Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Treasure of TRUE Beauty

In the last post, I talked about a cheerful giver. What does that look like? To me, I see smiles, joy, and laughter. A woman possessing a heart as described cannot help but radiate on the outside. Her heart is so full of God that it cannot help but manifest itself on the outside.

The Bible teaches that a joyful heart is always accompanied by a cheerful face (Prov 15:13). Similarly, Proverbs 27:19 reads, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” The wisdom possessed in the heart of a worthy woman also “illumines” and causes a “stern face to beam” (Ecc 8:1). Therefore, it is easy to see how the female examples given to model biblical womanhood in Scripture are described as beautiful in physical appearance. Their actions coincide with the attributes of a beautiful heart.

For example, Rebekah was described as “very beautiful, a virgin” and immediately met the need of Isaac’s thirst (Gen 24:14;18). Purity, gentleness and compassion accentuated her lovely features.

Esther was likewise described as “beautiful of form and face.” She was also a virgin and predominantly modeled obedience to keeping God’s commands, even when faced with the possibility of losing her own life (Est 2:7; 4:16).

Sarai, the wife of Abraham, was recognized as beautiful, and Peter used her as an example of modeling Godly living with her behavior (Gen 12:11; 1 Pet 3:6).

Ultimately, the goal is not to strive to be like Esther, Rebekah, or Sarai. Rather, a biblical woman’s heart focus should be on Christ, for He is the only one who possessed these heart traits in their entirety. In one of her most well-known works, Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man must be seeking the Lord to find it.”

Elliot was referring to a romantic relationship, but the policy applies to a biblical woman’s life in general. A biblical woman lives her life in such a way that in order to grasp the depth of her beauty, one must first understand the magnificence of the Lord.

A biblical woman is worth more than jewels, so she is a rare treasure to all who come in contact with her (Prov 31:10). Just as she is a treasure, she likewise stores up for herself “treasures in heaven, where neither mouth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” because she knows that her heart follows her treasure (Matt 6:20-21). A biblical woman’s treasure and identity is in Christ.

Lyrics to “Treasure,” a recent worship song include:

My heart is where my treasure lies.
My great reward is in Your eyes.
My every breath belongs to You.
You are my treasure.

In fairytales, treasure is frequently buried in secret. Earthly treasures are stored away, regarded as rare, but not enjoyed. However, the treasure of Christ can never be taken away, and the gift of sharing salvation is yet one other attribute that can aid in a woman’s genuine beauty in Christ.

Paul declared in Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet that bring good news!” Biblical women chase guaranteed crowns in heaven by growing in beauty proclaimed by the King of Kings rather than striving for the world’s unpredictable approval. Miss America may only crown one girl each year, but God doesn’t grant first runner-up. Each of His daughters get a crown.

Seek true beauty - serve willingly and cheerfully, reflect Christ with your actions, and tell others about Him.

Friday, November 21, 2008

God Looks at the Heart

After examining what the flesh values, such as youth and appearance, Romans 12:2 reminds believers to not conform to the patterns of this world. While many parts of God’s creation are pleasing to the human eye, God’s perspective proves different.
First Samuel 16:7 explains: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Obviously, this is not referring to the muscle that pumps blood throughout the body, but to the soul and reflection of Christ within a godly woman. First Kings 8:39 says that God is the only one who knows the hearts of all mankind. The Lord even goes as far to search “all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts” (I Chr 28:9). The Scriptures are very detailed as to what the Lord is looking for in a beautiful heart, so God has outlined His specific checklist for being beautiful in His eyes.

Each piece of a beautiful heart is woven together with God’s clever craftsmanship within His word to describe beauty in the eyes of the supreme Beholder. Each characteristic of a beautiful heart in the Bible matches the description and instruction to worthy women in the passages God intended especially for His daughters. God created men and women equal, but He made them different and clearly defined His plan for biblical womanhood throughout His word.

Today’s recurrent message of the feminist’s “independent woman” directly contradicts the reality of God’s design and gift of femininity. The woman He desires His daughters be and the heart He favors knows His word, keeps His commands, and demonstrates love, wisdom, purity, gentleness, compassion, and humility.

