Holiness


ModestyThere is a difference between a woman making herself attractive and making herself seductive.  The former enhances her natural beauty to increase a man’s desire for her, whereas the latter enhances her sexual appeal and increases a man’s desire to use her to satisfy his sexual lusts.  In other words, the former enhances her value as a person, whereas the latter devalues her to a mere object of lust.

Modesty cannot be legislated by prescribing certain forms of clothing, certain lengths, or a certain fit.  Women must be responsible for their own modesty.  With every outfit they put on they should be asking themselves, “Does this outfit enhance my natural beauty, or does it enhance my sex appeal to men?  Will this cause men to objectify me, or value me as a woman?”  If women asked these questions of themselves each morning, and if they asked it of other men, no church would have to have standards of modesty.

Christians often disagree regarding matters of personal holiness.  Those defending themselves against the charge of sin for some X will often respond by saying, “It’s not that bad.”  Of course, to say something is “not that bad” is tantamount to saying it’s “not that good” either.  In such cases, we should be honest with ourselves and others and just admit that X is not spiritually advantageous for us, even if it is morally tolerable.  Would we be better off if we abstained?  Perhaps.  Are we sinning if we don’t?  No.

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IFWe should not confuse permissiveness for grace. Grace says, “I love you and forgive you, so you need to stop this sin,” not “I love you and forgive you, so it doesn’t matter what you do.”  We are living in a culture that thinks love and forgiveness mean we should permit people to continue in their sin while we continue in our silence.  This is not grace, and this is not love.  Grace and love will always confront sin, because grace and love are the remedy for sin, not the license to continue in it.

Sam Storms has written an insightful analysis of the idea that we can or should “forgive God.”  While a few snippets cannot do it justice, the heart of his argument is as follows: 

First of all, let me say that I understand where this sort of question comes from. I understand how people quite often are confused by what God does or doesn’t do. … But my struggle is with the language of “forgiving God.” For one thing, I don’t find it ever used in Scripture. That alone ought to give us pause before we incorporate such language into our Christian vocabulary or allow it to shape our theology or our understanding of spiritual formation.

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That was the headline of the Daily Mail.  While I am fully aware that not all conservative Christian teens practice abstinence, I was stunned at the idea that there is virtually no difference in the rates of premarital sex between Christians and non-Christians.  According to Relevant magazine, a 2009 study revealed that 80% of evangelicals between 18-29 years of age had sex, compared to 88% of their peers.

Do you find this statistic shocking?  Do you have reason to doubt the validity of these findings?  Assuming the stats are accurate, I’m not too surprised myself.  In a sex-crazed culture like our own, it takes a lot of moral fortitude to abstain from sex before marriage.  And when you couple that with a culture that discourages young adults from marriage until their late 20s or early 30s, it’s no wonder so many young Evangelicals are succumbing to this sin.

UPDATE: Kevin DeYoung provides some good reasons to trust the accuracy of this report.

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15, ESV)

When I was a young boy I spoke to my mother of hating some particular thing.  While I no longer remember what it was I expressed my hatred toward, I vividly remember the dialogue that ensued.  My mother told me I should not hate anything, to which I responded, “Well then, I dislike it completely.”

While my mom found my wordsmithing humorous, it raises an interesting question: What is the difference between a mere dislike and hatred?  How does one know when they have crossed the line from disliking someone or something to actually hating that thing or person?

How the article ends gives you a good sense of it: “We wouldn’t dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: ‘Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven’s sake, get laid!’ But that’s essentially what we’re saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they’re still living under our own roofs.”—Jennifer Moses.

 

HT: Justin Taylor

 

Believe it or not, Oneness churches are not the only Christians concerned about modesty! Reformed charismatic (yes, those two words can actually go together), C.J. Mahaney, has written a chapter titled “God, My Heart, and Clothes” for the soon-to-be released book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. The chapter has been released in advance.

Mahaney’s approach is both Biblical and practical. I particularly liked how he emphasized the fact that modesty of attitude must accompany modesty of dress. Indeed, they are logically ordered that way. As he says, any discussion of modesty must begin with the heart rather than the hemline.

In describing what modesty is, he writes, “Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality.” Immodesty, on the other hand, “is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.”

But eventually we do come to the hemline. To women Mahaney asks, “What inspires your attire? Who are you identifying with through your appearance? Who are you trying to imitate or be like in your dress? Does your hairstyle, clothing, or any aspect of your appearance reveal an excessive fascination with sinful cultural values? Are you preoccupied with looking like the latest American Idol winner, or the actresses on magazine covers, or the immodest woman next door? Are your role models the godly women of Scripture of the worldly women of our culture?”

I am glad to see this issue is receiving attention outside holiness churches. It is a Biblical issue, and a Christian concern. And it is needed more than ever in today’s bare-all society. I know some churches have become quite legalistic over the matter, but that is no reason to dispense with modesty. It is reason to rescue true modesty from the shackles of legalism.

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