Sunday, May 31, 2015

Yoga Pants and What the Bible Really Says About Modesty

By Amy Buckley

Is modesty really about how revealing our clothing is?

Summer is here and so are the latest summer fashions. As Christians, how do we navigate the temptation to skin-gaze the barely dressed? Get ready. But what about the other stuff that pertains to modesty: (1) Cool toys; (2) Houses; (3) Kitchens, etc? What would Jesus say and do about our modern times about the way we floss our stuff? Does modesty have anything to do with the way we purchase? The implications of this well thought and written article will extend our understanding of the Biblical mandate for modesty and make it more practical. Enjoy:

When I started practicing yoga a couple years ago, I discovered the wonders of yoga pants. I liked how they felt during practices. It did not occur to me that wearing them while stopping by the grocery store on the way home could be controversial.

Then, one day, I noticed a man staring at a women’s derriere in the frozen foods aisle. He seemed to have superpowers for seeing through her yoga pants. I have since stopped wearing yoga pants in public, but not because of popular evangelical “modesty culture.”

Why is modesty about yoga pants such a heated issue? The reasons are as numerous as those debating it. Some believe freedom in Christ supports dressing in what’s comfortable, practical and attractive. Some express battles in their minds over seeing contours of women’s bodies through microfiber. Some abstain from yoga pants as a means of protecting relationships. Some insist on rights to express their attractiveness and sexuality.

The reasons for supporting and opposing form-fitting clothes go on and on. Where do we begin making sense of what we should and should not wear? What does the Bible really say about modesty? And, what on earth would Jesus say about wearing yoga pants?

1. Modesty involves much more than how we dress. 

The most frequently quoted Bible verse about modesty appears smack in the middle of a passage about false teaching.

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Paul has just instructed men and women to stop angrily disputing ways the surrounding culture is creeping into church. Evidently, it has disrupted worship services. Likewise, the fashion of some women has caused distractions, drawing attention away from God.

The word for “modesty” (kosmios) actually points at orderliness, moderation and appropriateness. It is a characteristic required of a bishop in 1 Timothy 3:2. As Rachel Held Evans has pointed out, nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Peter 3:3). “And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.”

2. The Bible does not contain explicit instructions for dressing modestly.

Christian modesty debates run the gamut—from “dress attractively, but not too attractively” to “cover up or you are a Jezebel.” The Pinterest Board “Guys on Modesty” even makes suggestions for skirts, dresses, shorts and bathing suits. They post some lovely outfits, but leave it up to women to figure out why skin-tight jeans are included but yoga pants are not (someone please define the difference).

“Modest” skirts cover female legs and thighs while “modest” one-piece swimsuits show legs and thighs in styles the average-sized American woman would have to diet to look modest in. A woman is left wondering whether or not it’s “OK” to dress for the beach, or yoga class (knowing a man could “stumble”).

In truth, the Bible offers little fashion advice. In the case of prohibitions such as braided hair and expensive clothing, God calls for modesty—a fruit of faith—not legalistic control of fashion. Modesty is not preoccupied with external appearances. It does not flaunt wealth, diminish others, or seek selfish attention; it professes reverence toward God. It is a quality both women and men should seek to exhibit.

3. Personal choices about modesty affect our communities.

We get it wrong when limiting our discussions of modesty to sexuality. Modesty applies to more than how we dress; it relates to our thinking and attitudes affecting the bigger spectrum of how we live. Our choices relating to materialism, consumption, money management, relationships—and countless other aspects of life—affect more than ourselves.

If, for example, I become addicted to reading Fifty Shades of Grey, and I pin unrealistic expectations on my husband, it hurts my marriage. If I flaunt an expensive outfit to a friend struggling financially, she suffers. None of us live in a vacuum. Our values result in choices affecting others.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

4. We are responsible for our attitudes and behaviors, no matter what anyone does.

Every woman has experienced it no matter how she dresses—men staring at portions of her body. One can’t predict when or why it happens.

During seminary, I made extreme efforts not to attract attention to my body, and some men still carried on theological discussions with my chest. Now that I live in Florida and enjoy going to the beach, I observe some men lingering over women’s bodies in swimsuits while others don’t. I have come to believe that some men lust after women’s bodies no matter what they wear.

Lust is more than looking. It is different from feeling attraction or involuntary sexual arousal. Lust entails seeing another’s body as an object for self-gratification. It defines the person not as a human, created in the image of God, but as a means of carnal pleasure.

