Revive Our Hearts Weekend Podcast

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The Beauty of Brokenness

Episode notes:

These series make up today's Revive Our Hearts Weekend program:

"Brokenness: The Heart God Revives"

"Offenses . . . Pride . . . and Revival!"

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Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We will never meet God in revival until we have first met Him in brokenness.

Jean Wilund: I thought brokenness was just a bunch of broken people that need prayer.

Nancy: Brokenness is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. It is a choice that I make. It is an act of my will.

Dannah Gresh: Brokenness is a strange thing to need, but today we’ll learn that it is key to our walk with God.

Welcome to Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh. 

On my farm I have two horses—Trigg my palomino Tennessee Walker. He’s a true sweetheart. His breed was cultivated to be gentle. But I also have my beloved Truett! He’s a black and white beauty who is half Arabian and half saddlebred. If you don't know, that is a combination for fiery temper and intelligent energy just waiting to be in charge. 

Every now and then—like at least once a week—he and I have a show down. He has to decide who is in charge. I’ll have to stand tall as all 1500 pounds of horse muscle twitches deciding, “Am I going to submit to this little blonde?” I persistently tell him what I want as his nostrils flairs, but ever so slowly, he lowers his head. Then begins to flick his tongue, horse language for submission.

Now, Truett never has to obey me. He can always overpower me. There’s one reason and one reason alone that I win these showdowns: someone took time to break my magnificent gelding. That is, someone spent probably two years teaching him to tolerate the saddle, submit to the bridle, accept my weight on his back, and to let me lead in our relationship. Truett is a broken horse.

There is a verse in the Bible that many of us are familiar with, Psalm 51:17. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

This verse was written by King David. You probably remember that David had taken Bathsheba as his own and had her husband killed. When God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David, David stopped and realized what he had done. He was undone; he was broken before God. He wrote Psalm 51 in response.

There are many times that we feel broken, but true brokenness before God might look a little different than how the word is thrown out these days.

David models for us true brokenness. Today, I want to take a look at what that is.

Back before Revive Our Hearts was a radio program, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth delivered a message on brokenness for the staff of the ministry Cru. Nancy’s words left a lasting impact on the men and women there, and I want us to hear those words today, to understand what true brokenness looks like. Nancy has a couple of questions for you to ponder as she begins her teaching.

Nancy: What kind of heart does God revive? And what does it take in my heart to experience ongoing continual revival? Listen if you would to these Scriptures, and I think the answer will be plain.

For thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, and to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the spirit of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15).

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Ps. 34:18).

You do not take delight in sacrifice or I would bring it. You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. Broken and a contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise (Ps. 51:15–17).

And then the Lord says, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2).

Then we hear the words of the Lord Jesus,

Blessed [to be envied, happy] are those who are poor in spirit, [those who are bankrupt, those who are poverty-stricken, those who are destitute, those who have no resources of their own] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed [happy, to be envied] are those who mourn. For they [those who mourn over their sin, those who grieve over that which grieves the heart of God] will experience the comfort that only God can give (Matt. 5:3–4).

As we hear those verses and think of many others like them in the Scripture, what is the kind of heart that God revives? The heart that God revives is the broken, the contrite, the humble heart. We are tempted to think of revival as primarily a time of joy and blessing and fullness and abundance and excitement and enthusiasm and wonder and overflowing abundance. And so at the right time, it will be. We want a painless revival. We want, so to speak, a laughing revival.

But the ways of God are: that the way up is down. We are reminded by one of the leaders of the revival in Borneo in 1973 that revivals do not begin happily with everyone having a good time. They start with a broken and a contrite heart. You see, we will never meet God in revival until we have first met Him in brokenness.

The epistle of James reminds us and calls us to

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. [But there is a process, first,] Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. [first] Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and then he will lift you up (James 4:8–10).

There may be many tears without brokenness as there may be in some cases genuine brokenness apart from the shedding of tears. You see, brokenness is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. It is a choice that I make. It is an act of my will. And brokenness is not primarily a one-time experience or a crisis experience in my life, though there may be those.

Brokenness is rather a continuous, ongoing lifestyle. It's a lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and my life as He alone can see it. It's a lifestyle of unconditional, absolute surrender of my will to God.

Even as the horse that has been broken is surrendered and sensitive to the direction and the wishes of its rider. It's a lifestyle of saying, "Yes, Lord. Not my will but Yours be done."

Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will so that the life, the Spirit, the fragrance, the life of Jesus may be released through me. Brokenness is a lifestyle of responding in humility and obedience to the conviction of God's Spirit and the conviction of His Word. As His conviction is continuous, so my brokenness must be continual.

