Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Designed to Display the Gospel

Leslie Basham: Alistair Begg invites you to think about a tender scene. Imagine you are a grandmother showing your granddaughter the jewelry she will someday inherit from you.

Pastor Alistair Begg: You know the best jewelry you can leave to your grandchildren, the most precious jewel that you can pass on down the heritage line, is the jewel of a gentle and a quiet spirit.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for June 28, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Something we like to do from time to time here on Revive Our Hearts is to feature different speakers who can take us back to God’s Word and remind us of the basics.

Sometimes I find it helps to hear these things with just a different voice, using perhaps some different language. And all this week Pastor Alistair Begg has been doing that. He’s shown us God’s perfect and unique design for men and women.

He’s also shown us how that perfect design was marred by sin and how it led to the often-contentious relationships that we see between men and women today. He’s also shown us how the hope of Christ can bring peace to our relationships.

If you’ve missed any of these important programs, you can hear the whole series at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today Alistair’s going to talk about what it looks like to apply the gospel to our marriages day by day. Here’s Pastor Alistair Begg speaking to a group of women about why we can trust God’s Word as a solid basis for our relationships.

Pastor Alistair Begg: The title that’s been given to the event is pretty straightforward: God’s Design for Women. So we know it is to be about God, we know that it is to be about design, and we know that it is to be about women.

And since it is about God in the first place, it is surely appropriate that our text for all of our deliberations should be God’s Word, the Bible. And having read from the Bible, and having made this statement by way of introduction, I want immediately to pause purposefully and talk to you about what it is that we would ever use the Bible as the source of our deliberations today. 

We're starting there, purposefully, and actually staying there directly, because a number of you will have come as visitors and guests, and—frankly—the Bible is not something to which you refer with frequency. You may have come more because of the word “woman,” or because of the word “design,” rather than because of the word “God,” and that’s okay.

But I think you would understand that, since we’re in this framework, it would recognizable that we would operate from the text of Scripture. And the reason that we do so is because we believe that basic to all our understanding of Christian truth is God’s revelation of Himself and His will.

In other words, the Bible speaks to us about the truths of Christianity, truths to which we come—not as a result of our human discovery of God, but truths to which we come as a result of God’s disclosure of Himself—a disclosure that He has made uniquely in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

God has made Himself known in a number of ways. In our humanity, we have a sense of moral rightness and wrongness, which is the stamp of His handiwork. When we look at the leaves falling to the ground and recognize again that, in every good opportunity, it will be springtime later (some months from now), we recognize that in the order of creation God has made Himself known. We may not have given much thought to the fact that here in the pages of Scripture He has made Himself known uniquely. Of course, He has made Himself known ultimately, finally, saving-ly in the incarnation of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

So I come to you today to address the subject on the conviction that the Bible—the Old Testament, the New Testament—is inspired by God. The word actually means that “God breathed it out.”

Therefore, His words—in the same way that our words speak to who we are and what we believe and the measure our authority and our character—the Word of God, as we have it, speaks to His character. It is authoritative, it is permanent, and it is sufficient.

We believe that God knew in the putting together of the Bible, all of the needs of men and women throughout all of the centuries. So that, although we’re in the twenty-first century and removed by a long way from the material that we’re going to consider today, nevertheless, we discover that it has an immediate impact because of who the Author is, and because God made both the writings and the readers. Now, of course, there will be some who are saying, “Well, I understand so far what you’re saying, but isn’t—ultimately—the acceptance of the authority of the Bible simply, in the last analysis, an act of faith?”

And the answer is, “Yes, it is.”

In the final analysis, to accept the authority of the Bible is an act of faith. But it is an act of faith that is not contrary to reason. Oftentimes when people say, “Aw, but that’s just an act of faith,” what they have in mind is that somehow or another faith involves leaping into oblivion, that faith involves the disengaging of our thought processes, that faith involves some other mechanism in our life. But in point of fact, when the Bible speaks about faith, it speaks of it not in antagonism to our rationality. 

And in the final analysis, when we think about the Bible itself, all of our authority for believing it is ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And those of you who were present last evening, when we mentioned just briefly the issue of the resurrection, will understand the importance of that. That’s when God raised Jesus from the dead. He was, if you like, unconditionally validating who Jesus was, what Jesus did, and what Jesus said.

Jesus had walked along the streets of Judea. He had moved in and out of the precincts of Galilee. He had grown up in the home of a carpenter. Much of His life is covered over in complete silence. Then at the age of thirty, He walks out onto the stage of human history. The remarkable thing about this Jesus is . . . Although He is—if you like—outside of the Old Testament, still everything that He says references the Word of God. He’s constantly quoting the Bible. He is validating, retrospectively, the Old Testament.

