Joy in the Season of Christmas – A Pre-Advent Encouragement

1 John 1:1-4

Joy in the Season of Christmas – A Pre-Advent Encouragement

1 John was probably written as a response to the rise of an early form of Gnosticism. This was a system that pirated Christian themes to propagate an understanding of salvation based on obscure/enigmatic “knowledge” (gnosis).

According to this view, redemption is through affirming the divine light already in the human soul, not through repentance of sin and faith in Christ’s death to bring about spiritual rebirth.

Writings widely publicized in recent years like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas and the Infancy Gospel of James, for example, were the product of Gnostic writers.

But the heyday of Gnostic thought was the 2nd through the 5th centuries, well after the New Testament books were written. It can neither proven nor ruled out that John had forerunners of this movement in mind as he wrote.

What is definite is that these followers of Jesus had witnessed an exodus of people from their ranks (2:19) and this has caused them to lose joy, lose confidence in their salvation and forgiveness of sin, lose sight of sound doctrine and be buffeted by the spirit of antichrist who is already in the world (1 John 4:1-4).

John’s aim is redemptive. John urges these Christians to refine their theological understanding, sharpen their ethical rigor and grow their devotional intensity. That is that  they need to grow in faith, obedience and love.

But it must be said that this letter is not a list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. This letter is rather a declaration of “done!”. It is finished (John 19:30).

1 John highlights what the Father has done in sending the Son in offering him as a sacrifice for sins and sending this word of life that is causing this world’s darkness to pass away and the true light of the age of God’s Kingdom to shine (2:8).

John ends his introduction in 1:1-4 with a purpose statement, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

What things make the apostles and the people’s joy complete? 1 John 1:1-4

1. Jesus has come

2. Father has revealed the Son and now the Son is being proclaimed as the way of eternal life

3. This mission of the Son to come and the Father’s revealing of the Son as the way to eternal life makes fellowship with Father, Son, Spirit and man with complete joy

And at Christmas we celebrate Jesus, who has come, died, risen and ascended to rule his people well by saving them and bringing them into fellowship with Trinity and with each other and with joy.

Saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, full of joy and in fellowship.

Notice verse 4. Joy is had because Jesus has come. Joy is had because Jesus has made fellowship with Father and each other a reality. Joy his had because people who are not blood related are brought into spiritual union with each other. Joy is only had in fellowship with Father, Son and Spirit and with each other.


So, this Christmas season, as a pre-advent encouragement, fight for joy by fighting for fellowship with Father, Son and Spirit and fighting for fellowship with each other.

1. This Christmas, Fight for Joy in (by) Fellowship with Father, Son and Spirit

Joy (chara) – a state of joy and gladness—‘joy, gladness, great happiness.’ ἀπελθοῦσαι ταχὺ ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου μετὰ φόβου καὶ χαρᾶς μεγάλης ‘and quickly leaving the tomb, fearful and (at the same time) very joyful’ Mt 28:8. In a number of languages ‘joy’ is expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘my heart is dancing’ or ‘my heart shouts because I am happy.’


171 times the word “joy” is found in the ESV of the bible. 41 of those occurences are in the Psalms.


Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 32:11

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!


Fellowship (koinonia) – an association involving close mutual relations and involvement—‘close association, fellowship.’ ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς κοινωνίαν ἔχητε μεθ’ ἡμῶν ‘in order that you may have fellowship with us’ 1 Jn 1:3; δἰ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ‘through whom you were called to have fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ’ 1 Cor 1:9


A. Fellowship with Father

1. John 16:25-28

A. We can speak directly to the Father

B. Fellowship with Son

1. Ephesians 2:1-10

A. Seated in the heavens with Christ and having authority over

the spiritual forces of darkness

B. Created in Christ Jesus for good works already prepared for us

to walk in

C. Fellowship with Holy Spirit

1. John 14:15-31

A. Built in counselor (v. 15)

B. Built in teacher (v. 26)

C. Built in reminder of what has been said by the Lord (v. 26)

2. Ephesians 4:30-31

A. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit (meaning he does not leave when

we sin, rather, he is grieved when we sin)


2. This Christmas, Fight for Joy in Fellowship with Each Other


A. Ephesians 2:11-22

1. We have been brought near to God with all who are near to God

through salvation in Christ Jesus (v. 13)

2. The hostile wall of ethnic divide is broken down (v. 14)

3. All in Jesus Christ are one body and members of God’s household

(v. 15)

4. We, the church, are the temple of the Lord (v. 21, 22)

A. Make time for your connect group

B. Make sure you are connected to other TRCC people

C. Be honest about who you are and what you need

1. Confess sin issues and need for accountability

2. Confess physical and emotional needs


3. Come Together to Worship in Word and in Song

Q & A: Homosexuality and the Christians’s Response

Q & A

Homosexuality and the Christian’s Response

Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

Romans 1:18-32

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (malakos and arsenokoites, referring to the passive and active roles of the male partners)

1 Timothy 1:10


First, I want to say that this issue takes on a different tone when you know someone who has / had wrestled with homosexual desires and sought to fight it off but was dragged into the abyss of this desire by it’s iron clutches rooted in idolatry and pride.

