Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Personal Devotional Life: “Seeking Him” Daily

Episode Resources

Learn more about Seeking Him.

Dannah Gresh: Every single day you get the opportunity to put Jesus in the number one place. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Who or what do you look to, to satisfy you at the start of a new day? Is it Christ? 

Leslie Basham: It’s October 15, 2019. This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: We’ve been in such a meaningful series with Nancy called “Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.” If you’ve missed any of these messages, you’re going to want to go back and catch them at ReviveOurHearts.com. Here’s Nancy with the final message in that series.

Nancy: “You who seek God, let your hearts revive.” That’s what God’s Word says in Psalm 69, verse 32, and isn’t that what we’ve been doing over these last days of seeking Him together? And as we seek Him, our hearts are going to be revived. How about your heart? Has it been revived?

I don’t mean are you at the end of your Christian growth and journey. Have you arrived; are you all there? Because I’m not—and you’re not—but do you sense God reviving your heart, bringing fresh breath and life and hope? 

We’ve looked at these different elements involved in seeking Him: honesty, humility, holiness, repentance, obedience, grace, clear conscience, forgiveness, sexual purity, the Spirit-filled life. Wow! What a great gift each of those is, and what a journey we’ve been on as we’ve walked through those different elements. 

Now, the question is: How can all of this become a way of life . . . not just a short-lived experience? I remember watching God move in an extraordinary way in a church in Ft. Worth, Texas a number of years ago. Over a period of weeks so many people encountered God in a fresh way and were revived through these very basic principles of seeking Him.

After that revival, a year later I was back in that area. I was interviewing some of the people who had been impacted by it. One woman whose life had been turned upside-down and inside-out, here’s how she summarized it: “Revival is not an emotional touch; it’s a complete takeover!”

It’s a complete takeover. So, how does what you’ve experienced in these days, these weeks of seeking Him, how can this become a way of life? How can I continue to grow in my relationship with the Lord and experience ongoing victory over sin, a pure heart, freedom from bitterness, sexual purity, right relationships with others, the fulness of the Spirit . . . and so on?

We don’t want to just do a chapter in a book, watch a video, listen to a message and then move on to whatever our next study is. How can we come back a year from now, and . . .

Maybe you’ve been doing this study with a group in your church and some other small group, and you’re thinking, A year from now, how could I come back and these truths could be even deeper and richer in my life than they are today? I want to be closer to Jesus. I don’t want to be backslidden. I don’t want to have tasted of revival and then wandered away from it. I don’t want just an emotional touch . . . I want a complete takeover of my life by Jesus.

And I know that, as we’ve walked through this series, many of you in this room and many who are doing this study, have experienced some really encouraging growth. You’ve taken some huge steps to obey God and to respond to His Word. And yet, as the old hymn says, we are “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

So what can keep us moving forward rather than staying static or going back to old patterns that we had in our lives before we began this Seeking Him study? I want to leave you in this last session with a simple phrase that I hope will grab hold of your heart and stick with you for the rest of your life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what sustains and maintains the work of God’s Spirit in our lives. So I want to give you this simple phrase, and then I’m going to unpack it a bit. Let’s talk about how this truth can change your life from this day on. Here’s the truth: “We become what we behold.” Another way you could say that is, “Beholding is becoming!”

There are a lot of things I love about this concept. The first is that implies that change really is possible; that we are becoming something; that we’re not just going to stay the way that we are. We become what we behold. Sometimes we kind of get stuck in our Christian life and we think, Could it ever be any different?

And the good news of the gospel is, “Yes, it can be different because we are becoming, we are becoming what we behold. So change really is possible . . . long-term, lasting change really is possible!

I’ve been thinking a lot as I’ve been preparing for this session about a whole fairly new field of science and psychology that is fascinating as it relates to this concept of what we are becoming and how we change. Until recent years, scientists thought that our brains were hard-wired and unchanging from sometime late in childhood on.

But they now realize that the brain is what they call “neuroplastic.” That means, “brain” (neuro) and “plastic” (it’s not hard). The brain can change. It can be rewired, restructured, in response to repeated experiences or stimuli. So this whole field of neuroplasticity has become a fascinating one! And I know just enough about it to be dangerous. A scientist, I am not!

