Holiness & Modesty
1 Samuel 16:7
7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
This scripture has been used tens of thousands of times to excuse immodest dress and behavior. People have often said, based on this scripture, “It does not matter what I wear because God sees my heart.” And it is true! God does see our hearts, but make no mistake about it, it does matter what we wear. What God can do, man cannot do. Man cannot see our intentions, our motives, or our desires. Man can only see what is on the outside.
The sad truth about this scripture is that it should produce just the opposite effect in people. It should compel us to live modestly in this world rather than immodestly. Because man can only see the outward appearance we must make sure that the outward appearance is presentable to men.
Man can only see our outward appearance, he cannot look into our heart and see what is lurking inside, therefore he must make conclusions about people based on what he can see, and that is our outward appearance and actions.
The fact that man can only see our “outward appearance” should compel us to make sure that our outward appearance is the best that it can be. Who are we trying to be witnesses to anyway, God or man? The obvious answer is man. The Bible tells us to, “Let your light so shine before men”. What are men going to see? Our outward appearance and actions!
If men can only see our outward appearance, as the Bible clearly states, then we have an obligation to men to make sure that at all times our outward appearance reflects Christ-like dress and behavior. There is no excuse! We have a solemn duty to be witnesses to mankind that can only see the natural things that we do.
The last part of this scripture should also give us pause as well. “The Lord looketh on the heart”. What does God see? He sees our hearts. This means that nothing is hid from God. All of our thoughts, our motives, our desires, and our intentions are clearly seen by God. He sees it all. This should compel us to strive to be holy in our hearts and to allow that holiness to shine outward in all that we are and do.
Of course we understand that the heart is the most important thing. But what good is a holy heart if mankind cannot see the fruit of it in our outward appearance and actions? If a holy heart is hid inside a worldly vessel then its power to be a witness is completely lost. Man cannot see a holy heart because “man looketh on the outward appearance”.
Someone once said erroneously, “I don’t care what people think about me. I am only trying to please God.” Is this the correct attitude? Certainly we are trying to please God and that should be our first obligation, but we are also trying to win as many lost people as we can. Whether we like it or not, we must care what people think about us. Of Jesus it was said in Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Jesus thought that it was important to be in favor with both God and man and we should to. It does matter what people think about us.
Basically everyone falls into one of three different groups on this subject. The first group is what I call the Inside Yes – Outside No group. Their philosophy is the outside does not matter at all. They can wear whatever they like because only the heart matters.
The second group is the Outside Yes – Inside No group. They place great emphasis on the outside but neglect the inside. They look outwardly holy in dress and appearance but inside their hearts they are selfish, unkind, unforgiving, bitter, hateful, and a host of other things. They have spent so much time on the outward that they have forgotten to prepare their hearts. They would never admit to this philosophy but it is true nonetheless.
The third group is what we should all aspire to be a part of. This group is the Inside Yes – Outside Yes group. They know that the heart is the most important thing but they are also well aware that what is in their heart must be reflected in their outward appearance and actions. They take time to pray and search their hearts to root out any thought or attitude that is not pleasing to God. When they go out in public and among their brethren they also consider how they will be presented to them and take careful consideration that what men see of them will only speak of Christ. This is the proper attitude.
We need to look at another scripture on this subject. Jesus addressed one of the most religious groups of his day with these words:
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
This is another scripture that has often been cited as an excuse to dress immodestly. This group of religious people was a part of the “Outside Yes – Inside No” group. In no way was Jesus saying that the outside was unimportant. He was telling us that the outside was less important than the inside and if we would get the inside, which is our heart right then the outside would clean up as well.
The progression in the New Testament is from the inside to the outside. In the Old Testament men would try to apply rules to their lives in hopes that it would sink in to their hearts but in the New we start first on the inside and allow the changes that have taken place inside of our hearts to work their way outward to our appearance. Remember that it is heart first, followed by what is on the outside.
What God is looking for is a balanced Christian, one that has equally committed to the influence of Christ in all of their life. Remember that a “false balance is an abomination to God”. We need to remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
The Culture of Christ
We that are in the church have a unique culture. The culture of Christ transcends and supplants all other cultures. Once you become a Christian you become a part of a new culture.
Each of us has an ethnic culture that we were born into but when we were Born Again we took on a spiritual culture. Our ethnic culture may come in conflict with our spiritual culture from time to time but in all of these cases the spiritual culture is superior. Your ethnic culture may allow a certain level of immodesty and even immorality but your spiritual culture will never tolerate such behavior. This is what it means to be Born Again – the new birth takes precedence over the old – the new birth is now what defines our life.
