Teaching the Word, Day 2

Leslie Basham: Here's Jen Wilkin.

Jen Wilkin: You can become someone who handles the Word well, who draws other women to do the same. And not only that—not only can you do that, but I'm here to say you must. You must. The church will not flourish as it should unless the women are teaching women.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, January 12, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Yesterday we heard part one of a message from Jen Wilkin called "Teaching the Word in Fear and Fearlessness." In the book of James chapter 3, we read that "Not many of us should become teachers." But in Titus 2, older women are told to teach younger women. So, how do you reconcile those two verses?

Well, Jen Wilkin took us right to the heart of this question when she spoke at Revive '15: Women Teaching Women. I believe that all of us who know Christ are called to pass on what we've learned to others in some way. Jen will give us some important things to think about as we do that. Let's listen.

Jen: So "Not many of you should become teachers . . . for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body" (vv. 1–2).

Whatever your bad habit is that you can't seem to get rid of, start by fixing your tongue—and apparently that will fall into line, no problem, if you can just get your tongue in line.

And then James goes on for quite a while in verses 3–12 talking to us, making a comparison about placing a bit in the mouth of a horse to make it go where you want or the rudder on a ship to make it go where you want it to go. What is he doing?

He is showing us that when you have a small thing that is very powerful, it can control a big thing. Why? Because we need to understand this about our speech. He says starting in verse 7:

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water (vv. 7–12).

Okay, I got it! What is he saying here? He's telling the story of my life, and I would imagine he's telling the story of yours, too. So we come to this passage and we think, If this is me (and I know it is!), I know that on one day I am blessing and on another day I am cursing. I know that on one day I am teaching someone and on another day I am gossiping about something. I know that on one day I am speaking words of life, and on another, I am shredding someone behind their back! So clearly I ought not to teach, right? No one ought to teach!

Is that what James is saying? No, he's saying, "Use caution! Use caution! Know that your words have power!"

I think that's a really important place for us to start. I would love to tell you that every time I stand up to teach, I think, I got this. This is going to go awesome! But most of the time I am sitting there thinking, O Lord, You've gotta show up for this!

The thing that's a little exhausting, and also a little encouraging, is to know He's always going to keep me there. We never get to be entirely comfortable with the role of being a teacher. It's interesting, though, that James opened up in chapter 3 with saying, "Not many of you should become teachers."

I don't know . . . in my experience, many do seem to want to become teachers. Have you noticed that? So I think it's worth us asking, "What are wrong motives for wanting to teach?" and "What are right motives for wanting to teach?" I think wrong motives, that's pretty easy.

A lot of people think that if they stand and teach in any capacity that they will have personal gain or glory, that it feels really fun to do that. Like I have met with women before for coffee, and they'll say, "I just really want to do what you do!"

And I'll say, "Can you talk more about that?"

"Well, I just really like to be in front of people and I'm really comfortable talking to people."

And I'm thinking, Okay . . . There is something to be said for being comfortable talking to people, but that's not the same thing as having something eating away inside of you that says, "I've got to speak the truth! I've got to speak the truth!" Those are not necessarily the same thing.

I've got to say, I can't think of anything harder than getting up to do this. So when people say to me, "Oh, it just looks so fun!" I think, Really, I must have made it look wrong! (laughter) Not that it isn't a joyful thing, but . . .

Recently I was prayed over at our church by our pastor at one of our elder-led prayers. We were starting up our fall semester of our women's Bible study, so everyone had gathered to pray. He said (and he is someone who would know this from plenty of experience of his own!), "What Jen has to do each week is like having a final exam once a week that is graded by 700 people."

Yeah, yeah, he gets that. It's a difficult thing. You scrutinize yourself a great deal—other people scrutinize you—and you have to filter through all that and say, "What's from the Lord? What is that condemnation that lives inside of me, or what's something from outside that someone's trying to lay on me that is or isn't true?"

If you come to this thinking that there is personal gain or glory involved, I'm here to tell you I think you're probably coming for the wrong reasons. Not probably! It's a hard thing. It's like signing up to have homework for the rest of your life.

I think another wrong motive is that one that I came in with—because it feels so good to be right. I think this is something that's pretty deeply ingrained into our culture, wouldn't you say? I don't know what your Facebook feed looks like, but mine looks like a lot of people really like being right.

So we don't want to be that, either. That's not the right motive to come up here with. There has to be a motive of humility. We have to come up understanding that when we teach, we're not just teaching truth, we're teaching truth to human beings who are coming into that setting with particular hurts and particular struggles and particular needs. And we have to see faces, not just objects of information that we want to give to them.

What are the right motives for wanting to teach? We want to teach out of love for God and His glory, regardless of how many people are sitting there. If I know one thing about you, it's that if the Lord is stirring in you a desire to teach, you will not care whether it is 500 women or five women just bug-eyed, wondering how much time is left before they get to have a restroom break. (laughter)

You won't care, because you will just need to get it out. You're like, "Who's going to sit? Who needs to hear this? Who is this for?" So we teach out of love for God and for His glory, regardless of how many we reach. And we do so with a sense of the weight of the calling. It's a balance of fear and fearlessness.

