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4-7-24 The Community of Joy

The Community of Joy

David Peterson / General

Church Fellowship and Unity; Easter; Forgiveness / 1 John 1; 1 John 2:1–2

Sermon Type: Topical-Textual

Proposition: As we are living in faith (i.e., living in the light) we are drawn to each other and experience the joy of communion through the forgiveness of sins.

Introduction

Key Text: 1 John 1:7 NIV1984

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

I. Called to Community (vv. 3-4)

1. Explanation

a. Fellowship of believers together in God v. 3

What the author is saying in this verse is that to have fellowship with him is to have fellowship with God (which also involves fellowship with his Son) and to share in the work of God.

Colin G. Kruse

Fellowship with Christians is for the sake of fellowship with God.

J. I. Packer

b. It is a fellowship of Joy

Religion a joy:—I remember a friend of mine who had gone far into what is called “a life of pleasure” telling me, when he became a Christian, that what surprised him most of all was this—he had always looked on religion as a burden which he knew he ought to carry, but he found that it was something that carried him and his burden too. He said also that he had enjoyed in a single week after he was a Christian more real pleasure than in all the years he had devoted to what is termed the pursuit of pleasure. I am convinced this is the view of religion needed in a great city where the individual is lost in the great multitude. (James Stalker, D. D.)

Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: I. John (p. 29). James Nisbet & Co.

2. Application

The great truth of the New Testament is that Christians are children of God by adoption. Today many people have forgotten that the New Testament preaches the revolutionary doctrine that our relationship to God is not through physical descent, but by adoption (Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).

The implications of this doctrine are profound. All Christians are united by bonds of faith and love, not physical relationships (Ephesians 2). Thus, Christianity is not a tribal religion rooted in local communities bound by kinship bonds. Rather, it is a world faith that unites all believers.

The Christian Travelers Guide to Italy

3. Illustration

Heaven and Hell

A man spoke with the Lord about Heaven and Hell. “I will show you Hell,” said the Lord. And they went into a room which had a large pot of stew in the middle. The smell was delicious and around the pot sat people who were famished and desperate. All were holding spoons with very long handles which reached to the pot, but because the handles of the spoons were longer than their arms, it was impossible to get the stew into their mouths. Their suffering was terrible.

“Now I will show you Heaven,” said the Lord, and they went into an identical room. There was a similar pot of stew and the people had the same identical spoons, but they were well nourished, talking and happy.

At first the man did not understand.

“It is simple,” said the Lord. “You see, they have learned to feed each other.”

Source: unknown

II. Community comes by walking in the light (v. 7)

1. Explanation

a. Christian life is a “walk”, a way of being and living in the world

b. We walk (i.e., live) in the light

2. Application

3. Illustration

Winter Town Receiving Sunlight

The little village of Rattenberg is the smallest town in Austria, and getting smaller each year. The town has lost 20 percent of its population in the past two decades, and as of 2005 had only 440 residents. The reason? Darkness. Rattenberg is nestled behind Rat Mountain—a 3,000-foot obstruction that blocks out the sun from November to February. But thanks to some clever new technology, the town’s situation is about to get a little brighter.

An Austrian company called Bartenbach Lichtlabor has come up with a plan to bring sunshine into the darkness by installing 30 heliostat mirrors onto the mountainside. The mirrors will grab light from reflectors on the sunny-side of the mountain and shine it back into the town.

The project will not be cheap—the European Union will cover half of the $2.4 million bill—but if successful, will bring hope to the 60 other communities scattered throughout the Alps that endure the winter darkness each year. Markus Peskoller, Lichtlabor’s director, has also committed to paying for the $600,000 cost of planning the project because of its potential for other markets. “I am sure we will soon help other mountain villages see the light,” he said.

In the same way, we celebrate Christmas as the time when God sent his own light into our world, through Jesus, and offered relief from the darkness of our sin. And Christians all over the world who have experienced that forgiveness are called to reflect his light to those who still need it.

Source: George Jahn, “Mirrors to Banish Town’s Winter Darkness,” Associated Press (11-20-05)

The Reason Self-Checkout Kiosks Have Mirrors

Amid the increasing number of self-service check-out stations cropping up at grocery stores and other vendors, companies have devised a unique measure to deter potential shoplifters—mirrors.

Initially people assumed it was used to ensure shoppers “look good” before checking out, these reflective devices are actually there to make prospective pilferers feel guilty. This might sound ineffective on its face as robbers would presumably just steal with no one monitoring their actions.

