Thursday, February 01, 2007

How do you KNOW you're in love?? (written by Pastor Piper)

Now, what about that sermon title: “Staying Married Is Not About Staying In Love”? What’s the issue with being “in love”? The problem with basing too much on it is that it is a fuzzy thing. Not as in warm fuzzy, but as in fuzzy photograph. The line between when it’s there and not there is vague. Am I in love with Noël? This is a test. You decide.

1) When she goes away, I miss her—not just because I might get tired of cereal (except that nice people bring us things), but also because there is a vacancy in the kitchen and in the living room and in the car and in the bed and in the air.

2) When my day off rolls around each week on Monday, I want to do something special with her. Admittedly not very special. I just want to be with her. Old Country Buffet. (No kidding—real people and all-you-can-eat for two for fifteen dollars. It’s a cultural experience!) Famous Dave’s. (Where else can you get corn on the cob in January?) Scrabble. (She almost always wins.) River walk in the summer? A long easy evening sitting in the same room reading. The point is: I like being with her in all this.

3) I am sexually attracted to her. Remember I am giving a test for you to judge if I am in love. God has been very good to me by giving me eyes only for Noël. The point is not that I am not tempted to look too long at risqué pictures. The point is that I am not now, and never have been for the last forty years, drawn to any other women. I have never had to kill a rising attraction to another woman. There never has been any. In fact, I have said to Noël that God has, so far, built a safeguard into our relationship that the thought of being romantically involved with another woman makes me physically nauseated—almost as much as a homosexual imagination. It doesn’t feel like a virtue. It feels like acid reflux. (Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Will do.) She is all I have ever been attracted to. And I still am.

4) Noël’s admiration matters uniquely to me. There are thousands of people who think John Piper is not admirable for all kinds of reasons—shouts too much in his preaching, too black and white, dogmatic, judgmental, too conservative, misogynist, hypocrite, proud, not separatistic enough, too separatistic, post-tribulational, hedonistic, Baptist, charismatic sympathizer, subjectivist, tolerates drums, uses questionable language, reclusive, too serious—for starters. That matters to me—some. But what Noël thinks about what I am and what I do matters uniquely. I would rather have her approval and commendation with a thousand emails of disapproval than the other way around.
However, things are not the way they used to be. I can remember the way it was the first time we held hands in 1966. It was not a small thing. It was romantic and sexual. Today we still hold hands. Often it is a sign of truce. I’m done being angry and I want things to be good. Other times it means: I’m glad you’re with me as we go to the doctor. Other times: God was good to give you to me. It’s different. The fruit has ripened. It is not flush with spring green. It is gnarled and worn with thick skin. When you live through fire, the fruit has to develop very thick skin to protect the vital, succulent core.
Unlike the early days of being in love, life is hugely practical. We talk about practicalities of home and work and children a lot. The relationship has a large business component. This home has been a little company: five children to raise, food to prepare, house to keep, car to maintain, health to tend to, clothes to buy and clean, education to plan and pay for, friendships to nurture, ministry to navigate, money to manage, etc. Romance does not dominate this relationship like it did at the beginning.
We know everything there is to know now about each other’s failures. Past failures. Ongoing failures. There is no idealization any more. Marriage is risky business and should not be entered without a huge confidence in the sovereignty of God. If the text is true (which it is), “They were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25), then the day is long past in world history, and in our marriage, when freedom from shame is based on having nothing to be ashamed of. Now it is true—God make it more and more true!—by the maturing of grace.
In the end, the gospel of Christ crucified for sinful husbands and wives is the ground of our marriage. Here is where we see grace. Here is where we receive grace. Here is where we learn to give grace. Growing in grace-received and grace-shared is how we are moving forward toward the day when Christ will be all in all and there will be no marrying or giving in marriage (Matthew 22:30). It is a precious gift while we have it. It is a painful and happy school for heaven. I am thankful for my wife. I am committed for life. Am I in love? You decide.
Pastor John


Pastor Piper's comment during last Sunday's sermon - that it takes the grace of God to open eyes and hearts to see that marriage is so much deeper than butterflies ~ to rid the heart of the shallow expectations of love and marriage gives me hope for our culture....because it's up to my Father to turn the hearts of people.

It seems like many brothers and sisters that I know have convinced themselves that love should feel like ........umm.....well.......remember the knots in the stomach that we used to get in middle school (don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about!!!) when that certain girl or guy would be in study hall......the excited nervousness that never ceased due to the uncertainty and mystery of him or her ??

I think we need to get rid of the ideaology of what we think love should be......and soak up the beauty of the texts on love and pray that he bring it out of us.........

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient and kind;
Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends"

Song of Solomon 8:6
"For love is as strong as death, and it's jealousy is as enduring as the grave.
Love flashes like flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD.
Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it;
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, his offer would be utterly despised."


