Revive Our Hearts Weekend Podcast

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Rooting Out Sin

Dannah GreshWhy did God’s people have to wander the desert for forty years? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The sin that destroyed the children of Israel and kept them out of the Promised Land really came down to a single root, and it is this sin of discontentment.

Dannah: Today, we’re gonna talk about some of those roots of sin and how to eradicate them. This is Revive Our Hearts Weekend. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Twenty years ago a young taxi driver named Antoine bought an eight-week-old cat named Ming. But Ming was no normal cat. Ming was a Siberian-Bengal tiger. 

But he was cute, so Antoine took him home and treated him like any other cat. He’d hold him and stroke his fur, talk to him, cuddle with him . . . and slowly Ming grew. Antoine continued to feed him. Ming was his pride and joy. Then one night when the now big “cat” was two, he turned on Antoine. In the emergency room Antoine told the doctors that he was bit by a pit bull. He lied about the tiger. He knew he shouldn’t have; he tried to cover up his pet.

Sin can be like that. It’s appealing at first, wouldn’t really hurt anyone, or that’s what we keep telling ourselves as we cuddle up to it. We cannot stop stroking it, feeding it, but then like Ming . . . it turns around and attacks you.

Have this ever happened to you?

In more recent years, it’s the "so-called" little sins that call out to me. The little white lies, overeating, lack of self-control. Author Jerry Bridges called them the “respectable sins”; the ones we minimize and accept as just how it is. Things like: gossip, jealousy, selfishness and many others never get confronted in our lives. But left unchecked . . . they can become bigger than life. 

Today we’ll take a look at a couple of those "smaller" sins and how to get rid of them.

First one up: envy! Now there’s a sin that plagues many of us women. And yet, envy can be difficult to define, so some of us don’t even know it’s taken over in our hearts. Stick around if you’re up for a brave conversation . . . and the total freedom that comes when we call out sin and make a decision to walk away from it. 

Let’s listen in to our own Erin Davis talks with Melissa Kruger. Melissa is the author of Envy of Eve, and she describes how she finally realised that envy had crept into her life and was the thief that had stolen her joy.

Melissa Kruger: When we first moved to Scotland, I was there, but I was not there very joyfully. I kept looking back at all my friends. They still lived near each other. They were all at a church we loved. They seemed to be getting it all. And here I was, coming to Scotland with my husband, and that was all I had. I wasn’t quite sure. I felt like I had left everything in my life behind, and it was a real struggle!

I felt isolated and lonely, and it really robbed me of a lot of joy. Tather than accept, “This is the Lord’s will for my life,” I really fought it in my own heart. And some ways that came out were: I blamed my husband. I would take it out on him.

One day the Lord really confronted me with His Word. It was that verse: “Do not be like the horse or the mule, who have to be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you” (see Psalm 32:9). I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “That’s you!”

And it was just this, “Oh, I’ve got a problem that is deeper than my circumstances.” The Lord really roped me in and showed me my sins.

Erin Davis: That’s where you started to wrestle with this sin of envy?

Melissa: I think it’s the first time I really started to wrestle with the inner desires of my heart. But it wasn’t until a few years later, when I was studying the book of Joshua, and I saw the character of Achan and this pattern of seeing, coveting, taking, and hiding, and I saw that it related back to the garden and what Eve had done. She saw the fruit; she desired it; she took it, and she hid.

Then you start seeing it all over. David did the same thing: He saw Bathsheba. He coveted her by lusting after her. He took her, and then he tried to hide what he was doing.

It was that, in addition with scriptural study through the years, that really opened my eyes. “Oh, this isn’t just a Melissa problem; this is a human problem!”

Erin: You follow that pattern with several characters in Scripture: with Job, with David, with the Israelites in the desert. Explain that pattern to us one more time.

Melissa: Yes, the pattern I really saw is most apparent, probably, with Achan. He saw this robe from Babylonia, and he coveted it. He took it, and then he hid what he had done. He hid the robe under his tent. And he wasn’t supposed to take anything from that city, so that’s why it was a problem.

