Christian modesty is a holistic, kingdom mindset and heart posture. It is not a look. It is not a capsule wardrobe full of turtlenecks and athletic maxi skirts. I have written about modesty before, and my friend captured my definition of Christian modestly beautifully. He said, “Modesty enables Christians to be the loudest about the things that have eternal value” (Birley, 2021). My heart behind this message is not to meet you with shame, judgement, or condemnation but to share how walking a life with Jesus is full of His abundance and His confidence. His way is better [Isaiah 55:8-9].
God heavily placed it on my heart around two years ago to talk about modesty. I was hearing about how dark the gym felt on my college campus, and the Lord prompted me to go to the gym and pray while I worked out, rather than listen to music. The darkness was tangible. It is vital to our generation to recognize that the world and our God do not share the same definition of authenticity, love, and empowerment. The world will tell you it’s empowering, authentic, and loving to yourself to flaunt yourself in inappropriate dress and to own your body. God literally says the opposite. Our body is not ours [Isaiah 64:8] and what is truly empowering, authentic, and loving to yourself is to remain in Jesus, because Jesus promises He will remain in us in return. The world is self focused. God has taught me self focus fertilizes fear. God is kingdom focused. God is God focused.
Christian modesty is a holistic, kingdom mindset and heart posture; so it’s an outward appearance that should reflect Christ. This won’t happen until there is an inward shift in our minds and hearts. So how will that inward shift occur because 1 Samuel 16:7 says the LORD looks at the heart. Romans 8:5-8 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
It is by the Spirit of God, not by will power, that your heart will change. You will not begin to care about the things of God [His delight is found in our obedience and an awe inspired worship – Psalm 147:10-11] until you’re in the Word of God.
I recently heard a quote by the man who is responsible for putting bibles in hotel rooms – how sick is that! He said, “The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter. Here too, Heaven is opened and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents” (The Gideons International, 2011).
Let’s define immodesty with an Elisabeth Elliot quote because who else would I quote: “Modesty means to be free from undue familiarity, from indecency, from lewdness, pure in thought and conduct. Speaking of modest apparel, it means decent, seemly. The opposite of modesty is conceit, boldness, immodesty, brazenness, lewdness” (Elliot, 1984). Okay now let’s define lewdness and brazenness because I sure didn’t know what those meant. Lewdness means involving sexual conduct that is considered indecent or offensive and brazenness is a behavior in which someone does something in an obvious way, without trying to hide it. Y’all, it takes humility to dress modestly!
I want to let you in on my journey with getting this idea of Christian modesty into my head and my heart. My freshman year of college I was coming in with the knowledge that my school had a dress code. My expectation was they would have some ridiculous modesty talk about why we have it and how I would not be able to personally ‘express myself.’ Well, it wasn’t my fault guys were weird! My RA surprised me with an explanation that changed everything for me.
She shared how our brothers in Christ would one day be married to one of our sisters in Christ. Why would we ever want to get in the way of their journey of purity? A life of purity is hard enough in it of itself; adding deliberate immodest dressing is unnecessary.
Immodest dressing is not honoring to them. & guess what? It’s not about us, it’s about building the kingdom and honoring our brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not belong to the world or to ourselves, but we belong to the most beautiful Father Who knows best.
We should not be known by worldly standards. To quote my friend, “When I see a girl who is not dressed appropriately, I believe that this shows that she may not know her value as it pertains to being a daughter of the most high King. I feel like it is their way of receiving attention and in turn affirmation for something other than their personality and who they are as a person” (Birley, 2021).
The comment I continue to get when people know I am passionate about modesty is, “it’s not just for girls, guys have to be modest too!” Nancy DeMoss puts it plainly: “This isn’t to suggest that men aren’t responsible for their thought life or their behavior. They are. And they have to learn how to walk with God and bring those thoughts under the control of Christ, even though they live in a culture where immodesty is rampant. However, as Christian women, our clothing choices can either help men succeed morally or can put temptation in their path that they may find difficult to overcome. That means both men and women are responsible for moral purity!” Then she shares this sick equation: “What we wear + How we look = A picture of what we believe” (DeMoss, 2003).
