Revive Our Hearts Podcast

You Can't Be a True Woman (On Your Own)

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Leslie Basham: Do you ever feel discouraged because you can't live the way you want to live? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, that's why you need Jesus.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Christ is the only one who has ever succeeded at living the Christian life, and there is no way to live the Christian life apart from Him.

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

Does trying to live out God’s will for you as a woman leave you exhausted and frustrated? If so, don’t be surprised. Nancy will explain why continuing in a series called "The True Woman Manifesto—Affirmations, Part 1."

Nancy: I’m glad you’re joining us for this point-by-point study through the True Woman Manifesto as we try to understand what it means and how we can live out God’s calling in our lives as women. W’re looking at a series of affirmations that are found in that manifesto. The first affirmation we’ve looked at is that God has given us His Word to show us how we’re to honor Him as women.

We have to keep going back to that because if we don’t have that as the foundation, then some of these other points we’re going to come to are going to be very hard to swallow if we don’t start by staking our lives on the authority, the foundation of God’s Word.

We looked then at the next affirmation which is that we glorify God and experience His blessing when we accept and joyfully embrace His created design, function, and order for our lives.

Now over the next days we’re going to see in more detail what that life looks like, the life of a true woman. But before we do, we need to grasp this next affirmation. Because if you don’t get this next point, you will end up frustrated, exhausted, and discouraged trying to be that true woman that I know you want to be. And here’s that affirmation number three.

We affirm that as redeemed sinners, we cannot live out the beauty of biblical womanhood apart from the sanctifying work of the gospel and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Now again as we’re doing with these others, let’s just take that apart phrase by phrase and see what it has to say for us. First of all, “We affirm that as redeemed sinners.” This talks about who we are. That little phrase, “redeemed sinners,” has in it bad news and good news. It tells us two important things about ourselves.

First of all it tells us that we are sinners. That takes us back to Genesis chapter 3 which describes what theologians call the Fall of man. Now I have a friend who is a pastor who has said he’s not going to talk about the Fall anymore. He’s going to now start calling it the Great Rebellion, which is in fact what it was.

When you say the Fall, it sounds like “Oops, I just slipped and fell. I couldn’t help myself. Somebody put something in my path.” And isn’t that what happened in Genesis chapter 3? Everybody is blaming everybody else. “It wasn’t my fault. Somebody else made me do it. The devil made me do it. The woman You gave me; she made me do it” (see vv. 12–13).

And so when we say the Fall, we can think of this as somebody else’s fault perhaps. But it wasn’t anybody else’s fault. It was our fault. It was the Great Rebellion. What happened as a result of that great rebellion is that man and woman from the time of Adam and Eve to this day have been in a fallen condition.

The fall of man, the Great Rebellion, deadened our spirits. It separated us from the life that is in God. It resulted in us having this utter inability to please God—the impotence of human effort, human flesh, human ability. We cannot obey God in our fallen condition. We cannot please God. That’s what it means to be depraved. That’s what it means to be a sinner.

Jeremiah 13 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (v. 23). A rhetorical question implying, “Of course not.” That’s their nature. That’s the way they’re made. They can’t change. That’s a given.

“And so,” Jeremiah says, “Also you can do good who were accustomed to do evil.” In the same way that the leopard can’t change his spots, no more can you who are accustomed to do evil, who have a sinful, fallen, rebellious nature, you cannot do good. It’s not in your nature to do good. You can’t please God.

We must be regenerated by the Spirit of God, given a new heart, a new nature, the life of God placed within us. And so we say in this affirmation, “We are redeemed sinners.” That’s the good news. We are sinners who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. We are a new creation alive in Christ. That is, those of us who have repented of our sin and placed our faith in Jesus Christ to save us by what He did for us on the cross. Through no merit of our own, He has come and made us alive we who were spiritually dead.

As redeemed sinners, the image of God has been restored in us. It’s redemption that enables us to be fully human as we were created to be, connected to the life of God. We now have capacity to obey God, to please Him, to live as His true redeemed women. So we are redeemed sinners—sinners, but redeemed—those of us who are in Christ.

Now the question is, “If that’s the case, if we’ve been redeemed and we now have this capacity to obey God:

  • Why do we still sin?
  • Why do we find ourselves still giving in to temptation?
  • Why do we struggle to obey God?
  • Why do we struggle to be the women that He has designed us to be?
  • Why do we battle with our flesh, with our tongues, with having a quiet and gentle spirit, with submitting to God-ordained authority? (Why does that make us “eek,” you know?)
  • Why do we struggle with loving and forgiving family members and friends and enemies?
  • Why is it such a battle to be God’s true woman?

Well Romans 7 talks with us about this battle. It’s a battle with our flesh. It’s a battle with indwelling sin. The apostle Paul experienced this, this thing that inclines us, pulls us away from God and His law that is bent on going its own way. That’s our sinful flesh, the indwelling sin.

That’s why the apostle Paul says in Romans 7:18,

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Do you relate? Yes you do! Yes I do! “I want to please You Lord. I don’t want to talk that way to the people I live with. I don’t want to act that way. I don’t want to be a shrew. I don’t want to be this angry, controlling, domineering woman. I want to be Your woman. I have the desire to do what is right but not the ability to carry it out.”

