What has God created me to be? Why am I not that way now? And what has God done and is continuing to do to bring me back to the perfection for which He created me?
Part 1 dealt with just the first question, what has God created me to be? The answer is that I was created in His image to reflect something about Him. Even the distinct role of a "helper suitable" to her husband in Genesis 2:18 is only understood correctly when examined in the context of the character of God the Helper to whom we are called to reflect.
Next, I'd like to deal with the 2nd and 3rd questions as a unit. Scripture consistently deals with both the problem of our sin and the answer in the gospel in inseparable ways. The gospel is meaningless apart from a correct understanding of our condition apart from God. And our condition apart from God is so utterly hopeless as to be unable to be heard and processed apart from the corresponding grace of God.
Last Sunday, our assistant pastor defined the gospel as everything that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ accomplished for us, and this gospel changes everything. Subsequently, the entirety of the "Christian life" is figuring out for a lifetime all the things the gospel changes about ourselves and how it changes them. And this is as true for women as any other demographic in the church and must be the foundational focus of our women's ministries.
Paul talks about the interconnectedness between our condition apart from Christ and all God has accomplished for us on the cross repeatedly in Ephesians (Eph. 2:1-10, 11-13, 4:17-24, 5:8). I'll include just the first one here, but it's noteworthy that throughout his letter to the Ephesians, he repeats this idea again and again--what you were apart from Christ contrasted to what we are now IN Christ. And he wraps the wealth of practical teaching in Ephesians on church life, husbands, wives, children, parents, slaves, masters, and general spiritual warfare on this repeated foundation.
Ephesians 2 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The phrase that I was "by nature" an object of God's wrath is fairly important. It frees me, especially as a woman, from performance idolatry. Even if I know exactly what God created me to be, I by nature can not muster it up on my own to fix myself and reflect God's character. It is completely impossible for me. I will always fail. Until I get this piece of the gospel, I will dwell in desperate attempts to pick myself up from my bootstraps that either result in a stupid pride in my version of morality or wretched self condemnation in my failures. But understanding my nature apart from Christ paves the way for me to walk the only path that leads to the glory of God.
I love the title of Piper's book, God is the Gospel. I'm embarassed to say that I've never read the book though I have it on my bookshelf. But I've thought on that title again and again since I first heard it. It is so true. The good news of the cross is that Christ has made the way for me to talk to God, walk with God, praise God, enjoy God. God Himself is the good news of the gospel. In Christ, I have access to Him! And THAT is what changes everything.
Psalms 73 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
God Himself is my strength. God Himself is my portion, my inheritance. It is fully IN HIM that all benefits of the Christian life are found. Once we get that truth in its proper place, then we can start filtering all life issues through these truths, including those that affect us in particularly strong ways as women. Singleness, problem marriages, infertility, rebellious children, stressful work situations, the loss of identity perceived by stay at home moms, church strife, and any other particular application you can think of--our only hope for wisely responding to any situation is understanding how the grace of the gospel and His call to reflect His image based on His transformation of me through the cross equip me in that particular instance.
Inherent in this is understanding who God is. Part of the transformation process depends on a correct understanding of the character of God as Scripture reveals Him. That was my burden in writing Practical Theology for Women. If I had to do it all over again, I'd start with the study of Ephesians and then let the theology book be the sequel. Instead, I learned (and wrote) it backwards, but that's ok too.
Oh, so much more could be written. I am not an authority and am only writing to put into words thoughts that have run around in my head for a while. I've enjoyed sitting under this kind of general ministry in my home church. And I've enjoyed thinking about what it looks like to reclaim a gospel-saturated view of all of the Christian life particularly in the realm of women's ministry.
If you'd like to add thoughts, I always enjoy the input. Bless you all as you minister the gospel in your homes and ministries to which God has called you.