Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: In religious circles, so much attention gets focused on trying to win elections and changing laws. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says we might have an even bigger impact by changing our own hearts.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I want to tell you that what takes place today in the White House or the State House of this state is not nearly as significant, not nearly as determinative as what takes place in God’s house. That’s us, the people of God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

We act so shocked when unbelievers act like unbelievers. We shouldn’t be surprised when the world is full of sin, but we should be grieved when the church is full of sin. Here’s Nancy to explain. She's on day two in a ten-part series called "The Cry of the Captives."

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: In the last session we got through the first line of Psalm 126. I got a little carried away there, but that’s what the Word of God does in you. It becomes alive and it expands, and that’s a great way to study the Scripture. Just to mediate on it and let it speak to you and come alive in your heart.

We’re looking at Psalm 126. I’ve called this psalm the cry of the captives, and you’ll see why as we get into it. In some senses, it’s a prayer for revival. It’s a plea for God to move in setting His people free, and it’s a psalm that was really a song intended to be sung by the Jewish pilgrims. They had come out of captivity in Babylon. They were back in their homeland, but they still had some issues.

We said that the psalm breaks down naturally into three parts: past, present, and future. We started in the last session to look at the past tense, which is verses 1–3, God’s people remembering. As they remember what God has done, they offer praise for the past.

Let’s read again that first part of Psalm 126: “When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream” (v. 1). We said in the last session that any time there is a spiritual work that takes place in your life or the lives of those you love, whether it’s salvation or sanctification or revival, that’s a sovereign work of God. You can’t make it happen. God sovereignly moves upon His people.

Now, we can put ourselves in a place where we’re candidates for God to move. We can, as one writer said, “Set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.” But this is a recognition that it’s the Lord who sets the captives free. “When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream.”

Let me just comment as we finish up with that verse before we move on to the next that revival is for God’s people. Revival is for the people of God. I mentioned that in the last session, but let me show you that from this passage. It talks about the captivity of Zion.

Zion is an ancient name for the hill on which Jerusalem is built. The hill on which the temple is built. But in the Old Testament, it generally refers more broadly to the whole nation of Israel, the people of God, God’s holy hill. It’s a metaphor for the people of God. So when you read “Zion,” you can say God turned back the captivity of His people.

We see in verse 3: “The LORD has done great things [for whom?] for us, and we are glad.” Revival is for the people of God. In Psalm 85:6, which I referred to in the last session, we have that famous prayer: “Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You.”

You say, “Why do you need to point that out?” Well, I think our tendency in the Christian world today is to focus on the spiritual problems and needs of those who are outside the church. So we’re concerned about the secular culture. Now, there’s no question that the secular culture needs Christ—the education field, the entertainment industry, the political world. But God’s Word teaches that judgment must begin in the House of God. That’s the starting place for God to move.

I want to tell you that what takes place today in the White House or the State House of this state is not nearly as significant, not nearly as determinative as what takes place in God’s house. That’s us, the people of God. You see, the Church is waiting for the world to get regenerate. But the world is standing by watching and waiting for the Church to be repentant.

What in the world is going to convince people outside the Church that they need to believe in Christ, repent of their sins, and turn to Christ as Lord? If they look at those who go to church and they know we’re not bowing before Christ as Lord, we’re miserable, we have broken relationships, the divorce rate is the same in the Church—maybe a little higher—as it is outside the Church, what is persuasive about our message if we aren’t living it? It begins with the people of God.

Could I get even a little more personal than that? It needs to begin with me. With us in this room. With me. You say, “My family needs revival.” But I say that it needs to begin with the person who’s making the comment. I sometimes carry a burden for our ministry, for our staff. We need revival, and then God says to me, “No, let it start in you.” So there’s a very personal aspect to this concept of praying for revival

Can I just point out that there’s a corporate dimension also. Will you not revive us? Six times in this psalm you’ll see the words we or our or us. We’re praying for God to move not only in our individual lives, but in the body of Christ, in the family of God, the community of faith. It’s not just enough for us to enjoy and experience a relationship with Christ for ourselves, but we long to see those seasons when God will stir and move corporately in the hearts of His people—the Church, the bride of Christ, that it will once again be in our world the beautiful, radiant reflection of Christ here in this world.

