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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Love?
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Purity
 
Added:2022-05-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Lesson: Lord’s Day 41

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE LOVE?

  1. By Recognizing the Ugliness of our Corruption

  2. By Recognizing the Beauty of His Gifts

 

  1. Psalm 101:1-3

  2. Psalm 32:1, 3

  3. Hymn 28: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Hymn 48: 3, 4

  6. Hymn 7: 1, 2

 

Words to Listen For: friend-zone, blushed, heartbeat, trick, business

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What’s the problem with the four kinds of Biblical love?  How can they be properly understood and used?

  2. Whose fault is it that sex is an awkward topic?

  3. How is sex like a fire?

  4. What do you HAVE to do if you are caught in sexual sin?

  5. What is the greatest gift of God?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Jesus Christ our Lord,

I’m going to begin this afternoon by shattering a misconception that some of you may have about love.

The idea that there are 4 kinds of Biblical love...just isn’t true.

This is difficult for me to say, because this idea was popularized by C.S. Lewis...a man who I love to read, and love to quote, often, in sermons.

This is how the idea usually is presented:

There are four kinds of Biblical love in the Bible, Agape love, Phileo love, Eros love, and Storge love.

          Agape is the special divine love that God has for us

          Phileo is brotherly love that we should have for each other

          Eros is romantic love between a husband and a wife

          And Storge is family love, a kind of empathetic bond.

And this sounds so nice!  This divides things up so nicely. But unfortunately, and I’m sorry to burst your bubble, the Bible never makes these clear divisions.

While Lewis’ four types of love do exist in Ancient Greek writings, they exist alongside at least 4 other types of love for a total of 8...and the Bible only speaks of two of Lewis’ four kinds of love.

Scripture speaks of Agape love, and while it is used for the love that God has for us, it is also the word used for the love that we must have for our neighbour, and even our enemies.  This is the type of love that husbands are to have for their wives - Ephesians 5:25.

While we are to love fully, we are to love as God loved us - Agape love is not some special kind of divine love, unattainable to human beings...it is the regular love that we are commanded to show to all those we meet.

As for Phileo love, while it is used for brotherly affection, and is a word regularly translated as “friend” … this is also the word used in Titus 2:4 - train the young women to love - to Phileo - their husbands and children.  I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Paul was telling Titus that women were supposed to “friend-zone” their husbands.

The different words for love have a lot of overlap.

And I don’t say this merely to ruin your idea of the four kinds of Biblical love, or to claim that I know better than C.S. Lewis...but rather, there is a positive aspect here too.

It’s fine to talk about different aspects of love, different dimensions...as long as we realize that they’re all love.  It’s like apples and oranges - there are differences, but at the end of the day...they’re both fruit!

And so, self-sacrificing love, friendship love, and empathetic love are all different aspects of the love that we should have for each other...and all of these three plus the fourth - romantic physical love - are aspects of the love that we should have for our spouse.

So, with a description like this, let me ask you...do you see this kind of love in our society?  Do we see examples of a husband and wife, willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the other?  Who are also best friends?  Who are empathetic, and really feel each other’s emotions, along with having a respectful and romantic physical relationship?

I think this is impossible to find in society, and very difficult to find in the church.

Instead, these aspects of love have been fragmented.  Broken apart into four completely different things with different people.  And this is the problem.

And our Lord’s Day for today, as it deals with the 7th commandment, on first glance, seems to focus in on only 1 kind of love - Eros, that romantic, physical love - but that’s part of the problem.  We don’t get it.  It isn’t just in society that these aspects of love have been fragmented, but in our minds also.

And so, this afternoon, I invite you to join me, as we learn to embrace a larger view of love.

Let us together ask and answer the question:

HOW THEN SHALL WE LOVE?  And we will see this in 2 points

  1. By Recognizing the Ugliness of our Corruption

  2. By Recognizing the Beauty of His Gifts

 

It’s interesting...some of you may wonder why I chose the word “love” for the theme.  Surely love would have fit better with the sixth commandment.  Instead of hatred - heart murder - we must love.

And while I did speak on love last time, there are two reasons why it is here also.

