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May 22, 2011
Looking To Marry – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Proverbs 18: 22

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.

More From This Series


Proverbs 18, verse 22. We’re back to looking at the subject, looking to marry. And the last time we were together, we saw that the writers of the book of Hebrews are encouraging a young man of Israel to look carefully when it comes to their choice of who they will marry and spend their lives together with. There is the happiness of a good choice. There is the heartache of a bad choice. A pastor in Northern Ireland told me about a man who was on a bus and the passenger next to him noticed that he was wearing his wedding ring on the wrong finger and he plucked up enough courage to let him know in case the man just had misplaced the ring. He said, “Sir, do you realize that your wedding band is on the wrong finger?” He said, “I do.” And kind of left it at that, and so the guy followed up.
He says, “Well, do you not want to put it on the right finger?” He said, “No, I have it on the wrong finger because I married the wrong woman.” We want to avoid that. We want to make sure that the singles and the young people of our church make wise choices when it comes to probably the most significant choice they will make in life, bar their decision for the Lord Jesus Christ. He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. This proverb is reminding us you need to make a good choice when it comes to your life’s partner, and if you make a good choice, you’ll enjoy good things and you’ll see the favor of God in your life.
Isaac Watts has been called the father of English hymnody. Today we still sing some of his hymns. They’re some of our favorites. Joy to the World, Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun, God, Our Help in Ages Past. In fact, he started writing these hymns in the 18th century, after complaining consistently to his father about the dismal and dull songs and singing in the non-conformist chapel he attended with his family in England. His father had enough of this young man’s complaints, and so he basically told him to shut up or put up. He told him, “You know what? Then you go and write some batter songs,” and he did. Joy to the World or God, Our Help in Ages Past.
Isaac Watts was brilliant, but he was not beautiful. Let me look at those two sides of his nature. He was brilliant. In fact, at age four, he learned Latin, at age nine, Greek, at age 11, French and at age 13, Hebrew. This guy was a stellar student, so much so that some of the men of that day offered a scholarship for him to go to Cambridge or Oxford so he could be trained to go into the Anglican ministry of the Church of England. But he refused. He was a nonconformist, which in that day, generally meant you’re either congregationalists are Baptists.
So he went to a Nonconformist seminary and he offered himself to the Ministry of the Independent Churches of England. He ended up in 1702 taking a very significant church in London called Mark Lane Independent Congregational Church. And there he ministered until 1712. In 1703, he suffered from a psychiatric illness that would plague him from the rest of his life, so much so that it crippled his ministry at Marks Lane. Increasingly, he handed off his ministry responsibilities to some of the younger men in the church until in 1712 he had to give the ministry up altogether. This ailment took its toll on him emotionally and physically. He was brilliant, but he wasn’t beautiful because added to that complaint that he had, he was five foot high, he was pale of complexion, he was skinny in his frame and he had a disproportionately oversized head, so much so do you ever see any portraits or pictures of him? He’s always in a very large gown that seemed to cover and hide the fact that he had such a big head on a small body.
Now this also affected him in terms of his relationship with the opposite sex, because Isaac Watts did fall in love with a young woman. Her name was Elizabeth Singer and she loved him. In fact, she loved him very much, and so he decided to propose marriage to Elizabeth but was rebuked and refused, to his own heartache and heartbreak. And what was interesting as I read up on his life this past week, is the fact that one biographer says of that breakup, “Though she loved the jewel, she could not admire the casket or case that at came in.”
Isn’t that interesting? Here’s a situation, where although this woman loved this man for who he was, she couldn’t get past the fact that she didn’t like him for how he looked. She loved the person she knew, but she didn’t like the person she saw. There was a spiritual connection, but there was no physical attraction. And for her, that was a make or break issue, by the sound of it. She liked the jewel, but she didn’t like the box. Now that got me thinking, brought me back to this whole subject we’re looking at. What do our young people look for in a spouse? How important is the physical attraction factor? What’s the relationship between the jewel and the box? Don’t we encourage our young people to look beyond the physical to realize that beauty can sometimes only be skin deep? This incident raises a whole slew of questions. What importance should we attach to the physical side of dating and marrying.