First, a beautiful woman of God knows her Father’s Word. Developing intimacy with God involves spending time with Him and seeking to know Him as He knows His children. Envision a baby girl in her daddy’s arms. At this age, she can only understand His love and strength. As she gets older, she can understand him in many roles, such as her authority and her provider. A relationship with Christ is the same. By becoming familiar with His teachings, a beautiful woman can fully grasp the Heavenly Father’s teachings.

Psalm 119:11 encourages believers to treasure His word in their hearts to prevent sin. Therefore, the responsibility is more than just knowing what the Bible says. Biblical women should model His word in daily life. Deuteronomy 30:14 says, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” Ultimately, women of God know what pleases and displeases their Father and respond with respect, or fear of the Lord.

A biblical woman’s fear of the Lord should be praised above charm and beauty (Prov 31:30). Earlier in the passage, it is written that a worthy woman is blessed by her children and praised by her husband (Prov 31:28). Being praised by those closest to her illustrates her authenticity. She demonstrates her fear of the Lord with “chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Pet 3:2). Only a woman who had sought to embrace her role within Scripture would be able to receive such praise.

Along with being able to discern right from wrong, a woman God would deem as beautiful accepts the duty of keeping His commands. Deuteronomy 5:29 reveals God’s desire for His children to have “such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always.” So in addition to her fear of the Lord, she desires to keep His commands always. This does not mean she keeps the commands that are easy to follow. Regardless of the level of difficulty, Abba Father has commissioned His daughters to remain faithful. As God searches a woman’s heart, He may even test her to examine her heart and her faithfulness to keep His commands (Deut 8:2).

God knows His children’s specific weaknesses, and in love, He cautions about them in His Word. While He warns man against such things as being “double-tongued or addicted to much wine,” He cautions woman against becoming “malicious gossips” (1 Tim 3:8;11, Tit 2:3). Most women can testify that this is a daily battle. Deborah Tannen, regarded as an expert in gender and linguistics, notes that women use gossip as a means of building relationships. By communicating something that she would not necessarily ever say out loud or in front of a large group, a woman discloses something personal, producing a closeness that women desire in relationships. However, God, the ultimate authority, instructs to not “associate with a gossip” (Prov 20:19). No matter the struggle, when God’s trials come, a God-fearing woman knows what He has called her to do and should follow His instruction.

According to Jesus, the greatest and foremost commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; Deut 6:5). In the next few verses of all the New Testament passages sited above, Jesus states the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). Not only does the Lord desire His daughter’s entire heart, but He desires her heart first; He longs for it to be full of His love and for her to pour out that love on others.

In His perfect plan, He uses this beautiful trait of love in His daughters so that others may come to know Him through knowing her. The challenge has often been presented to believers of examining if one were put on trial for being a Christian if there would be enough evidence for conviction. Surely, keeping the greatest commandment and possessing a loving heart would be critical evidence.

Those who choose not to keep His commands will be ruined while “the wise of heart will receive commands” (Prov 10:8). Therefore, a beautiful woman is also wise. God’s academic agenda has a completely different location and set of priorities than what man perceives as wisdom. While the world is consumed with head knowledge, God is concerned with heart knowledge. The name most associated with wisdom in the Bible is King Solomon. First Kings 3:12 shows that God gave Solomon a “wise and discerning heart” and I Kings 10:24 says “all the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.” Specifically, James 3:17states, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

From that description, man’s definition of intelligence looks much easier in comparison. However, James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” For example, the passage in Proverbs 31 referred to so many times describing a worthy woman was an intense word given to King Lemuel by his mother (Prov 31:1). This God-breathed advice comes to the hearts of women straight from the heart of none other than a biblical woman. God knew and understood the need for women to use words to build relationships; He created His daughters to be this way.

Ponder for a moment on the impact of this passage in Scripture and the detailed insight God delivered through a woman who more than likely had never received formal education. This is the type of speech that will build relationships to replace gossip among sisters in Christ! Rather than corrupted conversation that tears another down, her pure perception continues to encourage and challenge women of the Word.

