Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: We can say so much without ever speaking a single word. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our clothing and our appearance, women, is one of the most powerful, important means we have as women of communicating, sending a message about our hearts, our values, and what we believe.

So here’s the question: What do your clothes, your appearance communicate about you?

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, April 21.

Getting new clothes can be fun, but the first time new clothes were ever given, when God clothed Adam and Eve, it wasn’t fun at all. Find out why as Nancy continues in the series called, Modesty: Does God Really Care What I Wear?

Nancy: If I tell you that there is a woman coming down this church aisle in a long, white, formal dress. What would you say is probably the occasion? It’s a wedding. She’s a bride. How did you know? Because clothing communicates.

If I tell you that there’s a teenager who’s bundled up in a snowsuit, mittens, a wool hat and a scarf, would you agree with me that that teenager is probably not on his way to a picnic? Clothing and appearance send a message. They can communicate our occupation or the kind of occasion we’re involved in. There are some religions in the world that, if you saw a woman dressed in a certain way, you would say, “That woman is from this particular religion or this particular nationality.”

Clothing can communicate something about socio-economic status. You could look at some people and think, “She looks like a wealthy woman.” Or you might look at another woman and say, “She doesn’t look like she comes from a real wealthy background,” maybe just on the basis of clothing.

We have a number of illustrations in the Scripture of somebody who was dressed like a soldier or like a king or like a priest. There are different descriptions. For example, in Luke 16 we’re told "there was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and he fared sumptuously every day" (verse 19). His clothing connected something about his socio-economic status.

Now clothing can also communicate a message. It sends a message about our values, our character, and our attitudes. For example, you look at some people, and you can tell this person is not a neatnik. I mean, neatness doesn’t really matter to this person. And you come to that conclusion, not because you’ve seen her room or her office, but just because you’ve seen the way that she dresses.

The Bible talks about times when people would wear sackcloth. Now, for those of you who may not be familiar with that, sackcloth is clothing made out of crude, rough fabric of camel or goat hair, and it covers the body from the neck down to the ankles. People would wear this; they would put this on as a sign of mourning or repentance. So if someone was wearing sackcloth, they were signifying, communicating, sending a message about what was going on in their heart.

We also have illustrations in Scripture of how our clothing can send a message about our morals or lack thereof. For example, in Proverbs 7, we read this phrase—it’s talking about a seductive woman. She’s married, and she’s trying to lure a man who’s not her husband into her bedroom. It says she had "on the attire of a harlot” (verse 10). 

Now, it doesn’t describe in that passage what that clothing looks like, but when I say that, is there an image that comes to your mind? The woman is dressed in a way that you can look at her and see her motives are not pure toward this man.

There’s another passage in Genesis chapter 38 that talks about a woman named Tamar, who was a widow. She wanted to seduce a man she was not married to. The Scripture says in Genesis 38, “She took off her widow’s garments” (verse 14, NKJV). There was a specific type of clothing that would have communicated that she was a widow, and she changed her clothes and put on the clothing of a prostitute.

The man she was trying to seduce knew her. In fact, he was her father-in-law, but when she changed her clothes, he didn’t recognize who she was. He just looked at her clothes. He believed she was a prostitute, and he went in and was sexually intimate with her. Now, I say that not at all to justify him, but just to say that clothing sends a message.

Women today are sending a message with their clothing, and many of them know exactly what message they’re sending, but some are naïve. They don’t realize what they’re saying. They’ve been so influenced by this culture; they don’t know any other way to think about clothing.

I’ve put together a poster here. When we hold up this poster here, which has about a dozen pictures of women from some popular women’s magazines that I just pulled out this morning . . . Just looking at the way that they’re dressed, what message would you say that they’re sending? Just one at a time, but speak into the mic if you would.

Woman 1: “Look at my body.”

Nancy: “Look at my body.” Someone else?

Woman 2: “I’m available.”

Nancy: They’re saying, “I’m available.” Someone else?

Woman 3: “Look, but don’t touch.”

Nancy: Okay. How about another one?

Woman 4: Either “I don’t care what God thinks,” or “I haven’t thought about what God thinks.”

Nancy: Okay. Anybody else on this side of the room?

Woman 5: Female beauty is defined by sexuality.

