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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - Love Is Love

Mike Novotny - Love Is Love

Mike Novotny - Love Is Love
TOPICS: Trends vs. Truth

Like, the one guy was definitely the outgoing of the couple. He was a storyteller, a talker. He was passionate, sometimes, funny. Sometimes, inappropriate. A lot like me. Like, "Oh, I can relate to this guy". You know, one minute he says something that cracks me up, the other minute, "Ooh, you're kind of cringing". Like, "Yep, I've been there. That's me". And his partner was a lot like my wife. Lot more quiet, but you can tell obviously intelligent, compassionate, caring. You know, in one dinner, you can only get to know so much about a couple, but from what I could tell, these men cared about each other, they cared deeply for each other, and they were committed to each other. Their love was so much like our love. I've had a chance over the past few years to do some Q&A sections on Christianity and sexuality with local high school students.

And I just sense as the years go by and the semesters grow, that they're exposed to more and more people who are of the same sex who deeply care for each other, are committed to each other, and love each other. And so, the question comes out, "Pastor, isn't love just love? Shouldn't we be more concerned about, you know, selfish spouses and unfaithful spouses than spouses who love each other, and are just of the same gender"? That's a great question. But before we just say, "Amen," to love is love, I want to suggest something that I think is really logical. I think you believe it but, I'm not sure if you've specifically thought about it. If you're taking notes in your program here or you're watching at home, take your notes. Here's what I think that you believe, and you can tell me if it's true. I think that when we say, "Love is love," what we actually mean is, "Love is love#*" with an asterisk I don't think any of you here today or any of you watching at home actually think that as long as there's affection, and as long as there's commitment, and as long as there's desire, that makes something without terms or conditions absolutely okay.

You agree with me? Like, if you think infidelity is bad, you're adding an asterisk to love, right? If you're, like, if your sister was cheating on her husband and she said, "But I'm attracted to this guy who lives next door, and he's attracted to me back. We both love each other and are committed to each other". You probably wouldn't say, "Well, love is love". No, you would come in and you judge their love, and you'd say, "Well, you might feel it, but that doesn't make it right". If it's not humble, and selfless, and obedient to God, you would add an asterisk to her love.

If you read a news story or saw on Facebook that an eighth-grade middle school girl was dating her 48-year-old Social Studies teacher, you probably wouldn't put in the comment section, "Love is love". You'd be like, "Uh-uh. No, no, no, no, no". Like, even if they're both committed, even if they both feel it, even if it's mutual and consensual, you would come in with an outside standard and say, "Oh yeah, but not all love is good love". Like there's some cultures in the world today where a man has multiple wives or not so secret mistress, and you would come in with your understanding of sexual morality and say, "Well, he might think that's okay, but I don't think that's okay".

Alright, y'all agree with that? We all, instinctively are putting an asterisk. We have terms, and conditions, and limits on what makes love and affection good or bad, moral or immoral, something to be applauded and embraced, and something to be changed in repentance. And if you agree with that, and I hope you do, there's a big question you have to answer for yourself, "Who defines the asterisk"? Here's my answer for you today. Write this down. I believe that God is the only one to define the asterisk because, God is love. Have you ever heard that before? It's a Bible passage. 1 John 4. God Himself is love. God is the perfect example of, whatever comes out of God's heart, out of God's word, it has to be love because God by his very nature is love. He's not a little bit of love and a little bit of hate.

Some light and some darkness. Some good, but a mixture with a little bit of bad. No, He is = love. So, whatever God looks at whether it's my culture or another culture, this generation or a previous one, whatever God says about it, it has to be good and it has to be good for us because God can't be anything but. And so, that's what I want to do with you today. I want to open up the Bible and see what this God of love says about love. What does he say to straight people? What does he say to gay people? And whatever God says out of that word, it has to be good, and it has to be good for you because God is love. So, today, we're going to celebrate the goodness of the love of God, we're going to allow him to define the asterisk. And we're going to move forward not with fear, or regret, or apology, but with confidence because the God of love speaks only things that are filled with love.