One of the things that an individual—when they begin to get serious about thinking about who Jesus is and why He came—one of the remarkable things is, when you read the Old Testament and then you follow the life of Christ. . . You say, “How in the world did an individual manage to approximate so closely to all these things that were written hundreds of years before He arrived?” And of course, He was also validating, prospectively, all that then would be written about Him in the New Testament—in the gospels, in the story of the developing church in the Acts, in the letters that were written in the first century or so, and finally in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, looking forward to this Jesus.

Now all of that to say this: Jesus is the grand theme of the Bible. All of the storyline of the Bible converges in Jesus. He is, if you like, the focal point of the picture.

I’m not very good at pictures; I’m not very good at art at all. In fact, perspective is something that passed me by. I was absent on the day they gave out “perspective,” in terms of those line drawings. But Sue’s good at that, and so she’s able to say to me, “No, no, no, if you look at it in this way then you will see exactly what’s going on.”

And if you look at your Bible, if you look at yourself, if you look at the issue of womanhood separate from Jesus, then it is impossible to get it right. 

In thinking about it just now, I suddenly remember those things that they used to have at the mall a few years ago—the pictures they were selling in the little booths. You couldn’t see anything, right? I mean, it was something but you couldn’t see it unless you stood and looked at it for what seemed to be the rest of your life. And the people told you, “No, you’re looking at the wrong place.” And I would stare at them sometimes for five or seven minutes and couldn’t see a thing. 

And people would say, “Oh, no! You see, it’s the Empire State Building.”

I said, “I’m sorry, not to me it isn’t!”

[And they’d say,] “Well, you need to squeeze your eyes.”

And I’d squeeze my eyes, and then you close one eye and then close another eye, and eventually, “Do you see it? Do you see it!” [Pastor Begg replies:] “No, I don’t see it!”

And you may be here today and you’re saying to yourself, “That’s the exact same thing, you know. I might as well close both my eyes when it comes to the Bible—leave one shut and one open”—and so on.

But the amazing thing is this: The very faith that is involved in accepting the authority of God’s Word comes by means of God’s Word. And the Scriptures are described to us as being the Word of Christ; therefore, what the Bible says, the Lord Jesus as the Head of the Church says. The Lord Jesus speaks to us today—not by the contemporary utterances of inspired individuals—but He speaks to us by the teaching and application of the inspired Scriptures. Do you understand that distinction?

So we don’t run around looking for inspired men or inspired women. We actually would want to look for men and women who are committed to the inspired Bible so that we then, being sensible women, would be able to examine the Scriptures and see whether what is being said by the teacher is actually confirmed and ratified in the Bible. 

That's true whether that has to do with a picture of womanhood or whether it has do with the nature of marriage or whether it has to do with our involvement in the local church. Whatever it may be, our dependence is not on the utterances of inspired individuals, but our dependence is upon the instruction and application of the inspired Scriptures.

Now for those of you who are still with me and haven’t said in your mind, “I should have had a second cup of coffee!” Let me try and explain to you why this is so very important.

Until you accept the authority of the Bible (and this is not a conference on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible), you will not defer to it. You will not do what it says. And so the issue of, “Where are we starting from in addressing the subject?” is a crucial issue!

Is this Bible authoritative? Is this Word of Christ—the Head of the Church—to be obeyed? Are we to defer to it whether it is palatable or not? Are we to do what it says whether we like it or not? Are we to obey it when it runs absolutely contrary to contemporary culture? The Bible must always be given the last word on any subject.

“Yeah, but,” says somebody, “It’s possible to misinterpret the Bible.” Yes, of course it is. We may misinterpret the Bible, frankly, because we’re ignorant. We just don’t know really anything about it at all, and so we say silly things about it.

Or we may misinterpret the Bible because we just pick wee bits out of the Bible, and we don’t pay any attention to the context in which it’s set. We may also misinterpret the Bible because of our own prejudices. We find in the Bible what we want to find in the Bible, so we go to it and we find it, and then we say it’s there. And none of us are free from the potential for that. How then do we make sure that doesn’t happen? Well, I think if we study the Bible properly, we understand that there are certain things that are perfectly plain and clear. 

Those are the main things over which there is really no debate at all; nobody is concerned to argue about them. There are other things where the Bible is not as clear and is not as plain.

So on the plain, clear things, we need to be plain and really clear. On the issues where there is not the same clarity—secondary issues—we need to make sure that we are not dogmatic and assertive and bombastic and domineering.

