Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31st - Love and Beauty

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Superbowl Missions Trip
Dave and Brooke and Eden
Plumley Daughter on the Way
Costello's Anniversary
Brittany to Haiti
Bruce Teaching Next Week

Text – 1 Peter 3:4-5

We talked about this two weeks ago and didn’t finish. I think that was providential because afterwards when I was praying over the lesson I realized that there is a lot more we can and should talk about in this. This lesson will be largely topical, which means it is a combination of scriptural truths and not from any one passage. We’ll look at 1 Peter 3 though, which is what brought us to this topic, in a bit. Usually I like to teach expositionally, letting the passage speak, but I don’t think I’d be exaggerating when I say this systematic look at scripture will be among the most important lessons I’ve taught.

First I want to talk about an important topic and the reason we’re going to look at this first is because I think it has caused most of the confusion on this topic and the complete godlessness of the current culture. The topic is the topic of love. In America today you can love your family, you can love your boyfriend or girlfriend, you can love God, you can love donuts, love love love…it gets thrown around like crazy and nobody ever defines it. I hope you love your parents in a different way than I love donuts. Some of you have already heard this, but a review never hurt anybody, especially on such an important topic.

There are five Greek words that we translate somewhat rightly into love, and one that gets translated as love that is totally wrong. The New Testament is written in Greek, it is one of the most exact languages in the world, maybe even the most exact; it is very precise in wording. English, on the other hand, is far from precise and we run into huge problems with its ambiguity.

So our six words for love are Agape, Storge, Phileo, Thelema, Eros, and Porneia:

Agape – Sacrificial lovingkindness – Better translated as Charity.

This is how God loved the world. You agape somebody when you do something for them without expecting anything in return or because of who they are. If you see a baby carriage rolling down a hill, you’re going to do something regardless of who the baby is. You may be agape loving the next Adolf Hitler, but this sort of love doesn’t discriminate. For example, you can totally hate someone but still give them charity, like a prisoner of war is given food and drink and medical care, even though he is an enemy.

Storge – In terms of God it is Fatherly love, also used for parental love, and pastoral love. Cherish would be a good translation; you cherish things that are valuable.

This word is hard to find in the New Testament, not because it’s not there, but because it gets stuck on the back of other words. In Romans 1:31 it says one of the marks of God’s judgment on a people is they will stop having storge love. It’s used most beautifully in the beginning of Romans 12:10, the HCSB has the best translation,

Romans 12:10 Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.

Phileo – Brotherly love, the word for friend, Philos, comes from this.

For example, Tori helping today in class is out of friendship to me and you. Now, say she is at KSU and has a dead battery and she calls me to come give her a jump start, I’m not going to say, “Ok, I’ll do it because you helped me in class.” Then the next day her battery is dead again, I’m going to tell her, “Sorry Tori, we’re even, you’re out of favors.” Out of phileo love there are no favors, if she needed a jump start every day until the end of the semester phileo love would cover it; although after about the third time we’d probably get her a new battery.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Thelema – Desire/Enjoyment…aka…I love hamburgers…I love skiing…

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 it says that God loves your sanctification, he desires it, he enjoys it. What is sanctification? Becoming more and more like Jesus Christ in your actions and attitude.

A husband can also desire his wife, but there is a better word for that;

Eros – Physical/Committed/Romantic Attraction, the actual word is not in the Bible but the concept is.

This is love between a husband and a wife. It is not purely physical, it’s sort of all of the previous loves combined. It’s almost axiomatic, or self-proving, that the husband loves his wife and therefore finds her pretty and he loves her also because she is pretty. This love should be constrained within the marriage covenant; when it is used wrongly you can use Eros to describe it, but a better word is one of sexual immorality:

Porneia – Physical attraction; lust.

The Greeks would have freaked out if they found out we’re using the same word for Agape and Phileo to translate Porneia, yet we do. This is the love that says I love the outside of you and couldn’t care less about the inside of you.

