“I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19
I have been contemplating an emptiness lately. It is a spiritual thing – a promise made but badly, if ever, delivered.
When I came to faith in my early high school years. It was the during the flowering of the Jesus Freak movement. A very interesting time to live through and to be shaped by.
One of the catch-phrases of the time was the invitation to have “a personal relationship with God.” The idea, which seems to me is sound, is that many many people went to church but had no personal connection with the God they worshipped. This lack of connection is contrary to one of the themes of scripture – that Jesus is a Friend, that God is a Father, that relationship – especially on the level of family – is a key component of what Jesus did. Truly, being a member or even merely attending a church is not enough.
I prayed a “sinner’s prayer” and count that time as when I changed my loyalties from the world and even myself, towards the Lord Jesus. Being of a certain bent, I took easily and early to Bible, theology, and even some of the arcana of Christianity. I was well-discipled, mentored, and trained according to that bent.
But a “relationship” with God? That seemed to elude me.
It also seems to me I had a lot of company. Many of those around me seemed to have the same … “lack.” I learned much about the Bible, I learned actual Bible content, I developed good, healthy, and challenging relationships with good, healthy, and challenging people. But there was this hesitation about delving into the inner life of the soul. It just sounded … weird. And no one seemed to want to talk about it. The response was generally, “study the Bible more.”
By the way, they were not wrong. It is a Good Thing to know, understand, and be constantly aware of what the Bible has to say. But there are Bible experts who have no relationship with God. I don’t want to be one of those.
So the promise was made to have a personal relationship with Jesus but there were few in my circle who could help me do that.
I’ve spent many years recognizing, repenting, and cooperating in repairing that flat spot of my spiritual life. The inner life, both in my own inner (as the classic contemplatives called it) “disordered affections,” as well as opening up that inner life for God to truly dwell – that has been a big part of my spiritual life for over a decade.
You know something? Jesus still stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20) – he wants to come into our lives. Fully. All the way in. Especially for his followers. Feel free to refer to the classic tract, “My Heart, Christ’s Home.”
The verse above speaks to that journey of mine. Perhaps, yours as well. To be filled entirely with the fullness of God is a frightening and intimidating thing. I ‘know’ enough to know that. Yet Paul prays for that to happen for the people of this particular church in Ephesus.
Still, another aspect of this is to recognize that there is a sense in which this is already true. As believers, we affirm the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each believer’s life. God is already IN us; God dwells in us – it might sound New Age-y to us, but they stole it from us! God is IN a true Christian. It seems to me that we forget that way too often. The fullness of God is already in us.
Perhaps Paul’s prayer is that we would *know* that truth in its fullness.