Church has devolved through centuries of nothing--nothing but men's efforts, achievements, doctrines, and programs. What we call "church" today is a social gathering shrouded in "born again" religion. But John tells us of a genuine church. This church is a real fellowship of believers. And the fellowship is based on supernatural factors: seeing God and hearing God. This is the true basis for church.
"We confirm to you what we have seen and heard. This way, you will also have fellowship with us," [1Jn.1.3]. This is among Kingdom principles on being God's flesh.
John had to proclaim or pass on to them what they (the apostles) had seen and heard--they saw and heard the Life, who is God. They touched, talked to, and smelled God. Yes, God himself! And they wanted to pass that on to us so we may have true fellowship. Genuine fellowship in church is making their experience our experience. It's never about programs or activities or gatherings or even singing. It's about seeing and hearing. You don't have this, you have nothing, zero, pfft! You don't have real fellowship. All your gatherings and singing, no matter if they're sincere, are trash. In John's words, you're just in darkness, period.
God is light--in him there is zero darkness. God's Light is where you see and hear. If you don't see and hear God, you have nothing but darkness. How many in church see and hear God? If they do, they'd have a terrible desire for God and his Word--to meditate it day and night and live it out daily. Do they?
Second Chronicles says, "If my people, called by God's name...shall seek my face...then I would hear..."
You see the genuine fellowship in that? If we seek his face, he will turn and answer. Without that, you have zero fellowship. John continues by saying, "And our church fellowship is with God the Father and God the Son." We have to go back to this truth and not just play church seriously.
A lot of churches just run the crazy rat race of who's got the biggest and most number of churches, without seeking God's face. True God seekers forget about numbers and how many properties they've bought to put up churches in. Numbers just happen. In fact, numbers is easy--even malls and football and basketball games can produce mammoth crowds. Showbiz idols can produce thousands of loyal, dedicated, and die-hard fans in a flash, churches will be easily put to shame. It's easy if you have the money. But that's the tragedy of it all--churches are often no different from malls and showbiz and football games. What presence of God they have in malls is the same presence of God they have in churches--the omnipresence. Not the manifest presence. Not the face of God. No seeing and hearing God. Why?
It's because it's all man's efforts and achievements. No God in it.
We have to go back to what John is saying. We have to desperately seek God--to see and hear him. All of us. If we all do this with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength (God's strength in us, that is), giving up everything, then we have real fellowship, even fellowship with John and his contemporary apostles in spirit--because our church fellowship then will become a genuine intimacy with the Father and with Jesus Christ.
Go around churches today and ask if they see and hear God. Chances are, they'd laugh at you and mock you. They don't believe such nonsense. They'd say things like that are obsolete. Today, we just make programs and activities and make empty mental claims in our imaginations that God is in our churches.
Eli and Samuel Churches
The priest Eli just sat content at hearing about God in his usual place. His eyes were weak to discern anything of God. He had even thought once that Hannah's prayer was a drunk's prayer. But the boy Samuel heard God. And this was even before Samuel knew God. God can discern our past, present, and future very easily. He knew Samuel's heart.
God discerns the heart of a church. If he sees its heart inclined towards him and surrendering to him in the future, God will cause everyone there to see and hear him gradually. And churches who don't see or hear God (Eli churches)--and who have no inner desperate cravings for God and the things of God either now or in the future-- will clearly see how God's favor powerfully moves in Samuel churches--those who grow more and more desperate for God as they grow in Christ.
Man's standard is what is visible and physical--like membership, building, and money. God's standard is whether you see and hear God or not. Seeing and hearing cannot be possible if the Word of God (who is Jesus) is not your Life. You should be deep in God's Word, increasing in power in it daily.
I see lots of churches today happy about how their people, especially their young people, are absorbed in activities and programs of the church, while remaining spiritually blind to see God and deaf to hear God. They hate the Word. Empty...such empty lives. They do not realize their emptiness. "Little do they realize that the dead are there, and that her (members and) visitors are in the depths of Sheol," [Prov.9.18].
"Many are her victims, bringing them down. They die there in great numbers. Her house is a broad and easy way to the grave; leading down to the depths of death," [Prov.7.26-27].
Eternal life, says John, is seeing and hearing the Life. And that Life is in His Son, Jesus Christ who is the Word of God. Jesus, the Word, is the Key to being God's flesh daily.