One Sunday night, while Leslie Ludy and her husband Eric were waiting to speak at a church, Leslie was observing the conversations and behaviors of the worship team backstage. They enthusiastically discussed sports, pop culture, and entertainment. One of the worship team members asked if anyone had seen the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. Immediately, everyone was in on the conversation. “For the next five minutes, the group relived the comedic antics of their favorite actors on the show, repeating all the crude and sarcastic one-liners verbatim” (3). Eventually, the worship leader calls for a moment of prayer before they go on stage for worship. Leslie describes the scene in this way, “Like a light switching off, the joking abruptly ceased as everyone huddled together for prayer. Someone offered a short petition for God to be glorified in the service. After a corporate ‘amen’ they hurried to take their positions onstage” (3). They went on to lead the congregation in worship. Leslie remembers feeling uneasy about the whole situation. She wondered how the worship team could “go straight from reveling in the ungodly humor of Saturday Night Live into a worship session in which they claimed Christ as their ‘all in all’ (4). However, in the moment that she thought this she began to experience some personal conviction.
In that moment of watching that worship team, Leslie was reminded that she was guilty of the exact same thing. She was living her life in a similar way. In her ministry she lived for Jesus but for quite a long time her private life was not much different from that of the worship team. She says, “I’d been so busy getting ruffled over the compromise and worldliness in the lives of Christians around me that I hadn’t noticed that I was guilty of many of the same pitfalls” (5). She was living her life in a similar way to that of many Christians around her. It was on that night that she was reminded of the call for all of us to live our lives completely devoted to Jesus. This is the call to be The Set-Apart Woman.
Throughout the book Leslie looks at what it means to be set-apart and what it means to be a woman who has completely given every aspect of her life over to Christ. She reminds Christian women that we are called to live in a way that is not influenced by the culture and world around us, but rather by Jesus Christ alone. This means that we have to make the decision every day to choose Jesus over our own fleshly desires. In everything we do we should be pointing to Him. But this cannot be mistaken for legalism, or trying to buy God’s favor through or own righteousness. This decision to live for Jesus in this way, she says, “is an outflow of your overwhelming love and gratitude for Him” (33). As women who have been saved by Jesus we must recognize what He has done and then give our lives completely over to Him in response. With each chapter in the book she challenges Christian women to give everything over to their King.
Ludy digs into the many ways that we often live for ourselves or for the world in each chapter. She talks about how we often live our lives in apathy instead of fiery passion for Christ. We often choose not to pray or spend time in God’s Word out of selfishness. Instead of being fed from time in God’s presence we end up trying to feed ourselves with food from the world, like TV, movies, or social media. We only spend time with God when we feel like it or when it is most convenient. Or we give everything we are to our jobs or our family and therefore have no time left for God. She reminds us that while it is important to take care of our families, we need to not put those things above Jesus, who is the only thing that can and will sustain us. She encourages us to make prayer and Bible study a priority in our lives. She challenges women to take time to read and pray, even when we don’t feel like it. She says, “If we make a habit of doing whatever we ‘feel like’ rather than what God’s Spirit is asking of us, we can be sure that our relationship with Jesus Christ will suffer” (54). Sometimes this means that we have to sacrifice what our flesh wants. We may come home from work or put the kids to bed and just want to sit and watch TV before bed. But what if instead of giving into that we spent time in God’s Word? Spending time and resting with God will fill and sustain us much more than anything else.
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Throughout the book, Ludy constantly contrasts how the world says a woman should live and how God says a woman should live. The world encourages us to devote ourselves to our fleshly desires, serving ourselves above all else. But God calls us to live for Him and serve Him alone. Ludy reminds us over and over that as Christian women, we are set-apart, which means that we no longer have to give into our flesh or the world. In Christ we can find everything we need. She addresses several different issues that we have to face such as uncertainty, idolizing entertainment and celebrities, and gossip. With each issue she shows how God is calling us to live differently for Him, to abandon our selfishness for His glory.
One thing that she addresses that really hit home with me is self-promotion vs the promotion of Christ. Ludy talks about how when she was younger she had aspirations to be a Christian singer. She recounts how over and over people told her that she needed to promote herself. Anywhere she went she needed to be constantly showing herself to other people. But as she grew older and grew in her relationship with Christ she realized that “the Christian life was not supposed to be about self-promotion, but self-denial” (113). This idea of self-promotion is something that our culture is constantly pushing. Constantly we are told that in order to succeed in life we have to do whatever we can to “put ourselves out there.” We need to promote ourselves, no matter what the cost. We must be noticed, even if that means Jesus fades into the background. We can even fool ourselves into thinking that our self-promotion is actually for God, that more than anything He wants us to be seen so that He can be seen. But Ludy reminds us that as Christian women the number one thing we should be promoting is not ourselves but Christ. He is the one who should be glorified above all else. She reminds us that promoting Jesus over ourselves “doesn’t mean we can never cultivate the unique talents and strengths that He has given us” (116). But she says that before we use our gifts we need to check and see if we are truly doing it for Him or if we are simply seeking approval from people. In this chapter, Ludy challenges the idea that good self-esteem is one of the most important thing for women to have. She does not say that we should feel horrible about ourselves, but rather that we should find our confidence in Christ instead of in ourselves. The Christian woman has Christ-esteem instead of self-esteem (120).
Throughout the book Ludy addresses many different issues that women deal with. Each issue is grounded in Scripture and points to Jesus as the only answer. One of the biggest highlights of this book is that she is able to address each issue in a way that women in different parts of life can relate to. While there are many points where she is clearly speaking form her experience as a wife and mom, I am still able to connect to what she’s saying as a young, single woman. One reason I often stay away from “women’s interest” books is because they tend to target moms and wives and they are written in ways that someone in my phase of life can’t understand. These books are important and helpful but they tend to target one kind of audience. But Ludy is unique in that the topics she covers and the advice she gives are relevant to women in every part of life. Part of what I think makes this possible is her focus in the book. The point of the book is not to help the reader know how to be a better mom or wife. It’s not even about how to be a better woman. Instead, the point of this book is to remind Christian women, of all ages and walks of life, who has saved them and who they should be living for. It is simply a reminder that we, as women of God, have been set-apart for Him.