Brokenness is a lifestyle that takes me in two directions. It's a lifestyle vertically of living, so to speak, with the roof off in my relationship toward God as I walk in the light in transparent honesty and humility before Him. But it's a lifestyle that requires also that I live with the walls down in my relationships toward others.

There are some wonderful illustrations in the Scripture of broken people. Frequently, those illustrations are set in contrast to the lives of those who were not broken. Think, for example, of two Old Testament kings who sat on the same throne. One committed egregious sins against the heart of God. He committed adultery. He lied. He committed murder to cover up his sin, and then lived for an extended period of time in covering up his treacherous, traitorous sin against God and against His nation. Yet in the Scripture we are told that Kind David was a man after God's own heart.

Then we think of the king who preceded him, King Saul, whose sin by comparison as we would measure it, does not begin to be as great as that of King David. All that Saul was guilty of, from the seeing of the eye, was incomplete obedience. And yet in response to his sin, he lost his kingdom; his family was destroyed. He came under the wrath and the judgment of God.

Why the difference? Both men were confronted by prophets over their sin. And both men said verbally, "I have sinned." But you see, when King Saul confessed his sin, his confession was in the context of blaming the people, defending himself, making excuses, rationalizing, justifying himself. He revealed the true condition of his heart when in the same breath as saying, "I have sinned," he also said, "Please don't tell the people." He covered up.

Whereas King David, when confronted with his sin, fell on his face before God in confession. The evidence of that contrite and broken heart was that he penned for all the world to see those psalms of contrition that we have in our Scriptures today.

You see, a broken person doesn't care who knows. God was not as concerned about the nature of the sin itself as He was about the heart, attitude, and response of these men when confronted with their sin.

Listen to the entire episode, "What Is True Brokenness?" This comes from the series, "Brokenness: The Heart God Revives."

Dannah: I love how Nancy compared and contrasted King Saul and King David. Did you catch that? When King Saul confessed his sin, he usually: 

  • blamed other people 
  • defended himself
  • hid it from the nation of Israel 

That doesn’t sound like a person that’s truly repentant. But then, remember David when he was faced with his sins, he fell on his face before God in confession. Nancy has another illustration for us from the gospel of Luke, chapter 15.

Nancy: Jesus gave three parables. We are told in the first verse who was in his audience. There were two groups of people in that audience. There were the publicans and sinners, the tax collectors and sinners, and we are told they came to hear Jesus. They eagerly hung on His every word. They needed Him, and they knew they needed Him.

Then there was another group over on the sideline. The Pharisees and the scribes and the teachers of the law and they were doing their typical ordinary thing. They were muttering and murmuring and criticizing, “Can you believe this man welcomes sinners and eats with them?” Aren’t you glad?

So Jesus told three parables speaking to the two segments of His audience. And I would say in this audience today every one of us in our hearts falls into one of these two categories. He spoke first of the lost sheep, then of the lost coin, and then of the lost son. He told of the two brothers and how the younger of them with the proud, rebellious, stubborn, wayward heart, took his share of the inheritance and went off into a far land where he wasted it all in riotous living.

After he had spent everything, he began to be in need. It is often our need that leads us to the pathway of brokenness and repentance. Finally having no more resources of his own, having tried everything possible to make a living himself, now destitute and poverty stricken, the Scripture says, this young man became broken. In his brokenness it says he came to his senses, he came to himself, he became honest and acknowledging what was his true condition.

He said, "I will arise, I will go to my father." This is a step of repentance, turning from going my own way and going in the way to the father. "I will say to my father, 'I have sinned against heaven, and I have sinned against you.'" Then he determined to say to his father, though his father never gave him the chance to say the words, "I am not worthy to be your son. Just let me be one of your hired servants."

You see, that's the heart attitude of the broken one, the humble person. It is the heart of “I am not worthy that you should extend your grace to me, O God. Just let me be one of your servants.” You know how the father welcomed the son, embraced him. The Father heart of God reaches out to, longs for, welcomes and embraces broken-hearted sinners.

Put the best cloak on, the sandals, the ring, let's have a party, let's celebrate!

I think, however, we are not as familiar with the latter half of the story. There was another brother, the elder brother. The Scripture tells us in the twenty-fifth verse of Luke 15 that "the older son, meanwhile, was out in the field." He was the good boy. He was out there doing what he was supposed to do, being faithful, working hard. He'd never been wayward. He'd never been rebellious—outwardly. He was faithful and hardworking.