I believe that anyone who has stared this issue down and worked with anyone who was staring down takes a different tone than a person who addresses it from the ivory tower of pride and self-righteousness as though their sin is not somehow as repugnant to the Lord as the person who has homosexual desires.

Proverbs 6:16-19

“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:

haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”


1. The Metanarrative and Marriage

Genesis 2:4-25


Everything was created to be enjoyed to the worship of Father not to be enjoyed in itself. In the created order all things were to be enjoyed and that joy is to power up into worship and enjoyment of Father, Son and Spirit!!


At the moment of the fall, the peace of God in creation is crushed and the rhythm of creation is thrown off (the shalom – peace, flow and rhythm).


Father told them that if they rebel he will kill and they will be crushed.


But Father, when it’s all said, does not kill them. They become aware and ashamed of their nakedness and they hide from Father.


Father then kills animals and covers them and expels them from the Garden.


Men now will have a hard time working the land.


Women will now have harder work in giving birth.


Now there will be a tension between man and woman. (passive males, overly aggressive males, headship geared women and overly passive women)


Mankind then goes and continues to rebel but Father continues to be gracious and merciful and every now and then he gives justice (by the way Father shows mercy more than justice).


Matthew 19:4-6 – Jesus argues from the metanarrative of created order for the marriage relationship to be male and female


Ephesians 5:24-32 – Paul argues from the metanarrative of created order for the marriage relationship as revealing Christ’s relationship to the church.


2. The Evangelical Deception

A. The magic prayer as a way to not disciple

a. If you pray this prayer and believe with all your heart Jesus will take the sin away and you will be healed.

b. The truth is that Jesus will save you and give you a new heart but you

have a fallen flesh that you will have to fight from now on until you crawl

into the grave.

1. When I became a Christian there were things that changed

instantly and there were things that are still present that jump

up and bite me on the bottom and fighting that sin is still a


2. Dude, I got saved in the middle of moralistic deism that

that taught good behavior equalled salvation. Meaning

I’m saved if I don’t do certain things and I’m more saved if

I don’t do more nasty stuff. (by the way, this is one of the

reasons I’m a Calvinist. I got saved in spite of this)


B. Selling out in order to grow

a. Much of evangelical Christianity has sold out holiness in order to grow.

If you let unbiblical divorce, tithing/giving, adultery etc, slide but begin to

bash homosexuality people think you are conservative and biblical and will

come to your show if your show is then slick enough.


3. The Law and Joy

Galatians 3:24 and Galatian in general shows us that the law was given to show us that we can’t keep the law and that we need a savior to keep the law for us.


The law was given to lead us not into knowing what is bad and what is good but to lead us back into the flow and rhythm of the Lord’s shalom, peace and restoration.


The law reveals not the innate sinfulness of stuff but the sinfulness of fallen man and man’s intent to pervert God’s stuff and abuse God’s stuff and live out of peace and rhythm with God.


That savior is Jesus and Jesus, the second person of the Trinity comes and lives the perfect life and dies in the place of sinners and invites us to come to him to get his perfection and offers to take all our guilt and then give us his Spirit to restore the capacity to seek joy in Father through enjoyment of his creation and doing his mission in the gradual process of cleaning us up called sanctification.


The prohibitions of Scripture are there not because things Father created are innately bad but because we rebelled and ruined everything and regardless of what we eat or what we do we are by nature and choice rebels and under the condemnation of Father and in need of rescue.


The commands of God are not about Father trying to kill fun and crush joy and keep me from innately sinful things. Rather the commands of God are there to point me to what really produces joy and establishes right rhythm and order to creation. The commands are not to rob joy but lead me into joy!


As rebels we take and misuse the things of God and make them idols.


In the Garden, Father made us for him. Our parents bought the lie and believed that we were for us and we could be like God and we could do our own thing and we know better.


Father made pork. Pork is not bad. Evil people take pork and eat a pound of it. Combine that with fallen arteries and fallen bodies and one could be in for some consequences of the fall.


