Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Ready for Scrutiny

Leslie Basham: Holiness is tied to gladness. Here is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We need to get rid of this misconception that if you're going to be holy that means that you're going to have pursed lips, you're going to be dour, you're going to be sour looking, you're going look like you're eating lemons all the time. That is not true holiness.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

Isn’t it a great feeling when you get your house really clean? It's easy to just straighten up, but there is something fulfilling about tackling germs, scrubbing floors, getting in the corners and under appliances. It is also a great feeling to let God tackle the hidden places of our hearts where sin tries to hide. Here's Nancy continuing in a series called "The Splendor of Holiness."

Nancy: A family I know was trying to sell their house and had it on the market for over a year. Sometimes they would go for weeks without anyone wanting to see the house. And then, all of a sudden, a realtor would call and say, "Can we show your house in thirty minutes?"

You can imagine the mad dash that would follow as the mom tried to get the house presentable. In those frantic, crisis moments, she became really adept at transforming her lived-in house with very normal kid clutter into a showcase in record time. She would laugh to me as she would explain how she got creative about this.

She learned how to stash laundry and dirty dishes and other out-of-the-place household items in places that prospective buyers would be unlikely to look, like the clothes dryer. She said that they don't look in there or in the back of the family suburban in the garage.

By the time the realtor arrived with the prospective buyer, the family was nowhere to be seen. The house was in tip-top shape. At least that's how it appeared, but you can only hope that no one would really look closely.

How would you feel if the doorbell rang tomorrow morning at eight o' clock, and you went to the door to discover you had a surprise visit from distant relatives whom you hadn't seen in fifteen years who were planning to stay for a week and were eager to have a tour of your house. Would you have to scramble to avoid emabrrassment?

I have to tell you that if you came to my house today, I would have to scramble. I didn't make my bed this morning, I left books and papers related to this radio series all over the place, and I don't think I'd want company to just drop by my house without at least a little notice today.

There are probably some closets, some drawers you wouldn't want to open. Unless you're just finished your annual, major cleaning, chances are you'd be hoping your guest didn't look too closely to see all the dust in out-of-the-way places, and sun streaming through streaked windows, or cobwebs in corners.

But as Christians, we are called to maintain a life that can be toured by outsiders at any time without embarrassment.

A commitment to holiness means having a life that's always ready for company, a life that is open for inspection, a life that can stand up to scrutiny, not just in the obvious things, but also in the hidden places where most people might not think to look.

Most Christians have learned how to do a quick pick-up in their lives whenever other people come around to take a look.

We go to church; we know how to make the family and ourselves look just right when we have to be on public display. We have learned how to keep up a good appearance, to look okay on the outside. But here is the real test: what would other people discover if they took a closer look at our lives?

That is one of the primary issues that Jesus had with the Pharisees of His day. The problem wasn't with their outward behavior. They were so driven to get the praise of men that they were star performers. They knew how to act right and do right, cross their t's and dot their i's and be these really good professional "Christians."

Jesus could see into their hearts, where the people that the Pharisees were trying to impress couldn't see. You notice how many times in the Gospels it says, "Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said to them . . ." That's kind of a scary thought, isn't it? That He looks in. He looks down. He looks under. He looks in the places where others can't see, the heart.

And with the Pharisees, that's where the trouble was. As Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, it's not that what is on the outside is unimportant, what Jesus wanted them to understand is that what is on the outside is meaningless if it covers up something on the inside that is not right. He wanted them to understand that it is useless to present this polished, immaculate spiritual image if we’re masking underlying scum.

Jesus called that hypocrisy. When He spoke to people who had that issue, His response was not mild. It was not gentle. Matthew 23 is one of the passages where Jesus really addressed this issue head on. Let me read to you several verses beginning in verse 23 of Matthew 23.

Jesus said, "Woe to you," and woe is a strong word of denunciation. It's a strong word of criticism, of rebuke. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees!" Now you have to understand these were the good guys. These were the theologians. These were, if you will, the pastors of their day, and Jesus said to them, "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin," your spices, all the little things. You are down to the letter of the law.

[You tithe of the littlest thing, but you] have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These you ought to have done [the little things] without neglecting the others [the big things]. You blind guides, straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel. [You have lost perspective; you don't realize what is important.]

Woe to you, [He says the second time] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, and then the outside will be clean also.

[A third time] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.

See, what you see on the outside, Jesus said, is not really on the inside for these Pharisees, that's what made them hypocrites.

So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (vv. 2328).

No wonder no one wants to be known as a Pharisee today. But like the Pharisees, we have an amazing capacity to feel good about ourselves because we don't commit certain kinds of sins while brushing off as insignificant the interior crud and pollution of our hearts.

Look through the Scripture, Old and New Testaments, how often you'll see the emphasis on the heart. Even all the way through the Old Testament where we have all these laws and regulations and rules and external behavioral sorts of issues addressed over and over again. God brings it back to the heart, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, obey Him, serve Him with your heart" (Deut. 13:34 paraphrased).

It's the heart that God sees. It's the heart that needs to be right so that the outside can be right.

