Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Beautiful Design for Women, Day 7

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When you’re young, there are some character defects—whether bitterness or selfishness or pride—that can be covered up or glossed over with youthful energy, good looks, natural ability, or natural personality.

But as you get older and those physical, outward things fade away, if those character defects have not been sanctified, they’re going to become more pronounced and more visible.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Tuesday, February 14, 2017.

You can find plenty of products on the market that promise to combat the aging process. Many women spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to hold on to youth. But if you’re not asking God to shape your character, you’re not truly cultivating beauty.

Today Nancy will show us how to be growing in true beauty. And after this message, at the end of today’s program, Nancy’s husband Robert will tell us about a kind of unusual tradition they have at home. It involves sneezing.

But first, let’s listen to the series "God's Beautiful Design for Women: Living Out Titus 2:1–5." Here's Nancy.

Nancy: Not too long ago, I had a chance to travel to Precept Ministries in Chattanooga and interview Kay Arthur, who I know has had a significant ministry in many of your lives—as she has in mine.

I’ve known her for a lot of years, and it’s been an incredible thing to watch God’s grace in her life. It was such a joy to be with her now, in this season of her life, and to see how this woman—who is 25 years older than I am, give or take—is so full of the Word, full of faith, full of spiritual vitality.

I say that not to lift her up—she wouldn’t want me to do that—but just to say that it’s a blessing and a challenge to look at women who are further down the road than we are and to see how God is sustaining them by His grace and keeping them growing, flourishing, and fruitful as they become older.

This past week I’ve been listening to a series of messages from a conference that was hosted by Desiring God Ministries. The theme of the conference was endurance and standing fast over the long haul—firm and faithful in God’s Word.

The speakers at this conference were all older. I think the youngest was maybe in his late fifties, and some of them were quite a bit older than that. It included Helen Roseveare, who has been a long-time heroine of mine and was a missionary for many years. I’ve never met her, but I’ve been very influenced by her books. She spoke to the women. John MacArthur spoke, John Piper spoke, and Jerry Bridges—you’ve read some of his books, perhaps. These are all men and women of God who have been faithful over the long haul. But as I watch these faithful saints, I’m saying, “It is possible".

There are days when I just despair, in a sense, of whether I will make it to the finish line. Maybe “despair” is too strong of a word. But there are days when I think, I’m not going to make it, or Am I going to make it?

I see my own failings, my own lack of resolve at times, and my own temptations and struggles. Then I look at these, who I know have temptations and struggles themselves, but God has been faithful to them. And He has kept them faithful. Listening to them is very challenging to me.

I’m thinking more about want to be like when I’m in my seventies and, if the Lord would give me as I’ve asked Him, to serve him until I’m eighty-five. What kind of woman do I want to be, and how do I want to age?

It’s helpful to have people like this that you can look at and have some pattern, these powerful examples. But one thing I am sure of, and that is that it doesn’t just happen. You don’t just wake up at eighty and all of a sudden you’re godly, or you’re fruitful, or you’re gracious, if you’re not becoming that way when you’re twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty.

I’m convinced that most people just drift through life. They’re not intentional about the way we live. I’m sad to say that many days of my life, that’s the way I am. I have things to do, places to go, people to see, lessons to prepare, work to do, and emails to answer. Sometimes I’m not really intentional about my soul, and the condition of my life, and what kind of person am I becoming.

The problem, if you live that way unintentionally, is that days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years, and years become decades. And then you have a lifetime. And poof! It’s out, as far as life on this earth is concerned.

I have also watched believers who, over the course of those decades, did not become more spiritually winsome, but became narrow and bitter and selfish and whiny and petty. And I think, What a waste.

But then, I’m so thankful that I have seen people who’ve become more mature, more godly, more gracious. And I say, “Lord, by Your grace, that’s what I want to be moving toward.”

If we’re not intentional about setting our eyes on Christ and pressing on to become like Him, we’re going to become like those people who become narrow and negative and petty—if we’re not intentional about pursuing Christ.

As we come to Titus 2, beginning in verse 1, Paul says to Titus, “Titus, as a leader of these churches, you are to teach what accords with sound doctrine” (paraphrase).

Here’s what that looks like for people in different seasons of life. Verses 2 and 3: “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise . . .”

I’m going to stop there. That’s as far as we’re going to go today. You’ve been wishing we would get to verse 3, and we will. But first I want us not to skip over verse 2.

