Today we’re going to talk about being “full” again. Last week we had a bunch of pics on the screen that showed different images of being full. The connection was this idea that we know what full looks like and as the Bible talks about Jesus who came to this earth and stresses this reality that He was fully man and fully God. 100% of both. Paul wrote in Colossians 2, “For in Christ all the fullness of deity lived in bodily bodily.” Fully man. Fully God.
Today we’re going to to talk about this idea of fullness but come at it from a different direction. The direction is us and the reality that we are not full. We are fully human. That’s true. But we are not full as people and that’s why Christ came. In fact, the starting point of everyone is that we are empty. We don’t have anything. Completely dry. Like bone-dry. The well is empty. You ever see those calcium rings on a glass? It’s the sign that there used to be water but it evaporated and all that’s left behind are the minerals that dried onto the bottom of the glass. That’s us. So what exactly are we no longer full of? Spiritual life. The signs of spiritual life are there – of a day and time long ago when people were filled with God, we know it happened. We know in our soul and spirit that being filled with the presence of God can happen – of true love, peace, joy, hope, faith, strength. But we all start out with just mineral rings and the reality of being empty.
And then there is this moment when many of us we discovered Jesus fully God and fully man. The one person fully God and fully man who came to change our circumstances. He looks at our emptiness and says, “If you let me I can fill you so that you never ever feel empty again.” In fact Paul says it this way, “For in Christ all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form and YOU have been given fullness in Christ.” You have been given fullness in Christ. When we first start this journey and relationship with Christ it’s so clear. Emmanuel – God with us. God living in us. God cleaning us out and filling us up with Him.
About 10 years ago I found this verse. “You have been given fullness in Christ.” Fullness in Christ. I remember being at a loss for what this meant. Could I give you a good theological pat answer for what this meant? Sure. But could I give you an answer from my soul? Could I stand and say, “I know what it means to be given the fullness of Christ?” The answer was no. I remember spending five to six months on this verse in my own quiet times with God asking Him to teach me what this means. It’s one thing to have books teach and it’s a whole different thing when God teaches us. And I kept asking him, “Teach me. Teach me. Show me. Show me. I want to know this!” As I read through Colossians it became clear that God spells it out so clearly.
He shows us in chapter 1 with the amazing description of who He is as God. And he says, “You have been given the fullness of Christ.” All that He is as God we have been given. God the Spirit brings the divine presence to us. In us. He resides in us.
He shows in chapter 1 the emptiness and conflict within us and how Jesus fully met that emptiness and fought that conflict by His blood shed on the cross. And He says to us, “You have been given fullness in Christ.” That conflict you and I felt before Christ and still feel when we return sin, Christ fully meets that need. He ends the conflict in you and in me. He fully brings the peace our souls have been empty of and fills us up. He shows us earlier in chapter 1 that weakness we have. He brings up that reality we all know of being empty of strength to endure in our faith, empty of strength to be patient. And He says, “You have been given fullness of Christ.” Where His strength will fully fill us up. He came knowing the plan was for Him to fill us up. Fully. Filled with Him. And this only scratches the surface. This is only the beginning. We haven’t even begun to understand what it means to be given the Fullness of Christ.
This reality of being empty and begin filled up is forever a constant struggle and battle and victory in the Christian life. Why? Well there are several reasons for this. (credit Andrew Murray)
Forget we were empty:
The first is that we often forget we were empty. Who here has ever been so hungry and gone without food for days? I know many of us have fasted for three days without any food. (Just so you know, at the end of January we’re going to do a 3-day prayer and fasting. It will be a time to thank God what he has done but also to recalibrate as a church our hearts around the mission of God.) Anyway, that first meal is so amazing and partly because getting that hungry makes the feeling of being full so awesome. It feels so good to be full. It feels so good to have energy. Right? It feels good to not have our stomachs aching and cramping but satisfied. The next couple of days all those memories of being empty are still so strong and maybe even for a week or even a month. But eventually we forget because we get used to being full.
It’s the same way spiritually. Those moments in life when we were empty, so empty, feeling so weak from the lack of God’s presence in our lives and then Jesus comes – Fully God and brings the full presence of God into us. We’re filled up. It’s so good to be full. Especially in light of being empty for however long. We just walk around full of God. It’s indescribable really. Mystical and yet so real. It lasts for how long? A week, a month? Six months? Maybe even a year? But then what? We forget who filled us. We forget what it was like to be empty. We forget what led us to the point of saying, “I’m empty and I can’t do anything to fill this emptiness.”
