Becoming a Woman of CharacterJune 20, 2008
Today on the broadcast, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, host of "Revive Our Hearts", illustrates what it means to be a woman of character.
Today on the broadcast, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, host of "Revive Our Hearts", illustrates what it means to be a woman of character.
Becoming a Woman of Character
Nancy: If I say my body is my own, I will run my own life, it doesn't matter what men see or what they think, I am living for myself. But if I am willing to embrace God's plan for my life, then I say, "When I dress or behave or talk or act in any way, if it is a way that tears down and harms men rather than helping them and building them up, then I have failed in my divine purpose."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 20th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What should a 21st century woman think about subjects like chastity and purity and modesty? We'll talk about it today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. This week we've been looking at womanhood from a biblical perspective, and it's interesting, the Bible says that all of us are to be people of godly character and yet there are some things, there are some character qualities or characteristics that the Bible would point to as being distinctively feminine, and that's what we want our focus to be about in this time together today.
Dennis: It's interesting, you hear all kinds of messages to men about being men of character, but I can't recall a message to women on being women of character.
Nancy: And yet it's interesting that the Scripture has so very much to say about the character of women.
Bob: Which is why we wanted to get into the subject today and let me, if I can, Dennis, introduce for the listeners who don't recognize our guest's voice, Nancy Leigh DeMoss is joining us this week. Nancy is the host of a daily radio program called "Revive Our Hearts," that is heard on many of the same stations that carry our program, FamilyLife Today. She is an author and is going to be hosting a national conference for women in Chicago coming up in October. It's called True Woman '08.
A number of speaks who are going to be there, including Janet Parshall and Joni Eareckson Tada, your wife, Barbara, is going to be there, our friend, Karen Loritts is going to join Nancy, and John Piper is also going to be speaking at this conference. And I know Mary Ann is looking forward to being at the conference.
If our listeners are interested in more information about how they can attend the national True Woman '08 conference in Chicago, they can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click where it says "Today's Broadcast," and there is a link there that will take them to the registration area for True Woman '08, and they can plan to be a part of that conference.
And I know one of the things you're going to talk about at the conference is how women can better understand what we've been talking about this week – biblical femininity. And there are a lot of components to that portrait. Help us out – if a woman wants to be all God wants her to be, as a woman, what is the starting place for her?
Nancy: Again, we have to go back to the Scripture and not let the world press us into its mold but go back and draw our understanding and our authority from the Scripture. I think of a passage such as 1 Peter, chapter 3, known to many of us, as women, but if we go back and examine that passage, it has so much to say about our character, as women. It's talking about, in this specific context, a woman who has an unsaved husband. How does she influence his life? How does she help to draw him toward Christ?
And I say to women often, as they come to one of my seminars, "Now, you may be going back into a home where your husband doesn't necessarily see all these truths," and I say to them, "Don't start putting tracts in his cereal bowl or putting your seminar notes under his pillow." The Scripture talks about a much more powerful means of influence; it talks about our subjection, and we talked about that earlier this week, about the coming under authority, but then it talks about our pure, chaste behavior. And the other passages that shed light on this in the New Testament talk about a woman of modesty in the way that she conducts herself, in the way that she dresses, a woman whose heart is pure, a woman who is morally pure.
You know, we used to have to address the subject of moral purity just with men, but now we find today that in our sensual culture that many, many women struggle with these issues of fantasizing of the books and novels that they are reading, the magazines that they are reading, the TV programs that they're watching that are fueling immoral thoughts and behavior in their lives, and the Scripture says the woman of God, a true woman, is the woman who has pure behavior. She is chaste in her behavior.
Dennis: Yes, and it's interesting that purity of heart is expressed in the way she not only behaves but in the way that she dresses.
Nancy: The Scripture tells us that a wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman is going to tear it down, and in the Book of Proverbs, one of the ways that a foolish woman tears down the men around her is with the way that she dresses and the way that she carries herself. Proverbs 7 talks about a woman who sets out to entice or to ensnare a man who is simple, who is naïve, who is lacking wisdom. And one of the ways she does that is by provocative dress.
Bob: Do you think there is any difference between God's call to a woman being chaste and pure and His call to a man to be morally pure?
Nancy: Well, certainly, both created in the image of God and both redeemed by the grace of God, we are to be pure in heart toward God, but the Scripture talks about specific characteristics that will be true of a woman if she is not pure or if she is pure. For example, Proverbs talks about a woman who is loud and stubborn and her feet abide not in her house. She is brash, she is bold, she is brazen, and Proverbs tells us that as a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a beautiful woman, a woman who is outwardly beautiful, but she lacks discretion.