Father made sexual relationship for husband and wife to enjoy each other and in that enjoyment to enjoy and worship the Father in that act.


Sex is not bad. However, when sex becomes the idol and our joy aborts in sex rather than finding its climax in the worship of Father, Son and Spirit it is sin and rebellion and the end result is idolatry.


Idolatry perverts everything!



3. What is Wrong with Humanity?

Romans 1:18-32


Father created man for the woman. When the fall is factored in and man then begins to pursue the creation and the creature rather than the Father who made creation and creature man then take an idol into his heart and the order of marriage can be thrown out of the window and man can, with fallen affection, take man as a chief act of idolatry in rebellion while working against the created order.


As heterosexual marriage is a picture of God’s pursuit of man in the Gospel, homosexual activity is a picture of man’s rebellion against God’s order and purpose.


4. Homosexual Desire and Homosexual Activity are not the same thing

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? 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.”


1. Are people born with homosexuality?

The fall crushes everything!

a. Are people born sinners or sinless?

b. If we are born sinners then it is quite possible that someone can be

born with tendencies that, if given in to, can lead to this lifestyle

c. As a person can be born with crushed orientation issues then a person

whose orientations issues are still pointed in the right direction could have

promiscuity issues because the fall crushes everything…


2. Homosexual desire is not equal to homosexual activity

a. “Practice homosexuality” is the translation of two words that refer to

the passive and active participants in homosexual activity.

b. Paul is not speaking to the person who is fighting the sinful desire

to not give in to it.


3. It is no more sinful to be tempted with homosexual desires than it is to be

tempted with adulterous desires. It is sinful to give in to the wrong desires.

a. The issue is whether or not a person is repenting and fighting against

the desire or given in to it


5. Arguments Made for Homosexuality Being a Legitimate Lifestyle:

1. If no one is hurting others, what is the problem? Shouldn’t we love our neighbor

as ourselves? Didn’t Jesus say to love me not judge my lifestyle choice?

a. Matthew 23:34-40

1. Love God first then love neighbor as oneself

2. Love of God leads to right love of neighbor

3. If I love my neighbor right I will want to love the image

of the God I love first in them and I will want the image

of God restored.


2. Since we are sinners too who are we to call out others?

a. The issue is repentance not the sin


3. Jesus didn’t ever say anything about homosexuality

a. We don’t argue from silence

b. Trinitarian theology mandates that we understand Jesus as the author

of all Scripture and inerrancy mandates that we affirm nothing is affirmed

that is contrary to fact

c. Jesus never mentioned anything about bestiality but I’m not quite sure

we can pin that one on Jesus in silence.

1. Matthew 15:18-20 – “porneia” meaning sexual deviance of any



4. If an activity is done elsewhere in nature it must be ok and normal behavior

a. Some species do have male on male and female on female behavior

b. But this is also a fringe anomaly because if it were normative the

species could not survive because it could not reproduce (this is where

natural selection, as a worldview, contradicts many who hold the

belief and adhere to homosexual behavior as normative)

1. Many in the homosexual community endorse natural selection

not realizing they are claiming that their orientation must not be

normative because they can’t reproduce therefore showing them to

be a weaker species.

c. Some animals kill their mate after breeding. But we don’t advocate for

this, right?


5. Homosexuality in the bible is not the same as today

a. Paul is talking about some harsh and exploitive rape

b. Paul is not against homosexuality for those born with this but he is

against homosexuality for a heterosexual to practice

c. Archaeology


6. Modern Scholarship

a. Paul didn’t mean what he said

b. Revisionist history

c. Isogesis – bringing one’s issue to the text and bending the text to make

the text say what one wants it to say


6. How Christians Should Respond

1. Love

Romans 5:6-8

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


2. Patience

a. Wrestling this sin may take a lifetime to win against and may not be won

until death or the return of Christ, but it can and will be defeated one way

or the other.


Philippians 1:6

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”


3. Welcoming

a. Not acceptance of the sin as normative for the image of God, but truly

desiring all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

b. As long as one is willing to fight sin they are always welcome

c. If one is not willing to fight sin then we will follow Jesus’ instruction in

Matthew 18:15-20



4. Humility

a. We recognize we too are fighting sin

b. Repentance is the issue not our deepest internal sin issue

5. Gospel

a. Not behavior modification

b. Not law keeping

c. Transformation that leads to change from the inside out


6. For the Christian who wrestles with this sin, Fight this sin

a. Vivification – Stir up Jesus-centered affections

b. Mortification – Make war on sin


7. Fellowship

a. Connection not simply attendance

b. Accountability

1. Sin hid in darkness can thrive

2. Sin brought into the light of community will shrivel


Q & A and Conclusion to Gospel Faith in the Old Testament: Looking to Jesus

GFOT: Conclusion and Q & A: How is the church doing? What are some changes with Brad and Michael going to plant?