The only path out of this is to never forget that we are empty without Christ. That we were given the fullness of Christ and it’s His fullness that fills us up. It’s him –fully God – that allows us to be full-filled. It’s also this call on us to gaze upon the full deity of Christ. I remember reading a book where the author was writing about a painting of the prodigal and just stared at the painting for hours upon hours. Studying. Memorizing. Observing. Folks, I’ve never looked at a painting for maybe more than a few minutes. But that image of this guy looking and looking and looking some more. That’s gazing. That’s meditating. That’s taking it in. And the path for us is to staying filled with His fullness is siting before the one who is fully God and gazing, and looking, and studying, observing, and being with Him. The God. Who fills everything in everyway.
Conquer our emptiness and try to fill ourselves:
Another reaction we have about this whole thing of being empty is sometimes we try to conquer our emptiness and be freed from it. Some people spend their whole lives trying to conquer that emptiness. They even get to the point where they actually believe they are filled up. The ones who achieve this level and live in complete denial we actually call them, “full of it” or “filled with themselves.” Isn’t that interesting? They see themselves as so filled up that they don’t need anyone and that everyone really needs them. The tragedy is that everyone around them can tell they’re empty.
Now in the church, in theory, nobody is full of themselves. Yeah, right. I think what happens is we get in front of Christ and we’re blown away at how He simply conquered our emptiness by filling us in everyway with His full presence and deity. And we go along in life and slowly but surely we think that emptiness has been conquered forever. But we start to feel drained. We start leaking. Not quickly, but over time. And somewhere in there we think it’s up to us to keep ourselves filled because God’s here, He’s conquered the emptiness, so we have to maintain it and fight against losing the fullness. So we take it upon ourselves, right? We start trying to conquer the feelings of being empty and drained. We slowly drift back to this idea that we can do it. We can fill ourselves. We got this. And then slowly over time we feel empty but guilty we couldn’t conquer that feeling. And we start living in defeat. And months go by, maybe years go by. Failure. Defeated. Empty.
And Christ simply says to us, “I am the fullness of Deity. I have given you my fullness. STOP! REST. Quit trying to conquer what you cannot conquer. And then we stop. Lay down our weapons. Slump to the ground. Collapse. Spiritually for sure and maybe even physically. And in that moment He fills us. The one who made us alive. The one who forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us. The one who took it away, nailing it to the cross. The one who disarmed the powers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. And he says, “Rest in my victory. Rest. Let me fill you up with my victory.” And it dawns on us in those moments. He’s not calling us to conquer our emptiness but to rest in His victory over our emptiness and fill us with Him.
We think our emptiness is the greatest hindrance in our life:
There’s another aspect we Christians struggle with regarding this emptiness we come against. A lot of us think our emptiness is the greatest hindrance of our life. Oh it’s sweet when Christ comes and He fills us up and He chooses us and His life and presence as God flows in us and through us into the lives of people. But over time, life starts to pile up and memories of desires of our old empty life return or the pain of our past or the destruction of previous decisions in life come up and we begin to believe lies that we can’t do it. We don’t deserve to be filled. Look at you, you’re empty without God. We realize we don’t have what it takes. We aren’t smart enough. We aren’t caring enough. We aren’t filled up with enough of whatever to do whatever. And we despair. And we beat ourselves up. We make our bed in these rooms where hear voices that condemn us and tell us we can’t be used, we’re worthless, we’re empty!
And Christ, fully God and fully man, comes along and says, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Our weakness. Our emptiness is the secret to our success and full-filment. Us accepting this, embracing this, even rejoicing in this is what fills us with the fullness of God. God doesn’t want us to run away from knowing we are weak and empty but run towards that knowledge because we know that it doesn’t disqualify or hinder our lives but it is what in turn leads us to call out for His divine power to full us. His divine presence to make the difference. It led Paul to rejoice in his weakness.
Christmas is a time we all take a break and slow down. Maybe, just maybe this Christmas the best gift you and I could ever receive is the original Christmas gift…Christ. Not that those of us who follow Christ need to be saved. But maybe it’s a time we come and say to God, “Give me all your fullness. Give me that gift. Give me all of You. I’m empty. Fill Me with yourself.”
Some of you may not know what to make of this whole morning. You may have doubts about Christ and all of this, but there’s no doubt that you know that empty feeling. Why not reach out to Christ. He’s a good God. Ask Him to fill those pieces of you that feel empty.