True beauty comes from the inside [Genesis 2:15-23; 1 Peter 3:3-4]
Nobody is perfect [Genesis 3:6-7; Romans 5:14]
Keep looking for Jesus [Genesis 4:1; Genesis 3:15; Genesis 4:25-26]
Wonder Woman was an American television series based on the comic book character by the same name that lasted 60 episodes over three years. It starred Lynda Carter as Diana Prince or Wonder Woman. She was a beautiful super heroine like none other who as a civilian was known as Diana Prince but when necessary, could turn on her heels and quickly spin her torso like a figure skater on ice miraculously becoming Wonder Woman. Anybody willing to admit they actually watched this show besides me? If you did, you know she didn’t carry a gun because she didn’t believe in killing—even her enemies—and she wore a belt of truth and bullet deflecting bracelets. But when necessary, she could use her indestructible golden lasso to force bad guys bound by it to tell the truth before flying away in her invisible plane.
Looking back it, it was a pretty cheesy show. But in some ways, it was ahead of its time. For it elevated the worth and dignity of women as role models in popular culture in the same way that the Bible actually elevated the worth and dignity of women as well. For the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was also the God of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. But not just them. God was also the God of Rahab, Ruth, and Lydia. And in Joel 2:28-29, the Bible says that in the end of time, God will pour out his Holy Spirit on all people. Specifically, on our sons and daughters. So in our new summer series, Wonder Women, hopefully you’ll see how from the very first chapter of the Bible [Genesis 1:27] to the time of Jesus [1 Peter 3:7] to the time before Jesus returns, that God has always planned for and proven his willingness to call, empower, and especially honor men and women who are faithful to His gifting and call.
Maybe you remember that the last couple summers we’ve studied the lives of 12 men—specifically the 12 apostles Jesus prayerfully and specifically selected to follow Him through His earthly ministry. So the next couple summers starting today we’re going to be studying the lives of 12 women whose weakness was also made perfect, as 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, through God’s power and grace. It’s my hope and prayer that our daughters and grand daughters will be raised in a church where they know beyond a shadow of a doubt how unique and dearly loved they are—flaws and all. And that if they too trust in the Lord with all their hearts [Proverbs 3:5-6], God will lead them in their lives as well and use them to lead others to God too. Today, we begin with the first wonder woman Scripture identifies. She is also known as the mother of all living according to Genesis 3:20. But let’s begin in Genesis 2:15 and following as we study the life of Eve.
“15The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ 18The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ 19Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 2So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man.”
These verses are full of information. We could talk all day about vocation, free will, stewardship, care for the environment, the sovereignty of God, the Great Controversy between good and evil, issues in origins, creation, marriage, or simply how on earth Adam came up with names for all the living creatures in one day. But on our way to point number one about Eve, that true beauty comes from the inside, can we also say something about grace? It is always freely received. Notice there is nothing in these verses saying Adam asked for a wife. There were no conditions to fulfill as prerequisite. Sure, he contributed a rib so God could make Eve, but even that was done after Adam was under the anesthetic of asleep. Adam does nothing. God does everything. In the beginning, this is the story of how God creates and redeems all people. In the end, this is how God saves and sanctifies. By doing it all.
Stuart Tyner in his book Searching for the God of Grace is great on this. Chapter 4 in his book is about the introduction of grace in the Old Testament. He points out that Genesis says God “Waits to create Adam and Eve until the entire physical world is ready to be given as a thoughtful, bountiful, sustaining gift” [Tyner, p.63]. He does all the work first. Then gives it as a gift. The recipients of the gift disobey and then run away and try to hide from God. But God pursues the ones who are running away and promises to take care of the problem caused by separation. We’ll come back to that in a minute. But for now let’s not miss point number one: True beauty comes from the inside.
This isn’t as obvious as I’d like, but I believe it’s there in verse 23. “23The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man.” It may not sound like it, but that’s poetry people! As soon as Adam wakes up and takes a look at Eve, he bursts into poetry. And while nobody doubts that Eve had to have been flawless in every physical way and beautiful beyond imagination, have you ever noticed that Scripture gives us no physical description of her?
Undoubtedly, men of all time would have loved one. It’s not like there aren’t some pretty graphic descriptions of beautiful women in the Bible already. Like in Song of Songs. Eve has so captured the imaginations of men gone wild that Shawn had great difficulty finding an appropriate power point template that our church filtering software would allow us to preview! So please understand, I’m not saying beauty is bad. And that God never intended us to recognize his handiwork. What I am saying, as the makers of Dove soap have realized much to their credit, as our video clip revealed, is that Hollywood and Madison Avene have so distorted the definition of true beauty that too many of us forget that true beauty comes from the inside.
There’s no such thing as a super model. What we see on billboards and the pages of magazines are primarily figments of men’s imaginations gone wild. We know this is true because when God who is good and made everything good or very good gets around to making Eve, who had to be stunning, the Bible doesn’t describe her at all! The focus of the Biblical account is on Eve’s duty not her beauty. Therefore we can be certain that biblical beauty is not based on the outside. It’s based on the inside. Men and women who are obsessed with image, cosmetics, body shapes and all that kind of stuff have a distorted view of beauty. That’s what Dove’s real beauty campaign is all about. But Western culture in its entirety, including many in the church, seem hopelessly confused by this. Issues of adolescent inferiority and conformity abound.
All of which makes me wonder: When will teens in the church stand up and say this ain’t right? Probably not until parents and grandparents in the church show and tell them over and over again that beauty is based on the inside instead. I’m not saying we need to look like the Amish. But neither am I saying we need 76 pairs of pants. Seriously, how many Dockers do guys really need? One guy I read about recently admitted he had 76 pairs of slacks in all kinds of colors! [Francis Chan, Crazy Love]. Last week, we raised over $1k to help the tornado victims of NW Ohio. Thank you for your generosity in giving. But maybe we can double that if everyone here has a garage sale in the next 2 weeks and sells part of their wardrobe! Like that scene in the movie Schindler’s List, this pin could have saved another life. This car, could have saved ten more.
Are we aware that some kids in Haiti right now have no shoes at all? Friends from the New Hope Adventist Church will be here in a couple of weeks to tell us all about that. They recently returned from a mission trip to Haiti after the devastating earthquake and they’re going to show us some pictures that will break your heart. And yes, we will be collecting another offering on July 10 to benefit the kids who still have no shoes or homes in Haiti. So seriously, would you join me in praying and thinking about what you can sell if you must so we can financially help the victims of that devastating earthquake in Haiti as well?
And sidebar, now that summer has arrived, may I add how sympathetic I am to you ladies out there? Being the father of a young lady who is beginning to care about clothes, I’m learning it’s especially difficult for girls to remember that true beauty comes from the inside. Why? Because nearly all the clothes they make for girls, even little girls, barely covers their bodies! Or if they do, the clothes are so tight they might as well be wearing saran wrap which leaves nothing to the imagination. Is that true or am I making that up? Maybe that’s why 1 Peter 3:3-4 says “3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.”
This text, by the way, is often used by some to say that jewelry is bad. But it always confuses me when critics say so when they don’t feel the same way about pony tales or clothes because the adjective “fine” doesn’t appear in the Greek there. Literally, this verse says “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and clothes.” But obviously, Peter isn’t saying we should all be nudists. He’s saying the wearing of fine clothes is wrong. Probably because of the message it sends that fashion shows are all about them and not the God who created them. Applied in context to the other things he mentions in the same verse, Peter is saying the wearing of fine or excessive jewelry and adornment is not the way Godly women show their true beauty. Because true beauty comes from the inside. How we live our lives reflect the God who made us.
But instead of a balanced and modest approach to all three things Peter mentions, like jewelry and hairstyles and clothes, we demonize one of them and ignore the rest. Which doesn’t make any sense. There’s a bunch more info on this in the Bible we rarely read or concede. Maybe some day I should do a whole series on that. Surprisingly to some, the Bible is very much against immodesty, but not entirely negative on jewelry and adornment. If you want more info in the meantime, pick up a copy of the Assimilation Manual in the literature rack or church office or download a copy on our church website and don’t forget that true beauty comes from the inside.
Moving on, turn with me to Genesis 3:6-7 to see point number two. “6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
My pastor friend and seminary colleague Ryan Bell wrote a great piece on this recently in Spectrum magazine online in response to Doug Batchelor’s flawed premise that women cannot be ordained as pastors. In it, he recounts how Batchelor on February 6, 2010 preached an hour long sermon against women being ordained as pastors. But even more, contrary to what the Adventist church already voted and approved at a previous General Conference session, he argued that women should not even serve as elders. The problems all began, says Batchelor, when, as Ellen White says in Patriarchs and Prophets, Eve wandered from her husband’s side. The only problem with that assertion, which Ryan simply points out in his response, is that isn’t what Genesis 3:6-7 says! Has anyone else noticed this?
