young person.
  • They may have been interested in the youth group.
  • But if, over an extended period of time, there is no evidence of a believing, repentant heart, then there is no basis for assurance of salvation.

I think there are some moms who need to be praying differently about their children. They need to be praying, “Lord, save my son or daughter! Deliver them from themselves. Grant them genuine, saving faith.”

So let me ask you: Is there evidence that you have genuine, saving faith? There was evidence in Rahab; is there evidence in you?

  • Is there evidence that your heart is being transformed?
  • that you’re a new person
  • that you’ve got a changed identity
  • that you’ve got new appetites, new desires
  • that you’re headed in a new direction?

If not, let me urge you to do what the Scripture says to do—and that is to examine your heart and ask God to show you, “Am I in the faith?”

If not, then the plea, the appeal, is to cry out to Jesus to save you and to transform your life.

Now, let me just ask one other question as we conclude this portion of study on Rahab. If Rahab had a changed identity, if she was a new person, why is she still referred to as “Rahab the prostitute”? Does that bother you a little bit? Does that make you wonder why, if she’s a new person, they’re still calling her a prostitute? Couldn’t we drop that title?

The Scripture doesn’t tell us why, but I’ve been thinking about that. And here’s what I’ve concluded.

First of all, Rahab never forgot where God found her and what He had redeemed her from. She didn’t want to forget. It wasn’t that she was proud of that life or wanted to display it. But she knew where she’d been.

I don’t want to forget where God found me. I don’t want to forget what He’s rescued and redeemed me from.

But beyond that, I believe that Rahab’s past was part of her life message. It became, ultimately, a means of reaching others with the grace of God.

If in the New Testament it just said “Rahab,” we might forget. Rahab who? And we’d think, Well, she must have been a great, religious woman. She deserved the grace of God.

Oh no, no. Scripture is not going to let us forget where she had been. And she was willing to bear that moniker, that name, “Rahab the prostitute,” as a means of giving her a life message to minister into the lives of others.

Every time we say her name, “Rahab the prostitute” today, we are reminded of the incredible grace of God. Today Rahab continues to reach sinners like Rahab, sinners like me, sinners like you, because that title stuck.

I think of my friend Iris Blue. Some of you have heard her speak. She frequently shares her testimony. We’ve spoken together at some conferences. She’ll share very openly about how God delivered her from a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and prison.

Then she tells about the redeeming grace of Christ. And do you know what happens after she speaks? I’ve watched it with my own eyes. I give my message; she gives her message. You know where the women line up afterwards? They want to talk to Iris.

And do you know who lines up to talk to her? Women who’ve been into drugs, into alcohol, into promiscuity, and into other things that we won’t even name—or just women who are living with the shame and guilt of whatever their sin is.

They line up to talk to Iris because they know where she’s been. She’s not trying to hide, not trying to cover, not trying to pretend that her background was any better than it was. She’s just saying, “I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior.”

Women are drawn to that. They’ll open up their hearts and tell her things they’d never tell someone else—things they maybe have never told someone else.

Why? Because they know she identifies. She’s been there. And they see in her not just where she’s been, but where God has brought her and how God has transformed her. And when they see her, they have hope.

The story of Rahab the prostitute gives me hope.

But you know what? God wants to use your story, whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, whatever you’ve been in bondage to. It doesn’t mean you have to name it everywhere you go. But God wants to use your past—and His glorious grace in your life in overcoming that past—to give you a message: a message of grace and hope to share with others.

Wouldn’t you be willing to be called a sinner if you knew that God could use that to rescue some other sinners?

Dannah: God can use your story in helping other women find grace. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been explaining how in a series called, "Rahab and the Thread of Redemption." Nancy’s teaching is about the literal thread a woman used to mark her window, but we've also seen how that story relates to the gospel, the thread of redemption, that runs through the whole Bible.

It’s been a helpful series to those who struggle with sins in their past, and it’s been convicting for those who don’t think their sin is all that bad. Each one of us needs to be rescued.

The newest study in the Women of the Bible series from Revive Our Hearts features Rahab and her redemption story. Rahab: Tracing the Thread of Redemption, can be yours when you give a gift of any amount. You’ll see God’s faithfulness throughout her life, and experience God’s work in your own story.

Women’s ministry leaders have been going through this study online with Revive Our Hearts. Several of them have opened up about their own redemption stories or what they’re learning through the study. Listen to what one woman had to say:

Healing from trauma and overcoming the sin of addiction have been two of the hardest things that I have ever been through, but God strengthens me, stands with me, reminds me daily that He is the One who keeps me, that He values me. When the harm I lived through overwhelms my mind, His Word speaks peace to me. When my sin taunts me, God reminds me that He has forgiven me, has overcome it, and His Son has already paid the price for it. 

Such a good reminder of truth! She goes on to say:

I am Rahab and although my story is difficult to tell, I share it every opportunity I can so that if it pleases Him, God will be glorified and He will call others to Himself. I am ever thankful that Jesus carried my shame to the cross, gives me newness of life, and restores me . . . and I get a front row seat of His rescue of others like me!! Praise God!! 

I love that story. It's a little bit how I feel when I help someone by sharing my past with them as they journey on in their sanctification process. Here's what another woman shared about the Rahab study:

Like Rahab may never have realized the way God would weave her small story into the greatest story generations later, I may never see the full redemption of some of the lost in our family. But I have seen Him already begin to move in my family members’ hearts this year, including my sister! And it’s made me realize: any bit of pain is well worth them knowing Jesus, and well worth shaping my own heart and drawing me into Him. 

We love hearing how the newest in the Women of the Bible series, Rahab, is working in women’s lives as God draws them closer to Himself. I hope you’ve been inspired to seek God and His redemptive work in your life. Get your copy of Rahab with your donation of any amount. Just go online to ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Tomorrow, women reflect on how the story of Rahab has spoken to them. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds you that your faith leads to action. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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About the Speaker

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 …

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