Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What To Wear

Summertime is here! And, the clothes are coming off. It has always amazed me how some folks will choose to display themselves publicly by the attire they choose — or, don’t choose. What is alarming is that many Christians seem to indiscriminately follow the way of the world. Christians need to have a sound, sensible, Biblical understanding of what God desires for us in the area of our dress.

The transition from innocence to shame began long ago. At the end of Genesis 2 we read that the man and the wife God had just given him were naked and they were not ashamed. By chapter three verse seven, we read these words: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” Adam and Eve now knew evil by personal experience. The serpent promised enlightenment, but what they got was a hideous caricature. Satan destroyed their innocence, and in their state of conscious shame they “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Since that day, clothing has been a universal expression of human modesty. It is fitting for sinful man to cover his shame, but only God can truly cover it (compare 3:7 and 3:21).

The Bible speaks of modesty in two different senses. In one way it is immodest to over-dress. “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Paul instructs women not to wear clothing that draws undue attention to their outward appearance, wealth and excess. It is “look-at-me” apparel.

The second way the Bible speaks of modesty is in regard to under-dress — clothing that reveals and accentuates the body. “Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, uncover the leg (thigh, KJV), cross the rivers. Your nakedness will be uncovered, your shame also will be exposed…” (Isaiah 47:2-3). This kind of immodesty is “indecent” (too short, too low, too transparent, too tight, etc.).

But what is modesty? When we speak of a person modest in their demeanor or in their means, we usually refer to a person that does not draw attention to themselves. Combining the two forms of immodesty addressed in the Bible, we might then say that modest dress is that which does not call undue attention to the individual by what they do or do not wear.

Virtues are shaped and formed by one’s beliefs. Moral standards once praised and valued are now questioned, ridiculed, or disdained. Compare songs like “Baby Its Cold Outside” or “Wake Up, Little Suzy” to songs you hear on the radio today. We may, at times, be blind to the shift, but rest assured, those who observe us are not. The east uses the term “westoxification” referring to barely clothed women walking the streets and bawdy entertainment often seen in the west.

Christians cannot let their standards be driven by culture. We live in a different culture — the kingdom of God. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20). We are a “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV). Peculiar doesn’t have to mean weird, but it does mean different. The Christian determines his or her dress by “shamefacedness and sobriety” (KJV), “modestly and discreetly” (NASB), “decent and appropriate” (NLT).

The Christian must not be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). Our dress should maintain standards of holiness and godliness, rather than conformity and worldliness. We could be very legalistic with a list of do’s and don’ts that the Bible really doesn’t give, but legislation never changed anyone’s heart. We need to take a serious look at the Biblical principles regarding dress, and act appropriately.

Let me suggest three things to look at. First, notice that Adam and Eve made “loincloths” (NASB, “aprons,” KJV), but God made them coats (Genesis 3:21). The word translated “coats” indicates a garment covering the body from the shoulders to the top of the knee like a Roman tunic. This may not be a hard and fast rule, but it is a good beginning to understand the areas of the body that are more sensuous, and need to be covered appropriately.

Second, our attire should be with “shamefacedness and sobriety…professing godliness.” I realize we live in a society that hardly knows how to blush (cf. Jeremiah 6:15). Christians however should develop the traits of blushing and clear thinking in regard to our behavior and dress. When we walk out the door we should ask does what I am wearing profess a heart of godliness?

Third, when considering what to wear, ask yourself a series of questions. What statement am I making with this outfit? Whose attention do I desire and whose approval do I crave? Who am I seeking to emulate? Will someone be unnecessarily tempted, offended, or led into sin by my appearance? To what degree, greater or lesser, do I demonstrate an absolute love for God and a sacrificial love for others?

Clothing is an extension of one’s self. No one is suggesting that we stifle individual expression. But, we live in a time of changing times and changing values. The fruit of Christianity is withering away. As a society of God, we must reflect those virtues that display the beauty of faith. Let’s dress for success in the kingdom of God!