Our entire demeanor should reflect who He is, who we are in Him. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 in The Passion Translation says, “And that the women would also pray with clean hearts, dressed appropriately, and adorned modestly and sensibly, not flaunting their wealth. But they should be recognized instead by their beautiful deeds of kindness, suitable as one who worships God.” To quote my friend, “As Christians, if we declare that we’re living for Jesus, that declaration should impact the Christian’s life holistically” (Birley, 2021).
So how do we practically go about this? I think it’s stunning how many times the Word of God talks about how we are to clothe ourselves and how we are fashioned and formed by God. Colossians 3:12-14 says, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience … Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” I think a root that breathes life into someone wanting to dress immodestly is fear of man. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love cast out fear & Paul just told us to above all else clothe ourselves with love.
I think this is an awesome spot to address 1 Peter 3 where he talks about where our beauty should come from: “not come from outward adornment, such as … fine clothes.” Y’all, I love clothes. I love getting dressed for the day, and I love helping my friends do the same. The Word isn’t telling me I cannot care about getting dressed and investing in timeless, “fine” pieces. What it is telling me is that when I am going about my day am I looking for heads to turn to look at my outfit, or in this topic’s case, every outline of my body? Or am I looking to have my identity in Christ precede me in everything I do? I woke up with breath in my lungs today because God wants me to receive His love and then send it out to a dark world. I once heard immodesty defined as oversexualized persuasion … it sure made me dislike the word persuasion. I would rather “persuade” someone to choose Jesus, choose joy, choose freedom.
Seeing every outline of your body is not the ultimate “dang she looks good.” The ultimate “dang she looks good” should be being known by our fruit. My friend gave me a collage that had Romans 13:14 on it. She was telling me how she thought it was so fun how much I loved picking out my outfit everyday. She said put this up where you get dressed each day so that way you can literally pray, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” So as I get dressed in the morning I am not clothing myself in the mindset of vanity and look at me but in the mind of Jesus!
We are called to be set apart! 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” To quote my friend, “I think modesty shows thought and care for others. It’s not something to think I’m holier or better than somebody but rather I value others” (Birley, 2021). I love this quote so much. It is also loving to assume the best in your brothers and sisters in Christ. Their path of modesty may look different than yours. Sanctification doesn’t happen overnight. It is walking in step daily with the Spirit [Galatians 5:16].
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” We were a terrible and trash investment, but Jesus went all in. It’s not about you. It’s about the kingdom.
It is loving to your past, present, and future self to dress modestly. It is loving to your brothers and sisters too. At the end of the day the question to ask ourselves is, “God, what did you think about that [my outfit, that interaction, that thought, that speech, that comment]?” & girls let’s be honest here! You will attract a guy’s attention at the gym or on a hot girl walk or in class or running to Trader Joe’s in an outfit where you can see every outline of your body. But what kind of guy do you think you’re attracting here? Your body is so temporary! Wouldn’t you rather attract a guy who would be attracted to the Holy Spirit inside of you? Something that is oh so lasting, praise the LORD! What a pure and beautiful way to be pursued. I’ll end with a quote from the Jonas Brothers, “I can’t get your smile out of my mind. I think about your eyes all the time. You’re beautiful but you don’t even try. Modesty is just so hard to find.”
If this blog intrigued you and you want to dive in deeper, learn how to dress in any kind of style but do so modestly, or just love fashion in general please join the LO SISTER APP. Keep an eye out for content to come! I’m really excited about it – think style tips and recreating looks … eep!
Birley, A. G. C. (2021, May 27). Modesty. AG The Look. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.agthelook.com/blog/modesty
DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. The Look – Does God Really Care What I Wear? Buchanan: Revive Our Hearts, 2003.
Elliot, E. (1984) Elisabeth Elliot Quotes about modesty: A-Z quotes. A-Z Quotes. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.azquotes.com/author/17940-Elisabeth_Elliot/tag/modesty
The Gideons International. (2011, May 18). An inspiring introduction to the holy book. The Gideons International. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from http://blog.gideons.org/2010/12/the-bible-contains-the-mind-of-god/
Anna Grace is a member of Team LO & a recent graduate of Liberty University. She is a massive Atlanta Braves fan [her hometown, ayo!], uses the phrase ‘that’s punk rock’ frequently in the office, & is a stylist where she takes things you already own and creates new outfits.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)
Ever feel like relationships are hard to navigate sometimes? Maybe today you find yourself trying to figure out a situation that’s complicated, messy and unpredictable?