I really think that pattern works itself out in our lives as women. It starts by seeing. You know, I can be fine with my living room, and then I get the Pottery Barn catalog. I see what mine “should” look like. That inner discontent starts to well, and I covet it more.

And then, I’m not going to Pottery Barn and steal it probably, but maybe I spend more than I should—or that we have in our bank account. I might try to hide a purchase from my husband or something like that that’s wrong to do.

So we take, then we might hide what we did.

Erin: Yes, it’s the old sneaking-the-shopping-bag-in-the-house thing.

Melissa: Exactly! It works it out in different ways, maybe, in our day and age, but it always has consequences. These inner desires don’t stay down. They’re like “Whac-a-Mole.” They keep popping up in other ways.

Erin: Yep. As you’re describing that pattern, I couldn’t help but think that maybe we’re seeing more and therefore coveting more in this time. There are plenty of people villainizing social media—and I don’t necessarily want to jump on that bandwagon—but I am interested in, let’s be honest about the ways it’s affecting us, because it is.

There are so many ways that we are seeing more bodies than we’ve ever seen, seeing more living rooms than we’ve ever seen, seeing more adorable children than we’ve ever seen. That, I imagine, can cause that “Whac-a-Mole” in our hearts don’t you think?

Melissa: Yes. I completely think so. Your neighbor . . . here in the Old Testament it said, “Don’t covet your neighbor.” Why? Because you see them. But now, our “neighbor” has greatly expanded. It’s kind of exhausting how many “neighbors” we have to see and think, Oh, my life should look like that!

It really is a much broader perspective of seeing what other people have than ever, I think, in the history of the world. Because I can actually see—around the world—what people have! 

Erin: What I appreciate about the book is that you just keep bringing it back to the fact that it’s a heart issue. So, while the seeing may be causing us to feel the envy more, the envy is really rooted in our hearts.

Melissa: That’s exactly right. The unbelief that God somehow hasn’t been good to me is what makes the seeing have power. So, we can see and be really thankful for our friends. That is a possibility.

Erin: Sure.

Melissa: I think as Christ is more in us and the fruits of the Spirit are being born in us, we can really live that way—even if it’s things we long for and don’t have. He can do that in our lives, but often, I think, we surrender to our circumstances and we say, “It would be impossible to be joyful when she has what I want!”

Erin: I wonder if we’ve normalized it in some way, or just gotten so used to those feelings of envy and covetousness that they don’t feel wrong to us anymore.

Dannah: I want to jump in to Erin and Melissa’s conversation a sec. Remember those respectable sins we were talking about? The ones that seem so appealing to us . . . like that adorable kitten who turned out to be a dangerous tiger. At first sin is often seemingly sweet and innocent, but it eventually turns on us and pulls us down. Envy can creep in on us like that. So, how do you stay in a place where you’re vigilant?

Melissa: Yes, that’s right. For me, one of my big tasks is, can I weep with the person’s who’s weeping, and can I rejoice with the person who’s rejoicing? That helps me find where it might be.

We can even compare our suffering, and so sometimes we fail to weep with someone because we’re like, “Let me tell you about my life!”

Erin: Yes . . . “Let me one-up you.”

Melissa: Yes. So even our suffering can be a comparison game. And so, if we’re doing that, that’s not how we’re called to live as a body. We’re called to weep with our sister who weeps. Because the reality, we all know, pain is pain. It might be different levels of it. There are definitely harder things that some of us face, but we should be able to enter in with other people.

And then, rejoice with those who rejoice. That’s hard sometimes. Anyone who has walked through infertility, and everyone around them is getting pregnant . . . That’s gut-wrenching; that’s hard!

Erin: Or they’re single much longer than they thought they’d be, but they’ve been a bridesmaid seventeen times!

