Wednesday, August 05, 2015

In Christ…Full!

            People in our culture sense emptiness in their very souls that they desperately want to fill. The response of our culture has been to teach them to consume – everything – in great quantities! Yet the emptiness remains.

            St. Augustine (354-430) addressed this idea of existential emptiness with this famous quote: “Lord, you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” Writing over 1,000 years later, Blaise Pascal (1623-62) said: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” These two statements seem to be the foundation for the claim that “In every human heart there is a God-shaped hole that only God can fill.”

            I am sure that, if you have slowed down enough to think about it, or if you are ever awake in the middle of the night, you are aware of this nagging sense of emptiness. There is great news concerning this condition! For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

            Paul says a lot here in just a few words. First, the idea that all the fullness of God could possibly dwell in a human body is a staggering thought. Paul says in Philippians that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant” and that in response to this self-emptying and sacrifice, God “exalted him to the highest place.” Through his obedience, Jesus became the full embodiment of God – in the flesh. That leads to the second point that Paul makes, Christ brings his followers to fullness!

           That does not mean that when you arise from the waters of baptism you are automatically mature. Far from it! But it does mean that through his Spirit living in you, Jesus is constantly cleansing and filling your life with his life. That is what it means to grow in Christ – to allow ourselves to decrease so that Christ can increase in us. The more we are able to do this, the more full we become. Understanding this can help you understand other statements in the Bible – like, “Do not quench the Sprit” andMay God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, 23-24) Spiritual growth is a process, but it can be aided by emptying ourselves and allowing Jesus to fill us.

            It seems counterintuitive that the way to deal with a nagging sense of emptiness is to remove more from your life, but that is the wisdom of Jesus – empty yourself and allow Jesus to fill you fully. I love the quote by C.S. Lewis: “The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe, into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.” This is what Jesus means by saying you must “lose your life to find it!” The faster you do this, the faster your situation improves!

- Kenny Payne

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