I heard this on the Desiring God Pod-Cast. Episode 597 (May 15, 2015) was a question/answer session with Trip Lee, a Reformed Christian Rapper, addressing the issue of believers watching on-screen nudity. I have posted a link to it here, as a follow up to my previous post, “How Can A Believer Not Be Grieved By Watching Sin?”.
A brother in the Lord recently posted the following commentary about a movie that is in the theaters right now (I am not going to mention the name of the movie- it is irrelevant to the point of my post). It left me wondering how can a believer not be grieved by watching immoral entertainment- sin.
“We saw the new _____________ movie as a family for Mother’s Day. It really bothered me. You could see the producers anti-God world-view through the whole movie. It was dark and sometimes evil. There were comments against Jesus multiple times. The women actors wanted to be sexually immoral with ______…and on and on.”
What astonished me about this brother’s commentary of the movie wasn’t so much that the movie was full of that stuff, but some of the responses that other professing Christians had to his post. One person disagreed with the post outright and another accused him of undue criticism. That was interesting to me, because if you re-read what he wrote, you will see that he did not criticize the movie at all. He stated three things: 1st- that he saw the movie, 2nd- that the movie bothered him, and 3rd- he explained – point by point – why the movie bothered him. Logically, (and I do mean ‘logically’ in a ‘logical syllogism’ sort of way- not just the expression), it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to disagree with him, or to say that he was being critical. After all, he only shared, how he felt about the movie and why he felt that way about the movie. If what he wrote about the movie is true (and I am assuming that it is, since I have not seen it, but I know this person well enough to know that he is not lying), he was neither being critical, nor did he write anything that can be logically disagreed with.
Now, the point of me sharing this is that I do not understand how any Christian could see a movie which intentionally presents an anti-God world view, has a ‘dark and evil’ undercurrent, misuses and abuses of the name of Jesus Christ, contains multiple scenes of crude sexual immorality, and enjoy it, calling it ‘entertainment’. Something seems ‘off’ to me about that. Our friend felt as I’d think all believers would feel after being exposed to those sins, after watching immoral entertainment that depicts those sins.
Of course, I understand that all true Christians desire to avoid being legalistic. We should avoid legalism- at all costs- for legalism (pharisaism) puts people in hell, just as much as gross immorality does (maybe even more so). And, Jesus Himself warned, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:15). But, we need to be honest with ourselves, being entertained by sin is not what the Lord had in mind when He said that. We know that because, in another place, the Word commands that Christians, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord“ (Hebrews 12:14). To me, that is a terrifying thought – not seeing the Lord, for not being holy. I know that in some theological constructs the ‘once saved always saved’ paradigm frees people from taking the necessity of the pursuit of holiness seriously, but it shouldn’t, since people that are really saved (i.e., the regenerate) pursue holiness. So, setting the issue of legalism aside, I still ask, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
I use to think that some believers just had more liberty for stuff like that than I did. I reasoned that since the Lord saved me out of sin, movies that depict my former lifestyle bother me more than they bother other believers that have no personal history with deep immorality. I use to think to myself, “Self, you know what this issue is really all about? It is about Christian Liberty. I am the Proverbial weaker brother- in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. Other Christians can watch pornographic scenes, and not be bothered, because they were probably never exposed to real pornography and they probably never saw the devastating effects that porn has on a home, or on a person. Other Christians can pay money to listen to people use the Lord’s name being used as a vulgarity with out it bothering them. After all, they were probably not raised as godless as I was…” When I was a girl, I heard the Lord’s name used as a swear all the time. I had no idea that it was a sin to say His name in vain. So, when I started to grow in my faith and I saw older believers watching and listening to immoral things, I just assumed that they had more liberty than I did. But, now I know the Word well enough to know that enjoying immoral entertainment and enjoying an occasional glass of wine is not the same thing. (Although, for the record I do not, personally, have the liberty to drink alcoholic beverages.) So, I still do not get it, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
I have known quite a few very sincere people who think that they have an edge on evangelism, because they can use what ever movie or questionable activity they are involved in as a platform for the Gospel (with the unsaved). They can be especially critical of Christians, like me, that question whether we should enjoy those types of movies and entertainment. I can understand that mentality. I would only say that the Lord taught that the Holy Spirit was going to come to earth to “…convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8). Therefore, if our lives are not useful to that end- we are probably not as evangelistic as we think that we are. Besides, when I was in the world- I thought lukewarm Christians were hypocrites, not culturally relevant. So I still do not get it, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
Jesus Christ was tortured and crucified for sin. We, who are saved, are being spared the awful eternal consequences of our sin because of that torturous crucifixion. As Christians we are saying that we have turned away from our lives of sin and turned towards God in a pursuit of His holiness for His glory and His purposes. Immoral entertainment glorifies sin and death- it glorifies the opposite of what we are suppose to glorify- namely, Jesus, the conqueror of sin and death. Immoral entertainment also feeds our sin-appetites, and gratifies our debased desires vicariously. The people that make immoral movies will go to hell if they do not repent. And, the people that enjoy the depravity depicted in immoral entertainment are also going to hell, unless they repent. And since there is nothing entertaining about hell, sin, immorality, or Christ’s death, I don’t get it, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
Doesn’t Ephesians 4:17-24 seem to address this issue of immoral entertainment? Isn’t this the type of thing that Paul could have been talking about when he wrote, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” This passage of Scripture is one of the reasons that I ask, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
A while back, I began reading The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer. In the first chapter of the book, she talks about the importance of keeping a record of self-education- of writing down important ideas, truths, thoughts, or anything else that the self-educating person may want to remember.