Just as Paul taught Timothy years later, this king’s godly mother modeled how the goal of instruction is “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Tim1:5). Purity is a distinguishing characteristic, separating beautiful women of the world from beautiful women of the Word. In the instance of the Persian kingdom of Ahasuerus, there is a distinct difference between Vashti and Esther. In old Persian, Vashti actually translates to mean “beautiful woman.” When the king sought to find a queen to replace her, he obviously desired more than physical beauty. He requested for “beautiful young virgins” to be brought to his palace (Esther 2:2). Purity set Esther apart, and accompanied with wholesomeness and modesty, it continues to separate biblical women from worldly women.

Matthew 5:8 illustrates the honor that accompanies a pure heart, revealing that the pure in heart will see God. However, John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God.” In her book on the beatitudes, Dorothy Patterson beautifully states that God’s divine character can be seen as He grants spiritual discernment. “The God who is
invisible becomes visible through the Son.” Therefore, a biblical woman realizes in order for Him to increase, she must decrease (John 3:30). Jesus is the only one to ever walk this earth without sin in His heart, so to acquire a pure heart, a beautiful woman must no longer live, but let Christ live in her (Gal 2:20). While God created physical beauty to be enjoyed, the Lord warns against beauty being marked by merely physical appearance, like Vashti.

Rather, the Father encourages “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 3:3-4). While external beauty is passing, her gentle spirit is permanent. Many feminists protest against the teaching of gentleness, manipulating the term to imply frailty. Rather, gentleness manifests a tender strength. “Meekness is not weakness…It is submissiveness under provocation, the willingness to suffer than to inflict injury. The meek [or gentle] person leaves everything in the hand of Him who loves and cares.” Therefore, a biblical woman puts full trust and faith in her Lord rather than trying to live life on her own.

Unbelieving (and some believing) feminists cringe at the mention of woman giving up her “right to independence” for total dependence on anyone, including God. However, a biblical and beautiful woman realizes that her God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and almighty. She trusts in the fact that she is clothed in strength that comes from the Lord. A worthy woman is bound “with strength and makes her arms strong, and she is not afraid of the snow for her household” (Prov 31:17; 21;25). Repeating themes of strength, boldness, and courage in this passage eliminate weakness from her image. She realizes she has been chosen of God and accompanies her heart of gentleness with complementing attributes, such as compassion and humility (Col 3:12). She humbles herself, recognizing that she is subservient to Almighty God. Jesus said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11:29). If Jesus, who possessed God’s power and lived a sinless life, responds to God in meekness, how much more should His sinful children submit to Him?

Reflect on the hours leading to Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus did not resist or fight back. As prophesied, Jesus was led like a lamb to slaughter; “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth” (Is 53:7). In place of resentment, Jesus offered compassion, requesting that God forgive them because they did not know what they were doing (Luk 23:34).

Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Scripture teaches to take this desire that comes with compassion and respond with mercy through serving and giving to God and others. Prov 31:20 describes, “She extends her hands to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.” As a genuine and generous servant, a beautiful woman doesn’t just offer care at her convenience. She extends and stretches her hands, and she even “works with her hands in delight” (Proverbs 31:13). She goes out of her way to joyfully express sensitivity and to invest in others. As stated in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting Past the Mirror

Throughout history, women have sought to find identity in their physical appearance. While young boys aspire to play professional football to prove their strength, little girls dream of becoming Miss America to verify their beauty.

In the United States alone, women spend more money annually on beauty products than the nation spends on education. Over six billion dollars is spent on makeup alone. So in some distorted way, the image of beauty is fixated on a solitary crown that must be won before the age of twenty-four or pre-packaged dyes that will inevitably empty over time.

External beauty is where too many women, God-fearing women included, strive to find their value. Proverbs 31:31 is a beautiful reminder that this type of beauty fades, but eternal beauty in a relationship with God continues to develop as one grows in daily fellowship with Him. Instead of dwindling like cosmetics, biblical women can become more beautiful with each day.

