Revive Our Hearts Podcast

You are in the Crosshairs

Leslie Basham: Growing strong in your faith is pretty simple according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: There is nothing more profound than to anchor your life on the foundation of God Himself; His Word, His holy, infallible, authoritative, sufficient Word; and His amazing, abounding grace. If you’ve got those three things, you don’t need anything else to survive.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for March 2. The True Woman Conference in Chattanooga is just 23 days away.

Whether you realize it or not, you are under attack from false teachers and others hostile to your faith. That doesn’t have to make you nervous, though, because you have everything you need to resist that attack. Nancy will tell you how to stand firm, continuing in the series called, Farewell. She delivered this message in the final recording session in Little Rock, Arkansas. Revive Our Hearts was recorded there for about eight years before the operation was moved to Michigan. Let’s listen.

Nancy: Over these last few sessions, we’ve been talking about Paul’s farewell message to the church in Ephesus, the elders of that church, in Acts chapter 20, when he believes that he’s not going to see them again. He’s had three years of fruitful ministry in their midst, so he is sad; they are sad, but Paul believes it’s the will of God for him to move on. So he’s headed to Jerusalem, but he’s sharing his heart with the leaders of this church. I think we’ve seen there’s a lot of application for our hearts as well in this message.

Now, thus far, in the part we’ve looked at, Paul has talked about what lies ahead for him. He knows that imprisonment and afflictions await for him, but he says, “None of that moves me because I’ve settled the issue. I’ve decided that my life is not about me. It’s about the kingdom of God, His kingdom purposes, fulfilling the mission He has given me, the ministry I’ve received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” And Paul says, “Nothing else matters. What happens to me doesn’t matter; what happens to you doesn’t matter. What matters is that Christ is magnified and the gospel is advanced.”

So he’s talked about what lies ahead for him, and now he turns to what lies ahead for these believers that he has grown to love, the leaders of the church in Ephesus, trusting that they will go back and communicate this to the believers in the house churches there in Ephesus.

So we’re picking up at verse 25. He says, “And now”—we’ve talked about the past; we’ve talked about the relationship; we’ve talked about the ministry we’ve had here, but now we need to focus on now—what is happening now.

Now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (verses 25-27).

Now let me just stop there before I move on. Here’s a church, a group of believers who have had the best of preaching. They have been well taught by none other than the apostle Paul, and the church at this season is vibrant. It’s thriving. It’s in great condition. But Paul is concerned about what is going to happen to them after he leaves. He doesn’t just say, “Okay, I’ve had my ministry here, things are going great, now I’m just going to move on.” He registers his concern with them.

I know that many of you, as parents, have felt this for your children when you’ve trained them up in the ways of God. You’ve taught them the Word of God, and then you send them on. They’re doing well; they’re loving the Lord; they’re walking with the Lord, but when you do ever lose a concern for how your children are doing? Never—never.

You know that there are traps and snares and pitfalls that lie ahead that they are probably not aware of—they think they know it at age 20, but they don’t know what they’re going to face. You’ve been a little further down the road. You have some ideas of what they’re going to face. So sometimes you may register concerns for their future.

Well, that’s what Paul does here. He wants to prepare them. He knows the future is not going to be easy and that attacks and challenges are going to come, so he warns them. He exhorts them to continue walking according to what they’ve been taught.

In verse 32, we’ll get to that, he encourages and equips them with a reminder that God has provided all that they need to face the future without fear. There are going to be challenges, but they can be overcome with this provision that God has made.

So picking up in verse 28, Paul appeals to this church, to these believers to be vigilant, to be alert. He says in verse 28, “Pay careful attention.” In verse 31 he says, “Be alert.” That’s a word that means "keep awake." Don’t fall asleep. There is never, ever, ever a time when it is safe to take it easy or to coast, spiritually speaking. There’s never a time. No matter how well it is going; no matter how close you are to the Lord, there’s never a time when it’s safe to just coast spiritually, to just relax.

Now, we can relax in the Lord. I’m not saying we should be uptight or tense about our spiritual growth, but there is never a time when you can afford to let down your guard. We always have to be vigilant and be alert because we have an enemy who seeks to destroy our faith.

So Paul says in verse 28,

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for [or some of your translations say to shepherd] the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Paul says to these elders, “You need to watch out on two fronts: First of all,” he says, “pay careful attention to yourselves.”

Now let me just stop there and remind us that spiritual leaders need to guard their own hearts and lives.

You say, “Well, that’s good for spiritual leaders.”

Listen, if you’re a mom, you’re a spiritual leader. If you’re discipling a younger woman, as if you’re an older woman you should be, you’re a spiritual leader. Any time you’re influencing others spiritually, you need to guard your own heart and life.

You know, those of you who’ve been nursing moms, that you have to watch what you eat. There are some things that aren’t good to eat when a mom is nursing, there are some things she needs to eat because you’re passing on nutrients to your little one. When you’re discipling, when you are leading others spiritually, you’re passing on spiritual life and vitality and nutrients, and you need to make sure that you’re getting well fed yourself, that you’re taking heed to your own walk with God.

So he says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves, and then pay careful attention to all the flock of God.”

Now, these were elders, these were spiritual leaders of the churches, the ones to whom Paul was speaking there 30 miles south of the city of Ephesus. They are called overseers. These were men who had been assigned that role by the Holy Spirit, and as those who were assigned to be overseers of the flock of God, they were accountable to Him for the condition of their flock. God holds us accountable for the condition of the people that He has entrusted to our care. They were to care for or shepherd the flock.

That’s a word in the Greek that means "to tend the flock, to lead the sheep to pasture," leading the sheep. It also has to do with feeding the sheep, making sure that their needs are met, making sure that they’re led in the right way.

That really describes the responsibility of spiritual overseers, elders in the church, parents, those who are discipling others. There’s a spiritual responsibility to lead those that God has given to us to shepherd and to feed them spiritually as Paul had done for the church in Ephesus.

I think this passage encourages us to be faithful in ministering to those God has called us to serve, to our families, to those you are mentoring or discipling. Pay careful attention to yourselves first, and then to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has given you responsibility.

Now he comes in verse 29 to a warning. This church is going to face threats, attacks, and challenges, and it’s going to come from two directions. There are going to be threats outside the flock, and there are going to be threats within the flock, within the church. Verse 29:

I know that that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things.

Or perverse things, things that are contrary to the truth. They will distort the truth, the NIV says there. Why?—"to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert"—stay awake; keep awake.

The shepherds, the overseers of the church of God were to protect the flock because there were going to be attacks, fierce wolves coming from outside, people who would distort the truth from within the body of Christ, trying to draw away, splinter groups to follow after them.

We see that Paul’s concerns for this church were justified. If you read the books of 1 and 2 Timothy, you’ll see that this church later struggled with doctrinal issues, with those who were bringing false teaching into the church. And you remember in the letter to the church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation chapter 2 that Jesus said to this church, “You left your first love” (see verse 4). So they didn’t stay vigilant as well as they needed to.

Now, I want to ask this question about staying protected from spiritual predators, and that is: How do you keep from becoming prey for spiritual predators? How do you stay protected? How do you survive these threats and thrive spiritually?

Well, God graciously has made provision for you and for me and for those we love and serve. Let me give you three insights that come to me out of this text.

First of all, make sure that you are plugged into a local church with biblically qualified elders or leaders. I want to say that this should be true without exception. God did not create us as believers to be "lone rangers." It’s very popular today for people to exit the church.

Now, there are a lot of issues in the church today. The church is in desperate need of revival and repair and reformation and a whole lot of other things, but Jesus loves the church. It’s His plan. He doesn’t have another plan. And you cannot survive and thrive spiritually if you are not plugged into the life of a local church.

By that, I don’t mean that you just go and sit and spectate out at the fringe. I mean that you plug into a body of believers who can help hold you accountable, who can safeguard your souls. There’s no substitute for it.

Let me encourage you as part of this, to pray for your leaders and to do what you can to encourage them.

I had lunch recently with my pastor and his wife just to see how I could encourage them, how I could bless them, how I could strengthen them, knowing that in their ministry there are challenges and hardships. They need encouragement. Why do I do that? Well, number one: I want to encourage them. But two: I want them to be good spiritual leaders for our flock. So I want to do what I can to lift up their hands and then follow their leadership. As they follow Christ, as they follow the Word of God, follow their leadership.

Hebrews 13 makes that clear in verse 17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

So make sure that your life is tied into the life of a local church with biblically qualified leaders.

Then number two: Remember what you have learned from those who have taught the Word of God to you. Don’t just fill your notebooks. Don’t leave church on Sunday and by Sunday afternoon, or Monday morning at the latest, forget what it is the minister said to you from the Word of God. Remember what you have learned from those who have taught the Word of God to you.

That’s what Paul says in verse 31:

Therefore be alert, remembering [remembering, remembering] that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears [remember what I told you].

Some of you have been blessed through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. You’ve learned things about God’s ways:

  • Your marriages have been repaired.
  • You’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ.
  • You’ve come to grasp the call to biblical womanhood.
  • You’ve responded.
  • You’re experiencing freedom, and fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

I want to tell you, whatever it took for you to get to that place to experience freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ is exactly what it will take you to stay in that place.

Really, after eight years, I have nothing new to say to you. I basically have one or two or three messages, and I just say them a whole lot of different ways from a whole lot of different texts. It’s essentially the same things:

  • God can be trusted.
  • Anything that makes you need God is a blessing.
  • Jesus Christ is your life.
  • You need Him not only for justification, but you need Him for sanctification.

I keep pointing you to Christ, pointing you to the cross, pointing you to the Word of God, pointing you to the grace of God. That’s what you need.

So, remember the things that you’ve heard. Hebrews 13:7:

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Now, don’t put them on a pedestal; don’t exalt them above due measure. They’re not God. Don’t make an idol out of those people, but to the extent that they have followed Christ and taught His Word, then follow them, learn from them, remember what they have taught you, and imitate their way of life.

Then, Acts 20, verse 32. How do you keep from becoming prey for spiritual predators? Paul says in verse 32:

Now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all those who are being sanctified.

“There are fierce wolves out there,” Paul says. They’re going to attack. They are men who twist and pervert the truth. They are seeking to destroy you—not to build you up, but to tear you down. They’re not seeing to give you an inheritance. They are seeking to take what you have.

One of the things that often goes with false teachers is a love of money, which is why it’s important that Paul says, in a section of this passage we’re not getting to, “I didn’t coveted any man’s silver or gold. I didn’t do this for the money. I wasn’t in this for the money” (see verse 33).

False teachers are usually in it for the money. They’re trying to get from you, but Paul says God wants to build you up. He wants to give you an inheritance, your inheritance in Christ. He wants you to experience it fully, and these who are coming against you, these spiritual wolves, these men who pervert the truth, they’re seeking to destroy you. They’re trying to rob you of the spiritual riches that God has given you to you.

So Paul, who has served as a spiritual protector and shepherd for this flock, now is leaving them. He’s concerned for their protection when he leaves, and he wants them to know that they are in the best of hands. Even though they think that they’re going to die when Paul leaves; they think they can’t make it without him; Paul knows they can make it without him because he’s leaving them something that is better than having the apostle Paul in your midst. What is that?

I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to [keep] build[ing] you up [as I have done over these years] and to give you an inheritance among all those who are being sanctified.

What are the three things to which Paul commended these believers? God, His Word, and His grace.

Now, maybe you were hoping for something more profound than that, but you know what? There is nothing more profound than to anchor your life on the foundation of God Himself; His Word, His holy, infallible, authoritative, sufficient Word; and His amazing, abounding grace. If you’ve got those three things, you don’t need anything else to survive. You can survive whatever attacks will come against your faith.

Some of you, you’ve responded to the teaching and the ministry you’ve received here over the years, and you’ve been strengthened in it. But you’re coming into a new season of life where there are going to come some attacks. The world is going to bombard you.

When your marriage gets tough, and they’re going to say, “You shouldn’t stay in that marriage,” remember what you learned from the Word of God. Hold fast to the truth. You’ve seen God give you grace in the earlier years of your marriage. You think God can’t give you grace in this season of your marriage? The Lord is your Shepherd. He is your Keeper. He is your Protector. He is our Inheritance.

I want to say to you that even though we won’t be having recording sessions here in Little Rock in the days ahead, God has more and better in store for you than you can begin to imagine. There’s no one and nothing that can take that away from you. The Word of God:

  • It will protect you.
  • It will enrich you.
  • It will fill you.
  • It will satisfy you.
  • It will guide you.
  • It will steer you.
  • It will correct you.
  • It will be all that you need. Go to the Word.