She calls this record a “Journal of Self-Education” (that makes sense), and she compares it to something called a “Common-Place Book,” which was apparently a 19th and 20th century “...loose-leaf or bound blank book in which readers copied down quotes and snippets that they wanted to remember.” † Through out the last year I have thought about how this blog is essentially my “journal of self-education”- it’s just a 21st Century American version of the olden time common-place book. For, I pretty much post quotes, ideas, truths, thoughts, songs, sermons, sermon-jams, epiphanies (that’s a scary thought), links, and other forms of “mental fodder” that have been helpful to me in my walk with Christ. So in a way, my blog is my “journal of self-education”- it is my “common-place book.” Granted, it isn’t a loose-leaf or bound blank book, and anybody in the world can read it, add to it, comment on it, or think about what I post- but it is a record of “…quotes and snippets…” that I want to remember.
Anyways, as I thought about this recently- I was thinking that, in a way, Face-book, Twitter, Linked-In, and all the other modern social-media outlets that I use are kind of like the same thing. I don’t always think about my emails, my instant-messaging, my tweets, my linked-in account, and my news-feed- which, by the way, I always share with my husband (HINT, HINT) as my journal, at least not like the journal that I keep at my bedside and share my “deepest-secrets” with (joking). But, in essence that is what social media does- it records what really matters to me, who really matters to me, attitudes that I have had, and the beliefs that I hold to be true. Taken collectively, these accounts are, in reality, a running journal of my daily life.
So, it follows that if I want to do a self-inventory- get an honest look at what has mattered to me, who has mattered to me, and what I really believe- (and, not just what I tell myself that I believe) – I can review my social-media accounts. And, although I never intended to use social media as my “Journal of Self-Education”- in so doing- I might just find that I get quite an “Education about Myself.”
I suppose this could be true for all of us.
†Bauer, S. Wise, The Well- Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, INC., 2003. p. 35.
10 Ways that Modesty Fulfills the Law of Love
Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-39). And, the Apostle James wrote, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well” (James 2:8). This week we have been focusing on the issue of immodesty. It, therefore, seems only fitting to me to end the week focused on how being modest fulfills the royal law of love. But, before we can do that we need to know the definition of modesty. According to the Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, the definition of modesty is the quality of not being too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities: the quality of behaving and especially dressing in ways that do not attract sexual attention.With that in mind, here are 10 ways that practicing modesty fulfills the Royal Law of Love.
Also, I have listed supporting Scriptures after each statement. I have done this so that you can check them against the truth of God’s Word. If you feel as though I have gone beyond what is written please feel free to share that with me through the “What readers say about Boasting In Weakness” section of this blog.
1. It is loving towards God when we believe and obey His Word, in which He has clearly called us to practice humbleness of mind and humility’s subsequent fruit of modesty (Heb. 11:6; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Phil. 2:1-5).
2. It is loving towards our sisters in Christ to practice modesty because it is a way that we communicate to them that we are their allies in life, not their rivals in life (Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12; See also the trial that living with a “rival” was for Hannah 1 Samuel 1: 1-11).
3. It is loving towards your brothers in Christ to practice modesty because it is a way that we aid them in their battle for holiness of heart and purity of thought life (1 Timothy 6:11; Hebrews 12:14; Romans 14:13).
