The Golden Door to the Bible, Part 3:
Filled With the Fullness of God
July 26, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! We’re continuing our Bible study of the book of Ephesians, the "golden door to the Bible," and our title and our topic for this morning is “Filled with the Fullness of God.”
The scripture we’re studying this morning is a soaring and passionate prayer. It has all the grace and the beauty and intensity of an eagle in flight. There is great passion in the prayer that St. Paul is praying in the scripture this morning. He is praying for the people in Ephesus, yes. But he is praying for you, too. He is praying an extremely intense prayer for you. Let’s explore it together. What does St. Paul want for us so much in this passage?
This prayer falls at the very heart of the book of Ephesians, and I hope it becomes a beloved scripture passage for you. Let’s look at it together, shall we?
Verse 14: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” Let’s not go by that too quickly. “For this reason…” The King James Version reads “For this cause I bow my knees.” What is this cause? What is this mysterious secret wish that Paul has for you? What is his intention for you, that he wants with such intensity?
“For this cause,” he says, “I bow my knees before the heavenly Father.” The words “bow my knees” mean something very special. When a rabbi prayed, he would pray standing up, with his hands outstretched to the Lord. It’s a beautiful and powerful prayer posture. I invite you to consider it in your own private devotions. That is the normal posture of prayer for the Jews.
But Paul is saying he wants to go beyond that because his prayer is so intense, and so he bows his knees. That means that he lies down flat on his face before the Lord, because he wants the prayer to be that intense. He wants all of his physical energy to go into that prayer, so he lies flat out before the Lord, in prayer for this cause. Again, what is this "cause", this reason that he’s praying for? What is this gift that he wants for you? I'll tell you in a moment.
He goes on to elaborate several things. “I pray to the heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” What does that mean? It means that the fatherhood of God is the model of all fatherhood. It means the goodness of God is the model for all parenthood. It means the generosity and the caring and the love of God is something that belongs to you and to all His children and is a model for the rest of us.
He goes on to say, “I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, he grants you strength in the inner person.” He prays that Christ may dwell in your heart, and the word that he uses for dwell means permanent residence – not passing through, not just staying, not a quick visit – he’s using the word for permanent residence in your heart. “In your inner being, through His Spirit, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you be rooted and grounded in love, and have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth” – we’re going to talk about that in a moment – “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”
And here it comes…we’re ready for the secret, the main intention, the cause, the reason: “so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” That’s it! That is the intention for you. That’s what he is praying for with such enormous fervor. That is what he lies down in prayer before God for, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. And indeed, that is my prayer for you as well. I invite you to take it to heart; I invite you to take it to spirit; I invite you to say inside yourself, ‘I am filled with all the fullness of God.’ Say it out loud: I am filled with all the fullness of God. That’s his most important wish and prayer for you and for me. And that’s what a Christian is—filled with all the fullness of God.
What does it mean? What does it look like when a person is filled with all the fullness of God? What does it feel like? What do I think if I am filled with the fullness of God? Let’s take a look at it together.
A person who is filled with the fullness of God, a person whose consciousness is lined up with the consciousness of God, whose thoughts are lined up with the thoughts of God, whose love is lined up with the love of God, is a powerful person indeed. I invite us to consider at least three aspects of this: I am filled with the light of God. I am filled with the love of God. I am filled with the joy of God. LLJ. That’s my prayer for you today. Let’s look at them one at a time.
I am filled with the light of God. The light of God in our hearts outshines all darkness. If you have found yourself weighed down by troubling thoughts, by uncomfortable feelings, if you’ve found yourself weighed down by negative ideas, I invite you to say, I am filled with the light of God. I’ve got God-thoughts within me, and they’re outshining everything else. If I’ve had thoughts of doubt or thoughts of negativity, I’m going to let God’s light shine within me. I’m going to be filled with all the fullness of God. I am going to be filled with the light of God. Let God’s light fill you and chase away all those shadows. The shadows don’t do you any good; the light of God does.