First of all, love is a euphemism.  A word that I can say without saying what I am actually talking about.  Love is a euphemism for sexuality.  And I use the euphemism because the 7th commandment is an awkward commandment to talk about.  It is a commandment related to our sexuality...and so...on the one hand, I must tread cautiously and be careful with my word choices and examples because of the children here present.  There are certain things that aren’t for young ears.

But on the other hand...I’m not sure that I would be much more comfortable if I was preaching to a congregation made up exclusively of those 18+.

For example...as most of you know, I just moved into a new house, and the majority of what I had to move was books.  If you were there, you know. 

Books on all kinds of topics.  Books on the Old Testament and the Hebrew Language, books on Church History, books on counselling.  And in my collection of counselling books, I have a few books on the topic of sex.  And I was glad, first of all, that the boxes were opaque cardboard and that those who helped me move in couldn’t see these books.  And secondly, I was glad that I would be the one unpacking these books and putting them on the shelf, so that nobody would see them the either.

And as I unpacked them, I averted my gaze and blushed as I put the books “Sex for Christians” and “Intended for Pleasure” and “The Intimate Marriage” on my shelf.

There is awkwardness and anxiety about this topic for me, and for many others.  The seventh commandment is awkward to talk about. 

And there may be some of you who think, “Well, yes, but the opposite is much worse!  It’s better to feel awkward about it than to be promiscuous and sexually immoral.”

But what we don’t realize is that one leads to the other.  It seems contradictory, but it’s true.

This is the corruption that we see in the world.  These are the two steps:

          Step 1: Sex is awkward and dirty

          Step 2: Do it!

But why?  Why has it come to these two steps in the world?  These two steps, both of which go against God’s good gift?  Against His plan for mankind?  How did we get here?

Well, ultimately, we got to this place because it was easy.  It was the path of least resistance.  Back when society was broadly Christian, parents and schools took the easy way out.  Instead of teaching young people properly, this teaching was merely avoided, or, at best, glossed over.  

It’s easier to say, “No!  I won’t talk about this, I won’t teach about this, because it’s bad, it’s worldly, and there’s nothing to say to good Christians about it.”

But there are a few problems here

  • Sex is a topic that is thoroughly Biblical.  Song of Songs speaks of the relationship between a man and a woman in poetic and yet graphic ways.

  • It’s natural.  God has created men and women as sexual creatures.  We are created, not only to emotionally and mentally complement each other, but in a way to physically complement each other as well.

  • What happens when young people get married?  Their entire lives, they have been taught that sex is awkward and dirty, sinful and inappropriate, and then, after putting on fancy clothing, exchanging a few vows and rings...suddenly all of that just changes on a dime?

The problem of overt sexuality in our society is largely a fault of our own making.  When sex became an act of rebellion, of course it gained traction!  Sex became one of the main ways for young people to rebel, and look where society is at today.   Look where society is at today.

Now, here, I was wanting to quote from some suggestive popular music, but honestly, it is difficult to find something put out recently that I could actually quote here.

So, instead, I will quote a few of the tamest lyrics from what is now, a comparatively tame song, even though it wasn’t when it came out.  The song Blurred Lines from 2013 by Robin Thicke

OK now he was close

Tried to domesticate ya

But you're an animal

Baby it's in your nature

Just let me liberate you

Do you see what it has come to?  The very act that was once a gift from God has become something animalistic.  That this woman has an animal inside of her that he has to set free through sex.

Do you see any love in these lyrics at all?  Think back to those four kinds of love...all legitimate aspects of the wondrous gift that God has given to us...what kind of love has people acting like animals?  Is it the love that is like God’s love to us?  Is it the brotherly love?  The intimate gentle love between a husband and wife?  The empathetic love?

This description has nothing to do with love at all.

When you learn in school and in church that sex is something strange and awkward, and then you hear from artists like Robin Thicke, not to mention Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, the Weeknd, and so many others that I lose track...that sex is about objectifying women, about animalistic behaviour and pain and filth...then this is what you start to believe.  It all fits together.

And it isn’t just songs that teach this message.  Books, like 50 Shades of Grey, TV Shows like Game of Thrones...they’re all around us, and they’re all saying the same thing, all shouting out the same message - sex is awkward and dirty...DO IT!!

