Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Radical Repentance

Leslie Basham: In 1995 Nancy Leigh DeMoss spoke to the staff of Cru in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Her subject was brokenness.

Recording of Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 1995: When confessing their sin, proud people tend to deal in generalities, but broken people are able to deal under the conviction of God's Spirit to acknowledge specifics.

Leslie: As Nancy spoke, God was stirring the hearts of that audience. Here's Dave Warn.

Dave Warn: When Nancy DeMoss finished speaking, something happened in that room that is hard to put into words, even to this day.

Kathy Helvey: People were starting to weep.

Leslie: This is the late Kathy Helvey.

Kathy: They were starting to get out of their seats and kneel by their chairs. People were holding people as they were crying.

Dave: And there was a sense where the Holy Spirit descended on the whole crowd at once.

Kathy: People were getting up out of their seats, going across the auditorium, and hugging people, making things right with people.

Dave: There was a sense of conviction that was more powerful than anything I'd been a part of up to that point.

Kathy: And this went on, not for twenty minutes, but for hours.

Fernando Ortega singing:

Pass me not, O gentle Savior; hear my humble cry.
While on others Thou art smiling, do not pass me by.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, July 10, 2015.

Fernando Ortega singing:

Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.

Leslie: This week we've heard Nancy's classic message on brokenness. She delivered it twenty years ago this month.

If you’ve missed any of the programs this week, I hope you’ll hear them at The concept of brokenness is crucial for every believer to understand.

Those of us who have heard the message this week need to respond in humility and obedience. For an example of what that might look like, we’ll hear from some friends who were there for Nancy’s original brokenness message in 1995. Bob Lepine, co-host of FamilyLife Today was one of them.

Bob Lepine: As you finished the message on that Monday morning, again, if I remember correctly, we sang together.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We sang that old gospel chorus, "Pass me not, O gentle Savior. While on others You are calling, do not pass me by." And we just encouraged people in a quiet moment to respond to the conviction of God's Spirit, whatever He was saying to them.

And let me back up and say, I think this was a part of the picture there: about ten minutes before I finished speaking, out of the corner of my eye I saw two men come down out of the stands, come down to the front of that auditorium and kind of make an altar out of that platform and just knelt there.

To this day I don't know who those two men were. I don't know why they came. I don't know what God was doing in their hearts. There had been no invitation given at that point, but in humility and brokenness those men just stepped out and responded to God's conviction without any human prompting. I think that was an illustration of how God was working in people's hearts, very individually, very personally.

And following suit then, after I finished speaking and we began to sing, people began slowly, quietly, with no major direction, to respond to the Lord. Some began to go to other people in that auditorium and begin to deal with some of the pride issues that had caused barriers in relationships.

And all this time the staff, the leadership of that service, were sitting back and saying, "What do we do next? What is God saying?" They didn't want (I think so wisely) to shut down the moment. It was a sensitivity to the fact that God was moving, and we wanted Him to have freedom to do that.

Bob: There were people coming forward not because there was an altar call or an invitation for them to come forward, but simply because they wanted to address issues the Lord placed on their hearts, and coming forward seemed the way to do that. As they did, other friends would come and gather around them and pray with them. There was weeping taking place in those small groups.

As the auditorium began to fill up, you saw the same kind of pockets occurring everywhere on the floor and in the stands. It seemed like people on their own were gathering around brothers and sisters who were saying, "I want to get right with you," or "I want to get right with God," or "I want to get so

That continued throughout the rest of the day and into the evening.

Nancy: Initially people were responding quietly alone or in small groups. I heard later stories of parents who went to get their children in the children's clubs to seek forgiveness from their children for ways they had wronged their kids.

But at one point, probably within an hour of the time I finished speaking, the microphones were opened at the front. Some of these staff felt there were things that they needed to share publicly.

Leslie: Tim S. was one of those staff members.

Tim S.: As you walk up to the stage, the first thing that happened was, you got into a line, which might have been the worst part of it because it's kind of like you're about to parachute jump, but you have to wait for awhile and look at the ground from 3,000 feet up for a while.

Once you get up to the front of the stage, you're in this line, and it maybe took fifteen or twenty minutes before I was before the microphone, so there's all that time to see how massive the crowd was. But of course you know the most important audience for what you're about to say is God, and it's just a very humbling thing.

Leslie: Kathy Helvey was a good friend to Revive Our Hearts. Before she died of cancer, she told our team about that day in Colorado in 1995.

