Like many of you I went to the fair last week. Before I voluntarily dole out good money to walk into a mass of humanity, I tend to mentally brace myself for the shock of skin I know I will be seeing. This year was no exception. I know I sound like a crotchety old lady but, seriously, if you would feel uncomfortable sitting across the table from grandma in what you are wearing, you may want to reconsider your attire for public viewing. There, I got my crotchetiness out of the way (yes, that is a real word, it even passed spell check!).
Ladies, this blog is not necessarily about modesty, but it is very much about applying godly wisdom to what you physically put on your body. I will not tell you what you can and cannot wear, if that is what you think you hear from me, you are not listening. You must understand that practicing discretion in what you wear is not about the clothing, it is very much about the heart condition of the person putting the clothes on. Do I see a lot of heart issues around me? Absolutely, I see them in lost strangers at the fair, in saved friends at church and most certainly in the person looking back at me in the mirror every day.
Here is what is essential that you understand first. Once God has claimed us as his own, our lives should have one, singular focus. That focus is to bring glory to God (this discussion will hold zero validity to those outside of God’s family). God expresses this in Isaiah 42:7, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Also, in 1 Cor. 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The epitome of God’s glory is seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (read John 17:1-5). Therefore our lives need to be spent on proclaiming this good news to others in order to multiply God’s glory. This is why Jesus commanded us before his ascension to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15.
What does all this have to do with what you put on in the morning? Everything. If the gospel of Christ is to be central in our lives, everything we do must revolve around that principal (this keeps the Christian walk relatively simple to understand, although often difficult to carry out as we battle the flesh constantly).
I’ve explained all of the above to get to this important point: even what we wear must point to the gospel. What we place upon ourselves should point the world to Jesus, displaying that our lives have been purchased by our God and we no longer belong to ourselves. I do not dress to bring attention to myself, I dress to direct attention to my Father. Just as God is King over our families and everything we own, he is also King over our bodies and how we decorate them.
A good way to check ourselves in this area is to see if what we are putting on our bodies is pointing away from the gospel. Are people who see you distracted by what you are wearing? Are people noticing your jewelry, shoes, make-up, hair, exposed skin or even your tattoos more than they are paying attention to the message of hope you are supposed to be proclaiming? Maybe you fall prey to advertising for false idols or worldly ideals by constantly branding yourself with logos, teams or organizations. Another direction to consider - are you slothful in caring for your body? Being unkempt with poor hygiene and unhealthy habits also impacts the display of the gospel in your life.
Another good question to ask yourself: when others think of you, is it a physical image that pops into their minds or is it thoughts of your good works and gentle and quiet spirit? Never devalue the adorning that God sees as “very precious” (read 1 Peter 3:2-4). His opinion is the only opinion that matters and we need to live like we believe it.
It is most certainly okay to be physically beautiful, it is okay to look nice and dress well. God hand-crafted each of us with unique gifts and blessings, but everything, everything, everything is to be used for his glory and in submission to his authority. So be wise and discerning in what you put on externally. Dress for Christ and not yourself, consider that as you make your choices each day. It really will make a difference. You don’t want to be the beautiful gold ring with an ugly pig problem (see Proverbs 11:22).
Ladies, cause your bodies to be servants of the gospel message. Do not try to impress the world, but instead decide to love those around you well. Care about the purity of thought of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Care about those who are lost, let them be drawn by your devotion to Jesus and not your worldly accessories. Adorn yourself with the gospel inside and out.
No, I didn’t choke on any fluffy pom-pom balls, I wasn’t burned by glue guns, and I didn’t get strangled by pipe cleaners…but those options may have been more enjoyable. I led crafts for VBS at our church. Just for one night…but there were three sessions. It was rough. Afterwards, I wanted to run home and tell my husband that all the kids were mean to me and no one wanted to be my friend. Instead, I pouted and dug out the bag of chocolate I had stashed away for emergencies like this.
