Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Gospel Is a Love Story

Leslie Basham: Both men and women sometimes find it very hard to live out God's design for them. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says this leads us to grace.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What it does is cast us on Christ and make us humble. "Lord, I can't fulfill this calling on my own. I need You. I need Your grace.” And this whole message of gender keeps taking us back to the grace of God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, March 5.

Gender matters. When you embrace your design as a woman,  it helps present a picture of God to the world. That is the theme of the first chapter in a new workbook by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassien. The workbook is called True Woman 101: Divine Design.

The last time on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy and Mary discussed the first chapter of this new workbook with their friends Dannah Gresh, Erin Davis, and Holly Elliff. We'll pick back up on that conversation showing you how valuable your design as a woman really is. To start us off here's Holly.

Holly: I remember John Piper saying a few years ago, "Womanhood exists because the woman displays God in a way that could not happen apart from woman existing"—something like that. And in the same way man does that as well. So God in his perfection knows exactly what our culture needs to perfectly display God, and we are ignoring that. We are dismissing that.

Mary: We need the reminder that it is about the Gospel. And a lot of women probably really haven't heard that; this is the first time they are hearing the whole idea that gender really . . . Okay, were putting the easel up and the easel is gender. Here's my painting of what I look like. They don't understand that my gender really is supposed to point to something else, which we talked about in Ephesians, which is really the relationship between Christ and the Church.

There is a disconnect because often we don't understand that the reason that history opened with the creation of a male and female and a marriage is because history is going to close and come to an end with a wedding. Who's the male? The Man Christ Jesus. And who's the female? The Church corporate—male and female, His bride and a wedding. And that is why we were created male and female.

Dannah: Really, the heart of it is that the gospel and our relationship with God is a love story.

Nancy: Okay, when you say that I have to raise something here. You women are all married so you see your marriage as husband and wife in the context of how it displays the gospel. Talk to me as a single woman. Does gender matter for me? For our single sisters who are doing this study how to our lives as women, even apart from marriage, how does that reflect the gospel?

Mary: Here's the thing that I find so exciting because so many single friends that I have, some are content in their singleness and know that is a calling on their life, some are not so content in their singleness. There is restless, longings. But here's the deal.

This is a temporary picture, this picture of marriage. It's a temporary picture that speaks to something way bigger and way more eternal and way, way more important. So this temporary picture of who male and female are and marriage and sex and gender really points to cosmic realities. The picture it is going to come to an end, but through eternity this reality will continue. And so the point even when Paul talks to singles and addresses them in Corinthians, he is telling them, "You are so vital, and who you are is so vital you get to take part in the big picture."

Dannah: And I would take it a step further and say this, the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place because we the Church are betrothed to Christ, engaged to Christ. Married, single, widowed. In our singleness we are in that betrothal period; we are in that engagement period of faithful waiting. Perhaps it is a greater picture in that faithfulness and in that waiting then we are even within a marriage relationship.

Mary: So just like male and female show different aspects of the cosmic relationship, I think singleness and marriage also show a different aspect. It's like we are all putting up our individual pictures, and it all points to the same thing.

Holly: And in reality those who are single, Paul says, may have a greater freedom to even promote the gospel than those of us who are chasing toddlers or children for that season of our life.

Nancy: And even as singles I think we need to say that our gender matters. The fact that God made me a woman (I don't know all the mystery of that), but what excites me as we are starting out into this study that says that womanhood, gender, womanhood for us, has profound significance. But there is cosmic significance. It is not a biological accident. It is intentional on God's part. There is a divine design there and, you know women, we have these moments ourselves where we feel so insignificant, so inferior, so unworthy, so inadequate. We all struggle with that.

Dannah: And isn't that sometimes why humanity acts out in gender confusion,  because they feel insignificant, they feel hurt, they feel wounded in what they are and who they are.

Holly: But in those moments it's because we have left behind God's original intentional design for us. We’re missing it. Sometimes we just need to go back and review, even as Christian women, we need to go back and review the value of understanding deeply why God did it this way. What was His intent?

Dannah: What you say about the significance of woman is so radical, and especially if you're just being introduced to the concept of biblical womanhood. I think sometimes there is some fearfulness.

Nancy: The widespread thought is that Christianity squashes womanhood. That's what one book said. That Christianity puts them down. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mary: There have been those who have misused the Word of God to do that. But if you look at these Scriptures, there are so many radical things that God does. One of the things we do at the True Women event for the teens is we take them to the lineage of Jesus Christ. We simply read the lineage out loud, and every time you hear the name of a woman we want you to shout "Go Girl!" Because in that day and age it was a tremendous break from literary tradition to put the name of a woman in the lineage.

But here's the thing, ultimately, this Bible and the story in this Bible isn’t about man and woman. Ultimately, it's about the story of Jesus Christ.

Erin: It feels to me like what you're saying is that we've been focusing on an Etch-a-Sketch drawing, and really we’re missing the masterpiece. We focus on doodles, and the point of your doodles is not the doodles but to reveal a greater masterpiece, which is really so exciting when you get the bigger picture of who you are and why you are.

Mary: I think we go so wrong when we make it about us and that is sort of the "ah-ha moment" often for women who come to True Women conferences and it clicks for them. It's like "Wow, all of a sudden I realized it's not about me." It was a massive revelation that even the way she chooses to do her womanhood or live her life as a woman is ultimately not about her. It's about taking her life and putting it up on the easel and displaying, spotlighting, illuminating, shining the light on the gospel.

Nancy: As we do that it is what gives our lives a sense of worth and value. So many of these women are feeling worthless, like God doesn't care, nobody cares, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. They get addressed, those feelings do, as we say "yes" to being that picture. That is where we find a sense of fulfillment and freedom. The world just has it backwards. We’re trying to find that sense of freedom and fulfillment, and we have not found it in pursuing that. But if you pursue Christ, you pursue representing him, you end up blessed.

Mary: If you don't get this point, you're going to have a hard time understanding the rest of the story. This is such an important point—the point that gender matters—because it's not about us. Our gender matters because it is about something cosmic, it is about something bigger, it's about telling Christ’s story—the story of God. That helps us understand a lot as we go on through the weeks when we’re going to be wrestling with, “Well, how did God create male, how did God create female?” We have to put it through that grid of He is wanting His daughters and His sons to display His glory.

Erin: Can I just say to the reader that if it's a point that you don't get immediately, I'm with you. It is such a complex and counter-cultural idea that it is really something that I continually have to think through. What does this mean? What was God's truth on gender again? How does that apply to the way I do X,Y or Z? But you have to get the foundational idea that it's not about you,  it's about a bigger picture.

Holly: Walking through these weeks of study in God’s Word really does just pinpoint the fact that it's not about me, but in the sense of God loving me enough to create me exactly like I am. It is about me becoming exactly the woman that God wanted me to be, who He had in His mind at the moment that He knit me together in my mother's womb, so that I could be born and have life. He is intentional about my life. But the reason He is intentional about it is so that it can bring glory to Him. So more people can experience the freedom and fullness of knowing Jesus.

Nancy: We're going to talk about some tough concepts in this series. They are tough because they are counter-cultural. Just the fact that gender matters is counter-cultural; that there are differences. We don't want to focus just on the differences. We are equal, created in the image of God, one is not better than the other. But the differences are significant, and as we highlight those and highlight some of those differences in our calling and God's design, I believe it's going to be tough for a lot of people going through the study. But I would like our people who are doing this with us to realize that we have grappled with and do grapple with these concepts.

Erin, you said you still grapple with these things, you're just getting it, and some of us have been knowing and teaching these truths for a long time but the truth in different ways has been difficult for us to embrace, at points, God's design for womanhood.

Mary: I thought God's design was good, that it was the right thing, way before I saw it is a beautiful thing. I knew it was right, but it didn't feel right.

