Summary: This message is a call to pursue God's presence during a worship service. New Testament Christianity calls for our participation. We must be careful our "worship" service doesn't become a performance with an audience. We want everyone engaging in worship.
In the introduction to his first epistle, the Apostle John talks about his revelation of Jesus and then gives this reason for writing this letter, 1 John 1:3. “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you [here is his purpose- that you] also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”1 John is extending an invitation to join in the fellowship he and other believers have with God.
Notice the vertical fellowship with the Father and Son. Then notice the horizontal fellowship with one another. The Greek word translated “fellowship” in this verse is “koinonia.” It is a significant New Testament word. It means partnership, participation, interaction, to have things in common and share.2 In 1 Cor. 10:16 it is translated “communion.” There Paul is talking about coming to the Lord’s Table. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” When we partake of the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table we are recognizing and celebrating our unity and fellowship with God and one another. That’s why it is a time to reflect on our relationships, as we talked about last week. Koinonia is about our communion, our fellowship, our participation in the life of God by the Holy Spirit.3
We have been talking about our corporate worship experience. Much of what we say in this series has application to our personal worship experience. But our focus is on the corporate meeting.
In a previous teaching, I talked about the importance of intentionality—knowing why we have gathered and keeping that purpose in mind. I emphasized the objective of us expressing thanksgiving, praise, and adoration to the Lord. We’re not just singing songs. We’re praising and exalting the Lord. We come together to glorify the Lord. But that is only one side of the worship experience. A more holistic understanding is that we come to commune with the Lord. We come to enjoy koinonia with the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit. Koinonia is not just a one-way exchange. It is interaction with one another and with the Lord. It involves two-way communication. It is sharing our life with the Lord and with one another. At the same time, it is the Lord sharing His life with us—not just in an abstract way, but experientially. This is why worshipping “in spirit” is so essential. God is spirit. We are interacting with the Father spirit to spirit. Our hearts are expressing love and adoration to Him. But it doesn’t stop there. In the koinonia of worship, He also expresses Himself to us!
In our worship series, I had said the fifth way to enhance our worship experience to “Be Sensitive” to the Holy Spirit. That might be stated more broadly by saying, enter into this koinonia with the Father as a corporate body. The goal is not just to declare praises to God. It certainly includes that and naturally begins with that. But if we stop there, we have come short of God’s intention for us. He wants us to enter into fellowship with Him that flows in two directions—our words and activity toward Him AND His words and activity toward us.
When we come together and in one accord offer up our praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, we are setting an atmosphere for God’s presence to be manifested. David proclaimed in Ps 22:3 “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (KJV). We are inviting God’s presence when we worship. We are posturing ourselves to receive him as our King and Ruler. We are positioning ourselves in the humility of worship to receive His manifest presence. It is a posture of honor and reverence toward who He is. NKJV says, “But you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” The Japanese translation says that our praise “builds a big chair for God to sit on.”4
This is not a mechanical formula to get God to show up and do some things we want Him to do. It is embracing the attitude of submission and respect that makes it safe for God to show up. It’s a dangerous thing to have the manifest presence of God when the heart is not right. It is actually an expression of God’s mercy that God does not show up when people are self-willed and rebellious. In Ex 19:20 the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai and called Moses to come up on the mountain with Him. Israel was in no spiritual condition to follow Moses up that mountain into God’s presence. Listen to what God told Moses about that. Verse 21 “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the Lord, and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.’”