Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Migration alert!

Greetings, everyone! 

To all of you who subscribe to stevepixler.com, just a quick word to let you know that I am attempting to migrate everything over into a new blog at WordPress. If you want to remain subscribed to my blog, please check out http://stevepixler.wordpress.com for the new blog, and you can subscribe again there. For now, the new blog is called "Pixelated" just for the fun of it. Join the Pixelation Nation! :-)

Anyway, there you go. New things happening. With any luck--or, should I say "grace"?--the new blog should be much easier to update and integrate with Facebook and Twitter, etc. Hope to work harder at keeping new content posted. I welcome your feedback! God bless.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Evangelism Jesus-style: Introduction

Recently, I preached a message in our church on "Evangelism Jesus-style." It was a quick study of seven different stories in the Gospel of John that highlight the wide variety of methods that Jesus used for evangelism. I later included an eighth example, which satisfactorily rounded out the message, I think.

Anyway, the message struck a chord with a lot of people, and I have now used it elsewhere to teach on the broader spectrum of Christian evangelism. Over the next few weeks, God willing, and as my crazy schedule allows, I shall blog a bit on this subject. Hopefully, it will be helpful! Blessings.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Millennial Reign of Christ

Steve Pixler speaks about how the coming Millennial kingdom has come, is coming and will come in the world.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kingdom Assignments: Blooming Where You Are Planted

Steve Pixler speaks about learning how to focus on our specific assignments in the kingdom of God and about blooming where we are planted.

Seeing the King

Steve Pixler speaks about how we must see the King in order to see the kingdom.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Strategies For Conquest

Steve Pixler speaks from Joshua 5 about spiritual strategies for kingdom conquest.

Kingdom Know-How

Steve Pixler speaks from Mark 4 about developing a deeper level of understanding about the kingdom of God.

The Kingdom's Greatest Challenge

Steve Pixler speaks about "the kingdom's greatest challenge": two misunderstandings about the kingdom of God that flourish among its members.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Modesty and New Creation

In this final post on modesty, I think we should begin by hearkening back to two things that we have brushed by several times as we hurried along. First, man was not created to be naked. He was created to be clothed in glory and beauty. Nakedness was a sign of man's innocence and immaturity, and moreover, the indications of heavenly haute couture glimpsed throughout history and in prophetic previews of the resurrection show that man's ultimate destiny is to be properly clothed. God is "robed in righteousness," and man is created to bear His image.

Second, the word rendered "modest" comes from the word "cosmeo," from which we derive our English word "cosmetics." The word cosmeo is a form of the word "cosmos," which means "order." Thus, to dress modestly is to dress appropriately, or in proper order. Both the created world and proper dress styles are described as cosmos, as orderly. Thus, scripture draws a straight line between the creation order and modesty. Modesty is endemic to the creation order.

Man was created as the universe in miniature. Or, to put it more exactly, the universe was created to expand and magnify the glory of God revealed in man. Both the body of man and the universe were created to be the temple of God, and as such, both were created to reveal divine order centered in true worship. Man was created according to the three-fold structure of the temple, outer court (body), inner court (soul) and Holy of Holies (spirit). The universe reflects the same pattern: outer court (earth), inner court (the visible heavens) and the Holy of Holies (the heavens beyond the veil where God dwells, the "third heavens). Thus, the way we dress must display the same sort of order that God etched into the night sky. The heavens declare the glory of God, and so must our clothing.

Now, I am leaning hard on this connection between modesty and creation order to make the point that modesty is more than cultural accommodation. Modesty is an embodiment of the divine order woven into the warp and woof of the universe. To parade through the streets in nakedness, which seems to me to be best defined by what God covered in Eden, is to strip the temple of it's glory. To be modest is to manifest God's creation order.

And, speaking of creation, getting dressed in appropriate attire is reminiscent of the opening days of creation. The Spirit of God brooded over the waters of unformed creation and began by His Word to make cosmos out of chaos. God clothed all creation in glory and beauty and decorated it with magnificent adornment. God dressed the heavens and earth in the garments of priestly worship. This is why the writer can speak of the heavens as garments (Hebrews 1:10-12) that shall be changed in the new creation, which is a point that we shall consider in a moment.