This is the mindset, even the heartbeat of society.

And you know what they say...when it rains in the world, it trickles into the church.  Even if we try to avoid these shows, and books and songs...society still finds a way to trickle in.

And the one thing, the thing that is one of the biggest problems in the church right now, the thing that I haven’t talked about yet, because - you guessed it - it’s awkward...is internet pornography - and it’s just a few clicks away.  And so destructive.

The latest research says that the porn industry makes over 5 billion dollars a year, and over 90% of young people are exposed to it before the age of 18.  It is addictive, it is destructive, and it will take over your life.

Pornography rewires your brain, it changes how you view the other sex, it destroys relationships and marriages, and even your relationship with God.

The guilt that rightfully comes as a result of pornography, and the shame that then takes over...pornography is just like the seductive woman in Proverbs 5:

 The lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,

    and her speech is smoother than oil,

but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,

    sharp as a two-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death;

    her steps follow the path to Sheol

It is so tantalizing, and promises so much, but what it delivers is nothing but death and destruction.

This is our Brave New World.  A world that has traded in true and Biblical love for pathetic, empty, damaging, fragmented pieces of what we could have.  So what now?  Two words.  Just two words.

The gospel itself summarized in two words: But God.

But God has given us wonderful gifts instead.  And we have a choice - Choose for yourself today whom you will serve.  Will it be the sexually depraved society?  Or will it be your glorious God who gives nothing but good gifts?  Our second point.

Imagine what our society would be like if we viewed love in the same way that God views love.

Imagine, all of these various aspects of love coming together and forming the backbone of our society.  Though there is overlap between them, though these four types of love are not all found in the Bible, they are still aspects of what love TRULY IS.  They are not different kinds of love, but different aspects of the whole.  And we can use them like that.

Let’s look at each aspect briefly:

Agape - The aspect of love that mirrors what God has done for us, and what we are to do for each other.  That kind of selfless love, that kind of radical love that puts the other before our own needs and desires, because we trust that our needs will be met when we experience agape love too.

Phileo - That friendship aspect that just likes being around the other person.  You don’t have to be out having adventures, but maybe it’s something as simple or monotonous as building a bookcase together, or going to the store.  Maybe it’s going on an early morning walk, or playing a board game.  That kind of love where you don’t have to be saying any words, and you are just spending the time with each other.

Storge - That family love.  That deep-seated, never going away kind of love where you know what the other person is feeling, and you feel it too.  You mourn together and you rejoice together.  Their pain makes you feel pain.  Their joy puts a smile on your face

Eros - The physical love.  Imagine...when all the other aspects are there, when a husband selflessly takes care of his wife, and a wife sees her husband as her best friend, when you share emotions and share a home...then a physical manifestation of that love comes so naturally and is so beautiful.

It is a beautiful gift...not just some kind of trick that God played on us.

Here is something amazing...but you can’t have it!

Instead, think of it like fire - fire in a fireplace is warm and inviting.  Fire provides warmth and comfort, fire can be used to cook food and dry clothing.

But let the fire out of its proper place?  I don’t need to remind you of the wildfires that have raged across BC for the last few months.  I don’t need to bring up pictures of towns burnt to the ground.  IT. IS. DESTRUCTIVE.

And just the same with sex.  Sex is a beautiful wonderful gift of God when it is used properly.  When it is used in love, and when it is used within a marriage.

Our God is a good and generous God.  He isn’t trying to keep something good and fulfilling away from us by this commandment, but He is trying to protect us from harm.  Protect us from the evils that happen when we abuse this gift.  He isn’t trying to rob you...He’s trying to help.

This is what is should look like.  This wonderful gift of God.

But what happens when it doesn’t?  What are we to do then?

What are we to do with pornography all around us?  What are we to do when we are tempted to have an affair with someone who understands us more than our spouse?  Someone who values us?  Someone who makes us feel special?

Well, let’s begin with the affair, because I just told you the answer.

Look at these four aspects of love.  Look at them, study them, read the Bible and highlight every time it says love - you’ll find about 700 occurrences of it in there.

Learn what love is, and then show it to your spouse.  If you have to be the first one to show it, then so be it.

