Faith-Filled Women Change the World

Faith-Filled Women Change the World

As I left the post office on a cold December day, the words on a car window decal in the parking lot grabbed my attention: “Well behaved women rarely make history.” I drove away, clicking through the questions that bounced around in my brain: Who said that? Is it true? Well-behaved by what standard? Is the goal of a Christian woman to be well-behaved? To be remembered as part of history? 

I later googled the quote and found that it became a popular slogan for coffee mugs and bumper stickers because of its implicit message: Women must rebel in order to be remarkable and remembered. A woman must not be conventional, traditional, or (heaven forbid) biblical if she wants to make a difference in the world. 

My google research also led me to discover that the earliest version of the quote is attributed to historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who wrote that “well-behaved women *seldom* make history” in her 1976 article on Puritan funeral services. Interestingly enough, when Ulrich wrote those words, she was not implying that women should misbehave in order to be remembered. Rather, she was lamenting the fact that so many virtuous women, who have made necessary contributions to society, remain unknown. 

This quote, with its various interpretations, fascinates me. It’s led me to think about the impact I want to have as a woman. More importantly, it’s led me to drill down deeper into the Scriptures, seeking to better understand God’s plan and purpose for women by examining those women in the biblical narrative who are commended by him. 

As Christian women, what mark are we seeking to make on the world, and what behaviors are essential to our making that mark? Here are three truths I’ve gleaned:

Behavior is More than Just Behavior

Christian women can agree that God’s Word is the standard by which our behavior should be measured. The earliest chapters of the book of Genesis make it clear that the good Creator establishes the rules for his human creatures (Genesis 2:16-17). But while the standard is clear, the Scriptures are replete with teaching that 1.) humans consistently fail to meet God’s standard for our behavior and 2.) behavior is always more than just behavior. 

Yes, God desires and requires righteous behavior from those made in his image, but his primary concern is the heart from which that behavior flows. Consider his words to Israel through the prophet Hosea: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But…they dealt faithlessly with me” (Hosea 6:6-7).  God is looking for more than external rule-keeping.

We see the truth that “behavior is more than just behavior” also exhibited in the fact that some of the most outwardly well-behaved people in the Bible are condemned , while some who break the external letter of the law in certain cases are commended. Consider the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who scrupulously kept the law of God, yet who Jesus called “whitewashed tombs”–beautiful on the outside but dead in their uncleanliness on the inside. On the other hand, think of Rahab, a Canaanite woman and a prostitute, who lied to hide and protect the Israelite spies as they prepared to take the Promised Land (Joshua 2). Rahab’s behavior is praised by the author Hebrews. (Hebrews 11:31). 

The Bible clearly does not prescribe lying, so why is Rahab described favorably, while the “well-behaved” Pharisees are described so unfavorably? The author of Hebrews gives us the answer when he writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it, the people of old received their commendation… And without faith, it is impossible to please [God]…” (Hebrews 11:1-2,6). 

God Commends Women of Faith

God commends those who behave by faith in him (Hebrews 11). In other words, God is pleased by obedience that flows from belief in his word, hope in his promises, and love for him. The problem, though, is that all of us are naturally faithless. 

From the very beginning, God’s enemy has been whispering the same poisonous lies to every  human heart: You’ll be better off to distrust and disobey God than to believe and obey him. Rebellion is the ticket to the good life. These lies were first aimed at a woman, and, since her fall, the rest of us have come into this world with seeds of doubt growing in our sin-sick hearts: God doesn’t really love me, and he can’t be trusted to keep his promises

As a result of our faithless hearts, we behave in one of two ways (or some combination of both). Either we break God’s rules in an attempt to gain freedom from (what we believe to be) his heavy-handedness, or we strive to keep all the rules in a desperate attempt to gain his favor. God commends neither of these behaviors because both flow from a faithless heart, and both ultimately lead to death. Yet, in spite of our faithlessness, God has never given up on his purpose and plans for women. 

Even after the first woman rebelliously chose death, God made a merciful promise: The woman would still bear life, and, by her seed, God’s enemy would one day be defeated (Genesis 3:15)!  In an act of faith, the man Adam called his wife “Eve”, which means “life giver” (Genesis 3:20). By belief in God’s Word and  hope in his promised salvation, Eve and many women after her would wage war against the lying serpent and participate in God’s plan to bring eternal life to a world cursed by sin and death. 