Can I say, by the way, just out of my own heart and walk with the Lord and pilgrimage with Him, that years of tenure and a hidden desire for recognition and unfulfilled expectations can set us up to become twentieth century Pharisees.

Here is this faithful hardworking son out in the field, and he comes near the house, and he hears music and dancing. Rather than going to the source to find out what's really happening, he goes to a servant and says, "What's happening?" The servant tells him the facts but not the truth—and proud, unbroken people don't want the truth. The servant said, "Your rotten brother came home and your father's got a party going for him."

He didn’t say, “Your brother, remember how he left so high and mighty and haughty? He has come back but he is not the same person. He is broken, he is humble, and he is repentant. He hadn’t had a good meal for ages. He is at the end of everything but his heart is broken and your father has forgiven him and it is time to celebrate.”

The elder brother heard that the younger brother had come home, and he couldn't rejoice in the boy's return. The father, hearing of the anger of the elder brother, left the party. I am told in a Jewish family that when the father left that the party had to stop while the father went out to deal with the proud, unbroken, elder brother. (see Luke 15:1–32).

Isn’t it like that in so many of our ministries and churches and fellowships today? There's no celebration going on, no joy because they’re having to deal with all the proud, unbroken, angry, resentful, ripped-off people.

As I look at this elder brother, I am reminded that the higher up we go in terms of influence and leadership and responsibility and faithfulness of service, the easier it is to become proud and blinded to the real condition of our hearts. It becomes more difficult for us to be broken, for after all, we have more to lose in terms of our reputation.

Well, as we think about these different comparisons, let me ask which ones do you identify with? Do you find yourself identifying with proud King Saul? With the Pharisees? With the elder brother? Do you find yourself identifying with adulterous David? The broken, sinful tax collector? The sinner woman? The prodigal son? You say, "Well, I don't think of myself as those people."

You see, in each of these comparisons both parties had sinned. The only difference was in their response to that sin. Whether they were proud and unbroken or humbled and broken before God, aware of their sin.

Listen to the entire episode, "What Is True Brokenness?" This comes from the series, "Brokenness: The Heart God Revives."

Dannah: That was a part of a very powerful message that Nancy gave to the staff of Cru more than twenty-five years ago, and God changed many lives through what she said—including my own. Though we hadn't met yet, God used that message in my life.

Nancy wrote a book on this topic based on this message. It’s called Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. It’s absolutely without question my favorite book that Nancy has ever written. In fact, I’ve worn my copy out! This book is in our store, and I think it needs to be on your bookshelf. We have a link to the book and also to Nancy’s message on brokenness. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com/weekend and click on today’s episode, “The Beauty of Brokenness.”

This is Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh.

In the message we just heard from Nancy, she said “It is often our need that leads us to the pathway of brokenness and repentance.” Are you aware of your need? I want you to hear Jean’s story. God used a small, little insult to make Jean realize her need.

Jean Wilund: It was really ridiculous. She said something, and, honestly, I don’t even remember what she said. It was just a silly little insult that I can’t even remember what it was. I just remember feeling insulted.

How dare she? “I cannot believe you said that!” It really was that embarrassing.

I thought, This is ridiculous! I am going to forgive her because I’m just being silly. But I couldn’t. So finally I knew what I needed to do. I wrote her a letter and asked her to forgive me. I knew enough not to say, “Please forgive me for the way I have treated you because of what you said to me.” I knew not to mention anything that she had done. It was just all what I had done.

I asked her to forgive me, and I mailed it off. I felt such peace and freedom. It was incredible.

A few days later, I got a letter—this was way before email and text messages. I got a letter back from her, and I opened it up, eager to read it. It said, “I forgive you.” She didn’t ask for forgiveness for anything. “I didn’t start this. You did!”

So I crumpled it up and threw it in the trash can and said, “We’re right back where we were. I have no idea how to forgive this woman.”

Dannah: Jean signed up for a Revive Our Hearts conference with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. To prepare attendees, Nancy asked them to answer this question:

Jean: "Was there anyone that you were struggling to forgive?"

I definitely had this one ex-friend. That’s what popped up, because I knew it was so petty, and yet it just grabbed me.

Dannah: The time for the conference in Myrtle Beach drew closer, and words like brokenness and revival kept coming up. Jean had some misconceptions about these terms.

Jean: Before I got there, I thought brokenness was just a bunch of broken people that need prayer and revival was a southern tent meeting with revival-shouting preachers and all of that.