Now Paul goes on to say that there is within him a new life, a new power, the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the power of Christ. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we have to come to the critical realization that left to ourselves on our own, we cannot live out the beauty of biblical womanhood. We can’t do it. Do you believe that? Do you really believe that? Have you consciously acknowledged it?

I want to tell you ladies that this is one of the most important and liberating discoveries that you will ever make. Now it sounds defeating to say, “I cannot live this Christian woman life.” But it’s the starting place of a wonderful, joyful discovery of how you can live it.

So I just want you to say this: “On my own I cannot be the woman God wants me to be.” Say it with me.

All: “On my own I cannot be the woman God wants me to be.”

Nancy: You didn’t sound very convinced. I want you to say it more energetically.

All: “On my own I cannot be the woman God wants me to be.”

Nancy: Now you need to remind yourself of that regularly. “On my own I cannot be the woman God wants me to be.”

But here’s the good news. God has given us resources to enable us to fulfill His calling to be true women. And I want to focus over these next few minutes on what some of those resources are. Second Peter 1 tells us that

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence [by the way, that’s what it means to be a true woman, a woman that reflects the glory and excellence of God and through the knowledge of him who has called us to that], by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature (vv. 3–4).

Now that’s a long sentence and we’re not going to unpack all of it. It says that we have the divine power of God. We have His promises. We have the knowledge of Him. And we have through these things the resources to become partakers in the divine nature, to become women who reflect the image and the glory of God.

Now this affirmation that we’re looking at says that we cannot live out the beauty of biblical womanhood apart from the sanctifying work of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s talk about those two things. The sanctifying work of the gospel—when we say sanctifying we’re talking about a process of sanctification, a process of being conformed to the image of Christ. And we need to remember that.

When you find yourself in the middle of the day acting like this woman who has never known Jesus Christ, and you get defeated and discouraged, remember that you are in a process of being conformed to the image of Christ. There’s no magic wand. “Poof!” You are this godly true woman. It doesn’t happen overnight. There’s an ongoing work of the Spirit as He applies the gospel of Christ to our hearts and conforms us to the image of Christ.

Now we all know that it’s necessary to believe the gospel in order to get saved. But I find that most Christians don’t realize that we need to keep on believing the gospel, the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to live the Christian life once we’ve been saved. It’s not like I needed the gospel years ago when I got saved as a four-year-old and now I live some other way. We still live by the gospel of Christ as we’re being sanctified.

The fact is, you will fail. Every time you blow it, every time I blow it, that becomes an opportunity to preach the gospel to ourselves again—not to struggle and strive and try harder—“I’ll be a true woman, a good Christian woman if it kills me!” It may kill you! But to look to Christ, Christ crucified, buried, and raised for our justification and for our sanctification.

Every time we blow it, it’s a chance to recognize our utter hopelessness and helplessness apart from Christ, to repent, to cast ourselves afresh on Christ and His mercy and what He did for us at the cross. Every time we blow it, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the gospel to those around us—to your children who heard you scream at the top of your lungs. It’s a chance to demonstrate the gospel.

So we need the sanctifying work of the gospel in our lives, and then we need the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. From the moment you became the child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God came to live inside of you. You didn’t need some great big second experience to get the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came to live in you at the point at which you became a child of God.

The Spirit lives in you in order to enable and empower you to obey God and to do what God has called you to do. It’s the power of the Spirit within us that enables us to be God’s true women. Paul said to the Galatians, “Having begun by the Spirit,” having come into Christ by the Spirit of God, “are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (2:3). Are you trying to do on your own what only the Spirit of God can do in you?

I referenced in the last session on the Manifesto Luke chapter 1, the story of Mary of Nazareth, when the angel came to her and said, “You’re going to become pregnant with the Son of God.” And this is one of my favorite passages in all of God’s Word because Mary responded in a way that I have responded myself so many times when I see the requirements of God’s Word, His calling in my life, what He wants me to do, what He wants me to be. And I respond much the same way that Mary did.

She said to the angel in Luke 1, “How will this be since I am I virgin?” She’s saying essentially, “This is impossible. I can’t do this. It is not medically, scientifically possible for a virgin to have a baby.”

And I look at the Lord sometimes and say, “It is not possible for me to do what You have called me to do. I’m too weak. I’m inadequate. I don’t have the power. My flesh is too strong. Indwelling sin is so strong. I cannot be that gentle, meek, loving, compassionate, kind, tenderhearted, thoughtful, this godly, gracious true woman. I can’t be it.” That’s what Mary said. “I can’t do this.”

And I love the angel’s response. “The angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’” (vv. 34–35).

“You’re right. You can’t do it. But you have the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

We can only live the Christian life and serve God through the power of His Holy Spirit. Praise God for the Holy Spirit! As soon as we think we can handle it on our own, we become useless to God. We have to be willing day after day, moment after moment to acknowledge our inability, to let God take over, to let Him overshadow us by the power of His Holy Spirit.

