Revive Our Hearts Radio

Set-Apart Femininity, with Leslie Ludy

Leslie Basham: Leslie Ludy says women who have grown up dreaming of romance need to look to Christ.

Leslie Ludy: We’ve dreamed our whole life about this prince, this gallant, noble, heroic man who will lead us away to his castle on a white steed and love us unconditionally and cherish us and nurture us and appreciate us. You never can find that in a human person, but you can find that in Jesus Christ.

Why wouldn’t you want the greatest love story of all time? Whether you ever get married on this earth or not, you have a Bridegroom who is the fulfillment of all your romantic dreams and desires that you’ve had since childhood. And if it doesn’t seem that He could truly fulfill them, then you need to get to know Him better because that’s who He is—that’s the very essence of who He is.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Labor Day, September 1, 2014.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, as you know we are on a mission here at Revive Our Hearts and that’s not just to have a daily radio program and not just to write books, but to call women to freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ. And that requires of us that we are fully surrendered to the Lord Jesus and willing to live a life that is set apart for His holy purposes.

I thank the Lord that He is raising up in our day a remnant of counter-cultural women—women who are willing to swim upstream against the culture—even against the Christian sub-culture as that’s required to be God’s set-apart true women.

I love meeting women who are part of that remnant, who are part of the counter-cultural revolution, and introducing them to you because I think they create in all of us an appetite, a hunger, a thirst to know Christ in a more intimate and personal way and to be more fully set apart for His purposes. I’ve had the privilege recently of meeting a younger woman who is one of those counter-cultural women. Her name is Leslie Ludy, and she’s here with us here in the studio today along with her husband, Eric.

I’ve so enjoyed getting to know this couple recently. I said to them when we first met, “As I was reading your books, I was asking myself, ‘Where have you been all my life?’” And that’s because, Eric and Leslie, as I’ve read some of the things that you’ve written, I’ve realized that your hearts beat like mine, and hopefully our hearts beat like His and what we’ve found in His Word. So thank you so much for joining us here on Revive Our Hearts. I know our listeners are going to be so encouraged by getting to know you as I have.

Leslie: Thank you so much for having us. This is an honor.

Nancy: One of the areas that you address a lot in this book, Leslie, and we have asked Eric to join us too because we want to hear a man’s perspective on these subjects. And this is a couple who really are walking together in their journey to seek the Lord. But you talk a lot about the subject of beauty and image and what it means to be attractive. The world has a message that it’s pumping into our minds and hearts twenty-four/seven like an IV. It’s coming at us all the time. Let’s talk for a moment about the world’s perspective and how as young people you bought into that message.

Leslie: Well, I remember Eric and I just a few years ago talked with a designer, a professional graphic designer that worked for Calvin Klein. And he said, “To be honest, the way that we make these images in the catalogues and the bill boards that you see is we take a very attractive woman. We scan her photo into the computer. We airbrush her skin. We digitally alter almost every aspect of her body. We make her thighs smaller, her waist smaller, her chest bigger and her cheeks more narrow. And we’ve turn her into this goddess, this unattainable standard of beauty.”

Nancy: Which this woman doesn’t even have.

Leslie: Exactly. Even a top model can’t achieve it. It has to be digitally enhanced to get that look. “And then we slap it on the front of a catalogue or a billboard and say, 'Hey, girls, this is the standard of beauty. This is what guys find attractive. This is what we expect you to act and look like, and buy these clothes, and take these diet pills, and get this plastic surgery, and wear this kind of make-up, and then maybe you can get a little closer to attaining this unattainable standard.’” And that message is, like you’ve said, just filtered into our minds and our hearts and we see these images and hear these messages everywhere we go.

For me, it started probably at the age of about ten years old. I remember being in my fifth grade school and having a group of boys surround me and my friends and start comparing which ones of us were more sexually attractive than the others. I was in the “ugly” category at the age of ten. I was kind of wiry and gangly and awkward. I remember just feeling so ugly and so devastated that these boys didn’t find me attractive and beautiful.

It just really put me on this desperate search over the next few years to say, “How can I make myself beautiful and appealing to the opposite sex?” And unfortunately, for me, the only way I knew to do that was to make myself sensual and sexual and wear tight clothes and be flirtatious, be seductive. And that was really the path I was on until God began to awaken me to a whole new version of feminine beauty.