Melissa: Yes. Those are deep places of ache; it’s hard! We should mourn with that sister while we still rejoice with our other sister who’s getting married. I think that’s how coveting can really break our fellowship with one another. We isolate ourselves from the very people who can bring the healing we need.

Listen to the full episode: "The Disguises Envy Wears." Listen to the entire series: "The Envy of Eve, with Melissa Kruger and Erin Davis."

Dannah: I see it; I want it; I take it. Weren’t those the steps that led to Eve’s first sin? And that seemingly innocent action—eating a piece of fruit—changed the course of Eve’s life . . . and mine . . . and yours.

Pay attention, friend! Listen to this wise advice from Melissa. She said, “We isolate ourselves from the very people who can bring the healing we need.” Don’t isolate yourself! Instead, tell someone. Be honest about the sins, the struggles you’re facing. James 5:16 reads, “Confess your sins one to another and then you will be healed.” Of course, other passages also encourage confession to one another. But the reward we read about in James 5:16 is remarkable. Confession to others brings—what did I just read?—healing! 

Do you need some of that?

Stay with me, friend. Later we’re going to hear more about what it takes to make all sins right with God and to walk in full healing.

But first, let’s talk about the sister sin to envy: discontentment. Are you finding yourself frustrated with your circumstances? Wishing you lived in a better house? Had a better job? Are you angry that God has not given you a husband? Or that God hasn’t fixed the one you have?

Lean in. It could be that what needs changed is inside of you, not in what is going on outside of you! Because a synonym for discontent is displeasure. Are you failing to take pleasure in what God has given you? 

That might not even seem like a sin, but it is. God designed you to take pleasure in Him and “every good gift” that He gives to you. So discontent is a sin against Almighty God, and He takes that very seriously. Often the things we long for cannot be given to us until our hearts are in a better place to receive them. 

Case in point: the sin of discontentment kept some of God’s people from the land God had promised they could dwell in—a land described as “flowing with milk and honey.” In a teaching series on how to "Cultivate a Contented Heart," Nancy DeMoss Wolhgemuth shared why God’s people had to wander the desert for forty years. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The sin that destroyed the children of Israel and kept them out of the Promised Land really came down to a single root. It is the sin of discontentment. 

Discontentment—wanting something that God had not given them; that it was not God’s time to give them. They insisted on having things they wanted that God had not provided, and the Scripture says God considered this a very serious sin. Do not grumble as some of them did, and they were destroyed in the wilderness. And so Paul says,

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the [fulfillment] of the ages has come (v. 11).

And then Paul says in a very practical way to us as New Testament believers,

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to mankind (v. 12–13).

Now this is a very common verse, most of us are familiar with it. But have you ever stopped to realize the context of this verse?

It is in the context of talking about this sin of grumbling and murmuring, complaining and whining. Paul says, “You’re going to be tempted to complain. You’re going to be tempted to murmur. Everyone is!” But,

God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (v. 13).

Now we go back into the book of Exodus and we read in Exodus chapter 13 the whole instance where God delivered the children of Israel after 400 years of being in captivity, in bondage, in slavery. God delivered them by His great power. He redeemed them and brought them out of Egypt. He led them into the wilderness. He led them into a desert, and then we know that God led the children of Israel to the Red Sea. 

And you remember with the Red Sea in front of them, mountain ranges on either side, and the Egyptian army breathing down their necks behind them, the children of Israel found themselves now in Exodus chapter 14 in a place where they were hopelessly hemmed in. There was no way out, except if God were to intervene on their behalf. So they had not been out of Egypt now for a matter of days and they came to the Red Sea. There was no apparent way of escape, and they were terrified.

We read in chapter 14 that the children of Israel said to Moses, I’m in verse 11,

Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, "Leave us alone! Let us serve the Egyptians"? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert! (vv. 11–12).

Now if you know something about what precedes this chapter, is it true that the children of Israel said to Moses when they were in Egypt, “We want to stay in Egypt. We love it here. We love serving Pharaoh. We love being his slaves.” No! For years they had cried out in their bondage to be delivered, and God heard their cries and delivered them. 