Galatians 5 is one of several lists in the New Testament of sins, sins of the flesh, sins of the spirit. It's interesting in these lists how you find these outward sins along with sins of the heart all in the same list.

Listen, for example, in Galatians 5:19, "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery," and then right in that same list, "enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy." And then it goes right back to "drunkenness, orgies and things like these" (vv. 1921).

In that list God doesn't make any distinction. Things that are more related to thoughts and motives, God puts in the same category as these outward sins that we all agree are terrible. So, what, in a sense, if you have never committed physical adultery but you entertain lustful thoughts about someone else's matesexual fantasizing?

Now, I will say there is a sense in which to commit the act has more serious consequences than to have the thought. But we can't pride ourselves on being holy just because we don't do the act if our hearts are committing the act. So, what if you don't commit the act of physical violence, but you harbor hatred toward those who have wronged you?

So, what if you wouldn't even consider getting drunk but you are out of control when it comes to food or shopping or some other "okay for Christians" addiction? It's the heart.

So you homeschool your kids. You don't let them watch trash on television. You are inside the church every time the doors are open. You do the right things. You are considered spiritual. You are a Christian leader. You are a good Christian. People respect you, they look up to you. But your heart is filled with pride, jealousy, anger.
You are self-righteous. You can't get along with someone else in your church because there has been some little issue that's come between you and you have never resolved it. Sinful comparison.

See, all these "acceptable" sins; we don't even really think of them as sins, often. Jesus said, "It really matters." It's the heart of the matter that matters because true holiness goes beyond our visible behavior and the parts of our lives that are known to others, and it includes the innermost parts of our hearts that only God can see.

So let me ask you:

  • Does Jesus' description of the Pharisees in any way apply to you?
  • Is there any hypocrisy in your life?
  • Is what's on the outside the same as what's on the inside?
  • Do you appear outwardly to be godly while inwardly harboring unholy attitudes, thoughts or values?
  • Are you as concerned about the inward reality of your life, which only God can see, as you are about how you appear to others?
  • If people could see your inner thoughts and desires, would they conclude that you are a holy person? That's the heart of the matter.

What words do you associate with holiness? Would gladness be one of those words? Think about it the other way around. When you think of things that make you glad, do you think of holiness? I think the devil has deceived some of us into thinking that a holy life is a joyless life.

But surprising as it may seem, holiness and gladness really do go hand in hand.

I was blessed to grow up in a home where holiness was emphasized. It was taken very seriously, but at the same time, it was presented as something wonderfully desirable and attractive.

From earliest childhood I can remember thinking that holiness and happiness were inseparably bound to each other. My dad had a phrase; he said that he wanted to be as holy and that he wanted us to be as pure as the driven snow. He was a man that was deeply disturbed by sin, whether it was his own or other's or ours, as his children.

At the same time, while he hated sin and he was disturbed by it, he was a happy man. He actually enjoyed being a Christian. Prior to my Dad's conversion in his mid-twenties, he was wild. He was a gambler. He left home in high school and wandered around the country and was always in pursuit of happiness and thrills.

When God reached down and saved my Dad when he was in his mid-twenties, his lifestyle changed dramatically. He no longer had the appetite for those earthly treasures with which he had been trying to fill the empty places of his heart for so many years. After he found Jesus, he found what he had been lacking for so many years, and he came to love God's law.

He never considered holiness to be a burden. He knew that the real burden was sin, and he never got over the wonder of the fact that God had been merciful enough to relieve him of that burden and to give him new life through Christ. In both the Old and New Testaments we see a description, it's a wonderful description of the Lord Jesus, that makes this connection between joy or gladness and holiness.

Hebrews 1:9 is actually a quote from a Messianic psalm, Psalm 45:7, and in both passages it says of Jesus, "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."

Jesus loved righteousness; He hated wickedness. Now, we might picture someone who has a passionate love for holiness and an intense hatred for sin as being joyless, uptight, rigid. And in fact, I find myself being that way a lot because I focus naturally more on the external expressions of holiness and sometimes forget about the internal heart relationship that is at the root of holiness. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to true holiness. It is not a joyless, uptight and rigid life.

The result of Jesus' life was He loved righteousness; he hated wickedness. What does it say? Therefore (as a result) God, Your God, has anointed You, (Jesus). Joy comes from God. It is the fruit of the Spirit. "He has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions" (Heb. 1:9). The result of Jesus' holy life was overflowing gladness, gladness that surpassed that of anyone around Him. It was true of Jesus, it will be true of anyone who, like Jesus, loves righteousness and hates evil.

I am reminded of a couple of passages in the Psalms, and if you have your Bible, let me ask you to turn there so you can follow. First, Psalm chapter 4. Psalm 4 is where you see this connection between holiness and gladness or holiness and joy. The joy of holiness we could call this.

In Psalm 4:2 the writer talks about those who love vain words and seek after lies. He is talking about unholy people. Then in verses 35, by contrast, he talks about his own love for holiness and his earnest desire to be pleasing to God. For example,

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself. Be angry, and do not sin. Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.

So you have a contrast here, these ungodly, unholy people who love vain words and seek after lies. And he says, "But that's not the way I want to live. I want to be godly. I don't want to sin. I want to offer sacrifices that are pleasing to the Lord. I want to put my trust in the Lord."

What is the result in the psalmist's life of loving holiness and rejecting sin? Look at verse 7. "You have put [the You is God] more joy in my heart than they have." Who is the "they"? It's those who don't love holiness, those who speak vain words and seek after lies. It's those other people who don't have the heart for holiness.

The psalmist said, "God, You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and their wine abound." He's saying that they have a lot of temporal blessings. They can have great harvests. Things can go well in their lives. They can think they are really happy.

But he says, "You have put more true, lasting, deep joy in my heart as I've come to love holiness and to reject unholiness. I have more joy than anybody around me could have, even with everything going right in their life. Even if their grain and their wine abound and they are rich; if they have everything that anybody could want, I have more joy than that.”

Because, ultimately, joy doesn't come from our circumstances. It comes from a right relationship with God. The fruit of holiness is gladness. It's joy.

Turn over to Psalm 32 and you'll see here the prayer that David prayed after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. He had sinned greatly, and then he had repented. He had received God's incredible mercy. Listen to his personal testimony beginning in verse 1.

Blessed [happy, to be envied, glad] is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit (vv. 1–2).

Who is David saying is the glad person? Who is the happy person? The joyful person? It's the person who has confessed his sin. It's the person who has received God's mercy, who has put away his sin, who has agreed with God about his sin and repented and forsaken his sin. That person is blessed.

Gladness, joy, blessingthose are the fruit of holiness. So we need to get rid of this misconception that if you're going to be holy that means that you're going to have pursed lips, you're going to be dour, you're going to be sour looking, you're going to look like you're eating lemons all the time. That is not true holiness.

Now, if you're trying to be holy outwardly, without having a holy heart, that will make you have pursed lips. That will make you dour; that will make you look like you are eating lemons.

But if you have a truly holy heart, a heart that loves God, loves holiness, love righteousness and rejects sin because you know it's not pleasing to the Lord, that is the means, the pathway to joy and gladness.

I remember the first time I heard Calvin Hunt, who has been one of the Brooklyn Tabernacle singers, share his story. This is a man who for years lived an irresponsible, destructive lifestyle as a crack cocaine addict. Then he encountered the irresistible, transforming grace of Christ.

To this day, as this man tells his story, he exudes this irrepressible joy as he testifies of the purifying work of God in his life. And then he lifts up this powerful tenor voice and he sings a song that's become his trademark song, I'm clean! I'm clean! I'm clean by the blood of the Lamb. I'm clean!

I wish I could sing. He has a gorgeous voice. But as he sings it, you just see this joy, this gladness. He wasn't glad when he was a crack cocaine addict.

You say, well I’m glad I’m not a crack cocaine addict too, but you’re not glad when you’re living full of yourself with pride, anger, and bitterness. Those things don’t make us happy. We may think we are free when we're just indulging our flesh, doing what our flesh wants to do, but we are enslaved. We're in bondage when we are living under sin.

It's when we come to the cross of Christ and when we're purified by His blood, we confess, we repent, we forsake our sin that we can sing, I'm clean! I'm clean! I'm clean!

So why do we make out holiness to be some sort of austere obligation, when the fact is that to be holy is to be clean? It's to be free from the weight and the burden of our sin.

Why would we want to cling to our sin—although it does give us pleasure for a season; jif it didn’t, we wouldn’t commit it, we wouldn’t be drawn to it if there weren’t a momentary pleasure—but why would we cling to our sin any more than a leper would refuse to part with his oozing sores if given the opportunity to be cleansed of his leprosy?

Why would we resist the call to holiness when we know that sin is a deadly enemy that blinds and binds and curses our lives?

To pursue holiness is to move toward joy. Joy that is infinitely greater ultimately than any earthly delights can ever offer. To resist holiness, on the other hand, or to be half-hearted in pursuing it is to forfeit true joy and to settle for something less than that God intoxication for which we were created.

I want to tell you this, sooner or later sin will strip and rob you of everything that is truly beautiful and desirable.

If you are a child of God, you are redeemed to enjoy the sweet-tasting fruit of holiness, to walk in oneness with your Heavenly Father, to relish His presence, to rejoice in His mercy, to know the joy of having clean hands, a pure heart, a clear conscience, and one day to stand before Him unashamed. So why settle for anything less?

Leslie Basham: Did you ever realize how exciting holiness could be? All this week Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us the splendor of holiness. I hope you will make holiness a way of life. To help you in that process, we’d like to send you Nancy's book, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies. It's our way of saying thanks when you donate any amount to support Revive Our Hearts.

It’s gifts from listeners like you that help make this ministry possible. Donations are typically lower in the summer, so right now your support is a huge help. Ask for the book Holiness when you donate any amount to support Revive Our Hearts. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

In present-day debates about sexual purity, Old Testament laws are sometimes discussed. Some of those laws seem antiquated. So does that also mean laws about purity are outdated as well?

Voddie Baucham provides solid interpretation to Scripture and helpful insight into issues we’re all thinking through. We’ll hear from him tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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