In a way, we could say that the clothing of Adam in Eden was a reenactment of creation in miniature, a microcosm of creation. God covered the chaos of nakedness with the order of modest clothing, of well-arranged garments. To return to public nakedness is to revert to the chaos that characterized the barrenness of pre-creation. Indeed, it is no coincidence that godly nakedness, the nakedness of the marriage bed, is a moment of creation when new life is brought out of the womb of water and spirit. Never is man closer to bearing the image and sharing the glory of God than when he performs his imitative role of creating new life. This is why fornication and adultery is such an affront to God. Creation must occur within the boundaries of divine order, within the secret place of a loving covenant. Otherwise, the world spins out of control.

So, modesty is cosmos. Creation was formed to reflect order. However, creation has become disordered through sin and death. In a way, we could say that the garments of creation have become tattered and torn. It is significant that nakedness in scripture is symbolic of man's fall into sin and shame. Just like a woman that has been brutally assaulted and left dying with her garments ripped away, so God's good creation has been violated by Satan and his hordes of demon powers.

Yet, we have a wonderful promise. God will make all things new, which He has already begun in the resurrection of Christ. When new creation comes, the heavens shall be changed like a garment. The nakedness of creation shall be covered in the resurrection glory of new creation. The universe shall put on new clothes.

Therefore, immodesty is an embodiment of chaos and decreation. Modesty is an embodiment of new creation, a foreshadowing of the day when all things shall be made new. When we dress in modest apparel we are modeling the world to come when the nakedness of sin and death will be "clothed upon" with the garments of resurrection glory.

We should never be intimidated to dress modestly. By doing so, we become living placards, walking billboards, as it were, announcing the coming new creation. When we reject the nakedness of pagan culture, we are proclaiming the descent of heaven to earth, as the heavenly city comes down from God out of heaven "adorned as bride for her husband." She "has her wedding garments on." To dress modestly is to preach the transcendence of Christian culture and that the church will not be forced into adapting cultural expressions of chaos and decreation. To dress modestly is to declare that we have left the hog pen of prodigal wanderings and have returned to the Father's house to be clothed with the best robes and to wear the kingly ornaments of glory and beauty.

One final point, and this may be one of the most urgent things we have considered. Modesty is an expression of holiness unto the Lord. To dress immodestly is unholy. Yet, we must be careful right here. Modesty is an expression of holiness, but it is not holiness per se. Just because we dress modestly does not mean that we are holy. This point must be carefully considered and soaked into the pores of our mind. This distinction must be understood to keep us from becoming like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. They walked quickly by on the far side of the road because they thought that helping the stranger might defile their purity and contaminate their holiness.

Christians that emphasize modesty often tend to do the same thing. We often wear modesty like an armor to protect us from being contaminated by the world, and the arrogance of this attitude is keenly felt by the world around us. The man at Starbucks wearing the wife-beater shirt and the montage of tattoos knows very well when he is being looked at down the nose. But modesty is not intended to set us apart in a superior way. Rather, modesty is intended to model new creation. Modesty should inspire interest in beauty and glory. As noted early on in this series, holiness is not homeliness. Modesty should be attractive.

Holiness flows out like a river. Holiness is not intended to stay bottled up like an aquarium where enthralled spectators view another world through glass. No, holiness flows out into the world to heal the world. The resurrection of Jesus in the middle of history means that the coming new creation when all things shall be made new in the resurrection has already broken into the world now. Holiness must be a foretaste of the world to come. Thus, modesty must inspire modesty. We must model holiness in such a way that the world longs for new creation like a thirsty man longs for a cool drink of water. We must gladly share.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Modesty and Worship

There is a direct connection in scripture between modesty and worship. Or, to put it negatively, there is a direct connection between immodesty and idolatry. In the Bible, the worship of the one true God was necessarily done while clothed in garments for "glory and beauty" (Exodus 28:2) while the worship of idols was often performed in nakedness.

God not only commanded His priests to wear garments for "beauty and glory," but He also commanded them to wear linen undergarments that would "reach from the hip to the thigh" and hide their nakedness when they ministered before Him at the altar (Exodus 28:42). Even when David danced before the Lord and removed His royal robes, which his wife, Michal, sarcastically calls "making yourself naked like a fool," he was covered with the linen ephod that the priests were required to wear in worship. The Law of God is explicit that true worship is expressed in modest clothing.

Pagans, on the other hand, were infamous throughout various cultures for worshipping their gods while stripped naked. In fact, many forms of idol worship throughout the ancient world specifically included sexual deviancy as an expression of perverted worship. The temple of Aphrodite in ancient Corinth had a thousand temple prostitutes to serve the worshippers. Pagan worship included all forms of sexual sins such as homosexuality, pedophilia and bestiality. As far back as the Golden Calf, Israel ended up naked when she imitated the practices of the heathen. (I Corinthians 10:6-11) There is always a direct correlation in scripture and history between idolatry and fornication. Of course, getting naked is the first step toward fornication. Immodesty and idolatry always go together.

