Monday, September 15, 2008

Are You a Utensil?

Today's Topic: "Purity - Being Set Apart from the World"

Today's Host: Tracy @ Thirsty for Him

For more thoughts on purity, head over to Tracy's blog. She had some great things for us to think about.

"These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. "
Titus 2:4-5

Titus 2 calls us "to be self-controlled and pure." Tracy poses some practical questions about our call to teach younger women about purity.

How do we teach the next generation (both our daughters and other young Christian women) how to live a life of purity without falling into legalistic rules, or slipping into a worldly mindset that teeters on impurity?

How do we live as Jesus said: "in the world without being of the world?"

How is the word of God "shamed" when we aren't living in purity?

When I moved to California I was single and pre-kids. I observed a marked difference in the values exhibited by the kids here from those back in the midwest. (In all fairness, I did come from a fairly sheltered environment -- the Bible Belt, so to speak. ) The children around me here were more savvy- they talked differently, dressed differently, and those were just my Kindergarten students! Things that were often done in secrecy in the midwest, were common, everyday behaviors here. I knew that someday when I was blessed with kids of my own, it was going to be a challenge raising them with godly standards so different from those around them.

Tracy's question to us about the responsibility of teaching a life of purity without relying on legalistic rules and without giving in to a wordly posture, plagued me from the day my daughters were born. Simply teaching them the right ways to behave, by following the "rules," didn't seem like it would be incentive enough. There is so much negative pressure in our culture, how were we going to successfully impart the values needed to have the strength to go against the flow and live a life pure in heart?

I was unsure, so I began a true quest for wisdom. If I saw a family with teenage girls who were confident in their walk with the Lord and didn't care about what others' thought (I'm thinking of our sitters), I would ask their parents what they did to instill those valuable life lessons. I sought out godly counsel and learned priceless lessons from the mistakes of those who had gone before me. I also devoured books on godly parenting. Now, I don't believe any one book has all the answers, or has it all figured out, but I've been able to find treasures of truth that we can implement in our parenting.

One of these books was suggested to me by a dear friend who has the same young mother's heart as my own, Colleen. "Parenting is Heart Work" by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. The premise was that as parents we are sometimes too quick to correct or discipline and we miss the chance to connect with the our kids hearts.

My husband and I identified with this idea. We knew legalistic rules were not enough. We didn't want to just teach the girls information, we wanted to mold their hearts. We wanted to integrate facts into their life through their hearts. Matthew 5:8 says "Blessed are the pure in heart." This is much more profound than simply watching my girls for the appropriate outward behaviors. It needed to come from within!

The book put it this way, "It's one thing to teach children's minds and a completely different thing to teach their hearts. We all know having information in our heads doesn't automatically enable us to apply it. Facts appear in our heads; beliefs appear in our hearts. Beliefs then feed commitments and result in behavior."

We want our girls to have an inner motivation to do what is right....not just try to do the "right" things to please their parents. After this realization, came the next big question. "How in the world do we inspire inner motivation?" Timothy 3:16 tells us that Scripture is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." We don't just want to use Scripture to point out when our children are doing something wrong, we want to use it to reach deep within their hearts and enable them to do what is right.

This is how we will teach our girls about purity. The word pure in this context means free from defilement and not contaminated (by the world), modest and pure from carnality. Interestingly, the definition of carnality is "preoccupation with the body and satisfaction of its desires." What teenage girl today doesn't go through the struggle of being preoccupied with her body and the world's image of a woman? But purity even encompasses so much more than just what we do with the's the inside that concerns me!

The same word for pure in Titus 2 is the same word that is used in Phillipians 4:8. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

This "training the younger women to live wisely and be pure" was shaping up to be a big responsibility! That's why it was such a relief when I realized it was not my job to instill those values in my girls lives. It is God's job and I am to simply point them to Him. Through Scripture, through teachable moments, through my example. It's GOD in them that will enable them to live in purity. How much better to have the truth of Phillipians 4:8 growing deep in their spirits, than me telling them all the things they can and can't do. What freedom from the self-condemnation that comes from trying to live a life that follows all the rules perfectly. How much better to be motivated by our love for God and a desire to be close to Him.

This doesn't mean we won't be specific in our instruction. We will discuss the kind of friends our girls choose, by focusing on verses that talk about the benefits of keeping godly company and how that is encouraging to us in pursuing purity. When it's age appropriate we will have discussions about Scriptures that specifically talk about a woman's responsiblity to be modest. We've already had discussions with Olivia (she's 4) about what makes God happy and how certain entertainment should not have a place in our house because it will make His heart sad. The difference in our specifics, is that we will appeal to their heart.

The Word of God is shamed when we choose not to live a life of purity because it loses it's power in us. Tracy shared this verse and I just love it! 2 Tim 2:21 ~ If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. If we choose not to keep ourselves pure, we give up that opportunity for God to use us for His good works.

This was a stimulating thought for me today, not just in the context of teaching my girls, but in my own life. I am often tempted make choices with the motivation of obligation, "because that is what the Bible says is the right thing to do." It is much more inspirational to remember if I make a choice that is God-honoring, I instantly become available for Him to use.

Lord, make me a special utensil available for Your use. Guide me and teach me how to keep myself pure, so that You can use me to teach my children to live a life that honors You. It is a huge responsibility, and I don't take it lightly. I look forward to the challenge You have set before me. Give me a teachable spirit so that I can grow even closer to You.


Chelsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chelsey said...

Wonderful words of wisdom today. How RIGHT ON that it is a HEART change that must be made. For if the heart motive is not correct, the behavior will truly never change. Great words!!! Thank you SO much for joining us At the Well today!!!

LAURIE said...

Thank you for sharing AT THE WELL today. Great post and thoughts on purity. I agree with Chelsey and what you were saying about it being a heart change. I mentioned this sort of thing in my post today and that is that the generation of girls growing up now need to understand why they can or cannot do certain things. The attitude "because I said so" just doesn't cut it anymore. We have to know not only WHAT we believe but WHY we believe it. This is what makes it a heart change. Thanks for sharing today!

JesusRulzMe said...

Hey sister Rebecca,

I love what you said:

"When it's age appropriate we will have discussions about Scriptures that specifically talk about a woman's responsiblity to be modest."

We do that too. We not only share from Scripture, but share "age appropriate" life stories of our mistakes and triumphs in Christ. It really helped our kids be real with us! They're 13 1/2 and almost 16 years old now and they STILL tell us everything and prefer to be at home than anywhere else. This is a pure blessing from the Lord!

Press on sister, you're doing well!

Bless you,

Scott Turansky said...

This is a very touching reflection of yours. I'm continually grateful to God for the blessings that have come from the book Parenting is Heart Work. We knew we had discovered some key elements of God's view of parenting but the way that he has used these ideas in the lives of others like yourself just reminds us of God's grace. It was encouraging tonight to read your blog. I wish the best for you and your family. Blessings - Scott Turansky

LauraLee Shaw said...

We want our girls to have an inner motivation to do what is right....not just try to do the "right" things to please their parents.

I love this!!!! You hit the nail on the head! SUCH great insights, and your testimony at the beginning took me to a place where I was ready to apply your insights.

Tracy Berta-daughter to the King, wife, mother, speaker, writer said...

Oh, Rebecca! This is awesome!

I so agree with purity being a matter of the HEART.

Thanks for your sharing wisdom. I love the prayer at the end...AMEN!


Daniel's Mom said...

:) Amen! You're so right! My son is only 7 1/2 months right now,but I him to be molded into the boy God wants him to be. I don't want him to have a set of rules,but rather see what makes God pleased with us.