You say, “This is a women’s ministry. You’re a woman teaching women, which is as it should be. So why are you going to teach on verse 2, about older men?”

Well, verse 3 says, “Older women likewise,” which suggests that older women are to have these same qualities that have just been talked about in verse 2 about older men. So I don’t want us to just skip over verse 2, but to look at those qualities.

We’ll go in greater detail about the qualities in verses 3–5 that are specified for women. But the ones that are in verse 2 are important for us as well. These qualities are not optional. This is not a pick-and-choose cafeteria—take the ones you like and skip the ones you don’t. These things are to be true of all older believers.

And these things are crucial, as we’ve seen in the previous sessions, if the church is to have a godly impact on an ungodly world. This is what makes our evangelistic efforts and impact effective and fruitful.

Let me also say, before we look at the specific qualities, these are qualities that you don’t develop overnight. They’re qualities that are cultivated over a period of time. 

  • They take seasoning.
  • They take life.
  • They take experience.
  • They take failing.
  • They take growing.
  • They take confession.
  • They take repentance.
  • They take intentionality.
  • There are no shortcuts.

Don’t you wish there were? “Shortcuts to spiritual maturity”: If I could write that book, and if it were true, it would be a huge best-seller because we’d all want it.

But there is no such . . . There may be a book like that, but there is no truth in a book like that. There are no shortcuts.

Life is the daily, the in-and-out, the one-day-at-a-time, the persevering, the enduring, the being faithful, the living out what you know, the falling down and getting back up again by God’s grace and pressing on. That’s what life is all about.

So as you read these, if you feel, like me, “Oh, there is so far and so long to go,” don’t let that discourage you. Let it motivate you and cause you to press on to spiritual maturity.

We have older and younger listeners here in the room today and listening on the radio and on the Internet. Older listeners, let me just encourage you to evaluate your life, where you are right now in light of these qualities, and to realize that this is the biblical standard to which you are called. This is what matters about your life. These are the things that must be true of your life if your life is to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Younger listeners—and we have young moms who listen, we have teenagers, we have single women, we have young married women, women who are in their twenties and thirties—just all those younger seasons of life. What you need to hear is that this is the goal.

Don’t tune it out and say, “Oh, this is for older women. This isn’t for me.” If you’re not learning and seeking to develop these qualities in your life now, you’re not going to have them when you’re an older woman. These are qualities that every believer needs to be seeking to cultivate. You need to be seeking to cultivate these now, whether you’re sixteen or twenty-six or thirty-six or forty-six—and I’ll let you decide when you’re not “younger” anymore.

So let’s look at those qualities in verse 2. First of all, these older people are to be “sober-minded.” Some of your translations will say “temperate.” That’s a word that means “sober.” It means “free from intoxication; not drunken.”

It’s talking about a way of life. It’s a way of life that is temperate, moderate, and not self-indulgent. These people are sober in their judgment. They’re free from the intoxicating effects of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

There’s a very literal application here. They should not be drunken people with alcohol. But also they should not be intoxicated with the world. They should be sober-minded or temperate.

As you become an older believer, you should have learned how to distinguish between eternal, godly pleasures and the temporal pleasures of sin—and to have the discipline and maturity to say “no” to the temporal pleasures and to say “yes” to the eternal pleasures.

A temperate person is not excessive, not extravagant. He does not overindulge his appetites and his passions. This person is not characterized by drunkenness, gluttony or other excesses. He’s temperate. He or she is temperate in the use of time, money, the tongue.

This is an evidence of maturity: to know what really matters, to have priorities that are straight, and to be content to have what you need and not have to have more. Those things all fit into this concept of being temperate.

The second word used here in verse 2 is that older women and men are to be “dignified.” The English Standard Version translates it that way. It’s a word that the New International translates “worthy of respect.” That’s a good translation of that word. It’s to be honorable.

In fact, Philippians 4:8 uses this word when it says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable . . . [let your mind] dwell on these things” (NASB).

These older people are to be honorable. They’re to be reverent. They’re to be serious-minded about life. They’re to be respectable.

This word is translated in 1 Timothy chapter 3, where it talks about women—or some of your translations say “deacon’s wives”—“Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (verse 11, NASB).

So the person who’s older knows enough about life to know that life is not all frivolity, and it’s not trivial. There’s a serious-mindedness about life that is appropriate.

However, as one commentator wrote—and I think this is helpful:

This word does not describe the demeanor of a person who is a gloomy killjoy, but the conduct of a man who knows he lives in the light of eternity, and that before very long he will leave the fallen race of men for the glorious presence of God.

