WHAT I WANT MY KIDS TO KNOW ABOUT STANDARDS
by Pastor Mike Fortune
April 16, 2011
- Choose moderation. Moderation means abstaining from bad and choosing the good [Leviticus 11:44; 3 John 2]
- Choose modesty. Modesty pleases God and prevents wardrobe malfunctions [1 Timothy 2:8-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4]
- Choose morality. Moral choices are legal and Christlike [1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Matthew 5:14-16]
Good morning and welcome! My name is Pastor Mike in case some of you don’t recognize me. We’ve been on the road the last few weeks and absent from Toledo First. I really appreciate Dave, Allan, and Pastor Anna preaching while we were at my grandmother’s memorial service in TN, spring break in FL, and in Mount Vernon last weekend watching TJA grades 5-8 sing their hearts out last week at the Worship Fest. If you’d liked to see some pics from our travels, I’ve got them posted on my blog Fortune Cookies. See the back of the bulletin for more info.
Isn’t it good to see Pastor Rachel back today? Daniel Graves is also in the house with his mom Sharon. So happy they could join us. He is here checking us out to see if he’d like to replace Pastor Anna at the end of May when she leaves. If you’re watching live online or listening later to the podcast on iTunes, we’re glad you’re tuning in too. Big thanks and WTG to our tech team for making all that happen week after week.
Today we’re continuing a series of sermons I’ve entitled What I Want My Kids to Know and this morning we’re focusing on standards. Maybe you already figured that out from that funny video the zany folks at the Florida Hospital Church created. I think it helps to laugh at life sometimes—including your own. And judging by the number of hits on YouTube that video has received and the number of times I’ve received that video link via email from Adventist friends around the country, I already know many of you agree. And that’s a good thing. Because what we eat and wear and how we make decisions can sometimes cause confusion and hurt. Church is not a safe place. It’s not meant to be. Because it’s a place full of sinners saved by grace becoming like Jesus. We’re works in progress. But we’re still under construction. So in my attempt to speak truth in love this morning, I hope none of you or your children or grandchildren get confused or hurt. It’s not my intent. But we are gonna talk about standards because Hollywood and Madison Avenue will if we won’t. Standards are important to God or they wouldn’t be in the Bible. And since they’re in the Bible and important to God, they should be important to us—His professed followers am I right? I hope so!
The first standard I want my kids to know about is moderation. Can we say that together? Some people think moderation means eating and drinking moderate amounts of everything. But rightly understood, moderation means abstaining from bad and choosing the good. But not just the good. Really, moderation means choosing the highest and the best. Psalm 81:16 says God wants to feed us, “16With the finest wheat.” Psalm 84:11 adds, “The LORD will withhold no good thing.” Still sometimes we wonder like the writer of Psalm 8:4 asking, “4What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”
But the bottom line is He does care! Zechariah 2:8 says we are the apple of His eye! That’s the old school way of saying God loves us like crazy! And rightly understood, I believe that is the context of one of the most universally ignored chapters in the Bible. Turn with me to Leviticus 11 to see what I mean. Verses 3-4 says, “You may eat any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud. 4You may not, however, eat the following animals that have split hooves or that chew the cud, but not both.” What are those animals? Here’s a partial list of the land animals to skip on the breakfast buffet: Camels. Badgers. Rabbits. Pigs.
Of the marine animals, Leviticus 11 continues saying these are the ones you may use for food. You may eat anything from the waters of the sea or streams shallow and deep if it has both fins and scales. So cod and halibut, for example, are good but shrimp, swordfish, and much of what Red Lobster serves is not. Why? Leviticus 11 doesn’t go into a lot of why detail. Today we know that many of the land animals and marine creatures God tells us not to eat are among the most unhealthy and disease riddled things on earth primarily because they eat the excrement all the other creatures leave behind.
But even if that wasn’t the case, don’t you think God would have some other good reason to say what He says? Or does God just makes junk up for no reason? Undoubtedly, it takes faith to believe in God and as James 1:22 says actually do what He says. But in my opinion, it takes even more faith not to believe in God and to ignore his advice concluding instead that you know better whether we’re talking about standards of diet and foods or anything else.