Consider biblical women like Sarah, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Mary and others. None of these women always behaved perfectly. They were all sinners, but they bravely “hoped in God” (1 Peter 3:5-6), resting in his promises and looking forward to his coming salvation. These women courageously submitted themselves to God’s will, and through their imperfect but genuine faith, each played a vital part in God’s plan to bring to earth the One who would change the course of history. 

Faith-filled Women Change the World

The Bible does not prescribe every behavior of the women commended within its pages, but it does prescribe their faith. As Christian women today, we are called to share their faith. But we see more than they saw! In the pages of Scripture, we see Jesus Christ–the incarnate Son of God– crucified for our faithlessness and raised for our justification.

The goal of a Christian woman is not to be remembered but to faithfully serve a Savior who will never be forgotten. By faith in the finished work of Christ, we are united to him, and through that union, all of our behavior has eternal significance. As we work to nurture both physical and spiritual life in a world where death still seems to reign, we wage war on the enemy. And our efforts are not in vain, even when we can’t yet see the fruit. So, we press on with our eyes set on the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) until that day when he returns and makes all things right and new, as he has promised to do.

We submit to those God has placed in authority over us by faith. We work our jobs by faith. We pray and serve within the body of Christ by faith. We feed, clothe, and teach the physical and spiritual children in our care by faith. Our names may not be in the history books, but through the work of radically submissive, courageous obedience to Christ, we participate in building a kingdom that cannot be shaken. 

Well-behaved women may not make history, but the woman who hears the call of faith and responds, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let me be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)…? That woman will change the world. 

What is Gospel-Shaped Womanhood?

What is Gospel-Shaped Womanhood?

We are living in the age of the modern, individualistic self–a time when women have both the freedom and the pressure to forge a personal identity. Voices within our cultural context tell us it’s our job and our right to discover and define who we are. We are taught to look deep within to find our authentic selves, so that we can pursue a path in life that aligns with our true identity. In other words, we are living in “find yourself, live your truth, you do you” times–times in which we are (supposedly) free to be whoever we want to be.

But is it really true that identity is ours to create? Do self-discovery and self-definition really bring freedom and peace? At the end of the day, we’re all still desperately searching for answers to the same questions: Who am I, and does my life matter? Am I valuable? Wanted? Accepted? Secure? Am I truly, deeply, fully loved? The world tells women we will discover the answer to these questions within as we incessantly navel-gaze and search our own hearts while rehearsing to ourselves, “You are enough.” But if it’s true that identity is self-made, we’re left with the constant and heavy burden of trying to validate our enoughness. Could it be that what the world markets as freedom is actually another form of enslavement to ceaseless striving? 

In our quest to forge a personal identity, we often seek to define ourselves according to our roles, relationships, work performance, possessions, health, and a host of other fluctuating factors that aren’t stable enough to support the weight of our womanhood. If our worth as women is based on what we do, what happens when we stop doing that thing, or when we fail to do it well? If our security and sense of acceptance are wrapped up in our earthly relationships, a bank account, or a fit and healthy body, what happens when those things are lost? When the sources of a self-made identity are stripped away, we are left totally crushed.

But what if “identity” is not ours to make because we do not actually belong to ourselves? What if we could receive an undeserved but freely given identity that sealed our worth, security, belonging, and the love of another forever? Could this identity grant us permanent rest from the ceaseless striving to be enough? Could it enable us to face our brokenness honestly with the sure hope of true healing and wholeness? If so, is it possible that not being our own is actually good news rather than oppression?

The Bible tells the true story of the God of all creation–the God who made human beings both male and female in his image. As those made to reflect God’s glory in the world, all human beings possess inherent value and dignity. We were made to discover and become our truest selves through a relationship with the one who made us. But, in the beginning, human rebellion and sin against God severed the relationship between the Creator and his first children. As a result, every person born since has come into this world with a sinful nature and, essentially, in an identity crisis. We are born as spiritually orphaned children, dead in our sin and desperate for forgiveness, acceptance, love, and purpose. Sadly, though, we look for these things in all the wrong places. Unable to find the God who made us, we cannot rightly find ourselves.