That's the only way I can think to describe it—a fear and a fearlessness, a right reverence, and also an understanding that nothing can stop the truth in here. I love the passage that says, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isa. 40:8).

So those who come with a right motive to teach beg God, "Lord, let my words that are needless here be like the grass and the flowers. And let Your Word stand forever!" Again and again, to pray that prayer—a balance of fear and of fearlessness and an awareness of the responsibility that is coupled with an awareness of the deep, rich privilege of being given a voice to speak the very truths of God!

So we teach out of a love for God and His glory. And we also teach out of a love for our neighbor. I've touched on this some. When you're wondering, Who should I teach? Who needs me to teach them? and you're looking around, Where's the target? Where am I going to find her?. . . we have no charge to teach those for whom we have no affection and empathy. You can cross those people off your list.

Who are the women that you hurt for? Who are the women that you long to see living lives in the light of the truth of Scripture? Who are the women that God has placed in proximity to you? Do you feel a love for them? Can you relate to them because of your own sin problems?

Do you know who I love to sit down and talk to? Someone who has shredded relationships with her words. Because I'm telling you, the fact that God has redeemed one single word that I have to say, the fact that I can stand here and proclaim words of life to you . . . I'm telling you, I don't have the credentials for it!

But do you know what I have? I've got a lot of empathy for anyone who is fighting this battle of, "I don't know. I'm a mean, mean girl when I want to be." The Lord can redeem even that!

So we teach out of love for our neighbor, and we earn the right to communicate with them by finding commonalities. So if you're wondering, I feel this thing inside of me, but I don't know who I need to teach. Who does it need to go to? Ask yourself, With whom do I share commonalities? With whom have I earned a voice?

Teaching is costly. It's a costly thing, but I hope that you will pay the cost, because the need is great. And the need specifically for women to teach women is great. I don't know that we celebrate that as much as we should, and I hope that we will. Because there's something that a woman teacher can do with another woman that a man teacher just can't.

It is a good and beautiful thing for women to gather and sit under the teaching of gifted men who can preach and teach the well Word. We need that. That is never in question. But the Lord has gifted women to teach, and He's done so for a purpose. He does not give gifts that are not needful.

So in the idea of, "Do you have permission to do this?" hear me say, "If you have been given a gift to teach, the Lord has not given it to no end. He expects you to use it!" It is not sort of a surplus thing, in case your pastor gets sick. He has given you that gift because you can communicate truths to women in a way that he may not be able to.

Women need the example of other women teachers. Who is it that needs to see you opening the Scriptures and rightly dividing them in such a way that she can think to herself, Maybe I could do that. Maybe I could do that!

Do you need a little more permission? I'm not seminary trained, and that was not on the lunch menu for me. It was, "Get married, have a bunch of babies, and do that for a long, long time." I've got a book in the bookstore, and I still kind of giggle every time I see it, because, do you know what I wrote for the first twenty years after I got married? Thank-you notes . . .when I had to! In-between trying to get a shower in and getting dinner on the table.

Each of us has a lot of life circumstances that are coming our way. It may be that you never received a formal education. I'm not advocating that you teach with no education; I'm telling you that you can be resourceful, and you can find good tools and you can become someone who handles the Word well and who draws other women to do the same.

Not only can you do that, but I'm here to say, you must! You must! The church will not flourish as it should unless women are teaching women. Women need the example of other women teachers. They need to see you do this; they need to see you do this well.

Women need the perspective of women teachers. Women need to hear you teach about Rahab. Women need to hear you teach about Jael with her tent peg, that it's not a story about a woman who set aside the customs of hospitality in the ancient Near East so much as it's about a woman who understood that she had it in her power to put to death a man who had done great harm to the women of her nation—and in her weakness, picked up the tent peg and made it so!

We need women's perspectives when the Scriptures are opened up. This is not a book by men, for men; this is a book for you.

Women need the empathetic authority of women teachers. Do you know what that means? That means that I understand the besetting sins of womanhood in a way that a man may not. I'm not saying that all men can't understand this, but let's be honest. Isn't it easier for you to hear from me, "Hey! Stop tearing down your husband verbally!" than it is for you to hear it from another man?

Isn't it easier for you to hear a hard truth from me about how to raise your children or how to deal with an aging parent or a situation at work? Isn't it easier for you to hear it from me and know, "Oh, I think she's been there"? We're in each other's skin. Who better to sit down and teach the Word to each other than woman to woman?

Teaching is the business of words—it's absolutely the business of words—and we need to keep that in mind, because James has told us to. But James doesn't stop by telling us it's just the teaching of words. Look what he says in verse 13. This isn't often taught as connected to the passage, but I want you to see that it is.

He says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom" (3:13).

Did you notice what he did there? "Who is wise and understanding among you?" What would be the answer to that? "Oh, people who teach!" Right?

But no, what does he say? He says, "By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom." So teaching is the business of words, but it also the business of example. We need to live what we teach. Now, I am not telling you that you have to achieve perfection in your sin area before you can stand up and talk to other people.

I'm not done with sarcasm yet—I'm still working on it. And God help me if I had waited until that was totally beat to actually stand up and confess, "Hey, this is my problem." We've got to get moving! There's lots of stuff we've got to talk about in here!

So we don't teach when we're perfectly ready. We teach while we are in process, but we recognize that we need to live out the words that we are teaching—we need to own them.

So you hear this passage in James. And I don't know about you, but my response to that is something along the lines of the words of Paul, where I want to say, "Who is equal to such a task?" (2 Cor. 2:16). And James would say, "Not many of you." And we know that the truth is that none of us is sufficient for it!

But here's the good news: The sufficiency of God is ours through Christ! And there is no room for self-sufficiency in the heart of a teacher. We must always carry around the tension of, "I don't want to presume to be a teacher. I want to do so with care, with great care and great soberness of mind. But also with a joy—the joy of knowing that I'm doing what I've been designed to do."

But I think you wouldn't be sitting in this room if you thought you had what it takes, right? Those girls don't come to this conference. So praise God, because you know what? When I look around a room of 2,200 women, you know what I think? By God's grace, this is not many.

Over half the church is comprised of women. Twenty-two-hundred women—do you know what this is? A really great start. So come with me, and let's do this good work. But what do we do? How do we move from "Who is equal to such a task?" to "This is the thing I can't not do!" There's a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (that's a word you hear every day, right?). He wrote The Little Prince. I don't know if you're familiar with that book.

Here's what he said: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." That's why we're here!

Yes, I'm going to tell you tools, I'm going to tell you ways to build the boat, but the role of every teacher of the Bible is to say, "Lift up your eyes to the endless immensity of the sea." It is a vision of God high and lifted up that drives the teacher to teach.

Like Isaiah—undone by the vision of God's holiness—we whisper, "Here am I!" and we pray that there might be a coal from the altar to touch our unclean lips. And He does it! He makes pure speech where there was nothing but vile speech and He lets His truth come through broken humans.

We pray that the coal from the altar would purify our lips and that the blinding light of His glory would strengthen our weak knees and make our hands strong for the task. This is the sober and joyful, compulsion-filled calling of the teacher—to teach that which transcends!

No matter how many students you teach, know you have chosen a duty that is hard, that is honorable, that is humbling, that is heart-filled, and that is heart-filling. And my prayer for each of you is that you would find this weekend the answer to the question, "Why are you here?" in that high and transcendent image of the God that I know you have seen in here. And may we be women who are so captivated by what we have seen that we want everyone we know to be a boat builder.

I'm going to close us in prayer and as I pray, I want you to take some time to think and to pray and to ask the Lord, "Lord, why am I here?" Think specifically in terms of, "Who are the women the Lord has placed in my path, who He wants me to teach?"

Maybe it's one woman; maybe it's five women. "Who has He placed in my path?" And not just, "Who has He placed in my path that I could teach?" but "Who has He placed above me that I can turn to and ask for help?" Ask the Father that He would do this work. Ask the Father that He would bring to pass the passing on of His Word, the communication of a vision of Him in His glory through you, in your humility, as you step forward in fear and in fearlessness. Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the opportunity to be here. Father, I know that most of the women who are here are not here because they feel able, but because they feel compelled. Lord, You have given that compulsion to them, and I ask that You would bring it to flower.

Lord, we pray that You would place in our paths women who need to hear the Word through us, and that You would equip and enable us to dispense of that supreme duty with soberness and with joy. We love You, Father, and we want You to be known! Help us to be part of that.

And we ask these things in Jesus' name. Amen!

Leslie: That's Jen Wilkin speaking at the Revive '15 conference, hosted by Revive Our Hearts. She's been giving us the big picture—why it's so important for women to teach other women. And she's also shown us why we need to accept this calling with a sense of heavy responsibility and healthy fear.

Jen will show you practical ways to effectively study God's Word for yourself in her book Women of the Word. It's a book that our host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is excited about.

Nancy: I benefitted personally from this little book from Jen Wilkin. It's not a long read but it's full of practical ways to read, study, and understand God's Word for yourself. And most importantly how to get to know God through His Word.

A new year is a new opportunity. Make sure we're growing in our knowledge of God's Word. This book by Jen is a tool to make your Bible study this year far more effective.

We'll send you a copy of Jen's book Women of the Word when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the book or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Well, Laura Gonzales wanted to have children but her husband, Fausto, didn't want to have anything to do with kids. Hear the ups and downs of a couple who had misplaced attitudes about the value of life. And hear how this couple is now spreading a message of life to others. That's tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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

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