The Fullness of God

At the same time that my church began a sermon series on the Holy Spirit, my small group began to study Becky Harling’s Who Do You Say I Am? The pastor based a sermon on the Holy Spirit on Ephesians 3:16-19 and gave us copies of the verses to take home. Becky Harling told us to memorize these verses as we study who Jesus is.

I get the feeling that God trying to tell me something: write this prayer on your heart.

Paul’s prayer packs quite a punch. He prays that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith and that we may have power to grasp how huge Christ’s love is so that we may be filled with the fullness of God.

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 Lord’s holy people, 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

My psstor noted that Paul did not pray that the Ephesians would have the intelligence or cleverness to grasp Christ’s love. His love surpasses our knowledge!

When Christ dwells in our hearts, we are rooted and established in love.

The love of Jesus grounds me. His love is an anchor in the storms of life. When the world tries to tell me who I am or who I should be, his love establishes my true identity and my true purpose. I am a beloved child of God. I am to love others as he loves me.

Christ’s love is deep and wide, like a fountain flowing, deep and wide.

When I really get this, when I feel the power of God’s love deep down in my innermost being, I may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What is this fullness of God? A commentator described this fullness (or pleroma) as God’s controlling influence on your thoughts, emotions, desires, words, and actions. It is to be aware of God’s presence and to yield to his Spiritual authority and character (his holiness, righteousness, and love). It is to continually walk in the Spirit.

Lord, you put these words on my heart for a reason. I pray that I will be constantly aware of your presence and your guidance. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you. Amen.

The Gift the Father Promised

One day, Jesus told his disciples to stay in the city because “I am going to send you what my Father has promised.” The gift God promised is the Holy Spirit, the person of the Trinity that seems to get the least attention in scripture and worship.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

Acts 1:4

In a sermon on the Holy Spirit, my pastor shared a verse that made me think about why it is for our good that Jesus is not here in the flesh. How could it be good for the disciples that Jesus was leaving them? They were so blessed to see God in the flesh and to learn from him! Oh, how I want to be with my friend Jesus!

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you

John 16:7

Jesus had to go away because he had to die to atone for the sins of mankind once and for all.

I am thankful that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, to guide us, and to be our Advocate. The Spirit empowers us. Lord, let us become more aware of your presence! You are welcome here.

Holy Spirit (Francesca Battistelli)

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord

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Photo by 卡晨 on Unsplash

Get Acquainted with God

A.W. Tozer said that he wrote The Knowledge of the Holy because he believed that modern Christianity wasn’t producing the kind of Christian who can experience life in the Spirit. In writing his little book, Tozer hoped to promote “personal heart religion” and to encourage others to practice “reverent meditation on the being of God.” Although Tozer’s writing style seems archaic to me, with lots of thee’s and thy’s and verbs ending in “eth,” his message is as relevant now as it was sixty years ago. There is a need today for personal spiritual revival and the key to this revival is to get acquainted with the holy God.

We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence.

A.W. Tozer

Tozer believed that the root of the problem is the Church losing its sense of the majesty of God. Many Christians (e.g. prosperity gospel followers) think of God in utilitarian terms – i.e. what can God do for me? The modern Christian has created God in our own image. I believe that one of the most perverse and false images of God in America today is the image of God and guns.

Christians are the Church, the body of believers. Whatever we are doing is what the Church is doing. Transforming the Church begins with the individual Christian. If we want the Church to change, we need to change. We need to transform our own vision of God. We need to give God the glory and reverence He deserves.

In the last chapter of the book, Tozer shared the “open secret” about how to acquaint yourself with God and gain knowledge of the Holy. Knowledge of the Holy is a free gift available to anyone who chooses to pursue it. This knowledge isn’t acquired through religious study; it takes spiritual discernment.

Tozer listed six conditions that must be met if if we are to know the true, holy God. Tozer noted that these conditions are taught in the Bible but he didn’t cite any scriptures.

Prerequisites to Knowledge of the Holy

1. Forsake your sin.

Tozer’s use of the verb forsake was interesting to me because Christians typically use the verb repent when speaking about sin. When I think of the verb forsake, I think of God’s promise to never leave or forsake us. But just as true repentance requires a commitment to change your actions, forsaking sin is to leave it behind, to renounce it, to give it up.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38 (NIV)

Forsaking sin is an important condition for knowing God because sin separates us from Him. When we are disobedient to God, He turns away from us. Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God (John 8:47).