Dannah: It was in your head and not in your heart.

Mary: Well, it's like going to the dentist and getting a tooth drilled. You know you have to, you know it's a good thing, but ouch . . .

Nancy: No joy there.

Holly: Something you survive instead of celebrating.

Nancy: Do you ever feel that way about being a woman?

Mary: Well, that's exactly what I'm saying. Yes, I started that way with God's design, thinking that it was the right thing to do but it wasn't the good and beautiful thing to do. I did not see it as lovely. I saw it more like a cavity. But I remember actually a very significant moment when this whole truth hit me, the big cosmic picture, when it actually dawned on me that this is not about me but that God loved me and valued me and esteemed womanhood so much. He esteems women so much that without women the story can’t be told in the proper way. It is integral to the message God wants to communicate. It was like a light bulb went on; it was all of a sudden. I remember the moment because I started weeping. There was a moment when I got it and when the big picture informed me that it is not only right, it is also beautiful.

I can't say that it was, "Oh, now I've got it." Because it still is a journey of walking through that, and I still wrestle with it at times thinking, "Are we crazy?"

Nancy: I think whether we are women or men, that in our fallen condition there are moments for all of us when we bristle against God's design and calling for our lives.

Dannah: Surely not Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I'll bet she's never bristled against God's design.

Erin: I've heard you talk about how sometimes you thought maybe you could serve the Lord better . . .

Nancy: Actually, this whole thing of womanhood was a long, slow, and at times hard process for me. I loved the Lord. I have wanted to serve Him. I was committed to the authority of His Word so theologically. I was orthodox on these principles, but I had a disconnect between that and my emotions because I wanted to serve the Lord. It wasn't like, "Oh, I hate being a woman." It was more like, “If I'd been a man . . ."

Holly: It was kind of a hindrance to you doing what you felt like God was calling you to do.

Nancy: To wanting to serve the Lord in ways that I could. I didn't believe biblically that God had called women to be pastors for example. I love teaching the Word. It was more like, "I could serve the Lord more if I'd been a man." I don't think I ever verbalize that; I certainly didn't say it out loud. It was just a little underlying thing. I didn't enjoy being a woman. I'm not married. My life's been a ministry life. So I was through my 20s and into my 30s just grappling with this. “Does gender really matter? and why?”

Dannah: Did you have a desire to pastor and teach the Word?

Nancy: I just wanted to serve the Lord, and it seemed that men had more chances to do that then women. It just didn't seem quite fair. I wouldn't have said that God wasn't right.

Dannah: Or that he made a mistake.

Nancy: I knew he doesn't make mistakes. There was just a disconnect there. Really, as I got into God's Word and began to study the kinds of things that are in this study, and to see that male and female created in the image of God with distinct purpose and value and mission and God began to unfold to me a vision for a mission, for showing and displaying his glory. Also, in the course of all that, I was ministering to women and I was seeing the brokenness, the hurt, the pain…

Dannah: Well, look at you now. How do you feel about teaching hundreds of thousands of women the Word of God through the radio?

Nancy: You know, it's a great joy, a great privilege. But I'll tell you this because the truth is, there are days when I still wrestle with this. I've come to see it, and I've come to really enjoy it. I love being a woman; I'm thankful for that. I think I was in my mid-30s before I ever felt thankful that God had made me a woman.

But there are still days when I see God's calling and design for women and I think, "grrrrr, it’s the bristling." But you know what? Whether you’re male or female, what it does is cast us on Christ and make us humble. "Lord, I can’t fulfill this calling on my own. I need you. I need your grace." And this whole message of gender keeps taking us back to the grace of God. How can we, mortal, failing, flawed human beings ever display God's glory? We can’t apart from Him.

Mary: Dannah, you weren’t the same kind of story.

Dannah: I was a girly girl. I remember as a young girl just thinking, "Alright there are three things I want—to get married, have babies, and then Jesus can come." That was all that mattered. I would say that, though, in more recent years, there have been times as God has expanded my ministry, ironically. I've been given these wonderful opportunities as a platform minister to youth. There are times I realize I could have more opportunities if I was a man. I could say yes to more opportunities if I didn't have children at home.

But they are fleeting, they are very small, because the blessing of raising Robbie and Lexi and Autumn and the delight and the desire not to miss a moment of it because it goes so quickly, it is such a blessing. I love womanhood. I love being a mom, and I love being a wife.

Holly: As we step back a little bit from that you really do see that. I can remember when my first maybe three kids were very young. I saw all of these things as a pastor's wife that I wanted to fix or do or create. My precious mother-in-law came to me and said to me, "You know, Holly, I know you're good at these things. I know you could do these things but nobody else can raise your children. Nobody else can be their mom. If you’ll be faithful to do that well as God enables you to do it, you will have a platform later to look back from a different perspective and do some of these things that are in your heart to do. But right now, you have little, tiny kids, and this is where God has called you. It was a surrender for me.

Erin: A dental chair moment?

Holly: I actually told my dentist one time that I would rather go through labor than come and see him.

Nancy: You know what, Holly? It is a surrender to the season of life and to where God has put you. I'm thinking of my single sisters as you say that. It is a surrender to say, "In this moment this is what God has given me. I receive it with gratitude. I embrace it, and I want to give it back to Him and let Him use it." And to bless others and to bring Him glory.

Holly: To step back far enough to see it as a good thing, if God has ordained it, then it is a good thing.

Dannah: And the Lord has given you a platform, you are on the "True View."

Holly: I can't imagine any other place else I would rather be at this moment.

Nancy: Hey girls, I think one thing we want to point out as women are getting started in this study. I know some of them are gung-ho, some are a little fearful, some are wondering where we’re going with this, skeptical perhaps. Women are coming in from all different places, and that's okay. It's not what Mary and I have written, it’s that we just want to get you to God's Word and get you searching there.

But the fact is as you begin to adopt and embrace and promote a biblical perspective on womanhood, you are going to be swimming upstream. We have all experienced that. Some doing this study have experienced this. If they haven't experienced it, they will. Because this is not the way the world is going, it is not the way the church, sadly, is going. I want us to encourage women for moment. I want to say it's worth it.

I've got to tell you this. On a break today, I stepped out into the office and one of the gals there showed me a video that she took at lunch today down the street here. I don't even know how she ended up there, but she ended up at a stream where the salmon were swimming upstream. She showed me a video there of the rushing water and the salmon jumping upstream against the current. And ultimately, to lay down their lives to give life.

I think of this thing of salmon swimming upstream and realize that true womanhood is a call not only to display God's glory, but it is a call in a way to die to self, to my own aspirations and ambitions. But knowing that beyond the cross there is the joy of the resurrection, that we don't end up in this place of misery. It's a place of joy, but it can be difficult.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been encouraging you to be faithful. God created you for a special purpose. If you follow His design, you will reap great rewards. God knew what He was doing when He made you a woman.

That is the theme of the first chapter in a new workbook called True Woman 101: Divine Design. Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian wrote this new book, and they’ve been discussing this first chapter with their friends Dannah Gresh, Holly Elliff, and Erin Davis.

Learning to live out your calling as a woman is important. It helps present an accurate picture of God. So I hope you'll immerse yourself in this new study, True Woman 101. Understand your purpose and design and discover new ways of living it out. When you go through True Woman 101, you will read one chapter a day and answer some questions to help you remember the material and apply it to your situation.

You have a chance this week to get True Woman 101 at a 20% discount. To order call 1-800-569-5959, or you can order at ReviveOurHearts.com. When you're at the site,  you can find out more about watching parts of today's discussion on video.

Well, do you understand men? Nancy, Mary, and a group of friends will look to Scripture and get insights into God- designed masculinity. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

 

 

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