Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Responding to God's Leadership

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’re a mature woman, you have this disposition to affirm, to receive, and to nurture strength and leadership from worthy men.

We see here the man as an initiator and the woman as a responder. It’s a bent. It’s a direction of your heart that you’ll find expressing itself in everyday circumstances and situations.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, February 1.

We’ve been in a series called A Vision for Biblical Womanhood. Nancy’s shown us what it means to be uniquely feminine in the home and in the church.

Today we’ll consider: Is there a way to be distinctly feminine all the time, around everyone we meet? Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: I remember a number of years ago watching a world skating championship for the ladies’ free skate program, and my ears perked up when I heard Dick Button commentating on one of the skaters’ performances.

He said, “She’s a very ladylike skater. She makes me feel very relaxed when I watch her.” That comment caught my attention, and I thought, “That is a picture of the beauty of true femininity.”

“She’s a very ladylike skater. She makes me feel very relaxed when I watch her.” That was a man commenting on the beauty of femininity.

The same is true with masculinity. There’s something engaging, something arresting about true masculinity when it’s lived out.

That femininity and masculinity, that complementary way of men and women relating to each other, can touch people in powerful ways.

Not too long ago I was listening to a recording session with another radio program. I was sitting in the control room watching the interview go on, and at one point I had to slip out of the room.

The engineer saw that I was getting ready to leave, and when he saw me stand up, he got up and went ahead of me and opened the door for me, and I thanked him. This man is a gentleman. It was not anything highly unusual for him to do this, so I didn’t think a whole lot about it until a few minutes later.

I went down the hall, and there was another woman who had been in the control room when this happened. She had seen me leave, and she had seen him get up and open the door.

I ran into her down the hall, and she was in tears. She said, “I just want to say what an incredible thing it was when that man got up and opened the door for you a few moments ago.”

The reason this was so touching to her must be that this whole relationship, this complementary relationship between men and women, must be so unusual. You see so little of it that when you do see it, it can impact you in profound and powerful ways.

Over these last few days, we’ve been talking about the complementarian view—which I believe to be the biblical perspective—of manhood and womanhood, and comparing it to another perspective that many hold today within the evangelical church. It has often been called the egalitarian view.

The complementarian view is that men and women are equal in dignity and worth, though men have been given the distinct responsibility to lead their wives, and they’ve been given certain teaching and governing roles in the church that are reserved for men.

As we’ve seen, the egalitarian position is that men and women should be regarded as equals in authority in the home and also in the church—that they should have access to all positions of spiritual leadership within the church.

Again, if you’ve not been able to hear the whole series, it makes me a little nervous to think you would just hear bits and pieces of this. I want to encourage you to get the whole series and to listen to it all so you can get what I’m saying in its entire context.

Also, let me encourage you to go to our website,, and there we have a link that will take you to a whole page we’ve set up called “Biblical Womanhood.” It will give you additional resources, tools that will help you understand this better.

If you find yourself saying, “That woman is off the wall; there is no way I agree with her!” Before you write and tell us that—and I don’t mind if you do, but before you do—would you take some time to study this out a little further, to get into the Word yourself and make sure you have read and tried to understand and study what the Scripture teaches on this subject? And then I do hope you’ll write and tell us where you are on that.

Now, we’ve talked about the complementarian vision, what I think is a biblical vision of manhood and womanhood in the home and in the church. But I want to talk today about the implications of the complementarian position, this vision for biblical manhood and womanhood beyond the sphere of the home and the church.

What do biblical manhood and womanhood look like in other relationships, in other contexts?

I think it’s important that we say, first of all, that the Scripture is silent or ambiguous when it comes to many aspects of specific roles for men and women beyond the home and the church. Scripture is more clear about the distinct roles that men and women should have in the home and in the church.

It is not as clear—and, in some cases, is silent—it does not say what roles a woman can or cannot have in the business world, in the world of government, or in other organizations. You don’t read there the same distinctions being made in the Scripture. So we need to be careful not to speak where Scripture doesn’t speak.

However, we are still called to express our God-created distinctiveness as men and as women within all of our relationships, within every context in life. The fact that we are female or the fact that a man is male has implications for all of life.

Now, the essential concept of masculinity and femininity—most people today can hardly spell them or pronounce them; that whole concept has been under attack for generations. In fact, it’s been nearly lost in our culture; and as a result today, we’re seeing some bizarre extremes, things we never would have imagined.

For example, I read an article out of the San Francisco Chronicle. The headlines read:

When is it okay for boys to be girls and girls to be boys?
Many kids want to look and act like the other sex.
For some, it’s a phase; for others, it’s not.
Parents and schools are adjusting.

Those are the headlines. Now, here’s how the article began:

Park Day School is throwing out gender boundaries.

Teachers at the private Oakland Elementary School have stopped asking the children to line up according to sex when walking to and from class. They now let boys play girls and girls play boys in skits, and there’s a unisex bathroom.

[The] admissions director . . . is even a little apologetic that she still balances classes by gender.

We had to ask ourselves, “What is the gender for young children?” [the admissions director] said. “It’s coming up more and more.” 1

Now, it’s a sorry and sad day when we have to ask ourselves what is gender for young children.

Peggy Noonan is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and back shortly after 9/11, she wrote a column called “Welcome Back, Duke” (10/14/01). In that column she expressed gratitude for the many men who had demonstrated manliness in the wake of 9/11. Her point was, manliness is back.

She was very excited about this. In the context of that column, she talked about how manliness and its brother, gentlemanliness, went out of style. She says,

I know, because I was there. In fact, I may have done it. I remember exactly when: It was in the mid-70s, and I was in my mid-20s, and a big, nice, middle-aged man got up from his seat to help me haul a big piece of luggage into the overhead luggage space on a plane. I was a feminist, and I knew our rules and rants. “I can do it myself,” I snapped. It was important that he know women are strong. . . . I embarrassed a nice man who was attempting to help a lady. I wasn’t lady enough to let him. I bet he never offered to help a lady again.

Now let me say again, as we have earlier, that masculinity and femininity are not ultimately defined by a list of rules or a set of behaviors as much as they are defined by a disposition, an inclination of the heart; and that inclination, as we said earlier, is expressed in many different ways in everyday life circumstances and situations.

I think, for example, of someone I met years ago. Madeline Manning Mims was an Olympic gold medalist in the 1968 Olympics. She was a runner.

As we were talking one day about this whole thing of femininity, she said, “My coach always told me, ‘Remember, you’re a lady first and an athlete second.’”

So it’s not that the field of athletics cannot be one that women participate in. It’s an inclination of the heart that makes you feminine, whatever your suit is, whatever field you’re involved in.

I love two definitions that John Piper gives us. I’ve quoted them before on Revive Our Hearts, and I’m sure I will quote them again.

He addresses this whole concept of biblical masculinity and femininity in a powerful little book called What’s the Difference? I think it’s the best thing I’ve read on this subject. It’s very, very effective.

Let me give you the definitions he gives for masculinity and for femininity, where he talks about this inclination, this disposition of the heart. He says,

At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent [kind or gracious] responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.

He goes on and has much more to say about that. He says, for example, if the woman you’re protecting or leading or providing for is your wife, then you do that in different ways than if it’s your secretary or it’s a woman that’s on the worship team with you at church.

There are different ways appropriate within those relationships. But, he says, no matter what the relationships, it’s still an inclination that you have, a responsibility to lead, to provide for, and to protect women.

So he defines masculinity as a pattern of initiative, the initiative to provide for and to protect and to lead. Then he talks about femininity. He says,

At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition [and it is that—I just want to tell you, it is; it’s freeing when you develop this disposition by the power of the Spirit] to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.

So we see here the man as an initiator and the woman as a responder. It’s a bent. It’s a direction of your heart that you’ll find expressing itself in everyday circumstances and situations.

Men are responsible to give this—to initiate this leadership, this protection, and this provision. But what are we to do as women? We’re to affirm it. We’re to encourage it. We’re to receive it.

So, ladies, when we point out how few gentlemen there are in the world today, we’re perhaps making an indictment on ourselves on how few ladies there are today. I just have this great belief that if women would act like ladies, like queens, then men would treat us that way.

Now, I’m not saying every man will. As long as there is sin in this world, there are going to be men who don’t act like godly men; and as long as there is sin in this world, there are going to be women who don’t act like godly women.

But I believe that men will be more empowered to be godly men and to provide the kind of leadership that we long for deep in our hearts when we begin to receive, affirm, and encourage that leadership.

I think that as men provide the leadership, then we as women will be encouraged to respond. It’s a dance, so to speak. It’s give and take, but we can’t do it for the men.

We can only be what God has called us to be as women. But I believe that as we do, men will find themselves empowered, in a healthy sense, to provide the kind of leadership we long to see.

Now, this applies whether we’re married or single. Single, as I am and as many of you are, it applies in the workplace, it applies in casual relationships and close relationships—every relationship everywhere.

So what might this look like, this mature femininity, this inclination, this disposition to affirm, receive, and encourage strength and leadership from worthy men? Let me share with you some things I have found it looks like for me.

First of all, it means being large-hearted in my contact with men; being compassionate, humble. It means assuming the best. It means bringing out the best in one another, between men and women, our exchanges, our conversation. It means demonstrating a mutual respect. It means, for me as a woman, speaking to and about men in ways that show respect for them as men.

This femininity to me means looking for ways to affirm, receive, and encourage strength and leadership in worthy men. It means being responsive and receptive to their initiative and to their leadership.

By the same token, it means not being quick to put it down or dismiss it, or to say, “I don’t need it.” We’ve been so trained. It’s in the water. It’s in the air we breathe.

It’s not in the water; it’s in our sin nature to say, “I can do this myself!” And for multiple generations now, women have been taught, “You cannot need men.” They’re wrong.

Women need men, and men need women. We need to stop being combative and competitive, and receive one another, looking for ways to lift and to build up men as men, looking for ways to empower them, to encourage them as they do take steps.

I’ve heard from enough men now to know that in today’s world, it’s a scary thing for a man to step up to the plate, because for so long, so many men have been cut off at the kneecaps, so to speak, when they do try to step out.

For example (this comes to mind right off the top of my head at this moment), I remember years ago hearing a woman say, “When we were newly married, my husband said, ‘Let’s pray and have devotions together.’ The first time we did that as a new couple, I criticized him for the way he did it. It was years before my husband ever stepped up to the plate again and tried to lead me spiritually.”

What happened? He tried; he got cut off; he got scared, and he (wrongly) said, “I’m not stepping up to bat again.” But that woman was partially—hugely—responsible for making that man scared to step up to leadership, not only in their marriage but probably in other relationships as well.

This biblical vision of womanhood means we will not be competitive with men. We’ll not be striving in our spirit. It means no male-bashing. If you’ve been around Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that we do not allow, in this ministry or on this program, jokes that make men look dumb or ignorant or unmanly.

I’m not saying no man ever acts in those ways, but it’s not our responsibility to point out the foibles and weaknesses and flaws of men. We’re just not going there.

A lot of humor today is gender humor at the expense of men. Now, men are liable to have a lawsuit if they make those kinds of jokes about women. That’s not politically correct.

But it is politically correct today for women to tell all kinds of jokes and lines demeaning and belittling of men. The biblical vision of womanhood says, “No. We’re not going there. No disparaging jokes, no sarcasm.”

At times for me, being feminine in a world where I’m relating to men may mean deferring. Sometimes it may mean even limiting my own liberty or taking a back seat in a setting. It may mean zipping my lips in some settings, for the sake of a cause and a purpose that is bigger than myself.

What is that sake? Encouraging men to be men. That doesn’t mean I walk into the room and point it out. I don’t say, “If you men would just be men . . .” Sometimes it means I’m just willing to be quiet, to defer, to take a back seat, not to be the first person to speak out in a setting.

You say, “Why should you have to do that?” Because of love, because of humility, because of a desire to see men be all that God created them to be, and know that as they do and as they are, I will be free to be all that God made me to be.

Now, this whole talk to some people may sound demeaning to women. It may sound restrictive. It may sound crazy, and to some women, I’m sure it does sound crazy. I’m sure we’ll be getting some of those emails.

But I want to tell you it is actually extremely freeing. It means I don’t have to live with a chip on my shoulder. I don’t have to assert or prove myself as a woman. I don’t have to feel threatened by chauvinistic tendencies that do exist in some men.

I don’t have to resent men when they manifest traits of fallenness. It frees me up to help, to love, to encourage, to serve, to give, and to lift up my brothers in the body of Christ.

So I find myself asking, “How can I lift up and encourage and strengthen the men around me by being more feminine?”

To live out this biblical vision requires that we be willing to go against our own fallen, fleshly tendencies. This does not come naturally. It goes against the grain of the flesh.

But I’ve discovered that the willingness to embrace my femininity tests and reveals what’s in my heart. It tests my own submission to God. It tests my heart toward others.

If I balk, if I have a kick in my spirit or a chip on my shoulder, it says something about what’s in my heart. Let me tell you, the real issue is not how I view men—it’s how I view God.

Am I willing to come into submission to God’s authority in my life? If so, then I will be willing, by the power of His Spirit and by His grace, to live out the gospel; which means for me as a woman having that inclination, that disposition to affirm, to receive, and to nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways that are appropriate for my differing relationships with them.

When we do that, we glorify God. We shed the spotlight on Him.

When men and women both do that within the body of Christ, God is glorified. People see God in a way they never could have seen Him otherwise. They see the great plan of redemption, and they are brought to believe and to be saved themselves.

Leslie: When women embrace womanhood, and in the process encourage masculinity in men, God is glorified. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been explaining this in a series called A Vision for Biblical Womanhood.

This is an important topic, and I hope Nancy’s words here will encourage you to study further. Earlier, Nancy quoted from John Piper, the book she called “the best thing I’ve read on the subject.”

We have that slim volume by John Piper. It’s called What’s the Difference? It will help you better understand biblical passages that speak to roles, and it will guide you through tricky, contemporary subjects of grace.

When you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say thanks by sending you What’s the Difference? by John Piper. We’ll also include a teaching CD by Nancy called Embracing the Gift of Womanhood.

It’s a succinct overview of the helpful information she’s provided this week on embracing biblical femininity. Ask for Embracing the Gift of Womanhood and What’s the Difference? when you make a donation by phone. Call 800-569-5959, or donate online.

You have a unique chance to hear John Piper and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, along with other speakers like Joni Eareckson Tada and worship leaders Keith and Kristyn Getty. Women from across the country will gather in Chicago this fall for the True Woman ’08: National Women’s Conference. I hope you’ll be there, allowing this event to help you grow into the woman God wants you to be and encouraging other women to do the same.

Get more information at our website. I hope you can be back with us again Monday for Revive Our Hearts. Now Nancy’s back with a final thought.

Nancy: I’m sure some of you who have heard these words today have found yourself perhaps chafing inwardly, maybe that kick in the spirit, feeling perhaps resentful or resistant toward this whole concept. I want to tell you honestly that I’ve been there myself at times. I sometimes still find myself there.

But God has used those struggles and battles in my own heart to show me flesh that needs to be taken to the cross, and to show me areas of my life that need to come under the headship of Jesus Christ. I want to encourage you to seek the Lord on this and say, “Lord, how can my life as a woman reflect the beauty of who You are in the relationships I have with the men around me?”

Ask God to show you ways you can reflect His beauty through cultivating a feminine spirit. I want to tell you, it will be greatly freeing. You will find such liberty, such grace as you fulfill the purpose for which God created you.

Thank You, Lord, for Your grace. Thank You for challenging our hearts with this truth from Your Word. I pray that You will find us surrendered and saying, “Yes, Lord, I want to be the woman You made me to be.”

Help us, Lord, to bless the men around us, to lift them up, to strengthen them, to encourage them; and to know that as we do, You will strengthen and encourage us. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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

1Ilene Lelchuk, Chronicle Staff Writer.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.