Woman 6: When I see that, it reeks of pride.

Nancy: What is it that you’re looking at that makes you think pride?

Woman 6: A lot is in their body language even, and just the way that they’re so exposed and proud of it, so revealing. Nothing is left to the imagination.

Nancy: Okay.

Woman 7: I think it also reveals insecurity because they don’t have the right kind of self-confidence to not be able to dress that way.

Nancy: Very interesting point.

Woman 8: I also think it just puts across the image that, “This is what you have to be to live in this world and be popular and be part of it. You have to be able to show off your body and strut your stuff.”

Woman 9: I think they’re very much issuing an invitation to men.

Nancy: Issuing an invitation.

Woman 10: There’s a message that indicates to them that, “This is the sum total of who I am.” I think many women who display their bodies that way don’t have a really good self-image of who they are in their self-worth.

Nancy: In spite of the fact that they look so confident, you’re saying that maybe they’re not really as confident as they look.

Okay, Julie?

Julie: I guess having been in the printing industry, I wonder even how much of what we’re seeing is real, how much of it has been brushed through computer technology and things like that. It’s very fleeting. The ages of the woman, I would guess, are much younger than they look. That whole industry is just very “eat 'em up, and spit 'em out, and get another one.”

Nancy: And for sure, these women won’t look this way when they’re 60, no matter what.

When I showed these pictures to a friend last night, she said it reminded her of a song she had heard in the 80s that said, If you want my body, and you think I’m sexy; come on, baby, let me know.

Kim Alexis was a supermodel in the 80s. Her picture was on over 500 magazine covers including Vogue and Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She’s had a change of heart about many things, and today she realizes she made a lot of mistakes. She’s challenging women to think about the message they’re sending when they dress sensually. Here’s what she has to say: 

Many women are playing with fire in the way they dress. Dressing like a floozy tells the world, sends a message, ‘Look at me! Want me! Lust after me! I’m easy, and you can have me.’ Displaying intimate parts of the body is a form of advertising for sex.

Now, our clothing and our appearance, women, is one of the most powerful, important means we have as women of communicating, sending a message about our hearts, our values, and what we believe.

So here’s the question: What do your clothes, your appearance communicate about you? What message are you sending?

Now, there’s not a woman in this room who looks like one of the women on that poster—outwardly. Those are extreme illustrations. But they’re not the ones we’re talking to today. We’re talking to us as Christian woman and asking ourselves, “Is the message you’re sending consistent with what you really believe?" Or are you sending a mixed message? Are you thinking one and having one sort of heart but then sending with your body, your clothing, your outward appearance a message that maybe you don’t intend to send?

I find today that there are a lot of woman who really do have a heart for the Lord, and they may be sitting in church and lifting up their hands during the praise time and enjoying the Lord and active in ministry, but be totally oblivious, unaware of the message they are sending with their body, with their clothing. Their clothing is communicating something that’s different than what’s in their heart.

Revive Our Hearts as a ministry is committed to a counter-revolution among women, to a whole new way of thinking, to challenging women to think differently than the world does in every area of our lives—the way we think, the way we act, the choices we make, the way we relate to others, and, yes, even the way we look because clothing communicates. It sends a message. It’s an area where largely we as Christian women have accepted the secular world’s way of thinking but just not to the same extremes.

That’s why through this series we want to go back to the Word of God and say,

  • What is God’s way of thinking about all of this?
  • What message should we be sending?
  • How can we send that message with our clothing and with our outer appearance?

Whose idea was it to wear clothes anyway? Do clothes really matter? Those are some of the questions we want to look at today. In order to get the answers, we need to go back to the Handbook for Life, the Handbook that tells us who we are, and why we’re here, and why we were made, and how life works. That’s the Word of God.

So let me ask you if you have your Bible, open to Genesis chapter 2. Let’s just go back to the beginning and see how all this clothing stuff got started.

Now in Genesis chapter 1 and the first part of chapter 2, we have the whole story of creation. God created the world and the animals and Adam and Eve. And it says at the end of chapter 1, “He looked at everything He had made, and it was good.” Then we have in chapter 2 a little more detailed description of how God did all that. Then beginning in verse 20 of chapter 2, there’s a description of God making a helper suitable for the man. God made the woman; He gave her to the man, and that was good, too.

