Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Purity From the Heart

I am a big fan of Stacy McDonald's Raising Maidens of Virtue. Below is an article that will give you a taste for the book.

The Great Masquerade: An Impure Fa├žade
by Stacy McDonald
In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10, NKJV)
“But it doesn’t matter what I wear!” Sarah scoffed. “God sees my heart!” Sarah finished putting on her lipstick while Hannah tried in vain to reason with her old friend.
“Yes, God sees your heart,” Hannah explained, “but nobody else does—especially boys—they see that.” Hannah swept her hand in front of Sarah’s revealing outfit. “Don’t you see? They’re too distracted by what you’re wearing to notice you.”
“But that’s my point! I don’t care if boys notice me or not.” Hannah smiled coyly. “I just care what God thinks, and He can see my heart.”
Hannah sighed, “My mom always says that whatever is in our hearts will eventually show up on the outside—in what we wear, how we carry ourselves, what we say, how we treat others, and . . .”
“Okay, okay, I get your point.” Sarah tugged at her skirt, which suddenly seemed shorter than ever before. She wasn’t in any mood to listen to her friend today. Lately, Hannah seemed to have become more and more legalistic, and her comments were really beginning to irritate Sarah.
Sarah continued applying another layer of mascara and turned to her friend in exasperation. “Look, Hannah, I’m glad you’re so concerned about my soul and all, but I don’t see things the way you do. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what I’m wearing, and I don’t think God does either. I’m just dressing like everybody else. Besides, if a guy lusts, that’s his problem!” Sarah nervously buttoned another button on her blouse. “So please stop judging me!”
Changing Our Culture for Christ
Have you ever had a conversation like this? Many people believe that we should draw our modesty standards from what is commonly worn in our particular culture or era. Of course, if that were entirely true, we could also say that if we were born in a remote jungle where everyone walked around nude, then we, as jungle Christians, could also forego clothing. Another problem with this type of thinking is that God intends Christians to be dominion takers—people who influence our culture for Christ rather than the other way around.
Consider the popular clothing styles, the slang, and even the liberal moral trends followed by a huge portion of our society. Much of what we see comes directly from Hollywood actors, television icons, and pop music stars. Instead of being a people set apart (Proverbs 23:17), the Church sadly reflects this same tendency.
Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate,” says the Lord. “Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters,”says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1, NKJV)
If we visit almost any church youth group, we will see young ladies who speak, walk, dress, and flirt exactly like the daughters of the heathen. This has resulted from our love of and conformity to the world, a condition that the Church largely fails to recognize. Christians must be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), and our uniqueness should be evident to the world.
Today’s young people have turned from the influence of their parents and grandparents (Proverbs 7:1-2) and embraced instead the persuasive tactics of the ungodly. Imitation is called the highest form of flattery—we tend to imitate those we esteem and want to emulate. If we imitate the world, exactly what do we communicate? “ Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11, NKJV).
If It Feels Good, Wear It?
Others take a relativistic approach to modesty. These women believe that if they feel modest in their clothing, that’s all that matters—and too bad for the poor guy sitting in the church pew behind them! We need to remember that when it comes to obeying God, feelings are irrelevant. Scripture, not our personal, creative moral standard, must be our authority.
If Scripture teaches us that we are to dress in “modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9), then there must be immodest apparel as well. We know from Proverbs 7:10 that the adulterous woman seduced her lover with flattery and the “ attire of a harlot.” What does this mean?
Although God doesn’t give us fashion specifics or sewing patterns, He clearly states that we are to dress and behave modestly. He has created us distinctively female and has instructed us throughout Scripture to be chaste. What, then, does chastity require?
Chastity Communicates Christ
Chastity before marriage reflects both purity of the body and a wholesome thought life. A chaste young woman will not flaunt her body or flirt with young men. Instead, she is adorned by her modest demeanor and discreet speech. Rather than focusing on “how far” she can go, she guards even her thoughts by concentrating on her relationship with Christ and faithfulness to her future husband.
After marriage, a woman reflects chastity through her faithfulness to the purity of the marriage bed—both literally and as reflected in speech and attitude. A chaste wife delights in her husband, happily reserving her body for him. Her speech is wholesome, she is not idle, and she refrains from activities that would compromise her own or her husband’s reputation. Chastity, in other words, is a way of life, the essence of who we are as Christian women. “That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5, NKJV).
A chaste woman guards her reputation (the way she is regarded or perceived by others) by making certain never to portray herself falsely as tainted or impure. Such an unholy picture would bring shame upon the name of Christ, herself, and her husband or father. Scripture tells us that this literally “blasphemes the word of God” (Titus 2:5) by inviting the heathen to believe a lie about His power and holiness.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines the word blaspheme this way: “To speak of the Supreme Being in terms of impious irreverence; to revile or speak reproachfully of God, or the Holy Spirit.” If the world looks at the way we dress or behave and sees impurity, we have failed to communicate Christ in a “pious” or “reverent” way. This in turn allows the world to “speak reproachfully” of our most holy God.