I want to find the right words to help get on the other side of the conflict but that isn’t always possible. While talking is good, sometimes the conversations start running in a circle, and there aren’t any productive words left to say. When this happens, it can make a girl feel like giving up. But before I give up, I’ve learned spending time getting quiet before the Lord can really be the best remedy for tangled situations.
Taking a step back from all the emotion, frustration and exhaustion to sit quietly with Jesus will do more to untangle a mess than anything else I’ve ever found.
If you find yourself in a tough relationship situation today, here are five beautiful things I’ve found when I pause trying to fix it all and instead get quiet:
1. We can feel safe enough to humble ourselves.
In the heat of a mess, the last thing I want to do is get humble. I want to overexplain and prove my point. But I’m learning I have to step out of the battle and humbly ask God to speak truth to my heart for things to start to make sense. Never have I had a relationship issue where I didn’t contribute at least something to the problem. Usually, I can only see this something in the quiet.
1 Peter 5:6a, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand …” (NIV).
2. God will lift us up to a more rational place.
When we are in the heat of a tangled relationship, crazy emotions can drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution.
1 Peter 5:6b, “… that he may lift you up in due time” (NIV).
3. Anxiety gives way to progress.
We can pour our anxious hearts out to Jesus who loves us right where we are, how we are. And because His love comes without judgment, we can feel safe enough to humbly admit we need Jesus to work on us. Trying to fix another person will only add to my anxiety. Letting Jesus work on me is where real progress can happen.
1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).
4. We see our real enemy isn’t the person with whom we’re in conflict.
The truth is, we have an enemy, and it’s not each other. Satan’s influence on me and the person offending me is the real culprit. I can’t realize this in the heat of the moment. But in the quiet, I become alert and can gain a strategy for acting and reacting in a more self-controlled manner.
1 Peter 5:8-9a, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (NIV).
5. I can rest assured God will use this conflict for good — no matter how it turns out.
If I make the effort to handle this conflict well, I can be freed from the pressure to make everything turn out rosy. Sometimes relationships grow stronger through conflict. But other times, relationships end because of conflict. Because I can’t control the other person, I must keep focusing on the good God is working out in me through this and leave the outcome with Him.
1 Peter 5:10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
In the end, this struggle can be used by God to make me stronger and more capable in my relationships. If I am humble enough to receive from Him in the quiet what He wants to teach me through this, I can rest assured with whatever the outcome is.
Dear Lord, help me stop trying to figure this situation out and just sit in the quiet with You for a while. God, humble me. Show me Your steps toward restoration. Or show me Your steps toward a healthy parting. Take my anxiety and replace it with Your peace, wisdom and security. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the author of more than twenty-five books, including It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way and the #1 New York Times bestsellers Forgiving What You Can’t Forget and Uninvited. As one of the leading female Christian voices today, Lysa is a trusted source of wisdom who empowers women to really change their lives. To date, her books have sold more than ten million copies.
When Uncle Steve was finished reading, it was my turn. I stood from my seat on the front pew and began to walk to the piano onstage. I took one slow step after another up the red-carpeted stairs, a shaky nervousness filling my body. It was the same sensation I’d felt for days, only magnified. I reached the piano and turned to look out across the sea of faces in the crowd. Friends and family members look back at me with tears in their eyes. Had I not been feeling such a dark sense of loss, I would have been thrilled to see so many loved ones gathered in such a majestic place. It was beautiful, but I couldn’t appreciate the beauty of it. I was overwhelmed by both the ache of goodbye and seeing hundreds of people staring at me. A few friends gave me encouraging nods as I took a seat. It was time to worship my Jesus.
I took a deep breath and smoothed my dress to calm my shaking hands. I was about to sing fir the first time in front of twelve hundred people. Would I even be able to make it through? Would my hands stop shaking enough to let me play?