In Ways of Seeing, Berger acknowledges that women live in a self-conscious world. A woman has “to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.” He insists that this pattern is instilled from a young age, and he appears to be correct. In 1998, Exeter University conducted a study of 37,500 girls between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Over half (57.5%) listed appearance as the biggest concern in their lives.

It would be easy to blame the today’s media for this phenomenon in today’s age of airbrushing magazine photographs and misleading “beautiful” icons. A study done in 2000 even showed that the average Miss America is 12% underweight and 2% taller than the average female. Today’s culture does give out its share of mixed signals. However, society began training the general public that appearance is everything long ago. For instance, it can be traced back to 650 B.C. when King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Daniel 1:4 lists the first two characteristics he desired in those he wished to take back to Babylon as youthful and good-looking.

As Andreas K√∂stenberger has argued, many Christian self-help books rely more on secular teachings than biblical foundations. The problem begins with the label placed on this genre of literature. Christians should not rely on “self-help” books. God is
the ultimate Helper, and He has provided answers to life problems throughout His Word. Believers simply create more conflict in life when they attempt to map a plan for themselves rather than placing trust in God. For that reason, the primary text for this series will be the Bible itself, examining it as a whole to embrace God’s definition of beauty and avoid superficial cures for false instruction from a fallen world.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marriage: Ultimate Glorification of God

While God has chosen to use men and women to demonstrate aspects of Himself, one must never consider that God needs human beings to do His work, as Paul expressed in Acts 17:25. Instead, “all things were created through Him and for Him.” All of God’s creation exists to bring Him glory.

Many married couples bring to their relationship a view of God that is “so small instead of huge, and so marginal instead of central, and so vague instead of clear, and so impotent instead of all-determining, and so uninspiring instead of ravishing, that when they marry, the thought of living marriage to the glory of God is without meaning and without content.”

Knowing God for who He truly is, rather than who mankind selfishly wants Him to be, esteeming His glory over any personal agenda, and eliminating any disrespectful question of His plan from our impure thoughts is the only way to live our lives fully to His glory. Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

While most of the debated New Testament passages refer to the marriage relationship, females still cannot dismiss these teachings if they are single. Not only is no one exempt from creation order, but Proverbs 31:12 says, “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Since mankind is incapable of knowing what tomorrow holds, every woman who professes Christ should sumbit to the Lord, embracing her created purpose, rather than anxiously seeking a man to marry or insisting that she will never marry. Women should submit to men’s leadership over the church and the home. Adopting a serving and submissive spirit, women should pray that thier attitude, like Jesus Christ, will further reveal God to a lost world.

Likewise, the best preparation for males to handle headship like Christ is to be faithful to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” In an attempt to display God’s communicable attributes and mimic Christ’s love for the church, Christian men should refuse to see headship as an opportunity for dominating women, but as a chance to truly seek the Father’s wisdom for his family. More than likely, Christians will not be able to convince the media to go back to a sitcom displaying correct gender roles in the family. However, true realization that the Father knows best has the power to eliminate distorted family structures within our churches.

My Sources:

Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, edited by Wayne Grudem

P.S. The picture above is from our wedding. James and I both treasure this moment as the most special time of our wedding day. No unity candle, no unity sand - just our closest friends and family gathered around us in a continual prayer that God will be glorified through our marriage.

True Masculinity & Femininity

Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself using masculine terms. Egalitarians say this is another way for humans to understand God, just as He compares Himself to animals and inanimate objects. The main problem with this view is that God created males and females in His image. He did not create Himself to be like human beings. Rather, God created masculinity to augment some of His attributes and created femininity to such display others.

This does not imply that God is male or female. God is not established by gender, but by His simultaneous plurality and unity. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (emphasis added). As made in the Trinitarian God’s image, males and females are equal yet different.

Referring back to Ephesians 5, God has given men headship over women, just as Christ has dominion over the church. Men are not given freedom to interpret this headship position on their own. They are instructed to follow the pattern of Christ. While complementarians disagree with much of the feminist movement, most do not hold feminists as the ones who are ultimately responsible.