God’s design. How do we know about God? In the Bible. How do we know about His design? In the Bible. Well, I don’t want to lose somebody in the very first ten minutes. You say, “Well, I don’t frankly pay attention to the Bible at all. If I’d known it was this, I wouldn’t have come. I thought it was some kind of principles from out there, you know—Chopra or chukra—or whoever that character is. You know, some bright ideas, some insights. I need insights. I don’t need the Bible. Goodness gracious, if you could see the house out of which I’ve come, you know I need ten principles here. I need pointers. I need help. Help me! Don’t start this Bible stuff!”

Listen, ladies, if you stay with me, I—with God’s help—am going to show you that this is exactly what we all need!

This is exactly what we need, and it is an illusion to think that we can address this sense of need that we have by simply reaching out for practical pointers to be implemented. Until we are convicted and convinced that God has a legitimate right to rule, that God has a legitimate right to speak, that God has spoken within His Word—and therefore, that He gets the last word on every subject—we will not be able to make the progress that we require. Now, we could go and illustrate this. We won’t take the time to do it.

But—for example—when Jesus, in Mark chapter 10 is asked a question on the subject of divorce, you will remember how He answers it. He answers it by going right back to Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 2: “Do you not know,” He says, “that God made them in the beginning male and female, that they became one flesh” (see vv. 6–8).

So, we have the revelation of Scripture set over and against the investigation and the confusion of men and women.

Nancy: That’s Pastor Alistair Begg explaining why we use the Bible as our primary textbook when it comes to life and godliness. It was key for the women present at that conference, a conference called God’s Design for Women, and it’s key for all of us.

As that conference progressed, there were opportunities for some questions and answers, and Alistair spent some time going over the passage in 1 Peter where the apostle challenges women to be careful about their own behavior and even what they wear. Let’s listen together.

Pastor Begg: In 1 Peter 3, you will see, if you have the Bible, that it’s got a heading there: Wives and Husbands. There’s only one verse given to the husbands. It’s verse 7. It’s a really heavy duty verse.

So you husbands should “be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner.” That doesn’t mean the inferior partner. It just means that constitutionally, God has given this protective responsibility to the husband.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t reciprocal; it doesn’t mean his wife is never his protector . . . we know that to be true, all of us as men. Nevertheless, in the purposes of God, we are supposed to step up and exercise some kind of umbrella care for our wives, as heirs with us together of the precious gift of life.

We’re absolutely equal before God. We’re heirs together of the grace of life. The picture that is in mind here is clearly one in which the husband is an unbeliever. The terminology that is used in these opening six verses suggests that the husband may not simply be indifferent to his wife’s faith, but he may actually be actively hostile to it.

And the question that Peter is addressing is that very practical question: If you have perhaps become a Christian and your husband hasn’t, and you’re living now within the framework of the home, what is to be done?

And the answer that Peter gives here is that the impact is going to come—not through your husband’s ears—but through your husband’s eyes. The responsibility that is entrusted to the wife is not to ensure that her husband hears what she believes, but that he sees how she behaves. It’s a phenomenally important distinction!

The great temptation for those of us who like to talk is that we think just by talking more and more and more, we will be more effective, when we miss the potential of eloquent silence.

And it is particularly pressing upon a wife who earnestly wants to share everything with her husband: “This is what I learned; this is what I discovered. Did you know this about Jesus? Did you know what I discovered in the Bible today?”

And so often, our well-meaning attempts are just a massive turn-off to husbands. They want their wives to be quiet; they want their wives to have conversations with them about all kinds of things, but they didn’t want to have it in the car as a kind of surrogate Billy Graham.

They don’t want her in there in place of the tape player, in place of the pastor, in place of the missionary, in place of the evangelist. They just want their wife in the car. And of course the wife’s saying, “Oh, but there’s so much I need to get across. There’s so much material I need to convey. He doesn’t understand this. He doesn’t know that, perhaps if I made him listen to this . . .” and so on. And, largely, it just drives him completely nuts!

So instead of doing that, he said, “Why don’t you just be a walking testimony? Why don’t you be a living testimony to your husband?”

And how will this, then, be shown? Well, first of all, he says you can win them over without talk by your behavior. So let them see your behavior. What? Your purity and the reverence of your lives. Reverential behavior not taking place in a vacuum, but taking place in such a fashion that the contrasts of verses 3 and 4 become very apparent.

The contrasts are between the outward and the inward, between that which is externally attached and that which is internally produced, between that which is loud and that which is quiet, between changing styles and unfading beauty.