As I gently placed my fingers on the keys, I looked up to God for a brief second, imploring Him for help. At that very moment, God removed every nervous feeling from my body. The fear and worry were gone. Thank You, God! With a heart suddenly at peace, I took in a deep breath and prepared to sing.
As Carson, Hayes and I began to play the intro to the song, I heard God’s voice again. His words, interjected at such a pivotal moment, would change my life completely: Anne. This is what I’m calling you to do. I’m calling you to praise and worship My name.
I had no doubt the voice was the Lord’s. I will never forget those words.
With a confidence that could only come from God’s spirit, I began to play and sing “What a Beautiful Name,” a song that magnifies the powerful, wonderful name of Jesus. The song speaks of His longing for us to join Him in heaven and tells of His victory over death and the grave. The song was a cool drink of water to my parched soul, and I prayed it was the same for everyone who heard it that day.
That day, I sang for Jacob, and I sang to worship my Jesus. Without tears, without stopping, and without breaking down, I offered my song for them both. The ability to sing such powerful words at such a sorrowful time without breaking down was only possible through God’s strength and His Spirit. Now, more than ever, my family and I wanted to praise the name of Jesus. We all realized in a terrible and wonderful way how short life really is and how it can change in an instant. We longed to to tell the world of the hope found in Jesus’ beautiful name. I knew that was what Jacob would want too.
I lifted my fingers from the keys as the final notes of my song rang through the sanctuary. I exhaled a deep sigh of relief. The faces I had just feared were smiling at me through tears. Many held tissues to their eyes.
As I returned to my seat, Good impressed another thing on my heart: I would never be an astronaut. I have called you to a life of worship through music, He said. I could never have imagined that God would speak to me about my future at such a moment, and even less that He would call me to a life of music. But somehow, I just believed Him. In that moment, I had no doubt the Lord would fulfill this calling on my life. I knew that meant I wasn’t going to be an astronaut, and I was okay with that knowledge. In the aftermath of losing Jacob, the dream of being an astronaut didn’t seem important anymore. With Jacob in heaven and a huge hole in my heart, I barely had a will to live, much less to pursue the dream of going to space. I did not feel an ounce of grief at the thought of leaving that childhood dream behind. I actually felt peace. The desire to go to space was simply gone.
Losing Jacob changed everything, including my dreams for my life. I now knew I would have a future in music, worshipping and praising the name of Jesus. God must have given me a gift of faith to accept such a sudden change in direction and believe that He would fulfill that calling. I had no idea how or when His new plan for me would happen or what that calling would entail. I just knew it would be. Someday. Because God said so, and I believed Him.
Anne Wilson grew up in Kentucky with her parents and two siblings, Elizabeth and Jacob. Her family’s Christian faith sustained them through the tragic loss of Jacob when he was only twenty-three years old. She is passionate about writing and singing songs that draw others to Jesus. Anne’s debut single, “My Jesus,” became the #1 Christian song of 2021 and won the Breakout Single of the Year at the 2022 K-LOVE Fan Awards, where Anne also won Female Artist of the Year.
There is more pressure than ever to have the “perfect resume” that we think we need. We take perfect instagram photos, we have aesthetic filters, we post highlights of our life, and we criticize ourselves over all the small details. While having an aesthetic instagram is not a bad thing, always having a filtered and perfect life on the outside can be. Do you have a place where you take that filter off and you are real, raw, and honest? Do you run to Jesus real, raw, and honest?
When I was in middle school I went with my church to evangelize on the streets in California. One of the first questions we asked the people we would meet was, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?” Some would say yes but most would say, “Well if Jesus knows what I have done he doesn’t love me like you think,” or “Not after what I have done.” This has stuck with me after all these years because I remember my middle school heart was broken knowing that people did not think that Jesus loved them. Sometimes we think we need to have that perfect resume, filters on, and the perfect aesthetic to be loved. We think “if only they knew what I have done they would not love me.” What if I told you that is the farthest thing from the truth? What if the very thing you are scared of uncovering is what is going to make others love you more deeply? The scar that you are trying to cover up could be the very thing someone needs to see in order for them to have hope and healing for their open wound.