Say it out loud: I am filled with the light of God. It’s amazing what light does. I stopped for gasoline the other night. I’m at the station, and at the next set of pumps to my left there was a car pulled up. The gentleman driving the car decided he was going to check his own oil. He had the car hood up, and he was looking into the engine. I could see that it was dark where he was looking; there was a big shadow. He called to his wife in the car, “Can you find me a flashlight? Can you look around for one? I can’t see here.”
And she called back to him, “Why don’t you just back up the car a few feet and let the big light shine in?” That was a great idea. Maybe that’s what we should do. Maybe we should back the car up a few feet and let the big light shine in, and we can see that the darkness is dispelled. Let God’s light fill you. Let His light shine where the doubtful ideas were. And your life and your thoughts will be better, brighter, more positive, and more successful.
I am filled with God's love. A person who’s filled with the fullness of God is filled with God’s love. This was a very important point for St. Paul. Let’s go back to the scripture for a second. Verse 18: “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” I’m asking you this morning to love and to know how loved you are. How loved are we? St. Paul asks. Let me tell you. We are loved higher and wider and broader and deeper than we could ever imagine! There is nothing about you that escapes the love of God. There is nothing that you can do that escapes His power to forgive.
I have a favorite place at the Jersey shore where I can stand on the boardwalk and look straight out over the ocean to the horizon, and then turn to the south and look straight down the coast, and turn to the west and see the beautiful sky over a lake, and then turn to the north and see the ocean stretching that way, and over it all is a canopy of sky and beauty and clouds. At sunset when the gold and the orange and the red blaze in the western sky, there is a panorama of light and beauty that just makes you want to sing, “Oh God, how great Thou art!” The expansiveness of God’s love is what Paul is trying to convey to us. How much are you loved? You are loved that much, to the height and the depth and the length. In every way, you are loved. I pray that your heart would be filled with the love of God for you.
I believe what Plato said, that a person who knows he is good will do the good thing. I pray that you would know how loved you are, and that is what propels us to do the loving thing. Be filled with the love of God!
I am filled with God's joy. And finally, friends, I think that a person who is filled with the fullness of God is filled with God’s joy. God’s joy is all around us, isn’t it? I looked out my window this morning and there were sparrows in the tree outside my kitchen window, and they were singing. It was so beautiful I could cry. It was so lovely. There’s joy all around us. But we have to be still enough to appreciate it and to say thank you for it, for every breath, for every morning. There’s joy all around – in that flower that blossoms outside your front door, in the ability to see the flower. There is joy all around.
Can I tell you a personal story of joy that occurred for me not long ago? I had my wonderful Godson Dylan over, and I was fixing some food for him. He was pretty hungry. I made him a sandwich – a toasted English muffin with a scrambled egg and cheese. He ate that sandwich with great gusto. Usually he says “thank you, it was very good.” But this day he said “thank you, that was the best sandwich, better than McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts sandwiches put together.” And I tell you, that brought me great joy to hear those words. I asked if he wanted another one, and he said, “Yes, I do.” I made him another one.
I got to thinking - how precious was this moment of joy to me? I had seen an article about yachts, and I thought, would I be any happier or more joyful if somebody gave me a yacht? No, I wouldn’t! Let’s assume that somebody gave you a yacht and you couldn’t sell it. Would that bring more joy, to have a million dollar yacht? I don’t think so! Not for me it wouldn’t. I think of a yacht and I think of insurance and fuel and dock rent and winter maintenance and upkeep. And when would I get to sail it? A couple days in August? Some people might invest in something like that. But that moment, that precious moment when the joy of a child’s heart was sent my way - it was priceless.
You know what I’m talking about. There is joy all around you. Don’t let the busyness of life get in the way your awareness of joy and appreciation of each moment. Be filled with the fullness of God - and of His joy.
And so, my dear friends, I hope that this scripture would have a very special meaning for you.
Oh, just one more thing. Paul concludes this prayer with this praise to God: “Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory.” It’s a reminder. He’s saying, don’t forget that God has so much more than He has already given away. God has so many more blessings in store than you can even imagine. Go to Him with a heart that is open to "exceedingly abundant" blessings.
My prayer for you is the prayer of St. Paul to his congregation at Ephesus. Dear Christian friend, may you be filled with the light of God, with the love of God, with the joy of God.
Indeed, may you be filled with all the fullness of God - because He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski