Revive Our Hearts Radio

The Dry Branch

Leslie Basham: Do you really appreciate God’s grace? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God’s grace will not seem precious to you until you have come to the end of yourself and your own resources and your own abilities—until you come to the place where you say, “I give up! I can’t live this life! I can’t do this! I’m such a failure!” God’s grace is for failures.

Leslie: It’s Monday, October 8, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Revival will affect your actions. We’ve looked at some of these actions over the last few weeks: honesty, humility, and repentance. But no matter how many radio programs you listen to, you still can’t develop these qualities in your life unless you have God’s grace. Let’s talk about grace, as Nancy continues the series, Seeking Him.

Nancy: We are in the process of Seeking Him—seeking the Lord and seeking Him for personal and corporate revival.

I know that some of you are going with us through the twelve-week book called, Seeking Him. Others of you have been following along in this series. This is week five of what will be a twelve-week series on seeking the Lord and coming to experience the joy of personal revival.

If you’ve been with us for the last several weeks, you remember that we started out by talking about how revival involves a process. The first part of that process is time consuming. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s the plowing part of the process. If you think of the farming analogy—first, the soil has to be prepared so that it can receive the seed.

I warned you that you were going to feel, a few weeks into this series, as if the plow was never going to come out of the ground—that it was going to be hard and painful as we let God turn up the soil of our hearts. If you’ve been with us, I think you know that this has been the case.

We have spent a week each on: talking about humility, transparent honesty, and repentance. You may be wondering, “Are we ever going to stop plowing? Will there ever be the time to plant the seeds and let there be a breather from the ‘plowing process?’”

Well, this week is a “breather from the plowing process,” as we talk about something I think we’re finally ready to appreciate—perhaps in a whole new way, after what God has been showing us.

For example, if you’ve been following with us and listening, a couple of weeks ago, we gave a 40-question test on pride. Some people shared with me, after they took that test, that they had almost every one of those 40 evidences of pride in their life, and they felt a little overwhelmed.

Maybe you have felt that—overwhelmed by all God is showing you about yourself and your sin and your pride. You’ve seen your sinfulness, and maybe you’re at the point where you feel like, “I’m a total failure!” In fact, perhaps you’ve even felt like giving up. “I’ll never make it. God could never do anything with my life. I could never experience revival. I just can’t live this Christian life!”

If you’ve come to that point, “That’s wonderful!” Because what we’re going to talk about this week is for failures. It’s for people who can’t live the Christian life. I’ll just clue you in—that is really all of us! There’s not a person among us, who doesn’t need the grace of God!

God’s grace will not seem to be precious to you, until you have come to the end of yourself and your own resources and your own abilities—until you’ve come to the place where you say, “I give up! I can’t live this life! I can’t do this! I’m such a failure!” Grace—God’s grace is for failures.

That’s why we’ve waited until week five of this series to talk about the grace of God. We have talked about our pride and our need for humility and our pretense and all the things we cover up and all the things we need to repent of. Now, we come to lift up and shine a spotlight on the grace of God. It’s mentioned 123 times in the New Testament: “God’s grace.”

Paul starts every one of his epistles by saying, “Grace and peace to you, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” By the way—there is no other place to get grace, other than through Christ our Savior.

It is impossible for anyone to live the Christian life apart from God’s grace. You can’t do it. You just can’t do it. The grace of God is the only basis on which anyone can have any relationship with God. I’m going to talk about that this week. Some of it is focused on the many-faceted ways that the grace of God, enables us to have a relationship with God.

Now it sounds like an obvious thing, but let me just state it anyway. There is no source for ultimate grace apart from God. He is the source of all true grace. Grace is a gift from God. Always, always, always—grace is a gift—it's a gift from God.

Psalm 84:11a: “The Lord will give grace and glory” (NKJV). First Peter 5:10, God is called “the God of all grace.” When you need grace you know where to go to get it. Go to the God of all grace. That’s what He specializes in. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that grace is the gift of God.