Well, let’s get back to the book of Proverbs because I think we’ll find at least some answers to those questions as we turn again to the advice that’s being given by these fathers to the sons in the nation of Israel. These men are sitting their sons down and by means of the writings of these proverbs, they are telling them what they ought to look for in a future wife. They are certainly big on marriage. He who finds a wife finds a good thing. They’re excited about the fact that their sons are now excited about the fairer sex. They are taking interest in girls and young women in the community and in the culture.
So it’s time to have the birds and the bees lecture. It’s time to sit down and help these young men navigate through their raging hormones and their emotions and help them to think clearly about what they ought to look for in a wife, because they are searching, they’re intrigued, they’re being enticed, and he that finds a wife finds a good thing. But the book of Proverbs reminds us that there are good choices and bad choices, and this book reminds us that there is happiness in finding a good wife and there is heartache in finding a bad wife.
And I’m not going to rehearse how we underscored that the last time we were together, but I want to pick up where we left off and I want us to continue to look at the insights and the instruction that’s being given here by these men to their sons. And knowing the tendency of young men to concentrate on the physical form, these men want to remind them that there is a beauty that’s deeper than what’s on the outside. Remember how the book finishes Proverbs 31 verse 30. Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord is to be praised. This is what these fathers are setting before their sons. They want them to think about beauty from a biblical perspective. They want them to look beyond the physical form of these young women and take a look at their hearts, their spiritual commitments, their moral character, and so they define beauty from a biblical perspective.
We started to look at that under three headings, debatable beauty, desirable beauty, durable beauty. And we’re only going to go back to the first one and get no further than that, because I’m going to go on a bit of a sidetrack from it where we left off. But I do want to say this again by way of introduction. I want you to listen, I want parents to listen, and I want children to listen. And if children aren’t here, I want the parents to tell what I’m about to say. Physical attraction is never enough. According to the book of Proverbs, to start or sustain a marriage, it’s a factor, but it’s not a primary factor. Physical attraction is never enough to start or sustain a marriage. Let me give you three reasons for that statement just by way of introduction.
Number one, because with the passing of time, that will change all together. Okay? When gravity has done its work and we have ate too many donuts and exercised too little, everything will sag and everything will sink and you and I will not be what we once were, physically speaking. And if it’s all about the physical in the relationship, then it’s all downhill from that starting point. That’s why physical attraction, while a factor, is not the determining factor when it comes to who you should marry. Secondly, because we are more than just a body, we are body and spirit and becoming one is a much richer concept than sexual union. When two people come together, it must be, it has to be more than a chemical combustion, because when the Bible tells us that a man will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one, we’re not just talking about physical attraction and sexual union there.
We’re talking about becoming one in body and mind and heart and soul and goals and life, and that’s a much richer concept. Of course, there will be a physical component. Of course couples will enter into the joy of sexual union, but physical attraction is a factor but not a determining factor, because we will age and the shape of our bodies will twist and turn, our brow will be furrowed with wrinkles. Our hair will fall out and a couple who are going to live together over a lifetime better have a connection beyond the physical because that will diminish over the years. These fathers know that, and so they sit their sons down, whose hormones are raging. They’re red-blooded. They’re looking at these beautiful young women in Israel. They’re going, I think she’s my type. I think she’s my type.
And these guys are going, hold on a minute guys, let me just get this into perspective. There’s a debatable beauty that you need to think through. There’s a third element in me saying that physical attraction is never enough to start or sustain a marriage, and it is this. To marry someone for their body, and that’s happening today, to marry someone for their body and not for who they are is to make a thing out of your marriage partner. If I was to put it starkly, it’s to make a prostitute out of your spouse. There must be a greater connection than the physical because that will change. The concept of oneness is much richer and deeper and you and I don’t marry people to serve our own purposes. Well, those said, let’s get back to looking at this debatable beauty. Remember what we said the last time we were together? There is a danger and a distraction in debatable beauty.