But learn to be selfless, learn to be best friends, learn to feel what she feels, and so fill your romantic physical love with deep meaning.

And to the unmarried...children, young people, adults, the elderly...I mostly talk to you now, though, of course, those who are married can still be tempted in this way...pornography.

If you are one of the few who has never viewed pornography...I beg you...GUARD YOURSELVES. Do not go down that road.  It isn’t because sex is bad...it is because pornography is.

This is one of the biggest challenges facing our youth...do not go there.  Resist the temptation, and you will be a better person for it.  If you go down that pathway, you will only find pain and misery.  Guilt and shame...and it is a hard climb back up.  Believe me.

Parents, please work to protect your children.  Use internet blocks, programs like Covenant Eyes.  Do practical things like having the family computer in a well-trafficked area of the house.

So, here is a challenge for those who have fallen down that rabbit hole...if you are struggling with sexual sin, whether pornography, or an affair, or premarital sex...you have to tell someone.  You cannot continue to fight alone.  Because that’s where Satan wants you.  He wants you alone and weak.  You must confess your sins to God, but also to each other if you want victory over this sin in your life.  You must tell someone.  Tell a trusted and wise friend, tell someone you trust, and fight it together.

Do it today.  Because tomorrow isn’t soon enough.  Do it today.  Because tomorrow isn’t soon enough.

You might ask “why would I want to confess?  It’s too shameful!  It’s too powerful!  There’s no hope for me.  This is just my ‘thorn in the flesh.’”

And you’re right...it IS too shameful...FOR YOU TO HANDLE ON YOUR OWN!  It’s not too shameful for Christ.

It’s too powerful...FOR YOU...but not too powerful for Christ.

So bring it to Him.  Bring it to Him on your knees, and then follow His instructions to confess your sins to brothers and sisters, that you might be restored.

This is your challenge.  

And now an encouragement - sexual sin is not unforgivable.  It is destructive and damaging and evil...but it is a sin that Jesus Christ died for.  You are not irreedemable as a sexual sinner.  For what did our reading say?

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Sin is serious business.

But Grace?  Grace is greater.  Grace is stronger.

Think of what we typically are in awe over.  CREATION.  Whether mountains or oceans or trees or space.  Stars and Galaxies.  We are in AWE of creation around us.

And this is the feeling that we should have as we read these next words.

And such were some of you.

And such were some of you.   You WERE all these things.  You WERE filthy and disgusting and broken.  You were slaves to sin, helpless and hopeless.

But now?

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

You were washed - your sins have been washed away.  They were once as scarlet, but now they are white as snow!

You were sanctified - You were made holy.  Not only have you been forgiven for your sins, you have been transformed, given a new heart.

You have been made holy as God is holy.  You may still feel sinful and filthy and broken...but that’s not how God sees you.

You were justified - You have had your relationship with God restored.  You have been made right with God.

Even though your conscience may rightly accuse you of your sin...that you have broken God’s commandments, and are inclined to all evil…

What did God do?

The famous, amazing, awe-inspiring BUT GOD of the gospel?

EVEN THOUGH...BUT GOD...without anything that you did, out of mere grace, gives you the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.

The greatest gift God has ever given us is not sex.

This world may run on sex, but God doesn’t.

The greatest gift God has given us is simply love.  The overflowing, abounding, never-ending, radical love of God that makes sinners into saints, that transforms enemies into family, and that washes us clean from ever stain of sin. The love that gives us a new start. The love that gives us a new life.

Beloved, let us not be ashamed of the gifts of God.

In this world that is so desperately seeking love, in this world where loneliness and heartache are front and center, let us rest secure in what God has promised us.

This world seeks to cure their loneliness with the very thing that caused it in the first place...it’s like drinking salt water to quench your thirst.

They break love up into different parts, they fill up on what has become dirty and forbidden, and they get emptier and emptier.

But what God promises is genuine love.  Ultimate genuine fulfillment.  He promises what the world promises, but can never truly deliver.

I tell you the truth, brothers and sisters...each and every one of us, no matter how young or old...are looking for love.  And greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  Greater love was never shown than in the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Let us use His gifts wisely.  Let us use them appropriately, and as with all things...to His glory.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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