Monday, May 24, 2010


This week, in studying for my class on 1 Corinthians, I was impressed again with the importance placed on baptism in the New Testament. Paul writes in 1:12-13 – “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (NASU)

The name “Christian” itself means, “I belong to Christ.” The Corinthians were condemned for their divided allegiances. The litmus test Paul gives for their allegiance is three-fold:
  1. Is Christ divided? – Was He ever intended to be? They knew the answer. To ask the question was to answer it.
  2. Was Paul crucified for you? – Again to ask the question was to answer it. Paul was the one writing to them. It was Jesus who was crucified (Romans 5:6-9), and they fully well knew it.
  3. Were you baptized in the name of Paul? – This is the one that grabs my attention. Too many today will argue against the importance of baptism, or relegate it to optional status, all the while missing the obvious import placed upon it by Scripture.
One of my favorite authors, who is not a member of the church of Christ, is accustomed to saying that passages like Romans 6 are “dry passages.” In other words, though they speak of baptism, they are not talking about water baptism. What other kind of baptism could they be speaking of? Water baptism is the only baptism that is commanded (cf. Acts 10:47-48). It is not John’s baptism (cf. Acts 19:3-5). There are only two instances of “Holy Spirit baptism” recorded in scripture — one was promised (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4), and the other was under extenuating circumstances (Acts 10:44-45; 11:15-17).

To be fair, the individual referenced above, believes in baptism, even the essentiality of it, but only as a sign of what has already taken place. If baptism is but “an outward sign of an inward grace,” it is both a sign of what God has done (Colossians 2:12), and a sign of the submission of the sinner to His will. Calling baptism a sign does not negate its necessity. We are united with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection in baptism (Romans 6:4-6). A symbol? Perhaps — but, a symbol of a genuine reality that cannot be separated from the symbol, or placed before the symbol.

Scoffers often raise the objection, “What if an individual dies on the way to be baptized?” Listen, God is the judge of men’s hearts. But shouldn’t the opposite be examined as well? What if an individual claiming to belong to Christ dies all the while refusing to be baptized? All I can judge is what I know the Scriptures to teach. Jesus, Peter, Paul, and all other New Testament writers that deal with the subject command baptism. If I refuse, despite all claims to the contrary, I am living in rebellion to Christ. Johnny Ramsey used to say, “Isn’t it strange that the only sinless man to have ever lived said, ‘I must be baptized,’ while admitted sinners today refuse to be.’”

Yes, strange indeed!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Things Fall Into Place

Just the other day, I was reading the blog of my friend, Dale Jenkins. In his latest blog post, he mentioned a familiar phrase that had come to his mind with renewed meaning. That got me to thinking. I recently had the same thing happen.

I was watching a television show where authorities had a locksmith open a safe box for them. He had a listening device that allowed him to hear the tumblers fall as he reached the right number in the combination. When all of the tumblers fell into place the thick steel door opened with ease.

In my lifetime, I have preached for a couple of different congregations that seemed to have a one tumbler concept. Both of them had had their share of trouble before I moved there. In one, they believed initially that once people heard about them hiring a young, conservative preacher, they would just flock in the doors and want to become members of that church (oh that I had that kind of power). The other was looking for a “messiah” of sorts. Someone who would come in, preach the right series of sermons, and all of their troubles would vanish away (again, oh that I had that series of sermons).

The problem in both places was that some brethren failed to understand the “combination concept.” Great churches — strong churches — are never built by a single ingredient. Too many elderships, search committees, and congregations are looking for just the right “pied piper” to sweep into their church and suddenly make them grow like the church in Jerusalem. They continually search in vain because they do not pay attention to the rest of the tumblers in the combination.

What we need to realize is that great and strong churches are built by a combination of godly elders, working deacons, faithful preachers, serving saints, and so on. It is a combination of things that makes a church. When all of the tumblers fall into place the doors of opportunity will swing open easily where they appeared locked and difficult before. Jesus created the church to function in this manner (1 Corinthians 12:24), so that every member could supply that which is needed to strengthen the body (Ephesians 4:16).

