Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss points out every believer is tempted to return to a worldly way of living.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: But once you have come into the kingdom of God, once you have come into the kingdom of light, there’s always something in your heart that will never be totally satisfied to go back into the world because you don’t belong there anymore.

Leslie: It’s Wednesday, July 4, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Independence can be good, and it can be bad. We’re all thankful for freedom from oppression and tyranny as we celebrate independence today. We’re free to worship God. We are so grateful, but when we try to gain independence from God, free to do things our own way, it causes a lot of trouble.

How does God handle children who are inappropriately independent? Well, let's find out in the series Ruth: The Transforming Power of Redeeming Love.

Nancy: I think one of the most precious messages in all of God’s Word is the number of times when God says, “Return to Me. Return to Me.” Don’t you love that message? Over and over when God’s people have gone away from Him and they have forsaken Him, when they have followed after false gods, when they have gone into the far country as prodigal sons, God’s message of mercy and grace is always, “Return to Me. Return to Me.”

We’re following a family—Elimelech the husband, Naomi the wife, two sons. They leave their homeland in Bethlehem and travel 60 miles to Moab where they think that they will be relieved of the pressures of the problems in their homeland. You see, there is a famine back home, and they think they can get away from their circumstances.

We saw them in the early verses of Ruth chapter one, running from their circumstances. Then we saw that as soon as they left the place of obedience, that God began to create circumstances with the goal of bringing this family back home.

You see, God had a plan. It’s a plan that’s much bigger than this family. It’s a plan to bring a Messiah to the world, to bring Christ into the world, to bring salvation.

God’s plan was not going to be thwarted. God knew that the only way this woman, Naomi, could ever be really blessed is if she was back in the place she belonged, back at home. God created some circumstances that were an expression of His love, as harsh as they seemed.

She lost her husband. She lost her two sons, who by this time had married Moabite women. But as a result of God’s disciplining and chastening hand, she finally, now, is ready to return back to Bethlehem, to return back to her homeland.

We’re in chapter one of the book of Ruth. Let me read verses 6 and 7. “When (Naomi) heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.”

It says, “She heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them.” Remember, when she and her husband left, ten years earlier, there was a famine in Bethlehem, but now she hears a report. God has visited His people.

God has turned back our hard times. God has sent plenty. If you will, she heard that there was a revival back home.

I say that because I think there must have been some people praying and repenting. The famine was an expression of God’s displeasure with His disobedient people, and I believe there must have been a turning in their hearts that they began to repent under the pressure of the famine and to call out to God. As they did, God had mercy.

Naomi hears this news, and she’s motivated to return. As we share with one another the reports of what God is doing in our lives, of how God is changing us and reviving us and delivering us from our famines and restoring our lives, those testimonies become powerful means of drawing other people who may still be in the far country to come back to a place of repentance, to return.

What we see described here is really a picture of repentance. Naomi begins the journey back home. It says she prepared with her daughters-in-law to return home. She left the place where she had been living, and she set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

What we’re seeing described here is repentance. It’s the acknowledgement that I’m in a place I don’t belong, and the point is not so much “How did I get here? Was this my sin? Was this my husband’s sin?”

That’s not the point so much anymore. The point is: I’m not where I belong, and I’m going to make a choice to get up out of the place where I’ve been living and go back to the place that I left, the place of God’s blessing, the place of obedience.

She actually had to take a step out of the place where she had become, I think, probably comfortable after ten years of living in Moab. That was now home to her. Your “Moab” may have become comfortable to you.

I find that a lot of women have been living for a lot of years with the consequences of sinful and wrong choices, but they’ve gotten comfortable with those consequences. They’re comfortable having to have their therapist and their pills and their counselors and their alcohol and their illicit relationships because that’s what has become familiar to them.

You have to come to the place where you’re willing to get up out of the place where you’ve been living and come back home, to get on a different road. It’s the step of repentance. Now, repentance is just the beginning of the process of restoration. We’re going to see that there was a long road back.