It is a fullness of His grace that He offers us. Let me just read to you a few phrases from the New Testament epistles that describe the grace of God. Paul talks about the immeasurable riches of His grace. Immeasurable—that’s a huge word. You can’t measure it! There’s no limit to it: the immeasurable riches of His grace (Ephesians 2:7, ESV).

I can think of some people who are very, very wealthy. But I don’t know anybody who has immeasurable riches. They might be worth $50 billion dollars, but that’s measurable. God’s grace, on the other hand, is immeasurably rich!

Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 9 about the surpassing or the exceeding grace of God (verse 14, ESV). It surpasses anything you can imagine. It surpasses your need; it surpasses your failure. Whatever your need, God’s grace exceeds your need.

In the same chapter, 2 Corinthians 9, Paul says that God is able to make all grace abound to you (verse 8, ESV). Not only is He the God of all grace, but He is able to give all of that grace to you. You say, “There are some days I need all the grace I can get!” Do you know what? There is not a day, that you don’t need all grace. God is able to make all grace abound to you!

Peter talks in 1 Peter 4 about God’s varied manifold grace, many-faceted, multi-faceted (verse 10, ESV). Like a prism that shines from every direction; it reflects the light. It radiates light. The multi-faceted, the manifold, varied grace of God.

The essence of grace, pure and simple—and I know I’m saying some things that so many of you are familiar with, but some of us have lost the wonder of God’s grace. I have been asking God, even as I have been teaching this session, to restore to me a fresh sense of the wonder of God’s grace.

The essence of grace is that it is a free gift and that it is undeserved and that it is given to the helpless. It’s a free gift. It’s undeserved. It is given to the helpless.

The Old Testament doesn’t talk a lot about the grace of God, but it talks some about the favor of God and God having favor on widows and orphans and the poor. It also talks about God taking the helpless—those who have nothing to offer—and pouring out His grace on the helpless. No charge. You can’t pay for it. You can’t earn it. You can’t deserve it. It’s a free gift. It’s undeserved. It is given to those who have no resource of their own. They’re helpless.

As we have been talking about God’s grace, I know what you’re really wanting to know is, “How do I get more of it? How do I get this all-sufficient grace?” I’m going to introduce this thought, and then we’ll expand it during the rest of this week.

The bottom line—that we read again and again and again in Scripture is—that there is one way to get more of God’s grace. That is to go where we started in this series—and that is to humble yourself. That is why we started with humility because you can never get God’s grace until you humble yourself.

Proverbs 3 says, “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor [grace]” (ESV). James chapter 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 both tell us, “God opposes the proud.”  We’ve talked about that part of the verse. “God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble” (NKJV). The humble are those who have nothing to offer Him—those who can’t pay Him back.

"Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling” ( "Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me" by Augustus Montague Toplady, 1740-1778).   Lord, I don’t deserve Your goodness. I don’t deserve Your favor. I don’t deserve Your help. I don’t deserve Your mercy. I don’t deserve Your goodness. I don’t deserve anything from You, but judgment. I have nothing to offer You except that Christ died for me, and I accept that gift of Your grace to meet all of my need.

I humble myself. I say, “Lord, I need You. I can’t live this Christian life without You. I can’t handle this circumstance without You. I need You.”

I think there are few words that we can say that are more precious to the heart of our Father God than for Him to hear His children say, “Father, I need You. I need You!” You love to hear your children say that. You love to have them come and ask you to meet their needs and to have them trust you enough to say, “I can’t do this. Would you help me?”

God loves it when we trust Him enough to humble ourselves and say, “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t love that person. I can’t handle these children. I can’t handle this circumstance. I can’t deal with this temptation. But You can. I need Your grace.”

I have a redbud maple tree outside the window of my bedroom on the first floor. I went out this morning and noticed that some of the branches on that tree are very green and alive. It’s a beautiful tree; I really enjoy it. Then, I noticed that there are other branches on that tree that look like this. Now if you can’t see what I’m holding up, this is a very dead, dry stalk here.