The question blends with the opportunity to finish up the Hebrews 12:1-4 passage that caps off our study of Gospel Faith in the Old Testament.


So, we want to answer and be encouraged to run the race toward Jesus and his Kingdom.


With Brad and Michael going to plant we began transitioning responsibilities from Brad to myself and Emmett in January / February 2012 in order to free Brad up to be ready to plant and move and get accustomed to doing all that Brad was doing.


Mitch’s Role:


With that change the elders agreed that it was time to consider one of us cutting our work hours back in order to work more for TRCC.


My job looked like the one most possible to attempt this with.


First, I don’t anticipate us needing full-time elders. Particularly not me. I really love my job and love teaching. I was made to teach and not teaching is disobedience. Therefore, I don’t want to give up any more of my job.


However, I proposed to UCS me allowing to keep my director position, removing 3/4 of my pay in order to propose the hiring of faculty to replace most of my classroom work and allow me to keep an office and have the flexibility in the day to do TRCC work.


By God’s grace, UCS agreed, and that opened the door for me to take on a 3/4 time role with TRCC as a 3/4 time employee. By God’s grace TRCC made it almost 10 full years before this milestone was reached and it came at a lot of work.


The Big 3:

We have also asked three men in the congregation to serve as financial accountability since Brad would be planting in Portland and it would just be Emmett and myself along with our accountant. Therefore, we asked Jonathan Purser, Jeff Mauer and Patrick Bowers to serve in that role. They are not elders. They are advisors and we take their counsel on making decisions.


These men look over our books (along with an outside accountant who handles our books) and approve budgetary things for accountability and wisdom in decision-making.


Radical Kids:

Tanya does an awesome job at running RK.

There are over 70 volunteers. There are over 70 children and more on the way.


This is a daunting task and it began to require so much time that it was prohibitive. Life circumstances dictated some changes or we would have to find a new RK director.


So, we spoke with Jonathan, Jeff and Patrick and proposed paying Tanya a stipend each month so that she could afford to spend that amount of time needed grow the ministry. These men kicked around this idea and added some to it and approved this so that Tanya could continue her great work.


Church Planting:

Brad and Michael and their families have answered the call of the Lord for the Gospel in the great NW!


It’s an honor to be sending out such quality to the unreached portions of the NW.


We want to bless that.


By God’s grace we will pay for them to move and support the starting of the church financially.


Managing Growth Here:

Finances – currently we have given 50K more than we have spent, which has been our MO for years. Father has always graced with abundance and we are trying to be abundant in doing good work. Your elders have always set the pace in giving financially and with our time. Many of you are doing this. Some do not. There are some who covenanted to give that don’t. In spite of that, the Father has graced us with abundance.


Ministry – RK, YM, BB, CG and an opportunity arising to serve at Murphy-Harpst in Cedartown, in the future an Adoption Agency will grow out of TRCC people starting it


Deacons – in order to care for the growing needs of TRCC people, we need to grow our number of deacons and organize the Lord’s people to care for one another.


We need more deacons.


Nathan Hicks is serving as the “go to” deacon for me to coordinate deacons in ministry as a preparation for the growth in number of deacons so that we can fan out and not be overwhelmed in number of people to direct.


Deacons will no longer organize their people to set up, great and tear down. Deacons will focus on ministry to the body.


Scott Abston and Scott Wood will be organizing you to set up, greet and tear down.


Church Planting – how do we allow for TRCC to grow? So many methods for managing growth either create more need for paid employees and/or bigger buildings that rob a budget of its teeth in doing the work of the Great Commission, or they create encumbrances that begin causing people to lose sight of the mission. This could be because the church is made to be organic and not an organization with a CEO running it.


There are no CEO’s here and the church is not an organization. The church is the bride of Jesus Christ that he died to redeem.


Our greatest challenge is not building a building or adding a service or finding slick employees. Our challenge is building real fellowship in, over and through the word and Spirit and planting churches.


What if we grow in fellowship together? What if we really become an inter-dependent fellowship?


What if we plant churches to manage growth rather than knocking down walls (figuratively)?


What if 10 churches of 100 networked together by being planted from the same “Father” church are more effective than 1 church of 1,000?