Kathy: Dr. Henry Blackaby, I remember, as each person would get up and share what was on their hearts, would ask other people that knew them or that were near them to come, after they shared, and pray for them. And there would be a surge of maybe thirty or forty people who would go up onto the stage and surround this person in prayer.

Tim: While I was going through the confession, I didn't realize it, but almost two dozen staff had gone to the side of the stage ready to greet me when I was done. Many of the ones were ones I believed I hadn't treated with right attitudes. There were embraces and hugs, and they prayed for me. It was good. It was quite a memorable moment.

Kathy: Then the next person would start to share. As the day wore on, there were lines on either side of the stage where people were lining up to come and share. And I realized some people felt like they needed to share publicly. It was that big of a thing for them, that that was part of what God was doing.

Then there were others of us that didn't feel we needed to get up and share. But it was so personal; we were seeing ourselves in God's eyes, maybe clearly for the first time in our Christian life. As for me, I couldn't leave my seat. I just kept crying.

Leslie: This move of God's Spirit started to spread to some of the children's classes as well. Renee Johnson had come to Colorado expecting to goof around while her parents were in staff training. She was twelve years old at the time.

Renee Johnson: Suddenly this revival sparked where we were. I just remember somebody getting up on stage and starting to say, "This is what's going on with the adults, and if anyone wants to come up and confess their sin, please come  up." It was so awkward for the longest time.

Finally somebody came up, and God just poured out His presence. I just began weeping, and I could not wait for my turn to go up because I had parts of me that I wanted to be filled. I just remember I really met the Lord there. And not only that, but I felt like I had my peers behind me praying for me, and I felt truly loved by God and by other people. So that's how I experienced it that day.

Leslie: Here's Bob Helvey.

Bob Helvey: There were some pretty heavey sins confessed. It wasn't just, "I'm mad at this person. I don't like this person." There were some very devastating things. That was another demonstration of the reality of this, the genuineness of this from the Spirit. Who would do that in front of 4000 people unless they were insane. They could lose their job. They certainly could lose their reputation.

There was so much that people were willing to risk at that time. The leadership had to deal with that. They had to decide what they were going to do with this information. Is this going to be a safe place, or is this going to be a time you are saying good-bye to Crusade because you confessed these things.

As I recall, the leadership took the right road, from my point of view. They said, "We will provide the help that you need to overcome these things.

Leslie: Here's Steve Douglass, president of Cru.

Steve Douglass: I remember encountering a woman at a restaurant three or four days later. She had confessed a particularly seamy kind of sin. I remember having not the least bit of condemnation for her in my heart. That's the truth.

I knew exactly what she had confessed. I knew, but I was rejoicing with her that it no longer had a hold over her. That would be just one example of what I sensed was going on in the entire group.

As sin was confessed, it was dealt with. God forgave. We would rush up to those people. Ten, fifty, maybe up to a hundred people would surround a person. It would be people who knew that person and would pray for that person.

Bob: The leadership of Campus Crusade made that platform available for people to speak. It was quite incredible.

Kathy: Heaven on earth comes to mind. We tasted a bit of that in those few days. It was a safe place. I wish it was safe everywhere else out in Christendom.

Leslie: For Julie Denker, the time of confession continued on after the meeting.

Julie: I remember going back to my dorm room and sitting on the floor and just praying about some of the things that God was teaching me and what He was showing me about my own heart. After first seeking forgiveness from Him, I then realized that, in particular, I needed to call my dad. There had been times where I just had not shown respect to him and honored him as my father, through my words or through my attitude, and I needed to make that right.

Like I said, I can remember sitting on the floor in the dorm room, and then he answered the phone. I asked for forgiveness, and he became teary and weepy and just offered it immediately. I had the opportunity then to tell him more of what God was doing and the joy that I felt from having a clean heart.

Kathy: We started this in the morning. It may have been 10:00 in the morning that Nancy started her talk. We were there all morning, all afternoon, and late into the evening crying, making things right with the Lord and with others.

Nancy: I remember calling back to my office and asking for prayer and saying, "I don't know what's happening here, but God is doing something. Just pray that God will give us wisdom, that God will give the leadership of this ministry wisdom to know how long to let this go, when to say it's time to go home for the night." It was a beautiful thing to see the ministry sensitive to God's leadership and them responding to it.

Steve: I found I could hardly even leave the room.

