Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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What Is True Brokenness?

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss invites you to live in a spirit of brokenness before God.

Recording of Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 1995: You see, brokenness is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. It is a choice that I make. It is an act of my will. It is a lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and my life as He alone can see it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 7, 2015.

Several years before there was a radio program called Revive Our Hearts, Nancy delivered a message for the staff of the ministry, Cru. It affected the audience in profound ways.

Several of these Christian workers commenting ten years later:

"I remember when this little gal walks up on the stage."

"And God was just using her to soften my heart."

"We began to walk humbly with God. We began to be honest with each other."

"The fog just kind of lifted from my eyes and gave me the opportunity to be honest with myself."

"I had become clean in a way I couldn't have imagined just six months earlier."

"I didn't know where the tears where coming from. I'd never cried like that before."

"This was something special that God was doing. I'd never experienced anything like this before."

"I never heard a message like that before."

"I never experienced anything like it since, but it'll never leave me. I will never forget that."

Song by John Elliott:

When we are broken
We can be mended.
In heart confession
We can be healed.

Leslie: This week we are marking the twentieth anniversary of that message, and we'll begin hearing it today. Brokenness is a topic everyone needs to consider. So let’s get to Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the subject of brokenness.

Recording of Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 1995:

What kind of heart does God revive? And what does it take in my heart to experience ongoing continual revival? Listen if you would to these Scriptures, and I think the answer will be plain.

For thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, and to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the spirit of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15).

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Ps. 34:18).

You do not take delight in sacrifice or I would bring it. You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. Broken and a contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise (Ps. 51:15–17).

And then the Lord says, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2).

Then we hear the words of the Lord Jesus,

Blessed [to be envied, happy] are those who are poor in spirit, [those who are bankrupt, those who are poverty-stricken, those who are destitute, those who have no resources of their own] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed [happy, to be envied] are those who mourn. For they [those who mourn over their sin, those who grieve over that which grieves the heart of God] will experience the comfort that only God can give (Matt. 5:3–4).

As we hear those verses and think of many others like them in the Scripture, what is the kind of heart that God revives? The heart that God revives is the broken, the contrite, the humble heart. We are tempted to think of revival as primarily a time of joy and blessing and fullness and abundance and excitement and enthusiasm and wonder and overflowing abundance. And so at the right time, it will be. We want a painless revival. We want, so to speak, a laughing revival.

But the ways of God are: that the way up is down. We are reminded by one of the leaders of the revival in Borneo in 1973 that revivals do not begin happily with everyone having a good time. They start with a broken and a contrite heart. You see, we will never meet God in revival until we have first met Him in brokenness.

The epistle of James reminds us and calls us to

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. [But there is a process, first,] Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. [first] Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and then he will lift you up (James 4:8–10).

There may be many tears without brokenness as there may be in some cases genuine brokenness apart from the shedding of tears. You see, brokenness is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. It is a choice that I make. It is an act of my will. And brokenness is not primarily a one-time experience or a crisis experience in my life, though there may be those.

Brokenness is rather a continuous, ongoing lifestyle. It's a lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and my life as He alone can see it. It's a lifestyle of unconditional, absolute surrender of my will to God.

Even as the horse that has been broken is surrendered and sensitive to the direction and the wishes of its rider. It's a lifestyle of saying, "Yes, Lord. Not my will but Yours be done."

Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will so that the life, the Spirit, the fragrance, the life of Jesus may be released through me. Brokenness is a lifestyle of responding in humility and obedience to the conviction of God's Spirit and the conviction of His Word. As His conviction is continuous, so my brokenness must be continual.

Brokenness is a lifestyle that takes me in two directions. It's a lifestyle vertically of living, so to speak, with the roof off in my relationship toward God as I walk in the light in transparent honesty and humility before Him. But it's a lifestyle that requires also that I live with the walls down in my relationships toward others.

There are some wonderful illustrations in the Scripture of broken people. Frequently, those illustrations are set in contrast to the lives of those who were not broken. Think, for example, of two Old Testament kings who sat on the same throne. One committed egregious sins against the heart of God. He committed adultery. He lied. He committed murder to cover up his sin, and then lived for an extended period of time in covering up his treacherous, traitorous sin against God and against His nation. Yet in the Scripture we are told that Kind David was a man after God's own heart.

Then we think of the king who preceded him, King Saul, whose sin by comparison as we would measure it, does not begin to be as great as that of King David. All that Saul was guilty of, from the seeing of the eye, was incomplete obedience. And yet in response to his sin, he lost his kingdom; his family was destroyed. He came under the wrath and the judgment of God.

Why the difference? Both men were confronted by prophets over their sin. And both men said verbally, "I have sinned." But you see, when King Saul confessed his sin, his confession was in the context of blaming the people, defending himself, making excuses, rationalizing, justifying himself. He revealed the true condition of his heart when in the same breath as saying, "I have sinned," he also said, "Please don't tell the people." He covered up.