If you’re a Christian, you are part of a body, the body of Christ. You’re not a lone ranger. So what we pray for ourselves, we pray for the corporate body of Christ. We long for God to move in our hearts personally and in His people corporately.

Now, as we move to verses 2 and 3 in this psalm, we see the fruit of revival. But the first fruit and the most obvious I see in this psalm is joy and gladness among God’s people. I want to just park there for a while. Joy and gladness.

Look at this Psalm 126:1: “We were like those who dream when the Lord turned back our captivity” (paraphrased). Verse 2: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” Verse 3: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad.” Verse 5: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Verse 6: “He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing.”

You see those words: glad, joy, rejoicing, singing, laughter? When God turned back our captivity, when God set us free from our bondage—first in salvation, and then in delivering us, sanctifying us, setting us free from the grave clothes we talked about in the last session that kept us in bondage—we were like those who dream.

You know how sometimes you wake up from a dream and you say, “Did this really happen?” It seems so real and yet you say—sometimes you say—“You know, I've got to pinch myself to make sure this is really happening.” We’re like those who dream. Seems to good to be real. We could scarcely contain ourselves for joy is the sense you get as you read this psalm.

The joy and the gladness that you see in this psalm is not just a private joy and gladness. It has to be expressed. In fact, the concept of joy in the Old Testament is not so much a private emotion as it is the enthusiastic response of a worshiping community of faith who come together, experience God’s blessing, and then they express their joy. They express their joy in glad shouts, in praise, in laughter. It’s a joy that comes out. It’s a joy that comes out when God’s people are together and they can’t keep it in. It’s irrepressible.

We see in this passage and in other Old Testament passages that the only true source of that kind of joy—the kind of joy we see described here—is God himself. True joy comes from that spring of God’s blessing and His life and His grace within us springing up into joy. That laughter, that joy, that gladness, that rejoicing—that’s what fills hearts that have been cleansed. Hearts that have been set free from bondage. Hearts that have been forgiven. Hearts that are right with God.

As I was meditating on this passage, I just tried to picture it. You know, we’re not nearly as expressive typically—at least the church I go to, we’re more refined than all this. And I tend to be that way, which is one of the reasons I go to that church. I tend to be not so expressive outwardly. But you think back about Jewish worship—maybe you’ve seen it sometimes—it’s very celebrative; it’s very physical; it’s very visceral; it’s very visible, visual, and audible sort of praise.

But I tried to think of other word pictures to describe this kind of joy we see expressed here. You think of other times when you’ve seen that kind of corporate expression of celebration. At the end of World War II remember the ticker tape parades, the celebrations, the people just thronging the streets? That kind of joy?

You see these pictures of somebody when they win a big game show or they win the lottery and they go crazy. Their family goes crazy. They’re all hugging and screaming and yelling over the lottery (statistics holding true, within two years, they’re going to be bankrupt and miserable again), but for the moment there’s this huge celebration.

I don’t think I can ever forget in 1991 at the end of Operation Desert Storm when Kuwait was liberated. Do you remember seeing that footage of the Kuwaitees in the streets just singing and dancing and celebrating? Oh, my goodness, they’d been set free! You couldn’t stop them from celebrating. There was joy and gladness.

That kind of joy and gladness in the spiritual realm is the fruit, the by-product, of revival. It’s the by-product of release from captivity. Look at the progression in Psalm 126. “When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” When? After they were set free from captivity.

The problem is we want in our churches today and in our Christian experience, we want the joy and the laughter and the gladness of the celebration to be at the beginning of the service rather than going through the process of brokenness and humility and crying out to God and repenting of our sins that put us in captivity. We don’t want to go through all that hard stuff to get to the joy and gladness. We want the joy and gladness now, and God says it doesn’t come that way.

First, the brokenness. First, the cross, then the resurrection. That’s what James 4:9 says. Before you can experience the joy and the gladness, “be afflicted and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness”  (paraphrased). Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.

We’ve got the cart before the horse. You won’t have the kind of joy and gladness you see expressed here as a fruit of revival until you’re right with God, until you’ve been set free. But once you’ve experienced that in times of revival, God’s people freely express joy in the Lord.

