“Filled with all the fullness of God.” I wonder what percentage of Christians are currently walking in the power of that phrase. All I know is that as a pastor, husband, father, mentor, and friend, I want that in my life. I don’t want a little bit of Jesus. I want to be “all in.” I want 100 percent of me to be committed to Christ 100 percent of the time. Fully consecrated. I don’t want 85 percent of what God has for me.
Wilbur Rees wrote a poem that is complete satire. As with most satire, there is a truth involved in it. Unfortunately, it accurately reflects the small hearts of many. The author to this poem just passed away last July at the age of 93. I think he wrote this during the civil rights movement.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
I don’t want $3 worth, I want to be filled with all the fullness of God! I want to be so full of God that if a mosquito bites me, he will fly awa y singing there is power in the blood of Jesus! I believe that God is calling to us today. I believe that it can be a spiritual reality for those of us who are willing to go after Him.
That reality begins as we come to God in prayer. Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be filled. That is my prayer for anyone who is reading this article.
Ephesians 3:17-19 “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
I want to investigate that phrase today by asking three questions.
- Is this phrase just “spiritual holy talk” that has little to do with the real world we live in? or can this become a reality in our lives?
This is real meat here. Think about that phrase. It is difficult for me to get my mind around. It almost sounds too incredible. It almost sounds as if I do not actually have the capacity to live in and function and walk that out. Read it slowly: filled with all the fullness of God.
You start with who God is and knowing Him. If you understand what is revealed in the Bible about God. Whoa. My friend, God is big! It obviously is not a spatial thing. God is everywhere all at once. God is bigger than the Universe because he created the Universe. God is omniscient. God is all knowing. God is all wise. God is love. God is truth. God is justice. And God has all wisdom and knowledge. It is not spatial. It has to be spiritual and relational.
And then I think of myself. While God is big, I am small. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur. I don’t see myself, at least in the natural, as having that capacity. And yet, the Word is expanding my capacity to see that this is a real possibility. From a natural viewpoint, I am just here today and gone tomorrow. I am a vapor that quickly vanishes. I am a flower quickly fading. It is just little old Bob…and how can I be filled with ALL the fullness of God.
Now, here is the thing, when I meditate on this. I can think of Jesus as being filled with all the fullness of God. That isn’t hard for me to believe at all. And He was fully human. In fact, the scripture says, Colossians 2:9 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;” So, it is very apparent that Jesus, being completely man and completely God, in Him dwells that fullness. That isn’t hard for me to accept, but He is, was, and always shall be the only begotten Son of God.
I can imagine this for Paul. Paul was caught up into the third heaven and shown great mysteries to the degree that he had to have a thorn in the flesh just to keep him grounded. I can see Paul walking in this. He suffered for Christ. He was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked. He gave up even marriage for God. He authored one third of the books of the New Testament. He was a spiritual giant. But me?
I can imagine it for Moses. He was put into the cleft of the rock and God passed by. Didn’t Moses supernaturally fast for what was it 80 days on the mount with God? His face literally glowed after he came out of the presence of God. Moses, filled with all the fullness of God, no problem. But me?
I can imagine it for Elijah. He prayed and it didn’t rain for three and a half years. He called fire down from heaven. He went to heaven in a whirlwind in chariots of fire. He was really amazing. But me?
I can see it for Peter. They used to line people up on the street so that Peter’s shadow healed them. He chose to be crucified upside down. Yes, I can see this for all of those Bible characters.
But what about Bob, can Bob be filled with all the fullness of God? Bob with his weaknesses. Bob with his failings. Bob, who sometimes gets discouraged? Can Bob be filled with all the fullness of God?
If I believe the Word, and I do, then I have to answer this question with a yes! I don’t know whether I have actually ever experienced that. I am not bold enough to even say it. I know this, that I have been filled and refilled with the Spirit. I have had some amazing experiences with God. I actually think at times, I might have experienced that. I know Christ. I know I am saved. I know I hear from God in that wonderful still small voice.
But there is something inside of me that just refuses to rush by this phrase in the Word. I am not going to hurry past it. I am not going to just claim it and say, “I got it, experienced it, I’m good. Check that off my list.” Instead, I want to approach this as if this were a carrot dangling in front of me…and I want to go after it. Because if it is in this Word it is for you and for me. This wasn’t written for someone else. This is my Bible and its written for me.
