God isn’t nor hasn’t ever been empty. To be God is to have fullness (Col. 1:20)! Understanding God’s self-sufficiency and fullness may be hard for us humans to comprehend since nothing we know on earth is complete in itself. Everything we know requires something from outside itself to exist, grow, and continue. Intellectually grasping the fullness of God conjures up an image of an ant trying to carry an elephant. I don’t think we can imagine needing nothing. Some people struggle with the “why” question with regards to creation. Although we may not know all the reasons why God created the universe we can know that it wasn’t “to meet some unfulfilled need in Himself” as A.W. Tozer commented in Knowledge of the Holy (p.39).
Not only is God full, but He is the source of all fullness.
These words at the end of Ephesians 1 stand out to me. Jesus, through whom God created all things, is the “fullness of Him who fills all in all.” I like to think of God in this way. He must share His fullness wherever there is emptiness because it is the nature of fullness to be a source of fullness. Another analogy describing God illustrates this same dynamic. God is light (1 Jo. 1:5), and light dispels darkness, which of course, is the absence of light. By nature, light shines. These wonderful, hopeful aspects of God’s character have the power to fill people who live in darkness and emptiness. Consider how God has revealed His emptiness-destroying fullness and darkness-dispelling light.
In Genesis 1 we see God’s fullness overflowing into the emptiness and darkness. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:1-3). The rest of Genesis 1 displays God’s creative power to destroy the emptiness and dispel the darkness. The fullness of God’s creation reveals His nature. “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). When light appears, darkness flees. This is a spiritual truth that can be seen visibly in creation. Mankind throughout all of history has experienced this glorious truth every single day as the sun rises and darkness runs to the other side of the planet. Therefore, we are without excuse. The God who created all things longs to fill His spiritually empty creatures with His fullness and light.
Fullness cannot be contained.
At what point do you say a container is completely full? When the substance overreaches the boundary of the container, right? Overflow characterizes fullness. Consider this riddle. What is empty yet continually expresses that which fills it? You probably guessed the answer from reading last month’s Chariot of Fire. I’m thinking of the human heart. From one perspective we are empty because of the Fall. Unregenerate men and women are totally empty of righteousness. From another perspective, they are constantly exploding with what fills them - selfishness. Jesus came to change what fills and overflows out of His people. He fill believers with Himself so that “rivers of living water” overflow from within us toward God (John 4:14) and to others (John 7:38).
Jesus spoke of this condition in man when he said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45). Mark recorded these words of our Lord also explaining the human condition in sin. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).
Perhaps you’ve seen what I call “the cup illustration” which illustrates, although inadequately, what you just read. You can easily teach a powerful truth about how fullness overflows. Take a glass and fill it half-way with water. As you hold it in your hand, ask someone to grab your wrist and shake it back and forth vigorously. (Do this where you don’t mind water getting on things). Then ask the question, “Why is everything wet?” The most obvious answer is, “Because someone shook the cup.” However, there’s another revealing answer. “Because there was water in the cup.” The powerful revealing truth is this: Whatever you are filled with is what will come out when you get shook. Fullness overflows. If you are filled with yourself, then self-worship will pour out in anger, bitterness, and blame, just to name a few possibilities. However, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then love, peace, joy, patience, and the rest of the qualities mentioned in Gal. 5:22-23 will overflow into the lives of those around you.
What are you filled with when you get shook? Fullness cannot be contained.
What is your response to the earthquake of the Fall of man into sin?
Your answer to this question reveals what fills you. From the time we arrive as little babes until our last breath, every person is continually being shaken by the power of the Fall. What fills us cannot be contained when shook. Some people explode with anger and blame toward God. Others use the presence of evil as a basis to deny His existence and thus, their responsibility to Him. These people then become their own god and define “right” and “wrong” by their own preferences. Some seek to anesthetize the pain of their fallenness seeking a fullness from parties, social relationships, vices, money, work, houses and cars. Many people respond to the presence of sin in their lives by filling their lives with good things, happy experiences, and deeds of benevolence. Parishioners, ignorant of God’s fullness and His nature to fill, spend their entire lives reacting to the shaking of the Fall. Bound by the fetters of self-made religion and the traditions of men they strive to assuage their guilt, gain the praise of men and please God, as if God could not be fully pleased without them. All of these people I’ve mentioned react to the Fall of man and reveal what fills them-SELF. “Man-pleasers” is the term I’ve coined to categorize these people. To live for the praise of men or for the praise of one’s own conscience are one in the same.