At 2/02/2007 7:27 AM, Blogger Frank Martens said...

Pastor Piper's sermon was something I concluded on a long time ago...

So... the question is... if God is the one who opens the hearts and changes the hearts of people towards each other. Then what do we do in the mean time as singles if we are not "in love"? ....

Focus on the Gospel :)

At 2/02/2007 7:48 AM, Blogger Jen2 said...

Hrrrummmph !!!
(hearty AMEN !)

What do you mean by that- "focusing on the gospel"

At 2/02/2007 6:52 PM, Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Hmmm...I fully agree with pastor John, but I kinda would articulate myself a little differently. I believe that it's possible to be "in love" and know that you're "in love". I've had a pretty consistent understanding of "love" for a few years now.

1 John 3:16 & John 15:13 give us the essence of love; what love IS at it's very core.

John 14:15-15:17, Matthew 17:5, 1 John 3:1-5:1, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (and really far too much other scripture to list) show us what love LOOKS LIKE.

I don't know that I'm "in love" because of my understanding of "love" though.

I know that I'm "in love" because my understanding of "love" changes my understanding of the word "in".

People often use the expression "fall in love", and I would suggest that such an expression betrays the us with a false understanding of both "love" and "in".

"In" can mean many things, but people often use it in a locative sense, meaning that they use it as a function word to indicate inclusion, location, or position within limits. People could say "in the lake" or "wounded in the leg".

People often talk about being "in love" like they fell "in" a puddle...accidentally, mysteriously and often without cognitive action. "It just happened..."

Or, they refer to "love" like it's an emotional location; a city. They want to head to "love" and buy some property. Then they'll be "in Love".

I've started to think of "in" more as a function word to indicate means, medium, or instrumentality. I could say "written in pencil" or "bound in leather". Love isn't as much a city that I'm headed to as it's the route and means of getting to where I'm headed (mature and complete relationship).

Day to day, I operate "in love". When I talk to Jen (and others), I talk "in love". When I plan birthday surprises, I plan "in love". When I serve, I serve "in love".

So, I strive to BE "in love" in everything. Love is both a cognitive choice and a serious task. But, I don't FALL "in love". I fall in twitterpation and butterflies in the stomach and flirting.

Being "in love" takes a lot of work, because a biblical understanding of love ("self-sacrifice for the glorification of God in the lives of people"? I haven't really got a "nutshell" definition I'm happy with yet...) necessitates that there is struggle and intentional action involved.

That being said, I could say "I strive to love in love."

Either that made sense or my sleepy brain just teamed up with my hands to waste a bunch of my time! DOH!

At 2/03/2007 7:33 AM, Blogger Jen2 said...

RIGHT ON Armchair.
That is so's one of those already but not yet type deals. "I married so and so because I love them, and now I practice love to them because I'm married to them."

Aiming to love people in loving them....hmmm.......

At 2/04/2007 5:58 PM, Blogger Joanna Martens said...

it's official: i can't wait to meet your face.

At 2/04/2007 8:12 PM, Blogger Frank Martens said...

Jen said... What do you mean by that- "focusing on the gospel"

Now isn't that what scripture is for? :) To answer questions like that :).

Let me quote Packer on such a matter... "Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall in place of their own accord."

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:32... "I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. "

Not that we shouldn't get married or be putting marriage on the radar when the time is right. BUT! Paul's point is this... focus on pleasing the Lord in our singleness and THEN let him worry about the marriage and being in love part.

That's focusing on the Gospel, or an aspect of it :)

At 2/05/2007 6:11 AM, Blogger Jen2 said...

Praise the Lord!!.....
Thanks Frank. That's what I was digging for. :)

Oh, and I looked for the book Knowing God...and couldn't find it too easily. Will look at another NW book today...if not online ordering. :)

At 2/05/2007 10:16 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Freaking quote of the WEEK (from our dearest Pastor John) -
"Differences are not the end of love; they are the occasion for love. Which means an occasion for death. One of the reasons it's so easy to walk away from a difference instead of working it out is that you don't have to die."

Ok, not exactly related to this post, but regarding love nonetheless. And it IS an incredible quote. An occasion to die. Whew!

At 2/05/2007 11:31 AM, Blogger Jen2 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/05/2007 11:50 AM, Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Has Jo not met Daasy? That MUST be remedied if such is the case!

At 2/05/2007 11:51 AM, Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

I'm glad Girlie Face is so smart too! Good Piper quote! I once called that kinda stuff "righteous suicide". Smart girl, and cute to boot!

At 2/05/2007 11:54 AM, Blogger Jen2 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/06/2007 5:07 AM, Blogger Jen2 said...

Hibby - Can you get that quote to a certain person who "ike's pie" for me?

At 2/06/2007 5:10 PM, Blogger Jen2 said...

Oh, Joey - my face can't wait to meet you either !


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