But now when they are faced with this first challenge after they come out of Egypt. Instead of crying out to the Lord who had delivered them and asking the Lord now to deliver them again, they begin to murmur and whine and grumble against Moses who was God’s representative. “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (v. 12)

Now what was God’s response to the murmuring and the whining of the children of Israel? Well verse 30 tells us, “That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore” (v. 30).

Now we come to the next chapter, Exodus chapter 15. We find after the Red Sea crossing they’ve gone three days into the wilderness, they’ve had this great celebration that took place after they got through the Red Sea. They are praising God as it is easy to do when we’ve just experienced God’s power and deliverance. 

Now they’ve gone three days into the wilderness, and they’ve come to a place where there is no water. Now that is a pretty serious situation to be in for one million adults plus children, to have nothing to drink. Obviously they can’t go long in that situation. Then when they do come to water, it is a place that they named Marah, which means bitter, because the water is contaminated. It is bitter water that they can’t drink. 

So what is their response? What do you think would be their response after having just seen God defeat the whole Egyptian army and take them through the Red Sea? You’d think they would say, “Oh Lord, You’ve done it before, You can do it again. We praise You because we know that You are able to provide for our needs in this circumstance.” 

But no, that is not the response. Verse 24 tells us, Exodus chapter 15, “The people murmured against Moses, ‘What shall we drink?’” They turned to Moses and said, “You got us in this mess; you’ve got to get us out of this mess.” Verse 25 tells us, “Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a [tree]. He threw it into the water and the water became sweet.” 

Once again, God performs a miracle. He hears their whining, He hears their murmuring, and in response God does a miracle. He sweetened the bitter waters. And right after that, He leads them to a place that is an oasis, Elim. The place where there are twelve wells of water.

Dannah: Oh, I love that. God was faithful to his children

You know that teaching reminded me of an old song by Sara Groves that I often use to counsel my heart when discontent is cropping up. It’s called “Painting Pictures of Egypt.” It reminds my own heart not to look back and remember the past in a way that’s better than it actually was. And it reminds me to be thankful for where God is leading me.

Song: Sarah Groves

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt,
Leaving out what it lacked.
The future seems so hard,
And …. I wanna go back.

But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I've learned.
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned.

Dannah: Father, forgive me, forgive us. I don’t want to live like that. I want to live looking back at the past and imagining it was better than it was. I want to live like I believe this:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

Don’t you want that too? Then, we’ve got to do some serious self-examination to identify these sins that hold us back from the joy we so deeply desire!

Listen to the full episode: "In the Wilderness." Listen to the entire series: "Cultivating a Contented Heart."

As we consider the “little” sins in our lives today, I’m reminded of an impactful conversation Nancy had with author and speaker Rosaria Butterfield. When God captured her attention there were many sins that He had to deal with, and some would say a few of them were the big ones. But big or small, they all have the same impact—separation from God. We need to bring each sin to light and lay them at our Father’s feet. How should we go about doing that? Well, Rosaria says she has a Phd in repentance, so I’m thinking she should know.

Rosaria Butterfield: Repentance is the threshold to God, and repentance is the posture of a Christian.

Nancy: Okay, repentance is the threshold to God. What do you mean by that?

Rosaria: That's how you come to God. And this is really important because we live in a Christian age that seems to say, "Claim Jesus as your Savior, and then lean on His grace." But I was learning that you couldn't bypass repentance to get to grace. So I needed to learn what repentance meant.

I'm a word person. I'm a reader. I learned in this crucible that there's a difference between admitting sin and confessing sin.

Nancy: Explain that.

Rosaria: Well, admitting sin means that you did it. "Lord, I did it. I've had illicit sex with men, before I came out as a lesbian, and then after that with women. I did it."