But I think it reflects such a biblical principle here and taps into something we learn from God’s Word. “Neuroplasticity” means that the brain can be rewired and retrained—positively or negatively. So if you do something pleasurable, there’s a release of dopamine and other feel-good chemicals in your brain. 

Those chemicals reinforce certain thoughts and attitudes and behaviors that led to it being released in the first place, those pleasurable actions. And then, as you repeat those patterns, those attitudes, those thoughts; they form pathways in the brain. Through repetition those neural brain pathways are strengthened, and ultimately they become deep ruts, habits, addictions.

This is how bad addictions, bad habits, are formed. You do it once, you get pleasure out of it, it releases this chemical so you want to do it again. You do it again and it wears a path kind of like (what I can understand) is the way you wear a path through the grass in your lawn. You walk over it once, you’re not going to tell that much difference.

But you walk over it twice and three times—and two-hundred and three-hundred times. The kids in the neighborhood have cut that corner every time and now there’s no more grass. It was changed! That’s what happens to the neural pathways in our brains when we have repeated experiences or stimuli that bring about change in the brain.

And all of our brains have been wired, and rewired, by the ways that we have trained them as we’ve developed habits and patterns. These things become reflective. Those negative things can be anxiety, fear, obsessions, food, sex, drugs. We’ve trained ourselves to respond to certain stimuli, and we get a good feeling out of it, so we do it again.

With some of these things it takes more and more of the thing to make you satisfied at the same level that you were initially. But the important thing is that the brain is being changed, it’s being rewired by what you feed it, by what you program into it.

I read a fascinating article this week called “How Porn Changes the Brain.” And it said repeated consumption of porn causes the brain to literally rewire itself. It triggers the brain to pump out chemicals and form new nerve pathways leading to profound and lasting changes in the brain. The same is true with certain drugs.

Now, for you, it may not be porn or drugs . . . though it may be. But the rewiring of your brain may not have taken place with porn or with drugs, but with a smartphone in your hands to where your glance is constantly diverted to it and you reflexively pick it up. I’m telling you a little bit about something I know a lot about. I know a lot more about this than I know about pornography or drugs.

I was thinking about it in the car the other day, how my hand just reflexively goes toward that phone, my eyes reflexively go toward it, my fingers tap and scroll endlessly, sometimes mindlessly. And in the process, we are changed. Our brains are changed, our patterns are changed. Things become habits that weren’t habits at first.

However (and here’s the good news!) because of brain plasticity, those ruts are not unchangeable. This means that new pathways can be created. This article on how porn changes the brain went on to say the good news is, neuroplasticity works both ways. If porn pathways are not reinforced they’ll eventually disappear!

So the same brain mechanisms that lay down pathways for porn can replace them with something else. There have been a lot of studies done, there are a lot of studies being done, about how people get addicted to porn (or other substances) and how neuroplasticity can allow them to develop new pathways.

The way they got addicted was they kept fueling, they kept feeding, they kept tromping across that grass (if you will) so that those neural pathways were formed. To have new neural pathways, to have change, you’ve got to put different feedback into the brain.

All of this brings me to a nineteenth-century Scottish pastor named Thomas Chalmers, who knew nothing about pornography or neural plasticity or some of the things we’ve been talking about, but he did know about what Scripture teaches. He preached a sermon called “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” 

What is expulsion? If you expel something, you throw it out. In this sermon he acknowledge that power that sinful and destructive affections have in our heart. They can be extremely powerful, to where we think, I’m just stuck in this sin. I’m stuck in this pathway. I’m stuck in this addiction. I’m stuck in this pattern

And it doesn’t have to be nearly as deep and sinister as pornography or drugs to still keep you in bondage. You can have patterns of anger, patterns of frustration. You say it’s your kids making you crazy. No, actually you’re making yourself crazy because (and I don’t mean this unkindly) there’s a trigger that you’ve responded to the same way so many times . . . Maybe suicidal thoughts or . . . and I know there’s a lot more in play here that could be a part of this: mental illness, etc. 

I don’t mean to say this is all prescriptive or it’s all the same, but there is something about the habit patterns that we have fed that then becomes controlling to us. 