Certainly, many of today’s seemingly unchaste Christian women do not intentionally blaspheme God through their dress or actions. Instead, they have so immersed themselves in modern culture that they have become blind to the pure, the lovely, and the good. Most of us, desensitized since childhood by the media and peer influences, find it difficult to differentiate between that which is pure and good and that which is nothing more than whitewashed filth.
Therefore, we must diligently search out the principles in Scripture that apply to modesty, chastity, and femininity, and be willing to conform cheerfully to what we learn—no matter how much we love those old jeans or how “cute” we find that new skirt!
Christians have mimicked the heathen for so long—copying their fashions, borrowing their educational and social philosophies, conforming to their dating format, and adopting their dialect—that we do not even recognize the loss of our Christian identity. We have worn the costume and spoken the language of the world for so long that we no longer recognize ourselves. Unfortunately, neither does anyone else.
If the Church does not reform its thinking to line up with Scripture, what hope do we have for change? If Christian women do not begin to consistently communicate biblical beauty, femininity, and modesty, how will our culture understand and appreciate the delicate appeal and power of virtuous womanhood?
Instead of mirroring the behavior or appearance of the latest pop star, Christian young women can show our culture a better alternative —one that is wholesome, pure, and lovely. Through our clothing, speech, behavior, and conversation, we have the opportunity to reveal to the world a beautifully honest picture of the holiness and purity of Christ.
The following discussion questions are excerpted from Raising Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness for Mothers and Daughters.
1. Have you ever thought about what you look like from behind—how tight or sheer your clothing is? Ask your mother to stand behind you and watch you walk. Ask her if she thinks you swing your hips or swagger.
2. How is modesty a heart issue? Discuss ways that heart issues show up in our actions.
3. When you walk up a flight of stairs, what do men behind you see? What types of clothing would be the most modest in this situation?
4. Have you ever worn a long, flowing skirt or dress? How did it make you feel? How did others view you? Did it properly cover your private areas with no problem?
5. Do you wear skirts that have slits that are cut higher than you would actually wear your skirt? What happens when you walk or sit? What happens on a windy day?
6. Is your clothing modest to the people who are sitting behind you in church? Ask your mother or a wise female friend to stand behind you while you bend over to pick up a book. Now do the same with them standing in front of you. What did she see? What would your father think?
7. Raise your hands high above your head. Does your tummy show? You may think, “I’ll never be walking around with my hands above my head,” but this is a good all-around test. I’ve seen young ladies in blouses that seemed modest until they bent over to pick up a toddler or had to reach up high on a shelf.
8. How low is your neckline? Look in the mirror while holding onto your knees. Do you see cleavage? If so, everyone else does too! If you are fuller in the chest area, you may need to be more careful of certain fabrics. Sweaters, knits, and the newer “stretchy” fabrics tend to cling and accentuate the bust line, and tops that are too large fall open easily.
9. Be aware of where others’ eyes may be drawn. You want them to look at your face, not other parts of your body, while they are talking to you. Avoid garments that hug areas which should be kept private.
10. Would you feel naked wearing your nightgown or undergarments into a courtroom or church? What would your pastor and his wife think if you invited them over to supper, then answered the door in your underwear? Would they be shocked? Why do many of us think it is acceptable then to invite fellow Christians over for a pool party where everyone is wearing “colored underwear”? Discuss your answer with your mother (Romans 12:2).
11. Discuss how we have been conditioned by the world to accept public nakedness, all in the name of recreation and fun—or even Christian liberty. How should we change our thinking? (1Peter 1:14)
12. Talk about how someone can be dressed modestly from head to toe and still reveal an immodest demeanor.
Read Proverbs 7:10-11 and Proverbs 31:22, 25.
13. Look up the following words in the dictionary. Discuss with your mother how they might apply to immodesty:
Conceit Haughtiness Egocentric Ostentatious What is the root sin of each of these offenses? 14. Read all of Proverbs chapter 7. Do you see what could be described as the “attire of a harlot” in the styles offered in most department stores today? What do you think is meant by “her feet abide not in her house?” Was the woman described in Proverbs 7 modest? Was she focused on serving her husband and her household faithfully or on gratifying herself? Men tend to sin by lusting after women, while women tend to sin by lusting to be lusted after. Lust is the very opposite of love because it takes instead of gives. 15. If a maiden knowingly exposes private parts of her body or wears clothing that may incite lust in a young man, then she is acting selfishly. Again, this is the opposite of what Scripture describes as love. Do you think the Proverbs 7 woman loved the young man she enticed? Do you think she enjoyed flaunting her body? Have you ever chosen an outfit because you thought it might get the attention of a boy? Pray about your answer. Discuss the selfish motives behind choosing your wardrobe this way.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
16. Are you dressing for the approval of man or God? Is your goal to impress or attract others or to be pleasing to God and to glorify Him? Be honest!

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