Recently Dove did a survey to find out how many women actually think of themselves as beautiful. And it was only two percent of women that think of themselves as beautiful.

Nancy: And actually, those in that percent may not be telling the truth.

Leslie: Exactly. That’s pretty ironic in a society when you have boundless amounts of fashion magazines and plastic surgery and all these skin and body treatments. We’ve never had more resources available to make ourselves beautiful, and yet, we’ve never felt more worthless and ugly.

As a young woman, I remember hearing from the church this message that, “No, don’t buy into that whole thing that you need to be sexually appealing and desirable. You just need to look inside yourself and find beauty and just accept yourself the way you are." And that was a hollow message, too, because I kept trying to find this inner beauty that I supposedly possessed.

I remember my youth group leader saying, “Just go home and stand in front of the mirror and say to your reflection, ‘I love you.’” It was this message of self-confidence and self-worth, and it only led me to feel more insecure because I couldn’t find beauty and confidence and worth within myself. 

It wasn’t until I recognized I don’t have any true worth and true beauty and true value in and of myself. Only the beauty of Jesus Christ can make me a woman of beauty. It’s only His life and His radiance and His strength shining through me that is going to create anything of worth in my life.

I talk in the book about two different women—one being a Victoria’s Secret model—one of the top ten models in the world. She did an interview with GQ magazine. She said, “Everything about my beauty has been somehow manufactured. I’ve had plastic surgery. I’ve done all these things, and I have this fake beauty.” And then at the end of the interview she said, “Even my heart is fake.”

If you look at her life, most young women would think, “Oh, she’s got everything. She is one of the most sought after women by guys. She’s considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. But she said, “Even my heart is fake.” She has found nothing in fulfillment in pursuing the world’s standards for beauty.

I talk about another young woman named Jackie who understood what it meant when she came to Christ that her life was no longer her own. Instead of pursuing worldly things, she gave up everything at the age of twenty. She sailed across the world and began to live among destitute and dying people that nobody else wanted to be around and poured her life out for them. When I heard her speak and saw her face and the radiance that she had and the love that she had for Christ, I thought, That is true beauty and true fulfillment.

It’s completely opposite of what the world dangles in front of us. She doesn’t have glitz and glamour and fame and worldly applause. But she has something of eternal value. She truly has the beauty of Christ.

So in the book Set-Apart Femininity, my goal is to really awaken young women to what real beauty is. It’s not rejecting your femininity altogether and going around in a tent and making yourself look as frumpy as possible. But it’s not chasing after the sensuous allure that the culture dangles in front of us. It’s pursuing the beauty of Jesus Christ—a life exchange where you lay down everything of yourself and as John the Baptist said, “I must decrease that He would increase.”

That’s when you discover a truly amazing version of feminine beauty. Eric likes to call it a blend between Audrey Hepburn dignity and Amy Carmichael devotion. Audrey Hepburn being sort of that classic, ladylike woman who wasn’t necessarily sensual but had that dignity and that grace and that poise. Her lifestyle isn’t necessarily something I’d want to tell girls to emulate, but she knew what it meant to be a true lady and carry herself with dignity and not rely on those sexual innuendos to get that way.

And Amy Carmichael was one of our heroes that rescued a thousand children from temple prostitution over in India and lived in the early 1900s. She lived this life of absolute sacrificial devotion and poured out service to Christ. When you blend that ladylike poise and dignity and that feminine mystery with a life poured out for Christ, it’s spectacularly beautiful. It’s so different than the Hollywood diva version of beauty that gets thrust in front of us every day.

Nancy: And yet, we have this culture that is hoisting this image upon us of what is beautiful. It’s unattainable. It doesn’t even exist anywhere except in some computer software ability to make it look that way. So how do we escape from the pull of what the world is telling us is beautiful? Eric, as a guy, how do guys reprogram their thinking to agree with God’s perspective about what is beautiful? And how does a girl reprogram her thinking to not be sucked in by the world’s view of beauty?