Sometimes I see on Facebook, “He said he loved me but he lied.” No, not necessarily, there was a misinterpretation going on. He said, “I porneia you, I lust you” and she heard, “I want to marry you, I want to cherish you forever.”

So all this said, the way that the Bible tells us God loves us and that we are to love each other is the first four. In our hyper-sexualized culture I wouldn’t dare tell one of you straight out that, “I love you,” because even though I mean the first four, I have no idea how you would interpret it, but I have no problem saying I agape you (I willingly sacrifice for you), I stergo you (I am blessed to know you and see you grow up and am happy to invest in you), I philo you (our friendship is not based on what you can do for me or what I can do for you, but on a Christian affection), and I thelema your sanctification (I want to see you grow in your faith and glorify your Saviour).

If I said “I love you” what I wouldn’t mean is the bottom two. I hope you see that it is very important to say what you mean and do your best to remove ambiguity. Words have meanings.

So that brings us to 1 Peter 3 and how God loves us and Peter’s point is on how love is supposed to work in the marriage covenant. This passage focuses largely on girls, but guys pay attention because it will guide you towards the girl you’re looking for and also will allow you to fulfill your proper role in looking out for your Christian sisters.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Three things have been called imperishable in First Peter: our faith, the Holy Spirit, and the beauty of a godly soul. God says nothing of the outside of a person being precious, but he speaks of inward beauty has having great value.

Does that mean that our soul is the only thing that can be good and our bodies are totally bad? This was a cult that grew up in the first and second centuries called Docetism, and they believed that Jesus didn’t really have a body because physical things are sinful and only spiritual things can be good. How are we going to refute that? Let’s read from Genesis:

Genesis 1:27,31 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Nothing is sin and of itself sinful; Adam and Eve’s bodies were not just good, but very good. But just like fire can keep you warm, if used wrongly it will burn you; water is necessary for life, but too much will drown you; Our bodies are the same, but sins with them are on a higher plain than other sins.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

That brings us back to First Peter, we’re not supposed to focus our beauty on the outside, trying to make people notice us for our fa├žade. How many people in history have had the opportunity to choose which body they would wear? Only one, and do you know which body he chose?

Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

Jesus could have woven together the most beautiful body for himself, but he chose to be average, even less than average, so people wouldn’t love him for his exterior, but for who he is.

But this is the exact opposite of what our culture today says. You see on tv, you see in magazines, you see on billboards that the importance of the world is on the external person. Check out what John MacArthur says about these women,

And we call those women models, don't we? Models of what? For mercy sakes. Models of virtue? No. Models of character? No. Models of purity? No. Models of inner beauty? No. Models of modesty? No. Models of submissiveness? No. Models of what? They're mannequins.

When he says mannequin he means they’re pretty on the outside, but empty on the inside. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

I’m not saying that there isn’t something to the exterior. I could try to be all pious and say that you should just ignore the external and totally focus on the interior, but look, last week I wore a $500 suit (I didn’t pay $500 for it, but still), we don’t totally neglect the exterior, but it’s not where we put our hope and our resources and our affections.

Our exterior person is a great example of putting our hope on non-spiritual things. Take me for example, when I was 18 I went to the gym every other day and I was ripped. Then over the next few years I neglected myself and fell out of shape, then at 22 I went to the Middle East and went to the gym every day and got into the best shape of my life. I look at pictures of me then and have a sort of covetousness of my former glory, but the chances of me ever looking like that again are slim.

Summit has an unrepresentatively big number of pretty girls, like 100%. Nothing worries me more than how pretty all of you young ladies are getting and the attention from non-Christian boys that you are going to garner. The ulcer Bethany gave me when she told me about her kissing booth has finally started to go away. Her fish club was giving away Hershey’s kisses.

But just as we grow into external handsomeness, so does it decline pretty quickly, and if we put our hope and efforts into the external, we’re going to be disappointed pretty quickly. Even the most beautiful person won’t be that beautiful in a century, because our external person is perishable.

