“That in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

Titus 2:10

You know how some pants- skinny jeans probably- can make you look 10 pounds heavier? And how, mercifully, there’s also a cute-fit pair that seems to take pounds off?

How you fade in the teal blue top, but cobalt blue always makes the outfit pop? Or how the Miss Mauve lipstick makes you look sick but Rich Rosewood like royalty? And how the right jewelry and hair set it all off? How all of these- to use an old-fashioned word- adorn?

Last week, I was privileged to share with a women’s group. The title was Adorned and the subtitle way too long to repeat. Honestly, the talk was too.

If I could give it again, I’d say it this way: Dress in ways that make yourself look good. Live in a ways that makes God look great.

Yes, I am well aware that dressing- and living so “put together”- won’t always feel natural. Yoga pants and grumbling words might feel like a better fit. Sometimes we have to fake it till we make it. Adorning can be effortful.

But not much that’s good comes easy. It takes strong grace and our resolve. Which is why my word is ADORN.

My Word of the Year

Did you pick a theme word for the year?

One of my friends picked HELP. Another picked ENGAGE. It took me till March, but I’ve finally got one. Yup. You guessed it- ADORN.

The word adorn comes from the Greek word kosmeo, from which we get our English word cosmetic. It means “to arrange, to put in order,” – to present in a way that enhances beauty. The Greeks used it to describe how the right jewelry would beautify a well-dressed woman or how tasteful decor could beautify a room.

The Apostle Paul used the term in Titus 2:10  to describe what happens when people live godly in their unique spheres of life. Adorning the doctrine of a saving, transforming God is what we do when we show patience and kindness and self-control.

Those are just some of the many ways we make God look good. The ways we live that set His beauty off and adorn.


Pastor C.H. Spurgeon said that adornment in this Titus 2 sense is,

  • A tribute to beauty. Godly behavior honors the gospel.
  • An  advertisement of beauty. Holiness calls attention to the natural beauty of the gospel.
  • An enhancement of beauty. Godliness gives emphasis to the excellence of doctrine.

We know how to zhuzh up our look with the the right color and fit. 

But we’ve also seen how poorly fitting clothes, wrong color shades and gaudy jewelry can actually diminish the appearance of beauty. The beauty is still there but the color or style detract and deflect. They don’t enhance or “set it off.” They don’t adorn.

We do the same things to the doctrine of a saving God. We diminish- not God’s actual beauty– but the appearance of God’s gorgeous, glorious salvation to those who know Christ through us.

I Should Like to See it Working

Alexander MacLaren was a 19th-century, English preacher. His treatment of adorn has impacted me greatly and I think his is a word for all Christ followers today. That’s why MacLaren gets the podium for the rest of this post. (The full transcript of this message can be accessed here. )

[M]en do quite rightly and legitimately, judge of systems by their followers...It is just as fair, when a creed comes before our notice which assumes to influence men’s conduct, to say: ‘Well, I should like to see it working,’ as it is for any of you mill-owners to say, when a man comes to you with a fine invention upon paper, ‘Have you got a working model of it? Has it ever been tried? What have been the results?’

So when we Christians stand up and say, ‘We have a faith which is able to deaden men’s minds to the world; which is able to make them unselfish; that is able to lift them up above cares and sorrows; which is able to take men and transform their whole nature, and put new desires and hopes and joys into them’; it is quite fair for the world to say:

‘Have you? Does it? Does it do so with you? Can you produce your lives as working models of Christianity? Can you produce your cure as a proof of the curative power of the gospel that you profess?’

So, dear friends, this possibility does lie before all Christian men, that they may by their lives conciliate prejudices, prepare people to listen favourably to the message of God’s love, win over men…and make them say: ‘Well, after all, there is something in that Christianity.

Lives Like Mirrors

Our lives ought to be like the mirror of a reflecting telescope. The astronomer does not look directly up into the sky when he wants to watch the heavenly bodies, but down into the mirror on which their reflection is cast.

And so our little, low lives down here upon earth should so give back the starry bodies and infinitudes above us that some dim eyes, which…could not gaze into the violet abysses, may behold them reflected in the beauty of our life.

Our lives should be like the old missals, where you find the loving care of the monastic scribe has illuminated the holy text…The best Illustrated Bible is the conduct of the people who profess to take it for their guide and law.

Do you repel or attract?

The issues of the conduct of professing Christians are the one or other of these two, either to add beauty to the gospel or to cause the Word of God to be blasphemed. If you do not the one you will be doing the other. If my life is not throwing back honour…it will be throwing back discredit.

Your lives, professing Christians, are not neutral in their effect upon men’s estimate of your creed. Either you attract or repel. The one pole of the magnet or the other you do present. Either you make men think better of God’s truth, or you make them think worse of it. There are no worse enemies of the gospel than its inconsistent friends.

My brother! I bring to each of you the very solemn question: Do you repel or attract? You have, perhaps, children. Are they favourably disposed to Christianity because of what they see in the lives of their father and mother? or do your inconsistencies… drive them away and disgust them with a profession of religion, and with religion itself?

You have friends and acquaintances, and a circle whom you influence. Do you influence them to look with favour upon that Word which has made you what you are? Or do you turn them away from it?

The Smallest Duties, Done For Christ’s Sake

Remember, too, as the context teaches us, that the lives which commend and adorn the doctrine must be such as manifest Christian principle in the smallest details.

These slaves [Titus 2:8-9], in their smoky huts, with their little tasks… were to ‘adorn the doctrine.’ For it is the little duties which by their minuteness tempt men to think that they can do them without calling in the great principles of conduct, that give the colour to every life after all…

A handful of snow in the hedge in the winter time will fall into the same curves, and be obedient to the same great physical laws which shape the glaciers that lie on the sides of the Alps. You do not want big things in order, largely and nobly, to manifest big principles.

The smallest duties, distinctly done for Christ’s sake, will adorn the doctrine…

He Must First Beautify Us

And now one last word. How is such a manner of life to be attained? I know of only one way, and that is by continually living near Jesus Christ.

If we are to beautify Him, He must first beautify usIf we are to adorn the doctrine, the doctrine must adorn us. That is to say, it is only when we live near Him, are in constant touch of His hand, and communion with His spirit, it is only then that His beauty shall pass into our faces, and that beholding the glory of the Lord ‘we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory.’

Only then men will say, “Well, after all, there is something in that Christianity,” Only then will the doctrine of God our Savior look gorgeous.

And don’t you want to adorn the truth of our beautiful, transforming and saving Lord?

“In the same way, let your light shine before others,

so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

“Blessed are the people who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face”

Psalm 89:15

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