Modesty never goes out of style. Today on the broadast, C.J. Mahaney, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church, talks about the struggle men have to refrain from lust when the women around them dress indiscreetly.
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Modesty never goes out of style. Today on the broadast, C.J. Mahaney, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church, talks about the struggle men have to refrain from lust when the women around them dress indiscreetly.
Modesty never goes out of style.
Music: “Modesty, I mean honestly, that’s what our Father asks of us is modesty. Tell me honestly, have you ever really heard of that? Modesty….”
Bob: Here’s Pastor C.J. Mahaney:
C.J.: I heard a story of one of the ladies in our ministry who went shopping and really liked a shirt she was trying on. Then, she thought, “No, I can’t do this to the guys.” She has decided that serving the Lord and her brothers is more important. Glory to God for women like that.
Music: “I once had a friend who loved her God. She’d talk, preach, and share all day long, but she didn’t give a care what was on her bod ‘til one day she finally heard this song. Modesty…La, la, la….”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Could it be that the choices you are making in what you wear are leading a Christian brother into temptation?
Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. Whenever we talk about this subject of modesty, which we’ve heard about this week, there are some folks who, well, they feel like you’re meddling a little bit—feel like you’re being judgmental. You know what I mean?
Bob: I remember when we had Kent and Barbara Hughes as guests on our program. We talked with them about propriety and about modesty. I remember reading some of the mail that came from folks who thought that Kent and Barbara were being a little harsh, a little stout; but you look around in this culture today, and there needs to be some kind of course correction to the direction that the culture is headed in when it comes to issue of clothing and modesty.
Dennis: Bob, I'm glad you said that because I want our listeners to hold me accountable. There are many times on this program where you or I may make a strong statement. There's no excuse for the strength of our statement to be expressed with a spirit of pride, arrogance, judgmentalism, harshness—as you said; but I also want to say this is a culture today that doesn't like to hear the truth. No matter how well we oil it up and get it all sopping so we can deliver it.
We're a generation that likes our choices. We like our options. We don't like our lifestyle crimped or met with boundaries. If there is a need today in the Christian community, it is that our Christian faith, our walk with Christ, makes a difference in how we live.
I think, today, in the Christian community there is a tremendous need for those of us who profess to be followers of Christ (especially those parents who are raising the next generation of young people) to have a dialog, a discussion, around the subject of modesty. What does it look like? Is it biblical? How should we raise the next generation of young women, and I might add young men, to dress appropriately?
Bob: Well, to help us think about that subject and to think about it biblically we’re going to listen to Part 2 of a message from Pastor C.J. Mahaney. C.J., for a number of years, was the pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He now gives full-time leadership to a group of churches known as Sovereign Grace Ministries.
This message on modesty is actually a part of a series of messages that he shared with his congregation as they were looking at 1 John 1, where the Scriptures teach that we are not to love the world or the things of the world.
In this portion of his message, he talks about the impact that immodestly dressed women can have on their Christian brothers around them. In fact, he talked with some of the men in his congregation and got some feedback from them on this subject. Let’s listen. This is Part 2 of a message on modesty from C.J. Mahaney.
C.J. [recorded message]:
Different guys were students. So, they would take a section to describe what it was like to be on campus every day prior to transitioning to what it was like to be in church. One writes:
“Each and every day on campus is a battle: a battle against my sin, a battle against temptation, a battle against my depraved mind. Every morning, every morning, I have to cry out for mercy, strength, and a renewed conviction to flee youthful lusts. The spirit is faithful to bring me the renewal I need to prepare me to do war against my sin; yet, the temptation still exists.
I am thankful God has created me to be attracted to women; however, campus is a loaded minefield. There are girls everywhere, and it's guaranteed that I will pass some attractive girls as I walk in between classes. I either have to be actively engaging my mind and my spirit to praying, quoting Scripture, listening to worship music, or simply looking at the sidewalk to make it through unscathed. Many days it takes all four to be safe.
The thing that women do not seem to fully grasp is that the temptation towards lust does not stop for us as men. It is continual. It is aggressive. It does all it can to lead men down to death. They have a choice to help or deter its goal. Consider this message my appeal on behalf of the men for you to help us deter the goal of lust in our lives.
Sometimes when I see a girl provocatively dressed, I'll say to myself, 'She probably doesn't even know that 101 guys are going to devour her in their minds today.' Then, again, maybe she does.
To be honest, I don't know the truth: the truth of why she chooses to dress the way she does, the way she chooses to walk, the way she chooses to act. I don't know because I've never sat down with the girl and asked her ‘Why?’ All I need to know is that the way she presents herself to the world is bait for my sinful mind to latch onto, and I need to avoid it at all costs.