Rather, they attribute the feminist movement to the negligence of men to practice humble headship like Christ. One theologian notes, “I believe that if Christian men had been the servant leaders in the home, rather than conceited chauvinists, the feminist movement would have died a quick and easy death…I am tired of hearing that feminists are responsible for the breakdown of the family. We need to put the responsibility where it belongs – on the heads of homes.”

Women are just as guilty of not being obedient to their created purpose. “God created woman to directly reflect the man’s headship authority by recognizing it, revealing it, submitting to it, receiving it, and supporting his leadership.” More often, women end up ignoring it, resenting it, rebuking it, disobeying it, and discouraging male leadership.

Appalling feminists everywhere, I Corinthians 11:7 describes women as “the glory of men.” But where is the egalitarian objection that Jesus was sent to glorify the Father? Each time a groom beams as his bride walks down the aisle, Christians should be reminded of the Father’s words from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Each time a woman gives birth to a child, this miracle should serve as a reminder that eternal life can only come from the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Egalitarians dismiss many of the gender-related passages with an “ad hoc” argument, meaning that they believe these passages were written out of historical circumstance and only refer to the original audience. Due to the mention of head coverings, I Corinthians 11 is a passage egalitarians often disregard theologically. However, because of Paul’s use of the Trinity, an omnipresent deity, there is no way to interpret this as simply cultural wisdom.

While most complementarians agree that this passage does not indicate women today must wear a hat at all times, the cultural implications should remain. “Wearing a head covering communicated a submissive demeanor and a feminine adornment.” Therefore, as women pray or prophesy in public, they must communicate their support for male headship with appropriate conduct and mannerisms.

Teaching Scripture within biblical parameters includes more than just following the Titus 2 mandate of only teaching women. Women should seek to be earnest expositors of God’s Word without emasculating their God-given feminine characteristics. Women were created “to be reverent in their behavior” and embody an “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Titus 2:4-5 lays out the curriculum for older women to teach younger women to work at home and love their husbands and children, while pursuing purity, wisdom and kindness to uphold the commands in Scripture. This does not mean women are to deliver emotionally driven and spiritually shallow messages. Simply, there are some things God knew pastors, as men, would not be able to teach from the pulpit with the same effect as a biblical woman who has been there.

My Sources:

Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, edited by Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

"God, Gender, and Biblical Metaphor (Chapter 16) by Judy L. Brown," by H. Wayne House in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

20 Controversies that Almost Killed a Church by Richard L. Ganz

Men and Women: Equal Yet Different by Alexander Strauch

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper

For further discussion on the difference between prophecy and teaching, see Wayne Grudem, “Prophecy—Yes, But Teaching—No: Paul’s Consistent Advocacy of Women’s Participation Without Governing Authority,” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30 (1987): 11-23.

God Is Purposeful & Impartial

With feminism, the issue at stake goes beyond women desiring to work outside of the home and resenting the Biblical mandate to submit to their husbands. Psalm 19:1-6 describes how every part of creation reveals the knowledge of God’s existence. Human beings are God’s supreme creation created in His image. Logically, God’s general revelation should manifest itself most clearly through humanity.

Feminism has essentially blurred some of God’s self-disclosure by human neglect to follow the example set by the divine Trinity. Just as some males try to exercise overbearing authority over women, some women spend their entire lives attempting to eliminate any undermining of their gender.

Paul wrote of God’s manifold wisdom and “eternal purpose.” God has never altered the initial plan He implemented in creation. Beginning in Genesis, there is significant timing when God declared man as the leader by creating him first. Then, He created Eve to be a helper to Adam when He acknowledged that it was not good for man to be alone. Before the fall, God clearly defined the roles He desired for men and women in the perfect world, and His opinion did not change after the fall.

Even though woman sinned first, God rebuked Adam before Eve. Ultimately, God held Adam responsible. After Adam’s judgment, God declares in Genesis 3:16 to Eve that her “desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” God warned society at the very beginning that there would be a power struggle between males and females.

However, in Genesis 2, God did not tell Eve to help Adam whenever she felt like it. Rather, Eve’s purposeful existence was to serve as Adam’s helper. God’s creative design for humanity still consists of male leadership in the home and in the church.