We’re talking about living a life of utter, absolute dependence on the grace of God. The alternative is self-effort, moralism, struggling, striving, trying harder. No! It’s a life of faith. It’s a life of dependence on the grace of God. We’re saved by the grace of God.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8–9).

But not only are we saved by the grace of God, we live and we serve by the grace of God. Paul says,

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I but the grace of God that is with me (1 Cor. 15:10).

Second Corinthians 9:8:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

We become true women of God by the grace of God.

Are you living and serving the Lord by human self-effort or in dependence on God’s grace? Paul says, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” Philippians 2:13. Listen, the Christian life is not hard; it is impossible. Christ is the only one who has ever succeeded at living the Christian life and there is no way to live the Christian life apart from Him.

A British author from the late 1800s says,

Our chief fitness is in our utter helplessness. His strength is made perfect, not in our strength but in our weakness. Our strength is only a hindrance.

And then she gives this fabulous illustration. She talks about visiting a home for mentally disabled children. And she saw these children in an exercise class using hand weights and struggling to coordinate their movements to the music. She said,

They made all sorts of awkward movements. Now and then, by a happy chance they would make a movement in harmony with the music and the teacher’s directions, but for the most part all was out of harmony.

One little girl, however, I noticed who made perfect movements. Not a jar or a break disturbed the harmony of her exercises. And the reason was not that she had more strength than the others, but that she had no strength at all. She could not so much as close her hands over the [weights], not lift her arms, and the [instructor] had to stand behind her, and do it all.

She yielded up her members as instruments to him, and his "strength was made perfect" in her weakness. He knew how to go through those exercises, for he himself had planned them; and therefore when he did it, it was done right. She did nothing but yield herself up utterly into his hands and he did it all.

The yielding was her part; the responsibility was all his. It was not her skill that was needed to make harmonious movements, but only his. The question was not of her capacity, but of his. Her utter weakness was her greatest strength.

Ladies, our utter weakness is our greatest strength. The call to be true women of God is a call to a life of utter dependence and humility, recognizing that we cannot live out the beauty of biblical womanhood apart from the sanctifying work of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul says,

I’ve been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

Jesus said in John 15,

As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do [how much] nothing (vv. 4–5).

Say it. “Apart from Christ I can do nothing.”

All: "Apart from Christ I can do nothing."

Nancy: Now this is the other thing I want you to say: “Through Christ.” Say it.

All: "Through Christ."

Nancy: “I can do anything He calls me to do.”

All: "I can do anything He calls me to do."

Belief affects behavior.

Nancy: Through Christ I can be God’s true woman. You know, we’re looking at these affirmations, and affirmations are the way that we think. The way we think is going to affect the way that we live. Belief affects behavior. We have to really believe that we cannot be true women apart from Christ. If you don’t believe that, you are going to be exhausted, discouraged, defeated and joyless in your attempts. Apart from abiding in Christ, you may do some religious works, but you will not bear spiritual fruit.

Trying to live the Christian life apart from Christ and what He has done for us on the cross will result in one of two outcomes.

  • Either you’ll be perpetually defeated, feeling like a failure, can’t measure up so you struggle, you strive, you try harder.
  • Or you’ll become a self-righteous Pharisee, and you’ll drive everyone else crazy. You’ll be uptight, rigid, judgmental, critical of others who don’t measure up, proud, looking down on others who are less spiritual.

We’ve got a lot of Christian women today who are spiritually house-trained. They know how to do the right things, say the right things, live the right way. But they’re empty; they’re not filled with Christ. Other people look at them, their kids look at them, their coworkers look at them, and they think, Who wants to be a true woman?

Let me tell you, that’s not a true woman. A true woman is a woman who is filled with the Spirit of Christ. It’s Christ in me living that life, the beauty of biblical womanhood. This is not an uptight, legalistic lifestyle. It’s a beautiful lifestyle. And we’re supposed to be making Christ desirable to others.

Does your life create in others a thirst to know God? Is your life adorning the gospel of God? It will if you’re living it abiding in Christ in dependence upon His strength.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church through Christ Jesus to all generations (Eph. 3:20–21).

Amen? Amen.

Leslie: If you tried to live as a true woman on your own or do anything on your own, you won’t succeed. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us where the power we need comes from.

That message is part of a series called "The True Woman Manifesto—Affirmations, Part 1." The Manifesto unfolds in sections: Foundations, Affirmations, and Declarations. We’re going to explore all those in several series this year on Revive Our Hearts. To read the complete True Woman Manifesto or watch the video that illustrates the document, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll put links in today’s transcript.

Let me remind you . . . time is quickly running out to get in on the best discount available for the True Woman '18 Conference. The price goes up after May 1, so I hope you’ll make plans to come to this tenth anniversary of the True Woman movement. Nancy will be speaking on “The Truth That Sets Us Free.” So will Dr. Eric Mason, Dannah Gresh, Betsy Gómez, Mary Kassian, and Jackie Hill Perry. You’ll also want to check out the practical pre-conference sessions.

To join us in Indianapolis, September 27–29, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Tomorrow, consider the picture you get of women in the Bible.

Nancy: Scripture gives great honor, worth, value to women.

Leslie: That’s next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to show you the beauty of a life devoted to the Lord. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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