It has now been a month and a half since beginning my summer at Village Creek Bible Camp. What an amazing opportunity it has been! Does that mean they have not been busy, tough, and even trying? Not at all! Just because something is hard for you, does not mean it is not bad good for you. God has given me the chance to serve in an amazing capacity, and as a result has continued to develop me in both my strengths and weaknesses. As part of my job, I was given the chance to give several messages during staff training. One of these messages, as uncomfortable as it was at first, was on on the topic of modesty. Word of advice, if you do not want to speak about a subject, do not write about it. God has a sense of humor that way, I guess.
I prepared for the message by thinking through all the conversations and thoughts I have had regarding modesty over the past year. More and more the topic, in my mind, has become less about modesty, and more about sanctification. You see, modesty, or immodesty, are all results, they are the symptom, not the cause, and if you want to deal with the topic of modesty, you really have to deal with sanctification. God wants us to be holy, not modest, and how does He do that, He does so through our sanctification, which comes from being in Christ. Sure, modesty and outward action will be a result of that sanctification, but they are a result and should not be the actual goal.
Where Modesty Talks Go Wrong
Much of the material on modesty addresses just that, modesty. The focus becomes on the externals of what to wear, when really it should on the internals of who because of Christ, one is. First of all it seems like modesty, in the minds of many, strictly pertains to what people wear, and more specifically, what women wear, instead of being anything that draws attention, to anyone. Blogs, sermons, seminars, all enforce ideologies, you could even say laws, on what to do and what to wear, when really they should be focusing who believers are. Like I said, the goal should be sanctification through who we are in Christ, not what we wear or do. Even as I look back at my first post on modesty, I wish I would focused more on sanctity than what I did modesty. While the motives of these folks might be good, the substance of much material regarding modesty is little at best. Instead of just women being targeted with do’s and dont’s, we should zoom out from modesty, looking at the bigger picture of sanctity. Internal sanctification will produce outward manifestation in Christ.
What I want to share today, is basically the thrust of a talk I gave here at camp, which comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-11 and is about living a life pleasing to God.
You Know How to Live, So Keep Living That Way
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 “1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”
The believers of Thessalonica had all they needed to live a life of holiness, and it was not a one time thing, Paul tells them to keep doing it. If believers then had all they needed to live a life of Christ, to continue their process of sanctification, of being made holy, would we not have the same today? The first key to sanctification, is to keep doing it, to keep allowing Christ to have control of our lives, moving us further from who we were, toward who He wants us to be. How often though, do we grow a certain amount or go a certain distance, and decide that is enough. Our brains develop mentalities of “oh I have grown this much, so I really do not have to grow much more.” At least that is how we act anyway. We become content with the little be we have allowed Christ to transform us, forgetting that He wants to do so much more. Sanctification requires us to move further away from who we used to be in ourselves, and closer to who we are in Christ. What we have to do is so simple, we know what to do, we just have to keep doing it.
Sanctification is the Goal, Everything Else is a Result
1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5 “3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God”
The will of God for the folks of Thessalonica was sanctification, to be holy, just as the will of God for our lives is exactly the same. When it comes to sanctification we have to allow Christ access to all of our lives, not just part of them. Those little things we want to hold onto, the movies, the music, clothes, and whatever else, we have to give everything, not just some things, over to Christ, as a part of continuing our process of sanctification. Being in Christ gives us freedom, but not the freedom to do whatever we want. Sanctification, following God, means accepting what He accepts, and rejecting what He rejects. It often seems the second any sort of rule gets mentioned in regards to the Christian life people automatically cry “Legalist!”, when really that is not always the case. Our freedom from sin essentially giving control to Him. Is it my place to tell you what to think, what to watch, or what to wear? Absolutely not! Part of the sanctification process is allowing the Holy Spirit in you to build those convictions, and while I cannot force my convictions upon you, I can say that there are things of this world we have to sacrifice if we truly desire to continue on in our journey toward holiness.
One of the amazing truths about being a Christian is that we do not need to seek value from the world, yet that is the very thing so many of us, so many times, give into. A lot people are looking for fulfillment, yet a lot of people are not fulfilled. One of the hardest lessons I have learned in life, and am still learning, is that so often we search for fulfillment in everything, instead of accepting the one thing that will fulfill us, what we had all along, which is our position in Christ. The world tries to tell us we need fulfillment, to find highs in everything from sex drugs, relationships, electronics, clothes, and all sorts of meaningless crap, God tells us we have everything we need for fulfillment in Christ, and we are never going to be fulfilled by anything else.
A great example of this is the whole clothes thing and modesty. How often do you think about the thought and time that is behind the things you wear. Abercrombie and Fitch is one of the biggest stores for younger people to shop in, Christian or not, yet you walk in and there are large, blown up images of sex being portrayed as something fun, harmless, and underneath it all not sacred. A store like Abercombie and Fitch does not want you to be pure, to be holy, instead wants to sexualize you, objectify you. What is more interesting, THE STORE IS PUBLICLY OPEN ABOUT THIS. Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercombie and Fitch, is pretty open about what his stores goal is. The following is a quote by him.
“I think that what we represent sexually is healthy. It’s playful. It’s not dark. It’s not degrading! And it’s not gay, and it’s not straight, and it’s not black, and it’s not white. It’s not about any labels. That would be cynical, and we’re not cynical! It’s all depicting this wonderful camaraderie, friendship, and playfulness that exist in this generation and, candidly, does not exist in the older generation.”-Mike Jeffries
If we are people who truly want to be holy, it is stuff like this we need to think about. The goal of the world, of clothing companies, of media, is not that we live holy lives, but we live lives like them. How warped is it that we, the believing, allow our style, our likes, our interests, to be controlled by the unbelieving. that we allow the world to impose upon us what they say is cool, even if in God’s eyes it isn’t? What is the reasoning behind what I do, and what does it show when manifested outwardly? Even movies and television. So often sex is portrayed as not a big deal, a chance to have fun and connect with someone, or just something to do, while God says sex is sacred, and should be between a husband and wife alone. Still we watch these sex comedies, we overlook the innuendos and implied sexual acts of our favorite shows. Is that what it means to be holy, overlooking impurity for the sake of entertainment? Again, I am not trying to tell you what your convictions should be, but challenge both you and myself in a deeper and further pursuit of sanctification. Following Christ does not mean you will dress like nuns or act like priests, but it does mean that in certain areas, and particular ways, you are going to look different.
“Jesus demands everything, not just so we would submit to his control, but to free us from the control of things that were never designed to control us.”
― Paul David Tripp
Christ wants to control our lives, not to bring us down, not to keep us from having fun, but to give us something better, to keep us from being controlled by things that are not good for us. What He has for us is better, and nothing the world can give will ever compare. Allowing Christ to control our lives, to sanctify us, means not just giving some things, but everything, that means movies, clothes, music, life decisions, purity, ALL OF IT! What are you still allowing the world to control in your life, what in your life are you not letting Christ have? Think about these things, what you do, wear, enjoy, and most importantly represent.
You Set the Tone
1 Thessalonians 4:6-8- “6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
Not only is does our sanctification, or lack of ,impact ourselves, it will also have an effect on those around us.What we have to remember is when we offend others, or bring others down as a result of acting in our flesh, it is not people we are showing offense to, it is God. Being holy is not about refraining from causing our brothers and sisters to stumble, rejecting unholiness because we that is what God wants us to do. In this process of sanctification, our motivation for holiness should not be for other people, but for God, to be more like Christ, that is why we should pursue it. We are not people called to impurity, or even modesty, we are people called to holiness. That is what it is all about, being more like Christ, being made holy, accepting what He accepts and rejecting what He rejects. Our rejection of holiness is rejection of God. When we pursue the worldly over the Godly we are sticking it to God…Is it really worth it?
Be Holy, Not Modest
Continue pursuing holiness. If that means dressing differently, giving up certain media, or ending a relationship, whatever the case may be, do no let anything stand between you and the Holiness, God wants to continue building in you. You know what you are holding onto, I know what I am holding onto, but we have to give it up, if we want to be more like Christ, we have to give the whole of our life, not just parts. Christ wants your whole life, not just some of it, so do we continue in the fruitlessness of what will never fulfill or do we continue on pursuing holiness, living in God’s will?