The dignified person is never frivolous, trivial, or superficial. He does not laugh at immorality, vulgarity, or anything else that is sinful and ungodly. Nor does he laugh at that which is tragic or at the expense of others. (Precept Austin)

It’s a sense of what’s appropriate. You’re dignified and respectable.

Then the third word is “self-controlled.” Or, as the New American Standard translates it, “sensible.” We’re going to take more time later in the series to expand on this whole concept because this word is used multiple times in this chapter and in the book of Titus. So we’ll give a lot more attention to it.

But let me just give you a brief overview. The word “self-controlled” is the word sophron in the Greek. It comes from two Greek words: One means “to save,” and the other means “the mind.”

This is to have a “saved” or a sound mind. This person acts like one whose mind has been saved. They’re in their right mind, spiritually.

In fact, the last part of this word, phren, is the modern Greek word for car brakes. This person knows how to stop, knows when to say “no,” knows when to curb his desires and impulses. It’s a person who is self-restrained, under the control of the Holy Spirit.

He’s developed the ability to govern and discipline himself or herself, to discipline his mind, her passions, affections, and behavior.

The person who is sophron—of a sound mind, saved mind—is able to resist the temptations and the pull of the world. So this deals with all forms of self-control. Again, we’ll get to more of that when we come to the younger women. Now, this mature, disciplined mind and life is a result of walking with God for many years. Again, there are no shortcuts. But this is what we need to be moving toward.

Then he says that these older men and women are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled and then “sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”

“Sound.” We’ve talked about that earlier in this series. It’s the word that means “healthy, wholesome, that which protects and preserves life.”

Now, as people get to be older there are often health issues. This older person that Paul is talking about may be unhealthy in his body, may be physically deteriorating with age. But this older man or woman is still sound in mind and in heart because there’s a foundation of sound doctrine that has produced a life that is in accord with sound doctrine.

What does it mean to be sound in faith? That word is really “the faith”—“sound in the faith.” That’s the body of Christian doctrine. This is a person who is grounded in their belief system. This man or woman holds firmly to the Word of God and the truth of God’s Word.

The woman who is sound in faith has a high degree of confidence in God and His Word. She knows that God can be trusted. It’s like Joshua, who, in his nineties, said,

I am about to go the way of all the earth [I’m about to die], and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed (Joshua 23:14).

Joshua was sound in the faith at the end of his life. That’s what we want to be. And it’s not just an intellectual faith. It’s a seasoned, proven, tested faith, where you’re so confident in God’s Word, God’s truth, and God’s goodness that when hard circumstances come, you don’t fall apart. You don’t waver. You don’t accuse God or doubt or question His goodness. You don’t resist His will.

You’ve got a track record with God over a lot of years, and you’ve seen that He has proved Himself over and over again to be faithful. You know that He’s in control. You know that His ways are right. You know that His grace is sufficient, and you know that He is going to fulfill all His holy, eternal purposes. That’s to be sound in the faith.

Then older people are to be sound or healthy in love: agape love, God’s love. They’re to have an unconditional, sacrificial love, to where they genuinely care about other people, and they love people with God’s love.

I saw this when I attended Jerry Falwell's funeral, and other funerals as well, where people talk about the one who is gone who is an older saint. To hear people say what really impacted them about this person's life was how much they cared—not all the things they accomplished, but how much they really loved people.

I mentioned Kay Arthur. Being around her during those days I was at Precept Ministries, I was struck by how this older woman has grown in love for people, how she reaches out and shows genuine interest and concern for others, versus being self-centered.

The godly older person has learned to love with God’s love, even when that love is undeserved, and to continue loving and giving and serving even when their love is rejected. This person is not bitter, but they are forgiving. As we’re getting older, we need to ask ourselves—and I ask myself from time to time—“Am I growing in love? Am I becoming more and more sound and healthy in love?”

And then older people are to be sound in steadfastness. Some of your Bibles translate that “perseverance.” The word steadfastness or perseverance is the English translation of a compound Greek word that comes from two words meaning “under” and “to abide”—“to abide under.” It means remaining steadfast under trials and afflictions, steadfastly bearing up under a heavy load.

This is the older person who doesn’t cave in under pressure and trials but has cultivated the ability to endure even when circumstances are difficult.

