Biblical Womanhood

I learned from Google’s homepage that today is International Women’s Day (IWD).  I had not heard of this day before.  It led me to think about the competing voices that define femininity today.

IWD also reminded me of a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss titled Voices of the True Woman Movement: A Call to the Counter-Revolution.  Mary Kassian is one of the contributor’s in the book.  She writes,

So what’s the answer to the question feminism posed almost fifty years ago? It was a spiritual question: ‘What was going to bring women happiness and fulfillment and joy in life?’ Do we turn back the clock and return to the 1950s? Is it that a woman will only find satisfaction when she finds the perfect man–when she’s a mom and housewife, when she’s safely situated in a station wagon and a home surrounded by a white picket fence? Or do we rely on the feminist formula for fulfillment–woman’s unmitigated freedom to pursue fulfillment in career and sex, controlling and discarding men and doing what we please?

History has shown that the Leave it to Beaver ideal is not the one that will satisfy. There is no man on the face of this earth who can completely fulfill the desire of a woman’s heart. Being a wife and a mom is a great calling and privilege, but it doesn’t satisfy our deepest needs.

The feminist solution, however, won’t satisfy either. The longings of our hearts will not be met when we look to careers and sex and self-determination for fulfillment. We won’t find any more happiness striving for the modern-day ideal than our 1950s sisters did by striving for the ideal of their time. No, in order to find fulfillment as a woman, you and I need to turn our hearts toward the right target. We need to turn to the One for whom we were created and to whom all our yearnings point–the Lord Jesus Christ–and say ‘yes!’ to Him.

We tend to reduce the discussion about womanhood to peripheral questions: her marital status, whether she has children, her education and career choices, whether she works outside of the home, her use of birth control, whether she educates her children at home or sends them off to school, the type of clothes and make-up she wears. These questions are not unimportant, but they are not the essence of true womanhood.

The heart of true womanhood is to understand and agree with the purposes of our Creator.  A woman is a true woman when her heart says yes to God

(Mary Kassian, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!,” in Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Voices of the True Woman Movement [Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010], 68-9).

I am blessed beyond measure to be married to Julie, who strives to embody Biblical womanhood.  I am also grateful for articulate and Word-filled women, like Elisabeth Elliot, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Mary Kassian, and millions of other women who are influencing the next generation of women who will be committed to Biblical womanhood, and the True Woman movement.

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Christ as Example, Yes, but Savior First and Foremost

A good word from Martin Luther on the importance of preaching the gospel in Christ’s person and work before moving to preaching Christ as an example.  As a preacher, we might unwittingly miss the gospel in our pursuit of making application.

Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws.  Therefore, you should grasp Christ, his words, works, sufferings, in a two-fold manner.  First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate.  As St. Peter says in I Peter 4, ‘Christ suffered for us, thereby leaving us an example.’  Thus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people, and shows them love, so also you should do, both for yourself and for your neighbor. However this is the smallest part of the gospel.  For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint.  His life remains his own and does not yet contribute anything to you.  In short this mode [of understand Christ as simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites.  You must grasp Christ at a much higher level.  Even though this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare.  The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that it is your own (Martin Luther, “Proclamation Verses Moralism” in Richard Lischer, ed., Theories of Preaching [Durham, NC: Labyrinth, 1987], 97).

The Relevance of the Bible in the 21st Century

The Bible is relevant.  We don’t make it relevant. We don’t allow it to be relevant.  It is inherently relevant.

Along these lines, I just read this brief and interesting opinion piece, “Does the Bible Matter in the 21st Century?,” in which the author contends that the Bible is a profoundly important book today.  The author makes a case for the importance of an ethic informed by the Bible.  There are a number of caveats to such a statement.  Nevertheless, the point of the piece is well taken, especially as it pertains to marriage.

Train Wrecks in the Evangelical Pastorate

Three seminarians and I are reading through Charles Spurgeon’s classic, Lectures to My Students.  His very first chapter is “The Minister’s Self-Watch.”  He is concerned with preachers who are “poor in grace.”  Spurgeon lists three primary areas of self-watch:

  1. It should be one of our first cares that we ourselves be saved men.
  2. It is of the next importance to the minister that his piety be vigorous.
  3. Let the minister take care that his personal character agrees in all respects with his ministry.

Numbers 2 and 3 on his list are expected.  But 1 seems to be as out of place.  Why would he include this element of a minister’s self-watch?  Incidentally, many others have warned about this.  One example is Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor.  Well, two examples may help you understand why . . .

On November 2, ABC News reported that Jim Swilley, founding pastor of the mega church Church in the Now in Conyers, GA, announced he’s gay to help stem the tide of recent gay suicides. 

On November 9, ABC News reported that two evangelical pastors are now atheists.  “Jack” is a Southern Baptist with more than 20 years in ministry.  “Adam,” a pastoral staff member in a small evangelical church.  They are both serving as pastors while atheists.  How?  By sticking to the parts of the Bible that speak about being a good person.  Why do they continue in the pastorate?  Because of a “lack of marketable skills,” according to “Adam.”   Jesus had a word to describe men like “Jack” and “Adam”: hireling (John  10:12, 13, NKJV). 

While these men are a disgrace to the pastoral office, every pastor must maintain a vigilant self-watch.  We must heed the advice of the Apostle Paul and others like Spurgeon and Baxter, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will both save yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).  Pastoral ministry needs fewer of these moral and doctrinal train wrecks.