And I think about – a pig is a pig is a pig. You can put designer clothes on that pig, and you can put makeup on it and give it a designer handbag and expensive jewels, but it's still a pig, and I think that so many of us, as women today, are outwardly adorning and dressing up and fixing up something that in its heart is a pig.
And the Scripture says if a woman, though she may be outwardly beautiful, does not have discretion, if she is not discreet in the way that she carries herself and handles her relationships with men and with those in her family, that all that outward adorning is of little value and really is ludicrous if it's put on someone who doesn't have a godly heart.
Dennis: You know, one of the things I pray frequently for my daughters is that they will have discretion, and occasionally one of them will stop me in that prayer and say, "Dad, what do you mean, discretion? What are you talking about there?" And they'll get a chance to talk about being a woman who is wise about how she behaves and how she carries herself in the presence of men. And 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 9, I think, really outlines how a woman is to carry herself. It says, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly. Not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments but rather by means of good works as befits women making a claim to godliness."
Now, that reminds us of the goal. The goal is not physical beauty. The goal is a woman whose life is a portrait of feminine beauty that glorifies God; that is Christ-like. I want my daughters to understand at points that a hemline that's too high, a neckline that's too low, a dress that fits too tight, are all moving them away from godliness toward provoking the opposite sex to be interested in them for the wrong reasons.
It takes a dad stepping into their lives sometimes and a mom doing so at the same time to reinforce this. I'm going to tell a practical illustration of this from this summer, and this was really interesting, because last summer another family and ours joined together to have one of these old-fashioned pictures made – you know, a western picture where you get the guns that are 100 years old, and you get the chaps and all this stuff. And our daughters, all of our daughters, had put on outfits that were appropriate for a bar scene. Now, how shall I say it, okay? And it's amazing how quickly these things can happen. I mean, in an instant, boom, that other dad and I were faced with a choice.
To me, there was no choice. We were about to take a picture, and it looks harmless and fun, and I don't think our daughters had anything malicious in their minds when they did this, but what happened was they got together with some other teenagers at that point, and they put these dresses on, and they were inappropriate. And so we said, "Hold it. You've got to redo this."
But it's interesting, Nancy, at that point, all of that occurred with two mothers kind of involved in the process, kind of unaware of what had happened. It really just kind of snuck up on them.
Bob: Well, and I think one of the reasons that dads noticed it right off is because the nature of the dress is provocative to men. And it might take a few minutes longer for that to sink in with women who aren't immediately aware. I think there are some cases of innocent indiscretion on the part of Christian women who just don't give full thought to what they are wearing or to how that clothing might provoke a response from a man.
Dennis: Right, and I think it's at those points, as dads and as men, we've got to be loving, very relational, by the way, and not just pound the table and say, "Take it off." But instead recognize the culture we are in but nonetheless hold forth the standard of biblical femininity, which we just read – adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, and use those times as an opportunity to teach.
Nancy: And that's where, Dennis, you are fulfilling the role God has entrusted to you as a man, which is to be the protector and the priest and the king in the most loving sense possible of your home, and that's where your daughters are given the opportunity to learn how to fulfill their God-created role, which is to be a helper to the men.
You see, if I say "My body is my own, I will run my own life, it doesn't matter what men see or what they think, I am living for myself." But if I am willing to embrace God's plan for my life, then I say, "When I dress or behave or talk or act in any way, if it is a way that tears down and harms men rather then helping them and building them up, then I have failed in my divine purpose."
Dennis: And, Nancy, as Barbara and I have been in the process of raising four daughters, they are not all the same. They don't all have the same sensitivity to these issues. They need help.
Nancy: You know, there is an interesting passage in the last chapter of the Song of Solomon that talks about two different kinds of women, and it uses the imagery of a door and of a wall. The bride describes a little sister that she has who is developing and what kind of woman she will become, and she talks about the kind of woman who is a door, a picture of one who yields easily, who is perhaps flirtatious or bold or indiscreet in her relationships with men. Then she uses the opposite kinds of pictures as a woman who is like a wall that is firm, her life built on convictions, and she says, "What shall we do for our sister, depending on which of these kind of women she is?"
I've found that women, daughters, younger women and older women, naturally fall into one of these two categories. And her bridegroom says to her, "If she is a wall, then we will build upon her a palace of silver. Her life is a foundation fit to build a home for a king." But he said, "If she is a door, if she gives in easily to the advances of men, if she is naïve in some of these areas, then we will enclosed her with boards of cedar." We will put parameters around her and tighter restraints for her protection and so that she can develop to the place where she will become a wall.
Dennis: And finally grow up and have her own discretion.
Bob: Nancy, there is a passage in Scripture that talks about a woman having a gentle and quiet spirit, and I know a lot of women who think of themselves as naturally in opposition to that passage. They just think, "This is what God wants. Why did He make me the way I am, because I am not a gentle and quiet-spirited woman?" What is that passage talking about and how does a woman develop a gentle and quiet spirit?
Nancy: Well, I think, Bob, it's important, first of all, we recognize that the Scripture is not here talking about something that's just a matter of personality. God made us with different personalities. Some people are naturally more outgoing than others, and I am a more outgoing type of person. I can remember, as a younger woman, thinking when I would hear this phrase, I would think of some women I knew who were just very shy and quiet and mousy, and I'd think, "If that's what it means to be a godly woman, I'm not sure that's what I want to be and I'm sure I can't be."
And to deal with the "want to" issue, again, I have to come back to am I willing to let the Word regulate and control my life? But it's helpful to know that the Scripture is talking here not about my personality as much as the spirit of the woman. When it speaks of a woman being gentle – another translation renders that as "meek" – this speaks of a woman who is not demanding, who does not insist on having her way and, again, we live in a rights-crazed generation. We emphasize rights, and we're going to produce rebellion and, in fact, we have. Rather, we need to be emphasizing responsibility – responsibility to yield my rights.
Even traffic laws recognize that you don't say to someone, "You have the right of way," we say, "You yield the right-of-way." And, as women, there is a beauty – 1 Peter 3 says, "This is what is beautiful to a woman. This is what causes God to look at a woman and say, 'She is beautiful.'" This is what gives a woman her true beauty, because any beauty that is external is fleeting, it is fading, it's not going to last. But a woman who has beauty of the spirit is going to increase and part of that beauty is a meekness; it's a yielding of her rights; there's a quietness there. That word means a tranquility that arises from within, causing no disturbance to others. And the picture here is a woman who trusts in God so she does not have to manipulate her circumstances, she doesn't have to be a controller, she doesn't have to manipulate her husband. She is a woman who has, because she trusts in God, she has a grateful spirit, and I think that grateful spirit flows out of a meek and a quiet spirit.
Dennis: Practically speaking, address the mom who is raising a daughter who may be a little Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She may have a personality that's very outgoing, she may even be loud. Very loud, in fact, and, of course …
Nancy: Are you saying I'm loud?
Dennis: I didn't, Nancy. I was actually thinking of some of my children. But I was thinking of some hope for Barbara in this process, actually. What would you say to that mom as she raises a child who may not have a personality that is naturally quiet?
Nancy: Again, this is a matter of the heart and of developing a spirit that trusts in God, that does not intimidate or run over other people, and these are issues I've had to continue to have to walk through in my own life. I can walk into a staff meeting in our ministry where there are mostly men in the room and, without saying a word, at times, or by saying just a few words, can subtly manipulate and control the environment of that room, and that's not the place God has for me. There are times, as a woman, when I need to not say everything that I'm thinking but to be quiet, to wait on the Lord, to listen to Him, and then when I speak to know that it's God who has given the direction and that when I speak it's with a spirit that is surrendered and yielded and trusting in God that I don't have to be in charge of the world.
That's what Satan said to Eve, "You can be like God. You can be your own god," and the drive of our natural flesh is to run the world. You know, I just think, you let me have the reins of this ministry or this family or this world, and I'll take it.
Bob: If a woman has a gentle and quiet spirit, the output of her life, and I'm thinking particularly of her speech, that's going to be reflected in her communication, isn't it?
Nancy: Oh, there's no question, because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Again, if I could hearken back to the Song of Solomon, one of the things this bridegroom appreciates about his bride, he says, "Honey and milk are under your tongue." He talks about her speech being comely and being beautiful and this being attractive to him. Think about honey and milk – what do they do? Honey strengthens that which is weak and milk builds up young, immature bones. It helps to grow, and I have to ask myself as I read that passage and other passages such as Proverbs 31:26 talks about a woman who opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
And I have to say, "O Lord, set a watch over my mouth and, by Your Holy Spirit control my heart in such a way that the words that I speak will benefit, they will bring grace. We women can be so cutting, so hurting, so wounding with our tongues, and this is where a woman who uses her tongue to threaten divorce, to cut up and belittle and criticize her man does not perhaps realize how much damage she is doing not only to him but ultimately to their relationship and to their capacity to reflect the glory of God to our world.
