Balanced & Beautiful

Dressing for the Glory of God

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TEST OF A LEGALIST

by Laurel Damsteegt, Part 1

 

Sensitivity over clothing has existed ever since the garments of light disappeared and we began sewing our own fig leaves. This makes sense, because few issues are more personal than what we eat and what we wear. Both become who we are!


We may not even feel particularly good about what we wear or eat, and still feel highly protective. If someone makes a critical remark about our diet or our dress, we feel they are aiming at the very core of who we are. We cannot easily separate ourselves from our exterior. The body is an expression of the soul just as much as the soul is an expression of the body.


So. . . who do you dress for? Have you thought about it? Does it really matter, anyway? Keep reading—you may just find some surprising answers

Dressing to please others

Isn’t how I dress a personal matter, and no one else’s business? Not really. Even though we are personally accountable for how we dress, most of us dress more for the affect on others than for ourselves. Think about it! Why would a woman ever subject herself to narrow-toed, pinching shoes with 3-inch heels? Probably no one would argue it is because they are so comfortable. Instead, she wears them because she feels they give her the look she wants to achieve. Men aren’t immune, either. If a man learns that a young woman he admires likes to see him in blue, suddenly an almost-forgotten blue sweater becomes his favorite. If we want to land a well-paying office job, we don’t show up for the interview in worn-out jeans and a faded sweatshirt, no matter how clean, warm, or comfortable they might be. Most of the time, the way we dress is not just our personal preference. We dress to please others.
Dressing to please God


Perhaps you say, “God does not care how I look. He loves me, not my clothes.” Of course God loves you, no matter how poorly dressed—or even undressed—you are. God’s love is not dependent on what we wear—or who we are. And we cannot make Him love us more by what we wear.
We come to Him “just as we are,” but we do not stay that way! When we love the Lord, we long to please Him in every possible way. We give ourselves to Him unconditionally, and allow Him to work a transformation within us. This involves radical changes, but it has nothing to do with His acceptance of us. Instead, it has everything to do with our acceptance of Him. When we choose Jesus as Lord of our lives, we want to please Him in every aspect of our lives—even in our clothing.1


Learning to please God
But how can we know how God wants us to dress? We discover what delights the Lord by examining His Word and submitting to His revealed will. This is not miserable, dreary work. In fact, when we give our heart to Him, He changes it and gives it back to us!2 Things we used to adore we find distasteful and inappropriate. The new heart delights in doing exactly what He likes! Our tastes change and even our nature is altered.3 Then if He so much as intimates that He likes something, we rush to do His bidding—not out of fear or from force, but because we really prefer it that way! In doing what we like, we actually do His will. “If we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses.”4


This is the miracle of the new heart, the essence of the new covenant. And what is more, He enables us to do exactly as He asks. Nothing is too hard for God!5 “As the will of man cooperates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.”6


Of course, if our hearts have not been changed, following His wishes is hard work. We have to struggle against ourselves in order to please Him. There’s a word for this: legalism.


Are you a legalist? Here is a test. Do you find something in Scripture that is terribly disagreeable to you? This may show that you need to ask yourself some very basic questions: Have I truly given my heart to Jesus? Is He Lord of my life? “There is no use in telling you that you must not wear this or that, for if the love of these vain things is in your heart, your laying off your adornments will only be like cutting the foliage off a tree. The inclinations of the natural heart would again assert themselves. You must have a conscience of your own.”7


This is why dress and ornaments (and other “non-salvational” issues) can actually be an index to what is really going on inside. Are you willing to submit to such “minor” points? If not, you may need to honestly examine your heart. Could it be that your loyalties are divided between God and the world? Take some time to listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit as He whispers a hushed request!


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1. Colossians 2:6.
2. Ezekiel 11:19, 20; 36:26, 27.
3. Psalm 40:8.
4. Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, page 668.
5. Jeremiah 32:27.
6. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, page 333.
7. White, The Review and Herald, May 10, 1892.