Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Dr. John Piper.

Dr. John Piper: There’s plenty that’s frightening in the world, frightening in relationships, frightening in children, frightening in health, frightening in the future. Peter says, "You’ll be Sarah’s daughters if you’re not afraid of anything because you’re a holy woman who hopes in God." He’s sovereign over all these frightening things, and you know that, and you rest in Him, and that drives out your fear.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 17. Nancy, I’ve heard you call 2008 the Year of the True Woman. Tell us what you mean by that.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Leslie, on Revive Our Hearts this year we’re going to be looking at how we as women can fulfill God’s created design and purpose for our lives. There’s a lot of confusion in our culture today about what it means to be a woman.

I think that one of the reasons so many women resist the biblical model of femininity is because of fear. What if I’m treated poorly? What if I’m not provided for? We all need to resolve issues of fear and faith as a first step toward becoming the women that God wants us to be.

Several months ago I heard a captivating message that addresses this whole issue of faith and fear as it relates to women. The message is by Dr. John Piper who is the pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. It’s entitled The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission.

When I heard this message, I thought this is something we need to share with our Revive Our Hearts listeners. So today and tomorrow we’re going to share with you this message that I found personally so compelling.

Dr. Piper is going to be one of the speakers at a special event later this year. I hope you’ll be there too. We’ll tell you more about that after we listen to his message.

Now before Dr. Piper gets started, let me take just a moment to read the text from which he’s preaching. It’s found in 1 Peter chapter 3, verses 1 through 7.

The Scripture says,

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Now let’s join Dr. John Piper as he prays.

Dr. Piper: Father in heaven, marriage is about keeping covenant between a husband and a wife in order to display the relationship between Christ and His church, and therefore what we are talking about in this series and in this message here is very important for marriages to become what they ought to be to display the truth about Jesus.

We don’t want our marriages to lie to the world. We want them to tell the truth to the world. So grant that our understanding would increase and our fitness to be husbands and wives would increase. May those who are single or children or widowers or widows all embrace this and be a part of cultivating this vision. I ask in Jesus’ name for Your help, amen.

The focus in this message is on the meaning of the submission of a wife to a husband. I’m very, very eager that men and women, old and young, even children, single and married, would hear this as a call to something very strong, very noble, very beautiful, very dignified, very worthy of a woman’s highest spiritual and moral efforts.

So to set the stage we need to see two phrases in verse 1 of chapter 3. Step back, get the big picture, and then dig in. The two phrases are, first, the phrase “your own.” “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands.”

That means that there is a unique kind of submission between a husband and a wife that she owes to no other man, not the mailman, not the pastor. In other words, wifely submission is a species of the larger reality which is all about submission. This is a species of it. That’s the first observation.

The second observation is the phrase, “Likewise, wives.” This means that the call for a wife’s submission is part of a larger call for submission beginning back in 2:13 and running on through 3:12. Let’s walk through that text just to get the picture.

Verses 13 to 17 of chapter 2: “Be subject [all of you] for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him.” In other words, keep your speed limit. Pay your taxes. Be respectful of policemen and senators, etc.

Second, verses 18 to 25 of chapter 2: “Household servants in the church be submissive to your masters, even those that are overbearing. Testify that your treasure is in heaven, not in being treated well” (paraphrase). Third, verses 1 to 6 of chapter 3. That’s where we’re going to focus. “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.” Even to the unbelieving. That’s who they are who don’t obey the word.

Number 4, verse 7. “Husbands, live together considerately with your wives as fellow heirs of the grace of life” (paraphrase). Fifth, verses 8 to 12 of chapter 3: The whole church unity, sympathy, love, tenderheartedness, humility. In other words, wear the mark of majesty in this church. Serve each other. Be submissive to each other. Build each other up. Be tender-hearted and kind and gentle and humble and servant-like. Everybody.

So there’s the unit of Scripture in which verses 1 to 6 falls. So what we want to do first before we tackle the meaning of submission—what it’s not and what it is—is let Peter paint a portrait of womanhood because that’s what he does here. In fact, that’s probably the most important thing he does here and maybe the most important thing that I will do.

So I want us just to spend a few minutes gazing at the portrait of womanhood in verses 1 to 6. What we’ll see when we do this is that there are roots of submission that are magnificent, deep, strong, defining womanhood before that issue ever comes on the scene. That’s a fruit up here on the tree and there are trunks and roots to this womanhood that are magnificent.

Start with verse 5. “This is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands.” The deepest root of womanhood is hope in God. The deepest root of Christian womanhood. That’s where we start defining Christian womanhood: hope in God. Holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves a certain way.

A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband or in getting one. A Christian woman does not put her hope in her looks. It’s manifest in this text. You remember my favorite verse in the Proverbs 31 woman chapter? Verse 25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” I love that verse. "Everything that’s coming at me, I’m laughing at you." That’s a woman.

She doesn’t cringe. She doesn’t run. She’s not naïve about what’s coming. She knows what’s coming and she laughs because holy women of old hoped in a sovereign God who promises to help women whenever she needs Him. That’s what stamps most deeply.

A woman in Christ knows her Bible, knows her theology of a sovereign God who makes promises, knows His promises to be with her no matter what. She draws strength down through this and a certain kind of tree grows up from this massive deep root of hope in God. That’s number 1.

Number 2. This hope in God yields fearlessness. Verse 6, second half of the verse: “And you [women] are her [Sarah’s] children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening [which comes from hope in God].” There’s plenty that’s frightening in the world, frightening in relationships, frightening in children, frightening in health, frightening in the future.

Peter says you’ll be Sarah’s daughters if you’re not afraid of anything because you’re a holy woman who hopes in God. He’s sovereign over all these frightening things. You know that. You rest in Him and that drives out your fear.

Mature Christian women are not naïve about what’s coming at them. They’ve read the rest of the book. Chapter 3, verse 14, “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” She knows suffering is coming.

Chapter 4, verse 19: “Therefore let those [we could just simply say those women] who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” The deepest root of a Christian woman is hope in God and it yields this strong tree of fearlessness in the face of suffering.

Third, growing out of that hope in God (fearless faith) is a certain kind of attention to adornment. Let’s read it. Verses 3 and 4: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

That cannot mean that it is wrong to give any attention to your hair. It cannot mean that it’s wrong to wear an earring, a bracelet, a necklace. The reason it can’t mean that is because if in that sequence of hair, jewelry, clothing it meant that, it would mean she couldn’t wear clothing, which manifestly it doesn’t mean.

So don’t let your adorning be your clothing doesn’t mean you can’t wear any. Don’t let your adorning be your braiding of your hair doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Don’t let your adorning be gold jewelry doesn’t mean you can’t wear any. What does it mean?

It means that when you think about focusing your mind on something, focusing your energy on something, focusing your time on something, that’s not where your mind goes. Your mind goes, “I will spend my life, I will spend my creativity, I’ll spend my prayer, I’ll spend my efforts becoming beautiful with a kind of beauty that is imperishable.”

This thing is going to perish—I promise you it will. Before you’re dead, it will perish, so don’t put your big investment there. It will let you down. This will not, and not only will this not let you down, but God looks on it and really likes it when a woman devotes her hope in God, her fearlessness, “I will become now a beautiful woman with the kind of beauty that can never perish.”

It’s a matter of proportion. It’s a matter of priority. I don’t want the women of our church to let themselves go. You understand that. But in our culture that’s not usually the problem. Usually the problem is all the investment is going into the health club, the hair, the figure, the jewelry, the makeup—“Please, I got to look a certain way”—when the energy ought to be flowing the other direction.

So that’s the third thing.

  • The first: Hope in God.
  • Second: Fearlessness of all the frightening things that are coming.
  • Third: Out of that contentment in God, there is a kind of adornment to which you give very energetic attention, and it isn’t makeup. It is mainly the inner person that you are becoming.

He does get specific about the nature of that inner person; namely, tranquility. He says, “The imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (verse 4). The imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.

In other words, out of this hope in God, fearlessness, the adornment is tranquility, serenity. Not anxiety, not loud, boisterous control, but a steady, strong, deep, tranquil, peaceful, gentle, quiet, serene inner spirit. Nothing shakes this woman.

Now number 4. Submission is what grows from those three things. Verse 1, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands.” Verse 5, “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands.” So please do not try to produce that fruit without this tree and this root.

Hope in God, fearlessness in view of all the fearful things that are coming, the adornment of a sweet, deep, strong, unshakable, serene, tranquil spirit, yielding this. Don’t go here first. It will not make you beautiful. This will.

It is very sad to me that we live in the culture we do in regard to these things because modern society, even in the church, neglects or despises the complementary differences between headship and submission in marriage. It’s regarded as a cultural leftover, sub-Christian from the first century. Others distort it into pathologically strange behaviors.

I sat in my office one time with a man who believed that his wife’s submission meant she could not go from one room to the other in the house without his permission. That’s the kind of pathology that makes it very easy for people to read a text like this and just throw it away.

However, we don’t do that. We don’t throw babies out with dirty bathwater in this church. We love babies, beautiful babies. We nurture babies so that they will grow up into what they ought to be. So let that bathwater go and hug this baby because it is beautiful. That’s what I would like to try to explain now.

The truth of headship and the truth of submission are in the Bible, and they’re not only here, they’re beautiful. One way to think about them from the last two Sundays is that they are one way of wearing the mark of majesty as a wife. A husband has a way of wearing his. She has a way of wearing hers. That’s what the text is about. We do not cancel out headship and submission lest we cancel out Christ and the church.

Nancy: We’ve been listening to a message from pastor John Piper who’s been helping us to understand how embracing biblical womanhood leads to incredible joy, peace, and courage. I do hope you’ll take some time over the next couple of days to meditate on the passage that he’s been preaching from. That’s 1 Peter chapter 3, verses 1 through 7.

Dr. Piper drew out some important lessons on fear from this passage. I think it’s so important for us as women to grapple with the issue of fear, whether it’s the fear of never being married or the fear of being stuck in a marriage that we don’t like or fear about the future, fearful of finances, health issues.

All of us are tempted at times to fear. I want to encourage you to take some time in prayer, committing your future to the Lord and asking Him to take care of you in a way that no earthly person or institution could do.

What you’ve just heard is a taste of what you’ll be able to experience this coming October at the Revive Our Hearts first national women’s conference in the Chicago area. We’re calling the conference True Woman ’08. I’ll be there along with pastor John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Janet Parshall and others.

Our team is very excited about how God wants to use this conference to stir the hearts of Christian women all across this country as thousands of women come together to seek the Lord and to say, “Yes, Lord, we want to be the women that You made us to be.”

I believe that this True Woman conference could be a significant moment in launching the movement of revival and reformation that we’ve been believing God to send to women in this nation.

So let me encourage you to circle the date on your calendar—October 9 through 11, 2008—and to start making your plans now to attend this conference and to bring other women with you.

Tomorrow we’ll hear part 2 of Dr. Piper’s message, The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission. He’ll talk about what it means and what it does not mean to submit to biblical authority. So please be back with us for Revive Our Hearts.

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

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

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