There is a beauty that’s not beautiful. When you take a sack and look at it, there is a beauty that masks and hides ugliness. There is a beauty that’s only skin deep. It’s debatable. Some call it beauty, but these wise writers say, hold on a minute. That’s a debatable point. That’s questionable. It’s beauty in one sense, but not beauty in another sense. There is a beauty that doesn’t reflect the glory of God and that which doesn’t reflect the glory of God is not beautiful. Now let’s go for a few moments in this direction. This is an important point and you need to put your thinking cap on here.
You and I need to have a concept of beauty that’s theologically rooted and based in the word of God. Our culture constantly bombards us with beautiful images, defining what beauty is in terms of shape and size, in terms of weight and height, in terms of look and lifestyle. That’s the culture. But the Bible says to us, do not be pressed into the mold of the culture. Do not be conformed to the world, the philosophy that’s around you as a Christian. So when it comes to art and beauty and loveliness, how does a Christian determine those things from a theological perspective?
Listen, God alone is good, correct? Amen. God alone is perfect. In fact, God dwells in splendor and the Bible says about God that there is a beauty to his holiness. God is good, God is splendid, God is beautiful, and everything that God does is good and beautiful. At the end of those six days of creation, we read in Genesis 1:31 that God saw that it was good. Everything that God made was beautiful. The flowers, the fowl, the beasts of the field, the fish of the ocean. The sunset, the sunrise, the heavens declared his glory. Now that’s important. That’s where our definition of beauty starts. It starts with God. God determines, God defines what is beautiful. He’s the measure of what is good. He’s the measure of what is beautiful. So a Christian vision of beauty is rooted in the moral character of God. What we mean by that is this, that a Christian view of that which is attractive is rooted in the transcendental reality of who God is, what God does, and by extension what God expects.
Therefore, hang with me, evil can never be good, right? Because evil is the antithesis of God’s character. God is what is beautiful. God is what is good. Therefore, that which opposes him can never be good, can never be beautiful. Again, that which is morally and biblically repugnant can never be beautiful. Men may call it beautiful. Men may say that art is beautiful, yet it’s grotesque. Homosexuals may say to us that the love they have between each other is a beautiful thing, but it’s not, because it’s morally repugnant. It stands opposed to the nature of God. God determines what is glorious and beautiful and splendid, and therefore that which is beautiful, must have character to it. That which is beautiful, must have a moral component to it, for us to say, you know what? That’s beautiful. You see where I’m going with this?
These fathers sat their sons down and said, “Hold on a minute boys, let’s talk about what beauty is. Let’s talk about what beautiful is.”
“Well, Dad, I’ve met this girl, she’s six foot high. She’s a stunning looking girl. She’s beautiful facially. She’s got a shape to die for. Dad, she’s beautiful.”
“Is she, son?” Because remember the last time in regard, I’m not going to take time. We have two women in the book of Proverbs who were physically informed beautiful women. One was the immoral woman of Proverbs six, and the other one was the imprudent woman of Proverbs 11:22. And although they were beautiful to look at, one was encouraging the young men of Israel to sin against the law of God and committing adultery. And the other woman, she was beautiful to look at, but she had no taste, no decorum, no dignity. In fact, remember that unbelievable contrast and comparison?
The pig with a golden ring in its nose is like a woman without discretion, a beautiful woman without discretion. These two women had no character. They were void of spiritual commitment, moral integrity, and although they were beautiful to look at, really they were quite ugly in the sight of God. Because you see, we define beauty from a moral perspective and that’s important for us to grasp and our young people to lay hold of, because there is a tendency and a tragedy in the human heart to corrupt the concept of beauty. Our human temptation and trait is to substitute the truly beautiful and the morally good for what is simply a feast to our senses and a delight to our eyes. That got us into trouble right at the get-go, right? Eve standing before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it says that the fruit on that tree was good for food and beautiful for the eyes to see.
But was it beautiful what she was looking at and thinking about? No, she was thinking about disobeying God’s word. And you and I have a tendency, apart from the grace of God, to substitute what is morally good for what is satisfying to our senses. And young people need to lay hold of that reality. When their hormones rage and they get emotionally engaged with someone, they need to ask themselves, is what I’m about to do and is what we are doing morally good? How do I view this person and this pursuit? Well, that’s where we were, the debatable beauty, and we reminded ourselves that there is a beauty that is ugly. There is a debatable beauty that is a dangerous thing, a dangerous attraction. Now, I can go on now to the desirable beauty, but I’m not because I want to make some qualifications. Because in looking at the immoral woman of Proverbs 6 and the imprudent woman of Proverbs 11, I want us to get the idea that the Bible discounts the physical, or that in criticizing those women, we are criticizing the fact that they were beautiful.