So, I want to take this teaching today from a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, chapter five. So, I'm going to jump around in the chapter, but here's how the chapter starts, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Jesus Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". You're part of God's family. You're the ones that Jesus died for and forgave. Sacrificed himself. It cost him everything, but he wanted to give you everything forever in the presence of God. This is your identity, so now this is your activity. Walk in the way of love. But that wouldn't be so easy for the Ephesians.

Do you know much about Ephesian culture? How many of you have heard of the seven wonders of the ancient world? Does that ring a bell from back in the day? Do you know one of the seven wonders of the ancient world was the temple in Ephesus dedicated to the goddess Artemis? She was the goddess of fertility in the Greek world. I have a little statue of Artemis that I got in Ephesus. I actually had it in a sermon a few years ago, but the people at Time of Grace said it was inappropriate because Artemis is topless, and she is known as "Many breasted Artemis". So, I didn't bring the statue today, want to keep it clean for the kids. But her temple, her massive temple, was one of the seven biggest deals of the entire ancient world. Visiting her temple, joining a prostitute was just part of what the culture did. What they considered good and acceptable love, and God said, "No, no. Like, I know that's what the Romans do. I know this is what the Ephesians do, but if you're a dearly loved child of God, that's not what I want you to do".

Look at how specific Paul gets in the very next verses. Still Ephesians 5. He says, "But among you, you dearly loved children of God, there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, because these are improper for God's holy people". There's the identity again. "Instead what should you do? Find out what pleases the Lord". If this God of love loved you so much that he gave his only Son, and if that Son loved you so much that he gave his one and only life, and let's not look at the Romans out there or the Roman in here to define what's good or bad, let's look to the God who's always and absolutely love. "Remember who you are," Paul says, "Even if it's really hard. Remember who you are. You are a holy child of a holy Father in Heaven". And then, with that foundation, the apostle Paul gets to relationships. You might know Ephesians 5 is often used at weddings to talk about the vows that we take, what they look like, and this is how that section ends.

Last verses of Ephesians 5 says, "'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband". Like, how we identify, what we need deep down for happiness, joy, and a life that matters, a life that's worth living, it's not who you're dating. It's not whether, you're married or not. It's not whether you have kids or a happy family. The Bible condenses the most important thing about into your connection to God. You heard it a few times in this chapter. "Dearly loved children, find out what pleases the Lord because you are his holy... Do what's proper and pleasing to him because this God made you holy by the blood of his Son".

The Bible is absolutely convinced when it talks about relationships, and husbands, and wives, and sexuality, that what we need at the end of the day is not him, or her, or it, what we need is God. And if we have God, if at the beginning and the end of every day I can wake up and say, "I am a dearly loved child of God". I can look in the mirror and instead of feeling shame, and guilt, and regret, I can see someone who is holy because of the holy blood of Jesus on the cross. If I can see that, know that, think that, I have a rock solid identity that makes my life worth living. Identity. Number two, let's talk about homosexuality. Now, what does Ephesians 5 and the rest of the scripture have to say about that? If it's true as we've talked about, that the commitment, and the passion, and the affection can be equal here with a gay couple and here with a straight couple, what does God say about that?

Yeah, last night, I asked my wife a question about what I should say right now in the sermon, and her answer was, "I don't know what you're going to do with that". Here's what I said to her. I said, "You know, I have known and loved so many people both straight, and gay, and bisexual, that just giving like some quick, write this down, yes/no answer, just doesn't seem right". In my experience, people like you aren't just saying, "Pastor, just tell me yes or no". There's so many things connected to the idea of sexuality like, "If I didn't choose this, if my sister didn't choose this, if I don't wake up one day and decide to be gay, if this is just who I've been, how I'm oriented, how...", and are we really supposed to judge other people? I mean, isn't repressing a desire that is within you like sabotaging your own life, robbing you of happiness?