It wasn't because there were wonderful, sweet things being said there as the confession was happening; it was really kind of bad in many respects. But at the same time, I just sensed the presence of God's Spirit and so, no, it wasn't any problem at all. I readily cancelled things one session at a time at first, and then we just blocked out the whole day. As it got late and we finally let people go on home, we anticipated starting right back up in the morning, and that's what happened.

Bob: Yes, I mean, you didn't even want to go [anywhere], you didn't want to leave the auditorium. You didn't want to go eat. You didn't want to go talk to anyone unless you felt you had to. But I remember that I just wanted to be there because something was happening in my heart and in the hearts of many people. All those kind of physical, earthly things kind of just disappeared. Those needs that you have, those needs to chat with your friends, those needs to even go to the bathroom, they all just kind of faded away in light of what was going on.

This wasn't a peer pressure kind of thing. There was no pressure on anybody to do anything. They could leave; they could go. It wasn't like people were watching or you were held accountable. I felt absolutely no pressure to be involved in this, but I had to be.

Julie: Once you see something, it makes you want to see it again. It's one thing to read about it in books of years past, but to see it happen in front of you, it just makes you hungry for wanting it to continue in your own life.

Dave: My staff friend said to me, "Dave, what do you think is going to be the long-term outcome of all of this?" And I responded immediately, and I just simply said, "Joy."

Steve: Well, I'm absolutely positive it had a lasting impact on all of us that were there. You can't help but imagine that if that happened in the lives of thousands of people, literally, that it didn't have an impact around the world.

Tim: What impact has that conference made on these last ten years? I just think that God can look at us and see us and declare us righteous while at the same time still having feet of clay and struggling with temptation.>

Kathy: I see it as an ongoing exercise in my life. Less and less of me, Lord; less and less of my selfish, self-centered nature and more and more of You, more and more of Your love and Your unselfishness and Your selflessness. That's what I want in my life. I want You to break me and remake me. That's what I want for the rest of my life. I don't want to miss out. Who would not want to be a broken person and have all those qualities?

Bob: What I think about is all the rough relationships I've had since then. I think because of that time, I have been able to deal with them more completely, more resolutely, and more powerfully, in that the result is so favorable.

Kathy: Since then it's been an ongoing process. When Nancy went through all of those things on the list, afterwards we all wanted that list. And it did come out. I remember sitting down and ticking every single one of those things that I was proud about, and really thinking, I'm putting this in the back of my Bible, and no one is ever going to see this but me. And to this day, it's in my Bible.

Bob Lepine: I know as all of us left to head back to our workplaces or assignments, you left to go back to Michigan. I'm sure in the back of everyone's mind was this thought of remembering Peter and James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Nancy: Can we stay here?

Bob: Let's just pitch a tent and keep doing this. And the Lord sending them back into the battle, you do wonder, Did we just have a momentary emotional response to the things of God or has there been real spiritual work done here? Were you wondering that?

Nancy: Well, I don't know that I wondered that because I know that whatever God does lasts. I think that's been confirmed in my own heart as I've heard stories over the years and some we're sharing even in this series of the lasting effects in people's hearts. I've just lived long enough to see that when God does the transformation, it is lasting.

But that doesn't mean there's not a battle that follows. There is, and sanctification is a process. There are some times where it's three steps forward and two steps back.

You can't live in the heat and emotion of that moment. You do have to come down off that mountain and get down into the valley. For me that was very personal because as I did go back to my home, I was going back to a ministry where I was not a hero.

People just know me for who I really am, and I hadn't changed at all in their eyes. I was coming off that event where we had kind of been at the portals of heaven you know for a week, and I was tired, and I was vulnerable. I didn't realize then what I've come to understand. There's a battle after the battle.

For me that came as a stark relief and I've actually shared this on Revive Our Hearts before, but maybe people didn't know the context. I live in South Bend, Indiana and had some friends come and meet me at the airport. As they did, they told me about in passing something that had taken place at my home while I was gone. They didn't think it would be any problem. Should I tell what this was?

Bob: Yes.

Nancy: It was such a silly thing, in retrospect! But actually someone was staying in my home (I knew they were staying there), but they had brought their dog, their pet dog, with them in my home. I'm not a person who cares for pets in the house, and I didn't know. I didn't expect that this dog was coming with them, and I went ballistic. It was horrible; I mean it was horrible.

Bob: You got angry?