I am sure you have heard to Sunday school song about Zacchaeus,
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree and he said,
Zacchaeus you come down,
For I’m going to your house today!
For I’m going to your house today!”
Zacchaeus was not only a “wee little man,” but he was seen as one of the most disliked people of this time. He was a tax collector and tax collectors were not liked. Not only did he collect everyone’s taxes but he became rich by collecting money unfairly and overtaxing the people. Why would Jesus want to go to his house of all the people in the crowd? A man who was unfair and selfish yet Jesus chose to go to his house? Jesus does not look for the perfect resume to show love. Jesus sits with everyone. Jesus knew if he could get Zacchaeus to drop his walls he could love Zacchaeus deeper. Jesus is waiting for you to drop your walls too. He loves you and wants to see the real you. He knows your sins, the wrongs, and still loves you. He wants to be let into your house too.
The same can be said with our relationship with others too. When I was growing up I was always desiring more from my friendships. I was never satisfied and I felt like I would never find “my people.” If you desire deeper relationships there has to be deeper conversations. I realized that the issue is not always the people I had in my life (which sometimes it is) but the depth of the conversations. If you have surface level conversations you will have surface level friendships. It is hard to drop your walls but it is so worth it when you drop them to the right people. If you drop your walls it gives others the opportunity to drop their walls too. The more transparency you can be in relationships, the more you will connect with others. When there is realness and honesty with people in your life everyone can learn how to serve each other better. We should look at relationships with the attitude of “how can I serve and help you right now?” This is something that the couple months of marriage I have learned is so important. Being real and honest with each other and being able to serve the people in our lives is such a gift.
It is awesome to see people be real and raw on social media now too. The unfiltered photos, the vulnerability, I think it provides us all with a sense of relief and hope. I think it is also something to be careful about though. I remember when I was first vulnerable on instagram I had made this long post about having an eating disorder in hope to encourage someone else. I posted it and immediately had friends texting me. I had not even told some of my closest friends what I was struggling with but I posted it for thousands of strangers to read? It is so important, especially in a place of hard times and hurt, that we run to Jesus first. Next we run to our friends and family for prayers and guidance. Then when the wound has healed and you have a testimony of God’s hope and healing that is when we share on social media if you feel called to.
We were called to have deep connections. In Proverbs 27 verse 17 it talks about how iron sharpens iron and as friends we are to also sharpen each other. A friend speaks truth to you in order to help you live out who God called you to be. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with a friend. A true God loving friend will strive to do anything they can to help you overcome and reach your full potential.
If you are thinking I do not even have people to be honest with, seek them. Seeking friendships through church, your community, social media, and even work can be intimidating but it is worth it. Sometimes you may have to be the one that starts the conversation or asks to hangout and that is okay. Ask first. Seek intentionally. Be real. Serve eachother. Be the friend that Jesus calls us to be.
Taking off the filter can be hard but our beauty and worth come from Jesus not some perfect resume we try to portray.
Kassidy cheered in college at Navarro College and is now a personal trainer while using fitness to lead others to Christ. She strives to encourage women to be confident in who God created them to be. She lives in Texas currently and loves cooking, working out, flowers, and boba!
Follow Kassidy on Instagram @kassidy.brougham
I absolutely love one of the stories found in Matthew 25. It’s about the ten virgins and it’s always captivated me because when I was younger and read “the ten virgins” in this story, I was always a bit confused. But I began to replace “virgins” with “bridesmaids” to make it a bit easier to understand. And if you study the culture of Jewish weddings, it’s really interesting that the way they did weddings is so different than how we do them. And I honestly thank God because their way of doing things would be stressful. Weddings are already stressful enough. But let me explain how they did them. There were three different stages of a wedding process. So, you get engaged, then there was a commitment process, and I’m not too sure of all its details. Then, before you actually get married, the bridegroom (AKA the future husband) would go away to get the home and basically their whole life together ready for them. Well, in the meantime, the bride didn’t know when the bridegroom would return, meaning she didn’t know when the wedding day was going to be. So, every day she would have to prepare as if that were the day she’d be getting married. That is some major stress, am I right? Not only would the bride have to be prepared, but also her bridesmaids. We all know being in a wedding takes a lot of work, right? Which makes this even crazier! The bridesmaids would have to light their lamps because oftentimes the bridegroom would come at night and needed the way lit for himself. So, the bridesmaids’ job was very important.