There was no quick fix, just as there is no quick fix for you and for me when we’ve gone into that Moab. We’ve escaped from the will of God. We’ve gone into our running from pressure and problems, and we don’t just wake up one morning and say, “God can you just fix all this for me?” He may not do that.

There’s a road back home from Moab to Bethlehem, and we’ve got to be willing to walk that road. Repentance is the getting on the road. It’s leaving the place where we’ve been, where we should not have been, and it’s getting on the road to go back home.

I find that some women come to a Revive Our Hearts conference, for example, that we may host, and they make a major decision. There’s a major breakthrough in some area of their life, and there’s a real point of surrender, a real point of repentance.

Then they have to go back home, and they’re still dealing with that same husband, those same children, those same in-laws, that same circumstance at work, that same circumstance in their church. Nothing may have changed back home.

They have to go from that conference back into the real circumstances of life and walk the long road to restoration. It’s a process of healing, a process of developing a repentant way of living and thinking.

I’m so thankful that Naomi gives us an illustration of getting on that road and staying on that road of restoration. Imagine if she had stopped halfway and said, “This road is too long. I’m too old. I don’t think I want to make this trek.” Her attachment to people in Moab could have made her go halfway and say, “I think I’m going home to my Moab.”

A lot of people repent that way. It’s not really repentance. It seems like they’re repenting, but they get on the road, then they turn back. The truth is that you and I will never find our Redeemer, who restores the brokenness of our lives, until we are willing to return to the place where we left the will of God, where we ran from our circumstances.

There is no restoration; there is no redemption; there is no revival without repentance—getting up from the place where we are, leaving that place, and returning to God. You see, our Moab is those places, those things, those people that we may have turned to in an effort to get our needs met, substitutes for God in our lives.

As you look back on your life, you may be able to point to a time of spiritual famine, hardship, where you tried to fill the emptiness with something that was manmade, rather than looking to God. You settled for substitutes.

So what do we do? We’ve spent some time in the last week and a half acknowledging that we have our "Moabs," acknowledging that we have been running. So how do we get back home?

One word: repentance. We repent. We say, “I’m not going to live in this Moab any longer. I’m not going to stay here.

Yes, it’s become comfortable. Yes, it’s become more familiar. I’m not sure what I’m going to face when I get back to that place of obedience. I’m afraid of what may be required of me. I’m afraid of what challenges I may face.

It doesn’t matter. God has provided bread back home, and I’m going back to the place of God’s blessing. I’m willing to repent, to get on that road, to return to God, to return to His will for my life.

That message, return, is throughout this book—that word return and return to me. Throughout the Old Testament, God says to His people, “Yes, you’ve wandered, but I want you to return.”

When you’re returning, you’re not just returning to your old life. You’re returning to Him. You’re returning to a place where there’s a Redeemer waiting for you.

We’re going to see that in Naomi’s story and in Ruth how they find in Bethlehem, "The House of Bread," they find the "Bread of Life." His name is Jesus. The redeemer they’re going to discover there in Bethlehem is really a picture of Christ.

Through repentance what we’re really doing is saying, “Lord Jesus, I’m coming home to You. I’m coming to a place of obedience, surrender, and to find that You are the One who satisfies me and meets my needs.”

Have you found it to be true that sometimes when you make the decision to repent, to return back to God’s way of thinking and living, that there are often voices that come into your life, people that come into your life, telling you all the reasons you shouldn’t, all the reasons that you should turn back?

We’re looking in Ruth chapter one, beginning in verse eight. "Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law," Ruth and Orpah, two women who had married Naomi’s sons, who were now deceased, she "said to her two daughters-in-law, 'Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband'” (verses 8-9).

Notice what Naomi is seeking here. The word rest is found in the book of Ruth several times, and you can see that Naomi is seeking rest, not only for her soul, but for her bereaved family members. She, mistakenly at this point, thinks that they’re going to find that rest in the home, under the shelter, of another husband.

She’s looking for security. In that day, that was not surprising because widows were truly alone in that culture. It was very often that they would be destitute.

Now, God did make provisions for widows. We’re going to see that, but often widows were very neglected women.