But the Bible’s story doesn’t end with rebellion and crisis. No, it’s a story that culminates in redemption and grace. It’s a story of identity given, identity lost, and a new identity found for all who respond to the gospel call.  The gospel is the good news that God sent Jesus Christ, his one true Son, to rescue his lost children. Through faith alone in Jesus’ perfect life, substitutionary death on the cross, and resurrection, spiritual orphans are forgiven and brought back into relationship with the Father. And, by grace, all who trust Christ for salvation receive more than just forgiveness of sins. We are given a whole new identity as those in Christ, and this identity powerfully transforms and shapes every aspect of our lives and womanhood.

In Christ, we are those who are chosen and loved by God. In Christ, we are declared righteous in spite of our sin. In Christ, we are adopted, brought into a family, and guaranteed an eternal inheritance. In Christ, we are progressively being made into truly good people. And, in Christ, our bodies and souls will one day be totally set free from sin to live and reign with God forever. These glorious spiritual realities that now define us have practical implications for every part of our lives–our work, our bodies, our marriages or singleness, our motherhood, our friendships, and our suffering– and these implications are lived and worked out over time as we grow up in Christ.

So, in a world that tells us to find ourselves and be whoever we want to be (while simultaneously pressuring us to be all things), may we as women find hope in the good news that Jesus Christ brings us lasting rest. He enables us to stop striving to build our own identity and prove our worthiness. He releases us from the endless striving to be enough. Most significantly, his cross-work frees us from the incessant impulse to earn favor with God. It’s this true rest in Christ that fuels us to carry out the various good works God has called each of us to do in the world. Our work doesn’t save or define us, but, in Christ, it is eternally significant and purposeful. It matters greatly.

The grace of God in Christ is the catalyst for both deep rest of the soul and meaningful life work. Gospel-shaped womanhood is about learning to rest and work by the power of that grace as we remember that only the love of Christ tells us who we really are and transforms us into who we were made to be. This love is ours to freely receive, and that is very, very good news.

Lament With Hope

Lament With Hope

I’ve felt a heavy sense of sadness lately. Sadness about all that has been lost because of COVID and cancer and a host of other sicknesses people face. Sadness because everything in our world feels heavy right now. Sadness because anxiety, depression, addiction, abandonment, violence, and unrest are such realities. Sadness because so many people, including people I know and love, are blinded to the truth and walking in darkness—like sheep without a shepherd. It’s so clear to me that the effects of human sin are more catastrophic than we could have ever imagined; the suffering is often deeper than we can bear.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I’m in the book of Lamentations in my Bible reading plan, and I’m thankful for the reminder that God welcomes lament: “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!” (Lam 2:19). The prophets knew what it felt like to grieve the deep losses brought about by sinful idolatry as they watched evil foreign nations ravage God’s people and their land: “For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears…” (Lam 1:16a). The prophets knew the crushing discouragement of being misunderstood in a world where evil seems to have the upper hand: “My children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed” (Lam 1:16b). Lamentations is heavy reading.

But! Tucked in the center of five chapters of deep sorrow is a thrill of hope.

In the midst of catastrophe and grief, God’s covenant remnant is never ultimately consumed because we are swallowed up by something greater: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23).

In the midst of his grief, the prophet’s hope is renewed by calling to mind God’s “hesed” (translated “steadfast love” in this passage). Commentators say the English language doesn’t have one word that fully encompasses the Hebrew word hesed. It’s used some 240 times in the Old Testament and most often describes the undeserved loyal-love, mercy, kindness, and goodness of God toward his people. Hesed is an active word in which “doing” is implied.  And knowing something of God’s hesed is crucial to our grasping real hope.

In his own self-description to Moses in Exodus 34:6, God says he abounds in hesed or steadfast love—a love that forgives iniquity, transgression and sin, but will by no means pardon the guilty. The steadfast love of God for his people is more than a mushy sentiment, and it doesn’t turn a blind eye to what he has called sin. So, who is this God of unceasing love and grace who both forgives sinners and punishes the guilty? And how did the prophets find hope in Yahweh’s hesed while experiencing the aftermath of his intense judgment for Israel’s sin? *They waited for what they couldn’t yet see.* The prophets put their hope in God Himself, basing that hope on his past faithfulness and future promises. Even (and especially) when circumstances were far from promising, the faithful remnant believed God’s own declaration of his merciful lovingkindness to be true, and they rested in him.