Whereas King David, when confronted with his sin, fell on his face before God in confession. The evidence of that contrite and broken heart was that he penned for all the world to see those psalms of contrition that we have in our Scriptures today.

You see, a broken person doesn't care who knows. God was not as concerned about the nature of the sin itself as He was about the heart, attitude, and response of these men when confronted with their sin.

Then the gospel of Luke gives us three wonderful illustrations of the contrast between a broken person and a proud, unbroken person. Do you remember the parable that Jesus told? The Scripture tells us that He told this parable to those who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.

He told about two men who came into the temple to pray. Remember this in Luke chapter 18? The one was a Pharisee. As he stood to pray the Scripture says, "He prayed to himself." And his prayer consisted of looking around at all the adulterers and the thieves and the murderers that he knew and then at this lowly tax collector by his side and saying, "Oh God, I thank you that I compare favorably to all these other sinners that I know."

Proud people compare themselves to others. So he justified himself. He protested his own innocence and there by his side was a lowly, despised tax collector, who could not even lift his eyes to heaven. But in the presence of the holiness of God smote his breast and said, "Oh God, the only thing I can ask You for is to have mercy for I am a sinner." You see, he refused to justify himself, rather he justified God (see Luke 18:9–14).

In Luke chapter 7 you read the story of Jesus being invited for dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee. Scripture tells us that there was a woman who had lived a sinful lifestyle in that town, apparently it was widely known. When she heard that Jesus had come to the home of Simon the Pharisee for dinner, she came into that home, presumably uninvited, bearing with her an alabaster box of perfume.

She went immediately to the feet of Jesus as He lay there reclining at dinner. The Scripture says she stood behind him at His feet. You will notice that everything this sinner woman did was at the feet of Jesus. She stood behind Him at His feet weeping. A picture, I believe, of the brokenness and the repentance of her heart before she even came into that place.

Then as her tears began to fall on the feet of Jesus, she lowered herself to wipe the tears off of His feet with her hair. I believe this is a picture of the forgiveness that she had experienced as Jesus had wiped her sinful heart clean. Then in the freedom of her heart, regardless of anyone else around or what they thought, she kneeled further to kiss the feet of Jesusto worship Him, to love Him.

Then she took that alabaster jar and poured the perfume, the ointment, on the feet of Jesus as if she were oblivious to everyone else in the room. All that mattered to her was Jesus. She cast herself in a broken contrite spirit before Him.

Now Simon the Pharisee is a picture to us of a proud, unbroken man who is incensed by all of this and said within himself, "If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is, that she is a sinner." Well, not only did Jesus know what kind of woman she was, but Jesus also knew what kind of sinner he was. So Jesus spoke to him, as you remember, and said, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Tell me teacher," he said.

Jesus, you remember, told a story of two men who owed a money lender. One owed an extravagant amount and the other just a paltry amount. But neither had anything to pay, so the money lender forgave them both their debts. Jesus said to Simon, "Now, which of them will love this man more?"

Simon said, "The one, I suppose, who had the bigger debt cancelled."

Jesus said, "You understand that correctly, but there's something you haven't understood about me." He turned to the woman and He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house, you did not give me any water for my feet." Just a common courtesy.

"But she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Simon, you didn't give me a kiss (a handshake of greeting). But this woman from the time I entered has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you her many sins have been forgivenfor she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little" (see Luke 7:36–50).

Do you suppose that Simon had less to be forgiven than did this woman of the street? I think not. They were both sinners. The only difference was that she knew she was. Simon, in the blindness and pride of his heart, could not see himself to be a needy sinner.

One more illustration in the gospel of Luke, chapter 15. Jesus gave three parables. We are told in the first verse who was in his audience. There were two groups of people in that audience. There were the publicans and sinners, the tax collectors and sinners, and we are told they came to hear Jesus. They eagerly hung on His every word. They needed Him, and they knew they needed Him.

Then there was another group over on the sideline. The Pharisees and the scribes and the teachers of the law and they were doing their typical ordinary thing. They were muttering and murmuring and criticizing, “Can you believe this man welcomes sinners and eats with them?” Aren’t you glad?

So Jesus told three parables speaking to the two segments of His audience. And I would say in this audience today every one of us in our hearts falls into one of these two categories. He spoke first of the lost sheep, then of the lost coin, and then of the lost son. He told of the two brothers and how the younger of them with the proud, rebellious, stubborn, wayward heart, took his share of the inheritance and went off into a far land where he wasted it all in riotous living.

