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Gamaliel's Desk
Sunday, July 31, 2005
 
Outward Adornement
Today’s column is an adaptation of an article by Ron Williams of Hephzibah House in Winona Lake, Indiana. I received it through David Cloud’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service. The article began with the following opening:

  • An earnest Christian man parks his car in the church parking lot, and silently prays for God to bless the upcoming Lord’s Day services. He has been acutely aware of his fleshly lapses and spiritual failings during the past few days, and he is earnestly looking forward to fellowship with the consecrated believers of his flock, worshiping his Saviour and having his soul refreshed with godly music and the faithful preaching of the Word of God . . . he wants to enter into the upcoming services, not as a spectator, but to worship in spirit and in truth.

  • Within moments of entering the auditorium, he happens to see a young woman of the church of beautiful form and fair features who has chosen to dress in such a way that the design of her clothing and type of material reveal the contours of her body only her husband should see. The extremely close fit of her clothing serves to accentuate the movements of her body. Because she chose to wear a low neckline and short hem, her appearance becomes alluring and provocative to the vision of every man in the auditorium. The slit in her skirt reveals momentary sensual glimpses of her thigh with every step.

  • Now the Brother who sincerely came to seek the face of God, refresh his soul and worship his Saviour, finds himself in an unexpected battle with his flesh. His spirit seeks to avoid gazing at the Christian woman, whereas his lower nature wants to gaze upon her. He becomes so distracted in this conflict between his flesh and spirit that at the conclusion of the service, he feels soiled and defeated that he allowed his eyes to feed his lustful imaginations, and that he displeased his Saviour in so doing. His yearning anticipation of spiritual blessing in the worship service has unexpectedly ended in distraction and spiritual struggle.

    I was wondering what would happen if we took the remainder of his article and changed the context from a woman’s apparel to the outward adorning of men’s vehicles. The following is the result although it has been much reduced from the original.

  • A SCRIPTURAL SOLUTION

    Just as a man who follows his flesh will seek to usurp leadership of the church, he will also adorn his car in the ways of this world. Natural and supernatural behavior are sharply contrasted in scripture. A man utilizing the grace of God will be submissive and will drive in God-pleasing ways, whereas a man failing of the grace of God will resist, supplant or ignore his pastor’s authority, and will drive in ways conforming to the values, fads and fashions of this present world.

  • CONTRASTING ADORNMENT

    In 1 Peter 3:3-4, there is a contrast between an automobile’s fleshly, worldly adorning and the adorning which pleases God. In other words, a man failing of the grace of God (either a lost man or a carnal man), will primarily focus on externals (verse 3) like chrome, dual overhead cams, fuel injection and (worst of all) turbocharging, whereas a godly man, who utilizes the grace of God, will primarily focus on internals (verse 4) like seatbelts, airbags, and other safety features.

    A lost or carnal masculine heart finds pathetic and degrading emotional value in being the object of masculine attention and sensual gazing. Ostentatious, gaudy, immodest and brassy drivers are universally condemned in Scripture. In other words, a masculine heart bereft of the grace of God will naturally focus on externals to some degree; some scandalously so, others to the norms of popular culture at the time. Peter is saying, “Do not do what is a natural inclination for your fallen nature as a man.” And this speaks to the kind of vehicle you drive.

  • UNIVERSAL TEMPTATION OF MEN

    Every man has “eye” problems because he has “heart problems.” Just as hell and destruction are voracious and insatiable, so are a man’s eyes. They are the primary gateway of exciting his libido, and that is why Job said, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” in Job 31:1.

    That a man is tempted by sight is no excuse for him to think or act in a wrong way. By the grace of God and through self-control, he can and must resist this temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). How sad and incongruous that men coming to church services must resist looking at the cars of many Christian men who, either ignorantly or knowingly, by what they drive have become a sensual object of temptation for the eyes of every other man in the auditorium.

    At what do most men of this world look when given the opportunity? Simply observe the eyes of men in public places where many people are coming and going. In such a public thoroughfare, notice the objects of their lustful and salacious gazing: cars and drivers that are acting boldly and immodestly. Notice also that men who drive cars that are dull, boring and unattractive (so as to conceal any potentially racy contours and minimize horsepower) receive little or no attention from those same lecherous men.

    Any godly man must candidly ask this personal question: "Why would I want other men looking at me and my car with lust in their hearts?" Unless you, for some perverted and pathetic reason, deliberately desire to be the object of other men’s lustful gazing, you must purpose to “adorn yourself in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Timothy 2:9). And you can count your car as part of your apparel. "Shamefacedness" is a sense of shame and modesty that would prevent a good man from ever defrauding another man and raising his carnal desires through his wrong choice of vehicle and/or actions behind the wheel, squealing out or revving the engine. "Sobriety" is that self-control of passions and desires that would prevent him from desiring to drive so as to attract the lustful eyes of other men.