A Striped-Candy Easter

Bay Area Fellowship (BAF) of Corpus Christi, TX gave away $2 million dollars in gifts on Easter Sunday (HT: Tim Challies).  The church has seven locations and is the largest church in the city.  According to their website, “the ultimate giveaway” continues this coming week.  You’ll find the CNN interview on YouTube below.

Head Pastor of BAF, Bil Cornelius says, “We’re doing this cause we want to reach people, bring them in, and tell them how much God loves them.”

He continues, “Think about it, most churches back in the day and even still today  do Easter egg hunts to draw kids in so they can tell them about the love of God.  I just can’t find any Easter eggs large enough to put one of our cars in.”

Ummm.  Thinking . . .

Even CNN’s T.J. Holmes, the interviewer said, “Come on, now . . .”

Cornelius again, “[the ultimate giveaway] is a giant illustration of pointing to the ultimate gift, which is the gift of heaven”

Later in the interview Holmes asks, “What do you think this says about us these days.  This day and time, that it takes something like this [the give-aways] to bring certain people into church.  Just what does this say about us all, as a society as a whole.” 

Cornelius replies, “I think it says that, frankly, we’re not heavenly minded.  And so, it’s funny how we’ve been giving heaven out for free for thousands of years in churches all around the word and suddenly one church adds a car and a bike to it and the whole world goes crazy.”

Interestingly, The Crossing, a large church in Elk River, did something similar.  They gave away three cars this weekend.

WIN A FREE CAR
Easter Weekend at The Crossing!

First-time guests (age 18+) at The Crossing’s Easter weekend services will be entered into a drawing for one of THREE free cars! One finalist will be drawn from each service, and a winner will be selected from the Elk River Saturday services; the Elk River Sunday services; and the Zimmerman Sunday services.

Undoubtedly there have been rumblings about some of the edgy outreach The Crossings has done in the past (not unjustifiably either; they have and continue to push the envelope) so the lead pastor of the church, Eric Dykstra, put this out on his blog,

Ignore the criticism.  Whenever our church does something crazy like give away some cars, some church people get all uptight.  Ignore them. Bless them. Don’t return the fire.  We are on a mission to change our city and our world and we don’t have time to listen to or respond to the haters. Jesus is going to get honor this weekend.  Lives are going to be changed.  PRAY AND STAY ABOVE THE FRAY!

I have not met Eric but I will say this.  He was the only area pastor to call and welcome us when we were launching our ministry.  I have a favorable personal perception of him because of this.  I do not doubt his good intentions, or the noble motives of these men.  But there are unintended consequences to such an approach.

Incidentally, Rick Warren had the Jonas Brothers out for their Easter services, marking Saddleback’s 30th anniversary.   

Motives and intentions alone do not justify noble activities.  A shocking example of this is Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6-7; cf. Numbers 4:15).  It certainly stunned King David that Uzzah’s noble intentions were not enough to justify his action that brought a fatal, unintended consequence.  In fact, it made him angry (2 Samuel 6:8).

But really, what does the pastor of young, small congregation (we run in the 50s or 60s on a Sunday) have to say about this?  Bay Area Fellowship, The Crossing, and Saddleback are ministries running in the thousands with multi-campus ministries.  If it’s about the number of campuses and people, I have nothing to say. 

But it’s not all about numbers.

Don’t get me wrong.  I admire aggressive ministry outreach.  Perhaps our ministry is not being aggressive enough.  But to turn to the “striped candy” approach is not aggressive outreach, it is ecclesiastical bribery.

My title employs the phrase, “striped candy,” coined by A.W. Tozer.  I’ll allow the words of Tozer, who saw this coming, to close this post.  I could not provide a better analysis or concluding words about this year’s striped-candy Easter.

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction.  It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend meeting where the only attraction is God.  One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movie, games and refreshment.

This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture designed to house the golden calf.

So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice.  The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted.  Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Any objection to the carrying-on of our present golden calf is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!”  And winning them to what?  To true discipleship?  To cross-carrying?  To self-denial?  To separation from the world?  To crucifixion of the flesh?  To holy living?  To nobility of character?  To a despising of the world’s treasures?  To hard self-discipline?  To love for God?  To total commitment to Christ?  Of course, the answer to all these questions is, “no” (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 136 in Tozer in Mohler, He is not Silent, 25-6).    

The Sexual Past of a Potential Future Spouse

Russell Moore, a Baptist pastor, educator, and author, answers inquiries received on “Questions & Ethics.”  This week’s question dealt with the question, “How Much Do I Need to Know About My Potential Spouse’s Sexual Past?”  Moore’s answer is filled with wise practical and Biblical counsel.  Good direction if you’re thinking through this question.  Here are some samplings from the exchange:

A summary of the young lady’s question:

My question: should I ask him about his past? If so, how should I ask it, and at what point in the relationship?

Snippets of Moore’s answer:

Having said that, though, this question can be very dangerous for you, at this point.

A man who will brush off past fornication as “no big deal” from which he’s “moved on” is a man with a conscience trained to do the same thing with future adultery.

As the discernment process continues, though, your need to know further will expand. By that time, you will know more about the character and trajectory of this man.

You are not “owed” a virgin because you are. Your sexual purity wasn’t part of a quid pro quo in which God would guarantee you a sexually unbroken man. Your sexual purity is your obligation as a creature of God.

HT: Tim Challies