In this message on “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” this pastor called his listeners to reject moralism. What do we mean by that? Trying to get rid of those bad affections, those sinful, destructive affections, by our own efforts and attempts, apart from Christ. 

He said (and this is kind of Old English, so you’ve got to listen carefully), 

It is seldom that any of our tastes [the things we love, the things we’re drawn to, the things that have a grip on us] are made to disappear by a mere process of natural extinction.

They’re not just going to go away on their own, because we have fed them so much there’s a neural pathway there. We’ve worn a path in our brain. (And some psychologist or scientist is going to call me and tell me I didn’t say this quite right. I probably am not saying it quite right, but are you getting the idea?) He’s saying that things are not going to change just by natural extinction. He said, 

“The heart must have something to cling to, and never by its own voluntary consent will it so denude itself of all its attachments.” 

He says the heart has to love something, the heart has to worship, the heart has to be connected to something. And he’s saying the heart is never on its own. Your heart is never on its own going to get rid of all these attachments it has that are sinful, unhelpful, and unhealthy. 

That’s why so many people feel so helpless and hopeless in dealing with negative habits and addictions—idols, if you will. Because they can’t just get rid of them on their own. The only way, according to his message and according to God’s Word, to deal with misplaced affections or addictions is for our hearts to be captured by a new and better and more powerful affection—to be ravished by Christ and the gospel.

When that happens, our brains will be changed. We will be changed; we will be transformed! It’s not overnight, but as a process and over time. These worldly and lesser affections that once held such a strong grip on us will be displaced, and they will lose their control over us.

It happens one step at a time, one decision at a time, one choice at a time, one act of surrender at a time as our brains and our hearts are rewired.

Now, let me go back to this phrase that I started with: we become what we behold. This is what shapes and wires—and rewires—our brains. We become what we behold, what we focus on, what we give our attention to, what we give our effort to.

And so we read, for example, in Psalm 115, beginning in verse 4, there’s a whole passage here about idols. The Scripture says, 

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands (v. 4). 

What they love, what they’re drawn to, what they have an affection for—an inordinate affection—they’re things that are human constructions.

Those who make them [these idols] become like them; so do all who trust in them (v. 8). 

Why do these people who make these idols and trust in these idols become like these idols, which is impotent and helpless and weak and frail and sinful and stupid and foolish. Why? Why does that happen? Because they’ve been beholding those idols.

They’ve been gazing upon them. They’ve been fixing their sights upon them. They’ve been spending time with them. They’ve been coddling them. They’ve been taking them to bed with them. It might look like a phone! And what they’ve been gazing upon, what they’ve been beholding, is what they have become.

So the question is: Who or what are you beholding? If we become what we behold: 

  • What are you beholding? 
  • What are you trusting? 
  • Who and what will you be like at the end of the day, at the end of the month, at the end of next year? 
  • How can we become more like Jesus, which is the goal, right?

Well, the psalmist says in one of my favorite passages, Psalm chapter 27, verse 4: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after . . .” There’s something he’s going to behold here, something he’s determined to give his attention to; “that will I seek after.” What is that one thing?

. . . that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life [to live in His presence], to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. 

He says, “I’m not going to gaze upon idols! I’m not going to trust in them. I want to be in God’s presence every day of my life. I want to gaze upon, feast upon, the beauty of the Lord.” We become what we behold.

If we’re gazing upon idols, we’re going to become like those stupid foolish idols: broken. But if we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, what are we going to become like? We’re going to be transformed into the image of the Lord. We become what we behold. What are you beholding? What are you becoming?

So how do we behold Him? 

  • It takes time. 
  • It takes intentionally. 
  • It takes focus. 
  • It takes grace-enabled effort. 

This is not you striving to do something on your own: “I’m going to be like Jesus!” This is saying, “Lord, I want to be like Jesus. I need Your help. I need Your grace. I need Your Holy Spirit. I can’t do this, but I’m going to cooperate with You in this grace-enabled effort to do what I can’t do, and that’s to fix my eyes on Jesus . . . to gaze upon His beauty.” 