We’re not down on looking well. We’re not denying that there are some people who are beautiful to look at who are attractive physically speaking. The Bible doesn’t blush at that. In fact, the Bible describes some women in the Bible just in those terms. Abraham’s wife, Sarah was described as what? A beautiful woman. In fact, so much so that Abraham lied about the fact that she was his wife because when he got down to Egypt during the famine, he was frightened that some man might kill him and steal his wife. And so they pretended that they were brother and sister. Nothing wrong with physical beauty. There’s nothing dirty about the idea of physical attraction. We’re not denying that women by nature are creatures of beauty and generally speaking are more conscious of their bodies than man. But we do want to strike a biblical balance and since we’ve spent part of this sermon and certainly the totality of the last sermon, looking at the issue of the body and reminding ourselves that if we’re not careful, we can embrace a definition of beauty that’s only skin deep and that’s a dangerous thing to do.
But it made me step back and just think about the whole issue of the body. How are you and I to view our bodies? What’s a biblical perspective on the body? Taking care of it, feeding it, dressing it, putting it out there in public display? How are we to view the body of the opposite sex, all those kind of things. Well, I came up with three practical things that I think’s helpful, especially to our young people, but to us all. And this is where we’re going to spend the balance of our time this morning. Three things. Number one, we need to accept our individual bodies as gifts from God. We need to accept our individual bodies as gifts from God.
Do you realize this morning that you and I as individuals are absolutely unique? There’s no one just quite like you. God has fashioned it that way. God has purposed it that way. We know that there is no two human beings the same. They say that we’ve got a double somewhere in the world and that may be true in terms of maybe in physical form there’s someone out there that looks quite like you and me, God forbid. But when you get down beneath the surface, there is no one like you and me. We know that everybody’s DNA is their own. They have a certain signature, a certain genetic code. We’re using it now in criminal investigation. All sorts of wonderful things are happening through that whole process of genetic study. But it reminds us that you and I and our genetic makeup are absolutely unique and therefore we are rare, we are exquisite. We are unique human beings made by God after his own image.
We are distinct from the animal kingdom. Unlike the animal kingdom we were made with a spirit that can commune with God. We have rational abilities that no animal has. We can dream, we can imagine, and we co-create with God. We are made in his likeness. There is a significance to you and me. Our life is not without purpose. Our birth was by God’s design in marriage, out of marriage. We are unique people. In a sense we’re perfect. Not in the ultimate sense, but in a sense, theologically speaking, we’re perfect because when you and I were born, we were born perfectly the way God made us. Amen? Even if we have deformity, even if we have disability, we are unique human beings created in God’s image to reflect his glory. And in that sense, we are all beautiful, not pretty. Beautiful, not pretty in an aesthetic sense. Some of us would wish that the nose was pointing in a different direction and that we had a certain frame. That’s pretty, that’s aesthetic.
But when I talk about beauty, I’m talking about theology. I’m talking about how God perceives us. We are beautiful, because he’s made as exactly the way we are. I don’t have time to turn this morning to Psalm 139, verse 13 through 16. I think I can lean on your knowledge of that passage. You know where David looks back on his life and realizes that he was fearfully and wonderfully made. God had his hand in the whole process of his conception, those nine months of gestation and development within his mother’s womb, God saw it all. There was nothing hidden to God. In fact, he uses a verb there that means that God, like a seamstress, wove all the parts of my body together, all the genes, all the nerves, all the muscles, all the flesh, all the bone structure. God put it together.