In Romans 1, Paul shows us an explicit connection between idolatry and fornication. "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Romans 1:24, 25) Improper worship causes man to lose his creational bearings, his natural orientation, and he begins to embody the collapse of his existential identity through sexual perversion. Idolatry leads inexorably to fornication.

When man loses sight of God as His Creator, he loses sight of himself as God's creation, for he is created to be a reflection of God, and humanity becomes inhuman. And inhumane, for that matter. Idolatry leads to a crisis in sexual identity because sexual identity comes from God and can only be properly preserved through right worship. Worship reveals who God is, which reveals who man is. Think about Isaiah beholding the glory of God and responding in terror, "Woe is me! I am lost!" Man sees himself in light of his revelation of God. Idolatry blinds man to himself and leads to the distortion of self that is expressed in sexual sin. Fornication is always a result of idolatry.

The loss of God-centered sexual identity leads to the loss of covenantal sexuality, which is sex in the sanctity of marriage, and the loss of covenantal sexuality leads to public nakedness. Private intimacy becomes public display. When men and women lose sight of God and His holiness--in other words, when they fail to worship--they fixate their gaze on one another. And when they start staring at one another rather than beholding the glory of God, they begin to lust after one another. As Paul says in Colossians, covetousness is idolatry. Lust is worship failure.

When God as the Creator is no longer the center of creation, then the covenantal expression of the one-flesh relationship that God ordained--sex in the sanctity of marriage--becomes a frustrating barrier to self-gratification. The love of God is replaced by the lust of man, and fornication becomes the only way that lustful man can express his pathetically impotent sexual identity. How are the mighty fallen!

Let me say it again. There is a direct connection between modesty and worship. Immodesty is an indication of self-worship, which is the root of all idolatry. Immodesty is an inglorious display of the body in a way that pleads to be worshipped. "Please," Immodesty begs, "look at me! Behold me! Worship me!" When lustful men demand that their women run naked in the streets, they too are promoting self-worship, for they are worshipping the female body in order to gratify their own desires. In fact, they are not really worshipping the woman at all; they are worshipping their own desires. Men look to lust; women lust to be looked at. Idolatry is always a selfish projection of human desires. Idolatry is always rooted in self-worship, the veneration of the body and its passions to the detriment of the soul and its visions. Immodesty is idolatry.

As noted above, God commanded that His priests be dressed modestly when they ministered before Him. This theme is carried out in the New Testament as well. In both places in the New Testament where Paul and Peter talk about modest dress, their teaching is set in the context of priestly worship. Paul writes about the public worship service and commands the men and women to dress modestly as a matter of decorum before God while "lifting up holy hands." (I Timothy 2) Peter addresses the idea of modesty in the larger context of worship in the world as Christians live out their priestly calling in all nations. (I Peter 2, 3) In both instances modesty is taught as a matter of priestly ministry. Modesty is an expression of worship.

In I Corinthians 11 Paul takes the idea of proper attire even further when he teaches the women of Corinth to be covered in worship "because of the angels" (I Corinthians 11:10). There is a wide spectrum of thought on what this means exactly, but whatever all it means it at least means that the way we dress in worship is observed by angels and affects their response to us. My point here is simply that decorum in dress is a worship issue. The angels of God take note of how we are dressed and regard it as a matter of preparation for priestly service. As Paul asks, "Is it comely for a woman to pray uncovered?" The way we dress expresses submission to God. Modesty and worship go together.

One final point. If modesty and worship go together, then we must consider where worship occurs so we can know where modesty should occur. Think about it for a moment. Worship happens in the temple of God, and the temple of God exists on three levels: the temple of our bodies, the temple of the church and the temple of the universe. This means that we must dress modestly in private worship, though we exercise the liberty of covenantal nakedness in the marriage bed; we must dress modestly in congregational worship, for we are gathered with the holy saints and angels; and we must dress modestly while ministering in the world wherever we anywhere in the universe, for our priestly ministry in the world mediates holiness to all creation.

This point of private, congregational and universal priesthood is very important to our discussion. It refutes the idea that modesty should happen only when we go to church. We minister as priests upon the altar wherever we are at all times. We are priests in our homes with our families. We are priests in the church when we gather to worship. And we are priests at the mall and at the beach. Therefore, because we are priests at all times and everywhere we go, we are called to be clothed in righteousness and covered in holiness. Modesty and worship go together.