"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
And these things write we unto you, that your joy may
be full." (1 John 1:1-4)
There is a fullness of joy available to those who have trusted their lives into the loving care of our Lord Jesus Christ. But do all believers experience this joy as fully as they should? John's purpose in writing to these first century believers, and to those in every century which followed, was to express his desire for them.
He deeply desired for their joy -- our joy to be full!
John also wrote of the reality that he and others had experienced in Christ. Their hands had handled, they had seen and heard, they had experienced the reality of a personal encounter with eternity!
That life that existed before all time was manifested in time! Jesus! The eternal Word of God is a person that can be known -- Jesus! This message was entrusted to the apostle John and others, the Good News of Jesus Christ -- the presence of God's Kingdom on earth! Glory!
Many had already heard and believed, but John was not wholly satisfied. He knew there was more of Christ for us to experience. He longed for all to fully know the joy that he had found in fellowship with God. He desired for believers and non-believers alike to come to know that fellowship. All of us together in the Father and the Son!
This is the fullness of joy!
But what does it mean? How do we come to know it? John further elaborates:
1 John 1:5-7: "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
There can be no mistake in this: the fullness of His joy depends upon both our exposure to other believers, and on our ongoing trust in the atoning work of the Cross of Christ. Our openness to Him and the brotherhood of believers, our confession of our need for forgiveness of sin -- all of which could not even be possible if not for His Grace -- these all imply our participation. We must WALK in the light!
In fact, the Greek word for fellowship here actually means "a partnership, a participation." Of course John goes on to make many other important statements concerning the fullness of joy in the life of the believer, but for now, I would like to discuss this matter of fellowship or partnership WITH GOD.
Notice the various aspects of participation here. First there is the fellowship or partnership of God with His messengers, John and the others. Then they are seen communicating to all who receive and believe the Good News. Now those responding to the Word are also called into fellowship, communion, participation with God Himself!
Oh how awesome! How mysterious! How wonderful to be involved with God! How many of us understand or even take for granted this indescribable privilege! Do we really know of God's desire to interact with us, not only verbally, but also in the working out of His marvelous purposes?
These are the dynamics of relationship! It is about our Father! It is about the truth that we are now His children, and are expected to grow up in Him! It is about learning to walk -- not of course on the natural sidewalk, but on the highway of holiness!
It is an adventure of learning and making mistakes, of listening to and following His Voice, of getting to really know the Lord! This brings the fullness of His joy into our daily Christian experience!
It all begins at the Cross of Christ, where you and I died with Him, where He bore our sins that were nailed to the Tree. But in our fellowship with one another, our walking in the light together, we are experientially cleansed from all sin by His blood! We then freely and even joyfully confess them to God, becoming continually and increasingly free!
But there is more! Oh, so much more! Our participation with God extends even beyond our personal purification, as important and needful that is! Read the words of Paul to the Ephesians, beginning in chapter 3, starting in verse 8:
"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints,
is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the
unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is
the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning
of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:" (Ephesians 3:8-11)
From this powerful portion of Paul's letter to the churches we can see that this fellowship with God is available for all mankind. We can also see how the powers that have been working against the fullness of our joy will soon be put to shame and that by the living church of Jesus Christ, His Bride who is joined -- one with Him in heart and purpose!
Not only that, but this sharing or participation with God, this involvement in His sacred secret is connected with the purpose of all the ages! How's that for a standing back and getting the panoramic view of the universe and all history? And this is all made possible by His amazing grace!
It is God's desire for you that your joy be full! It is His desire for you to participate with Him in His plan of the ages! Does that overwhelm you? Do you perceive yourself as too insignificant or lacking in special abilities? We must never forget that our partner in this is God! He will equip us for the job at hand, no matter how great or small!
He is not here to place a heavy load on your back, but to lift your load as you reconnect with Him. Our fellowship is with the Father, and His Son Christ Jesus -- the Lord of the universe! He works on our behalf. Our part is to walk in His light, and to have fellowship with one another!
Here is another place where the cross enters in. There is a crucifixion of my will, my personal ambitions and often my preferences as I walk in His light. I must learn to participate with you and you with me. I cannot walk as an independent spirit. We are members one of another.
The Cup of Blessing
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks
a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that
we break a participation in the body of Christ?
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV)
In the Lord's supper we have a wonderful picture of our interdependence, our participation in the nature and purposes of God together. Both His death and resurrection become a corporate experience. We reflect upon it together, we anticipate Him together, we experience Him together! Here is where we derive our fullness of joy!
It should also be mentioned here that our participation with God is not limited to things of a religious nature. In His wisdom He designed our bodies, the functioning of activities inherent to humans such as work, rest and play. All of these become acts of worship as we interact with God each day. He lifts them up into a truly higher dimension wherein even they are used to accomplish His Kingdom purposes!
"Oh, that I might know Him!"
Paul and John of course had one thing in common. They both were obsessed with the Lord Jesus Christ! They both recognized that eternal life was not simply something that they receive after laying these bodies down in death. They both affirmed that Knowing Him is possessing eternal life, for He is life!
Phil 3:10-11: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
How few today place a high premium to our participation in the sufferings of Christ! How few understand that this is an integral part of our fully experiencing the Life of God in Christ! Every day is filled with opportunities for us to participate with Christ! And every act of obedience carries with it the possibility of experiencing deep personal pain. But each of these painful experiences can only bring us into closer union with Him.
We can then begin to know the pain that He knew. He suffered rejection and brutality for His righteous loving acts, and so will we. But how sweet is His presence and even His joy become within us as we continue to touch Him, to draw nearer to Him, to be comforted by Him!
There is an intimacy in the fellowship of His sufferings. There is also a sharing of His joy when others are brought from death to life through our patient endurance. We are participating with God in the purpose of the ages! What a privilege! What a joy!
"For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1 Pet 2:20-25)
We rejoice today that you have redeemed us by the blood of your Son. But our freedom from sin alone cannot compare to the wonder of our fellowship with you. Give us a fresh appreciation of our relationship with you and an even a deeper revelation of our participation with you in your eternal purpose.
Show us how to the live the abundant, joy-filled life by allowing your life and wisdom to enter into our daily routines. And help us to see the eternal significance of our ongoing fellowship with you and your wonderful family.
In the Name of Jesus our Saviour and Lord,