Nancy in 1997: What kind of heart is it that God revives? Who is the kind of person, the kind of woman, the kind of individual, the kind of church member that God looks to, that He has mercy on, that He reaches out to? The Scripture tells us, and you saw it in all of those verses: The heart that God revives is the humble, broken heart.

Jean: I had no idea what she was talking about, but when she laid it out in the Bible and took us through what it really means, it transformed my entire life from that moment on.

Nancy in 1997: Rather, brokenness is an act of our will. It is a choice. And it is an ongoing lifestyle.

Jean: Over the course of the weekend, I discovered how much pride lived in my heart, in sneaky places. That’s what I’ve called it since then. It’s sneaky pride. It will hide in places that look good. I called it righteousness—righteous anger. But, man, she just blew the walls off of that. I had no idea that I was actually somebody that was eaten up with pride.

Nancy in 1997: Proud women have a critical, fault-finding spirit. They look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope, but their own with a telescope.

Jean: This was one of those moments where everything in my life changed. It was a turning point. And nothing was ever the same again after that weekend.

Dannah: Once Jean embraced true humility and brokenness, she knew she needed to make things right with her friend.

Jean: soon as I got home, I called her and said, “Can we get together for coffee?” 

And she said, “Sure.” 

Because, in her mind, I had asked for forgiveness, so we were good. But I really hadn’t had any communication with her after that. So I called her up and said, “Can we get together for coffee?”

And then I told her the whole story. And we laughed, and we had a great evening. There wasn’t even an ounce of bitterness or anger towards her. We had a renewed friendship, and everything was great, and we’ve laughed ever since.

Jean: I am very thankful for everything that Revive Our Hearts has done, for me personally, but for all the women that God has brought to them. I really don’t know where my story would be today without the influence of Revive Our Hearts because I was blind to my pride, and it hurt a lot of people.

When I realized how much pride really harbored in my heart, and I saw the damage that I was doing to the people that I love, that was when I could finally humble myself before the Lord—truly humble myself—and seek forgiveness and become the wife that I needed to be, to be the friend that I longed to be, and to be the mom that my children needed me to be. I’ve been so far from perfect, but that message that Revive Our Hearts has given consistently over the years, I have been able to see who I really am day by day and choose daily brokenness.

I don’t beat myself up, but I’m not blind to who I am anymore. And that keeps me before the throne of God. That keeps me humble before Him and grateful that He has chosen to even use me. I’m baffled at the grace that He has shown me, and it’s all because I feel like I understand more acutely who I am in Christ, who I am without Christ, and who He is.

Dannah: Such powerful words! I hope Jean's story today encouraged you. I hope you understand what I'm trying to share today. If you want revival in your life, it needs to start with brokenness. Broken people understand they need God, like Jean. Broken people are compassionate. Broken people are willing to give up the right to be right, they are self-denying and motivated to serve others.

Thank you, Father, that you are continually shaping us and making us into more of You—even in our brokenness. You see what we could never see. You bring beauty from ashes.

We want to help you on your journey through brokenness to revival and that happens as we keep God’s words every before us. To help you do this is the—hot off the presses—Revive Our Hearts calendar for 2022. Oh, friend, I’ve got to tell you, I so appreciate seeing the 2021 calendar on my office wall each day and being reminded of who He is. Each month as I flip the page, I'm washed afresh with the promises of God. 

The theme for the 2022 calendar is Grounded, and it is full of Bible verses and encouragement. This calendar is yours when you give a gift of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. You can do that by calling 1–800–569–5959, or go to ReviveOurHearts.com/weekend. Be sure to ask for the 2022 calendar.

Some days I sure long for heaven more than others. And I’ve gotta admit the days that are full of joy and happiness—like when I’m with my sweet, little grandbabies, I want to stay right here. But when I read the Bible I’m reminded that heaven is so much better than anything I’m experiencing here on earth. Next week, we’ll talk about heaven, and why we need to be longing for it.

Thanks for listening today. Thanks to our team: Phil Krause, Blake Bratton, Rebekah Krause, Justin Converse, Michelle Hill, and for Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh.

Revive Our Hearts Weekend is calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

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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.

About the Host

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 Guest

Jean Wilund

Jean Wilund

Jean Wilund is passionate about leading women into a greater understanding of the Bible and a deeper relationship with God. She serves ROH as a member of the Leader Connection blogging team and a moderator for the Women’s Ministry Leader Facebook Group. Follow along with Jean on her website JeanWilund.com and her YouTube channel as she walks through God’s Word and answers questions about the Bible and a life surrendered to Christ.