For the most part, the church serves as a sanctuary from the continual barrage of temptation toward sin. However, the church's members are not free from sin yet, and there are girls, both ignorant and knowledgeable of men's sinful tendencies. I must confess that even church can have several mines scattered about.
To the girls who are ignorant, please serve your brother and have your dad screen your wardrobe. Ask him how you can better choose holiness over worldliness. He's a guy, and he knows more than you do on the issue. To the girls who don't follow the pattern of the world, thank you a million times over. You are following Scripture's commands and helping your brothers in the process.”
Another gentleman writes:
“Having said all that, if I could say anything to the women in the church, it would be this: first, there is not a man I know that doesn't struggle in some way with lust. If they had any idea what went through guys' minds, it would probably vastly change the way they dress. Secondly, and I think most importantly, God has created his church to be a resting place for Christians, to be a place where people encounter God without all the distractions.
It is disappointing when I walk into the church or an event with the church and have to deal with the same temptations that I face in the world, but I rejoice whenever I see a girl or woman that is attempting to serve the Lord and guys by dressing modestly.
You have no idea how sweet and challenging it is when I see a woman who has decided not to flaunt her body like the culture shouts for her to do, but rather she has decided that serving the Lord and her brothers is more important. Glory to God for women like that, and let us be a church with men who are committed to purity and women who are committed to modesty.”
One more voice I want you to hear:
“At church, the one place where I might think, not to have to face temptation is at church, but this is not always the case. When ladies that I'm friends with dress immodestly, it definitely has a negative effect on our friendship. When she dresses immodestly, it doesn't make it easy to see her as a sister in Christ. There is a constant battle going on as I'm talking with her. Communication becomes more difficult because as I'm trying to listen to her I am also trying to fight temptation. I also think some ladies just aren't aware.”
I agree. I appreciate the fact that I didn't inform these men of my position and my experience. Please note that these testimonies are filled with charitable judgments.
I also think some ladies just aren't aware that even little things can distract guys a lot: showing even a little part of their stomach, wearing bags that have a strap that goes between their breasts, et cetera. I am so grateful, he writes, for the friendships that God has given me over the past year and a half and for the godly ladies in my care group. I am so appreciative of the sacrifice that these ladies make to glorify God and to serve and care for the guys.
I heard a story of one of the ladies in our ministry who went shopping and really liked the shirt she was trying on; but then, she thought, “No, I can't do this to the guys.' That was the first time I’d ever heard of anything like that, and it made me so grateful. It is such a blessing to have friends who care for me enough to be selfless and sacrifice what might look attractive in order to help me and other guys with sexual lust.
When ladies dress modestly, it's attractive. Oh, yes, it is. There is nothing more attractive than a godly woman dressed modestly, and it makes me want to hang out with them more. I think modesty is so attractive and helpful in friendship because it makes it easier for a friendship to be centered around God and for fellowship to be unhindered.
Now, ladies, because there are many things I can't address—it wouldn't be appropriate for me to address—what I did was I asked my wife Carolyn (she was assisted by my daughters Nicole and Janelle) to create this. It's called a "modesty check." It is available only for fathers, mothers, and daughters. It is not available for single men. It is as specific as I think it needs to be, and it resolves my frustration that teaching on modesty in general isn't sufficient.
Now, let me continue with some of my desires for this church as it relates to modesty. I want this to be a church where women, motivated by grace, dress modestly for the glory of God. That’s what I want. Listen carefully now. Listen to the next statement. I also want this to be a church where the unconverted can come dressed immodestly, be warmly welcomed, and not self-righteously judged.
Recently, I was introduced by a member of the church to a guest they had brought, and this woman was dressed immodestly. That was immediately obvious. I stood there greeting her, rejoicing in my heart as she enthusiastically communicated how glad she was to be here and how much she benefited from all that took place in our Sunday celebration.
I turned from that encounter, and I went, “Yes!” I am so grateful that she did not encounter a single individual judging her self-righteously or prematurely and unwisely bringing attention to her immodest dress. I am so grateful that instead she was welcomed by fellow sinners who understand there are deeper issues that must be addressed in her heart and life prior to adjusting her wardrobe.
Now, eventually, if she's converted, if she becomes a part of this church, that needs to be addressed—eventually; but it needs to be addressed by humble individuals who understand the priority is, first, attitude and, secondly, appearance. Let this be a church populated by the unconverted dressing immodestly and warmly welcomed into our midst.
I also want this to be a church where the newly converted, the immature, and even the mature, if immodestly dressed, would be cared for through gracious correction. The newly converted, the immature, and the mature, if immodestly dressed, would be cared for and graciously corrected. Modesty is the responsibility of the entire church. Again, corrected, not by self-righteous individuals but by those who consider themselves the worst sinner they know, but corrected nonetheless.
