Inner Beauty and God – 1 Peter 3:3-6

God Sees The Heart.  So Should Everyone Else.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Flashy Fashion

Culture teaches us that we need to be noticed.  And the only way to be noticed is to flaunt what we have.  Women in particular have been listening to this lie for millennia.  During the time when the writer of this Scripture lived, they women adorned themselves with beautiful hair styles, heavy perfume (quite costly and showed the potential of their dowry if unmarried, or the affluence of their husband if they were married…), and precious metal jewelry.

Today, it is how much skin can you show, how tight can you make your clothes, and how much bling you can safely wear without tipping over.  And while that certainly will get a woman attention from all who see her, is it the type of attention she is truly seeking?  Fishermen know that whatever you bait your hook with will determine what type of fish you will catch.  For disciples of Christ, this type of adornment is not at all in keeping with God’s plan for attractiveness and beauty.  This type of adornment is designed to evoke worldly desire from men and envy from women.  While that may seem desirable because it provides immediate feedback to the woman, it underscores the problem that the Christian community has in general:  Disciples of Christ have adopted modern cultural definitions of beauty rather than the Biblical model for beauty.

Carefully Clothed

Peter then goes on to remind women (remember, this is nothing new – it was going on two thousand years ago as well…) that they should adorn themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

If a woman dresses like a street-walker, there should be no surprise if salacious men cat-call and undress her (and more than she already is) with their eyes.  If a woman dresses in Armani and Pravda and (name any other fashion mogul who designs outlandishly priced clothing and accessories), they should not be surprised when thieves and burglars stalk her to lighten her burden of wearing and carrying all of her clothing and accessories, or the vacuous playboys who will try to woo her heart to make her their sugar-mama.  People will crowd around like friends until the money dries up.  Then the leeches of society will move on to other feeding grounds.

Women must ask themselves a question:  What “bait” will I put on to attract a Godly man?  Godly men are attracted to women who have a gentle and quiet spirit.  Godly men attune their eyes and hearts to women who display this type of beauty.

Reverent Respect

When women put on a gentle and quiet spirit, they exhibit the character that Godly women of old used to display.  They showed great respect for their husbands and others, didn’t gossip, and dressed modestly so as not to entice LUST in the hearts of potential suitors or even other Godly men trying to keep their hearts pure.  When people can’t determine what’s beneath the clothing, they look to see what’s in the character.  When women show respect to God and others, that is like a bright light to moths for potential Godly husbands.  Proverbs has a lot to say about women and character.  Proverbs 31 tells of a woman of noble character.  And here are a few choice other ones as well:

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.

A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like
the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

Forego Fear

Women are prone to fear.  Their very nurturing nature predisposes them to assess potential dangers and to avoid them.  While this is a very useful skill, it has a tendency to bleed into all other areas of life, and can cause great distress as they try to fight the  response to flee.  Women are able to summon great courage, and fiercely protect their families, but this generally comes out when they are cornered.  It is when they are blind-sided or can see danger at a distance that fear envelops them.

Peter encourages women to let go of fear, for God is sovereign and is MORE THAN ABLE to protect them through their circumstances.  When women can let go of fear, God is able to use them more powerfully in every situation.  While the fear response has its place (seek shelter from tornadoes and lightning storms, lock the doors and go to the panic room when crowds come shooting up and burning down the town, etc.), so does trusting God in every circumstance.

A Qualifying Question

Women, let’s ask a question:  Do I exalt myself before men, or do I let God exalt me before men?

Men, let’s ask a question:  What attracts me most to the woman I desire?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me that it is You that I need to please, and not men.  Help me to dress in a way that honors You.  Help me to cloth myself with the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to live this life free of fear, for You are sovereign over all.  Help me to do what is good and right so that I will honor you with my body, words, and thoughts.  This I ask in Jesus Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Legalism and God – 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Everything God Created Is Good

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Demonic Deception

The devil has been at it since the beginning.  He has some direct responsibility with the fall of man, and continues to lash out at God in the only way he knows how – by interfering in the lives of the very beings that God created to bear His image.  Not every spirit is of God, and many have fallen prey to the teachings of evil spiritual beings.  Even now, people struggle with spiritual strongholds in their lives because they have believed something that is not true, and hold to those teachings as truth.

For instance, baptism is an ordinance of the faith.  This is something that disciples should very much desire to do.  However, baptism as an act is not required for the salvation.  Even Abraham, the first patriarch of God’s people, was shown to be saved by believing God which was credited to him as righteousness.

Heretical Hypocrites

Many who are misled are now misleading others, convinced that they alone have the true interpretation of scripture (because it is at odds with what others are saying, therefore everyone else is wrong…).  While we are all sinners, and each of us has a sin nature that impedes our ability to properly and completely follow God (rather than our sinful desires),  this can lead to a life of hypocrisy.  It is very dangerous to lecture people to do something, and then do the exact opposite in private (or worse, publicly!).  And while each of us struggle with the sinful weakness that is within each of us, we must be honest with ourselves and others lest we pass ourselves off as someone who has overcome when we have not.

Many areas of life are affected, and many deceptions are being taught even today.  Cults have arisen around people who say that marriage is evil, and that everyone should stay celibate.  Others – in Paul’s day – were Jews who were still adhering to the Levitical practices of abstaining from eating food that was deemed unclean.  Even Peter was called on this when he had a vision from God in preparation for accepting the Gentiles as being called by God.

But there is the other end of the spectrum where people believe that they are now free to do anything that they want because grace will cover any wrongdoing.  This does not take into account that we are responsible for what we do in the flesh.  We are given grace to give us time to learn the ways of God, not as an excuse to gratify our sinful nature with its desires and the resulting serious consequences.

Thoughtfully Thankful

Paul understood that we are to receive all things with thankfulness, rather than to impose the ceremonial law on them.  Elijah was a prime example.  When sequestered during the great drought that he had announced, God provided him with bread and meat from ravens (unclean creatures under the ceremonial law) to eat every day as he bid his time at the brook in the Kerith Ravine.  We are to have hearts of contentment and thanksgiving, for it is God who provides for all of our needs.  Regardless of the size and type of bounty, we can be assured that God is the one who has provided for our needs.

Created and Consecrated

Paul tells us that we should do all things in thanksgiving to God who created all things as good.  We can enjoy what God provided to us in thanksgiving, not concerning ourselves with ceremonial law.  We need to keep in mind that we are still responsible for what we do.  Paul elsewhere has said:

I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but I will not be mastered by anything.

It is important to realize that although we have freedom in Christ, we are not to abuse this freedom.  We are still to conduct ourselves in a righteous manner, for we are image-bearers of God.  Paul also has said:

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

If in doubt, ask yourself “Is what I am about to do/say/think going to honor and glorify God?”  If you cannot answer “yes” to that question, then why should you do it?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing all things with thanksgiving to God, for His glory, in light of His mercy and grace?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided all things for us to enjoy.  But even as You instructed Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, keep me now from anything that would cause me to stumble.  Help me to accept that all things were created by You are good, and that while some things may not cause others to stumble, they may cause me to trip and fall.  Give me wisdom and discernment to abstain from anything that would cause me to stumble, and to accept their use by others.  Provide me with the strength and character to ensure that I am not mastered by anything, but rather that through self-control in submission to the Holy Spirit all things that I do, with thanksgiving to You, would be to Your glory.  And if I find that after a period of abstinence that something still has too great a hold in my life, help me to remove it or seek Godly council for help to stay away from whatever may cause me to fall.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Marriage and God – Titus 2:1-8

Our Elders Are to Teach The Young Families The Key Pillars To Marriage

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Creative Chiasm

A chiasm has been formed in these verses.  It contrasts men and women, and specifically, the mature versus the immature.  The structure looks like this:

Older Women – Young Women
/\
Older Men Young Men

It is an interesting contrast between these groups, especially the instructions given to the younger men and women.

