Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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You Can Stop Trying to Be Good

Leslie: Carrie Gaul says getting right with God is more than just trying to be good.

Carrie Gaul: Your good behavior is offensive to God apart from Jesus Christ. Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags in His eyes apart from the blood of Christ. The gospel is not “clean up your act, get it together, sell out to Jesus, and God will forgive you.” That is not the gospel. That is moralism.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts for Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

This week we’ve been hearing from Carrie Gaul in a series called “Approved.” Today you’ll hear Carrie describe two robes. She’ll use these as a powerful illustration for those in our audience today. To see this part of the teaching yourself, watch the video of this session at Here’s Nancy to get us started.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, it’s a joy to have with us this week a guest teacher here at Revive Our Hearts. If you’ve been with us the last couple of days, you’ve been blessed through the ministry of Carrie Gaul. Carrie, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts, and thanks for being a part of this week.

Carrie: Thank you so much, Nancy. It’s so good to be here.

Nancy: It’s been a joy to know you for . . . I’m remembering back to the first time we actually had a conversation. You weren’t yet on staff here at Revive Our Hearts, but you came to me and you said, “I would love to minister to women, and I’d love to do it here at Revive Our Hearts.” I think it was maybe two years later that the Lord actually brought you and Dennis to be on our staff, and now you’ve been a part of our ministry the last eight years or so.

Carrie serves in our biblical correspondence department. That means we respond to people who write into the ministry with questions or burdens or concerns or testimonies, and we try to handle every one of those that we possibly can—5,000 or 6,000 a year—that our team responds to. We put them in touch with the Word, pray for them, encourage them, and Carrie is a part of that team.

She’s a Bible teacher, has been for many years, has taught Bible studies in our community here where Revive Our Hearts is based in southwest Michigan. It’s a joy to have her sharing with us this week on some of these core biblical truths about what it means to know that we know that we know that we are approved in Christ, and what difference that makes for every aspect of our lives.

So, Carrie, open the Word to us. And Lord, would You just open our ears and our hearts to receive all that You have for us today? And we pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Carrie: Today’s broadcast and tomorrow’s program are some of the most profound truths that have changed my life. As you pray and as we move forward, just ask the Lord to make it so visually clear to us.

Psalm 19 says: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (v. 14).

And those words have taken on fresh meaning in my life over the last several weeks not simply because our words are pleasing to God, but, as I’ve reflected on the truth that our thoughts can also be pleasing to God—the thoughts that are coursing through my mind or yours at any given moment.

King David, the psalmist, expressed his desire to have a mind that was filled with that which is acceptable to God. In the original language, the word means, “that which brings pleasure or delight.” It means that you and I as followers of Jesus Christ have the ability to bring pleasure and delight to the heart of the God of the universe. The thoughts that are coursing through your mind right now have the potential to bring joy to the King of Glory.

And while you’re trying to grapple with the enormity of that reality, consider this: Researchers have determined that the average person has between 45,000 and 51,000 (some say as much as 70,000) thoughts per day! Seventy-thousand thoughts—70,000 opportunities for you to bring joy and delight to the heart of the Savior. Just think of it!

It underscores, doesn’t it, what we’ve been talking about and the truths of the last program from 1 Peter, chapter 4. The truth of the importance that we think with a saved mind, a mind that’s been saturated with the truths of God’s Word. A mind that is superimposing over the rubber-meets-the-road, daily realities of our life. The reality that is what is true of those who have placed their faith in Jesus, that His sinless life has been credited to our account. Because He died in our place, our sins are forgiven—past, present and future.

Some of us are here today in 2014, and our minds are still back twenty-five years ago in the sins of our past. But if we’ve come to Christ, those sins are forgiven. When you go back to Him over and over and over again, He looks at you and says, “What sin?”

Jesus died in our place. And that same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now living in you and in me if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ. And that power that raised Jesus from the dead is the very same power that can set you and I free from the sins that are entangling us. Our past doesn’t have to identify us anymore, my friends.