  • THE OUTWARD REVEALS THE INWARD

    One cannot take the prohibitions of 1 Peter 3:3 absolutely; i.e., we can never drive a nice car, never get custom detailing, etc., because this would also mean we can never drive cars! Again, the contrast of verses three and four explain the principle for us: emphasize internal godly character as opposed to shallow, corruptible and worldly outward features, like hood ornaments, mag wheels or custom wheel covers. Consequently, an insecure, worldly and carnal masculine heart concentrates on his externals, (horsepower, speed, deep throaty roar, etc.), whereas a godly man attempts to focus primarily on the development of inner character qualities while driving something as humble as a minivan. To put it another way, the externals of a man’s life, whether godly or ungodly, reflect the state of his internal, or heart condition. When one sees a gaudy, provocative and immodest car, the man behind the wheel is revealing a shallow or non-existent spirituality within. When one sees a hard working, submissive and quiet-spirited man who is driving a modestly constructed sedan or minivan, he is demonstrating or reflecting an inner godliness (1 Timothy 2:10).

    How a man acts and drives reveals whether he is pleasing self or whether he is attempting to please God. Driving and acting as a man of this world will most assuredly rivet the persistent interest of lustful men, whereas adorning your car, heart and life with Christian graces and virtues merits the approving attention of a Holy God! Cars which men view as an object of lust will corrupt and decay. That which God counts as valuable will live on through the ages. How foolish to spend concentrated, laborious hours washing and waxing a car to gain a certain “look,” to spend vast sums of money on customizing packages and stylish special options, to assiduously solicit the salacious gaze and desire of other men, when it lasts for such a short time before it is corrupted?

    Outward behavior reflects inner character of soul just as an external pulse represents an internal heartbeat. Dear Brother, when you adopt the automobile fashions and fads of this world, you are demonstrating by your outward behavior, a leanness and anemia of soul. Moreover, if you possess a hot car and a host of extra features, you are also responsible for placing a stumbling block in front of every other man who views your exposed and provocative automobile. Is the degraded gratification you receive from the lustful stares of other men worth being responsible for defrauding them, tempting them to lust, and debasing your own soul? This would be forsaking Divine approval and Heavenly reward for a mess of pottage.

    A true Son of Abraham would be horrified with shame to be the object of another man’s lust. Rather, he is seeking to please his Heavenly Father with his modest automobile, quiet temperament and servant spirit.
  • Comments:
    OK, so what's your point? It's not PC to give correction and reproof to Christian women who dress like harlots? Or are you merely pointing out the fact that all of us, men and women alike, are subject to human pride, and must guard our hearts and our outward appearance, as ambassadors for Christ?
     
    Becky,

    I'm sorry I wasn't clearer in the opening comments on the intent. I had drafted a lenghty rationale earlier but decided that it was too pedantic to attach.

    The main point is that we fall into habits of lazy thinking because we have heard a line of reasoning so many times and for so long that we just nod our heads and accept it because that's what we've always heard. We don't evaluate arguments on the merits of the case. The women's dress issue is one of the classics.

    My goal was to recontextualize the arguments and show that some of these things really deserve examination. While I would never approve of salacious or lewd dress in any context (I am the father of four daughters after all) I think the emphasis is misplaced. It is not that which goes into a man that defiles him but that which comes out of him, Jesus tells us.

    If the premise were accurate, that lust is a result of a woman's dress, then it would logically follow that covetousness is a result of what we drive, wear, eat, inhabit, etc. Nowhere else in scripture do I find the blame for covetous resting on the possessor of things. Rather it is on the heart of the acquisitive person.

    The original article is a standard case of blaming the woman for the sins of the man, a stragegy with a long and colorful history going all the way back to Genesis 3:12. Hopefully, we can see the foolishness of some of the reasoning and proceed with more wisdom in defining the relationship between temptation and sin in a general sense and not just blaming women for men's proclivities.
     
    Hi Rick - you wrote: "The original article is a standard case of blaming the woman for the sins of the man, a stragegy with a long and colorful history going all the way back to Genesis 3:12."

    Actually as I recall, didn't Adam really blame God?

    Woman was taken from out of man so a woman is a man, inside out. Remember your Health-Ed drawings? Think about that.

    So when someone tells you they are look for your inner beauty - you can just point to your lovely wife and say, there it is.
     
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