Mature Men

Paul indicates that older men should be taught the following:

  • Avoid Excessive Wine (Temperate)
    • Excessive consumption of alcohol can severely impair a person’s judgment.  This can lead to terrible words and actions that cause great pain and resentment long after the effects of the alcohol wear off
  • Be Worthy of Respect (Honorable)
    • Paul touches upon a very core need for men – to be respected.  It is hard for a man to love a woman when he does not feel respected.  Paul urges men to live their lives in such a way that they are worthy of respect.  They are to make it as easy as possible for their wives to give them the respect that they so desperately need and desire.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Be Sound in Faith
  • Be Sound in Love
    • Paul exhorts men to unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially love their wives and others.  When they love their wives in this manner, it will help their wives to blossom and open up like a flower unfolds it petals, fully displaying its inner beauty to the world, confident in itself.
  • Be Sound in Endurance

Wise Women

Paul also urges that older women be taught the following:

  • Be Reverent in the Way They Live (live holy lives)
  • Avoid Slandering
    • The gift and curse of the great capability of women to communicate is the potential for gossip.  This needs to be avoided at all costs, so that no one is slandered.
  • Avoid Excessive Wine
    • Wine has the ability to lower the inhibitions of all who consume it, and everyone who does must take extra care to guard themselves against its effects
  • Teach What is Good

The interesting part is that Paul indicates that only after these characteristics are taught to older women that they will be able to properly guide the younger women in their ways.

Little Ladies

Paul then lists several ways that the older women should urge the younger women:

  • Love Their Husbands and Children
    • The interesting part of the word “love” here is that it comes from the Greek word phileo – to be greatly fond of.  God has already placed unconditional love – agape – into the hearts of women.  Older women must now teach the younger women to like their husbands and children.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Keep Chaste
    • It is ever more important that young ladies carefully guard their hearts against the wooing of other men.  In moments of emotional distress or feeling unloved by their husbands, younger women can be particularly vulnerable to a man who breathes life into her heart.
  • Be busy at home
    • In the time that this was written, it was mostly men who went out to work the land and provide for their families.  Yet it was documented in Proverbs 31 that a wife of noble character engaged in entrepreneurial enterprises as well as taking care of the family:
      • 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
        14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
        15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.
        16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
        17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
        18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
        19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
        20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
        21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
        22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
        23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
        24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

  • Be kind
  • Submit to their husbands
    • Submission is the dreaded word that every women cringes at.  It brings about the feelings of some patriarchal tyrant who tries to keep his wife barefoot and pregnant, staying silent, and doing everything he asks – being at his beck and call and essentially his slave.  But submission is a beautiful thing.  We each are to submit to the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ Himself submitted completely to God.  Submission has been described as being willing to duck so that God can throw a right-cross at the one who is in charge.  But only a fool would not listen to the counsel of the one that God has placed at his side for his benefit.

Growing Guys

Paul then goes on to tell what the young men should be taught:

  • Be self-controlled
  • Set an example by doing what is good

Paul provides these instructions for our benefit.  It is at our own peril that we scoff at them or ignore them.  Western culture teaches us that we should seek our own welfare before the welfare of others.  But God in this passage shows us just how important it is to self-regulate rather than indulge our heart’s every desire.  It is better to follow the word of God than it is to follow our own hearts.  This is because our hearts are deceitful above all, and without the transformation by the Holy Spirit and the word of God, we will be duped into desiring what the flesh wants, rather than what the Spirit of God desires.

There are now a higher percentage of Christian marriages ending in divorce than those who are not professing Christians.  This should not be!  There can only be one reason for such widespread failure in our marriages – we are not being obedient to God’s word.  Let us now take the time and remember the advice given by God to Solomon, the wisest man ever to live:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The choice is ours.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing what God desires me to do as revealed in His word to ensure that my marriage is as best protected as it can be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the embodiment of truth.  You know all things, and reveal Your truth to us through Your word.  Help me to learn Your truth and put it into practice so that my marriage would flourish as well as bring you honor, glory, and praise.  Help me to submit myself to my spouse and to live life in accordance with what is good in Your eyes, so that You will be able to bless us in our marriage.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Hebrews 12:1-3

Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (To Sin)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Discard Detritus

The author of Hebrews reminds us to throw off anything that would hinder us in our spiritual pursuit of Almighty God.  Each  of us have issues that are both unique and common, in that we each have trouble spots in our lives that not everyone else has, but that others similarly face and have faced. These issues impede us from our spiritual growth.  For some, it may be the temptation of alcohol.  Others may be sucked in by sports.  Still others by lust.  The list goes on and on.  And while not everyone suffers from these, many do and have, and struggle even to this day with them.