I was reminded, as I was looking at that dead branch, of a passage in Scripture that talks about the grace of God. Let me ask you to open in your Bibles to the book of Ephesians in the New Testament, Ephesians chapter 2. By way of preview, before we look at chapter 2, if you were to look at chapter 1, you would notice that the grace of God is a major theme in the book of Ephesians.

Paul starts the book by saying, “Grace and peace to you” (Ephesians 1:2, NIV). He talks about the riches of God's grace through which we have forgiveness of our sins (verses 6-7). But then he comes to chapter 2, and he says that you were dead. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (verses 1-3, ESV).

That is a description of the person who has never tasted and experienced the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Paul said, “You were lifeless, like this branch.”

Now I could take this branch—this dead branch—and I could stick it in a vase. I could put water in it. I could put fertilizer in that vase. I could shine pretty lights on it and play music for it and pray for it, but what would happen to that branch? I could say, “Branch live!” But instead, it has no ability to live. I could say, “Branch grow green leaves.” But it couldn’t grow green leaves.

Why? It’s dead. There is no life in that stick, in that branch. It is incapable of producing life. Paul says, “That’s what was true of us, until the grace of God came to us through Jesus Christ—we were dead!”

One of the old-time saints, Samuel Rutherford said it this way: “I am a dry and withered branch, a piece of dead carcass, dry bones, and not able to step over a straw.”

When you tell a person who is spiritually dead, “Obey God. Keep the Ten Commandments. Love God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself,” that person, who can’t step over a piece of straw certainly doesn’t have the capacity to obey God any more than that branch has the capacity to bear leaves.

But then Paul comes to verse four, having shown us our miserable condition. We were dead. We were following the desires, the passions—the natural passions of our body and our mind. We were by nature children of wrath—children under God’s judgment.

“But God,” verse four. Aren’t you thankful for the “but God’s,” of Scripture? “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love which He loved us, even when we were dead [helpless, lifeless, couldn’t step over a straw,] in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (and verse 5, ESV).

We’ve been saying that God’s grace is for helpless people, for people who cannot help themselves. When we were dead, we could not bear fruit; we could not obey God. God supernaturally breathed life into these dead carcasses, these dry bones, these dry and withered branches. Supernaturally. Conversion; salvation; a new birth. New life is a miracle. It is a gift of God. “By grace you have been saved!”

Verse 7: “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing” (and verse 8, ESV).

You didn’t say, “I think I’ll go down an aisle.” Well, you may have said that. But you didn’t go down an aisle and say, “I think I’ll become a Christian,” without God stirring and moving in your heart and by the power of the Holy Spirit saying to you, “You need a Savior.” He convicted you of your sin, showing you Christ, giving you a heart of repentance and a heart of faith to believe in Christ.

God initiated all of that. God wooed you, by the power of His Holy Spirit. He drew you. you can’t say, “I did something to get God’s grace.”

“And this [grace] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (verses 8b-9, ESV).

The grace of God is the only means through which sinful, fallen man can ever have a relationship with God. I’m not just talking about wicked people out there who do wicked things. I’m talking about people like me, who grew up in the church and have never known anything—except being surrounded by the things of God.

God’s grace is absolutely essential for people like me, who grew up doing a lot of right things and knowing a lot of right things. But, I was helpless to have a relationship with God—apart from God’s grace having favor and mercy on me.

How can we have a relationship with God? Only by His grace. Can I suggest that this is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the history of the world? The basic question is: “How can man be rightly related to God?” The answer is simply: “Only by the grace of God.” If you compare every other religion with the grace of God, you will find the difference.

For example, if you look at every other religion, what do they believe about man? That man is basically good—that man is able to do something to please whatever his image is of God.

In the “grace way,” of thinking, we realize that man is inherently sinful and that he cannot please God. He’s absolutely, utterly helpless.

Religion is a way of law and works and obligation. The grace way is a way of gift and faith in God’s mercy on helpless people. In all the religions of the world, where do people place their trust? In self. It’s self-reliance, self-dependence: “What can I do to please God?”