You see, in order to think rightly about the messiness of our lives, the messiness of our circumstances . . . and we all have it. Some of you are sitting there today and saying, “If you knew the reality I’m living in, you would know this isn’t true for me.” No!

That is not true! The messiness of our lives, whatever it is, we superimpose the truth of God’s Word over that. Psalm 19 tells us that while we’re doing that, in the midst of doing that, in the mundaneness of what constitutes most of our days (isn’t that true?), we’re bringing delight to the heart of our God.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Would you echo with me the truths that there is none like our great God—there is none like our God who takes delight in even the thoughts of our minds of those who have been redeemed and have placed their faith in Christ Jesus; those who, according 1 Thessalonians 2:4, have been approved by God.

You see, if you have placed your faith in Jesus, you no longer need to wonder where you stand with a holy and a righteous God. You don’t have to doubt how God sees you. You don’t have to question. You don’t have to wonder. Scripture says you have been accepted by the beloved, accepted in the beloved. Because of Jesus, the beloved Son of God, you have been accepted by a holy and a righteous God.

You have been entrusted with the gospel, the glorious good news of the gospel, to share that with others whatever your season of life. Some of you are empty nesters. Others of you are college students who are buried in papers and projects right now. Some of you are young mamas who are submerged in little people and diapers and wondering if ever anything will change in your life.

You have a mission. You have a calling. You have a purpose that’s been placed upon your life, and that purpose is that every day, wherever you are, you get to declare the old, old story of Jesus and His love. You get to declare the truths of what Jesus has done. You get to show that through your life and through your words.

You get to tell people how He’s made you a new creation and how your sins have been forgiven and your past no longer defines you, how you’ve been set free by His love, and how He’s tenderly and compassionately molding and shaping your life into the image of your Savior.

And you say, “Carrie, that’s great. There is just one problem: That’s not my reality. It’s not where I’m living. It has been years since I’ve known that kind of freedom and joy. It has been years since I’ve been free from the sin and the doubt that’s entangled me, that’s captivated me, that’s holding me in bondage. In fact, I’m not even sure how Jesus’ life and His death is supposed to impact me in the here and now. I’m not even actually sure what happened when I placed my faith and my trust in Jesus.”

Oh, I am so glad you asked. I am so glad you asked because in our remaining time today, I want to depict visually from Scripture as well as verbally what takes place when we enter into a covenant relationship with our God through Jesus Christ.

The Puritans called it the Great Exchange. We’re going to portray that Great Exchange today through the means of two robes. We have on the platform a black, heavy, dark robe representing our utter sinfulness and a long, flowing, glittering robe of gold representing the righteousness of Christ.

Over the last fifteen years, God’s given me the incredible privilege of using this illustration on three different continents. It’s been amazing to hear the stories of lives that have been so profoundly impacted by simply watching as we illustrate what happens when we come into a relationship with Jesus Christ through these two robes.

One precious woman who is now in heaven went through some of this with me. She was seventy years old at that time, and she wept for much of this as we were talking about it. At the end of it, as we used this robe illustration she said, weeping, “Carrie, I have been a believer for fifty years, but it just went from my head into my heart.”  She got the concept of what happens when we enter into a covenant relationship.

And so, my friends, that is how I pray that these robes will help each of us to experience in a fresh, new way. For some of you, it may be the very first time, and I can think of no greater honor than to open the Word of God and tell you what happens when you place your faith in Jesus Christ, to tell you of the unfathomable riches of Christ Jesus.

So, Paula’s going to come, and as she does, over the next several minutes, we’re going to use these two robes to illustrate our sinfulness and the righteousness of Christ.

Imagine with me, for a moment, the majestic, celestial courts of heaven, filled with the glory of the Ancient of Days and the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Imagine the fullness of joy that existed in the Godhead before the universe was ever called into being.

