Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Candles and Gunpowder

Leslie Basham: Men tend to be more visually oriented, and this can be hard for women to understand. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’ve heard women say this, “It just grosses me out to think how a guy could be drawn into pornography. That is so sick.” Now, it is very, very sinful. It’s very, very deadly. But it’s not all that surprising.

Leslie Basham: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, April 27.

Here’s what one listener wrote regarding the program that aired yesterday on Revive Our Hearts.

It really opened up my eyes and made me think about what I wear. I’m a married woman, but often I follow the latest fashion trends. Sometimes they can be on the verge of vulgar or sexual. Like most women, I’m not doing it on purpose but because that’s what’s “in.” But for the sake of my husband and Christian brothers, I will be looking through my closet and throwing some things away.

That program was part of the series, Modesty: Does God Really Care What I Wear? Now, let’s continue with Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I'd like to read to you a portion of a letter to the editor that I found recently in a Christian college newspaper. It's written by a student who is a senior at that Christian college and the title of the letter was "Women's Choice in Dress Leads Men To Stumble." And here’s what this young man had to say.

The other day I was going to the business office to take care of some financial matters, and I could not believe some of the things I was seeing. The landscaping around campus looked exceptionally great. There were new dorms, new faces, and unfortunately, scantly clad females were everywhere as well.

Now the reason I'm writing this letter is simple: sexual purity. This is something that is difficult for both males and females but particularly hard for males because they are stimulated by sight. Now guys, we're not off the hook just because females are dressed inappropriately. We're called in 2 Timothy 2:22 to "flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace."

However, girls, help us brothers out. Your dress can easily cause us to stumble and the apostle Paul tells us that he would gladly give up eating meat if it caused a brother to stumble. (Of course, we do not advocate giving up clothes, only ones that cause guys to stumble.)

This may be shocking to some girls, but your clothing really can have a negative affect on guys. Please consider your clothing and what the Bible says concerning the way you dress.

Now we've been talking about different principles that should help us determine the appropriate way to dress. You'll notice that I haven't yet told you any specifics. I haven’t yet said about this article of clothing or that article of clothing. That’s right, and that’s wrong. I’m going to do some of that later in this series, but I want us to see that modesty is first a matter of the heart. It's not a matter of a list of certain clothing items because one clothing item may be modest on one woman and not modest on another woman, or it may be worn differently.

There are some things that I think are clearly right and wrong, but we want learn how to make decisions based on the principles of God's Word. We've talked about the principle of edification. We're to build up the men around us and not to put a stumbling block or a cause for them to sin in their path. Today I want to expand on that a little further and in the next session as well by talking about what I call the principle of creation, which just means simply we need as women to understand how men are different from women.

You see, we may think, "What I'm wearing wouldn't cause me to stumble. It wouldn’t cause my girlfriends to stumble. Why does it cause guys to stumble? Why do certain kinds of clothing turn guys on that don’t do anything to me? Why does a certain part of my body showing, certain parts of my skin exposed seem to cause problems with guys and it doesn't do anything for me?" It's because of this principle of creation.

We need to learn to understand that God made men and women different. Now that shouldn’t come as any great surprise, but I find that as women we often don’t understand how we’re different, how guys are wired differently than we are as women. You see, primarily we women are stirred and stimulated by physical touch; whereas, men are primarily stirred and stimulated sexually or in lustful ways by what they see.

As one author has said, “What a man’s touch is to a woman, the sight of a woman is to a man.” Now I know this is hard for us as women to understand, and it’s probably hard for guys to understand how we’re wired. That’s what makes life interesting. But there are some scriptures that I think will help us with this.

Proverbs 27:20, for example, tells us that "death and destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man" (NIV). Men are influenced, stimulated through what they see. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5, verse 28: "I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Now we're familiar with that verse, but have you thought about what Jesus is saying to men and what he is saying to women in that passage? "Every man who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Now the most obvious meaning of what Jesus is saying here is that men have a responsibility to guard their hearts and guard their minds by guarding their eyes. He’s talking about how men are stimulated visually. Every man who looks at a woman with his eyes with lustful intent has committed adultery. So Jesus is saying by implication, "Guard your eyes." He's talking to men.

But we as women may not realize that Jesus is also saying that we have a responsibility, and that is to dress modestly so as not to provoke men to sin with their eyes. Guys are responsible to govern their eyes, and women are responsible to govern their modesty—to govern what they show to men's eyes.

Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker have co-authored a book called, Every Man's Battle. I read this book in preparation for this series not because I really wanted to, it's a book that is written to men primarily, although there are some words to wives in the book. I found, as a woman, it was very helpful to me to better understand how men are wired, how they think, and what kinds of things can lead them into moral sin.

The book is particularly dealing with men in sexual impurity, pornography, and how men get into these issues. I think even the title is helpful for us as women to understand every man's battle. The moral battle is a battle that in one way or another, more or less, every man has to deal with. And you may be thinking, "Not that guy at work, not my boss, not that teacher, not that guy in my class. He doesn't have a battle in this area, not my pastor. He doesn't have moral struggles."