Our spiritual culture has its own unique characteristics. It has its own way of dress, which is holiness, it has its own language, it has its own customs, and it has its own distinct way of life. This culture is not American, European, Asian, or any other ethnic variety – this culture is heavenly. I met a man once in a Pentecostal church that had very long hair and he said to me, “I wear this long hair because I am an American Indian and it is our culture to have long hair”. It is great to be an American Indian but it is even greater to be a Christian. Whatever our culture may have been at birth at the second birth it is now spiritual. Any other consideration of our prior birth is backsliding. This great culture that we are now a part of outshines all other cultures.
I was with a church member one day and we visited a flea market. There was a man there that this member introduced me to. I stuck my hand out to shake his but he did not stick his hand out to shake mine. He asked me, “Do you preach that holiness junk down at your church?” I replied, “If you mean us coming out of the world and being separate, and if you mean living like Jesus, then the answer is yes.” He never did shake my hand.
Why is it that people have such a resistance to living a holy life? There can be but one answer to this question: carnality. A man or woman that is in love with Jesus will have no difficulty whatsoever in living a holy life. There is nothing that Jesus would ask of them that they would ever refuse. Their love for Jesus will be greater than any requirement.
Holiness is not junk. God tells us, “Be ye holy for I am holy”. The word of God also tells us without holiness no man will see God. We know that holiness is derived from our connection to Christ but at no time does this diminish our responsibility in living above the world. When Christians live selfish lives and dress and act any way that they choose, they are certainly not walking in obedience to God. Christ’s righteousness demands our righteousness.
When Moses fled to the deserts of Midian he met a group of girls at a well attempting to water their herds. It seems that every day when they did so the other shepherds would run the girls off and they would have to wait until everyone was through before they could get their turn. On this day Moses was present and he defended the girls. When the girls returned home early their father asked them how they were able to get home so quickly. Do you know what they said? They said, “An Egyptian delivered us (Exodus 2:19)”. Moses was not an Egyptian. He was an Israelite of the Tribe of Levi. Why did they think he was an Egyptian? Because of the clothes he was wearing! His dress, manners, hairstyle, and such led them to make a wrong guess about who he was. If you are tired of people calling you and Egyptian then quit dressing like them! If you are tired of people saying you are worldly then quit dressing worldly! It took 40 years for all of Egypt to wear off of Moses and it was then that God sent him back to Egypt as a Hebrew to lead His people to the Promised Land.
Men & Women
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
None of us would argue that men and women are the same. The differences between the sexes are evident. The Bible recognizes and encourages that these differences be maintained. The Bible also says that it is an abomination if they are not. The Pentecostal churches are frowned on by others outside our ranks because the women in our churches wear dresses instead of pants.
It is not that we in the Pentecostal Church believe that a woman wearing pants is committing a mortal sin, but we believe that it is important for us to keep the distinction evident for the health of the Body of Christ. Look at the traditional bathroom symbols for “Men” & “Women”. What are they? They show a picture of a man in pants for “Men” and “Woman” in a dress for “Women”. At one time even our society recognized, and I dare say honored, the differences between men and women.
The differences between men and women do not make one sex greater or lesser than the other. The human race is totally dependant on both sexes. We cannot exist without both! The modern feminist of today mistakenly believes that if she is made to be a “Lady” that she will be inferior to men. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women are the mothers of the Human Race. Nothing could ever be greater! All successful men were taught by a mother!
One woman that I pastored years ago got angry with me about women needing to wear dresses. I rarely ever say anything about this. She came to me and asked about this subject and I told her what the Bible says. She refused and said the Church was not going to get her to give up her pants. I really did not care – it was her problem, not mine. A few weeks after our conversation she moved to Beaumont and she went to work for Beal’s Department Store in the Mall. Later I bumped into her and she said, “I have to buy a bunch of dresses for work”. I asked her “Why?” and she said that it was the policy of Beal’s Department Store and that all women that worked for them were required to wear dresses. It is a sad day when a department store has a higher standard than the Church.
Why should it even matter that men and women should dress and act differently? We are living in a time of gender confusion – homosexuality and lesbianism is on the rise. Young boys and girls are growing up in homes without clear male and female role models and this is causing confusion in their young minds. Years ago it was easy for a young boy to find clear masculine role models to pattern his life after. Girls could also easily find ladies in their family and community to look up to. Today this is just not so. Because of this lack of clear demarcation between what is male and female we have a society in confusion.