As the new covenant people of God, we too have the hope of God’s self-revealed, boundless “hesed” to cling to in the midst of our personal lamentation. But we get to see God’s steadfast love more clearly than even the prophets did because we see it in the face of Jesus Christ! In his kindness, God the Son put on human flesh. As he hung on a cross in the place of rebellious idolaters, he showed the world just how the God of Israel pardons the guilty without letting sin go unpunished. Then, Jesus rose and gave his Church the firstfruits of the Spirit so that we might have hope as we groan in the wilderness of this world while waiting for something much better to come—something we can’t yet see.

Sadly, in this life here on earth, there will always be sin and suffering. There will always be grief. But in the midst of my own feelings of heavy sadness, I call to mind the hesed of God toward me in Jesus Christ, and I have HOPE. I declare with the prophet: “The LORD [Christ] is my portion…therefore I will hope in [wait on] him” (Lam 3:24).

Sisters, We Need More Than Female Empowerment

Sisters, We Need More Than Female Empowerment

Female empowerment. It’s a hot buzz phrase right now, especially after Sunday night’s Super Bowl LIV Halftime show, but there is clearly some cultural confusion about what it entails. Are women empowered by being told we can be and do anything we want? Are we empowered by the belief that there are really no gender distinctions? Are we empowered by a “no rules” sexual freedom that isn’t suppressed by taboos or the patriarchy, or by following and admiring women who are sought after sexual icons because of their beauty, fame, and self-objectification? How ironic that feminism’s message says women are more than what we can offer a man sexually, while the world’s functional message to women through every media outlet is, “You sure better have a good body and sex appeal!” The world sends mixed messages about female empowerment because the world doesn’t know a woman’s (or a man’s) true source of worth and power.

A Secure Identity

Whatever female empowerment means to the world, Christian women know we have a better word and a better source of power that grounds our God-given identity. We are certainly not less than our femaleness, but we are so much more.  We have been created female in the image of God, and his immeasurable worth secures for us automatic and intrinsic worth. Although we have marred God’s image in us by seeking to find identity and validation in our rights, achievements, bodies, sexuality, and relationships, God sent his Son–His very image made manifest in human flesh–to redeem us from the idolatry of “finding ourselves” in the gifts rather than the Giver. By faith, we have a new identity in Christ that sets us free from the need to define ourselves and our story by the oppression and injustices we’ve faced, or by the sin patterns that have characterized us. In Christ, we are defined as those “radically beloved by God.” Because of this new identity,  we can give thanks for the freedoms, rights, and educational opportunities we have as women in this country without bowing down to them as gods or believing they define who we are.

An Upside Down Power

As Christian women, we don’t need to endlessly pursue “ female empowerment” because we have a greater power living within us. This is an upside down kind of power that enables us to live for something so much bigger and better than ourselves and our own glory. Women have proven our gender’s ability to shatter glass ceilings, but it takes Spirit empowerment to be able to quietly and joyfully lay down our lives for “the least of these” day after day. As women, we have proven we have the God-given intellect and work ethic to become successful doctors and lawyers and teachers and entrepreneurs, but no amount of female empowerment can protect us from calculating our worth by something as unstable as career success or financial security. Female empowerment has given us (the illusion of) complete control over our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction, but only the Spirit of God gives us the self-control to deny gratifying every sexual desire of our flesh. He alone helps us refuse to use beauty, immodesty, and sex appeal as sources of power over men, or as means to secure our own feelings of validation. It’s the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe and find comfort in the unpopular truth that real sexual freedom and joy are found only when we live within God’s good boundary lines for our sexuality–the ones outlined in his word. And it’s by the Spirit’s power that our spiritual nakedness is clothed by Christ’s righteousness and we are able to repent for glorying in our shame.  Female empowerment teaches us to use all of our energy to fight for our rights as women, but the Spirit empowers us to pursue restoration by dying to self and seeking first the Kingdom of God while trusting Him to bring justice. 