Bear Grylls is the British TV personality from the Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild. Have you guys seen that? I DVR that show and watch it with the kids. The places he goes and things he eats to survive are disgusting but riveting! The last episode I saw was about how to catch bats flying out of a cave so he could eat them after cooking them over the open flame! But bats in addition to vultures, owls, falcons, ravens, stork, and heron are all flying creatures God says we should avoid eating. In the insect world, full of protein, Leviticus 11 says we may fill our plates full of all kinds of locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers. Anybody want some fried crickets for potluck today? Not sure Donna has any of those back there! Rats, lizards, and snakes and things that scurry or slither on the ground are also unclean and not good to eat according to God in Leviticus 11.
It’s after this lengthy description of what animals to eat and what animals to avoid eating that God finally gets around to giving the first clue about why He has a standard for diet and food. It’s found in verse 44. Leviticus 11:44 says, "44For I am the LORD your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy." Why should we abstain from that which is unclean or bad for us according to our Creator and instead choose to eat that which is good? Because He is holy. And these other animals, while apparently serving a divine purpose in the ecosystem and food chain, are not. But this holy God is also described as “the LORD your God.” That phrase implies a personal relationship does it not? And relationships are things based on mutual love and understanding and willingness not coercion.
So point number one I want my kids to know about standards is that they should voluntarily choose moderation in what they eat. Because rightly understood, moderation means abstaining from the bad and choosing appropriate amounts from the good. Really the best. Why? Because God is good. And holy. And because we profess to be in a relationship with the LORD our God who loves us enough to tell us what is best to eat and what is best to avoid. One benefit of voluntarily choosing the good in what we eat is that we’ll enjoy a happy healthy life. 3 John 2, "2Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit." And if we live longer, we can tell more people more about Jesus! Which is always a good thing right?
But what about what we drink? Regardless if the Bible doesn’t have a Hebrew or Greek word for fermented grape juice. Which it doesn’t. Regardless of that, what it does say in Proverbs 23:31 is that we’re not even supposed to look at obviously alcoholic wine in the glass. Proverbs 23:31 says this about social drinking, “31Don't gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down.” So if we’re not supposed to even look at alcoholic wine in a glass, what makes Christians think we should drink it socially much less routinely? What if God wants the same thing that applies to what we eat to also apply to what we drink? Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now people, let us reason together says the Lord.” Point number one: Choose moderation. But make sure you define moderation Biblically. It means abstaining from the obviously bad and instead choosing appropriate amounts from the good. Really choosing the best. I’ve got a handout on some of this after church for you. Be sure you pick it up.
Moving on, point number two: What I want my kids to know about standards is that they should also choose modesty. Because modesty pleases God and prevents wardrobe malfunctions. Remember Super Bowl 38 halftime show? Have mercy! But similar wardrobe malfunctions still happen today. Even in church. Let’s read 1 Timothy 2:8-10. God’s word says, “8In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” Listen, God isn’t singling women out and picking on them. He begins by chastising the men. Why? For not raising their hands in prayer! Commentators are divided by what that means. Some say it means we should pray and worship more enthusiastically. Others say it’s not about how we pray or worship but why because hands symbolized deeds in their way of thinking because it’s with your hands that you do stuff. Psalm 24:3-4 says, “3Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.” James 4:8 adds, “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” In this case, Paul is telling Timothy to tell these dirty old men to repent and pray with “holy hands lifted up” because you’re not qualified to lead worship if you’re full of anger and bitterness and controversy.
But what’s most shocking about what he says next is not that the specific counsel regarding how women should be modest, it’s that he’s addressing women in worship at all! Because back then, that wasn’t allowed! No self-respecting rabbi would dare be seen conversing with a woman much less worshipping with one. According to Charles Bradford in his commentary on Timothy, Jewish men prayed daily, “I thank Thee, O Lord, that I am not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman” [The Abundant Bible Amplifier, p.50]. The gospel writers, when reporting the number of people present at an event in Christ’s ministry, followed the age-old practice of excluding women and children from the head count. Thus ladies, you’ve got to understand, it is a revolutionary sign of utmost love and respect that Paul would in the same breath that he chastises men also give you some good advice. And what’s the advice? Look at verses 9-10. “9I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. 10For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do."