However, mirrors are psychologically proven to make people feel guilty. According to a study in the journal “Letters on Behavioral Evolutionary Science,” people who are in a “self-aware” situation such as in front of a mirror are less likely to engage in “antinormative behavior” like stealing or cheating than those who are not.

The study noted that when participants were subjected to mirrors, their “private self-awareness was activated” and influenced “decision-making” despite the lack of social cues. “These results suggest that socially desirable behavior is influenced by mirrors.”

However, the study authors admit that the mechanism behind self-awareness’ effect on behavior is not well understood—perhaps the mirror makes people “reflect” on the crime before even committing it. Psychology Today postulated that mirrors “allowed people literally to watch over themselves” and therefore “made them more likely to behave in a more upright way.”

In general, experts argue that mirrors aren’t enough to prevent shoplifting at self-checkouts, which are notoriously susceptible to theft due to the lack of personnel. Scams have included weighing meat as fruit, and even scanning bootleg barcodes attached to people’s wrists before walking out without paying.

Source: Ben Cost, “Here’s the real reason store self-checkout kiosks have mirrors,” New York Post (10/9/23)

Study Links Washing Hands to Guilt

Researchers at the University of Toronto published data that suggests people experience “a powerful urge to wash themselves” when suffering from a guilty conscience. This urge is known as the “Macbeth effect,” referring to Shakespeare’s famous play in which one of the main characters cries, “Out, damned spot!” while trying to scrub away bloodstains that exist only in her mind.

In order to study this effect, the researchers asked volunteers to think about immoral acts they had committed in the past—shoplifting, betraying a friend, and so on. The volunteers were then offered an opportunity to clean their hands. According to the results of the study, those who had retraced their sins “jumped at the offer at twice the rate of study subjects who had not imagined past transgressions.”

Interestingly, the act of washing did relieve the guilt of many volunteers—at least temporarily. After deciding whether or not to wash, the subjects who had felt guilty were given a chance to volunteer for a charity event. Those who actually washed their hands “were far less likely to sign up than those who didn’t wash.”

Source: “Washing Your Hands of Guilt”; The Week (9-29-06), p. 21

III. The result is being community of the forgiveness of sin (v. 7)

1. Explanation

2. Application

3. Illustration

“Dead Man Walking”: Finding Real Love

The movie Dead Man Walking is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s mission to care for the soul of death row inmate Matthew Poncelet. Poncelet awaits execution for brutally killing a young man and woman. Throughout the movie Poncelet vehemently denies any wrongdoing, even though the evidence contradicts him. At one point, Sister Helen gives him a Bible and tells him to read the Gospel of John. She persistently tries to help him face the truth, but he resists, blaming anyone else he can think of.

One emotional scene—the climax of the movie—shows Poncelet finally admitting his guilt.

Poncelet recalls, “My mama kept saying, ‘It wasn’t you, Matt. It wasn’t you.'”

“Your mama loves you, Matt,” responds Sister Helen.

Grieved by guilt, Poncelet begins to confess, but lapses as tears flood his eyes. As Sister Helen probes him further, Poncelet admits, “I killed [the boy].” Sister Helen then asks about Hope, the raped and murdered girl. Again, Poncelet forthrightly confesses.

“Do you take responsibility for both of their deaths?” probes Sister Helen.

Poncelet responds, “Yes ma’am.… When the lights dim at night, I kneel down by my bunk and pray for those kids.… I’ve never done that before.”

Sister Helen comforts Poncelet, saying, “There is a place of sorrow only God can touch. You did a terrible thing, Matt, a terrible thing. But you have a dignity now. Nobody can take that away from you.… You are a son of God, Matthew Poncelet.”

Sobbing deeply, Poncelet says, “Nobody ever called me no son of God before. They called me a son-of-you-know-what lots of times, but never no son of God.… I just hope my death can give those parents some relief. I really do.”

“Well,” continues Sister Helen, “maybe the best thing you can give to the Percys and the Delacroixs is a wish for their peace.”

Poncelet says, “I never had no real love myself. I never loved a woman or anybody else.… It about figures I would have to die to find love.… Thank you for loving me.”

Source:

Dead Man Walking (Polygram Filmed Entertainment, 1995), rated R, directed by Tim Robbins, written by Helen Prejean and Tim Robbins

Conclusion

As we tread the narrow way,

Together sing, together pray,

What is sweeter here below

Than the fellowship we know?

Comfort for the hearts that bleed,

Sympathy in hours of need,

Kindly things that others say,

Brighten up the dreary day.

Friendship, fellowship, and love,

Blessed gifts from Heaven above.

Glad am I that in God’s plan

There was fellowship for man !

—Selected

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