Shechem’s lust led him to sexually assault Dinah in Genesis 34. Scholar and pastor Ron Clark explains, “Shechem has violated the rights of Dinah as well as the covenant with the Jacobites.” Clearly men do not rape women because of how they dress.

“But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

5. True modesty comes from dressing in the spirit of Jesus.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

The apostle Paul offers an elegant solution to immodesty—being clothed in good deeds. Rather than selling out to worldly values, we are to aspire to God’s values.

All men and women are to seek knowledge, belief and practices of God’s realm, peace, unity and continuing growth in wisdom (1 Timothy 2:3).

As for whether or not we should wear yoga pants, tight jeans or certain swimsuits, I believe Jesus would instruct that sometimes, yes—depending on humility, appropriateness and devotion to God— and sometimes no—depending on humility, appropriateness and devotion to God.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Preach the Gospel to Yourself | Desiring God

By David Mathis

I'll never forget when I first learned about self-talk. I was in my young twenties early in my Army career learning about a very valuable skill set called resiliency - the ability to bounce back especially in the midst of turmoil and hardship. Many times it is we ourselves who turn a struggle that is truly small into something bigger than it should be. We "make a mountain out of a molehill." This is the result of negative self-talk and thinking.

In his book Spiritual Depression, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones introduces and reaffirms the idea of Godly self-talk. He challenges readers to follow the Psalmist's example relying solely on Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5. The context of the Psalm speaks for itself, beginning with "As the dear pants for the water brooks, so my soul longs for you, O God." God is the source of all our panting and the Psalmist if fully sure of this. Three times he reminds himself: 

"Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence."

Becoming intimate with the Gospel means more than just reciting the basic truth of the Gospel each day. It means becoming intimate with Jesus Christ - allowing Him to minister His good news to practically permeate every every area of our lives as His disciples. It is important we remember to catch ourselves, especially in the morning, and take ourself by the hand and remind ourself of the Gospel. How God loves us, sent His only Son for us who lived among us and died for us, and ascended to heaven to intercede for us. I might add that we should remember that each day is the day that the Lord has made, and to be glad in it. (Ps 118:24)

Here's David:

No one is more influential in your life than you are. Because no one talks to you more than you do.

So observes Paul Tripp — and in doing so, he accents our need to daily preach the gospel to ourselves.
In our sin, we constantly find our responses to life in our fallen world to be disconnected from the theology that we confess. Anger, fear, panic, discouragement stalk our hearts and whisper in our ears a false gospel that will lure our lives away from what we say we believe.
The battleground, says Tripp, is meditation. What is it that is capturing your idle thoughts? What fear or frustration is filling your spare moments?
Will you just listen to yourself, or will you start talking? No, preaching — not letting your concerns shape you, but forming your concerns by the gospel.

Defensive and Offensive

Preaching the gospel to ourselves is a spiritual discipline that is both proactive and reactive. It’s reactive as we encounter temptation and frustration and seek to restock in the moment, or as we reflect back on our sin and circumstances and try to evaluate them with a gospel lens.
But it’s also proactive — it goes on the offensive — when we feed our souls in some regular rhythm before the events and tasks and disappointments of daily life begin streaming our way. Tripp counsels that we make it a daily practice to 1) gaze on the beauty of Christ, 2) remember who we are as a child of God, 3) rest in his power and provision, and then 4) act in reliance upon him.

The Gospel and the Scriptures

There is a difference, Tripp notes, between merely reminding ourselves of truth, and preaching to ourselves the truth of the gospel. The latter is self-consciously and intentionally reminding ourselves of the person and presence and provisions of our Redeemer.
But while gospel self-preaching is not the same thing as Bible reading, the connections and interdependences are profound. The Scriptures, says Tripp, provide the material for preaching to ourselves the gospel of grace. They are the content to be taken up and applied to our lives in view of Jesus’s person and work.
It will not adequately strengthen our soul, in the long run, just to hear the same canned gospel repeated over and over. Neither will it sustain our spiritual lives to merely take in information without seeing it in light of Jesus, and pressing it into our hearts.

Our 50th Episode

In this new episode of Theology Refresh — our 50th episode overall — Paul Tripp shoots us straight about this all-important practice of preaching to ourselves, and helps us understand the need for, and the power in, this life-giving Christian routine.