As Tozer wrote, we should approach God with a good, pure heart. We should seek him with simplicity of heart. As Jesus said, the kingdom of God belongs to those who receive it like a little child (Luke 18:15-17).

2. Commit your whole life to Christ in faith.

Commit your whole life, not just your Sundays, not just Christian holidays. Commitment is a deep emotional attachment to Christ. If you love anyone or anything more than you love Christ, you are not worthy of him.

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:37-39

Take up your cross and follow Jesus. This means being willing to publicly identify with him, to experience opposition because of your faith, and even to be persecuted or face death.

3. Die to your old self and open yourself up to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3). To be born again is to be born anew, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives believers wisdom and the ability to understand spiritual realities (1 Corinthians 2). The Spirit dispenses spiritual gifts as God sees fit (1 Corinthians 12).

Even those who are born again must resist the temptations of the flesh. Our sinful natures lead us to act in ways that are not pleasing to God. Temptations of the flesh are not just sexual sins; it includes sins of the heart – jealousy, hatred, rage, selfish ambition, etc. If we want to know the holy God, we must live in the Spirit and walk with the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25

4. Repudiate the values of the world.

The world’s values are cheap in comparison to the treasures of the kingdom of God. Worldly people place too much value on money, possessions, status, popularity and fame. Worldly people act out of self ambition, self interest, and self indulgence. If you want to know God, you must detach yourself spiritually from the things non-believers set their hearts upon. Keep a tight rein on your tongue and do not let yourself become polluted by the world (James 1:26-27),

Instead of following the ways of the world, follow the example of Jesus who said, store up for yourself treasures in heaven. You have to make a choice. You can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:19-24).

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

5. Meditate upon the majesty of God.

To meditate upon the majesty of God is to practice true worship. As you become better acquainted with God, you may need to alter previously held beliefs about Him. You may need to break away from the lifeless, frivolous worship that prevails in so many churches. At my old church, I stopped going to the large, formal service on Sundays and attended the smaller, more contemplative service where we were given time to sit quietly to reflect and pray.

Withdraw inwardly and meet God in adoring silence. Pause and reflect on his omniscience, his omnipotence, his omnipresence, his immutability, his sovereignty, his holiness, his benevolence, his mercy, his grace, his glory. God’s majesty is more than the human mind can fathom!

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

John 3:23-24

6. Serve your fellow man.

How is serving others a condition for gaining knowledge of God? The more we know God, the more we want to share his love and mercy with others. When we help those in need, we are helping Jesus and bringing glory to God.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

The more we know God, the more we want to follow the example of Jesus in serving others. To know Jesus, the Son of God, the One with whom God was well pleased, is to be like-minded. It is to humbly look to the interests of others and not just to your own (Philippians 2).

In The Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer wrote about the individual’s relationship with God. As we become more intimately and personally acquainted with God, we will affect others around us in the Christian community. Tozer wrote that we can do this most effectively if we make the majesty of God the focus of our public service – in our singing, our witness, our preaching, in our writing.

Glory to God in the highest!

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Praying Strategically

A few weeks ago, I began to study the book Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, by Priscilla Shirer. Priscilla writes that prayer is “a key part of your offensive weaponry against a cunning foe who prowls around and watches for your weakness, your vulnerable places, for any opportunity to destroy you.” The purpose of her book is to develop specific prayer strategies to counteract Satan’s attempts to discourage believers from praying.

The Powers of Darkness

Priscilla believes that most people either overestimate or underestimate Satan’s influence and power. As a result, they either experience undue fear of Satan or they are unaware of his schemes and are open to every attack.

I have never been one to say “the devil made me do it.” I tend to attribute spiritual struggles to my sinful nature or to weaknesses of my character. Having said that, I do believe that Satan is real and that his dark powers are actively working in this world. Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies (Luke 8:44). The apostle Paul wrote that our struggle is not against people but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:11-12

I have always felt safe from Satan because I belong to God. Satan cannot destroy me! But have I been underestimating Satan’s power to manipulate me? Priscilla asked a probing question:

When you can’t seem to respond to spiritual stimuli with the same optimism and obedience as you once did, why do you think it could only be attributable to your bad character?