Revelation 19:11-16 describes Jesus, seated on a white horse, with eyes like fire, a sharp sword in his mouth, and an iron rod in his hand to rule over the nations. Followed by the armies of heaven, Jesus is declared the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yes, Jesus’ role as the Son is different from the Father’s, but in no way does this passage depict Jesus to be any less God than the Father.

Proverbs 31:10-31 describes the woman who fears the Lord as anything but weak or worthless. God did not elevate Himself above His Son, and Jesus did not attempt to be greater than God. Unfortunately, males and females cannot make similar claims.

The Danger of A Personal Agenda

As early as Eve in the Garden of Eden, feminism’s true quest has been for superiority. Carolyn McCulley says, “One woman decided that God’s boundaries and definition for her weren’t good…The seeds of feminism are, ‘I want what I want,’ ‘I want to define it how I want it,’ and ‘I don’t want to give God the glory.’” The desired object may no longer involve the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The desire to become one’s own God, however, seems to be like a ribbon flowing throughout history that Satan uses to pull people away from God. There is natural rebellion against the prophet Isaiah’s words that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, and His thoughts are higher than human thoughts.

Recognizing that it was “not good for man to be alone,” God made a “helper fit for him” by creating Eve. In The Feminist Mystique, Betty Friedan tells countless tales of women who feel oppressed by the stereotypical image of females. One woman insists she loves her husband, children and home, but feels she has no personality. She says, “I’m a server of food and a putter-on of pants and a bedmaker, somebody who can be called on when you want something. But who am I?” Selfishly wanting success in some form other than in the family she claims to love, this woman’s personal agenda, like many others, prevents her from flourishing in the Father’s purpose for her life. This is hardly a twentieth century struggle.

James 3:14-16 says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

This is exactly what has happened in the world today. Resentment of the created purpose of males and females has created the muddle of effeminate men, manly females, and transgenders. The same bitterness produces depraved habits including homosexuality and pornography. One theologian evaluated the cost of feminism “cannot be measured by MasterCard, for some things are priceless. It is measured in the fifty percent divorce rate, the destruction of the family unity, the elimination of forty million unborn children, and the proliferation of pornography, and its ugly cousin, sexually transmitted diseases.”

What if Jesus Christ had come to earth with a personal agenda? Not only was He brought into the world with the incomprehensible task of living a sinless life and dying for humanity’s sin, but He was also the only One to never question the Father’s authority. Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was crucified, Jesus said, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Though he was fully God, He knew that His role was to be submissive to the Father. According to Paul, Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Christ’s task was much more demoralizing than making a few beds or cooking a few meals. Realizing the cross that was before him, human logic can see how easy it could have been for Jesus to resent that the Father did not choose him to build the ark like Noah, part the Red Sea like Moses, or ride a chariot of fire to heaven like Elijah. However reasonable this thought is, Paul shares reality in Philippians 2:8. Jesus “humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death.”

Jesus Christ could have used His deity to climb down from the cross. He could have fought back. He had the power, but he refused to use it, because He sought to fulfill the lifelong covenant that God made with Abraham. Andreas J. Kostenberger argues marriage is a comparable covenant “because it is rooted in creation and the will of the Creator Himself.”

I Corinthians 12:9-10 should encourage married couples to seek God’s sufficient grace and power made perfect in weakness rather than divorce. Paul writes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Works Cited:

The Feminist Mystique by Betty Friedan

"Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and The Contemporary Collapse of Sexual Moral," by Peter Jones - (

Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World by Carolyn McCulley

The Strength of Submission

Since the days of Tertullian, the Church has believed that the Father, Son, and Spirit are God. They are one, but there are also distinctions among them. Jesus Christ, the Son, came to earth to complete the will of the Father. Though Jesus was obedient to the Father, He has always been viewed as equally God and equally essential to Christianity. A.H. Strong says, “The subordination of the person of the Son to the person of the Father, or in other words an order of personality, office, and operation which permits the Father to be officially first, the Son second, and the Spirit third, is perfectly consistent with equality. Priority is not necessarily superiority.”