Do faithful preachers help churches grow? You bet! But, take heed to the rest of the tumblers, and the doors of opportunity will swing wide!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I have been blessed to enjoy the friendship and tutelage of four great mentors.  Three of them have already gone home to be with the Lord, but their influence remains with me everyday. And, there is hardly a day I do not think about them at least once.

The four men you see pictured are four of the finest preachers of the gospel I have ever known.  From each of them I learned vital lessons that have brought me to where I am now as a preacher of the Gospel.

  1. From Wendell Winkler I learned to always be prepared.  "Never step into the pulpit without something to say," he used to tell us "preacher boys."  His skill in crafting and delivering a sermon was often nothing short of amazing.  From him I learned to be a preacher.
  2. From Franklin Camp I learned the value of scholarship.  I might should add that degrees do not make for scholarship.  Not that there is anything wrong with having degrees.  Marshall Keeble said that every man should have 98.6 of them.  But Frankin was the consummate student.  He did not hold Master's and Doctoral degrees from our universities, but if it lay between the jackets of his Bible, there was nothing a professor in any of our schools could tell him he wasn't already familiar with.  He was also not afraid to buck the traditional understanding of a passage or topic, if it was what he truly believed the Bible teaches.  Interestingly enough his views were often what some today would call traditional, because that was what he truly believed the Bible teaches.  From him I learned to be a student.
  3. From Flavil Nichols I learned the love of brethren.  Few men I know have experienced or seen the bumps and bruises in ministry that Flavil has, but his demeanor is always pleasant.  He always speaks in loving tones about everyone.  He is a sweet and kind gentleman.  Flavil is still with us, although his health is not what he would desire.  When I still see him from time to time, that smile never fades, and that sweet spirit is always there.  I am afraid I may not have learned the lessons of love of brethren quite as well, but perhaps that is why he is still with us; so I will still have that example of such a great man. From him I have learned to be loving.
  4. From Bobby Duncan I learned the value of common decency in ministry.  Bobby was a great defender of the faith.  Some may have seen him as bullish and overbearing.  But, if you knew Bobby Duncan, he was neither of these things.  If he challenged a brother on a doctrine or position, he did not do it out of a mean, vindictive spirit.  He was genuinely concerned about that brother, and/or the church where he was preaching.  I knew of many occasions when Bobby spoke to a brother privately about a disagreement before he ever put pen to paper, or took the matter into the pulpit.  From him I learned to be honorable and civil in disagreements.

I miss those who have gone on.  I wish many days that I could pick up the phone just to converse with them.  I am grateful to have known them.  I am thankful for their influence in my life.  As I have heard of others, so say I now about my friends, "may their tribe increase!"


Monday, April 6, 2009

Final Two

Tonight is the finals of what is commonly called "March Madness" - the men's college basketball tournament. Since I was a boy, I have been a fan of the North Carolina Tarheels basketball program. Dean Smith is the best coach ever! My beloved Tarheels are pitted tonight against the hometown favorites - Michigan State.

I haven't gotten to watch as much of the tournament this year as I have in years past. Age and obligations seem to take me away from long hours in front of the TV on March Madness weekends. But here is my take on the game tonight. Izzo and Williams are two of the best coaches in the game. Carolina is loaded with talent, but Michigan State is no slouch either. My heart, however, stays with Carolina. I believe the Tarheels will win, but it could be close.


Inaugural Post

Well, I finally did it. I have entered the blogosphere. I don't know how often I will post, or how well this will work, but lately I have had a hankering for somewhere to share some random thoughts. I know the title is a bit cheesy, but it also reflects the fact that I do not expect to have lengthy posts, and that they will be somewhat random according to what I am thinking passionately about at the time. I am a preacher, so you can probably expect a good number of posts about Bible themes and church related matters. I am a sports fan, and have interests in politics and society in general, so some thoughts may come from those areas as well. All in all, I welcome you to my world, and hope that some of the things that I will say will be of interest and help to whoever is out there reading.