Priscilla Shirer

When I get discouraged by the brokenness of this world, when I lose my spiritual zeal, is it because I am too lazy or too easily distracted? Or does Satan know exactly how to curb my enthusiasm, how to silence my voice?

The Power of Prayer

While I continue to wrestle with the question of whether I am vulnerable to the machinations of Satan, I believe in the power of prayer. God moves in mysterious ways – through the Spirit who helps us in our weakness. I don’t always know what I ought to pray for. The Spirit may nudge me to pray for a specific person. The Spirit may nudge me to pray for a cause. The Spirit may nudge me to pray for courage or wisdom or guidance. The Spirit puts the right concerns on my heart at the right time.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:26-26 (NIV)

In my last post, I shared how I had been questioning whether I was praying too much about my worries. Yet I knew that the concerns on my heart are in line with God’s will. Priscilla wrote something that I needed to hear:

When you bring your concerns and fears and irritations to the Lord in prayer, you’re aligning your weakling spirit with the full force of God’s Holy Spirit.

Priscilla Shirer

Priscilla also shared some wisdom from her grandmother. Her grandmother wrote her prayer requests in a spiral notebook and prayed over them every morning. When Priscilla asked her why she wrote her prayers in her notebook, she said, “So I won’t forget.”

Write it down so you won’t forget.

Make a daily appointment to pray.

Pray with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:18).

Keep on praying.

Apprehending God

The fourth chapter of The Pursuit of God is titled, Apprehending God. Clearly A.W. Tozer wasn’t using the meaning of apprehend that I am most familiar with – to arrest someone for a crime. To avoid confusion, I thought about using the word perceiving in my own title, but then I realized that the nuances of the word apprehend are perfect for the subject. To apprehend is to perceive or understand – to grasp something either physically or mentally.

apprehend – from French appréhender or Latin apprehendere, from ad- ‘towards’ + prehendere ‘lay hold of’

How many people really grasp who God is? To many people, God is unknowable. He is merely an inference or a deduction based on the evidence of creation. Others see God as an ideal or another name for that which is good. You would think that Christians would know God as well as anyone can but for millions of them, God is no more real than he is to non-believers.

Tozer wrote that the scriptures suggest that God is just as knowable as any person or thing we experience with our five senses. Taste and see that the Lord is good. My sheep listen to my voice. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. The implication is that we have the means in our hearts to perceive God just as we have the ability to experience material things with our five senses.

Jesus gives believers the ability to know God. Our spiritual faculties are awakened when we are born again! The Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:6) and it is in spirit that worshipers commune with God.

God is spirit and his worshipers must worship him in Spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Tozer asked, why then do some Christians know so little about the “habitual conscious communion with God” that is prevalent in scripture? One reason is unbelief. We are prone to doubt the reality of the hidden spiritual kingdom that is all around us. The visible, physical world continuously assaults our five senses. We tend to draw a line between material things and the invisible, spiritual world. But the spiritual is real and constantly present.

Perhaps another reason we don’t commune with God is spiritual laziness. If you want to perceive God, if you want to comprehend the heart of God, you must love and pursue him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

Faith enables our spiritual sense to function. Where faith is defective, the result will be inward insensibility and numbness toward spiritual things.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Tozer wrote that we need to break the bad habit of ignoring the spiritual. “For the great unseen reality is God.” If we truly want to seek God, we must seek to be otherworldly. Deliberately choose the kingdom of God as the focus of your interest, even if people think you’re crazy for doing so. Don’t make the mistake of pushing the kingdom of God into the future. The kingdom of God is here and now, existing parallel to our physical world.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Heavenly Father, thank you for the senses that allow me to experience and enjoy the material world. What a beautiful world it is! But the physical world overwhelms my five senses and when it does, I stop paying attention to my spiritual sense. I stop paying attention to you. Help me break my bad habits. Remind me to be still and know that you are God. Holy Spirit, remind me 50 times a day if you have to, that you are with me. As Francesca sings so beautifully,

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your Glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord

Jesus, I believe. But sometimes I am a doubting Thomas. Thank you for showing me the heart of God! Thank you for showing me that the kingdom of God is here. When I have my moments of doubt, help me overcome my unbelief!

Father, Son and Spirit, even with my limited faculties, I grasp who you are. I lift my hands up to you in praise and apprehend that you are my God.

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Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash