Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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You Can Be Free from Condemnation

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. If we’re not sinners, then we’re not candidates for a Savior.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, April 4.

Nancy’s in a series called, “Lies Women Believe About Sin.”

Nancy: I received a letter last week from a friend who is probably in her fifties. She was telling me some of the things that God has been doing in her life in recent days. And then she harkened back to some issues in her childhood that the Lord has really been setting her free from now as a grown woman.

In one of those areas she said, "I failed morally with a young man in my teen years. I would go to God over and over asking for forgiveness but never believing I was forgiven. I never felt I could be a virtuous woman."

How many of you would say that there is some area of your life that you have—perhaps for years wrestled with—but you've found yourself going to God over and over again for forgiveness but really struggling to feel that God had forgiven you? How many of you would relate to that description of my friend? Most of us in this room.

We've been looking at lies that we believe about sin. Today I want us to look at a particular lie that I think haunts and hounds many of us as women, and that is that God can't forgive what I have done.

Whenever I speak on the subject of forgiveness, almost invariably someone will come up or write me a note afterward and say, "I have never been able to forgive myself for what I've done." This is kind of a "cousin" to the lie that my sin is so bad that God can't forgive what I've done.

It's interesting to me that nowhere does the Scripture actually talk about the need to forgive ourselves, but as I hear women say, "I have never been able to forgive myself for what I've done," I think what they're really saying is that they've never been able to feel forgiven.

Now, if they've been around the church any period of time, they know that God can forgive them. But deep down in their hearts they don't believe that they are truly and fully forgiven.

So many women today find it difficult to accept God's love and forgiveness. Though they know it in their heads, it's hard connecting it to their hearts and their lives. I think there's this built-in sense in many of our hearts that when we sin, there's something that we have to do to be restored to God. They think that we have to do penance, a whole bunch of spiritual things, to balance out the scales of the evil thing that we've done and to make up for the wrong that we have committed.

That's what was expressed in another letter I received from a woman who said, "What can I possibly say about the selfishness of my abortion? How do you forgive yourself for murder? It can't be undone. God could have punished me by making me barren. He didn't. He could have made my kids unhealthy or challenged. He didn't. For twenty-seven years I have felt that without punishment, I couldn't pay the debt I felt I owed."

You see the response there? She knew she had done something wrong. She's living with the guilt and shame of that. But it seems so big that she thinks she's got to do something really big to pay the debt that she owes. For twenty-seven years she lived with that bondage, and it's the result of believing the lies that Satan has told her about her sin—that God can't really forgive what I've done because it is so great.

Now, she's right about one thing. She said, "For twenty-seven years I have felt that without punishment, I couldn't pay the debt that I felt I owed." She does owe a debt. Now, the debt she owes is no greater than the debt that you owe, and that's no greater than the debt that I owe. The fact is, you and I cannot pay the debt that we owe God for our sin. It may have been an abortion. It may have been something that the world would not consider nearly as serious, but every single sin requires punishment.

And the truth is, a lifetime of good deeds is not sufficient to deal with the guilt of one single sin that you or I might commit against God because He is holy, and His justice requires that there be a punishment for every sin. Sin has to be punished. He tells us the wages for our sin, the punishment that we deserve for our sin, is death. I think that is why there is this struggle inside of us saying, "Somebody's got to pay. I've got to pay. I can't really be free from this because I haven't paid the penalty that my sin deserves."

Now we know from God's Word that there is only one remedy for our guilt, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ. When Adam and Eve first sinned against God, they demonstrated this sense of shame and guilt. All of a sudden they were conscious of their nakedness. They were ashamed before each other. They were ashamed before God, and they did what we instinctively do. There in the Garden, first of all, they hid from God. There was a barrier between them and God that their sin had created. And then, realizing that they were naked and being ashamed of that, they tried to cover their nakedness.

When I read about Adam and Eve doing that I think, How like us! We sin against God, and we think, Oh dear, I've got to cover up.  We're afraid, and we hide, and then we try and put some good clothing on. The fact is, nothing they could do was sufficient to cover them because God has these all-seeing, all-knowing eyes. There's no place I can hide from Him. There's nothing that, in His eyes, can cover me of the guilt of my sin.

So God entered into that Garden. He took the initiative to restore fallen sinners—and aren't you glad that He's the One who takes the initiative? It wasn't that Adam and Eve went pursuing after God. God came calling on them, "Adam where are you?" And then God dealt with them. He talked with them about the consequences of their fallen condition. But He also, from the very first pages of the Bible, put into effect a plan that He had devised in eternity past; and that was a plan to provide a real covering.

The Scripture says that God made clothes of animal skins for Adam and Eve. Now where did the animal skins come from? An animal had to die. The wages of sin is death. God knew that Adam and Eve needed a substitute—someone, something to die in their place. So God took the lives of those innocent animals, and out of that shed blood, there was a sacrifice. Off those animals God took those skins and made clothing for Adam and Eve to cover their shame, to cover their guilt. This was a picture of what one day God would do in a much more full and permanent way through the death of Jesus Christ as the sinners' substitute.

As you go all the way through the Old Testament—particularly in some of those parts that seem to go on and on and on—and you say, "What's the point?" The big point is that sin requires punishment, and the punishment is death. The Book of Leviticus, for example, is all about how sin requires the shedding of blood for there to be forgiveness.

I looked this morning into the book of Leviticus and saw that seventy-one times there's a reference to being clean or cleansed or cleansing. The word clean is a key word in the Book of Leviticus—seventy-one times. How can we be clean? Well, there's another key word in the Book of Leviticus. Do you know what it is? It's the word blood. That word is used eighty-six times.

If we want to be clean from our sin and our guilt and our shame, there has to be the shedding of blood. And again, this was just looking forward to the day when the Lord Jesus would come to this earth, and He would shed His blood on the cross so that we could be forgiven for our sins.

We read about that sacrifice when we come to the book of Hebrews, chapters 9 and 10. Let me just read some verses that describe for us how the blood of Jesus Christ is the sacrifice that pays for our sins.

Hebrews 9:22: "The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."

Then verse 26: "[Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself."

Then we come to chapter 10, verse 8. When Jesus came into the world, He said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you do not desire, nor were you pleased with them. . . . He said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will," oh God.

Verse 10: "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

You see, in the Old Testament system, those animal sacrifices had to be offered up again and again and again and again. It was bloody business. But if people were going to be right with God, the sacrifices had to keep being made. But the Scripture says here in Hebrews that when Jesus came and offered up Himself as a sacrifice, He did it once for all so that the penalty for our sin was permanently paid.

Verse 11: "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." You know what that signified? It’s finished.

If we want to see what God believes about sin and about forgiveness, then we have to go to the cross of Christ. When we see Him giving up His life on Calvary, we see that He had to pay an incredible price for sins that we trivialize as being just weaknesses or character flaws or problems. But we also see in brilliant Technicolor the love and the mercy of God for even the chief of sinners.

If ever anybody had a reason to feel that "God can't possibly forgive me for what I've done," I think it could have been the apostle Paul. Think about what Paul had done as a man brought up in the Word of God, as a religious leader of his day. But not knowing Christ, he persecuted believers—sending them to death. He killed Christians. And then God stopped him dead in his tracks, as you remember, on the road to Damascus while he was en route to murder more believers.

He met the resurrected Christ. He believed. He repented of his sin. Christ came into his life. But don't you imagine for the rest of his life that the enemy could have taunted him with what his life was like before Christ came into his life? And accused him, "How do you think God could have forgiven you? Just think of what you've done!"

Paul talks about that in 1 Timothy 1. He says, "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (v. 13). He was honest about his past failures. He didn't try and cover them up or whitewash them. He said, "That's what I was."

Now, we just might want to fill in the blanks for where God found us. And what were we before we came into faith in Christ? And what are some of the things that we have been guilty of since we came to faith in Christ? Paul was specific and honest. But then he says, "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly " (v. 14).

I love that word. Aren't you glad that where sin abounds, grace does much more abound? That's God's math. It doesn't work in our figuring. And Paul says, "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly. Here is a trustworthy saying," 1 Timothy 1, verse 15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” If we're not sinners, then we're not candidates for a Savior.

Verse 16, "For that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."

What's Paul saying? He's saying, "My sinful past—I'm not proud of it, but it actually has become a trophy case, a showcase for God's grace. When people know what I was like and what I did and what kind of man I was, and then they see that God has forgiven me, when they see that God has set me free from that past, that He has transformed my life, that I am not the same man that I was—they will look at me, and they will say, 'Wow! What a great God! And what great mercy God has had on sinners!'"

Then I think he's suggesting, “You know what? Other sinners will take hope that they, too, can be forgiven—no matter how great their sins may be.” And as Paul continues on in that passage he says, "Christ Jesus wants to make me a display case for His patience and His mercy."

And then, as if he just can't help himself, he launches out into this doxology. I can almost hear him singing it, “Now unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (v. 17).

That doesn't sound to me like a man who is living under the guilt and shame of his past sin, does it? Here's a man who's free. He's been released from that sin. It's not that he didn't do it; it's that the penalty has been paid. So we know that Calvary covers it all—the blood of Jesus. I love some of those hymns that speak to us of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus: Calvary covers it all, my past with its sin and stain.

And as I read that phrase, I think about things in my past that I'm ashamed of. I think of the times when I, with knowledge, sinned against God with my tongue, with my spirit, with my behavior, in my relationships, in rebellion. "My past with its sin and its stain, Calvary covers it all. My guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there and Calvary covers it all."

My Dad used to love (and we often sang) that old Gospel song:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone;
Naught of good that I have done;
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

You see, Jesus died for that sin, and there is no more sacrifice that can be offered for my sin. In fact, the Scripture says that He paid the price and offered Himself up as a sacrifice once and for all. We were in Hebrews 10 looking at that passage. We see the result that this can have in our lives. The price has been paid. He now has gone up to heaven. He’s sitting at the right hand of God, and He promises us that our lawless acts and sins He will remember no more—Hebrews 10, verse 18, "And where these have been forgiven there is no longer any sacrifice for sin."

So what difference does that make in our lives? How shall we then live if this is true? Well, verse 19, "Therefore brothers [now] we have confidence to enter the most Holy place"—right into the presence of God where no one but the High Priest ever dared to go in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant, when they were still offering all those animal sacrifices. "But now," he says, "Brothers, sisters, children of God, we can all enter in with confidence." Not with our head hanging down, not saying, 'My sin is so great I don't know how God could ever forgive me.'"

He has forgiven us. So He says now, with confidence, can enter into the Holy Place. How? By the blood of Jesus. He says there's a new and living way open for us through the curtain. Remember that great veil that stayed between the people and the holy place where God's presence was? What happened to that veil when Jesus died? It was torn from top to bottom. Access was granted into the presence of God.

And he says, verse 21, "Since we have a great [High] Priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”

Don't you love that language? I talk to so many women today who are living perpetually under the guilt and the weight of sin that they have confessed. I'm talking about women who are believers, but they're not believing that His blood was sufficient for their sin. There's some sin they committed, and they know what it is in their mind. Sometimes they haven't even had the courage to tell anybody what that sin is, but they're thinking, It's so big, I just can't get free from the guilt and the burden of it.

I'm saying, and God’s Word is saying, “What sin could be as big as the covering provided for us, the atonement provided for us, by the blood of Jesus?” So He says, "Now draw near to God" (v. 22). You don't have to shy away. Where that sin has been confessed, it's been put under the blood of Jesus. There is forgiveness. So He says, "Come with a sincere heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience."

Listen, when you're forgiven, and you accept that forgiveness, you can sleep well at night—no more need for a guilty conscience. We've been talking for days about the weight of our sin, and this message in Hebrews is not good news until we've come to the place where we feel the greatness of our sin against God.

But having seen the weight and the guilt of our sin, we've got to move into the New Testament, the New Covenant, and see that Jesus has made it possible for us to come boldly and with full assurance, with a clear conscience, into the presence of God. And so he says, Hebrews 10, verse 23, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminding you of an incredible truth: When you’ve been forgiven by God, you are totally free. There is no sin so great that God can’t forgive.

Nancy writes about this in her book, Lies Women Believe, and the Truth That Sets Them Free. Along with lies women believe about sin, she also exposes deception related to emotions, marriage, children, circumstances, and many other areas. Reading this book will help you recognize lies you’re being told. It will show you how to truly be free.

We’d like to send you the book, Lies Women Believe, when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. You can give your gift at www.ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1-800-569-5959.

“My sin doesn’t hurt anyone but me.” Well, Nancy will address that lie tomorrow.

Nancy: Let me comment on that sense of being overwhelmed with the weight of those daily, painful reminders of our sin. Don't you think Paul lived with those constant reminders of his past, of his sin, and what he had done to the families of godly men who'd been martyred for their faith?

But we need to remember that God is a God who is able to redeem even the failures caused by our sin. The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient not only to cover our sin but to redeem the lives of those who are affected by our sin.

Now, this is not ever to get us to diminish the seriousness of our sin. By the way, it’s not wrong to grieve and to mourn over how your sin has affected others. If we don't mourn in that way at times, then perhaps we've never seen the seriousness of our sin. But some of us have seen the seriousness and are having a hard time getting up from the weight of that sin because of how others have been impacted.

But remember that the same God who is in the process of redeeming your life from destruction is also at work in the lives of your children, your grandchildren, your mate, others who've been affected, and they have opportunity to find the grace and the mercy and the covering of Christ's blood, as you have had, for sins that perhaps were not of their own doing, maybe sins that you caused on them. And, of course, I'm assuming that you've been back to those who've been affected, confessed your sin to them, and sought their forgiveness. But there are some of those marks that are left that become ongoing reminders of how my sin has left marks in the lives of others.

Let me remind you that the Scripture promises that the grace of God is able to restore. You haven't seen the final chapter yet. The fact is, God can redeem. He can overcome and overrule the losses that have been occasioned and caused by our sins in the lives of others.

Leslie: We’ll hear more about that 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 New International Version.

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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.