4. It is loving towards your little sisters (daughters and other young girls) in Christ to practice modesty because it sets a Christ-like example for them to follow (Titus 2:3-6).
5. It is loving towards our little brothers (sons and other young boys) in Christ to practice modesty because it aids them in their godly pursuit to “…flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
6. It is loving towards our husbands to practice modesty because it is one way that we keep our vows of faithfulness to them; honoring them with exclusive viewing rights to our bodies by not wearing clothes in public that are, by design, meant to communicate a subtle invitation to bed. We should always remember that our vows to our husbands were oaths and promises that we made before God (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6).
7. It is loving towards our parents (where this applies) to practice modesty because it is one way that we honor them and show them respect (Proverbs 20:11; Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-2).
8. It is loving towards the lost world (the unregenerate) to practice modesty because it is one way that we use our outward behavior to substantiate the truth of the Word of God (Titus 2:5, 10).
9. It is loving towards ourselves to practice modesty because it is one way we can prepare our souls for a pleasant experience on judgment day when we give an account to God for all that we have done in our bodies, and said with our lips (Romans 2: 6-11; Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 20:11-15).
10. Most importantly, modesty is in and of itself an expression of love for the glory of God’s redeeming grace, which was shown to us in the cross of Christ:
a. Modesty of thought (i.e., a humble opinion of ourselves) results from a right understanding of how ugly the pride of our hearts really is that Christ had to endure the horrors of Roman crucifixion to atone for it (Matthew 27:32-56; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
b. Modesty in our behavior (i.e., a humble demeanor towards our family in Christ) results from understanding how incomprehensibly valuable the bride of Christ is to Him (1 Peter 1:17-21; 1 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 21:9-27).
c. Modesty in our dress (i.e., the humble beauty of an appropriate level of adornment) is the ‘wrapping paper’ of our souls. It is the first thing people see when they meet us; the last word on what we really think is valuable in our appearance, and we can use our clothing as a means to reveal our love for the glory of God’s redeeming grace if we want to use our clothes in this manner. Finally, we can use our clothing as a tool which draws the eyes of men to look away from our temporal, quickly fading physical beauty, and towards the eternal Christ-exalting meek and humble behavior of women who have been forever changed by God’s glorious grace as expressed in the cross of Christ (Proverbs 31:30; 1Corinthians 1:18; Ephesians 4:17-24; Titus 3:4-8). Therefore, in the words of Paul, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Dressed to Kill: Thinking Biblically About Modest & Immodest Clothing by Robert G. Spinney
Weighing in at only 29 pages, Dr. Robert Spinney’s booklet Dressed to Kill:Thinking Biblically About Modest & Immodest Clothing is a short and sweet manifesto on modesty. I liked the way that Dr. Spinney addressed the issues of modesty and immodesty from a historical and theological perspective. And, no wonder. Dr. Spinney, “…graduated Cum Laude in an honors major in 1983 with a B.A. in Government and History from Harvard University and has received the M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Vanderbilt University” Even so, it was an easy read for me (ergo- anyone can read it).
Dr. Spinney’s gentle, yet serious tone made reading this booklet an eye-opening and educational experience for me. Perhaps, a wee-bit hyper-sensitive (I think that phrase is oxymoronic- but you know what I mean) to legalism, the manner in which he communicated his message was almost as important-to me-as the content of it. And, as I mentioned, I thought the manner was short and sweet- the way I think exhortation-type material should be written: to the point and to the heart.
No less, the content of the booklet was not lacking. He covered all the bases of Biblical dress and then some. He started with an interesting historical account of President Thomas Jefferson’s real life ideology that “clothing sends messages” (p.2); and then he progressed systematically through, what I call, a theology of modesty. In all, he keeps the main thing- the main thing. That is; his real concern is the glory of God, the holiness of God’s people, and the simplicity of the Gospel. Here is an excerpt from the final pages of the book:
“A booklet like this must never suggest that wearing the right clothing makes one right with God. Religious duties and moral behavior are never the power of God unto salvation. Luke 2:30 reports that when an aged Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, he proclaimed that his eyes were seeing God’s salvation— not that he was obeying lifestyle rules that comprised God’s salvation. Salvation is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in the prescriptions of some list” (p.28).
