Summer has arrived, and with it, renewed questions about modesty in to the inbox. So, Pastor John, can you speak into the issue of modesty regarding clothing at the pool — especially bikinis. And speak to pastors and leaders. Should they take time to directly address the topic? And if so, how would you counsel such a brave pastor best step through that minefield?

Here is the most important thing to say. It is impossible to come into a church or a youth ministry or a school, say, a Christian school that is permeated with immodesty and fix it with rules about modesty. There is a place for rules, guidelines in families, in schools, in youth ministries, in churches. But if you try to turn that thing around, that institution, whatever, if you try to turn that around by starting with the rules or the guidelines, it will not accomplish a Christ-exalting, gospel-rooted, Spirit-empowered, faith-sustained, Bible-informed, joyful, free culture of modesty. It won’t. And yet that is the goal.

So, my approach was never to start with the rules or the guidelines, but to start with God and the gospel and the Bible and the Spirit and faith and joy. Deep things need to happen in a woman’s and a man’s soul before they have any chance of thinking and feeling about these things in a way that honors God. I will just say this to any woman, any man who dresses inappropriately: Until God has become your treasure, until your own sin has become the thing you hate most, until the Word of God is your supreme authority that you feel to be more precious than gold, sweeter than honey, until the gospel of Christ’s death in your place is the most precious news in the world to you, until you have learned to deny yourself short-term pleasures for the sake of long-term joy and holiness, until you have grown to love the Holy Spirit and long for his fruit more than man’s praise, until you count everything as loss compared to the supreme value of knowing Christ, your attitude towards your clothing and your appearance will be controlled by forces that don’t honor Christ.

Every pastor can see we have got work to do — I mean, deep soul-work to do. Which means, for a pastor, that 99 percent of his effort will be the establishment in the heart of these glorious, supernatural works of God. He will preach and teach and worship and model in himself and in his family how the gospel changes everything. And he will realize that, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word and through faith, his church will be split between two kinds of carnal people: One group will bristle at every mention of modesty and say, “How dare you tell me or my children how to dress!” That’s a bad attitude and it is carnal. But the other group will put all their emphasis on outward appearance with little sense of the heart and that it is supremely important. And these two groups can never know peace. They both have failed. Neither are deeply transformed by the gospel.

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Listen to Aaron Barker discuss Modesty on The Breakdown from June 9th, 2016

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