I thought my patience was growing and that my control issues were resolving. I am apparently regressing. If you need to be reminded that you really have no control over others, just stand in front of a dozen or so 5 to 7 year olds and try to explain to them the process of making a salvation bracelet. Yes, I admit, the thought of “total depravity” did cross my mind (do we really need any more evidence than that?).
I love kids, really, I do. Just in small, quiet doses. It’s hard staying cool trying to explain the sequence of: triple knot, black bead, red bead, white bead, blue bead, green bead, another triple knot, yellow bead, and triple knot again (side note: I vote to go with one, big rainbow bead next year, we can probably just tape it to their shirt or something). Plus, explanations and scripture verses all in 20 minutes. Throughout this (attempted) instruction, these kids seemed to have lots to say. To each other, of course. They weren’t very concerned with the red-faced lady, shouting and waving her arms in the front. Aghh! Don’t they know I’m trying to save their souls with the gospel via these colorful plastic beads!?!
Oh my…deep breath. Where did I put that chocolate?
Wow, it sure doesn’t take much for God to put our weaknesses on display! A little stress and the uglies come out. All God has to do is add a little heat and our sins come boiling to the surface. A little push where we don’t really want to go (teaching craft time in VBS) and out comes heart issues God wants dealt with (pride, control, vanity, lack of patience, oh…and idolizing chocolate). Ouch, God! I was pretty comfortable keeping all of those issues hidden and staying ignorant of my condition.
God has something to say about this: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13. Hidden sins, whether we are aware of them or not (and often we are but choose to ignore them) will not benefit us in any way. In fact, the very next verse says this, “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Proverbs 28:14). Ignoring sin in our lives is hardening our hearts toward the Lord. What does this lead to? Calamity! Calamity is “a state of deep distress or misery caused by major misfortune or loss.” (merriam-webster.com) And we don’t just bump into calamity, we fall into it. That fall is going to bring some serious hurt.
Our holy God will not put up with any sin in our lives, certainly not ones we are trying to hide or ignore. That calamity-inducing sin needs to go. God didn’t send his son to pay our debt in blood just for us to harbor evil. Jesus shed his blood on the cross so we could be washed clean of ALL sin.
God doesn’t ask for our opinion or consult our feelings before doing what he knows needs to be done. He is God. He may shove you in front of a bunch of sweaty, loud 6 year olds who have microscopic attention spans. He may allow someone you love to say something hurtful. He may let your child stomp on your last nerve. He may just give you a no good, rotten day. As you begin to feel those all-of-a-sudden-not-so-hidden sins begin to boil up within you (i.e. anger, hatred, control issues, dissatisfaction with God, impatience, blame, pride, etc.), remember two things:
Let’s thank God for his continuous work of purifying our hearts. He is a loving God who will not leave any heart-issue unresolved. Examine your life today and see what God is using to tease out hidden sin in your life. He may use a friend, a situation or even strings of colorful plastic beads.
We moved into our current home in snowy February of 2005. When spring arrived I was anxious to see what came up in the flower gardens. The first to appear was a single purple hyacinth in the front. I thought it was beautiful. About five years ago we had all of the front landscaping redone. Everything was dug out, new plants put in, and heavy river rock dumped over all of it. Summer, fall and winter passed. As the last snows were melting and spring was approaching, what do I see pushing up through the heavy rocks? The bright foliage of the purple hyacinth.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that God “…upholds the universe by the word of his power.” God’s simple command to that flower was, “Grow.” Not so difficult with the initial, favorable conditions, but then rocks were dumped on its head. God’s command remained the same, “Grow.” And so it did, even with the load that had been placed upon it.
We ladies can learn a lesson from this little flower. We comfortably pursue spiritual growth in Christ when conditions are favorable and life is dealing us a “fair hand”, but when the rocks begin to drop, things change. A few small rocks we can handle, but what happens when they keep coming? Or when they come all at once, like a dump truck being backed up to your life and emptying its bucket. Then everything is suddenly crashing upon your head.
What do you hear from God? Just like the flower, it is a simple command…“Grow.”
You want to scream that things are too difficult and that this isn’t right. You have rocks on top of you - a huge burden and a weight that you simply can’t carry. Pebbles and boulders with various titles: marital discord, sickness, stress, trauma, financial strain, an unsaved husband, injury, loneliness, busyness, or anxiety. Some of them have names like Jacob, Emily or Andrew.
God says…”Grow.” “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro… Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” – Ephesians 4:14-15.
Some of us feel the weight and want to cave. God can’t possibly expect us to pursue him when we have so much going on… he’s the one who gave us all of this! This sovereign God is the one driving the dump truck.
God says…”Grow”. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18. Growth in Christ brings glory to God which is our purpose for being alive. Therefore, there will be no break in that command, ever.
Here is the heart of it all. First, understand this powerful truth is only for authentic believers. No growth is expected or demanded of those who are not in the family of God; it is not possible for them (you have to fear God before knowledge is possible, see Proverbs 1:7). For those in Christ, listen up. The hyacinth grew not because of its own power or ability, it grew because God commanded it to. God will not command something that cannot be done. If God commands something, it is already done. Sit on that truth for a while. For us, this is spelled out in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.” How is this possible? The answer is found in the same book in 2:18, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
If God causes a little flower to obey him, how much more will he bring about what he commands to see in you? Trust him in this. When the rocks fall and you feel the weight, keep striving toward Christ. Read the Word, pray to God, be with the Body, and worship him. Don’t allow excuses to creep in and hold you down. Reach upward, drawing upon the strength of Christ and the help of the Holy Spirit. Let the stark contrast of beauty among the rocks proclaim the glory of God’s steady grace in your life. Grow.
These are the words I have hanging on the wall opposite my bed. I read them every morning and every night. They have become a sort of prayer for me. I ask God to let it be true, let me be kept close to him by his grace alone…without which I walk directly away.
These words are from a hymn entitled “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” which some of you know. It was written by hymnist Robert Robinson in 1757 when he was only 22 years old. The entire hymn is beautiful, but my focus usually lands on the final verse, as it will today. Here it is:
O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above
Ladies, are you prone to wander? Are you prone to leave the God you declare to love? Yes, you are! I don’t have to wait for an answer from you, I know it already. I see it in your lifestyles; I hear it when you tell me of your struggles. But above all of that, I know it is true because I feel the wandering of my own heart daily. There is a constant drawing away from God in our lives. Like the current of a river that works to push against us as we walk upstream. So is the world around us as we walk in faith toward our Savior.
This should not come as a surprise to us (although it often does), the Bible tells us that as children of God we “live in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15). John tells us that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19). What more would a twisted world with an evil ruler desire than to pull us away from our God, our “fount of every blessing” as the hymn describes him?
So expect it, Ladies, expect it every. single. day. Know that your path will be a fight against the current of the world. Be engaged in this fight and vigilant in guarding your heart. Follow what we are told in Psalm 119:10-11, “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Seek the Lord and store up the words of God in your heart. Do this day in and day out - when you feel like it and when you don’t.
What this looks like daily is reading God’s word (yes, every single day!), praising him in prayer and worship and staying connected to other Christians. It will be evidenced in what music you listen to, what you are reading, what you are watching, what you are doing with your family, how you speak and even church attendance. Saturate your lives with Christ and gather with others who will be doing the same. It is only then that we get to experience “streams of mercy never ceasing” as also declared in this hymn.
Away from God is barrenness; with God is a flourishing of soul with streams of living waters. Pray for God to bind your wandering heart to him. Only he can keep you as his, try as we might we cannot earn his presence. For those God has adopted into his family, trust that he will keep you from wandering completely away (thus the fetter or chain). Understand that this is all GRACE. These are not cords of restraint, but an embrace of love. Like a mother holds her infant child, so God keeps us close to himself, knowing what is best for us.
Ladies, as the world continues to pull at us there will be times we wander, but let these times be fewer and fewer. Learn to push against the current and press on with the strength of Christ found in his word. Like the final line in the hymn, let us offer up our hearts to the Lord asking him to seal them as his. Looking forward to the day when our wanderings cease and we enjoy his presence forevermore.