I love how Jesus relates this story to what it’s going to look like when He returns.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take along any extra oil. But the wise ones took oil in flasks along with their lamps. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
‘No,’ said the wise ones, ‘or there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.
Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’
But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:1
That’s a pretty intense scripture. It’s basically just reminding us to be prepared for the returning of Christ. For we don’t know the day or the hour.
Well, recently we were kind of talking about this in our office because I needed to delete social media for a couple weeks in order to step away for a second. And I was feeling a bit convicted by stepping away because I always tell people not to hide their light. I encourage them to use social media to shine their light, actually. So, I was a bit hesitant to delete it, even though my soul was desperate for a break and to just be with the Lord. Then I was talking to my team about it and realized that you need oil to light the lamp. And if I don’t have oil, my lamp is not going to be very bright. It was in that moment that I decided to make the decision to take a break. So, I wanted to use this space to talk about what it looks like to get your oil and have a light that sustains. In verse 2 of the passage above, it says that 5 of them were foolish and 5 were wise. My guess is that for most of us, when we think about foolish people, we think about people who are living their lives recklessly and foolishly. We don’t necessarily think about ourselves. But for these women, it wasn’t as obvious that some were foolish. They’re all friends with the bride and they obviously have somewhat of a respectable reputation that they would be asked to be a part of the bride’s day. So, what made them foolish?
Here are a few things they were:
- They weren’t prepared.
- They were lazy.
- They weren’t involved.
- They were complacent.
When you think of foolishness like this, it’s honestly pretty relatable. Sometimes I’m all of these things. Well, then there were 5 wise people.
Here’s a few things they were:
- They were wise.
- They were prepared.
- They were thoughtful.
All of these things are truly a requirement in order to have light. Recently, I was in my jeep and my low oil signal was on. Well, I ignored it and after a few days it changed to “oil required.” Something had shifted. The reason I hadn’t gone to get oil was because it would have required me to go and sit for a minute, and I just didn’t have time for that. It’s little things like that that don’t really seem like a requirement that actually end up being really detrimental later. A lot of times we can put them off, and all of a sudden, you really see how crucial it was to sit and receive what you needed. Wow, that’s such a word for just sitting with the Lord. It’s easy to get so busy and neglect time with Him until all of a sudden we have nothing left to give. If you’re seeing the low oil sign, go ahead and address the problem.
When the foolish people took their lamps, they didn’t have any oil, so it actually meant nothing. I think a lot of times you can bring your lamp places and think you can get by just because it looks like you have a lamp with you. But in all reality, your lamp alone won’t do anything for anybody. It’s your oil that’s going to change people’s lives. We have to make sure we have what makes our lamps have meaning and purpose. And that is the Spirit of God. The religion side of it may be the lamp, but the relationship side of it is definitely the oil.
On the other hand, the wise didn’t just have enough. They had extra oil in their flask. At first, my mind thought, “Well then give them the extra oil!” But it’s really important to realize that somebody else’s oil cannot light your lamp. Their light can lead you, but it can’t light your lamp. Only the light of Jesus can. So, yes. Surround yourself with great people who are preaching Truth. But remember that getting oil for yourself isn’t something anyone else can do for you. So, even though they had extra oil, it couldn’t help any of the others out because the oil was an individual decision.
When my oil light came on in my car, it was a true reflection of my spiritual life at the time. When I saw that light I could feel my spirit saying “low oil, need maintenance.” So, for two weeks I just paused for a second and sat with the Lord. And even though my life was still really busy for those two weeks, it just rejuvenated me in a new way because I knew the maintenance was needed. Most of the time, you’re the only one who can truly see the signals in your life and know the shift you need to make. It’s your decision to get the oil you need.
