Fellowship, in the Bible, has the basic idea of sharing, or participation. In terms of God and our relationship with Him it involves our participation in the life of the Trinity, granted by the Father, purchased by the Son, made alive by the Spirit. It is fellowship with God and therefore it is fellowship that is marked by truth and holiness. This is John’s point when he says: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “Light” in Scripture and when used by John has the two basic ideas of truth and holiness. In others words, to say that God is light is to say that there is no error, or deceit in Him and He is utterly separate from sin: He is holy.
John mentions this upfront because fellowship with God and glorifying God is not simply a matter of feelings or actions – like energetic music, weeping at certain songs, doing a lot of religiously good things, and so on. Fellowship with God that produces a life to His glory is a matter of enjoying and reflecting His character; it is a life that is lived in union with the incarnate, crucified, risen, and ascended Lord whose Spirit is within us. Its a matter of walking in the truth and in holiness. This is the heart of glorifying God. Without this John adds, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6).
We need this reminder every now and then, because the idea of how we glorify God so easily becomes masked over by either purely externals (what I do), or the purely subjective experience (what I feel) of what is so often called “worship.” The truest test, or display of worship, however, is loving and trusting obedience, it is walking in the light, it is reflecting the life of Jesus: “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 cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). What an amazing truth! True fellowship with God and other believers can be had because it has been purchased by the blood (i.e. the death) of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God for all who believe! He is the satisfaction for the sin of sinners from every tribe, nation, and tongue; or, “For the whole world” (1 John 2:2). His suffering our salvation.
How do I know if I am walking in the light? What does a life that lives in fellowship with Him and is for His glory look like? John does not leave us in the dark.
First, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that is very conscious of indwelling sin and confesses it constantly. This is one who is “Poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). You see, the nearer we are to God the more aware we are of our sin and the more grieved we are and want to be rid of it (for example: Is. 6:1-6; Lk 5:1-8; 18:13). We glorify God when we confess and forsake sin because it shows we hate what He hates and keeps us clinging to His Son in faith and love (cf. Judges 7:16-21; Rom. 7:14-8:1). We confess to Him and – glory of glories – “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)!
Second, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life lived in submission to His commands. In others words, obedience is an essential mark of fellowship with Him and living to His glory: “By this we know if that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments … whoever keeps His word in him the love of God has been perfected” (1 John 2:3, 5). This should sound familiar, for Jesus already said to His disciples as He was headed to the cross, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Notice, love comes before obedience and obediences is the outflow of love.
Jesus loved the Father so much He did everything the Father commanded (John 14:31); His will was completely yielded to the Father (Lk. 22:39-46), even to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). He loved the Father, so He obeyed Him; He yielded to the Spirit, the same Spirit that lives in a Christian. It was that obedience that brought ultimate glory to the Father (John 12:27-28; 17:1; Phil. 2:11) – and so it is for us. We cannot glorify Him if we do not love, and we do not love Him if we are not yielding to His commandments (cf. Rom. 8:6-13). Put another way, it is a love for righteousness that comes through faith in Christ and is fueled by the inward ministry of the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:5-9).
Third, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life lived in sacrificial love for the brethren. “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10). This love is to be like the love of Jesus (1 John 2:6), who laid down His life for His friends (John 15:12-13) and even washed their feet just before He did it (John 13:34-35). Later John will put it like this: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). At the very least that means meeting physical needs (1 John 3:17), but really so much more.
Fourth, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that loves Him, longs for Him, His presence more than the things of this world. “Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Fellowship with God who is light make the heart more distant to the glitter and things of this world (1 John 2:16-17). The longing of the heart to be with Jesus and be like Him just becomes stronger and stronger: “When He appears we will be like Him … everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
Fifth, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that perseveres in faith. “They went out from us because they were not of us” (1 John 2:19), which is to say, those who don’t remain faithful to the gospel clearly don’t glorify God, they don’t even belong to Him. Persevering in faith in Christ is essential to glorifying Him.
Sixth, a life of fellowship with God that reflects His glory is a life that remains in the truth, in sound doctrine. A life that glorifies God loves is committed to and loves the truth about Him. In other words, doctrine and exposition is not boring: “We are from God; he who know God listens to us” (1 John 4:6). The voice of truth rings louder and clearer than the voice of error and of the world. The voice of truth is the substance and meat of our worship of God, of which our singing, prayer, and service is the fruit.
So how do you live a life that marks fellowship with God and glorifies Him? By confessing sin, yielding to God in loving obedience, sacrificially loving others, longing for and finding more joy in things eternal than the things of this world, by persevering in faith, by remaining in the truth. In other words, by “walking in the light as He himself is in the light.” These are the test of fellowship with God and a life lived to His glory. I pray it is how you test your own life and how you measure a life that glorifies God!