A World Made New

I do not pretend to believe that women have not faced real injustices, abuse, and oppression in this broken world—some much more than others. Millions of women around the world have not been privy to the freedoms, rights, educational opportunities, and God-like love that the three girls pictured above have experienced in our lives. No, things are not as they should be in our world. But no amount of female empowerment or mojo or women’s rights can set all things aright because women can’t fix the human condition. Women cannot cure sin-sick hearts (including or own). We cannot heal all the wounds of abuse and set every captive free. Female empowerment cannot ultimately bring perfect justice for the sins committed against women or for the sins women have committed against others, but make no mistake, justice will be done. Sin will be paid for–either through the cross-work of Christ on Calvary or by the sinner in the life to come. We can trust God with this.

So, our hope is not in (broken) girls running the (broken) world but in Christ ruling a world made new. In this new world, there will be no thought of female empowerment and no perceived need for it. Male and female will live together in perfect harmony and love as brothers and sisters– co-heirs of the grace of life. Sisters, we need something better than female empowerment, and it is ours in Christ Jesus. His is the power and hope we proclaim. 


Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. – Brennan Manning




Nurturing Life in a World of Death

Nurturing Life in a World of Death

One of the most challenging aspects of my current season is the constancy with which I must feed other people. Perhaps it’s safe to say that no one thinks about food more than mothers. Even from the earliest moment a pregnancy is detected, a new mother must begin to consider her role to nourish another. When a baby is born, a mother is immediately faced with the daunting task of eight to ten feedings a day. As months go by, the number of feedings necessary to sustain life lessons, but the menu becomes more varied and complex. And the need certainly never lessens.

Preparing food is neither my greatest gifting nor my greatest enjoyment, but I have developed the skill out of sheer necessity. My boys must be fed multiple times a day, and, sadly, I often view the constant responsibility to feed them as more of a burden than a joy. But, as the Lord has faithfully strengthened my body to nourish little lives day-by-day, he has done a slow but sure work in my heart as well, showing me more of the great privilege and responsibility women have to image him as life-givers. This role is not less than the provision of physical nourishment for other people, but it certainly extends far beyond it.

A Gift, Not a Curse

When I am pouring what feels like the hundredth cup of milk for the week, I am quick to lose sight of the undeserved gift all women have received in both our calling and ability to nurture life in a world cursed by death. The beginning chapters of Genesis bring me back to this perspective-shifting truth: Adam and Eve did not deserve to live one moment beyond the moment of their sin. After all, God had promised that disobedience would lead to death (Genesis 2:17).

God would have been righteous in immediately striking his human creatures dead for their rebellion in eating fruit from the one forbidden tree in the garden. But we see a beautiful foretaste of God’s lavish mercy in the fact that he didn’t. Adam and Eve’s spiritual death was immediate, but their physical death was mercifully delayed. Although God cursed his children because of their sin, even his curses displayed beautiful whispers of his love and grace as he spoke of their continued ability to bring forth life in a world now corrupted by sin.

The toil would be hard, but man would image God as provider by working the ground to bring forth food. The pain would be great, but woman would image God by taking this food and giving it to others to nourish life–even new life within her own body!  And, eventually, one woman would nourish the life of a Son who would defeat the serpent and the curse of death once and for all (Genesis 3:15)!

Before his wife ever conceived a child, Adam named her Eve, which means “life-giver.” By faith, he believed she would be “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). As daughters of Eve, all women share her calling to image God as life-givers, and this ability to nourish both physical and spiritual life is an amazingly undeserved gift, not a curse. This is the truth our hearts need as we chop veggies and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches day after day.

What if I can’t cook?

What if a woman hates to cook, or believes herself to be no good at it? What if she isn’t married and doesn’t have a biological family to feed every day? Do these things negate the calling and ability of certain women to nurture life by feeding others? No. As the Scriptures make clear, nurturing life encompasses more than breastfeeding babies or putting a delicious and beautifully presented meal on the table every night. Our world is full of people needing to eat, and, as women, we are called to offer this food in a variety of ways.

When a woman meal plans, grocery shops, and prepares food for her family, she nourishes life. When a woman provides a meal for an elderly widower in her church, she acts as a life-giver. When a woman orders pizzas and serves them to her small group, she sustains life. When a woman ladles up bowls of hot soup to put in the hands of the poor and homeless, she images the giver and and sustainer of life. When a woman feeds children who aren’t her own in order to give their weary mother a break, she is being a life-giver. 

In all these instances, God is less concerned with a woman’s skill and more concerned with her faith (Hebrews 11:6a). Christian women nurture life as they are continually sustained by the life of Christ. As we walk by faith that leads to obedience, God grows us in the skill and strength necessary to feed others well to the glory of God. Being the best cook isn’t essential because even the most delicious of foods cannot ultimately satisfy. Whether we serve others takeout or a home cooked meal, they will always come back hungry for more. And this is by design.

Serve the Bread of Life

Why do these children constantly need to eat?!?” I’ve said it myself, and I’ve heard other moms say it. The demand for physical nourishment is a constant (and often exhausting) part of this life, but it is a beautiful and necessary reminder from the Lord that “man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). When the bread of this life leaves us wanting, we see clearly our need for a better type of bread.

As those called to image God by giving life, women must serve up sustenance for more than this life only. Nurturing physical life affords us opportunities to nurture spiritual life. As women, we fulfill our calling as life-givers by continually feeding others the food of God’s word–the only food that leads to Christ, the Bread of Life. Those who eat hot bread from our ovens will eventually die, but those who feast on “the true bread from heaven” through belief in him for salvation will have eternal life (John 6:47-50).

Feeding others is important work. It’s God-like, gospel work. When we feed others in our wombs, through our breasts, or with our hands, we tell the story of a God who is faithful to feed his people the Bread of Life when they deserve only death. As we serve up meat and bread and fruits and vegetables, we tell others of the one who gave the bread of his flesh for the life of the world. We must call those we feed to look to him in faith, so they will never hunger or thirst again. Sisters, in our marriages, parenting, friendships, and relationships within the Body and with the lost, let’s faithfully nurture life. In world where death cannot be escaped, let’s feed others the risen Christ.


Beware the Gospel of Self: Why Radical Grace is the Only Good News

Beware the Gospel of Self: Why Radical Grace is the Only Good News

The New Testament is full of warnings for Christians to beware false teachers–those who proclaim a distorted gospel that leads others away from the gospel of Christ (Matthew 7:15, Acts 20:28-30, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, 2 Peter 2:1).

We might imagine that false teachers are easy to pinpoint, but they slither their way into local congregations slowly and subtly. They slide through the front doors of the church unnoticed– comfortably situated in the minds of many who claim Christ but have been inundated with falsities wrapped in a Christian guise. False teachers proclaim their message everywhere we turn–from social media to billboards, blogs, and bestselling books–and it’s not difficult to see why many in the church have become their disciples.

False teaching can sound so right. It’s popular and self-affirming— wrapped in punchy cliches that tickle the ears and make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Instead of heralding the good news of God’s undeserved grace for sinners, false teachers herald the “good news” of you and me and them. At first blush, their message sounds delightful and full of hope, but it actually isn’t good news at all. In fact, it’s damning news.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, doesn’t appeal to anyone apart from the divine intervention of the Holy Spirit. Grace–the good news that God has provided for us in his Son what we neither deserve nor can provide for ourselves– brings us low before it lifts us high. Grace rips the rug of self-righteousness out from under our feet. It  brings us to our knees in painful acknowledgment of our own inadequacy before it raises us in Christ. But the gospel of grace is humanity’s only hope. It’s the only truly good news for sinners.

As believers living in a world overrun with the gospel of self, how do we guard ourselves (and others) from subtly believing this falsehood? Simplistic as it may sound, the way to battle the lie is to know, believe, and proclaim the truth. We must discern and clearly articulate how the gospel of grace differs from the gospel of self and speaks a better word. Here are three primary ways:

You (Don’t) Have a Good Heart

Have you ever heard someone say, “She made a mistake, but that’s not really who she is. Deep down she has a good heart.” The gospel of self promises that, despite our sins, we can rest in the fact that we are basically good people. While we naturally want to believe this about ourselves, grace debunks the prevalent myth that human beings are born with a fundamentally good nature.

The Bible is clear that all of us are born into this world with deceitful, sin-sick hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12,19). The way we live flows from the condition of our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, we aren’t sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. Any outward morality we have is polluted by inward desires (often unrecognized even by ourselves) for our own autonomy and glory (Isaiah 64:6-7). We come into this world with no desire for our Creator or his glory.