Father is giving us the resources to do this and we have to equip and be intentional. We have to plant that first church here….


This is a good sampling of the challenges, good challenges, that lay in front of us in the work here.


We want to run the race by being race ready and keeping TRCC in race shape.


Let’s turn our attention to the text of Hebrews 12:1-4 to see the mandate to stay in race shape.


Hebrews 12:1-4

1. We must prepare to run the race by being race ready


The phrase “lay aside” here means “Rend in the sense of get rid of. “Weight” is the idea of “encumbrance,” according to the figure of the racer (thus the analogy of “run”) who puts away everything which may hinder his running.



This obviously is not referring to outright sin. The reason is because the next phrase begins with “sin which clings so closely”.


The idea, by way of the analogy of running a race, is to prepare to do the work of the Gospel.


By analogy, when our cross-country runners run they usually don’t run in sweatshirts and hunting boots. It would not be wrong to do so but it would make sure they don’t place or even compete well.


Our race is the completion of the Great Commission (running to Jesus and his mission: Jesus is glorified in the nations and representatives from the nations are doing the glorifying).


The GC is the Gospel proclaimed in and believed by representatives in all nations. The Lord has saved a church and gave his church this mission to preach the Gospel to all nations.


We state this mission by saying:

For the glory of God we will build the church (Matt 16:18) both local and global (Romans 15; Gen 12:1-3) by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ (John 15).


1. We must jettison hindrances

a. Processes that don’t work

b. Ideas that don’t work

c. Sin

d. Failure to give in finances and time


2. We must add helps

a. Processes that do work

b. Ideas that may work and do work

c. Holiness

d. Giving in finances and time


2. We must avoid sin


“…lay aside…sin which clings so closely…”


Hence, of a sin which readily or easily encircles and entangles the Christian runner, like a long, loose robe clinging to his limbs. Beset is a good rendering, meaning to surround.



The idea here is not borderline hindrances but out-rite run stoppers.


Probably in view, due to the nature of chapter 11 and faith leading to actions and chapter 12 and the Lord’s disciplining of his children in order to give them the peaceful fruit of righteousness, is the sin of unbelief.


In some regard, all rebellion has unbelief running around in it somewhere. If I sin it’s because I don’t believe that the fruit of righteousness tastes better than the fruit of rebellion.


1. Not believing the Gospel is enough to save, so I need to add

works to the mix to make me feel better about your atonement?


2. Habitual sin? Outright rebellion against clear instructions? Rebellion against

promised actions in the church covenant?


3. Sin hidden from community?


4. Separation from community because of sin?


a. Confess the Father


b. Confess to a brother / sister in the community


c. Engage in


3. Run with endurance to Jesus’ mission 


A. Run with endurance


Believing and working belief out into action is likened to a race. And the author instructs the readers to run it with endurance.


The point is that races are to be finished not simply begun and quit. Races are to be ran and finished. This requires endurance. Endurance is gained by practice.


We don’t want to carry the analogy too far because it will break down.


The point is that we are to follow Jesus with endurance not turning back in unbelief because it is easier. Rather, we are to hold on to faith and a good conscience with white knuckled intensity.


1. We don’t leave Jesus because it’s hard

a. Maintain faith and a clean conscience

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Timothy 1:18-20


2. We obey the Manual and do what it says

a. I continue to reference, almost weekly, “bible reading” in some way

or another. I’m becoming more convinced that your spiritual vitality

comes from communion with Father, Son and Spirit through time in his

word to you. This activity feeds the soul as physical food feeds the body.

Don’t neglect this!


3. We seek repentance daily


B. Run to Jesus


I’ve noticed that in athletic competition I’ve always been told to keep my eyes up and looking ahead whether it’s football or cross-fit keeping my head up and looking forward is key to good performance.


That is because if I can’t see the play I can’t make a play. If I look down I can lose balance and hurt other muscles.


Again, the athletic analogies can break down. The point is that performance in tasks requires looking toward their right completion.


If we are going to follow Jesus, then we are going to have to look to him on how to be like him and do as he does.


1. Know Jesus’ word and obey it


2. Do what you are called to and compelled to do to advance the Kingdom


3. Don’t forget ministry is a long-haul proposition

a. Barring a move of the Spirit, work will take time

b. People will not be mobilized to the task instantly

1. “…Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the

laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38

c. Continue to ask the Lord to send workers and keep working


4. Keep eyes fixed on Jesus and do as he does



John 5:19

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”


If the Son of God looked to Father in order to know what to do, we must follow that example and look to Jesus for how to respond and live by faith as we advance the Gospel.