And it may not be pretty, aesthetically speaking, but it is beautiful in the plan and purpose of God. Let me give you one verse that just reminds you of what I’m talking about. It’s a striking verse back in Exodus 4. You know the scene, Moses is being commissioned by God to go before Pharaoh in, and he says to God, I can’t do that. You put me up there, I’ll melt. I’ll become a puddle on the floor of Pharaoh’s court. I can’t speak I’m a blithering idiot when I gets up in public, I’ll just stammer, I’ll stutter to a stop. God says, hold on a minute, Moses, who has made man’s mouth or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing of the blind, have not I the Lord. There’s a striking verse, isn’t it? I know there are some families in our church who have had both the joy and the struggle of raising children with deformities and disabilities.
Seems to me God has had his hand in that whole process, I don’t understand that all. I don’t understand the mystery of suffering that God allows in some of our lives, but I know that God is working it all together for good. It’s beautiful in his sight. It’s got to be beautiful in mine. I got to view beauty from a godly perspective and I’ve got to accept my body as God made it, and receive it as a gift from him. I must fight against discontentment. I must fight against comparison. My physical features, my gender, my race and my limitations are God’s handiwork. When it comes to the unchangeables, that is the features over which we have no control, I take ownership for this waistline this morning, this is not God’s business, this is mine and I got to do something about it. But the unchangeables, my facial looks, my bone structure, my bodily shape, that’s God’s work, and I accept that as a gift from him and I thank him for it and I work within its limitations and its looks.
Therefore, every single human is beautiful from a theological perspective. And that is why ladies and gentlemen, we as Christians hate racism. That’s why we as Christians are against sex and gender changes. That’s why we stand up for the rights of the weak and the handicapped, and the quality life issues of our culture. Because we believe that everybody has been made in the image of God, saved and unsaved, and their race and their gender and their limitations, God purposed it. It’s very important then that you and I apply this. That means that we have got to accept ourselves. We need to believe and act upon the reality that God has given us a body that is just right for us and suited to the work that has given us to do.
We need to come to terms with our appearance and our aptitude. Some of us wish we were more physical than we are, are more athletic than we are, but we’re not because God give us a body because he is given us something other to do than be some kind of sports hero. Accepting our bodies as guests from God as a call to all of us. The next time you look in the mirror, you need to look also in the mirror of God’s word and accept yourself. That’s a challenge. It’s especially a challenge to women I think, and adolescent women, young teenage girls who are going through puberty and change and they look at themselves and every little blemish they exaggerate in their mind, until they look in the mirror and they see some kind of monster looking back. That’s not biblical. That’s allowing the world to press you into it’s mold. That’s forgetting that you need to accept yourself as God has created you in his image.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t groom yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t get your teeth straightened. That doesn’t mean a whole lot of things, but it does mean fundamentally you should have a healthy biblical self-image that’s taken from the word of God and not the pages of a magazine. Be content with who you are and trust God to use you significantly. We need to believe that. But women have a hard time. You see, when men look in the mirror, I think the way we’re wired is that men look in the mirror. We look for the one thing we like about ourselves and we just stand there staring. Okay? But I think women look in the mirror and they see 10 things about themselves they don’t like and they stand there staring, especially young girls who are being badgered and bullied by our culture to become something God never intended them to become. You don’t need to wear a size four to be beautiful. You don’t need to look like a Victoria’s Secret model to be beautiful. That’s the world. It’s no friend of the church.
We need to accept our appearance and our aptitude. This is a challenge. In fact, you know really, it’s a challenge even in the most beautiful women, inverted commas. I came across this quote by Jewel Schumacher, a movie director who has worked with Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, and Sandra Bullock, he says quote about these women, “I have never worked with a beautiful young woman who thought she was beautiful or thin enough.” What a sad way to live. Never being happy with who you are. The Christian doesn’t live that way. We get up in the morning under the gaze of a loving creator who put us together in our mother’s wombs. Fearfully and wonderfully he did it, and we’ve been made in his likeness and we’ve been given a purpose to live for with the body he has given us. And then to boot, if we are saved, we have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit sealed until the day of redemption.
We are made in his image, indwelled by his spirit. That’s our identity. We’re not chasing some mirage or some worldly idea of beauty. We’re chasing Christ’s likeness. That’s always in fashion, by the way, to be like the Lord Jesus. In fact, that’s where it’s all going to end, right? When we will be made in his likeness. So if you want to be like anybody, spend your whole life trying to be like the Lord Jesus and you will be beautiful and pleasing to the sight of God. Listen to these tremendous words here from CS Lewis. “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature, which if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship or else a horror on a corruption such as you would now meet only in a nightmare.”