Nancy: I got really, really upset. I did not want that dog in my house. As I look back on it, it was just out of proportion to the whole event. It was out of proportion to my typical responses. But I really handled it poorly.

Bob: This is within hours . . .

Nancy: This is within hours of having been in this place where God's at work and we're being broken and humbled before God. Here I am reacting in the carnality of my own flesh and my own heart. I'm sure the people who were with me were wondering. They were hearing reports all week about God working, and they're thinking, How do you explain this? And well, let me just say that God quickly, of course, brought conviction to my heart about my response.

It just exposed that apart from the Lord there is no good thing in me. I am as prone and vulnerable to walk in the flesh as anybody else. And quickly I had to come to the point of saying, "I was so wrong in my response. Please forgive me." And of course, they graciously did.

But it was a pointed and poignant reminder to me that I can never afford to walk without the control of the Spirit in my life, that I am always subject to the pride of my flesh, that humility and brokenness as I had just told this audience in Ft. Collins, "It's not a one-time experience. It's a way of life."

Here God was giving me . . . I don't want to blame God for this, but I got set-up and had an opportunity. I had a test, and I blew it. It was an opportunity then to humble myself and receive more of God's grace. I've been learning ever since that this life of brokenness is a lifestyle. It's a pathway; it's an ongoing choice. It's not just in the mountaintop moments but when you get down in the valley as well.

Bob: Did you find yourself thinking, Did anything really happen out there? as you responded in the flesh over this minor offense.

Nancy: I think part of what pride does is it makes us aghast that we could ever respond this way. I'm thinking, I can't believe I would ever do this. This is me. This is a spiritual, woman speaker. It's pride that makes me think that I couldn't do this.

Humility says, "If the Lord left me alone for a moment, this is the way that I'd be and worse all the time." Humility is coming to reckon with our fallenness, our humanity, our fraility, our weakness, our utter spiritual bankruptcy apart from the power of God's Spirit and His grace in our lives. That's true of me as much as it's true of anyone else.

Bob: In the days and weeks that followed, what were you hearing from those who had been at those meetings? Were you getting letters? Were you getting reports back from people that the work that God had begun was in fact bearing fruit in their lives?

Nancy: You know, there was a lot of that and within days or weeks, certainly months, tens of thousands of copies of that cassette (in those days they had cassettes) went around the country, went around the world I learned later. People began asking immediately for copies of "the list."

Now you have to understand that list of the contrast between proud people and broken people that we've heard in the message over the last several days, that was almost an afterthought to that message. As it came close to time to give that message, I thought, I need some more practical handles that will help people identify.

So I had scratched out in my almost illegible handwriting on a yellow legal piece of paper this list of proud people versus broken people. The left side of the list, the characteristics of the proud person, was very autobiographical. I just said to myself, "What are the evidences? How does pride manifest itself in my life?" That's how I came up with that list.

So afterwards when people were coming up and saying, "Can we have the list? Can we have the list?" I thought, If you could see this, it's almost indecipherable. But, of course, then we did type it out and make it available. But as people were asking for copies of this, there were some Christian media outlets asking for interviews. What did God do? The broadcasting network . . . . Others got involved in this.

And all of a sudden, I had been ministering for years in relative obscurity very happily most of the time. All of a sudden I was getting invitations that I had never had before. I was getting letters telling testimonies of what God had done, "My life will never be the same." Pastors and church leaders were saying, "This is how God has used this message in our church as part of the overflow of this." There were articles written up.

You know, it took me into a realm of testing in my own heart and my walk with the Lord in a place I'd never been before. I think initially it wasn't so hard because I was so conscious that this was all of God. But over a period of months, very subtly, I began to revert to something that had been a battle in my life years earlier. And that's the love of the praise of men. A drive for approval. A drive to be praised and patted on the back.

I found myself, not overnight, but gradually really loving the attention. Loving the praise and then getting disgruntled if somebody published this list and it didn't have my name on it. And this is the list about pride and brokenness! As I think back on it, I'm just grieved that in any way I would have embezzled the glory that belongs only to God.

I began to realize over a period of months; I'm loving this too much. I realized it was a struggle that I couldn't get free from. I confessed it to the Lord as I talked about in the message. You know, a roof off and you confess it to God. But then I realized this was a stronghold in my life, and I was being defeated by the very thing I had just challenged others about months earlier. In keeping with that message, I finally realized I needed to let the walls down and share this struggle with some other believers who could pray for me, could hold me accountable. I needed to take steps of brokenness and humility to see God win this battle in my life.