There’s an old gospel hymn: 

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on.
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone;
By looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

(“Take Time to Be Holy,” by Wm. D. Longstaff, 1882)

By looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be. We become what we behold. Beholding is becoming. Psalm 17:15 says it this way: 

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. 

Whose face are you beholding? Are you taking time to behold His face, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord?

And who or what do you behold when you awake in the morning? This is something I’ve been thinking about the last couple of days as I’ve been working on this session. Who or what do you look to, to satisfy you at the start of a new day? Is it Christ? 

And, here’s what I’ve been thinking. I’m just going to be really honest with you here. The first thing I pick up at the beginning of the day is my phone. It’s next to my bed. It tells me what time it is. It tells me what I’ve got to do that day. Now, I’m going to get time in the Word. I’m going to get time with the Lord. I love soaking in the Word. I love gazing upon His beauty. That’s a really, really important part of my day.

But I’ve been thinking. What if, instead of starting the day by picking up my phone and beholding the news or my social media feed or my email, I were to start the day beholding His face? My husband does this. “The throne before the phone.” That’s his motto. It was my dad’s my motto. My dad didn’t have a smartphone, and he probably wouldn’t have liked having one because there’s a constant temptation here to behold something first and more than we behold the Lord. 

What are you beholding? What satisfies you? “When I awake I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.” What fills you with joy and expectancy as you go into the day? You see, you and I are becoming what we will be. 

And what we are becoming and what we will be is determined by what we are beholding. You become what you behold. Beholding is becoming. Beholding is transformational! You’ve heard it said, and I understand there’s some science to back this up, that the longer couples are married to each other how they start to look like each other.

I googled this the other day and I found some amazing photos! (laughter) Now, it may be because they chose to marry somebody who looks like their family, or . . . I don’t know. There’s a lot of speculation as to why this is. There seems to be some truth to it. Certainly it would stand to reason that you spend fifty years beholding your mate’s face it’s going to have an impact on you, right?

If not in your physical features, then certainly in your character and your responses. You become like the people that you behold a lot. Beholding is transformational. We see this in Exodus chapter 34, when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets of the testimony. He’d been with God for forty days up on that mountain.

Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God! Transformational! Now, that was the glory of God shining, and the people saw it, and they were terrified—because you can’t look on God’s glory and live. Moses couldn’t see it. The people could see it.

So what did Moses do? He put a veil over his face. He covered it. But the passage goes on to say, “Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining” (vv. 34–35). 

It’s transformational—gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. We become what we behold. What do you want to be a year from now? You’ve done this study, twelve session on seeking Him. Are you just going to put it down and go on to the next thing, or do you want to be different in each of these areas a year from now . . . two years from now . . . ten years from now? 

You will become what you behold in the intervening time. We’re changed into the likeness of what we spend our time looking at, concentrating on, focusing on. That’s what 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us, reflecting back on that Exodus passage. 

It says, “We all, with unveiled face . . .” speaking of Moses, who took off that veil when he went in to talk with the Lord. Listen, you take off the veil and you’re exposed! God sees you. (God sees you anyway). But you’re not covering; you’re not pretending; you’re walking into the light; you’re not covering up. This is honesty, humility—all the things we’ve been talking about in this series.

"We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord.” Stop there. If we become what we behold, what will happen if we behold the glory of the Lord? That verse goes on to tell us: “. . . beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The glory of God filling us, reflecting through us to others. How does this happen? It doesn’t happen by going on some twelve-step plan, from some self-help book, something that I can conjure up to make myself a better person or a more effective person or a better leader or a “this” or a “that.”

It comes from being in the presence of the Lord, beholding the glory and the beauty of the Lord. We are transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. John says it this way in 1 John 3:1,

Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Hallelujah! When we see Him we become what we behold! Why wait until then to behold Jesus? Why not start every day of my life and throughout the day beholding Him? We behold Him in His Word. Our minds are renewed. Those neural pathways are changed!

You didn’t think you could ever be any different. You’ve just always been an anxious person, or you’ve just always been an uptight person, or you’ve just always been an introvert who can’t talk to people. Listen, you can change, if that will make you more like Jesus, as you behold Him!

So moving forward from this Seeking Him study, here’s what you’ve got to do: behold Him! Behold Him in His Word, meditate on Christ.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil. 4:8). 