This is far cry from the warm fuzzy messages of self-goodness we are saturated with at every turn. But grace is only good news when juxtaposed with the bad news of our utter depravity. Basically good folks don’t need a bloody, substitutionary, atoning Savior (Galatians 2:21). Jesus Christ was the only human born into the world with a truly good heart, and the forgiveness God extends to us through him becomes precious only when we see just how desperately we need it. As the puritan Thomas Watson said, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

(Don’t) Believe in Yourself

Almost nothing sounds better to us than this oft quoted mantra of the American way: “Believe in yourself! You can accomplish anything!” It’s a positive word of empowerment that tells us we’re self-sufficient and able–a word we love to hear and are naturally prone to believe about ourselves. But, the truth is, we are not self-sufficient. We were created to live in joyful dependence on our Creator, the one who gives and sustains our very life and breath (Acts 17:28).

Grace reveals to us that we enter this world as spiritually dead slaves to sin (Ephesians 2:1) who exchange the truth of our dependence on an all sufficient Creator for the lie of creaturely self-sufficiency. Blinded to our need, we worship and believe in ourselves rather than in God (Romans 1:25). We strive in our own strength to clean up our behavior and achieve goals the world applauds, and, from the outside, it may look as though we’ve achieved success. But self-sufficiency is a lie.

Not only are we dependent on God for our physical needs, we are completely dependent on him to meet our ultimate spiritual need as well. Spiritually dead people are powerless and needy when it comes to our real problem. No amount of self-belief can resurrect a dead heart, but the gospel of grace has the power to save those who believe, not in themselves, but in Christ (Romans 1:16). Why? Because Christ is the perfect and powerful one who conquered sin and death. He’s been and done what we cannot be and do for ourselves. Self-belief will eventually crush us under impossible expectations, constant striving, and ultimate failure. But belief in Christ leads us to a hope that won’t disappoint (Romans 5:2-5).  

(Don’t) Be True to Yourself

Humanity is obsessed with the concept of personal identity, and we often go to great lengths to figure out who we truly are. Discovering and remaining true to one’s unique identity are key virtues of the gospel of self, but the Bible simplifies our identity quest by showing us there are only two underlying identities for all human beings made in the image of God: Dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) or alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5).  

Grace beckons us to come to Christ as we are in our sin, but it never leaves us as we are. Christ called those who would follow him, not to be true to themselves, but to deny themselves and prepare to die to the sinful nature that had defined and shaped every part of them until that point (Matthew 16:24). By faith, we share with Jesus in his death as our old identity is crucified, and we share with him in his resurrection as we are raised to a brand new nature and identity in him (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we trust Jesus for salvation, his sinless identity becomes ours!

In Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to put off the deeds that were characteristic of our former identity and put on Christ-like living that matches our new identity (Romans 8:13, Ephesians 4:22). In other words, grace frees us to stop striving so hard to be true to ourselves and, instead, devote ourselves to lives of good works that are true to Christ.

The Only Good News

Beware the gospel of self–a message that falsely affirms us and is radically at odds with the biblical gospel of grace. Grace exposes the truth of our sin, powerlessness, and misplaced identity. It tells us we are not enough in order to freely offer us Christ, the one who is more than enough for us. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). May we turn away from trusting ourselves and say with the apostle Peter, “Lord, to whom [else] shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).


Women Who Work

Women Who Work

“Do you get paid for any of the work you do?”

I was caught off-guard and pleasantly surprised by her unusual phrasing of the question. “Do you work?” is a more typical rendering of the same inquiry frequently presented to women. While often asked innocently in an effort to distinguish between paid and unpaid work, the phrasing of the latter assumes the false premise that some women are workers and some are not.

The answer to my friend’s question is no. During this season of life, I am busy parenting three little boys, managing our home, and serving alongside my husband in ministry through writing, teaching, and counseling women. I am not currently paid for this work, but what I do each day is work, nonetheless.

As women, we often feel sensitive when it comes to our work. We wonder if what we do is meaningful. We look around to see if our work measures up to what the world says a successful woman should accomplish. We may question the value of our work, especially if what we do each day is unpaid and unseen. The striving to prove ourselves can feel endless and the satisfaction elusive. As women who follow Christ, are we processing and evaluating our work through a biblical lens? Are we using God’s standard to measure success?

Made to Work

Work is introduced in the opening pages of Scripture where we read about God’s six-day creative work, as well as His mandate to the first humans made in His image: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it . . .(Genesis 1:28). Humanity was gifted the joyful work of representing God in the world–expanding and caring for His creation in a way that propagated His glory to every corner of the earth.