What about a gentle Christian spirit, is it perishable? No, 1 Peter 3 says its imperishable.

Where do we look for examples? Should we look to the world? Or should we look to godly examples and biblical characters?

For the ladies the example is both the women in the church who are walking in the truth, and those in the Bible. An excellent book on this is 12 Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur.

For the guys the example is the same, except looking to godly male role-models and the examples in the Bible. We’ll look at Job in a minute.

The ultimate example for all of us is Jesus Christ;

Matthew 11:27 I am gentle and lowly in heart…

We see that he was humble and submissive to his Father, he acted when the situation warranted, such as standing up to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 or cleansing the Temple, he loves righteousness and hates wickedness, and he counted others as worth more than himself, even dying to redeem people who were totally unworthy.

When you think of Job, what do you think of? Suffering right? But do you ever think of him as a righteous dude? He was, he’s my hero, pretty much every one of his speeches references his understanding of God’s law and practical advice on how to live a God-glorifying life. Chapters 31 is the best, lets just read a few verses, and we’ve read these before, and they’re on the importance of not being caught up in the lust of looking at the exterior:

Job 31:1-4 I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high? Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?

What sort of covenant can we make with our eyes to be God-glorifying? We can be extreme and say, “Eyes, you don’t look at anything you shouldn’t be looking at and I won’t pluck you out and cast you into the fire.” Or more reasonable, “Eyes, whenever something passes before you that is damaging to my soul, you look away or close.”

This is hugely important because the more you focus on the external of a person, the less you’ll appreciate their personality and character. A word that comes from Porneia is Pornography, and it will wreck your soul. Besides the damage that it will do to you, it grieves the Holy Spirit, the Father hates it, and Jesus died to pay for it, so we must be deliberate in avoiding it. This admonition for avoiding the external is more important for the guys, but in America there is a growing rate of female porn-viewers and it shows the depravity of this nation.

But not all pornography is visual. The new series, Twilight, has been called pornography for teenage girls, not because it is sexual, but because it satisfies emotions with fake people. Just as visual pornography sets up an impossible standard of external beauty coupled with debase behavior, Twilight sets up an impossibly high internal beauty in someone who is not real. Ladies, I beg of you not to read these books, and to do everything you can to keep your friends from reading them.

This leads us full circle back to love. Jesus Christ is our perfect example of humility, of inner beauty, and of love in sacrifice, cherishing, friendship, and desire to see growth.

As we’ll talk about more in two weeks, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit pray for us constantly. God prays for us. How great is that? It shows how much he loves us in those four ways.

Now, a brief section on eros love. This is a very special love that God intends for you to share with one person for the rest of your life. The world tells you to date everybody and don’t worry about marriage and that kissing is no big deal. The Bible says we’re to court one person, marry them, and they should be the only ones we are intimate with in the eros sort of way.

Before we conclude, check out this great pickup line from the Bible, albeit I don’t know if it would work today:

Song of Songs 4:1-2 Your hair is like a flock of goats streaming down Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn sheep coming up from washing, each one having a twin, and not one missing.

The goats coming down the mountain flow and wave, the sheep up from washing are bright white, and they’re all there.

So our conclusion and application is that the quality and beauty of our soul is what we need to worry about growing, not our external looks. The internal is imperishable, the external is perishable. A beautiful heart is precious in God’s sight, a beautiful smile is not. Jesus chose to have no external beauty, but demonstrated to us the heart which we must seek to emulate.

Be precise in the words you choose to use, especially when telling someone you love them. Love God first, people second, and yourself last. Focus on the eternal soul, not the temporal body. Save your eros love for your future spouse, don’t waste it on temporary trysts. Flee from porneia.

Let’s read two verses to close:

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

The last verse looks forward to the marriage of Christ and his church:

Isaiah 62:1-5 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.