Why should we voluntarily choose modesty? 1 Timothy 2:9 says it’s so we don’t draw attention to ourselves! 1 Timothy 2:4 adds that it’s so everyone will be saved. Let’s look at that so we see the heart motivation behind Paul’s advice to both men and women. Pray for all people. Ask God to help them. Then look at verse 3 and 4. “This is good and pleases God our Savior who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” Who knew how we lead worship and what we wear could negatively impact someone’s salvation? But it can. If you don’t believe me, listen to some of these stats.
Americans spend more than $10 billion annually on pornography. This exceeds the combined gross profit of ABC, CBS, and NBC which is $6.2 billion. This is also more than what the NFL, NBA, and MLB makes combined. There are over two million known porn sites online with more than 2,500 new sites coming online every week. But this sexually saturated world is also effecting men in the church. Sixty-three percent of men attending Christian “Men, Romance, &Integrity Seminars” admit to struggling with porn in the past year. Two-thirds are in church leadership and 10% are pastors according to Focus on the Family bulletin I read [see handout for more info].
We live in a sexually saturated world that Hollywood and Madison Avenue will continue to feed. But they don’t need our help! They’re doing fine all by themselves! That’s why the church should be an oasis of modesty and virtue. It’s why Christians should be walking and talking counter cultural examples of possibility. Not weird. But definitely different. And women, you can help us men big time in this by what you wear. Or cheerfully choose not to wear. Because men are visually distracted. It’s true! Ladies, if you wear a loose fitting blouse or a scooped neck shirt and happen to bend over, we may look away but we still notice! If you wear a shirt with buttons that flap open when you turn, we may be baptized, but we're not blind! If you’re wearing short shorts or a see through dress, we notice. And it sends our minds racing to all the other images we can’t avoid elsewhere. That’s not your fault. But it is what happens. And sadly, it happens to us even if we’re sitting beside you in church.
And in one sense, I’m okay with that. Because church is not a safe place. It is a hospital for sinners. It should be a place where unconverted and growing believers still under construction can come and be warmly welcomed whatever they’re wearing. But at the same time, it should also be a place where we speak truth in love. Confidentially. Quietly. Humbly. Lovingly. So our children and grandchildren learn to look for and wear clothes that help people focus on worshiping God not distracting them from doing so. So ask yourself: In choosing the clothes I wear today, am I seeking to please God or impress others? Will any of my brothers in Christ be tempted to pursue pornographic content or thoughts because of what I’m wearing? if you don’t know, ask a Father or grandfather and they’ll tell you right guys? We may not have a clue about fashion or art, but we know what pornography is when we see it. And we can tell you if what you’re wearing distracts us to think about sexually saturated images. So with Paul, I plead with you ladies. Help a brother out! Check your heart. Help everyone be saved. Be modest with what you wear. At the risk of sounding like a Puritan prude, I have included a specific handout on modesty that is available after church. It is as specific as I think it needs to be. Thank you ladies, for loving us enough to think about applying and sharing the info in it.
Acts 10:34 reveals that Peter eventually figured out there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female after the Gospel comes crashing into your heart. And once he did, this had an effect not only on what he thought about clothes but also on adornment. Which we are wildly inconsistent about. Basically, you’re a Badventist if you wear jewelry. We may not say it, but that’s what many of us have been taught growing up. “On the skin it’s a sin. On the lapel, wear it well.” Primarily because at one time removing jewelry was part of the baptismal instructions for people entering the church. The 1932 Church Manual listed 21 questions for individuals and #17 asked: “In matters of dress will you follow the Bible rule of plainness and simplicity, abstaining from the wearing of gold as ornaments and costly array, observing the principles of modesty and Christian dignity?”