I want to tell you this is every man's battle, and that's why it needs to be every woman's concern. I want to read to you an excerpt out of this book, Every Man's Battle, just so you can hear, from a guy's standpoint, how they're wired. Now this is a little raw, but I think it will be helpful for us as women to understand this. The authors say,

Men receive sexual gratification through the eyes. Our eyes give men the means to sin broadly and at will. We don't need a date or a mistress. We don't ever need to wait; we have our eyes and can draw sexual gratification through them at any time. We're turned on by female nudity in any way, shape, or form. We aren't picky. It can come in a photograph of a nude stranger just as easily as in a romantic interlude with a wife.

We have a visual ignition switch when it comes to viewing the female anatomy. Women seldom understand this. [And would you women say this is hard for you to understand? You’re nodding. It is hard because we’re not wired this way.] Women seldom understand this because they aren't sexually stimulated in the same way. Their ignitions are tied to touch and relationship.

Which, by the way, is why it's so important for us as women to be careful about the ways that we let men touch us. I find that as a single woman, it is so important that I be discreet because I know that there are certain kinds of touch from a man that are going to stimulate me to think thoughts that are not pure. So I have to be careful and guarded about my own body, and so do you as a woman.

We need to be careful in making sure that as women we're not giving frontal embraces to men who aren't our husband because this can create feelings and thoughts in our own minds that we're not strong enough to handle. So we need to be careful about what stimulates men.

The authors go on to say in this book that "women don't understand this because they aren't sexually stimulated in the same way as men. They view this visual aspect of our sexuality as shallow and dirty, even detestable." I have heard women say this, "It just grosses me out to think how a guy can be drawn into pornography. That is so sick." Now it is very, very sinful; it's very, very deadly, but it's not all that surprising.

If a guy has not learned to govern his eyes, he's going to be visually stimulated, and if what's out there and what's he allowing to come into his path is visually provocative, he is going to be vulnerable.

These authors go on to say, "No doubt about it, visual sexual gratification is a form of sex for men. As males we draw sexual gratification and chemical highs through our eyes." He goes on to give an illustration of one of the men they interviewed for this book. This is a little rough here, but I want to read it because I think as women we need to understand the affect that we have when we don't realize it. They say,

Alex remembers the time he was watching TV with his sister-in-law. The rest of the family was at the mall. This sister-in-law, watching TV, was lying flat on her stomach on the floor in front of me wearing tight shorts, and she had fallen asleep watching TV.

And for a lot of women this would be not a real unusual scene at all. This man goes on to say,

I was on the chair, and I happened to look down and see her upper thigh and a trace of her underwear. I tried to ignore it, but my heart started racing a little and my eyes kept looking at the back of her upper thigh. I began to stare and really lust.1

Now, I can't even go on to read to you the rest of this story, but I think I've read enough for us to know that we as women have a huge responsibility—the way that we dress affects men because of the way that they are wired to be visually stimulated.

Let me quickly just give you a few biblical illustrations of that concept so that you could see biblically the fact that men are visually oriented, visually stimulated.

For example, Abraham, when he took his wife Sarah to Egypt in Genesis chapter 12:11-12, when he was about to enter Egypt he said to Sarah, his wife, "I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me, but they will let you live.'" Now the implication is so they can have you sexually. He knew that men are motivated by what they see.

So he took matters into his own hands and didn't handle that properly. The solution wasn't a good one because he said, "Don't tell them you're my wife; tell them you're my sister" (Genesis 12:13).

You see here the principle—put her beautiful appearance, with the eyes of men—you've got a candle walking among gunpowder. That means it's not wrong to be beautiful, but it means you have to be careful how you walk as a candle among gunpowder.

Then we come to Judges chapter 14, and we see Samson, who was one of the judges of Israel. It says in verse 1,

Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother.

Now this is a girl that is outside the faith, outside the marriage that God would have permitted, but he was so driven by what he had seen. He said to his parents,

"I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. . . . Now get her for me as my wife." [I want what I see. Candle, gunpowder.] His mother and father said to him, "Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go and take a wife from among the Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "But get her for me, for she is right in my eyes." He went down and talked to the woman, and she was right in Samson's eyes (verses 3-4, 7).

Judges 16, Samson went to Gaza—there's another situation now—and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. He was not motivated to have a relationship with these women because he cared for them or because there was compatibility between them or because they had a tender, caring relationship. He saw something that he liked with his eyes, something that was beautiful to him, something that was sexually stimulating, and he said, "I want her."

Candle, gunpowder. We’ve talked about the story of David and Bathsheba. Let me just rehearse that from 2 Samuel 11.

It happened late one afternoon David rose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house that he [what?] he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. . . . So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him and he lay with her (verses 1-4).