Think about it! 

You become what you behold. Meditation, fixing the mind on what is true, what is beautiful and what is good is transformational. And what does it transform you into? Something that is beautiful and true and good. You become what you behold! This is a means of actually rewiring, retraining your brain.

Let us . . . lay aside every weight, and [the] sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus [you become what you behold], the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross . . .

Consider him [look to Jesus, you become what you behold] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted [in the race that God has given you] (Heb. 12:1–3).

Listen, seeking Him is not a twelve-week study; it’s not a twelve-session study. Oh it is that, but it’s way more than that. Seeking Him is not a book that Tim Grissom and I wrote. Oh it is that, but it’s way more than that. Seeking Him is seeking Him every day for the rest of your life. You become what you behold. Beholding is becoming!

The old songwriter said, 

Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer. . .
Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind. 

(Oh! To Be Like Thee,” by Thomas Chisholm, 1897)

Do you want to be that way? If you’re taught of God, you do. And yet, if you’re a child of God, you struggle and you know so often you’re not that way.

I mean we’re all that way while we’re sitting in this room studying this lesson—tender, kind. I haven’t seen anybody here today who was bitter or angry or cursing or throwing. But it’s when we get out of here, we get in the laboratory of life, and we see our flesh come out. Some of you, after this day, because you’re tired and you’ve been being good for a long time! (laughter)

So the songwriter said, “Oh, to be like Him! I want to be like Him, but I know I’m not!” 

Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness [His fullness! His sweetness!];
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

(Oh! To Be Like Thee,” by Thomas Chisholm, 1897)

That’s what I want in my life; that’s what you want in your life, isn’t it? Oh, to be like Thee! Tell Him, “Lord, I want to be like You. More of You; less of me. I want to be like Jesus.” How does that happen? Become what you behold.

So pull out this Book. Put away whatever else is keeping you from this Book. If it requires radical surgery, do whatever you have to take to behold His Word, to behold Christ, to fix your eyes on Him, to spend time with Jesus. Take time to be holy. It’s not going to happen in five minutes of running through a spiritual “fast food drive-through” on your way out the door.

I’ve done that. I’ve been there. But it’s the soaking, it’s gazing upon Him. You become what you behold. What do you want to become? You say, “I don’t think my brain could ever change.” Yes, it can! The Holy Spirit changes brains and hearts and minds and lives. He’ll change yours from one degree of glory to another.

You’re not going to be there tomorrow or next week. It’s a journey; it’s a pathway. Every day from now until you see Jesus, at what point prayer becomes praise and faith becomes sight, and we will be like Him, for we will see Him. We will see Him as He is!

And so, Father, in the meantime we walk by faith. We want to become like Jesus, so help us every day to do whatever it takes to behold Him, to set-apart times for devotional reading and prayer—but not just those set-apart times, but time throughout the day in the midst of our everyday walk to just turn our gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. And as we fixate on You, thank You that You will change us, You will make us like the One we love. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s been showing us how important it is to make our relationship with God our number one priority. And this message wraps up a series called "Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival." Has your intensity for seeking the Lord increased during this series?

Would you want to follow up on that momentum and continue to study this topic of personal revival? Nancy writes about it in her book Seeking Him. It’s one of the core messages from Nancy, a book that God has used to transform the lives of thousands of individuals, small groups and even whole churches!

It’s been updated, and we’d love to send you a copy. You can then go through this Bible study five days a week for twelve weeks and discover the joy of personal revival for yourself. We’ll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. You can donate at ReviveOurHearts.com or call at 1–800–569–5959. 

Would you share this message with others? You can order multiple copies of Seeking Him and get the teaching on DVD. The messages you heard in this series from Nancy are all available on either DVD or as a USB drive, and this might be just the right tool your Bible study group is looking for.

For more information on the DVDs and the set of Seeking Him books, visit ReviveOurHearts.com or call 1–800–569–5959.

Now, can you trust God to write your story, even when you hear the word “cancer,” when your doctor gives you a diagnosis? Our guest tomorrow will answer that very question. I’m Dannah Gresh, inviting you back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, wants to help you make the Lord your priority. The program is a production of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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