Bob: And to her own sense of femininity. She is, essentially, robbing herself at that moment of the womanhood that God wants to display in her.
Dennis: Yes, because she's stepping outside of what God created her to be and her character and, Nancy, I'm grateful today that you have – well, you've taken us back to the Bible to take a look at a woman's character but, at the same time, talk about it while painting this portrait of what it means to be a feminine woman.
Bob: I know our listeners are grateful, as well, and I know they're grateful for your ministry on "Revive Our Hearts," your daily radio program, you're ministry in writing. We have a number of your books in our FamilyLife Resource Center including the bestselling book, "Lies Women Believe." The booklet called "A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood," your Bible study guide, "Seeking Him," and many more of the resources that you've created to help women understand God's plan for them.
And if our listeners are interested in any of these resources – and let me just say here, if you haven't read "Lies Women Believe," that's a great place to start. And you'll find more information about it on our website at FamilyLife.com. When you get to the home page, look to the right side of the screen. You'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast." Click where it says "Learn More," and that will take you into the area where there is information about the resources that are available from us written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
There is also information about the upcoming True Woman '08 conference that's happening in October in Chicago. This is a national conference for women that features Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Barbara Rainey, John Piper, Janet Parshall, Joni Eareckson Tada, Keith and Kristyn Getty will be there leading worship, and it looks like it's going to be a sold out event. So if listeners are interested in attending, they ought to register as soon as possible. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com and, again, click where it says "Today's Broadcast" on the right side of the home page. That will take you to an area where there is a link to the True Woman '08 conference site, and you can get more information about the upcoming conference or register online, if you'd like.
You can also contact us if you're interested in ordering any of Nancy's resources by telephone. Our number is 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team will make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.
When you do get in touch with us, if you can make a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we would appreciate it. We are listener-supported. Your donations make a huge difference. They make it possible for us to be here on this station each day and on other stations all across the country as well. We appreciate your financial support.
This month, when you make a donation of any amount, we would love to send you a CD that features a message from Pastor Stu Weber about what biblical manhood looks like. It's a message called "Applied Masculinity," and the CD is our gift to you as a way of saying thanks for your financial support of FamilyLife Today.
If you are donating online, you will come to a box that says "keycode" out in front of it on the donation form. Type in the word "Stu" there, s-t-u, and we'll know to send you a copy of the CD on manhood. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and just ask for the CD about manhood or the CD from Stu Weber and, again, we're happy to send it to you. It's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Dennis?
Dennis: Well, this has been a great day, Bob, talking about the character of a feminine woman today and all this week, in fact, and, Nancy, I want to thank you for helping to paint a portrait of what it means to be a biblical woman, a feminine woman and equipping so many women to be that and also helping so many mothers to raise the next generation of young women, and I want to thank you for being on the broadcast.
Nancy: It's been a privilege, Dennis, and I've been challenged myself to let God continue to make me into His kind of woman.
Dennis: I want to conclude today's broadcast by asking you to pray for all of our women listeners in their assignments because they are varied, and yet we need God to grant them favor where He has them.
Nancy: Father, I just want to thank you for Your wisdom and Your divine choice. And, as women, we just want to come to You and cry out and say that we need You, we need Your mercy, we need You to change us and to make us what You want us to be. We know that of ourselves we cannot be godly women, that we need the filling of Your Holy Spirit. So we ask for that, and I ask, Lord, that you would give to us that heart, that spirit, that lifestyle that You find beautiful, that we would reflect what it means to be the bride of Christ with a heart of humility and surrender and brokenness and giving back love as You have loved us.
And, Lord, thank you for the men that you are raising up in this generation to provide protection and covering for our lives. I pray that You would bless them in fulfilling their God-given role and help us, as women, to make it easy for them, and I pray that we will love them and serve them and help them in such a way that one day they can give account with joy; that we make it easy for them to lead; that we encourage them and create a climate where they can be all that You made them to be.
And, Lord, our prayer is that, as women complementing and helping those men that together we will be able to reflect to our world what You are like and that the world will be drawn to know You because of what we have shown them of Your heart and Your ways. We pray it in Jesus' name, amen.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.
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