The Apostle Paul contrasted himself with men-pleasers when he wrote, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). One is either a man-pleaser or a Father-pleaser in his or her reactions to the Fall of man and the shaking of the soul by sin.
Living in the fullness of Christ liberates us from religious bondage.
I’m writing this book asking God to set people free from being men-pleasers who live in religious bondage to SELF. This can only happen if the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to the fullness of God in Jesus Christ and they also see the emptiness of trying to show God and people how full they are because they identify with a system of outward holiness. Father-pleasers respond to the Fall of man in a way which stands in stark contrast to men-pleasers, who are filled with SELF. They are believers in Jesus Christ. Their response to the shaking of sin in their own lives and in the world around them reveals what fills them-the Holy Spirit. In their sin and emptiness they look to and trust in God’s fullness revealed in Christ and His nature to fill to overflowing those who recognize their need of Him. They believe God’s fullness has not been contained and has overflowed to them in and through Jesus Christ. God’s sons and daughters know their sins do not phase or shake the Unshakeable, Self-Sufficient, All-Wise, Infinite, Forgiving, Eternal Father from His purpose toward them in Christ. Additionally, they know that because He is full within Himself, their good deeds and religious practices do not contribute one iota to His being.
Father pleasers know God is pleased when Jesus and what He has done for them fills their souls with peace and joy. Therefore they live in the fullness of the Holy Spirit who fills them with the life of Jesus to the pleasure of the Father. Having repented of trusting in themselves, they take no delight nor attribute worth to activities which have an outward appearance of wisdom, self-made religion, or self-abasement. What they do, they do from living in the fullness of Jesus Christ. God has given them spiritual understanding that all the fullness man experiences flows from Jesus’ fullness. They drink repeatedly at His well.
Men pleasers offer a counterfeit fullness
I feel it is necessary again to contrast men pleasers and Father pleasers. Men pleasers place great value on the free-will choice of man to do what is right. They preach, teach, and uphold high standards for people because they don’t believe people will do them without their persuasion and “ministry.” In fact, man-pleasers often erroneously think they are responsible to apply both positive and negative pressure on people in order to help them please God. In many cases, they sincerely believe they are loving people when they use these methods to get them to do the right things. You have probably felt these pressures from relationships with men pleasers-you only feel loved and accepted when you please them by accepting their standards of holiness.
Bondage to man-made religion occurs when people draw their identity and significance from others who think and live like they do. The chain that binds them is the fact that they need each other and their standards as a source of fullness and identity. Without many realizing it, the purpose for an entire assembly may rest on their shared values and good feelings about how “right” they are rather than the worship of God, the Father, through Jesus Christ. It’s easy for some to think they are practicing holiness when they don’t do what they consider fleshly in their outward public worship while attributing value to such a religious lifestyle by drawing significance from it. The Apostle Paul told the Colossians that such living has no value before God or against fleshly indulgence because it is the flesh trying to be full to the despising of the fullness of God in Christ. Certainly you can see how unpleasing self-made holiness is to the Father in heaven when we think something we do can add to His fullness and source of joy in His Son. This is a counterfeit fullness promoted by man-made religion.
Father pleasers offer true fullness.
Father-pleasers on the other hand place great value on relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the source of true fullness. They find great joy when they or others have a righteousness derived from God through Jesus’ substitutionary righteousness. When they understand the Father is filled with joy in His Son who lives in them, and the Son is filled with joy in pleasing His Father through them, they are filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit. This true fullness manifests itself when these people assemble to worship Jesus Christ. The presence of Jesus and His love overflows from their lives, their preaching and teaching, their fellowship, and their singing praises to God. These people are unusual and unique. They live in freedom and peace while grieving over sin, pain, and the sad spiritual state of the church-at-large. In their praying they sincerely acknowledge their emptiness (which you don’t feel is a false humility), but are full of rejoicing in the fullness of Christ (which doesn’t strike you as a “put on”).
Sadly, assemblies of Father pleasers are difficult to find these days.
Are you filled with the fullness of Christ?
Is Christ at home in your heart? Intimacy with Christ brings the fullness for which your soul thirsts. In knowing and experiencing Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will comprehend the dimensions of the love of God so you can be filled with His fullness. I love the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. I lift this prayer on your behalf before the Father for His pleasure in His Son. “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.
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:16-21).