You know what I hope one of the effects of this message is? I hope that humble individuals, who truly care, will be free from the fear of woman and approach other ladies not with condemnation, or a conclusion, but with an observation either about wardrobe, in general, or a particular piece of clothing, specifically. I will be disappointed if that isn't the fruit or affect of this message.
Who do you need to approach? Probably whoever you are thinking about while I am making this point. You have avoided it, and you have excused yourself. Go. Demonstrate godly care and courage. Bring your concern to their attention. Allow the spirit of God to convict and to speak to their heart.
A few months ago, somebody approached my wife and expressed a concern over a particular shirt that she was wearing and whether it was too form-fitting. Carolyn immediately informed me. As every piece of clothing that she has ever bought, I had agreed to it. I studied it again; I didn't agree with the assessment; and I said, "Listen, let's draw two or three of the other ladies in." She did. They didn't agree with the individual's assessment of that shirt.
What was most important to both of us was to thank that individual for caring enough to communicate her observation. When somebody approaches you (even if you don't agree), examine your response and minimally thank them for caring enough to come.
Bob: Well, we've been listening, again, today to Part 2 of a message from Pastor C.J. Mahaney at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on the subject of modesty. Tomorrow, we will hear him wrap things up.
You talk about counter-cultural. It takes some courage to go to a friend and say, "You know, I'd like to make an observation about your clothing." That takes some guts.
Dennis: You know, it really does, Bob. As he was telling the story about his wife, I reflected back on a shopping trip that Barbara and I went on early in our marriage; and Barbara tried on this—well, I don't know how else to describe it: it was kind of a formal evening gown that was magnificent. It was black, and she was stunning. The problem is she was just too stinkin' good-lookin' in it.
Bob: I don't want to take you out like that, huh? I understand.
Dennis: We both reflected back on this many times, but we did not buy that dress. Now, I've tried to go with Barbara shopping and help her buy dresses because I know what looks good on her and she does, too. It's not a matter of approval; it's a matter of—it’s kind of a partnership approach to this thing. She enjoys it when I go.
We've kind of bemoaned the fact (many, many times) that she didn't get that dress, not that she would have ever worn it in public; but maybe we would have a had a chance on an island somewhere when…
Bob: One of those dates you used to have?
Dennis: We’d have a date somewhere. There was nobody else around, and she could just be stunningly beautiful just for me; but we never bought it.
I think, as you listen to C.J. today, there are three questions you ought to ask yourself. Number one: do you give people the freedom to come to you? In other words, are you an open person? Then, the second question is if they come, are you teachable to hear? Some people send out signals: they don't want to know. Others, when you do go, refuse to hear what's said.
Bob: Or snap back at you.
Dennis: Yes. Instead of that, start praying about it. Maybe talk about it as a couple; interact about it; or if it happens with one of your teenagers, talk with them about.
Dennis: The third question is (maybe the most difficult) do you have the courage to go? I think what he's talked about today is not only counter-cultural; it's probably counter-Christianity. We don't have a lot of people going to other people today for one reason—well, I think two reasons, now that I think about it.
One is, I think, we lack the courage to go; but, secondly, I think we are so terrified of being labeled as someone who is judgmental. It's almost like our culture of tolerance has created a value system that we in the Christian community have unknowingly embraced; and, in the process, we've given up some of the edge of being true disciples and followers of Jesus Christ.
So, my encouragement: give people the freedom to come, be teachable if they do, and, third, be courageous. Go ahead, at a point, making sure you're full of the grace that C.J. talked about and full of love, and approach people humbly and graciously. Ask them the question: is there a possibility that what you're wearing may be immodest? I think the church would be more powerful, Bob, if we do that.
Bob: Well, let’s start now planning for future generations. I mean, let’s not wait until there’s an issue. I think moms and dads can proactively start dealing with this issue with daughters—particularly daughters before they become teenagers, before they reach adolescents.
Our friend, Dannah Gresh, has come up with some resources to help moms in this issue because typically it is going to be the mom who is going to be doing the instruction and the discipling here. Dad may have to step in at some point and say, “Uh-uh. This isn’t going to work.” Mom’s going to be the one who is going to be working on this issue with her daughter.
Dannah has written a book called Eight Great Dates for Moms and Daughters: How to Talk About True Beauty, Cool Fashion, and…Modesty. We’ve put a kit together with Dannah that has those dates kind of pre-packaged for a mom and a daughter. You can find out more about what’s available and how you can begin this process with your daughters while they’re still young.
Simply, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. Again, it is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’re interested in a copy of the message you’ve heard today from C.J., it is available as well.
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We want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow as well. We are going to hear the conclusion of C.J. Mahaney's message on modesty. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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© Song used at the beginning of the program. Title: Modesty—Artist: Sent Forth—Album: Unclear Intersection (p) 2005 Sent Forth.
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