The mantra of the booklet is “Too much, Too Little, Too Tight.” With those six little words, he gives the Christian an accurate gauge by which she (or he) can measure her (or his) modesty level. He addresses the issue of modesty with men’s clothing, as well as, women’s clothing. He addresses androgynous dressing from a godly- but not rigidly so, perspective (i.e., he isn’t a “women wear dresses only man”). And, he even addresses the clothing of the Goth sub-culture in America (pp.18-19). Through it all, his humble heart is evident and his love for God obvious. Before getting into the practical applications of what is appropriate clothing and what is not appropriate clothing, he writes:
“Nevertheless, only God’s principles are perfect and morally binding, while my personal applications of those principles may be incorrect. God’s Word is infallible, but my applications of His Word are not. Immodest clothing is a problem, but it is also a problem if I go beyond the inspired Word of God and require men to obey my uninspired applications.” (p. 18)
While I did find the booklet to be one of the most helpful resources that I have read on the issue of modesty and immodesty, it is only right that I acknowledge Dr. Spinney did not have women primarily in mind when he wrote it. He is clear:
“The message in this booklet is aimed primarily at husbands and fathers, who are the God-ordained leaders of families.” (p. 4)
In my defense, I was already four pages in when I read that statement, so I just kept going. I couldn’t help myself. When I start a book, I just have to finish it. I wasn’t trying to be like Sarah eavesdropping on Abraham and the Lord’s conversation in Genesis 18:10. After reading the book, I do not think that he wrote that statement to say “M-Y-O-B” to his sisters in Christ, but it seems that he wrote it as a battle cry to his brothers in Christ. He wants men to recognize and respond to the call of God on their lives to be the men that God has called them to be in their own homes, with their own wives, and with their own daughters. Even so, my husband did read the booklet, and as usual, he said in four words what has taken me, in this book-review, over 800 words to say, “This book is beautiful.”
You can buy Dressed to Kill: Thinking Biblically About Modest & Immodest Clothing for $2.50 online at Tulip Books.
Proverbs 11:22 says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” It is from the plat-form of this verse that I share the following small compilation of web-based resources that can be helpful in destroying the practice of the idolatry of immodesty in our own lives.
More than any other modern theologian, I trust Dr. John Piper’s counsel, wisdom, and teaching, so it is only natural that I start with him. Here is a good article on the issue of Biblical modesty. Published in its written format November 19, 2007, this article is a good and appropriate word to help us think about this issue of Biblical modesty, and unbiblical immodesty in a God-honoring, Christ exalting way: Is Modesty an Issue in the Church Today? http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-modesty-an-issue-in-the-church-today
Not to over do it on referencing Dr. Piper, but here is a link to a more recent Pod Cast from May 15, 2014. Entitled Bikinis and Modesty this podcast addresses the heart of the issue of modesty; that is, it addresses how our modesty must be an outworking of our love for and understanding of God. I post this Ask Pastor John audio link because I think it is important to understand that Christian modesty must be a result of good theology. If it is not, it is just legalistic, self-righteous pharisaism, which God hates. And, based on the Lord’s interaction with the pharisees of His own earthly ministry, I am pretty sure that He hates the attitude of pharisaism, at least as much, as He hates the immodesty of our American culture seeping into His church.Listen to Bikinis and Modesty http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/bikinis-and-modesty.
The following is a link to Nancy Lee Demoss’s web sight Revive our Hearts. Here you will find multiple helpful resources on the topic of modesty. I love that Nancy Lee Demoss tells it like it is, and also, tells it like it should be. If you want to hear a word spoken in truth and in love to women- for women- from another woman, check this out. The summary paragraph for the web page that this link connects to reads:
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” is a familiar phrase to women these days. The world has some confused ideas about what it means to be a beautiful woman. As Christian women, our goal is to think, act, and dress to please God and to reflect His glory. We hope that these resources will help you understand that God’s first concern is not about your clothing, but about your relationship with Him. Read on to discover the beautiful sketch that the Master Designer had in mind when He made you.”
Good stuff, right? Here is the link to the Revive Our Hearts library page on Modesty: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/resource-library/topics/modesty/.
On the other hand, if you want a man’s mans word on the topic of modesty, here is a beautifully disturbing message by Pastor Al Martin of Trinity Baptist Church of Montville, New Jersey (now retired). This sermon is a strong, clear, direct, convicting, and powerful word on the particulars of modesty in the house of God among professing Christian women. It was originally preached in a Sunday School class in February 2008, and since then, it was edited and uploaded to YouTube. I blushed my way through this sermon, and in truth , if trusted friends had not recommended it to me, I probably would not have finished watching it. But, in the end, I was glad I did. Before seeing this, I had never been moved to tears over the issue of immodest dress. Perhaps, this is because, before I saw this sermon- I had never truly caught a glimpse of the depths of the unholiness of immodest clothing, or the profound lack of Christian love that a woman of God displays when she dresses inappropriately for church. This is a good strong exhortation to do the right thing and honor God by dressing appropriately, and especially at church.