When I returned to social media, it was cool to see the words the Lord had given me during that break that I was able to share with other people. My oil refill meant giving up social media, but it can be any area of your life. You know where the maintenance is required. And it’s always worth it. You know what’s awesome? I got the oil changed in my car, and I felt peace again. I took my social media break to spend time with the Lord, and when I came back to social media I felt peace. The minute that you actually respond to the problem, you begin to feel peace. God can fix those things. The problems don’t always go away. Sometimes it can take months, years, or however long. But you’ve got to respond for it to ever be fixed.
My husband, RJ, and I were deeply motivated to care for the ethnic minority students in our ministry and to make our ministry feel more welcoming for everyone. We love these students deeply, and we were grieved to hear how they were hurting. Of course we’d want to make changes to serve them!
But when we began to do so, I was surprised by some internal resistance that rose up within me.
It would be easier to just keep things the same.
What will the majority of those in our ministry think about these changes?
Do I have the time to learn new songs and styles of playing the guitar?
What if my guitar skills aren’t good enough?
Though we may recognize that disciplemaking is a calling from God, that it’s a good thing, and that we should be doing it—and though we may be highly motivated to do so—we may encounter some internal opposition that keeps us from making the changes we want to make.
A recent discipleship study by the Barna Group provides some insight into the most common challenges and barriers to overcome in disciplemaking. According to their research, some themes emerge from these challenges and barriers to disciplemaking. We can break them down into four categories:
- A lack of resourcing (i.e., wanting to learn from someone how to do it well and not having the right materials)
- Prioritizing disciplemaking among other responsibilities
- Not wanting to “make it weird” (i.e., finding ways to keep it engaging over time and feeling like your beliefs would be imposed on someone else)
- Lack of confidence in disciplemaking
Can you relate to any of these challenges? The good news is that you’re not alone—and you have what it takes to conquer every one of these challenges. Challenges can feel daunting in the abstract, but when we take a closer look at them, more often than not we can find a way through.
LACK OF RESOURCING
Do you want someone to teach you how to disciple well? Don’t just find someone to teach you, find someone to disciple you. Learn from experiencing it firsthand. Don’t get me wrong. Resources on disciplemaking can be incredibly helpful, and they’re an excellent starting point for gaining knowledge, learning techniques, and finding inspiration. (Please keep reading this book!) But you’ll learn what disciplemaking actually looks like if you’re being discipled.
Ask your pastor, your discipler or mentor, or someone whose walk with Jesus you admire for resources that have been helpful to them in their disciplemaking.
PRIORITIZING DISCIPLEMAKING AMONG OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES
If we’re to restore disciplemaking as a priority in the Christian life, we must start with the conviction that it is a calling not just for pastors and those in full-time ministry but for all disciples of Jesus. We must talk about disciplemaking from the pulpit, within our church communities, in our friendships, and in our discipling relationships. Disciplemaking must be a regular part of our conversations about what it means to live the Christian life with others.
And then we must make an honest assessment of our lives: Is what I am giving my time to reflective of what is most important in the kingdom of God? Are my life and priorities truly aligned with God’s? And if God led someone who wanted to be discipled into my life, does my pace of life provide enough space to do so? What would it cost me to obey Jesus’ calling in this way?
NOT WANTING TO “MAKE IT WEIRD”
Being in authentic, life-giving relationships means being vulnerable with others. It means allowing all of yourself to be seen for who you are—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and experiencing the deep connection that comes from being accepted just as you are. Transformative relationships happen when we allow another person close enough for us to risk being hurt or rejected, and to risk making things weird.
But our instinct is to hold back from being truly vulnerable in relationships. We have been in hiding ever since Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden. We have hidden our sin, our longings, our truest identities for fear of being rejected. We have become fearful of being truly known.
Jesus changed all of that, allowing himself to experience the vulnerability of being human—and not just the physical conditions of birth, hunger, thirst, and pain, but the vulnerability of relationship. He gave all of himself only to be rejected, entrusted himself to dear companions only to be betrayed, spoke the reality of the kingdom of God only to be misunderstood.
Jesus risked vulnerability because of the joy set before him—that some might come to know him, follow him, and love him back.