Then at the end of chapter 2, verse 25, after the man and woman had been united; they’d been given to each other, we read, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed” (NASB).

Here’s the first phase in the whole development of clothing. The first phase is: There was no clothing, and there was no shame. No shame; no guilt. Nothing wrong with it. This nakedness (it’s literal here) also suggests that they were sinless. They were in a sinless condition, so there was no shame. They had never tasted of evil. They had no knowledge of evil, so nakedness prior to the fall was innocent. They were shameless.

Now we come to chapter 3, and we see the entrance of the enemy, the serpent, the devil. He challenges the woman, and then the man follows suit, to disobey the commandment of God about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One of the things he promises in verse 5 is, he said to the woman, “God knows that when you eat of this fruit, your eyes will be opened” (verse 5, NIV). Your eyes will be opened.

So verse 6 tells us that “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, it was a delight to the eyes” (NASB). It says at the end of verse 6, “So she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (NIV). This is the first human sin.

God said, “No.”

 Eve said, “Yes.”

God said, “Don’t.”

Eve said, “I will.”

Now, what’s the very next thing that happened? Immediately, verse 7, “Then the eyes of both were opened.” Isn’t that what the serpent had said would happen? “Your eyes will be opened.” But their eyes were opened in a way that they had not anticipated.

Their eyes were open to experience for the first time evil and shame. Their consciences were rudely awakened because they had gone against the Word of God, and their eyes were opened. Then it says that “they knew.” Now that word in the original language means it’s not a dawning realization; they gradually realized. It’s a word that means suddenly, immediately. They had instant perception. All of a sudden they looked, and they realized, “We’re naked!”

Now some Bible teachers have suggested, and I don’t think this can be proven biblically, but I think it’s an interesting thought. It may be true that prior to this time Adam and Eve had been clothed with the glory of God, with the light of the Shekinah glory of God—much as Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration when His clothes became that glistening, brilliant white. There was an aura of the glory, the light of God around them, and that’s why their nakedness had not been shameful.

These teachers would suggest that at the point of their sin, that glory of God departed, and now they were just exposed, sinful, fallen. Well, we don’t know if that’s the way it was or not, but we do know that immediately innocence was replaced with shame and guilt.

So we have the second phase.  There’s still no clothes, but now there’s shame; there’s guilt; there’s embarrassment.

Sometime when you’re in a room and someone accidentally comes in and you’re not fully dressed, what’s your immediate reaction, hopefully? Embarrassed. That’s what Adam and Eve were. The first thing they learned after they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was that they were naked, and now they were ashamed.

Now, let me point out that from this point on in the Scripture, nakedness in the Bible is always referred to as shameful except in the context of a husband and wife. But as far as I can find, and I’ve done an extensive word search through the Scripture of just the concept of nakedness, everywhere it appears (except in the context of marriage) from this point on is seen to be something sinful and shameful, something to be ashamed of. So now they have no clothes, and they’re ashamed.

Well now we come to the third stage of development, and man has a plan. They come up with a plan, and we read this in verse 7. The first thing they learned after they sinned was that they were naked. The first thing they did after they sinned was to make some clothes.

Verse 7 says, “They sewed fig leaves together.” Somebody told me recently that fig leaves have the consistency of #2 sandpaper. It’s rough. It’s hard, apparently. I asked somebody else who knew, and they confirmed that it was true. “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (ESV). The first thing they did was to try and deal with their shame or their guilt by covering up their nakedness.

Now the word loincloths is translated differently in different translations, but it’s a word that means "aprons." It’s "a belt for the waist" one lexicon says. What Adam and Eve did was to cover up their private parts. That was man’s plan, and it was man’s plan without God. They did this on their own. They didn’t ask God, “What should we do about this problem?” They came up with their own plan. They tried to handle it on their own and said, “Let’s make for ourselves loincloths.” So they covered up their private parts.

However, as we go on in the passage, we realize that apparently even Adam and Eve realized those fig leaves were not adequate for covering because when we come to verses 8, 9, and 10, they’re still embarrassed. They’re still afraid.

Verse 8, “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God” (NASB). It’s like somebody walks in the room, and you’re not fully dressed, and you just immediately pull up a sheet or something, saying, “I want to cover myself.” That’s what Adam and Eve did instinctively.