After he had spent everything, he began to be in need. It is often our need that leads us to the pathway of brokenness and repentance. Finally having no more resources of his own, having tried everything possible to make a living himself, now destitute and poverty stricken, the Scripture says, this young man became broken. In his brokenness it says he came to his senses, he came to himself, he became honest and acknowledging what was his true condition.

He said, "I will arise, I will go to my father." This is a step of repentance, turning from going my own way and going in the way to the father. "I will say to my father, 'I have sinned against heaven, and I have sinned against you.'" Then he determined to say to his father, though his father never gave him the chance to say the words, "I am not worthy to be your son. Just let me be one of your hired servants."

You see, that's the heart attitude of the broken one, the humble person. It is the heart of “I am not worthy that you should extend your grace to me, O God. Just let me be one of your servants.” You know how the father welcomed the son, embraced him. The Father heart of God reaches out to, longs for, welcomes and embraces broken-hearted sinners.

Put the best cloak on, the sandals, the ring, let's have a party, let's celebrate!

I think, however, we are not as familiar with the latter half of the story. There was another brother, the elder brother. The Scripture tells us in the twenty-fifth verse of Luke 15 that "the older son, meanwhile, was out in the field." He was the good boy. He was out there doing what he was supposed to do, being faithful, working hard. He'd never been wayward. He'd never been rebellious—outwardly. He was faithful and hardworking.

Can I say, by the way, just out of my own heart and walk with the Lord and pilgrimage with Him, that years of tenure and a hidden desire for recognition and unfulfilled expectations can set us up to become twentieth century Pharisees.

Here is this faithful hardworking son out in the field, and he comes near the house, and he hears music and dancing. Rather than going to the source to find out what's really happening, he goes to a servant and says, "What's happening?" The servant tells him the facts but not the truthand proud, unbroken people don't want the truth. The servant said, "Your rotten brother came home and your father's got a party going for him."

He didn’t say, “Your brother, remember how he left so high and mighty and haughty? He has come back but he is not the same person. He is broken, he is humble, and he is repentant. He hadn’t had a good meal for ages. He is at the end of everything but his heart is broken and your father has forgiven him and it is time to celebrate.”

The elder brother heard that the younger brother had come home, and he couldn't rejoice in the boy's return. The father hearing of the anger of the elder brother left the party. I am told in a Jewish family that when the father left that the party had to stop while the father went out to deal with the proud, unbroken, elder brother. (see Luke 15:1–32).

Isn’t it like that in so many of our ministries and churches and fellowships today? There's no celebration going on, no joy because they’re having to deal with all the proud, unbroken, angry, resentful, ripped-off people.

As I look at this elder brother, I am reminded that the higher up we go in terms of influence and leadership and responsibility and faithfulness of service, the easier it is to become proud and blinded to the real condition of our hearts. It becomes more difficult for us to be broken, for after all, we have more to lose in terms of our reputation.

Well, as we think about these different comparisons, let me ask which ones do you identify with? Do you find yourself identifying with proud King Saul? With the Pharisees? With the elder brother? Do you find yourself identifying with adulterous David? The broken, sinful tax collector? The sinner woman? The prodigal son? You say, "Well, I don't think of myself as those people."

You see, in each of these comparisons both parties had sinned. The only difference was in their response to that sin. Whether they were proud and unbroken or humbled and broken before God, aware of their sin.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing the importance of brokenness. We will hear part two of the message tomorrow, delivered twenty years ago this month. When Nancy delivered that talk in 1995, it had a profound impact on those that heard it. We will hear from some of those audience members later this week.

Nancy used that message as the basis for a book called Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. The time you spend with this book studying this crucial topic will have a big effect on your life. We'd like to send you Nancy's book, Brokenness, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. You'll also get a bookmark to help you remember some of what you've heard.

And you will receive something else. You will get the satisfaction knowing that you are helping women discover freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. Your gift will help us stay on the air and online. Then God can use the program in great ways.

Nancy is here with an example. She received a letter from a listener in Louisiana.

Nancy: Leslie, this listener said,

Wow. I just felt overwhelmingly blessed when I found this morning. I can’t tell you how touched I am that God answered my prayers by leading me to your website. I am so excited to read your books and listen to your discussions.

Now I don’t know what all may be going on in that woman’s life, but it is clear that God is using Revive Our Hearts to speak to her in some really specific ways. That kind of ministry is possible thanks to listeners like you who give to support this ministry.

Someday down the road when women discover Revive Our Hearts and are deeply changed by what they find, you could be a part of having made that happen. Would you support the ministry today?

Leslie: Ask for the book Brokenness and the bookmark when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit

Nancy once grabbed a piece of scrap paper and wrote down some of the qualities of proud people versus broken people. That list has deeply affected countless people. Many still carry copies around in their Bibles and refer to it year after year. Hear Nancy read that list tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the King James Version.

1"When We Are Broken." John Elliott. Used by permission.

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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.