I know that when I was twenty, there were things that threw me into a tailspin that thankfully, by God’s grace, are things that don’t seem quite so major to me today. Because I’ve grown some, by God’s grace, I’m able to weather some things a little more easily—while there are other things today that really still throw me into a tizzy. And I’m thinking, O Lord, I want to become in sound in perseverance, sound in steadfastness.

I mentioned Helen Roseveare a few moments ago. Her message to the women at this Desiring God National Conference was entitled “A Call for the Perseverance of the Saints.” She said in that message that she prefers the word “perseverance” to the word “endurance” because in England, where she’s from—and I’m quoting her here:

The word endurance has a sort of connotation of gritting your teeth, stiff upper lip, getting through somehow.

The word perseverance refers to steadily going on, refusing to give up, no matter what comes.

I think that’s a good word picture, whichever of those words you prefer. We’re talking about not just surviving life, not just passively enduring, but facing life’s circumstances triumphantly—allowing God to use them to mold us and to shape us, and bearing up in a way that brings glory to God.

Two godly, elderly believers told me recently that they are right now in the midst of the most difficult circumstances they have ever faced in their whole lives. I've just been pondering that. I'm reminded that as we age, there are new kinds of hardships that we will face—disappointment, loneliness, physical weakness, physical limitations, loss of friends, loss of loved ones.

But our goal should be as we age to demonstrate the ability that God gives us as He works in us by His grace, the ability to endure hardship with grace, to accept God's dealings with us, to submit to His providences, and not to lose heart when things don't go as we had hoped, to develop that firmly established confidence that God is in control and He is working all things according to His pleasure.

One commentary I read on this passage said, “Old age strips the body of its glamour in order to emphasize the beauty of the soul.” That’s as it should be. You know when you’re young there are some character defects—whether bitterness or selfishness or pride—that can be covered up or glossed over with youthful energy, good looks, and natural ability or natural personality.

But as you get older and those physical, outward things fade away, if those character defects have not been sanctified, they’re going to become more pronounced and more visible.

So I want to encourage you, whether you are older now or you’re headed in that direction, to pursue the kind of beauty, the kind of heart, the kind of godliness that endures and that becomes more beautiful with age: “Old age strips the body of its glamour in order to emphasize the beauty of the soul.”

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back to pray. You’ll find shelves full of products that promise to combat the effects of aging, but Nancy’s been providing something far better than a cream or lotion.

And Nancy, it’s exciting to know so many women are learning how to develop true, inward beauty because they’re reading the brand new book Adorned.

Nancy: That’s right, it’s been out exactly one week. I’ve often compared writing books to giving birth, so I guess we’re still in the newborn stage. And already, listeners have been opening the mail, cracking open the gorgeous cover, smelling the new ink—and most importantly, they’ve been exploring the rich truths in Titus 2 through these pages. I’d like to introduce you to this newborn book as well. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size, we’ll send the brand new book Adorned to show how thankful we are for you. Without that kind of support, we wouldn’t be able to provide this daily program. But with your support, we’ll continue opening God’s Word and showing women how to experience greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. Thank you so much.

Leslie: To get your copy of Adorned, call 1–800–569–5959, or you can make a donation of any size and you can ask for the Adorned book. We’ll send one book per household for your donation during this series. To close our time, we’ll pray with Nancy.

But first, her husband Robert is here because I heard you do something kind of different at your house when you sneeze.

Robert: That’s actually true, Leslie. When Nancy sneezes or when I sneezes, we don't say, “God bless you.” Now, there's really nothing wrong with that or with people when they say, "God bless you." But there's a certain sense of reverence in using God's name. So we just say, "I love you."

If Nancy's in a different part of the house and I've got my cell phone with me and she has hers, and she hears me sneeze or I hear her sneeze, we text, "I love you." In fact, sometimes I sneeze twice, and she says in her text message, "I love you squared." So it's a cool little tradition—something that we’ve started and probably will continue. It's a reminder of how much we love each other. And, at the end of the day, how much God loves us.

Leslie: Maybe that will be a new tradition for some of our listeners. Now let’s pray with Nancy, wrapping up today’s program on Titus 2 and true beauty.

Nancy: Father, as I hear and read those words, I say, “That’s what I want: to have You strip away anything that would be a hindrance to my spiritual growth and development.” As the physical body and senses do deteriorate, I pray, O God, for a growing grace and graciousness and beauty, to be "sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in the faith, sound in love and sound in steadfastness."

May our lives as women become more and more beautiful and radiant with that true inner beauty of Christ’s life within us. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth believes in true, inward beauty, and is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

 

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