Why wouldn't we care about these bigger things like fidelity and commitment? You can't talk about sexuality without like a big, long discussion. And so, part of me says, "We need to have a big, long discussion". And part of me says, "This isn't a sermon series, but a single sermon and you probably want an answer". So, I asked my wife to break the tie and she said, "What are you going to do with that"? So, I don't know if this is the right way to do it, but here's how I'm going to do it. A few years ago, when I got to this church, we had a four-week sermon series called, "Gay and God". It tackled all the questions I just mentioned and so many more, and Time of Grace, our Ministry partner, turned that sermon series into this little book. You know, super short. You could probably read it in 45 minutes. Time of Grace has donated 100 free copies that are waiting for you in the lobby.

And so, if this is an issue that you want clarity on, "What does the Bible say? Don't just give me a quick answer. Answer my questions". This is for you for free. I want you to grab one on your way out to your car. And if you're watching at home, Time of Grace has also agreed to make the digital version of this book, absolutely free on their website. So, if you go to Time of Grace. Just type in, "Gay and God," you're going to be able to download this and read it. And if we run out of copies here today, those of you who are here live can do that too. We're going to walk through the history of the church, homophobia, Bible passages like Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, story of Sodom and Gomorrah, 1 Timothy 1. We're going to look at Genesis 2. We're going to answer all those what about questions. "How does God want us to live? What does this look like? What if you can't change your own sexual desires"?

All of that is here and I really need you to know that to be able to respond biblically to the phrase, "Love is love". But I also don't want to dodge the question. So, if you ask me to summarize what this book says, it would be this. Our God of love loves the whole world, but he does not say that gay love is good love. I know it's hard for some of you to hear, but biblically and historically in the Christian church, this has been the consistent message. You can't read any passage in Bible that applauds the sexual love a man has for a man.

But if you would open your Bible to Romans 1-3, you would find just the opposite of God saying to the 1st century people even though it's very cultural, even though it's very natural, that doesn't make it good. God has limits. So, is it okay even if there's commitment and fidelity? The biblical answer is, "No, it is not". It is a natural desire that needs to be submitted at the feet of Jesus to remain in his love means to obey His commandments. You cannot hold on to your sexuality as your identity and still end up with Jesus in the end. Got to open up your hands, humble yourself, and trust that the God who says these words is not bad. Even in this part, he is so, so good.

Number three, what is God saying about heterosexuality? Answer, a lot. In fact, by word count, God is speaking to people like me much more than he's speaking to some of you. What is he saying? "Husbands," put a show of hands. Where are my husbands at? Yeah, much of us here today. "Husbands, love your wives". So clear, so good, and so hard. "Husbands be like Jesus," is what this chapter says. Jesus gave Himself, He sacrificed his very life to be a blessing to his bride, the church. Husbands love like that. Like, take your schedule, your preferences, your opinions, things that you would like to do, and just put them so secondary that the woman that you are married to just feels at the end of every day that she matters more. Like, be average, be the 3rd string JV running back if you can be a 1st string boyfriend. Be the guy who doesn't get promoted because you've been promoted in your wife's mind for the things you do at home.

Whatever you have to sacrifice, whatever you have to change to make her at the end of the day say, "I'm so glad he chose me". Husbands love your wives. Guys, this means we have some work to do, huh? You know what's so common? You make a commitment, you say your vows, there's these sweet words, and then life, and there's work, and there's demands, and you're tired. And then, you have kids and then you realize, you thought you were tired before now you're really, really tired, Right? Then you have twins, and then you define tired, right? And you kind of get into that habit where you work, and she works, and there's the kids, and there's the dinner, and then you just sit down and you both pull out your phones, and you repeat, and that's marriage. Paul says, "Uh-uh. That's not love".

Love is a man seeking his bride like Jesus seeks the church. A man who humbles himself and gives up everything like Jesus does for the church. A man who says, "My greatest goal in life is to serve God first and to love you next". Let the boss be disappointed. Let the guys I play softball with miss me that night, because I want to be with you and make you feel like such a gift and a priority like Christians feel when they hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. And guys, if you're feeling like I am and if you're sitting next to the woman that you love, here's what I want you to do right now. Don't be embarrassed. I just want you to take your hand and I want you to put it on her leg... If the kids are sitting in between you, this is the awkward part of the sermon. Right? And I just want that touch to be a commitment that, "I want to do this better. I can't go back. I can't change the decisions that I've made, but today as I'm shaped by the love of God, I want to walk in the way of love. I want to be good to you".