FYI: Brother Martin uses strong words; words I would not and do not use my self. No less, this is an honest and purifying sermon; one that can both disturb and refine the heart of any man or woman who takes the time to listen to it. I say that it will affect the consciences of men for two reasons. First, I say this because Brother Martin puts the burden of proof on men owning the reality that how a woman dresses does effect a man’s thought life. Secondly, I say this because he gives a call to the men of God to “man-up” (so to speak- my words, not his) and set the standard of purity high in his own home: with his own wife and his own daughters. In truth, I think that if this video was played in most modern American evangelical churches this Sunday, there would be an “early harvest sorting between the wheat and the tares” (Matthew 13:24-30). This video is emphatically not for the light stomached, easily offended type; but for the earnest, humble hearted believer that senses God calling her to a deeper expression of Biblical modesty .
The practice of immodesty is a form of modern American idolatry. However, it is so ingrained in our culture that we may not realize the spiritual ramifications of immodesty. Typically when I think of immodesty I think of issues regarding a “fabric to skin ratio” (if you know what I mean), but strictly speaking immodesty is having or showing an inflated opinion of oneself. With this concept in mind, it is easy to see that immodesty is not standard practice for the blood-bought, spirit-filled lover of Jesus. Obviously, the Biblical call for all believers is a call to modesty, lowliness of mind, and humility. But to say that immodesty is a form of idolatry? I mean isn’t that a little extreme?
I don’t think it’s over the top to say that immodesty is a form of idolatry. After all, idolatry- in its most distilled form- is nothing more than image worship; and through the medium of immodesty, the image being worshipped is self. The flashy ‘showing off’ of our possessions, the excessive efforts we make to look hot, and our obsession with beauty are all the daily sacrifices that we make at the altar of self-importance. Of course, we don’t call these practices sacrificial worship- we call them self-esteem, having a good self-image, and loving ourselves; all three of which are standard American ideals. None the less, whether we call our life-styles of immodesty self-worship or self-esteem, we reveal an attitude of excessive and unbiblical self-preoccupation.
It is likely that some people reading this do not agree with me. I mean, is it really morally wrong to have a good self-esteem? Well, obviously not- if our self-esteem is based on our union with Christ and rooted in our submission to the Gospel. But more practically speaking, is it wrong to like leopard prints, sequins, high-heels, and hoop earrings? Or, is ‘big hair’ ungodly? No, these things are not intrinsically wrong. We know this because the Lord Himself created the leopard with his spots and the lion with his fearsome golden mane. And we also know that ear-piercing is used in the Bible to symbolize the love that a bond-servant can have for his master; i.e., the love that believers have for God (Exodus 25:6). I totally understand why some people would not agree with me, why they think that I was a little over the top to say that immodesty is idolatrous. But, I would challenge those who do disagree with me, to think about the practice of immodesty in terms of motive, not so much in terms of manifestation. Perhaps then, they will see what I mean when I say that immodesty is a form of idolatry.
What makes immodesty idolatrous is our desire to turn the eyes of man, to gain the approval and affections of people, to divert the attention of our fellow creatures from God- to ourselves. Bottom line: what makes immodesty so bad is our obsession with our own glory; our passion for receiving praise for ourselves. As followers of Christ we are called to flee idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14), this includes self-worship. We are called to hate even the clothes that are stained by the corrupted flesh (Jude 1:23); we are called to “…flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Believers are commanded to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are called to humble ourselves; we are called to practice modesty (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:8, 5:6; James 4:10). Therefore, let us flee the idolatry of immodesty and, let us remember the exhortation of Scripture, which says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).
Later this week on the topic of Immodesty:
Wednesday Jackie’s Testimony: The Wonder Working Power of the Blood. One woman shares her story of the power of God to deliver her from her soul-destroying addiction to “getting the attention of others” by dressing and living with intentional immodestly.
Thursday A compilation of web-based resources that can be helpful in destroying the idolatry of immodesty in our own lives.
Friday My review of a helpful resource regarding modesty and purity of appearance.
Saturday The Charity of Chastity: How practicing modesty and chastity in our appearance is a way to fulfill the royal law of love.