All day long, we are in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them that we should conduct all of our dealings with each other, all friendships, all loves, all people, all politics. And I listen to this statement, I really should have gone straight to this, but this is the statement. There are no ordinary people. You never talk to a mere mortal. A Down’s syndrome child has an eternal destiny. A one-legged man has an eternal destiny. Someone whose features don’t fit society has an eternal destiny. There are no mere people walking the parks with us on a Sunday afternoon. They are immortal creatures who will someday, because they made a decision for Jesus Christ in time, become this glorious being, reflecting the glory of God forever.
Or because they didn’t listen to the gospel and they didn’t submit the need of Jesus Christ and they didn’t go to the cross for forgiveness, they will perish, not in that they will become non-existent, but they will be resurrected on the last day, and it seems to me that if the believer is resurrected to a glorious state, the unbeliever is resurrected to a shameful state. And they just may have a body that reflects their life, not the glory of God. Lewis is telling us to look beyond the face and the form and remember that there are no ordinary people on the buses and the sidewalks of our city. And you and I need to realize this morning, we are no ordinary person. And those of us this morning who know the Lord Jesus Christ and are enjoying a rich relationship with God, we are a happy people, who accept ourselves for who we are. Made in his image, indwelled by His spirit.
And we’re going to use these bodies of ours to reflect God’s glory and someday God is not finished with this body. He’s actually going to fashion it like after Jesus, wonderful, resurrected, glorious body. That’s the first thing. Here’s the second thing. We need to take care of our bodies then as stewards of God. I wouldn’t want to give you the impression that our bodies are unimportant. I’m trying to correct the exaggeration of our culture, but I wouldn’t want you to think this morning that as Christians we discount the body, that we don’t think that issues of health and hygiene are important, that we don’t think that fitness is an issue not to be thought about. No, that’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying that we accept our bodies as God made them. We need to be careful as to what we are making them into through lack of sleep, overeating, lack of exercise. God would have us be careful with that stuff and therefore we need to take care of our bodies as stewards of God.
Our bodies are not worthless. They are not worthless because they are temples of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that amazing? That seems a very valuable thing to me. Think about Solomon’s temple. Dad and I were talking about the tabernacle in the temple and how there’re pictures of Lord Jesus Christ. But if you just look at the physical structure, marble, gold, silver, where there’s a kind of glory of God dwell. Now, this physical body of mine, which is 25 pounds overweight and needs to be worked on, is nevertheless the temple of the Holy Spirit. That’s fantastic. And someday when this body ceases to function and the heart gives up, or the lungs no longer expand, or the liver doesn’t do its work, when it lies listless and lifeless in the grave, come the rapture of the church, it is going to be raised. This is a significant piece of God’s creation and we shouldn’t discount it or we should understand the balance and the perspective of the inner man and the outer man, but we are stewards of all that God gives us, right?
First Corinthians 4, verses 1 and 2 tells us to be good stewards of God’s good gifts to us. And therefore it seems to me, if God give me body and health and strength, I’ve got to take care of that. That means I will watch what I eat. I will try to exercise to keep my body as fit as I can. I will ensure that I get seven or eight hours sleep a night. That’s good for the body. That’s not unbiblical. Ephesians 5, in fact, verse 29 tells us what man didn’t take care of his body? It’s a natural thing to take care of your body. You should wash it, feed it, rest it, exercise it, thank God for it, use it. We’ve got to be good stewards of our bodies. The Bible doesn’t condemn looking well. There’s nothing sinful, by the way, about a woman self attractive-looking to her husband or her fiancee.
Our Christians have overreacted. You know that you grew up sometimes in an era where preachers kind of overreacted. I remember sitting in a sermon in Northern Ireland where this pastor was waxing eloquent about the fact that women shouldn’t be wearing any cosmetics and he lashed out at women who were wearing too much and he said some of them have enough paint on their face to paint a battleship, and enough powder to blow it up. Everybody’s had their time under a sermon like that and if there’s an extreme exhibition of bringing attention to oneself in the church and then that sermon may have a place, but at times it seemed to be saying that it’s wrong to look nice. It’s wrong to dress fashionably. It’s wrong to put on a little makeup and enhance your looks. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, the Bible does not condemn that in any fashion.
