Friday, September 16, 2016

Filled Up to All the Fullness of God

Dear God-seekers,

Whenever we experience a lack of virtue in our lives, we can trace it back to it's root cause. Let's look at it together in the following prayer of the apostle Paul for the Ephesian church:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:14-19).

The desired goal that Paul was praying for the Ephesians was their fullness, which is the absence of any lack. Put simply, when you are filled up to all the fullness of God, you will not lack anything. So ultimately what we need is to be filled up to all the fullness of God. Then we will be complete in Christ and whole. Therefore, we must ask how it is that we can be filled up this way.

To find the answer to this, let's observe in Paul's prayer a cause-and-effect relationship, where he said, "That you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (v. 19b). This is the effect for which he was praying for them, and the preceding clause contains the cause of this effect. That which causes this effect is knowing the love of Christ. As Paul said, "That you...may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (v. 18-19a). This relationship may be expressed as follows:

CAUSE: Know the love of Christ --> EFFECT: Experience fullness

If our goal is to be whole, complete, and lacking nothing, then what we need is fullness. The way to attain and maintain fullness is by knowing the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Since this kind of love surpasses knowledge, it is not something we can know from a merely intellectual standpoint. We can know all about this love from a factual perspective, but still not know it in our spirit. It is spiritual and must be grasped in our spirit. God is Spirit and He has given each of us a spirit with which to experience Him. You may know all the verses in Scripture about the love of Christ, and even have them memorized, but still not know the love of Christ. The reason is that it surpasses knowledge.

Jesus has revealed to us the love of God. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." (1 Joh 3:16a). His act of love on the cross was the greatest act of love the world has ever known. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (Joh 15:13). Love doesn't get any greater than that. God took upon Himself human form in the person of Jesus Christ. He continued to be love as He always had been since before time began. The Lord was the most loving person you could ever meet. He was sweet and full of goodness. He never thought a single wrong thought, not even once. Even when He suffered at the hands of sinful men. He had a good and loving attitude. He forgave them. He willingly suffered. The Scripture says of Christ, "I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting." (Isa 50:6). That's amazing love beyond anything we can comprehend!

He didn't wait until we were all cleaned up and acting right before He laid down His life either. He did it while we were still sinners. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8). His precious blood was sinless and perfect. Yet He freely poured it out for us on the cross. What a great sacrifice! We need God to give us a revelation of this love, because our minds are too weak to comprehend it.

The way to know it is to experience it. I have experienced the love of God in Christ at times in my life, and it was so wonderful. One time was in a worship meeting, where we were singing a song by Darlene Zschech, called "Power of Your Love" that says, "Hold me close, let your love surround me. Bring me near. Draw me to your side." As we sang that in church one Father's Day, I felt the Father's love surrounding me, and it was so wonderful that I wept in His presence. I am not given to weeping easily, so that was a memorable experience. Of course, I have also experienced the love of God at various other times, but it is usually during my private worship time with Him. I cherish those moments in His warm embrace, and when they happen I don't want them to end. I savor the moment.

There is no comparison between this love and any human love that man has ever known. And there is no comparison between experiencing His love first hand and simply knowing about it in your mind. You see, it's like if I were trying to explain to you something you have never experienced before. For example, if you had never smelled the fragrance of Jasmine, and I tried to tell you about it, then you would not know what I am talking about. For you the fragrance would be something you could only imagine. I could tell you that it is like this or like that, but until you smell it yourself, it is just intellectual knowledge. But once you smell it yourself, you will know how lovely it is. That is how the love of Christ is when you experience it firsthand. We need to have this experience more and more.

The song, "Power of Your Love" also says, "And Lord I have come to know the weaknesses I see in me will be stripped away by the power of Your love." You see, as I have said, when you come to really know the power of His love through firsthand experience, and not just at the intellectual level, then you will begin to experience the fullness of God. And once you are filled up to all the fullness of God, you will be lacking nothing.

When we see the shortcomings in ourselves, we need to understand they are symptoms. We often seek to address them in the wrong way. We deal with them as if they were the root cause, when in reality they are only symptoms. If we deal with these symptoms and not the root cause, we will never solve the problem.

If a person with chronic headaches sees a doctor, and he simply tells them to take two aspirin each day, he is treating symptoms and not the root cause. The cause of the headaches may be allergies, or excess caffeine, or eye strain, or a brain tumor. The proper treatment may be to remove the cause of the allergies, such as the cat or the dust. Or the proper treatment may be to remove the brain tumor, or reduce the caffeine intake, or use better lighting when reading, or wear eyeglasses when reading. But if all the doctor does is prescribe pain relievers, he is not acting responsibly, nor is he going to truly bring about healing in his patients. In order to see them recover and experience wholeness once again, he needs to deal with the root causes.