Candle, gunpowder. Is it wrong to be beautiful? No. If you're beautiful, God made you beautiful. Thank Him for that. Now make sure your true beauty is that of your inner person, that you're just not relying on 20-year-old beauty that won't be the same at 60 years of age.

Recognize that your body is a candle, and there's nothing wrong with a candle. But you've got to watch what you do with it when it's in a room full of gunpowder.

Now scripturally, nakedness is equally wrong for both men and women. The Scripture says God clothed both Adam and Eve. But it’s not equally dangerous because male immodesty does not do to women’s eyes typically what female immodesty does to men’s eyes.

Now, I just want to stress that men are held fully accountable for their thoughts and for what they do with those thoughts. But we need to recognize that women who are dressed immodestly will be held accountable for the way they dress.

As I was preparing for this series, I asked a number of men to share how they were affected by women's dress, and I got some very helpful and insightful responses. I want to read one of those responses to you from a young man who was a college student at a Christian college; a young man who has a strong heart for the Lord but has had a lot of moral struggles in his past before he came to know the Lord.

He was very honest. I will tell you in advance that there are very explicit portions of what I am about to read. Some would wonder, Is it appropriate even to read this type of thing. I would just say, "You know, that today if you don't say what you mean when you're talking about modesty, many, many women don't know what you're talking about. So I want to read from this young man's heart what he said.

He starts by acknowledging that lust is a very real enemy in the life of a male, both whether he's a Christian or a non-Christian, and he said:

We, as men, are fully responsible for our own sexual choices and behavior. However, there is a catalyst that intensifies the sinful desires we battle in our minds. That catalyst is the lack of feminine modesty. We cannot excuse our sin by blaming it on others, but it's tough for a man in the battle to find a refuge when the Church of Christ, that should be his safeguard, is sometimes filled with more provocative images than the enemy's ground.

I know there are some men who do not struggle with lust to the degree of others, but to the vast majority, a lack of feminine modesty is the spark that can ignite the fire. [Candle, gunpowder.] So that's why as men we need the help of women. We need for you to recognize our weakness and to understand the importance of discretion and modesty.

As women tend to be stimulated by touch and affection, generally men are stimulated by sight through the eye gate.

And I saw this confirmed over and over and over again in the responses we got from men.

    • low-cut blouses, exposed breasts
    • thin fabrics and undergarments that give sensual, visual impressions of a woman's body
    • tight pants that reveal the lines of undergarments
    • short midriff blouses that expose bellies and hips
    • short skirts, skirts with high slits
    • undergarments that are exposed when women and teens are careless about how they sit, walk ,and move around

Now if you didn’t understand before this you do now what the guys are talking about.

These seemingly insignificant issues can draw men into the trap of sinful thoughts. And these thoughts, acted upon, can lead to sinful, sexual acts such as pornography and various types of personal and even violent, immoral behavior. It’s a paradox that men wrestle with. The Christian brother hates lust but can be easily stimulated by the sight of that which should be covered.

Along these lines, I think of a fellow student, a dear Christian friend, who feels called to disciple young women in the area of purity. She leads Bible studies on modesty, but her appearance contradicts all that she stands for.

There is seldom an occasion that I am in her presence that I am not exposed to brightly colored undergarments showing above her low-cut pants or under her shirt, her tanned belly or other private parts when she bends down or leans over. Her shirts are tight; her skirts are short. Her shorts are even shorter, and her pants are skintight in the most provocative regions. She is a beautiful woman with a real heart for God, but she lacks wisdom and discretion. I am left to fight the battle whenever I am in her presence.

I suspect a majority of the Christian women are oblivious to the fact that they are being used as a weapon against men who really do desire to walk in integrity and purity. I plead and beg, for the godly women of America to take notice of their brothers' needs and to assist us in our war against the flesh.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back. She’s in the series Modesty: Does God Really Care What I Wear? Throughout the series she’s shown women how to make clothing choices like a person walking with a candle among gunpowder.

Will you continue getting this message into your heart? You can study it further by getting a copy of Nancy’s booklet, The Look. It will lead you through Scripture on this important topic. It will also provide helpful questions to ask about clothing like, “How do you know whether a piece of clothing is too tight, too low, or too high?” The booklet will help you prayerfully make these decisions.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you The Look. Just call us at 1-800-569-5959, or donate any amount at, and we’ll send The Look to you.

Now tomorrow we’ll talk consequences. What happens if we’re not careful about modesty? To close our time now here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Father, in contrast to much of what we just heard, I think of the words in 1 Timothy chapter 2:9 that tell us Your solution. "That women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty, and self-control."

So Lord, forgive us for times when knowingly or unknowingly we have not lived up to that standard, and we've been a candle lighting gunpowder. Give us wisdom and discretion and discernment and understanding of how we can be the kind of women that can help men in their battle. Lord help us to be pure and help us to help them to be pure—that You may be glorified. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Every Man's Battle. Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2000. p 65-66.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.