So I wrote a letter to about a dozen trusted, praying friends who cared for my soul. These were people who loved me and would pray for me. I just confessed what I just said. I gave them some of the illustrations of the pride thing over this brokenness message and how it was strangling my relationship with the Lord.

One of those men that I sent that letter to, he and his wife wrote back a letter to me and said, "God has put something on our hearts that we would like to suggest. What if you were to take some of those letters, some of those articles, some of that memorabilia . . . ." And he said, "Do you have a fireplace? What if you were to take some of those things and periodically torch them? We think that that is something that would really help you deal with this root issue in your own heart. Put the ax to the root of it."

Well, as soon as I read that letter I knew that God was speaking to me about this. As the Lord would have it, two weeks later I was scheduled to be in Colorado Springs where that couple lives. I'd never been there before. I took with me . . . I called them and said, "Can we have an appointment? Do you have a fireplace in your home?" I'd never been in their home, but it turned out that they did.

I had in my files some bulging files related to Ft. Collins '95, to this whole Colorado State Campus Crusade staff-training gathering. I didn't even go back and look in those files. It wasn't like I was opening them up and rereading them, but I would stick things in. I would stick these letters in and stick these articles in, kind of with this underlying thought that if I ever got really down I could go back and review these and be encouraged by them. There's nothing wrong with being encouraged by what God has done, but God just put His finger on my heart and said, "I want you to take those files, and I want you to get rid of them."

I'll tell you Bob, I was ashamed of this, but there was a wrestling match that ensued in my heart. I realized I wanted what was in those files. I wanted that human praise and therefore, I had to get rid of them. I knew if God was really going to win this battle in my life, if I was going to walk in freedom, I had to get rid of them. But I didn't want to. I wrestled this through.

Well, God brought me to a place of fresh brokenness. I took those bulging files with me and actually did read through major parts of them because I wanted to feel the knife going to the pride. I wanted to be reminded of what it was I was getting rid of. I took them to Dick and Dee Eastman's home there in Colorado Springs, and we prayed and read Scripture and kind of established a marker there. They lit their fire, and just a handful at a time I tossed the contents of those files into that fire.

You know, in that moment I can't say it was any great overwhelming sense of God has set me free on this, but over the next days and weeks and months I realized God had set me free.

Actually, when I went to write the book on brokenness, I was wishing I had a few of those things because I had no record. I had to get others to help me recall what some of the details were. It was a releasing and a freeing of my own heart.

I'm not saying that someone else would need to do that. Maybe it's a different issue in their life. But I do know that brokenness requires that I be willing to say yes to God, be willing to deny my flesh and put the ax to the root of every form of pride in my heart.

Now I won't say I've never struggled with pride since. I do every day of my life. And the Lord has led me in the years since to take some other practical steps. Any time that God makes me aware that that pride, that love of praise, that drive for approval is getting a foothold in my life, I find I'm quicker to get accountability, to take the roof off, to let the walls down and say, "Lord, what can I do? What step can I take to express brokenness and humility and let You pour Your grace into my life?," which is what He does every time we humble ourselves.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss tells that story towards the end of her book, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. The story left a big impression on a woman who wrote Nancy not long ago.

Nancy: A listener name Julie wrote and said,

I just finished your book on brokenness. I must say that the best part of the entire book was your personal testimony at the end.

While reading this book, Julie had been watching God bless her ministry and she said,

I struggle with some of these same temptations. It is an opportunity for me to die to pride and all that goes with it.

Everybody struggles with pride, no matter what they do or how God my be using us. That means that every one of needs to develop a walk of humility and brokenness before the Lord. I want to encourage you to not only listen to this message, but to read the book on brokenness.

Leslie: And Nancy, we’ll send a copy to any listener who donates any amount to Revive Our Hearts. We’ve been making this offer all week and today’s the final day we’ll be letting you know about this, so let us hear from you today.

Ask for Brokenness: The Heart God Revives when you call with your gift of any size. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit to make your contribution and receive your book. And we’ll also include a bookmark with Nancy’s list contrasting proud hearts and broken hearts.

After Nancy wrote the book, Brokenness, she followed it up with a companion book called Surrender: The Heart God Controls. That’s the topic we’ll pick up next week. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts

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

1 Fernando Ortega. "Pass Me Not." Fanny J. Crosby.


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About the Teacher

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 for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.