Likewise, if we deal with our personal issues, shortcomings, and lack of virtue as if they were the root problem, then we will apply band-aid solutions that fail to solve them. We still need to repent for every sin, confess it to God, and ask forgiveness, so that the blood of Jesus will break its power over our lives and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. However, once we realize what the root cause is and address it, then we will see the positive results in our lives.

Any lack in our lives is ultimately due to a failure to experience the fullness of God. And since the key to experiencing the fullness of God is knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, then that is the solution. So how do we know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge? We pray for ourselves and one another that we would know it, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians. We also need to spend time in His presence worshiping Him, loving Him and receiving love from Him. As we do these things, focusing on Jesus, we will be rooted and grounded in love, and be able to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Once we know that love -- truly know it in our spirit -- then we will be filled up to all the fullness of God. This leads to our being complete, lacking nothing.

There is yet another key to being complete and lacking nothing that I would like to share in this context. When we seek to know the love of Christ this way, we will seek to know Him fully. That means we will not only seek to know the enjoyable aspects like the power of His resurrection, but also the unpleasant aspects like the fellowship of His sufferings. As Paul said, "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..." (Phil 3:10, NIV). If we don't share in His sufferings and passion, how will we know what He went through out of love for us? To know Him through participation in His sufferings enables us to know Him more completely and realize just how much He loves us.

James wrote, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (Jas 1:2-4). This is another set of cause-and-effect relationships.

CAUSE: Various trials --> EFFECT: Testing of your faith.
CAUSE: Testing of your faith --> EFFECT: Endurance is produced.
CAUSE: Endurance --> EFFECT: You may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In the midst of our trials and tribulations, we need to realize that our faith is being tested and we need to have endurance, so that we may be perfect, complete, and lacking nothing. In the midst of trials, in order to endure, we need to be reminded of the love of Christ, which He had for us when He suffered and died, and which He still has for us now; we need to experience it firsthand in our lives, and we need to consider it all joy to experience our trials, knowing that they will ultimately produce fullness, completeness, and perfection in us.

Moreover, we should seek to know Christ by being made like Him in His death, without which we cannot experience His fullness. In fact, you cannot even be His disciple without denying yourself, taking up your cross daily and following Jesus (Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23). We need to take up our cross and carry it every day. By the Spirit we need to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13) and die daily (1Co 15:31). The cross must be applied continually to the sinful nature, holding it in a place of death. May we say with Paul, it is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me (Gal 2:20). 

Finally, we cannot experience being filled up to all the fullness of God without being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the power of Christ's resurrection that we must seek to know. God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Christ has now poured out His Spirit on His Church. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is available to every disciple of Christ. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18, NIV). We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, which begins initially with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. He will fill you from head to toe and totally engulf you.

If you have never received this gift, then you need to do so. Yet some, who seek it, fail to receive, and I think that sometimes it is because they do not know the love of Christ for them. This may cause doubts to arise, which will prevent them from receiving anything from the Lord. If we know the love of Christ, we will realize that He wants us to have this gift. Jesus said, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk 11:13, NIV). Our Father in heaven loves us so much He wants to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, so ask Him and receive. But once you receive, you need to keep on asking for more and receiving refills. The original language in Ephesians 5:18 indicates that we must continually be being filled with the Spirit.  Therefore, let's do that and experience what it means to be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Putting it All Together
The underlying reason for lack in our lives is a failure to experience the fullness of God on a continual basis, which can only be experienced by knowing the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. That means grasping how wide and long and high and deep His love is. That includes knowing the power of His resurrection, being filled with the Holy Spirit, knowing the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and being made like Him in His death. May the Lord help each of us to focus on practicing these things as a way of life, so that we may experience His wonderful fullness the way He intended for our lives.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, except where otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.  "I Love You" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. 

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Baptized with the Spirit, The Love of Jesus, Fullness, The Afflictions of the Righteous, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, Aim for Perfection, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, One Thing, Called to be Blameless, The Wardrobe of the Saints, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, my daughter's poem You Fill Me Up, and my daughter's blog post Full of the Knowledge of the Lord. I highly recommend reading, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies and Holy Fire Baptism. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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