Over and over again in the Scripture, you see that. Psalm 85:6—I’ve referred to that over and over in this series: “Revive us again.” What’s the by-product? What’s the fruit? “That Your people may rejoice in you.” Revive us. Set us free from our captivity so that we may have true reason to celebrate.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, you may remember reading about the revival that took place at the water gate. What was the outcome? Scripture said there was very great gladness. There was very much rejoicing. First the revival and the deliverance, then the celebration.

In 2 Chronicles chapters 29 and 30, there’s that wonderful description of the revival that took place in the days of Hezekiah. Listen to these four verses in just those two chapters. I won’t ask you to turn there, but I’m in 2 Chronicles 29:30. Listen, “They sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshiped.” This was after they had gone through the cleansing and the brokenness and the humility and the repentance. Then they sang praises with gladness.

Chapter 29:36, all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about. Chapter 30:21, they celebrated for seven days with rejoicing. You can’t work up that kind of party. It’s the natural by-product of God moving in the hearts of His people. Chapter 30:26, of 2 Chronicles, “There was great joy in Jerusalem.”

You want joy in your family? You want real joy in your church? First the deliverance from captivity and then the joy will come. You don’t have to tell those people who won the $2 million lottery, “Get excited now!” It just comes out when there’s something to rejoice about.

Eugene Petersen has written a book that has a commentary on Psalm 126 called, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” Listen to what he says about joy. It’s a rather lengthy quote, but I thought it was so compelling. I want you to capture this concept of joy.

Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality . . . We try to get joy through entertainment. We pay someone to make jokes, tell stories, perform dramatic actions and sing songs. [And isn’t that true even in many of our churches?] The enormous entertainment industry in our land is a sign of the depletion of joy in our culture.

We don’t have the real thing, so we have to buy it. Society is a bored, gluttonous king employing a court jester to divert it after an overindulgent meal. But that kind of joy never penetrates our lives. It never changes our basic constitution. The effects are extremely temporary—a few minutes, a few hours, a few days at most.

When we run out of money, the joy trickles away. We cannot make ourselves joyful. Joy cannot be commanded, purchased, or arranged. But there is something we can do. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs.

We can decide to live in the environment of a living God and not our own dying selves. We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos, which greedily grab. One of the certain consequences of such a life, a life centered in Christ, is joy. The kind expressed in Psalm 126.1

I suppose one of my very favorite descriptions of the joy that comes from the person who’s been set free, the captive that’s been set free, is a passage that’s familiar to many of you. It comes from Pilgrim’s Progress. You remember the story of how Pilgrim (or Christian) who’s been carrying this big, heavy load . . . He’s left the City of Destruction, and he’s headed to the Celestial City, but he’s got this load on his back.

It’s a load of sin, load of guilt, load of shame, and he can’t get rid of it. It’s making his journey so difficult. And then he comes to the cross, the only place where we can ever get rid of that burden.

Let me read to you what the passage says in Pilgrim’s Progress right at that point in the story.

Up this way therefore up the way of the cross [up this hill], did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty because of the load on his back. He ran thus until he came to a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulcher.

So I saw in my dreams that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do until it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart: “He has given me rest by His sorrow and life by His death.”

Then he stood still a while to look in wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy and went on singing.2

When did the laughter come? When did the joy come? When did the singing come? When did the light heart come? After he paid a court jester to entertain him for a few hours? After he went to a movie to make him feel better, to anesthetize his pain? No. It’s when he got to the cross. No quick fix. No temporary fix. No temporary relief, but permanent release. That’s when the joy came.

If we’re not experiencing joy, deep irrepressible joy, and if it’s not coming out in our lives and in our corporate fellowship, if we’re not expressing praise and joy, it may be because we haven’t been by way of the cross. Or maybe we were there at one point, but we’ve left it and we’ve picked back up some of that burden that Christ died to save us from.

The problem is today we’re trying to get people pumped up and full of joy and praise who are still in captivity. They’re either dead spiritually. They have no capacity for life, or they’re like Lazarus was when he came out of that tomb. They’re alive, but they’re bound in those grave clothes.