And so he says, “[I want to tell you that] your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:3–4).

Now, the literal force of what Peter is giving here as a warning is pressed out of context by lots of people. If we were to approach this in the wrong way—in the wrong spirit of interpretation—then we could actually make this verse to say that the wearing of clothing is prohibited as an outward adornment. Your beauty should not be from the wearing of clothes, or the wearing of fine clothes, which, of course, would give new meaning to the idea of “Plain Jane.” (laughter) That certainly would be a big distinction.

What is being proposed here is simply the important distinction that is so necessary in our culture, as it was in his. The constant bombardment of a world that says, “If your hair is like this, your jewelry’s like that, your clothes are like this—and so on—then you have the potential for this . . .” nd there is a great opportunity for enslavement!

“Instead,” says Peter, “I don’t think that is the plan for you.” If a mother models this, then the daughters can follow it. If she doesn’t, then the daughters will largely do the same. I mean, just look around you.

If a mother has any measure of impact on her children, then her girls will become like her. You’ll notice that the way they do their hair, the way they pluck their eyebrows or don’t, the way they put on make-up or the way they don’t put on make-up, whatever else it is, there is a great potential just for the copycat syndrome.

And the same way with a son and his father. The way that a man walks, a son will largely walk that way. The way he sits in a chair and so on; the way he greets and reacts to people . . . most of that is learned behavior.

And therefore, the impact is not simply the impact that comes from the wife to the husband, but it’s the impact that comes from the wife to the child, and it’s the impact that comes from the wife to the community.

And so this picture of “in her loveliness,” as opposed to some kind of cosmetic, externalized, manufactured beauty . . . So much of a husband’s ego is wrapped up in what his wife puts on display. That’s part of the question that was asked earlier, you know: “He wants me to wear this,” or “He wants me to wear that.”

Oftentimes that has to do with a perversity on the part of a man, and often he buys things for his wife—not because he really is so phenomenally pleased for her to have them—but because he actually gets vicarious pleasure out of knowing she has them and knowing that when people see that she has them, it reflects upon him as the great provider. And Peter says you need to resist all of that. And husbands are supposed to nurture their wives in such a way that wives will value the priceless jewelry of an unfading beauty and of a gentle and a quiet spirit.

That shouldn’t, incidentally, be confused with a certain personality type—somebody who is naturally diffident or who has an uneasy reserve about things or some kind of affected piety. It’s actually a supernatural quality that is cultivated in all kinds of personalities.

Somebody may be very extroverted, but they possess the imperishable jewel of a gentle and a quiet spirit. Somebody else may be far more introverted, but the same thing comes true. It’s a quality, it’s a supernatural quality. It’s a Spirit-ordained thing that God manufactures and produces. It is nurtured and helped along the line by the way in which a woman thinks about herself and the way in which she deports herself and in the way in which she actually frames her whole external persona.

And Peter says, “If you want an example of this, this is actually the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (see v. 5).

“Oh,” you say, “Well, I don’t want to be like one of those old, holy woman from the Old Testament. Goodness gracious, I don’t want to be like that!”

You mean you don’t want to be like Sarah? Mmmm? Sarah was a cover girl. Sarah was a model. Don’t you want to be her daughter?

“No she wasn’t! Where’d you get that from?”

Well, she must have been some good-looking woman, for at seventy-five, the king was trying to pick her up! (laughter) How many women at seventy-five have you seen who . . . Some king who can pick any woman up is trying to date Abraham’s wife! Some Sarah, I’ll tell ya!

So, she used to call her husband, “lord.”

“Aw, well, that’s her out. Definitely she’s out! Naw, I’m not doing that! It’s like, Sarah 'obeyed Abraham and called him her master.'”

Is that it? I don’t think she called him “master” like, “Good morning, Master. What would you like me to do now, Masta-ah?” (laughter)

“Where’s my list?”

No . . . I think if she called him Master, she called him Master under her breath . . . or when he was out. (laughter) She’s not going to call him straight to his face. I mean, he may get carried away with that kind of thing! But there was something there. There was esteem, affection, devotion—everything else. However you put it together, it’s a really fabulous quality. 

Do your grandchildren look at your rings? Your granddaughters? Do they ever sit with you in the car and say, “Grandma, what are you going to do with that bracelet?” Or do they ever just say stuff like, “I really, really like that ring that you have! Can I try that on?” And already, if you have more than three or four grandchildren—in your mind, without any morbid way—you’ve already earmarked some of them. You know, she likes that particular stone, and you’ve already made provision for that, and that’s nice.