Prior to the gender debate, most evangelicals were in agreement concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, when the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) attempted to set the margins of its doctrinal basis to capture a broad audience, they decided on the inerrancy of Scripture and basic views of the Trinity as the society’s core concerns. The ETS statement reads: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."

As complementarians began capturing the illustration of gender roles and the Trinity, the views of evangelical feminists began to change. Egalitarians insist that complementarians hold the heretical view of subordination. However, complementarians do not condone an ontological difference between the Father and the Son. I Corinthians 15:28 says, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.”

Jesus’ voluntary obedience to the Father did not make Him inferior in essence, but gave the Father priority of authority. Taking away equality or role differences between the Father, the Son and the Spirit essentially abandons the Trinity, which is the center of the Christian faith. Herman Bavick went as far to say, “In the confession of the Trinity throbs the heart of the Christian religion: every error results from, or upon deeper reflection may be traced to, a wrong view of this doctrine.”

Complementarians were not first to draw this comparison. I Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” Paul quickly establishes three headship relationships exist between Christ and man, man and woman, and God and Christ. As Paul notes these relationships, he shows that Jesus Christ is the example for both genders, as He is submissive to the Father but also the head over man. The headship and submissive roles assigned to men and women in creation offer the ideal opportunity for both genders to apply Scripture’s teaching to strive after Christ’s righteousness.

A similar passage in Ephesians 5:24-25 says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Christ loved the church through times of obedience and rebellion, and He died to cover all human sin. Yet, feminists frequently scrutinize these passages by saying the Bible’s “hierarchy created about the whole love life of woman an atmosphere of degradation.” In this passage, redemption resonates far above restriction, and salvation outweighs subjection. Headship and submission were never created, but have always existed in the nature of God Himself.

In Woman and the New Race, Margaret Sanger, a feminist best known for initiating the birth control movement through the establishment of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, insisted that with the world of women’s liberation: "There will come a Plato who will be understood, a Socrates who will drink no hemlock, and a Jesus who will not die upon the cross." What Sanger thought was a statement of deliverance was nothing less than condemnation of the entire human race.

The core of Christianity can be summarized by submission. If Jesus had refused to die on the cross and submit to the Father’s plan, both males and females would be left without the hope of redemption. Instead, “the ultimate and telling proof that equality and submission may coexist in glorious harmony is found in the mediatorial mission of the Son of God…who completed it in the true liberation of submission to His Father.”

Further explanation...

Tertullian: an early church father who was the first to name the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the term "the Trinity'

Subordination: This is best referred to as putting yourself under someone else's authority (Ex - Children are subordinate to their parents, Humans are subordinate to God).

Complementarian: This is the view that I believe: God created men and women equally, but he also gave them different gender-defined roles. (Males - Husband, Father, Provider, Protector; Females - Wife, Mother, Nurturer). Check out more at

Egalitarian: also referred to as evangelical feminists, this group believes that one's gender does not determine role or status in life, nor does it limit spiritual giftedness and ministry opportunities. Essentially, they believe the only differences between males and females are physical. You can learn more on their website:

Headship: Humble, loving leadership, such as Christ's love and authority over the church

Submission: Humble, serving respect, such as Jesus' obedience to the Father's plan for His death on the cross for the forigiveness of sin

My Sources:

An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine: Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

The Hermeneutics of Doctrine by Anthony C. Thiselton,

Systematic Theology by Augustus H. Strong

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper

Men and Women: Equal Yet Different by Alexander Strauch

Does Father Really Know Best?

Disclaimer: These next few blogs are going to cover the topic I've been writing this semester for Systematic Theology. Though it might be a little more scholarly than my normal blogging style, the truths I discovered through my research are too important to leave as an assignment. In addition to praying for divine intervention, at the bottom of each post, I'm going to do my best to include definitions of any term that may be unfamiliar. Feel free to post comments asking questions, and I will do my best to respond. As always, thanks for reading and allowing me to share my heart with you.