We are reminded to throw these things off.  Is there something in your life that just won’t go away, something that gets you in trouble each and every time that you encounter it?   It is time to bring it to the body, so that others can pray for your deliverance from it:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Run the Race

The Olympic Games were very popular during the time when the author of Hebrews wrote this letter.  The imagery of the games would have been known and understood by all who had read it.  They had seen the training and effort that the participants who entered the games had endured in order to prepare for their opportunity to win their events.

We need to have in our minds the same mindset that the athletes of that day had – a complete and total focus on the goal.  They trained not only their bodies but also their minds for the sole purpose of doing the very best that they could in their field of endeavor.  The proper term is discipline.  They disciplined their bodies and minds.

In modern Western thought, discipline appears to be a pejorative, something that impedes a person from obtaining the desires of their hearts, and interfering with their pleasure and self-fulfillment.  But it is quite to the contrary; discipline helps us to eschew that which does not intentionally drive us towards our goal.  We cull the desires and behaviors that are at odds with our intentions and purposes and distract us from our pursuits so that we will be positioned to reap success from our endeavors.

We need to apply these same techniques and recognize their effectiveness as we learn spiritual discernment so that we can set aside the things that hinder us from completing our objectives.  When we are willing to do this, and allow the Spirit of God to provide us with the strength and endurance to overcome the emotional pain that this type of loss generates, we are able to fully embrace our freedom from sin and say “NO!” to it.  Every time we say “NO!” to sin, we grow a little stronger in our resistance to it.

Ask anyone who has quit smoking tobacco “cold turkey” how difficult it was.  The body rebels against the intentional withholding of the chemicals that brought pleasure and comfort and order with it.  The body rebels, and we may get irritable, the physical being greatly desiring what it is being deprived.  Withdrawal is never pretty, and it is the same way with spiritual withdrawal.  But such courses of action are necessary in order to grow and to regain control of that which we ceded to external stimuli and pressures.  And when we come in contact with other people who are doing what we used to do, the body cries out in a desperate attempt to ensnare the person again.  That is why it is sometimes so difficult for ex-smokers to be around smokers, and for recovering alcoholics to hang around drinkers.

Guide our Gaze

In this case, we have our goal in our sight – Jesus Christ is the one with whom we fix our gaze upon.  It is His example that we need to keep in sight as we move away from sin and move towards righteousness.  When we take our eyes off of the goal, it is easy to become sidetracked, blindsided, and fall back to old patterns of behavior.  It is hard enough trying to break a habit without having people constantly offer the very substance or circumstance that you are trying to avoid.

With spiritual habits, we are constantly bombarded by the devil and his minions to go back to life that we were living.  His calls to return are like daggers that zap our strength and feed the monster we are trying to starve to death.  And like anything else in this life, what you feed will grow, and what you starve will die (eventually).  Some things die long, slow, painful, soul-crushing, whining, loud deaths.  But die they must.  Remember to keep your eyes upon Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who shed His blood so that we could be free from our monsters.  Put the monsters in the dungeon where they belong, and make sure you don’t feed them – the enemies of our souls will try to do all that they can to feed and water them when we aren’t looking or ready for it.  Carefully planned ambushes that we don’t see coming are often the demise of the most well-intentioned Disciple.  Discernment keeps our spiritual eyes aware of our environment as we allow the word of God to light the path for our feet.

Wave off Weariness

Finally, we need to keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we can remember the strength that He had through submission to the Holy Spirit to endure all that God had preordained Him to endure for our sake.  We must always keep heart, even when our flesh and emotions fail us.  For long after our physical strength is exhausted, it is only through determination of heart that we are able to hold on and endure, pressing forward to the goal.  Most of us have not resisted to the point of bloodshed.  Let us remember the price that was paid, and determine in our hearts that the One who endured all of our sins upon the cross is worthy of fighting until our very last breath leaves our body, and we go into glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I feeding or starving the monsters I am trying to slay?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son Jesus Christ has shown me the way to victory.  Give me wisdom and discernment to avoid the circumstances that would overwhelm me and cause my spiritual demise.  Help me to starve the monsters of sin that seek to overcome my soul, and give me the strength to resist them with Your word and Your strength when I am faced with them.  Help me to avoid the pits and ambushes of the enemy so that I will be best positioned to grow in Your word and Your ways.  And when there is no apparent way out, help me to remember the option that Joseph took when faced with the overpowering strength of Potiphar’s wife – help me to flee the situation so that I may not become entangled in it.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?