In the grace way of thinking, where do we place our trust? In Christ. He alone is my hope of eternal life.

What is the result of religion man’s way? It leads to condemnation. It leads to death. It leads to being in bondage to sin—and it leads to boasting.

You say, “How can you boast if you’re a fallen sinner?” Because people do good things and then they think that can please God, so they boast to their works, as Paul says in Ephesians 2 (verse 9).

But what happens in the grace way of thinking? It results in forgiveness and life and righteousness, instead of boasting—humility. We realize, “I had nothing to offer God. I had nothing to do with bringing myself to repentance, to faith, to conversion. I didn’t bring about this relationship with God. This was His gift—undeserved, pure and simple from start to finish.”

Some of you have heard this all your life. But have you forgotten how precious God’s grace is that saved you? It’s what distinguishes your faith from every other faith in the world. The definition of religion is essentially human self-effort, human self-reliance—man’s effort to earn salvation as a reward for his behavior and his good works. It’s dependent on his own merits.

But the definition of God’s grace system is that it’s a free work of God—a gift of God. It’s based on the death of Christ. It’s based on the merits of Christ who redeems and saves all who believe.

As I was meditating on these thoughts this morning, I came in a little book I’ve been reading by Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Daily Readings, to the readings for today. He is talking in both the morning and evening sections about Mephibosheth—that Old Testament character. I thought this just fit so perfectly.

Remember that Mephibosheth was the son of David’s dear friend Jonathan, the grandson of King Saul. When King Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, Mephibosheth was five years old. His nurse was carrying him one day and tripped and fell. As a result, he became lame in both his legs.

When David came to the throne, remember he had a covenant with Jonathan, “I’ll take care of your children and your family.” David began to inquire about his family. He said, “Is there anyone left in Jonathan’s family?”

Someone came up and said, “Yes, there’s Mephibosheth, but he’s a cripple. You wouldn’t want him.” Contrary to what people would have expected, David found Mephibosheth. He brought him into his palace. He said, “I want you to sit at my table—the king’s table—in the palace, and I want you to eat of my food and be a part of my family for the rest of your life.”

Here is what Charles Spurgeon had to say about that passage. He said,

Mephibosheth was no great ornament to a royal table, yet he had a continual place at David’s board [table], because the king could see in his face the features of the beloved Jonathan . . . Such is the love which the Father bears to His only begotten [Son], that for His sake He raises His lowly brethren from poverty and banishment [that is where Mephibosheth was: ‘in poverty and banishment’], to courtly companionship, noble rank, and royal provision. (Morning by Morning, May 27th)

He concludes by saying, “Let it be published in heaven as a wonder, that the Lord Jesus should set His heart’s love upon such as we are” (Evening by Evening, May 27th).

Let it be published in heaven as a wonder—a wonder—that the Lord Jesus should set His heart’s love on such as we are! That is God’s grace!

Leslie: So many have been using the word grace all their lives but don’t know what it means. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping me see grace in a new light. I hope today’s teaching did that for you too.

Get into a deeper study of grace with the workbook, Seeking Him. Nancy wrote it along with Tim Grissom and the staff of Life Action Ministries. It will challenge your thinking about grace and a lot of other topics including honesty, purity and humility. Each section explores a different quality of personal revival.

A woman from Texas wrote to say, “Seeking Him was a life-changing experience for me.” She continued, “I praise God! May He bless you in your ministry a hundred fold!” She appreciates the way Nancy seeks God and says, “It’s contagious.”

Let that passion for seeking the Lord spread to you. Get more information about the Seeking Him Workbook and other Seeking Him related resources. Donate by phone at 1-800-569-5959, or you can go online to ReviveOurHearts.com.

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Every year, the team here creates these calendars as a work of art—and this year is no exception. It’s yours, when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it, when you call 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do you ever find yourself wanting to be perfect? Is that even a worthy goal? Is it even realistic? We will cover those questions tomorrow, continuing on the subject of grace. 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 English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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