This caused much division in marriages and hurt in husbands who couldn’t understand why their wives were in many cases even asked to remove their wedding bands before baptism! Thank God this requirement was dropped in the 1942 Church Manual and it has never been reinstated. Why? Because we finally figured out the Bible doesn’t say all jewelry is bad. Now if we could all agree cloth jewelry like ties aren’t necessary either men in church everywhere could breathe easier! Listen to Peter’s similar conclusion 1 Peter 3:3-5. “3Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful.”
Peter is talking about the same thing Paul was, namely, the distracting use of jewelry that draws attention to your body instead of God and the good works He’s doing through you. But Peter adds one more thing to think about: the cost. The unnecessary purchase of expensive jewelry that could be used to save lives. Remember that scene from Schindler’s List? The war is over. The factory workers are free and it is time for Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) to leave but the thought of what he has achieved fills him with guilt when he realizes that he maybe could have done even more. Schindler emerges from his quarters carrying a small suitcase. In the dark, some distance away from his Mercedes, stand all twelve hundred workers. As Schindler and his wife cross the courtyard to the car, the rabbi hands him some papers and tells him, “We've written a letter trying to explain things. In case you're captured. Every worker has signed it.” The rabbi steps forward and places a ring in Schindler's hand. It's a gold band, like a wedding ring. Schindler notices an inscription inside it written in Hebrew. It says, “Whoever saves one life saves the world.” Schindler slips the ring onto a finger, admires it a moment, nods his thanks, but looking at the ring says to himself, “I could've got more out...I could've got more...This car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people, right there, ten more I could've got. This pin? Two people. This is gold. Two more people. At least one. I could've gotten one more person out. I threw away so much money, you have no idea. If I'd just...”
Who needs rings and things when children are being trafficked and sexually exploited in our backyard? Who cares about cars and clothes when children are dying from malnutrition or lack of clean drinking water? What breaks the heart of God should break our hearts. And our banks. And if necessary, dramatically change our wardrobes. We can all do so much more. Not just Oskar Schindler. There’s a bunch more info on adornment in the document on our website called The Toledo First Assimilation Manual. If you’ve never read those 42 pages, I encourage you to do so. If you don’t have internet access, you may request one from the church office on TUE or THUR when Dee is there and one will be provided.
But now, we must close. I want my kids to voluntarily and cheerfully choose moderation, modesty, and finally morality. These days, people don’t believe in absolute truth. Which I find sad but funny because the statement that there is no absolute truth is itself an absolute truth right? But Christians still believe in absolute truth. Because God is our absolute truth. And we believe He has revealed timeless principles in Scriptures based on the person of Jesus that can absolutely help us make moral choices. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is an example. Let’s look at that briefly. God’s word says, "18Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body."
I’ve always heard the last part of that verse applied to moderation about what we eat. That our bodies are God’s temples. But significantly, the context is actually about modesty and the distracting things in a sexually saturated world that still affects even devout followers of Jesus! As Christians, we believe Jesus purchased us on the cross by His blood. That’s why we’re willing to change our wardrobes and honor God with our bodies. Whether that means dressing modestly, fleeing pornography, or waiting to have sex until we’re married. We still believe the absolute truth of Hebrews 13:4 which says, “4Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.”
So just to be clear: God’s word is saying sex with yourself or someone else before you’re married is called fornication. Sex with yourself or someone else after you’re married is called adultery. And neither is what God wants for us. Because both acts rob us of the intimacy sexuality is meant to provide between two people who love each other like Christ loves the church. I told the 5-8th graders this in chapel a couple weeks ago and I think they understood me clearly so I hope you do too.
But how do we make moral choices? These are my filters for making moral choices. One, is it legal? Will I be breaking any of man’s laws? Two, is it immoral? Will be breaking any of God’s laws? And three, is it unChristlike? Will others who see me wonder why a professed Christian would make that choice? The first is a man made legal filter. The second is a God made faith filter. The third is a common sense pragmatic filter. Because we really are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14-16, "14You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."
So let’s live our lives cheerfully and voluntarily and sacrificially for Jesus sake. And teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. Thanks for thinking about God’s standards. And be sure to pick up the handouts after church if you want one.