The man was created first, but Adam was not designed to carry out the work God had assigned alone. Adam needed a counterpart who shared His humanity yet differed from him significantly–someone who complimented him perfectly and provided vital strength and support in the areas where he was weak.

So, God created the woman. Eve was made uniquely female and given the distinct role of “life-giver” (Genesis 3:20). Eve’s work wasn’t the same as Adam’s, but God sovereignly ordained that the unique and mutual work of both male and female would be essential to the fulfillment of His creation mandate. As daughters of Eve, all women are created to work.

Working for the Wrong Glory

Human work is good because it was a God-ordained part of life before sin corrupted the world. When we work, we image a creative God. But from the beginning, all human work was meant to be the joyful overflow of an identity firmly rooted in God Himself and tethered to the ultimate purpose of bringing Him glory. Because God is the good and powerful Creator of all things, He deserves all glory (Revelation 4:11). Human work was never about us to begin with.

But sin changed everything. Deceived by the serpent, Eve doubted the goodness of her Creator. She decided it would be in her best interests to pursue her own glory rather than God’s. As a result, all daughters of Eve are born with an insatiable desire to pursue our own renown.

The world (particularly the feminist movement) and even certain teachers who claim Christ validate the lie that work is about us. Chase your dreams! Built your platform! Get more followers! Make good money! Change the world! And, by all means, make a name for yourself! The culture at large projects the view that a life lived quietly– cultivating a home, caring for a family, and serving the Church– is, at best, unfulfilling and, at worst, a waste.

Sin has distorted our understanding of the value and purpose of work. No longer secure in our identity as daughters made in God’s image, we seek to root our worth in what we do rather than in who God says we are.

We long for our work to make us a “somebody”. But, ironically, work driven by desires for self actualization, the praise of others, or material riches doesn’t satisfy or endure. King Solomon had it all, and he says this is “vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

Working from a Place of Rest

While we cannot free our own hearts from the endless pursuit of personal glory, Jesus came to earth in human flesh to do the work we are powerless to do. His cross-work on our behalf was completely and perfectly motivated by the will and ultimate glory of God (John 4:34). Jesus shows us the true purpose of all human work.

When we repent of our glory-thieving and, through faith, rest in Christ’s perfect work, our identity as children of God is restored. The Holy Spirit progressively changes our self-obsessed hearts, giving us the desire and ability to stop working for ourselves and, instead, carry out the God-glorifying work He has planned for our lives. (Ephesians 2:8-10).

For women resting in Christ, there is no dichotomy between secular and sacred work. Whether it’s paid employment or unpaid service, all work is just a means to seek first His Kingdom and glory. Remembering our identity and worth in Christ enables us to prioritize the work God esteems with the right heart motives, taking our cues from the Word rather than the world.

What Does it Look Like?

There isn’t necessarily a “one-size-fits-all” mold when it comes to the work of women. While the motivation underlying our work should never change, the type of work we do will look different in the various seasons and stages of life. The work of the married mother will differ from the work of the single woman without children. There are numerous creative ways to use our gifts, talents, education and resources to bring God glory as life-givers in the world.

The Scriptures are clear, however, that God commands and commends the priority of home and family (Titus 2:3-5 & Proverbs 31). The indispensable task of raising up the next generation to love the Lord is critical in fulfilling the work-mandate given at creation (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Sister, the often monotonous and thankless tasks required in cultivating a home where children are fed, clothed, loved, and taught truth matters significantly to God and honors Him when done for His purposes.

And the hard work of hospitality, spiritual mothering (or discipleship), and service in the Body of Christ is just as significant and necessary as the work of physical mothering (Matthew 28:19-20). This is work for all believing women in all seasons.

These labors will not necessarily build up your bank account or garner you a huge Twitter following. But, in God’s economy, work that is unseen and unsung by our culture can, ironically, be the most world-changing. Work that insists we die to the pursuit of our own names and pour ourselves out in service to others for the sake of God’s name is revolutionary and eternal. As women rooted in Christ, may we faithfully tend the gardens He has assigned to our care and joyfully cast down any crowns of earthly achievement at the feet of our King– the One to whom all glory is due.