But confession means owning the condemnation of that. Part of why it's very important to confess your sin, especially sexual sin—we live in a world that loves to flatten everything out and say, "Well, all sin is the same." From some perspectives, that's true. From the perspective of the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ covers all sin. That is absolutely true.

But from a biblical, ethical point of view, there are differences in sin. I think we just innately know that. We innately know that the sin of sexual abuse is different than the sin of lying.

Nancy: Right.

Rosaria: We just know that the sin of murder is different. Things that attack a creation ordinance are different because they kill. I needed to really understand that until I confessed my sexual sin, part of me was still deeply excusing it. It was excusing it sort of like this: "This feels good to me. This feels right to me."

When I came out as a lesbian, I thought I'd found my real self. "Hey! I'm an informed lesbian. I tried having sex with men. I didn't like it. Don't I know myself better than this ancient Book? Don't I know myself better than a God I can't see?"

But when we confess our sin, it does feel a little bit like we're hanging off of a limb, and in a way we are. We're a little bit like an Alzheimer's patient who, in a moment of mental lucidity, signs over all rights to interpretation to an able-minded care giver. We're saying that the Lord had the right to interpret what we do and why we did it. So confession actually owns it as a guilty act.

Nancy: At which point you become a candidate for the grace, for the blood of Christ.

Rosaria: Exactly! And before that, you aren't.

Nancy: Because the blood of Jesus doesn't cover mistakes or problems or patterns.

Rosaria: No.

Nancy: It covers sin.

Dannah: Got a sin that needs to be covered? Stop trying to do it yourself. Stop trying to hide it. Only one thing can cover up your sin and set you free on a journey towards healing: the blood of Jesus. So, confess that sin to God, first and foremost. He will forgive and cover it with the blood of the Lamb.

You know, every time I hear those sentences, "the blood of the Lamb," that reminds me of the concept of “lambing” in New Zealand. When a lamb is orphaned through birth, it has no chance of survival unless it’s adopted by another mama lamb. But that’s not an easy task. Most ewes reject any baby but their own. But the farmers have learned that if you take the skin of a dead baby lamb and make a ‘jumper’ of it to fit tightly over the orphaned lamb’s body and present it to the mother of the baby lamb, well, the mama smells her baby and readily accepts it because it’s covered in her true child’s flesh. Thank about that! When we confess our sin, the blood of Christ covers us. God the Father sees not us, not the broken record, but He sees His spotless Son’s life covering our own lives, and accepts us!

I want that for you, friend! I want your life to be covered in the death and life of Jesus Christ. He’s the only one capable of covering our sins. Stop trying to do it yourself.

If today’s program left you questioning your sin or maybe you’d like to dig deeper into God’s Word and have a personal revival,  Revive Our Hearts has the perfect study just for this time in your life—Seeking Him. We have that available on our website. ReviveOurHearts.com.

It is the middle of May and all this month we’ve been spending time to thank you for supporting the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Because of you we are able to reach women all over the world with personal revival and biblical womanhood. And I know they would want to say thank you to you.

As we are coming up to the end of our fiscal year in a couple of weeks, we’re praying for the Lord to meet our need of $750,000, and I have a favor to ask of you. If you can, would you consider giving a gift to help us fill that need?

Visit ReviveOurHearts.com if you are able to help us with that, or call us at 1–800–569–5959, and make your donation today. 

Thanks for listening today. 

Next week, we’ll talk about the conversation that Satan had with Eve—a conversation full of lies, lies that Eve believed and lies we believe too. Want to find out how to ignore those lies, tune in next week to Revive Our Hearts Weekend.

I’m Dannah Gresh and you’ve been listening to Revive Our Hearts Weekend, an outreach of Life Action Ministres.

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About the Teachers

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

About the Guests

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.

Melissa Kruger

Melissa Kruger

Melissa Kruger serves as the Director of Women’s Initiatives for The Gospel Coalition. She’s the author of multiple books, including Growing Together: Taking Mentoring Beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests and Wherever You Go, I Want You to Know. Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary and they have three children.