But you know, the best jewelry you can leave to your grandchildren, the most precious jewel that you can pass on down the heritage line, is the jewel of a gentle and a quiet spirit . . . not always moaning and groaning at Grandpa. 

“Every time I go to Grandpa’s house, Grandma’s always buggin’ him! She’s always saying, 'Nah.' She’s always giving him this. Poor old Grandpa! He just goes out and smokes—just to get away from her! He doesn’t like smoking, but he smokes!” (laughter)

Well, sure, she’ll get your amethyst, but she’s also got your, “Nah, nah, nah, nah.” That’s a bad memory. Cut it out!

Wives, gravity takes over right? And you can only hang stuff on stuff for so long! (laughter) So this is very practical wisdom, isn’t it? This one will stay with you right through . . . the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit.

Do what’s right! In other words, do what the Scriptures say: “Do not give way to fear” (1 Peter 3:6). What kind of fear? The fear of people saying, “Oh, you are such a wimpy wife! You ought to be more aggressive; you ought to stand up! You ought to do this; you ought to do that.”

No, don’t be tyrannized by that or by the evidences of the aging process or captivated by the changing fashions of the day. This jewelry looks really good on wrinkles! This jewelry works irrespective of the height-to-weight ratio. This jewelry goes really well with compassionate eyes and an understanding heart.

And you know, ladies, there isn’t anything you wouldn’t trade for a husband who would love you the way Christ loved the church. You’d go without jewelry for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you? And a husband, too, is going to benefit greatly—not from the nagging, persistent preaching of his wife—but by her purity, by her reverence, by her unfading gentle beauty!

Nancy: So, ladies, what kind of adornment, what kind of jewelry, are we wearing today? I really appreciate Pastor Alistair Begg’s way of putting it.

Now for many of us, I know that a gentle and quiet spirit is hard—like, really hard! But I also want to highlight something he said. When Peter talks about this gentle and quiet spirit, we shouldn’t confuse that with a certain personality type.

It is possible, by God’s grace, for a woman to have an outgoing, “get-'er-done” type of personality and still to have a God-honoring, quiet spirit. And I also think it’s important to remind you of one more thing. A gentle and quiet spirit—a Sarah-like attitude—does not mean that you’re supposed to sit idly by and passively put up with abuse. This is so important for me to say and for you to hear. Abuse is wrong! It is sinful—and, it’s against the law!

So if that’s the situation in your marriage right now—if you or your children are in danger—you need to get help! Now, there’s no possible way that I can address all the various types of situations that you or other listeners may be facing.

And that’s why you need a trusted person nearby—someone in your church, ideally—who knows your situation, and who can provide wise, godly counsel to help you know how to walk through this.

Just last week, a woman poured out her heart to Robert and me about some major issues in her extended family. She was so concerned, and she felt helpless to know what to do. We just had a few minutes we were able to spend with her before they closed up the venue for the night, so we listened, we prayed for her. And then my husband, Robert, wisely asked her, “Are you in a church?” Well it turned out, she wasn’t.

We stressed to this woman, as we were parting ways there late that evening, the importance of having a church fellowship—of being a part of a church fellowship—where she can be known and where she can get the kind of input and care she needs.

So seek out a godly pastor, a godly older woman, a prayer partner, someone who can help you navigate the difficult waters of an abusive situation. There are steps that can be taken; there are steps that need to be taken . . . and with someone who knows God’s Word and knows you who can help you walk through that.

Now chances are, your situation isn’t quite that extreme, but we all still need godly counsel. Perhaps you have godly wisdom and life experiences that need to be shared with others, and you’re looking for ways to invest in other women, particularly women in the next generation.

My friend, Mary Kassian, and I have co-written a workbook that you can use to guide those discussions, either one-on-one or perhaps in a small group. This study is called True Woman 101: Divine Design. It addresses some important topics for us as women to think through. For example, how do we live out the beauty of godly womanhood—godly femininity—in our day? What does that look like, practically? What does God’s Word have to say about all this? You’ll grapple with these kinds of questions in this study.

We’d like to send you one copy of this book as our gift when you support Revive Our Hearts this week with a donation of any amount. You can visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your gift and get the workbook, or just ask for True Woman 101 when you call us at 1–800–569–5959. We’ll send one copy per household for your donation.

Thank you so much for your gift today, which makes it possible for us to continue sharing this kind of life-giving, helpful truth with women—not only where you live, but around the world!

Tomorrow, Pastor Alistair Begg takes a look at one more passage directed to women: the beginning of Titus chapter 2. So please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you discover God’s perfect design for your life. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the NIV84.

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