Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies and R W Glenn

I’ve never thought so hard about a review and it is to this books credit that I am doing so. The book Modest has given cause for me to take seriously not just my dress and appearance but also my words, actions, and every day conduct for the sake of gospel modesty. Therefore, I measure the very words I pen this evening for the sake of gospel modesty and an accurate representation of these writer’s prose. I suppose that was Challies and Glenn’s intent.

This book offers a timely and urgent message that I too have been pondering for some time. As a youth pastor, the question of modesty arises with each summer, each trip, and each event. Just today I sent an e-mail to parents and adult leaders concerning the dress code for our high school ministry’s back to school lock in.

The authors of Modest build a framework for understanding this Christian virtue not based on a list of do’s or don’ts but rather based on the gospel. They assert, “When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules.” Rules in itself are not bad. Confusing rule keeping in order to win God’s approval based on our performance and rule keeping as a response to God’s perfect performance acquitting us of judgement, is the risk to be concerned with here. Challies and Glenn tactfully point out, “…efforts at modesty without the gospel are actually anti-gospel because such efforts subtly but steadily communicate that God accepts us on the basis of our performance.” These authors demonstrate from the model of Christ that believers should experience the comfort of forgiveness and the call to righteousness in respects to all Christian virtues, here especially pertaining to modesty.

Later the authors discuss the fine edge of grace that exists when walking in gospel modesty, avoiding legalism, demonization and idolization on one side of grace and antinomianism and divinization on the other side of grace. They wordsmith this delightful picture, “Every Christian wants to live on the corner of Modesty Avenue and Gospel Street, where grace and virtue intersect.”

Glenn and Challies point out that immodesty is simply the fruit of idolatry. They guide the reader through four critical perspectives on idolatry (vanity, violence, vileness, and vindictiveness), summing up the issue in this way, “…your immodesty is the fruit of a tree with an idolatrous root. Your sin against modesty shows you that at heart level you are living for something or someone other than Jesus Christ.”

This brings the reader back to the all important centrality of the gospel in respect to the matter of modesty. “When the gospel controls your modesty, you want to be modest because God sent his son, Jesus, to die for your immodesty, and especially because Jesus willingly died for it.”

There is more to tell about this formative book, but I’ll leave it to be read. I will tell you that though I do not offer you the author’s definition of modesty in this review, you will want to know it and ponder it. They say much about the significance of culture and context that we should all digest, and they honor us with their vulnerability and stories for the sake of conveying a crucial message on modesty.

Meditate on Modesty: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel today! This resource is available at CruciformPress.com. My personal thanks to these fine men who tactfully reflected and wrote on this critical subject. It was the best $5.45 I’ve spent this month and a modest price at that. : )

To all you others, I don’t normally read a book in one day or in one sitting, but it simply read that well. Was that modest? I’m in turmoil and thankful for being in turmoil for the sake of gospel modesty.

Gloria Furman has written an excellent complement to this review on her blog Domestic Kingdom, a blog I highly recommend you adding to your rss feed. Read her post here.

Read more book reviews by Joey Cochran here.

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