Well, this evening we come to our final study in the series of becoming like Jesus. I hope you have enjoyed and been edified by the truths we have uncovered together in the last several weeks. In our study of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16ff., we have looked into how God transforms us into the image of His Son…as He strengthens our inner man through His Spirit, enabling us to resist our old nature and yield to our new nature. We saw that, through this process, our hearts become transformed into a place where Christ can feel at home…a place where He is surrounded by thoughts, habits, and desires that are godly and reflect His nature. And as we spend time together with Him, we come to more deeply understand Him and his deep and abiding love for us. That, in turn, leads us to grow in our trust of Him, even in those times of confusion and hardship. We hear His voice with greater clarity and volume, and the voice of Satan…the great Deceiver and Destroyer…ever more dimly. That brings to the final result of the process…being “filled up to all the fullness of God” (vs 19). Now, in all honesty, there is no way I can satisfactorily or completely explain what it is to be “filled up to all the fullness of God”…it is beyond me. But, together, we can look at some aspects of what it means. We have seen that it is fundamentally becoming transformed into the image of Christ…of becoming like Him. We come to reflect His character and passions. His thoughts become our thoughts. His desires become our desires. His actions become our actions. But what does that look like? Obviously, the person most like Jesus is Jesus Himself, so He becomes the example to which we can go. In examining His life we can see some of the characteristics of what our lives can and should be. By God’s grace, we are provided many such examples in God’s Word.
In Mark 1:2, at the beginning of His ministry, we see that Jesus spoke with authority and wisdom. We read, “They (Jesus and the disciples) went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” We see a similar sentiment expressed at the end of His ministry, when the chief priests and Pharisees sought to have Him arrested. In John 7:44ff we read, “Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, (the ones who sent them to arrest Jesus) and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” 46 The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.”
As we mature in Christ…as we become more like Him by spending time in fellowship with Him and letting His Word “dwell within us richly”, we are equipped… and called… to exercise His authority and wisdom as well. In 1 Thes 5:14 we are called to “admonish the unruly” and “encourage the fainthearted”. Paul exhorts Timothy in 1 Tim 4:11ff, “Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching…Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” Jesus expects us to continue His ministry of speaking and teaching with authority and with wisdom for the edification of the saints and the salvation of the lost. This is part of being “filled up to all the fullness of God”.
We also see that Jesus sets before us an example of boldness. In Matt 21:12ff we read, “ And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves.” Or we can look at Mark 3:1ff. Where we find Jesus defying the hypocritical demands of the Pharisees. “He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2 They (the Pharisees) were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” 4 And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”esus was fearless in his display of righteousness and mercy. And we are called and equipped to do the same. That is why He says in Matt 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” It is why Paul writes to Timothy and says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and sound judgment.” In becoming like Jesus, we learn to develop and practice this kind of boldness…to be fearless in the face of opposition and manifest the will and works of God. This, too, is part of being “filled up to all the fullness of God”, bound tightly together with this bold authority and fearlessness under attack, was a profound meekness and humility. One clear example of this is found in Philippians 2:5ff. “ Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” It is seen in a more intimate and personal setting in John 13:4ff., “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” It is seen in his decision to, as we saw in brother Alan’s recent sermon, enter into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey instead of a kingly steed. And, here again, we are called and equipped to do…and be… the same.
For we are called to forgive one another (in Matt 18:22) 70 times 7…effectively, without limit. We are called, in John 13:14 to wash one another’s feet “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” It calls us to a willingness to appear lowly and subservient…to do the dirty demeaning job that no one else is wanting…or willing… to do. A close companion to Christ’s humility is His patience and compassion…His gentleness and understanding of human weakness. We see it in His long suffering and persistent instructions to His disciples…In his continued engagement with them in spite of their hardness of heart and dullness of hearing. In Matt 15:12 the disciples are concerned that Jesus is unwittingly offending the Pharisees…can’t you just see Jesus shaking his head in sadness and dismay? “Really? Offending the Pharisees? That is what you are worried about?” Just a few verses later, after the disciples fail to understand the parable that said it is what is inside a man that defiles him, not what is eaten, Jesus asks Peter, “Are you still lacking understanding also?” This is another “face palm” moment. But Jesus never walks away…never grows weary of well doing…but stays the course. Paul instructs us to follow Jesus example in Col 3:12,13 where he writes, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” So, all these things, too, are part of being “filled up to all the fullness of God”. A heart filled with humility and compassion…longsuffering and patient…always forgiving an offense and remaining steadfast in our ongoing kindness and affection toward those whom God loves. All of what we have talked about thus far are things that are part of Jesus greatest “characteristic”…His deep and abiding love. Jesus biography is a story of His great and sacrificial love for us. It is much of what we have examined over the last several weeks. It is found in His lament over Jerusalem. It is found in His incarnation… His willingness to leave the glories of heaven and sojourn for a time among men. It is found in His willingness and desire to associate and care for those that were deemed to be of less value and unattractive…to dine with “sinners and tax-gatherers”. It is found in His forgiveness and restoration of Peter after his continued denial of knowing Christ. It is found in His weeping before the tomb of Lazarus, touched by the sorrow of those whom He loved. It is found in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the road to the cross. When we open the Word to any page where the story of Jesus resides, we encounter His great love. His love for His Father…His love for His people…and His love for the lost.
So, this evening we have spent some time together getting just a glimpse of what being filled up to the fullness of God means. And as we understand and exercise those characteristics of Christ…of becoming like Jesus…it draws us to some understanding of Paul’s benediction at the close of his prayer. Eph 3:20 says “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, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Paul is ascribing glory to God and recognizing His power in the world, which should come as no surprise. Of course God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly beyond all we could ask or think…after all, He is the limitless God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe. No…what is surprising is that He exercises that power in and through us! As the indwelling Spirit of Christ is given free reign in our hearts…a heart with no impediments to hinder the Spirit’s work…God Himself can and does exercise His power in the world through us. The power to change and shape lives and hearts. The power to further the Kingdom of God. The power to speak the truths of God with authority and boldness. The power to remain silent in the face of unjust accusations. And the power to manifest the very Person of Christ to a world…and Church… in great and dire need.
How can a man or woman filled up to the fullness of God” not experience this power? God’s will and power is made manifest in such an individual. So my final question to you…and to me…is this. Does this describe what we truly desire? While it is clear that this is what God…and Paul… desires for us, do we share in those desires? I will close with a final quote from Eph 4:11-13. Paul, here too, talks about God’s desire and means to bring His people to the “fullness of Christ”. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”