Ladies, your turn. Where are my wives at today? Whole bunch of you here today. Do you know what is one of the most beautiful things in the world? When a man who's gotten beat up by life walks through the door of his house, and feels respect. Like, no man is happy without respect at home. No man feels good if the boss loves him, and he's driving a fancy car, and he brings home a 12-point buck in the fall, if he's walking home to disrespect. Ladies, you have one of the most beautiful jobs. The Bible begins in paradise with God looking at a man who is holy and perfect saying, "Not good enough. It's not good for him to be alone. What he needs is a woman, and I will create her to be a helper. And it will be this beautiful, beautiful thing".

And when you put that together, husband and wife, love and respect, that is wind in your husband's sails. So, can I ask you to return the favor, ladies? Can you put your hand on his hand? And just say, "You know honey, whatever I have to change or do, I don't want the kids to grow up feeling like they got everything, but mom and dad were fighting. Like, you matter to me. I want to make you feel like Jesus feels when the church praises him. I don't want love to be something in the past when we weren't so busy. Like, I want to stop doing things I don't have to do. I want to be average and mediocre there because I want to be so good right here". Because the Bible knows that if a husband and wife love and honor each other, life is so good. They are a glimpse of Jesus and his church, the most important thing in the universe.

I want to go back to a passage from Ephesians 5 because look at what he adds, he says, "Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". He gave himself up for people, gay people, straight people, bisexual people, as a sacrifice. He loved people who were so sexually backwards so much that he sacrificed his one and only life on the cross, that's love. And then, Paul speaks to us, and it says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and Christ gave himself up for the church to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and Jesus did all this to present the church to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless".

Whatever the desires of your heart, if you come to Jesus in repentance, this is what you get. Radiant to the eyes of God. A part in his holy family. You take your pornography, your infidelity, your adultery, your homosexuality, your selfishness in marriage, you bring it to Jesus, and this is what you get. Friends, Jesus will take a little bit from you, but he will offer you a better treasure. He will offer you his Father in Heaven. He will give you a God who is love. So, whatever you need to repent of, whatever you need to change, whatever you have to give up, whatever you have to sell, you can do it today with joy because God is love and that means that God's love is the best love. Let's pray:

Dear God, thank you so much for your unconditional love. There are times when we read this book and we have to wonder if it's good, because it feels so hard. Sometimes, feels impossible to follow and to obey. But if you said it and you are the same God, it has to be good. If you're the God who loved Jacob despite his many sexual partners, your word must be good. If you're the God who loved Mary even though she was no one from this little town, you must be good. If you're the God of Moses who forgave a murderer, then God, you must be good. You are the same God, and that's why today we preach this without apology, but instead with confidence and joy. God, repentance is never the wrong move. Following your commands never leaves us with less love, it just connects us to the God who is love and who has plans to love us eternally. Father, I know there are people right here in this church, right here in this room, who have been bearing the burden of same sex attraction for years of their lives. They did not make a mistake. And one day, when they see your face and you are smiling upon them because they were connected to Jesus, they will know it in the depth of their soul. My God, there are people here who can't wait 'til this message is over. They think it's hateful, bigoted, backwards, and homophobic. God, I can't change their minds, but you can. Open their eyes to think not less of a sacrifice that it is to follow Jesus, but more of the Jesus who sacrificed Himself. Help them to grasp the height, and width, and depth of his love. That it would seem like a better treasure, the obvious choice to give up whatever this world can offer so that their soul is once and for all connected to you. And finally, God, I pray that this church could be like Jesus. A Jesus who never compromised his love for people. He loved everyone. And a Jesus who never compromised his commitment to your will. Help us to be both grace and truth, 200 proof, without watering a single thing down because we believe that beyond our culture and beyond our own hearts, there's you and you are love. We pray these things today with faith, with confidence and with joy because we pray them in Jesus' name. And God's people who agreed, all joined their voices and they said: Amen.

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