And what about you? Can you be filled with all the fullness of God? Wait a minute. Is it in your Bible? If it is….it’s for you! I don’t think I ever want to make the claim that I have attained that, although I intend to go after this wonderful phrase. I want to be filled with all the fullness of God!
- What is the process that Paul prays should happen for the Ephesians and us?
How does this happen? You can’t just lift a phrase out of scripture. You have to know its context. I want to tear this prayer apart so that I might know the process. I see four things in this scripture.
First of all, being filled with all the fullness of God
a. Is a result of prayer.
This is about receiving something from seeking God. Why? Because it is the end result and object of Paul’s prayer. If we didn’t need to pray for that, Paul wouldn’t have put it in the form of a prayer.
How interesting that Paul doesn’t pray what we would typically pray for ourselves and others:
- Lord let them all have good jobs.
- Lord let them all have comfortable lives.
- Lord, let their 401k’s be blessed.
He doesn’t for anything material in this prayer…just for spiritual things. But he does pray!
Ephesians 3:14-15 “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory,”
He clearly said, “I bow my knees to the Father.” This was a position of humility in prayer before God. This was something sincere he had been praying for the church In Ephesus. It wasn’t just something cool and religious sounding to make himself look spiritual. This was heartfelt.
He clearly said that this blessing is from, “the riches of His glory.” That is the same place where we get all our needs met! The word says, “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. He said that because God is the one who grants this. It is an answer to prayer. We know that by this phrase, “that He would grant you.”
Paul is writing to believers: He starts this letter out by calling them “saints”. It is important to recognize who Paul is writing to: Christians who needed more of God in their lives. There are a lot of Christians, who when they get born again, think that they have everything already. A baby doesn’t have everything he needs. He hasn’t learned everything. As a believer, we will keep growing and maturing and receiving. We start out drinking milk, and end up eating meat.
If you think that you know all there is and have received all that God has for you. I feel sorry for you. Because God has so much more. Paul is praying for Christians that they could receive more. There are a lot of modern Christians who don’t want to do the spiritual work, it is just easier to claim it and say, “I already have that.” It is easy to kinda get puffed up walking around and saying, “I have all the fullness of God.” If you did you would be humble about it, overwhelmed by it, and grateful for it.
So, I think this comes from prayer.
And then, being filled with all the fullness of God
b. Is a result of the continual strengthening of the Holy Spirit in our inner man.
Ephesians 3:16 “…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,”
If you are going to walk being filled with the fullness of God, you will have to allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen you with might in the inner man through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is continually with you. He is the one that is called alongside you. He is the one that is able to give you inner strength. He has might. He has power.
This is not a one-time experience where you come and speak in tongues. (I am not belittling that, I believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.) This is about relationship. This is about those moments when your heart is wanting to fill itself with other things and the Holy Spirit strengthens you and you are able to choose Him. This is about those moments when your inner man feels weak and you want to give up, give in, or give out and you say, Holy Spirit, strengthen me.
It is as you allow the Spirit to do his work, you turn away from things you shouldn’t be engaged with. As you allow the Spirit to do His work, you engage with things that are good and wholesome. As the Spirit does his work, your mind and spirit get renewed.
As you read the Word, the Holy Spirit applies it to your life. You become strong. You become what that Word says you are. It is because the Spirit strengthens you.
What this phrase tells me is that every moment of every day, the Holy Spirit wants to engage my mind and spirit and heart. He cares about and is concerned with the following aspects of my life:
what I do,
who I am,
how I feel,
where I am,
how I respond,
at my work
in my car
at my job
in the store
listening to music.
The Holy Spirit is there to give us strength. It is when I yield to Him that is when I start getting filled with his fullness.
And then, Being filled with all the fullness of God
c. Is a result of Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith.
Ephesians 3:17 “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;”
It is easy for us to miss the meaning of the language is we don’t meditate on the Word. It says, Christ may dwell with you in your hearts. The word dwell is a powerful biblical word, that expresses the heart of God. Because God has always wanted to dwell with men.