When Jesus died on the cross, our sin, shame, and powerlessness were nailed there as well. In him, we can be free from the fear of rejection or condemnation. We can present ourselves freely before others and even do some pretty awkward (at least to us) things in Jesus’ name, knowing that our confidence, identity, and worth are securely held in God’s good hands.
Part of what keeps us from disciplemaking is the fear of imposing our beliefs on others—and if we’re honest, we may even be afraid that talking about Jesus is going to make things weird.
To be in a relationship with anyone is to accept the reality that things may feel weird and vulnerable at times—and this reality only intensifies as we risk putting ourselves and our beliefs out there. But we have to remember: there are people around us who want to learn about Jesus and Christianity. Who will tell them? Who will help them grow? If anything is worth putting yourself out there for, it’s that some may come to know and love Jesus and be transformed by his amazing grace.
LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN DISCIPLEMAKING
Of the reasons American Christians aren’t interested in disciplemaking, most are a result of a lack of confidence: What makes you so sure I can do this?
I often feel this way. What can I possibly offer to someone else? I’m just a mom who throws sticks and rocks in the pond with my son. There has to be someone more qualified and equipped than I am!
Some giants of faith in the Bible struggled with confidence as well. But in the Scriptures, we get to see the amazing things that can happen when someone overcomes their lack of confidence to partner with God in his bigger story—like in the story of Moses.
Moses was born a Hebrew slave in Egypt but became royalty when Pharoah’s daughter took him in as her own son, and Moses lived separated from the people of Israel.
Later in his life, Moses made a fateful choice: taking justice into his own hands, he killed an Egyptian who was harming one of his fellow Hebrews. When word reached Pharaoh, Moses fled for his life and spent the next forty years as a shepherd in the desert.
That brings us to the incredible words in Exodus 2:23-25 (NLT):
Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.
So now what?
God called Moses to lead his people out of captivity. All two-plus million of them.
That’s no small task!
When Moses encountered God in the desert, he asked some questions familiar to any of us who have struggled with confidence.
First, he asked God, “Who am I to do this?” God assured Moses that he would be with him the whole way (Exodus 3:11-12).
Then Moses asked, “What do I say? What do I do?” and God told him to gather the elders of Israel and lay out an entire plan that God would give him to share with the people of Israel, including what would happen when Pharaoh refused to let the people of Israel go (verses 13-18).
When Moses responded, “What if they don’t believe me?” God gave him a few miraculous signs to perform for the people of Israel to establish his credibility as the deliverer God had sent (4:1-9).
Moses responded, “I’m not eloquent! I don’t speak well!” and God assured Moses that he would give him the words to speak (verses 10-12).
Finally, in Exodus 4:13 (NLT), Moses said, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.”
Whew. How many times have I asked God a billion questions before finally getting to the heart of the issue: I can’t do it. Please don’t make me do it! Please send someone else!
What I love—and what makes me squirm—is that God didn’t give Moses an out. He said, “You’re doing it!” But he also met Moses where he was, graciously allowing Aaron to come alongside and bolster Moses’ shaky confidence. And then God assured Moses of his continued presence.
As Moses trusted God and stepped forward into his calling, he began to move from a lack of confidence in himself to an unwavering confidence in God. Moses started out his ministry by speaking to the people through Aaron, but by the end, he spoke to the people of Israel directly. And as Moses lived in obedience to God, he cultivated a deep friendship and intimate companionship with God (Exodus 33:11) that he would not have experienced otherwise.
As you think about God’s calling to make disciples who make disciples, can you relate to Moses? Lord, who am I to do this? What can I offer? I know I do. When I find myself lacking in confidence, what helps me is the assurance of God’s presence, his Holy Spirit within me, helping me do something I can’t even imagine as I step forward in obedience. Even when I lack confidence, I experience his companionship and friendship along the way, with more than enough of his grace to cover every success and every stumble.
Adapted from How to Save the World: Disciplemaking Made Simple by Alice Matagora. Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Alice Matagora is the Leader Development Initiatives Program Coordinator for The Navigators and serves with The Navigators Collegiate ministry at the University of California at Irvine. She lives in California with her husband and children.