What did we just read? Genesis 3:6 says when Eve “Saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Ryan points out that both of them ate the fruit together. Genesis specifically says that the man was “with her” at the tree, when the serpent beguiled both of them. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened…”
But Pastor Batchelor wants us to believe that the root of all the problems of our world find their root in women asserting their independence from men. First, she wanders from her husband’s side. Then, Batchelor says, “Adam defers to his wife. Instead of leading, he submits. And he takes her advice.” [And I’m quoting Batchlor’s sermon now] “All the problems that you see in our world today, both in our relationships and in the world spring from this interruption of God’s design for the relationship between God and man and woman” [Doug Batchelor, “Women Pastors: A Biblical Perspective,” 4:11]. Really? ALL the problems we see in the world today are because women didn’t stay in their place and because Adam submitted to Eve? I’m not sure that makes sense to me. You can read the rest of Ryan’s article “In Defense of Women Pastors in the March 21, 2010 online edition of Specturm if you want.
But to be fair, Adventists aren’t the only ones who read the solo conversations between the serpent and Eve in Genesis 2 and ignore the clear conclusion in Genesis 3. Popular author and pastor John MacArthur says the same thing in his book Twelve Extraordinary Women. But regardless of what we think happened in Genesis 2 or 3, and regardless if our church ever recognizes Pastor Rachel’s obvious call and spiritual giftedness in an officially ordained pastoral leadership role, we should all agree on point number two: Nobody is perfect. Even our newly elected General Conference president, Ted Wilson, is not perfect. In fact, he’s on record saying that women should not be ordained as pastors even though none of the four passages in the Bible that speak of spiritual gifts limit any of the spiritual gifts, including the gift of pastoral leadership, to a specific gender.
So Eve shouldn’t take all the blame. Genesis 3:6 says they both ate the fruit. And when they did, the doctrine of original sin was born. Romans 5:14 says it this way: “14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam...” After Noah’s flood, Genesis 8:21 describes original sin this way: “21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”
And in case you think that’s not fair, that because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we’re sinners too, just remember that our own sins prove our guilt as well. They both ate fruit from the tree. But even if they didn’t, don’t kid yourself, we would have! Because God set it up that way. He put the tree there to teach us that he is grace, mercy, forgiveness and love [Karyn Henley, Love Trumps Karma, p.61]. So we aren’t perfect either. Maybe you’ve heard Natalie Grant sing the truth of point number two on KLOVE radio. There’s a line from Christian contemporary single “Perfect People” that goes: “There’s no such thing as perfect people...”
So what should sincerely flawed and imperfect people do about it? Like Eve, flaws and all, we should keep looking for Jesus. This is point number three. Genesis 4:1 says “1Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.’” With whose help? With the help of the LORD! Apparently, Eve knew that God still loved her like crazy! Even after they were removed from the Garden of Eden. Because only someone who knows they are uniquely and dearly loved flaws and all, only someone who knows her beauty comes from the inside could hope in the Lord and say with certainty that he was going to take care of the problem caused by sin. Eve still believed she was going to become the mother of all living as Genesis 3:20 says.
Proof of this can be seen not just in her faithful cry of Genesis 4:1, but also in the name she chose for the son born immediately after her heart was broken when Cain killed his brother Abel. Scripture’s says Eve’s next son was named Seth which means “granted” or “appointed one.” Commentators suggest Eve believed his name was a reference to the granted or appointed one God promised would bruise the serpent’s head and heel. Listen to what Bible scholars call the very first Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15. God said to Adam and Eve, “15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Ever since that day, Eve was looking forward to the next one. When God’s word would be fulfilled through one of her offspring. Ultimately, that wouldn’t occur for thousands of years until Jesus showed up according to Hebrews 2:14 to “destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” [cf. John 12:31; Romans 16:20; 1 John 3:8; and Galatians 4:4]. But that didn’t stop Eve from looking forward to that day. So sin and brokeness and injustice—inside or outside the church—shouldn’t stop us from looking for Jesus either! And because she did, Seth founded a line of Godly people. Seth had a son named Enosh. And then Genesis 4:25-26 says “And at that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.”
Is it your desire to be such a Godly church family? If it is, like Eve the first wonder woman, you’ll remember that true beauty comes from the inside [Genesis 2:15-23; 1 Peter 3:3-4]. And that nobody is perfect [Genesis 3:6-7; Romans 5:14]. But that shouldn’t stop any of us from looking for Jesus [Genesis 4:1; Genesis 3:15; Genesis 4:25-26] anyway. If you agree, would you repeat out loud with me in closing 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 from off the screen? “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Amen. For more info, read John MacArthur’s book Twelve Extraordinary Women pp