They were embarrassed. They were afraid. They began to hide, but "the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And [Adam] said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself’” (NASB).

So even though they were covered with these fig leaf aprons, they still felt that they were naked, and instinctively felt that they needed to hide from God.

Now it’s interesting. As I was studying this passage in preparation for this series, it occurred to me that though nakedness was the first thing Adam and Eve were concerned about, interestingly, it does not appear to be the first thing that God was concerned about. You know why? Because it was not the heart of the matter. Now, we’ll see that God was concerned about their clothing situation, and He did something about it, but it wasn’t the first thing God was concerned about.

I think we need to remember this as Christian women, as we’re trying to reach women in our secular culture who aren’t clothed. Let’s keep in mind that what they’re wearing or not wearing is not the heart of the matter. It’s not the most important issue. It needs to be dealt with in its time, but it’s not the first issue to deal with.

Rather, God was concerned about their relationship that had been broken. “Where are you? What have you done?” He was concerned about the fact that they had disobeyed His Word and broken His commandment. God said to them in verse 11, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (NIV). God said, “Let’s deal first not with your nakedness but with our broken relationship, and then we’ll deal with the nakedness.”

So we have in the rest of chapter 3 God talking to Adam and Eve and the serpent about the consequences of their disobedience, about the curse that would come on the earth and on the serpent. He gives a wonderful promise that a Messiah would come, a Savior, one who would redeem them out of their fallenness. God starts with the gospel, not with their clothing, but the clothing is not to be ignored.

When we come to the very end of chapter 3, or the very end of God’s exchange with Adam and Eve, verse 21, after He’s had this whole conversation then God says, “I’m going to make a provision for you.” Verse 21 tells us, “And the Lord God . . .” It's as if He’s now saying, “Okay, now let’s deal with your clothing issue.” “The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and [He] clothed them” (ESV).

God made garments of skins. This is God’s provision. God is saying, “Look, you can’t solve your sinful problems on your own. You need to do it My way. Your plan won’t work. You made for yourselves these fig leaf aprons, but I’m going to make a provision.”

The word garments is the word that elsewhere in the Bible is translated "coats, tunics." It’s a word that consistently talks about a garment that covers the body from at least the neck to the knees, sometimes going down mid-calf or even all the way to the feet. That word for garments is used consistently that way as a covering for the body all the way through the Scripture.

Then God clothed them. That word is a Hebrew word that means "to wrap around, to put on a garment, or to clothe someone." Adam and Eve covered their private parts, but what did God cover? Their bodies. God said it wasn’t enough that their private parts should be covered. Now that they had sinned, their bodies needed to be covered.

Of course, the major point of this passage foreshadows that when Christ would come. He would be the Lamb of God who would be slain so that we could be covered in His righteousness. The gracious work of God that required a sacrifice.

I think there’s also an application here as it relates to this whole issue of clothing. Typically, cultures that are built on godly principles cover the body. The world today has its own idea of clothing, and typically their idea is to uncover the body, to uncover thighs and breasts and bellies and backs. “Just take it off.” That’s the world’s idea of clothing, but the godly woman is counter-cultural. She’s willing to go against what is typical and to say, “Look. These fig leaf aprons are not sufficient. That’s man’s plan. That’s not God’s plan.”

The godly woman is willing to submit to God’s plan, to accept His provision, and to say, “God’s provision is what is really good.”

Leslie: God is ready to meet your every need. It’s an important truth to grasp as we look at the issue of clothing and modesty all week with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Would you let this teaching go beyond your hearing? Let it get into your heart, and then let it affect your closet. To help you go deeper into a biblical understanding of modesty, I hope you’ll get a copy of Nancy’s booklet, The Look. Take the 17-point modesty quiz in the booklet, then explore what the Bible says on the topic through this interactive Bible study. The booklet will give you a lot to think about and pray about. It will assist you in evaluating your heart and your wardrobe.

Donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, and we’ll send you the booklet, The Look: Does God Really Care What I Wear? Call 1-800-569-5959 with your donation, or you can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Just how much of the world’s philosophy have we bought into when it comes to physical beauty? We’ll discuss it on tomorrow’s program. Be sure to join us.

Revive Our Hearts with is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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