Imagine the inexpressible delight of unhindered unity and the wonder of unrestrained, perfect intimacy between Jehovah God, the Everlasting Father, and God the Son, the precious Lamb of God.

And then imagine with me Jesus, the Living Word of God, slain in the mind of God, for you and for me.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him [Jesus] was the life, and the life was the Light of men. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [overcome] it (John 1:1–5 NASB).
And the true light which gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him . . . but the world did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh . . . but of the will of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:9–14 NKJV). 
When the fullness of time had come, God the Father sent forth His Son, [the perfect, spotless, sinless Lamb of God] born of a woman, born under the law (Gal. 4:4 ESV).

He took on our flesh and He lived among us. He was created in our likeness and He was found in appearance just as we are and yet he was fully God. He was without sin. The living word humbled himself under the eternal, redemptive plan of his God and Father, having been born to die, he became obedient even to the point of death on a cross. So that we who are born in sin might become the righteousness of God.

I’ve asked Paula today if she would wear this robe for me. I’ve just put this black, heavy, dark robe upon her representing our utter sinfulness that each one of us are born into. We’re weighed down with the utter depravity of our sin, shackled by it, heavily, with guilt and shame, rightfully deserving the fullness of God’s wrath.

In reality:

  • We’re spiritual corpses. 
  • We’re the walking dead. 
  • We’re devoid of the life of God. 
  • We’re consumed by the self-absorbed lusts of our flesh. 

Thinking ourselves to be wise, we became fools. Slavishly indulging the desires of our own thoughts, we did what was right in our own eyes. We thought we were free, but all the while we were held in bondage, under the control of the evil one, our souls ravaged by the bonds of sin.

You see, my friends, sin is not just something that we do. Sin is who we are, apart from Christ. This is who we are. That’s why you and I can never behave ourselves into a right relationship with God. A moralistic lifestyle is not what God desires from you. It is not what pleases a holy and a righteous God.

Most of us here today tremble because we know our bad behavior is offensive to God, and we don’t want to displease Him. But, ladies, listen to me. Your good behavior is offensive to God apart from Jesus Christ. Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags in His eyes apart from the blood of Christ.

The gospel is not: “Clean up your act, get it together, sell out for Jesus, and God will forgive you.” That is not the gospel. That’s moralism!

But that is far too often the Christianity that we are preaching. That’s often, far too often, what our children are hearing as we’re raising them and saying, “Be good. Say ‘please and thank you.’ As you grow up, get involved at church. Care for those who have needs. Don’t have sex before you’re married, and you’re good to go.”

Now, most of us don’t mean that that’s what will save us, that that’s what will make us righteous before a holy and a righteous God, but, my friends, that is often what our children are hearing. And I will venture a guess that is what your neighbors are hearing when they think that you’re sharing the truth of God’s Word.

Moralism is not the gospel! The most well-behaved, law-abiding, church-attending, choir-singing, modestly-dressed moralistic person that you know is still dead in their trespasses and sins apart from Jesus Christ.

You and I can never achieve righteousness by means of proper behavior. But righteousness is indeed what we need to be in a relationship with God. And that, my friends, is the precious truths of the gospel. That’s why grace is so incredible.

You see, the gospel says that you and I, at the core of who we are, at the essence of who we are, are more sinful and unrighteous than we ever dared imagine. Every one of you, me, Paula, Nancy, every one of us, we’re more sinful and unrighteous than we ever dared imagine, and our hearts are, above all things, deceitful. But God . . . but God. 

Ephesians says: “Being abundantly rich in mercy, because of his great love . . ." his relentless, lavish, extravagant, furious love with which He loved us. And here’s the death blow to moralism: Ephesians chapter 2: "while we were yet dead in our sins" (vv. 4–5).

You see, it gets turned around in our minds, and we begin to think that God loves us because we’re acting rightly. God loved you while you were still dead in your sins, enough to send His Son to die in your place. While we were still dead in our sins, He demonstrated the immeasurable depth of His love by laying down His life for us.