Eric Ludy: That is one of the most important questions of our day. I often feel like that the answer we give young men is a faulty one. Here's the take on Eric Ludy. I've sat down with I don't know how many young men on this very issue, who are struggling with lust, that are struggling with the way that they perceive femininity. It is to appease or gratify their selfish bent.

They may know it is wrong, but they are stuck in this. They are just men—this is the way men are. I can't tell you how many Christian women I know that have said, "That's just the way men are." So there is an acceptance of "the way men are."

I'd like to say that a man is supposed to be as Jesus Christ was. A man is supposed to be as Paul the apostle was. Paul the apostle, contrary to what a lot of people say about Romans 7, that he was living a defeated life . . . Read Romans 6 and Romans 8 and you end up with a true picture of what Paul lived with—victory and triumph.

Eric Ludy is a guy who believes that there is strength to be had for sexuality, for this area of our life and that the flesh should not be the element leading a young man in his thinking. We can actually learn to have a renewed mind and look at femininity through the lens of Jesus Christ.

This is what has happened to me. It's my personal testimony. I do come from a rather dark past. Though it was Christianized around me, it was dirty in the inner domain. I was not having sex, but I was having sex on the inside. My inner life was polluted. There is a pattern that is impossible to get out of, and every man knows what I mean about that.

If you say I want to be pure for this day forward; I want to think healthy thoughts toward femininity. No matter what you do as a man, you can't get out of that hole. It holds you down. The power of sin in your life is greater than the power of your natural desire to get out. That's what Romans 7 is all about.

In and of myself there is no strength to perform that which God commands of me. But there is strength to be had. Paul says basically, “What is there to be done with this wretch that I am?” And he says, “Thanks be to Jesus our Lord.” There is the solution. There is salvation or a rescue or a deliverance from this debasiveness of masculinity.

And guess what? I have not just seen it in me. I’ve seen it in other men who have given their lives wholly and completely to Jesus Christ to say, “Whatever You must do God, make me a man—a righteous man, a man with a pure mind, a man the way You intended men to be.”

Leslie: I think the same is true for young women to understand that the power of God has to overtake your existence. One of our heroes is an old preacher named Leonard Ravenhill. He is no longer alive.

Nancy: He was a friend of mine.

Leslie: Really? Oh, we love him and his books. We’re friends with one of his sons now. But one of his quotes was, “What does it mean to be a Christian? Your life is hid with Christ in God. You are no longer your own. You’ve been bought with a price.” It’s the concept of becoming a living sacrifice. So many women approach life from this: "Everything is about me. It’s about how I feel. It’s about me feeling better about who I am and making choices that will make me feel good.”

And unfortunately, even Christianity is looked at through that grid. It’s all about me, me, me, how can I feel good and become a better me? And understanding that Christianity is a taking up our cross and following Him and laying down everything for His sake.

So for a young woman to realize she can’t do that in her own strength. She can’t give up this insatiable longing to find approval from the opposite sex and be found beautiful by the culture on her own. But when she allows the power of God, the Spirit of God to overtake her existence, He enables her to suddenly no longer even value those things that the culture values and not be pining after the approval of a man to find her strength and her fulfillment. He enables and equips her to truly be radiant and victorious and fulfilled and beautiful the way He intended her to be beautiful through a relationship with Him. And that really is where it starts out.

So often people want us to give them a formula: Well, if I just do x, y, and z, then I’ll have success in this area of my life. But unless you are willing to make that holy exchange and invite the Spirit of God to overtake you and realize you cannot do it in your own strength, and be willing to lay down everything . . . If He takes you to a hut in Africa and that’s where He calls you, be willing to give up all the pleasures and the comforts that we’re so used to. Until we come to that point, we really can’t experience the fullness of what He has for our femininity.

Nancy: Now, I just have to think there are some listening who’ve been very co-opted by the culture, even the Christian culture, and are thinking, “That does not sound very desirable—this life that is totally run by Jesus Christ. I’m not going to fit in. I’m not going to have any friends. I’ll never have a husband. I’ll be an old maid like Nancy Leigh DeMoss. (laughter) My life is going to be miserable. I’m going to be sitting alone.” It doesn’t sound fun. It doesn’t sound worth living if you’re not going to be alluring, if you’re not going to be attractive to yourself, to other women, to the opposite sex. But you’re both talking as if this is a way of thinking that is extremely desirable and worthwhile.  

Leslie: It’s amazing. When you study the lives of Christian women who have lived this way throughout history, it really is not the exception. We hear about these great missionaries who do these heroic things with their life and we often think, Well, they had a special call or they were unique. They were the exception. But when you really begin to study the pattern of biblical, historical Christianity, you realize this is what He’s called all of us to.

So in the book I talk about not only Amy Carmichael, but Gladys Aylward. She was a missionary to China who did extraordinary exploits for the kingdom of God—singlehandedly led 200 orphan children on a six-week journey across the mountains with no food, just relying on God’s faithfulness to get them to safety. Amazing, amazing acts for the kingdom of God. And Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand who were in the Communist invasion in Romania. She was willing to give up happiness with her husband and allow him to go to prison because she encouraged him to stand up to the Communists indoctrinating the pastors in her day.

Nancy: Now hold on a second, Leslie. I’m thinking a lot of women—that’s not the lifestyle they want to live. They don’t want to be a woman leading orphans across the desert of China or whatever. They want a husband. They want to be attractive. They want to be desirable to someone. And they’re saying, “Yeah, that’s great, all those heroines of the faith. But that’s not the lifestyle I want.” Why would a woman want something more? Why would a woman want what you’re describing?

Leslie: I remember Eric once said, “If we are really struggling to trust God, it’s because we don’t really know Him, because if we just knew Him, we would not even hesitate to bring everything to Him. We would not even hesitate to choose this exchanged life where He has full access to our existence.

We did a study in Scripture about a year ago of all the different things that it says Christ is to us in the Scripture—our portion, our maker, our healer, our husband, the lover of our soul. And looking into all these things, you realize how little you do know Him. We think we have all the Bible stories figured out. We’ve had this little sinner’s prayer that we’ve said and we pray every once in a while, and we think we know Him. But if we could just taste of His fullness and His glory and allow Him to be everything that He wants to be to us . . . It’s not even a question of, “How could I give this up for that?” It’s, “Lord, how can I have even more and more and more of You?”

We talk about giving access to our life to God. We oftentimes use the example of all these different rooms. “Well, God You can have access to this room in my life, but not this room. Relationships with the opposite sex is my domain, but You can have these other areas.” But if we really knew Him, if we understood His love for us, His nature, who He really is, what He wants to do with our life, just the glory of who He is, we would say, “Not just this room. Come into every room.” Because when we make that exchange, it’s like exchanging this handful of worthless pebbles for this truckload of jewels. Most of us just don’t know Him well enough to trust Him at that level.

Nancy: It’s really a call into an intimate love relationship with Someone who loves us more dearly than anyone else ever could.

Leslie: Yes. I’ve talked to young women. We’ve dreamed our whole life about this prince, this gallant, noble, heroic man who will rescue us and lead us away to his castle on a white steed, and love us unconditionally and cherish us and nurture us and appreciate us. We are never going to find that in a human relationship, no matter how great my love story is with Eric.

Eric: Are you saying that’s not what I’m like?

Leslie: Well, you’re a close second. (laughter) You can never find that in a human person, but you can find that in Jesus Christ. Why wouldn’t you want the greatest love story of all time? Whether you ever get married on this earth or not, you have a Bridegroom who is the fulfillment of all your romantic dreams and desires that you’ve had since childhood. If it doesn’t seem that He could truly fulfill them, then you need to get to know Him better because that’s who He is, the very essence of who He is. 

Nancy: As I’m listening to you, Leslie and Eric, describe the implications of that radical, whole-hearted, abandon and surrender to Jesus Christ, the passage that comes to mind is that beautiful psalm that’s a love song. Psalm 45: “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.” And there’s a description of the groom, words spoken to him. “You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips . . . God has blessed you forever” (vv. 1–2).

And then there’s a description of the bride who comes to her groom, and I think an Old Testament picture of the New Testament covenant relationship that we can have with the Lord Jesus. And then I love this passage, “Hear, O daughter,” and this is really what set-apart femininity is all about. “Consider, incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him” (vv. 10–11).

And so you have there this beautiful picture of what Christ desires to have with us as our King, as our Lord. He desires that relationship with us. He is the one who defines what is true beauty. He grants true beauty and enables beauty of spirit and heart. And because He is that loving leading Lord, that one who’s given His life for us, since He is your Lord, bow to Him. So it’s not a groveling submission. It’s a whole hearted abandon, a joyful surrender to Christ as Lord. And that really then becomes the basis for pure and wholesome and beautiful, healthy love relationships on the human level—for a healthy marriage.

Leslie: Exactly. It’s meant to be an outflow. We always say marriage is meant to be a little taste of heaven on earth. It’s meant to be just a small picture of the much greater romance that we share with Jesus Christ. As we have put that relationship with Christ as our first and primary love story, that’s what makes our marriage beautiful. That’s what makes it beautiful for even a single person because you don’t have to have marriage to have that kind of fulfillment and beauty that you are talking about.

Nancy: I’m so glad that you’ve reminded us, Leslie, in this book, Set-Apart Femininity, that this is a call not just for a select few, but this is God’s heart and God’s intent for every child of God that we would radiate the beauty and wonder of who Christ is. This is the message, the heartbeat of Revive Our Hearts. We want to be women who say, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord, with all of our lives, set apart for His kingdom purposes.”

So I want to thank you Leslie and Eric for letting the Lord call you out and for acknowledging the fact that He has chosen you, that you belong to Him, that your lives are not your own, and that you are, at this season of life, living out what that means in very practical ways, passing that on to your children, and then writing books like Set-Apart Femininity that are passing that message on to others.

I hope our listeners will get a copy of this book—moms, young women, college-aged women, young single women, every season of life. This is a call of God on each of our lives. And I know you will be challenged by what Leslie has written and that your heart will cry out, as mine has, as I’ve read this book, “Yes, Lord, that’s what I want to be true in my life.”

Leslie: Thank you so much.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Leslie Ludy and her husband, Eric. about set-apart femininity. That’s also the name of Leslie’s book. We’d like to send you a copy as our thanks when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size. We're only making this offer available today, so contact us soon. When you call us, ask for Set-Apart Femininity. We'll be happy to send one per household with your donation of any amount. The number is 1–800–569–5959. You can also donate online and get all of the details about this offer by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, ask anyone how they are doing and they are likely to say, "Busy." Pastor Kevin DeYoung will be here to talk about being "crazy busy." He'll give you biblical perspective on our activity and practical advice on handling your schedule. Please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts. Now, Nancy’s back to pray.

Nancy: And O Lord, how we thank You for the Lord Jesus who delighted to do Your will and who said, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” And how He left that glory and that splendor of heaven, laid aside His rights as God, clothed Himself in our weak humanity, took upon Him the likeness of a servant and was obedient even to death, the death of the cross. And Lord, we worship the Lord Jesus, our Savior, our Sacrifice, our Lover, our Lord and thank You for what He has done in consecrating Himself to You and Your purposes.

And then, we thank You for calling us to Yourself—for Your saving grace in our lives, for Your mercy, for adopting us into Your family and for making us Your own. And Lord, we realize that You have not saved us just to have a weekend Christian experience, or to be living for ourselves. We are no longer our own. We have been bought with a price. And Lord, with my heart, I just want afresh to say to You today, “Yes, Lord.” I want You to fulfill all Your holy purposes in my life. I want to be Your true woman, set apart for You.

And Lord, whatever that means, whatever that looks like, I want You to own my free time and my work time and my weekends and my weekdays and my nights and my days and every part of my life—my relationships, my hobbies, my work, everything. I want it to be under Your Lordship.

And Lord I know that many of our listeners are wanting to express that same thing to You. I pray that You would raise up a remnant of women who are owned by Christ, who love You with all their hearts and who will say, “Yes, Lord! Whatever Your call in my life means, whatever that looks like—married, single, children, no children, this country, abroad, all of it Lord, we want to be wholly Yours.”

I just pray that our lives would be a holy, set-apart offering for You and that through Your true women, You would raise up a whole new generation of young men and women who would love You and passionately serve You and would further Your kingdom purposes in this world. I pray it in Jesus name and for the sake of Your great kingdom. Amen.

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

All Scripture was taken from the English Standard Verion. 

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