The virtuous woman, by the way, who’s held up as a model of godliness to women. In Proverbs 31, according to Proverbs 31, 21 and 22, she wore colorful, fine, high quality clothes and she made some of her own by the sound of it, very fashionable, the woman of Proverbs 31. She would have gone down to the department store and find out what were the latest silks or linens or cotton cloth. The bride in the song of Solomon is adorned, wears jewelry, attracts her husband. Esther, in Esther 2 verse 9, following undergoes, 12 months of beauty treatment paid by her husband, six months with oil and myrrh, six months with perfumes and cosmetics. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of our body. There’s nothing wrong with dressing well, looking attractive. There’s nothing godly about looking unattractive. There’s nothing worldly about looking appealing. I’ve listened to some Christian preachers and they gave me the impression that if you dress like a Plain Jane, you’re more like the Lord Jesus.
That’s nonsense. Women naturally have a tendency to want to look well. They have finer taste than men, generally speaking. They like decoration, both in the house and on themselves. Nothing wrong with that. As long as those things are held in balance, as long as those things have a biblical perspective, as long as those things aren’t the world saying to Christian women, it’s who you are on the outside that determines what you are on the inside. When the Bible says no, it’s who you are on the inside determines what you are on the outside. Remember Peter said look, don’t let your adornment, don’t let your appearance be the braiding of your hair and the wearing of jewelry, but let it be of the quiet spirit and the cultivation of the heart.
Now, Peter’s not condemning cosmetics. That’s a bad reading of the text. That’s it’s a linguistic tool. He’s drawing contrast. It’s a bit like Jesus said, don’t labor for food that perishes but for the food that is eternal. Jesus isn’t saying there, is he, you don’t work for food, because that’s a contradiction to what Paul says. He says, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” It’s a linguistic tool. Jesus is saying, “Don’t only work for food that perishes but work for that food which is eternal.” Peter is saying don’t only, ladies, dress yourself up and arrange your hair and get your matching earrings and your necklace and a nice cut of clothes that accentuates all that’s good about you. Nothing wrong with that, says Peter, but don’t let only be what you do. If that’s it, then you’re like the world, but a Christian woman gets beyond that. She realizes there’s a beauty of character and a commitment to spiritual things and that’s what this passage is all about.
So you and I ought to take care of our bodies, and that will include making sure that it’s in good health. And there’s nothing wrong with looking appealing or adorning your body in a fashionable, attractive way, but never ladies, it says in first Timothy 2 and first Peter 3, to the point where how you look in church is a distraction to man from worshiping God. And never to the point where you so expose parts of your body that you’re putting a stumbling block in the path of man and their battle for purity. Clothing, hairstyles and jewelry should be inexpensive, not extravagant, modest, not vain, chaste, not suggestive. If you look at first Timothy 2 and first Peter 3, I think the issues are moderation, modesty and motive. Why do I dress the way I dress? To bring attraction to myself or to please my husband and glorify God?
What about moderation? Do we dress to the same extent? Do we spend the same kind of money as the world does or material things? I don’t think so. Shouldn’t be the case. We’ve got more important things to do with our money than have the biggest wardrobe on the street or the shiniest looking car in the driveway. It’s all about motivation and modesty and moderation. In fact, ladies, let me ask you a couple of questions and I’ll make my last point quickly and we’ll pray and be done. These are questions I took from a book on biblical womanhood. Listen to these questions. Do I spend more time daily caring for my physical appearance than I do in Bible study, prayer, and worship? Do I spend excessive amounts of money on clothes, hair and makeup? Is that amount glorifying to God?