She is saying, “The only way you’re really going to have your needs met, the only way you’ll have rest for your heart, the only way you’ll be secure in this life is if you can find another husband.” She’s thinking, “There’s no way, as Moabite women, that you’re going to find another husband in Bethlehem, so maybe you’d better just stay here in Moab.”

Now, what we’re going to learn as the story unfolds, is that then and now, true rest for our hearts is not found in any person. It’s not found in a husband. It’s not found in a house. It’s found under the wings of God, taking our shelter, our place in Him, but Naomi hasn’t discovered that yet.

Verse nine:  “She kissed them and they wept aloud and said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people'" (verses 9-10). "We’re going to stay with you.”

Verse 11: "Naomi said, 'Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons- would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!'” (verses 11-13).

Now, that paragraph probably seems a little strange if you’re not familiar with an Old Testament law called the law of the levir. It’s a law found in the book of Deuteronomy.

Here’s what it refers to. When a man died without children, the brother of the deceased had the responsibility to marry the widow and to take the widow on as his wife. Then the first son that they would have as a result of that union, would actually carry the name of the deceased man so that his family line, his family name, could be continued on into the next generation.

That seed, that child, raised up for the brother, would have the brother’s name and would inherit the brother’s lands. This is God’s provision, and Naomi is saying, “If I had another son or more sons who could take you on as his widows—I’m past my child bearing years. I’m not going to have another son, and even if I had a son tonight, would you want to wait until that son was old enough—grew up to become your husband?”

She’s saying, “This situation is hopeless.” That’s the bottom line of that paragraph. There’s no hope for this situation, so just go back to Moab.

Verse 14: “At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her. ‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.’ But Ruth replied,”—one of the most famous verses in the Old Testament, one often heard in weddings.

Ruth said to her mother-in-law, "‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her” (verses 14-18).

Notice, by the way, that when people see that you are determined to walk with God and to obey Him, to be morally pure, to keep God’s Word and God’s ways, you’ll often find that that’s when they stop trying to entice you to go the way of the world.

I think a lot of temptation comes in our lives because people sense we’re not fully persuaded about which way we’re going. If they sense that your life is based on convictions about the Word of God, you may find they stop trying to persuade you to stay back in the world.

Now, I want us to see in this paragraph a very important contrast between these two sisters-in-law, Orpah who stays in Moab, and Ruth, who decides to go with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem. Orpah initially indicated that she, too, was going to Bethlehem. They’d both said it first to Naomi, “We’re going with you,” but notice that Orpah’s decision was an emotional decision rather than a true commitment.

Notice in verse nine that this is a time for weeping, and the girls said to her with tears, “We’re going to Bethlehem with you.” This seemed like a pretty sure thing, but Orpah, once she realized the cost, was easily talked out of her decision. It wasn’t a true commitment.

She realized that if she went to Bethlehem, that would likely mean that she would never have a husband, that she would not have children, and she started realizing, “This is going to cost me a lot.”

She decided to go back to her people, to her gods, to her ways. Why? Because that’s where her heart was. That’s what she was familiar with. That’s what she had an appetite and a heart for.

I see in Orpah a picture of so many people today who go forward at an invitation in a church service or at a special meeting. They go through some class at their church. They sign on the dotted line, and they say, “Yes, I’m going to follow Christ.”

It may even be one that they make with tears and emotions. It looks like a very genuine decision, but at some point, they’re persuaded to turn back. They go back to the world, and they never do really live for Christ. They never come into the family of God. Ruth is a picture to me of the meaning of true conversion, true conversion, not just an emotional decision, but a change of heart and life and direction.

Ruth counted the cost, as did Orpah, and in Ruth’s mind—now we know the end of the story. We know how she gets a husband there. Boaz is waiting in the field, but Ruth didn’t know that part of the story. In her mind, when she decided to stay with Naomi and go to Bethlehem, that probably meant she would never have a husband. She’d never have children.

She was making a commitment that was a total conversion. It was a total surrender. It was a complete break with her past. She’s really saying, “I’m a new creature,” and isn’t that what conversion is all about?

Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. All things have become new" (verse 17, KJV). She’s saying, “I’m going the way of the cross. I’m going the way of Christ.”

Now she didn’t know Christ. Of course, the cross hadn’t happened, but she’s a picture of someone who makes a break with their old life and is converted to a new way of thinking and living.

It’s not just an external change. Walking into church or walking down a church aisle doesn’t change you on the inside. It may make you look more religious, but it doesn’t make you a Christian.

So many people who have had the external appearance of religion have never had an internal heart conversion. That’s why, though they look like Christians, they talk like Christians, they know the language, they know when to sit and when to stand and what to do, there’s no real heart for the things of God.

Their heart is for this world because they belong to this world. They’ve never made the decision to really go with Christ.

The New Testament calls us to examine ourselves, to see if we are in the faith, and one of the tests is: Have we persevered in our allegiance and our loyalty to the way that we said we were going to choose? Have we been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light? One evidence that we have been is that we persevere.

Now, that doesn’t mean that having come into the kingdom of light, we never sin. It doesn’t mean we never make momentary choices to go back into our old ways, but once you have come into the kingdom of God, once you’ve come into the kingdom of light, there’s always something in your heart that will never be totally satisfied to go back and live in the world because you don’t belong there anymore.

You’re a new creature; you’re a new person. You don’t have a heart for that anymore. You may give in to your flesh, as we all do at times, but there’s always that tug, that conviction, that drawing.

I’ll tell you this: if you’re a child of God, you can’t go back into the world and stay there and enjoy it. You can’t because you don’t belong there. You’re a pilgrim. You’re an alien. You’re a stranger in this world’s system.

The Scripture says examine yourselves. See if you really are in the faith.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss, with assurance for every believer in Christ. She’ll be right back to pray. The book of Ruth touches on so many helpful topics. Today’s teaching gives us some examples of that.

When you study Ruth, you get to enjoy an engaging love story, and you also gain practical help for your day-to-day life. Nancy’s complete teaching on the book of Ruth will lead you through the process. I hope you’ll dive into this study and order Nancy’s workbook on Ruth, and I hope you’ll bring others along with you in the study.

This material would be meaningful to your small group at church or to a small group you put together just for this study. When you order five or more workbooks, we’ll send you Nancy’s teaching on the book of Ruth on DVD.

You can get the DVDs for no charge when you order the five workbooks. To get started on this insightful study, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

If you really can’t put together a group, don’t miss out on this study. Order the workbook for yourself, along with the DVDs or the CDs of this teaching series. Again, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

On this holiday, it’s likely a lot of new listeners have joined us, hearing the program when they are normally at work. If it’s your first time to hear Nancy Leigh DeMoss, you might know that she’s the author of many books that your friends have read, for example, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free or Seeking Him. It could be that you’ve heard her one-minute program, also called Seeking Him.

If you’ve been intrigued by Nancy’s style and the message you’ve heard today, I really want to encourage you to come to our website. Why bother? Well, every program has a corresponding transcript, word for word, that you can go back and check out. Also, you can get each program as an MP3 or get Nancy’s podcast. Go deeper by going to ReviveOurHearts.com.

A lot of times, convenience and comfort will keep you from enjoying the best things in life. Find out why when we pick back up the study of Ruth tomorrow. Now let’s pray. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Father, thank You for giving us, in Ruth, an example of what it means to forsake the world and to follow Christ. I believe there are people listening to this story today who have given external evidence of religion, who’ve said, maybe with an emotional decision, “I’m going to follow Christ,” but their heart is still in the world.

They are not a new person. They have never really repented and come to follow Jesus Christ with all of their heart. They have not turned from their old ways. They’ve not forsaken their past. They’re still old creatures who look religious.

I pray, O God, that this might be the day, the moment of salvation for someone, some ones—that they might say with Ruth, “I’m going God’s way, whatever that means I have to leave behind, whatever the cost. He is drawing my heart, and I want to go with Him.”

May this be the day of true conversion for many who have been, to this point, just religious. For Jesus’ sake we pray it, amen.

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

All Scriptures are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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