Week 6, main session
The Fullness of Christ
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV).
As teenagers, life appears hopeful and filled with wonderful ideas – most of the time. As a young adult, we look forward to exciting new adventures, both in the workplace and in family life – most of the time. When middle-aged, we embrace watching our children move on into their teen and young adult years, so full of hope and challenges – most of the time. Upon retirement, excitement is generated as we think about those trips we always wanted to take and the freedoms we will enjoy serving the community, the church, and our grandchildren – most of the time. “Most of the time” is often interrupted by life – the life we didn’t anticipate. The challenges, the unexpected, and the uncontrolled often splatter our plans with colors on a canvas that were neither desired nor explained. We wonder of its purpose. We wonder why God’s plans have to be so different than ours. We may even wonder if at times God is really an ever-present help for us.
As Christians, we want to believe that the plans, the wondering, and the unexpected things all center in the love and grace of Jesus Christ – that is, in His fullness. We desire to cling to the assurance in Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulations. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Yet the depth of His love, which is beyond all comprehension, may seem difficult to grasp in the midst of trials and tribulation.
Prayer: Dear sweet Jesus, You promised Your fullness through the power of the Holy Spirit and for that I am truly grateful. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation as I learn more of Your fullness in the study of Scripture, especially when tests and trials add unexpected color into my life. In Your name I ask this. Amen.
Life without Christ as its center does not make sense. In fact, it can appear hopeless. The opening reference in Ephesians 3:16-19 confirms that love – His love – is revealed in all our confusing, devastating, and even debilitating times. His victory over sin, death, and the devil is assured, and exposure to His fullness in us will expand and explode in each and every circumstance we encounter. In fact, it is beyond our imagination.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).
May the Holy Spirit open the windows of our hearts through His Word as we discover who we are in Christ and how, as a result, we possess His fullness.
THE FULLNESS IN CHRIST – THE RECEIVING OF HIS LOVE
Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;
I pray Thee, ne’er from me depart,
With tender mercy cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share.
Yea, heav’n itself wert void and bare
If Thou, Lord, were not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break,
My trust in Thee can nothing shake.
Thou art the portion I have sought;
Thy precious blood my soul has brought.
Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Lord,
My God and Lord, Forsake me not!
I trust Thy Word.
LSB 708, v 1
In the fullness of Christ, one of the blessings He bestows on us is the desire to love. His love in us overpowers the selfishness and egos, the greed and pride. His love requires commitment, determination, and hard work. His fullness of love views us as we can become. He doesn’t see us as we are in the center of our heartbreak, broken dreams, and misshaped lives. Rather the Father views us as ones who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and who have received His amazing love. That love, Christ’s love, continues to cover our daily, heavily-burdened lives with His redeeming grace and tender mercy.
The love of Christ that flows into and through us is not of our own doing. However, it is revealed in our hands- those that touch the untouchable, reach out to the homeless broken men and women on our streets, listen to the grieving heart, and serve when serving is the last thing we want to do. It is an impossible love that reaches across the chasm of prejudice and preconceived ideas of humanity. It is a love that understands we don’t love because we have it bottled up in us naturally, but rather is a love that can only come from another Source – from the fullness Jesus provides to us as His restored, baptized children.
Read 1 John 4:10-19 and take note of this incredible, undying love that is given to us through Christ. Then read Colossians 1:19-20 to see how, in Christ, this all came to pass.
THE FULLNESS IN CHRIST – MADE ALIVE IN CHRIST
We are not the same as we were ten years ago, twenty years ago, or even more. Our attitudes have changed, our desires are different, and our direction in life focuses on serving others in ways altered from when we were younger. As a result, our former sometimes-draining tasks now rest on the back burner as insignificant when viewed in the whole scheme of things.
The same is true for our spiritual lives as we continue to ask, seek, and knock for Christ’s wisdom and understanding. Because we better understand what it means to be made alive in Christ, our heart beats truer to His guidance and grace offered one day at a time, no matter who we are or what we still plan to achieve.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him (1 John 4:9).
A faith-filled life with Christ abounds in the realization of His wonders and finds joy in His presence. That doesn’t mean our circumstances will be easy or even tolerable. But it does mean that when we are on our knees weeping and sobbing in despair, He is still carrying the heaviest part of the load and we are covered by His everlasting arms. (See Matthew 11:29-30 and Deuteronomy 33:27.)
Refer to the following verses to discover the joys and wonders of being alive in Christ.
Colossians 2:6, 13
1 John 5:11-13, 20
Living in Christ, in His fullness, means that we inherit eternal life today but only because He is in us. While its full reality will not be inherited until the moment of our death, He provides eternal blessings of His kingdom now.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Now because of being made alive in Christ, we can be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10).
THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST – A NEW CREATION
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if a mirror is our greatest enemy. As we gaze into it, we see not the beauty God created, but the flaws and undesirable conditions that contradict the TV version of what beauty is. Our value is determined by what others see and how that translates into worthiness. Yet some of the most beautiful people I’ve seen have never won a beauty contest nor have they had their pictures mounted on the walls of cosmetic offices. Their beauty comes from within and brings about an unexplained radiance and peace. They are filled with a grace that flows from a heart received from Christ Himself, for He has clothed them with all His goodness and supplied them with His fullness. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they have been able to make choices that reveal the resurrected life. Refer to Ephesians 4:22-24 and 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.
Upon our Baptism, we became a new creation in Christ. Supplied with the Holy Spirit, we are provided with spiritual rivers of living water (John 7:38-39). Created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, we are privileged to do the joyous work of being Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We not only have received the fullness of Christ, but have been clothed with Christ Himself. (See Galatians 3:26-27 and Colossians 2:9-14.)
With that thought in mind, review Philippians 4:8-9 and Colossians 3:12-15 and list the qualities that can be developed through living a sanctified life in and through the Holy Spirit.
THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST – COMPELLED BY HIS LOVE TO LOVE OTHERS
As we continue to move through our lives of sanctification, sometimes we need to be reminded, it is not about us, but about Christ Jesus in us. It is about a desire to do the Father’s will in our daily task-filled lives.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God … for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children as light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10).
As a result of that light, that love, that fullness, we can reach out to others with unexpected results as we remember some very important truths.
Romans 12:1-3, 9-16
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
For now, we have come full circle: from God’s love for us → His presence in us → a new creation → His love compels us to love others → for Him. All of this is because we are in Christ through our Baptism. As a result of His redemptive sacrifice on the cross and the resurrection, we receive freedom to live our lives for Him, filled with the measure of faith He grants to us.
When we are mopping the kitchen floor, we are in Christ. As we transport our children to and from school and school activities, we are in Christ. Sitting at an office desk, overseeing an ailing or dying spouse or parent, we are in Christ. No matter the tasks, the trials, or the tests, we are in Christ and He is in us, and because He is in us, so also abide His love, His fruit, and His powerful presence – daily, hourly, in all places, and at all times. His forgiveness is secure when we fail. His power is granted in our weakness. His amazing love never leaves us, even though we may feel more unlovable than ever. His grace captures us in our task-filled lives and assures us that all is understood and redeemed. For love, Jesus died! For love, He allowed all our sins to be nailed to the cross and our punishment to be paid in full. That fullness is ours, for our sins were buried with Him when He was buried. Then united with Him in our Baptism, we live free, resurrected lives as we live to serve Him and others out of love.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank You for the fullness that I possess as a result of my Baptism. As I study Your Word, open my eyes daily to the incredible joy, peace, and power available because You are in me every day. In Jesus’ name and for His sake I ask this. Amen.