From 1954-1960, television brought an idealized family into American homes through Father Knows Best. Though the children were not always perfectly behaved, disagreements were always settled by the end of the 30-minute program, primarily due to rational advice of the father, Jim. In just 50 years, American culture has shifted from a father who knows best to fathers including: Homer Simpson of The Simpson’s, who knows nothing; Tim Taylor of Home Improvement, who knows everything about tools, cars, and the emergency room; and Doug Heffernan of King of Queens and Ray Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond, whose wives know everything for them.

Though initial feminist efforts by pioneers such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton sought restoration of equal rights for women, the feminist quest did not end with equal rights nor stay within political realms. The gender debate has not only found its way into television scripts, but inside the doors of evangelical Christian churches. Some churches have called females to serve as senior pastors, an office I Timothy 2:12 mandates for males. A recent translation of Scripture, Today’s New International Version, eliminates masculine language from the Bible, which at times, significantly alters the meaning of the text. The gender controversy today runs much deeper than equal rights.

Genesis 1:27 says God created males and females in His own image. Therefore, human beings can best learn about themselves by seeking to know the nature of God. Wayne Grudem writes that “there are no differences in deity, attributes, or essential nature between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God and has all the attributes of God. The only distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the ways they relate to each other and to creation.” Addressing submission, personal agenda, and impartial purpose, these next few blogs will examine how the doctrine of the Trinity reveals the Father knows best in His created purpose for both males and females.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dare to Be Different

"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these." - II Timothy 3:1-5

If the apostle Paul's definition is right, we've got to be living in the last days, right? It sounds like he was sitting at a bench at the mall, writing down everything that he saw.

But what hurts me is that Paul wouldn't have to go out into the world to write these characteristics. He wouldn't even have to step outside of the church.

Have you ever said (or thought) anything like these statements?

"I can't believe she's at church today. Who knows what she was doing last night? Her sins are so much worse than mine..."

"I guess I could give my tithe this week...but I really want that new iPhone. I'll start giving to the church after I get what I want."

"I hope everyone heard my solo this morning. That song is perfect for my voice."

"I wish they would stop with the 'fearfully and wonderfully made' routine. Can't they just accept that I hate the person God created me to be?"

"My parents told me not to date him, but if there are other couples there, it's not technically a date..."

"Pizza again?! Every time I help out with the youth ministry, I have to eat pizza. Can't they ever spring for something different?"

"Ugh, why does he have to come to this church? I'm sure God loves him, but that doesn't mean I have to!"

"I know this is compromising a little bit of my sexual purity. But I'm still a virgin, and he really loves me, so it's not that bad."

"Not even God would expect me to forgive her for what she did to me."

"I heard that she got so wasted last weekend that she couldn't even stand up."

"Sure, I'm going to heaven. I'm a good person, and I give money to the poor. As long as I do more good than bad, God smiles on that."

"Scripture? Sure, it's mostly true. But I'm sure they got some of the details wrong. And some verses completely contradict themselves. Men wrote it, so it can't be perfect."

"Why do we always have to sing those hymns? Doesn't our worship pastor know that times have changed? I can't worship to those old songs!"

Wow. When we look at it that way, we Christians don't look near as different from non-Christians as we should. In fact, did you know that when Jesus prayed, he said that the world would hate us? Check out John 17:14-21.

"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."

Really let the last part of vs. 21 sink in - "so that th world may believe that You sent me." If others can't see that our lives are different, why would they ever want to make the decision to follow Christ? In college, I actually heard a guy say, "The only difference between me and a Christian is that I sleep in on Sunday mornings."

Since Paul told us the kinds of people to avoid, we can also learn how we should live. In Romans 12:2, Paul instructs us no to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed. Watch what happens if we transform the words Paul wrote about evil men to discover our role as believers in this world:

For Christians should be lovers of others, lovers of servanthood, humble, modest, and Godly, obedient to parents, grateful, holy, loving, and forgiving, encouragers and supporters, with self-control, gentle, with love for what is good, loyal, careful, meek, lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasure, holding to a personal relationship with Christ, proclaiming God's power. Follow men and women such as this.

Do you think the world would notice that Christ made a difference in our lives if they looked like that? Absolutely! And here's the good news - we don't have to do it alone. Galations 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Christ will work THROUGH us. All we need to be is willing.

Let's dare to be different.