Study the tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament. You will see that it was the intention and the heart of God that He would dwell in the midst of His people. When they dedicated the tabernacle and temple to God, the presence of God came and dwelt above the mercy seat.
The word dwell does not mean, come to visit. It means that God’s intent is to come to stay. If I say, I am going to dwell at your house. That means, I am moving in. That is the ultimate goal of God to be able to dwell with men. As you read the book of Revelation you see he creates a new heaven and a new earth.
This is what it says. Revelation 21:3 “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.”
But here is the really good news now! God wants to dwell with you today! God will dwell in your heart through faith. You are his temple. Your body becomes the temple where Christ dwells.
Then lastly, being filled with the fullness of God
d. Is a result of having received and comprehended His love.
You cannot be filled with the fullness of God if you have not experienced his love. I know that there have been moments in my life when I am amazed at his love. He gave me grace and mercy when I didn’t deserve it. Like the songwriter said, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.” The love of God is truly amazing. It is as we understand it and experience it for ourselves that we are filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 “being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
It is difficult for me to grasp how much God loves. How high is the love of God? It reaches to the highest heaven and will be shown to us in the ages to come. How deep is it? It will reach to the lowest place a man or woman can find themselves. How long is it? You can’t wear it out. He loves with an everlasting love. How wide is it? It is wide enough to reach around the entire world. You can’t be filled with all the fullness of God without the love of God.
- Could it be that our hearts need to be enlarged in order to experience that?
If his fullness is going to come into our hearts, then we have to enlarge our hearts. You can’t have a small, narrow, hard, tiny heart and be filled with all the fullness of God at the same time.
It is interesting that even our popular culture mimic’s the Word of God. Because in the children’s story “The Grinch That Stole Christmas”, the grinches heart was two sizes too small. After his quote unquote “conversion”, his heart grew three sizes. Even the world recognizes that someone with a small heart needs to have it expanded.
The Word of God tells us this as well: 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NKJV “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.”
2 Corinthians 6:11-13 KJV “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.”
The word that says restricted in the NKJV or straightened in the KJV literally means narrow or hemmed in. In other words, they weren’t receiving Paul because their hearts were too narrow. They needed their hearts enlarged. Sometimes people live their lives with their small, narrow hearts. And what happens when your heart and your life is like that, your world shrinks. It is all about you. All you can see is what is in your little world. Your prayers sound like this.
God bless me and my wife
John and his wife
Us four and no more amen.
Your concerns are primary. Your life, your comfort, you. I can assure you that God doesn’t want us to live like that. I love the Message paraphrase of this passage in 1 Corinthians 6.
“Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”
Are you living your life in a small way?
Here are some questions for you to gauge the largeness or the smallness of your heart.
- Who are you intentionally keeping on the outside of your heart?
- When is the last time you prayed for someone else?
- When is the last time you sacrificed something in order to enrich someone else’s life?
- Is your concern mostly for your comfort? Or the comfort of others?
- If you are married, are you generous with your love?
- Are you there for your family, children, and grandkids?
- Are you willing to do the little things to keep your home flowing correctly, such as doing dishes, cleaning the floors, and doing the wash?
- Are you aware of the people you work with and maybe what they face?
- Do you have to always have the credit for accomplishments? Or is it okay if others get the credit?
- Are you concerned with the kingdom of God and its expansion?
- Do you truly care that the church you attend is blessed by God?
- What are you doing to make that happen?
- Where is it that you serve?
- Do you have a ministry or way or touching others for Christ?
- Who are you discipling?
- What about people who walk in the door for the first time? Are you engaging them?
- When is the last time you took a brother or a sister out to eat?
- Are you willing to do things behind the scenes, gaining no credit on this earth, that God might be glorified?
- Do you give to Missions? Or is your heart too small?
- Do you participate in sinful activities?
- Have you forgiven all that have hurt or offended you?
You see, before I start walking and claiming that I am filled with the fullness of God. I have enough knowledge to know that if I did have that it would powerfully affect my life in incredible ways. I wouldn’t be the same. I know that sometimes, I live my life in a small way. That is why my prayer is fill me with all the fullness of God.