Do I want to lose weight to feel better about myself, or do I desire to be self-disciplined for the glory of God? Do I exercise to try to create a, maintain a good figure? Or do I exercise to strengthen my body for God’s service? Is there anything about my appearance that I wish I could change? Or am I fully grateful to God for the way I was created? Am I jealous of the appearance of others or am I truly glad that God has blessed them in so many ways? When I attend an event or an activity, do I sinfully compare myself with others or do I go and ask God to show me how to love someone in the room and how to do it? Finally, do I ever dress immodestly with the intention of drawing attention to myself, maybe not consciously, but unconsciously provoking Christian men to sensual and sinful thoughts? Those are good questions.
We need to accept our bodies as a gift from God. Then we need to be good stewards of God’s grace, and that doesn’t mean not taking care of our body or not looking well. Finally, we need to dedicate our bodies to glorious ends. One of the things that Christians need to constantly be reminded is that everything we own is not our own. Everything we own is not our own. Listen to what Paul says in relation to the body. First Corinthians 6, verse 19. You know it, but I’ll read it for you. First Corinthians 6, verse 19. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and you are not your own?
God has given us a body created in his image indwelled by the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be good stewards of this body, take care of it, and he wants us to dedicate it to glorious ends. God didn’t give us anything not to reflect His glory by means of it. And we do something wrong when we take this body and we use it for means that do not glorify God. God desires that we use what he has given to us to ultimately glorify him. That’s why in verse 20, “For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
God wants us to take these eyes and to see the needs that are all around us and meet those needs for his glory. God wants us to take these minds and not to think about trashy things or the while the day away watching stuff that really doesn’t count for eternity. But he wants us to take these minds and read our Bibles and read theological books and think thoughts after him, to think about God in ways we have never understood him before, to travel back to the cross and think about how much he loves us.
God wants us to take these backs and put burdens on them and carry the hurt and the heartache of other people. God wants us to take these hearts and feel the pain of those around us who know not the Lord Jesus Christ, or those in the body of Christ who are suffering. God wants us to take these knees and bend them in prayer and seek him for all those things that we need to live according to His glory. God wants us to take these feet and spread the gospel for how beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news.
See, the doctrine of evolution makes a master out of a man, because there is no God. It’s the survival of the fittest. So it’s all about standing in somebody’s fingers as you climb the ladder of success. You’re the master of your own fate, the captain of your own soul. That’s what the doctrine of evolution produces. It produces a barbaric generation of people who are in love with themselves and who are not selfless or sacrificial. But the doctrine of creation produces servants out of men who realize that they have been made in the creator’s image to glorious and good ends, and that they have been given all these gifts of health and strength and wealth and time and liberty, to put them to good purposes, so that God may be glorified in how the body is used. So much more so when you have been redeemed and therefore bought a second time. God created us, we disobeyed. God bought us back in the death of Christ. Now we’re his again, and we need to use our bodies to glorify him.
That’s what we need to do. We need to use our bodies to glorious ends. Just this week again, I was reading the story of Thomas Cranmer, the Bishop of London who died under the reign of Mary Tudor, or who became known as Bloody Mary, for she murdered 50 Protestants over a period of time. He was put in prison because of his evangelical faith. Under persecution and pressure, he recanted his faith. Because Mary hated him so much because he had sided with Lady Jane Gray and brought her to the throne instead of Mary, she had it in for him. So even though he recanted, the death penalty stood for him and he was led in St. Mary’s church in Oxford to preach his recantation. But everybody surprised he recanted of his recantation. His conscience was bothering him so much and he once again embraced his evangelical faith.
He denounced the Pope, he denounced the mass, he denounced the Catholic church. They silenced him. They led him away. And as he was being led away. He told the people there was something bothering him and it was the fact that he had taken his right hand and he had written a recantation of his faith. And he called this his unworthy right hand, and he told the people when he got to the place where he would die, it would be first to perish. And if you read his story in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, that’s exactly what happens.
He kneels down at the stake, he prays, they then him to the stake, they put all the wood around him, they begin to light the fire. And according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Bishop Cranmer takes his right hand and he plunges it into the flames until it’s burned to a crisp. This unworthy right hand. I don’t know, I was touched again this week by reading that. What about my right hand? What about my left hand? What about my mind? What about my feet? Am I using them in any way that’s unworthy? What do I need to put to death in my body this week so that I might live for God’s glory? That I might define beauty as God defines it, that which is morally good.