Some of you have let me spoon feed you over these years. Maybe that’s one reason God is moving me to Michigan—not to spoon feed them—but I want to challenge you . . . People say to me at times, “I wish I can get out of the Word what you get out of it.” You know what? You can.

You say, “How?”

Listen, I was a music major in college. I don’t have a seminary degree. I do what you can do, and that is I open my Bible. I get into the Word. I read it. I meditate on it. I ponder it, just like I’m doing in this series, taking each phrase. I’ve spent hours thinking through this passage so that I could feed you with it. Now you may not have hours every day you can do that, but you can get into the Word. You can get it into your mind and heart and life. You can live it. You can reproduce it in others—God’s Word.

Then the grace of God—the grace of God—what an amazing thing. God’s divine power gives us the desire and the power to do the will of God. Paul says, “I commend you to God, to the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32).

At the end of every one of Paul’s epistles, he says something like this: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Paul knew that when you have God’s grace, you have everything you need. Now God’s grace doesn’t give you today everything you need for tomorrow or next week or next month or year, but He gives you everything you need for this moment.

The last verse of the whole Bible, Revelation chapter 22: “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all, amen” (verse 21).

  • It’s the grace of God that saves you.
  • You need God’s grace to serve.
  • You need God’s grace to strive in warfare and in battle.
  • You need God’s grace to suffer well and to glorify God in your suffering.
  • It’s the grace of God that will sustain you when you are weary.
  • It’s the grace of God that will strengthen you when you are weak.
  • It’s the grace of God that will satisfy you supremely no matter what is going on in any area of your life.

Paul says, “I commend you—I entrust you—I deposit you into the safekeeping of God and the Word of His grace which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among those who are being sanctified” (see verse 32).

Paul wanted them to realize that their spiritual well being was not dependent on Paul being there. Our spiritual well being, our spiritual growth, our spiritual fullness are not dependent—ever—on any human instrument.

Remember that when the Lord takes from your life someone that has fed you spiritually, that has taught you, that has led you. Remember that ultimately, if you want to be in great hands, safe hands, safekeeping, that you’re commended to God and the Word of His grace.

Now unto him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, [to Him,] to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been offering some sobering news: False teachers and others hostile to the faith are after you, but the good news is that God is far more powerful. He offers everything you possibly need to stand firm in your faith.

Thanks for that message, Nancy. I’m sure that many Revive Our Hearts’ listeners are going through big transitions right now, so our current series called Farewell has been really helpful.

Nancy: I really hope it has, Leslie. As we’ve shared, this series was recorded right in the middle of a major transition for me. Revive Our Hearts was launched in partnership with FamilyLife Ministries in Little Rock, Arkansas. For the first eight years of our ministry, we recorded Revive Our Hearts in Little Rock.

I’m so grateful for the staff, the studios, and the production help that FamilyLife offered to us, but Revive Our Hearts is growing, and the time has come for us to move our audio production to Michigan where our other outreaches and the rest of our staff are headquartered. This has meant a move for me personally and a big transition for our staff as well. We’re trusting that it will provide a lot of long-term benefits for our listeners.

In the meantime, we’re still dealing with some of the challenging realities of this transition. In fact, we could really use your help right now.

As you know, Revive Our Hearts is a listener-supported ministry, which means we’re able to be on the air each weekday thanks to your financial support. Your donation could make a significant difference right now as we’re needing to build new studios, purchase additional equipment, and prepare to record in Michigan. As you can imagine, our financial needs are great as we’re taking advantage of these new opportunities.

When you send a gift of any size, we’d like to say, “Thanks,” by sending you our current series on CD, it’s called Farewell. Regardless of whether or not you’re in a major transition right now, the things that Paul shared with that church in Ephesus are things we all need to hear at every season of our Christian lives.

We’ll also include a booklet that I’ve written called Portrait of a Woman Used by God. This is a booklet you can make a part of your devotions. It will help you become the woman that God wants you to be.

Thanks so much for your prayers and your gifts during this time.

Leslie: You can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Portrait of a Woman Used by God and the series Farewell when you call 1-800-569-5959.

Well, the apostle Paul was very logical, offering deep theology and structured arguments, but Paul was also very emotional. See this side of the apostle tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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