Joy for a person either who’s in that tomb or in that bound situation has to be manufactured, has to be worked up. You have to pay for it. You have to rent the entertainment. But in times of revival, you can’t contain the joy, you can’t contain the praise.

A man who’s just been released from prison—especially if he thought he was in there with a life sentence—when he gets out of prison, he can’t help but laugh and sing, especially if his sentence has been commuted. He’s been pardoned. He’s got something to laugh about, something to smile about, something to be joyful about. No one has to tell him to be happy.

So the absence of those qualities in the life of a believer or in the fellowship of a body of Christ is an indication that something is wrong. As we look at this psalm, I think it could be one of three things:

(1) Either we’re still in prison and captivity; we haven’t been released.

(2) We don’t realize, according to verse 3, what great things God has done for us. 

(3) Perhaps (and we’ll come to this passage later in the series verses 5 and 6) maybe we haven’t paid the price of sowing in tears. We’ll see how those who sow in tears are the ones who reap in the greatest joy.

How’s your joy factor? How’s my joy factor? It was convicting to me to study this because I spend so much of my life . . . I’m a pretty serious person, and I spend a lot of my life just kind of being burdened. Some of that is a burden from the Lord. God keeps on me to proclaim the truth. It keeps a burden on you when you see so many people living in captivity.

Sometimes I just feel the burden and the weight of ministry and its responsibilities. The apostle Paul experienced that. There’s nothing wrong with all of that. But if there’s an absence in the midst of that of joy, why? Maybe you need to take a fresh trip to the cross.

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. . . . The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad (Ps. 126:1–3).

Leslie: I need to understand the balance between godly sorrow and godly joy, and you probably do, too. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth just provided a helpful perspective. She’ll be back to pray.

Do you know of any women who could use this teaching? Maybe the Lord would have you share what you’ve learned. We heard from a woman who has been passing along the truth she hears on Revive Our Hearts. Nancy’s here to bring you the story.

Nancy: We received an email from a Revive Our Hearts listener in Alaska who has been sharing what she has learned from this ministry with women at her church. She wrote and told us about a meeting at their church. She said, 

The women’s ministry director asked me why the Tuesday morning group I facilitate is thriving. How sweet it was to be able to share that since we switched over to truly studying biblical womanhood, we have seen women ever so hungry to learn. I’m thankful for Revive Our Hearts!

I’m thankful, too, for women like that who taking the resources that we develop and are multiplying them, reproducing them in the lives of other women. We’re asking the Lord for this to be more than just a radio program—more than just a podcast. We are asking the Lord to spread a movement of women who are passionate about learning His Word and spreading that message to others. You help make it possible.

Revive Our Hearts would not be coming to you each weekday without support of listeners who value this ministry and want to help it continue. You help us share God’s Word with women who then can disciple others. And the can then disciple yet more women. Only God know how your investment in this ministry could continue to multiply in the years ahead and even to future generations.

Now, back to this month. Here in May we’re asking the Lord to provide for significant needs—approximately a half-milllion dollars that we need here at the end of our fiscal year as we bring one budget cycle to a close and make our planning for the year ahead. We need to see strong support in May to keep ministry outreaches going and prepare for big initiatives like the Cry Out! nationwide prayer gathering for women that will be taking place September 23. When you support the ministry with a gift of any amount this month, we want to say "thank you" by sending you a CD that’s meant so much to my husband and  me. It’s Love Divine. It's a collections of hymns by pianist Jan Mulder. This version has been produced just for Revive Our Hearts and is not available anywhere else. So be sure to ask for the Love Divine piano CD when you call to make your contribution toward our fiscal year-end needs. Give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Thanks so much for your important role in helping women find freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ!

Leslie: Sometimes, if you want to experience joy, you first need the more difficult step of repentance. Nancy will be back to talk about it tomorrow. And now she’s back to wrap up today’s teaching.

Nancy: I want to just close, Lord, by praying that prayer from Psalm 85, and we make it our prayer today. Oh, God, would you revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You. For Jesus’ sake I pray it, amen.

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

All Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version.

1Eugene H. Peterson. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1980. 92-93.

2John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

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