The goal of the liberal and the feminist is to eliminate all distinctions between the sexes. They are attempting to create a unisex society – a society that is completely genderless. The church rejects this ideology. One of the simple things that God has put in place to safeguard us from this attack is for men and women to maintain their distinction in dress and hairstyle.
Every Scripture in the Bible supports a separation of the male and female in dress and hair style. From the Old Testament prohibition of men and women dressing alike to the New Testament Scriptures that teach women to have long hair and men to have short hair, all of these Scriptures support the holiness view of the Pentecostal church.
1 Corinthians 11:14-15
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
The Line Must Be Drawn Somewhere
I have heard it said by some that we in the Pentecostal church are majoring on minors and minoring on majors. This is not true at all. The line between the church and the world must be drawn somewhere. If you choose not to draw a line of distinction between the two then the lines between what is holy and what is not become blurred. Someone must have the courage to draw the line and remember where you draw the line will determine how far people will go. I heard brother Clendennen say once that those of us in the ministry just about have to quit drinking coffee and tea to get some people to quit drinking wine. People will always push the limits of what is or is not allowable.
Years ago on a Sunday night I had a church member request prayer for their neighbor. She was very upset because her neighbor had pierced her tongue. She spoke for several minutes about how terrible it was for a person to stoop that low and to mutilate her body so. While she was speaking I could not help but notice that she had her ears pierced and an earring in each ear. And why is it any less wrong for a person to pierce their ears than their tongue? There is only three of four inches between the two. Years ago the Pentecostal church viewed ear piercing and with the same trepidation that they view tongue piercing today. What has changed? God has not changed but the view of the Pentecostal church in this present world has changed.
The Need for Standards
Is there a need for standards within the body of Christ? If there is a need for standards within the body then who sets that standard? The answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second question is the word of God. It is absolutely essential that we govern ourselves by the Bible. Our holiness preaching must be Bible-based. So much of what is preached on this subject is more personal opinion than the word of God.
A uniform standard of dress and behavior is a unifying principle that is recognized the world over. Take a look at our military for instance: each soldier is required to dress alike, to eat the same foods, to live in the same barracks, and to conduct themselves in a similar manner. This uniformity helps to forge these soldiers into a distinct unit that will work closely together to overcome any enemy. From this example, and there are many others as well (sociologist report that schools that require their students to wear uniforms have less discipline problems), we understand that a common standard is a powerful force that will unite any people.
The Danger of Standards
I do not want to contradict myself now but I do want to say that there is also a danger in standards. Standards are wonderful when they are Bible-based but they can be oppressive and sometimes even ridiculous when they are not governed by the word of God.
Also we must understand we are not living by the letter of the law but we are living by the direction of the Holy Ghost. The Bible tells us, “The letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life”. Under the Old Testament Law the worshipers of Jehovah were required to live by rules and laws. Now we are under the New Covenant and this covenant is greater than the first. God has written his laws within our hearts—these laws are not written in stone but on human flesh. The leading of the Holy Ghost is greater than the law.
Are we to go back to living exclusively by the letter of the law? Absolutely not! Our lives must be governed by the word of God and we must be led by the Spirit. This does not mean that we are Anti-Nomian, meaning we are against the law, but it does mean that the law of God will be directed by the power of the Holy Ghost. We are not governed by the law but we are governed by life.
I do not want anyone to take the words that I have just written and use that as an excuse for immodest behavior. There is no excuse for a Christian to parade themselves around immodestly. There is no excuse for a Holy Ghost filled believer to refuse to live a holy life. If someone claims to be filled with the Holy Ghost and refuses to live a holy life then they prove by their actions that they are not being led by the Spirit. To be led by the Spirit is to obey the word of God. Jesus said, “If ye love me keep my commandments”.
A Call to Holiness
There has never been a time in the history of the church where the need for holy believers is more needed than now. I submit to you that we must follow the teachings of the Word of God and we must be led by the Spirit. One of the hallmarks of the Spirit led life is holiness. So much emphasis today has been placed upon the evidence of speaking in tongues but another great evidence of the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost in a person’s life is holiness. The Holy Spirit lives within a holy man or woman.
My fellow believers I implore you to seek God with all your heart and ask Him what he would have you to do. Do not be afraid to live differently than the rest of the world. Seek to be full of the Holy Ghost - for in that fullness there will come holiness.