No one took Jesus’ life, my friend, not Pilate, not Herod, not the Roman soldiers, not the Jews, not anyone. He willingly, of His own accord, laid down His life for you and for me, to fulfill the eternal redemptive purposes of His Father that were established before the foundation of the earth. Isn’t that amazing?!

You were on the heart of God before you were ever born. Before the earth was ever called into existence, He knew you, and He wanted to bring you out of darkness into the glorious light through Jesus. And He was willing to sacrifice His Son in order to do that.

The pre-determined plan of God unfolded throughout the ages that there would arise a Savior, a Messiah, who would be wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, taking upon Himself the very punishment that would bring us peace with God.

I’m taking this dark, heavy, black robe that represents our utter sinfulness, and I’m taking it off of Paula, and I’m putting it upon myself to represent the way that Jesus took our sins upon Himself and carried them to the cross.

You see, sin was never in Christ, but sin was upon Christ—my sin and your sin. He submitted himself to the worst possible death at that time, a form of execution known to the ancient world, used for traitors and criminals. The holy and the righteous Messiah submitted Himself to that. The one who knew no sin became sin for us. He so identified Himself with you and me that He took the vileness, He took every selfish motive, ever unkind thought.

You see, some of us think that sin is just the list of that top ten—whatever it is in your mind—and generally it’s whatever you’re not struggling with. Jesus took every sinful, selfish, evil thought and act, every impurity and lustful act, ever desire, He took that upon Himself, and He became, in the eyes of God, detestable—because of my sin and yours.

And He received the fullness of the rightful penalty for our sin. The wrath of God poured out upon Jesus in His death. He became our propitiation. That’s why Jesus was born. He was born to die. The reason for the cross was our sin.

He became sin so that we might exchange this robe that we are cloaked in for something very, very different . . . a robe of righteousness, a perfect robe. Not our robe, not our actions, but Jesus’.

We’re going to talk about the robe of righteousness in our next program. 

Nancy: I know this is a thought that, for some, is new, and you’re just kind of grappling with, “What does all this mean?” And for some, you’ve been hearing this for decades, and you just need to be restored to the wonder of it. Whichever is true for you, I want to encourage you to get a hold of the book that we’re offering as our resource this week by Elyse Fitzpatrick called Comforts from Romans.

The gospel is what brings comfort to our distressed, shameful, guilty hearts, and this is a book of thirty-one short devotionals taken from the first eight chapters of the book of Romans where we see this story fleshed out in just Technicolor.

We’ll be glad to send that to you when you send a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. You can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. Let those who answer the phone know what donation you’d like to make, and then be sure and let them know that you’d like a copy of this book Comforts from Romans. If you’d rather make your donation online, you can do that by visiting us at

Carrie quoted a lot of Scriptures today, a lot of what she was saying was actual Scripture verses. If you’ll go to the transcript of today’s program, those verses—the references—will be there, and you can go back and look up those Scriptures and meditate on them until this becomes just a cause in your heart for great joy and freedom.

Be sure and join us tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts for the rest of the story.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She’s been following up today’s guest teaching from  Carrie Gaul.

To see today’s teaching, including the powerful illustration of the two robes, visit You’ll find video versions of the teaching segments you’ve heard this week.

And one more detail: Nancy’s been telling us about the book, “Comforts from Romans.” You can take her up on this special offer through this Friday, June 13.

Carrie Gaul was working hard to keep God’s approval. Then she came to a breaking point. She’ll tell you the story 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 NASB unless otherwise noted.


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

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About the Teacher

Carrie Gaul

Carrie Gaul

Carrie Gaul is a biblical correspondent for Revive Our Hearts.  She and her husband Dennis have two married children and are enjoying grandchildren.  Carrie has a deep love for God's Word and a passion to see women grow in ever-increasing intimacy with Jesus through the study and application of His Word. Carrie is the author of Joy in the Midst, a Bible study on Philippians.