The fourth of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christians might be filled with all the fullness of God in verse 19b: that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. We’ve examined the two principles of this petition, the doctrinal foundation and the practical application.
Third, the realistic outworking. How can we realistically be totally dominated by God in the intellect, emotions, and will? By four principles.
1. Read His Word. This is the key that unlocks the door of Christian growth. But how should you go about this? Some advocate reading the Bible through in one year, which you can do by reading about three and a half chapters per day, such as two and a half in the Old Testament and one in the New. Alternately, you can move slower by reading just the New Testament in about nine months. This or a similar approach is fine, but the danger to avoid is reading mechanically just to get in the day’s reading.
An alternate approach is to select one of Paul’s Epistles per month, read one chapter a day, and thereby read it through several times. Another book that yields itself to this approach is Proverbs, which you can finish in one month by reading a chapter a day. The same is basically true of the Gospels.
Whatever approach you use, the important point is to read with understanding, not to “just get the job done.” Meditate upon what you read. Reading a single verse with understanding is infinitely better than three chapters with none. When thoughts arise, you might want to jot them down in a notebook to keep tract of lessons you learn and blessing God gives. When questions arise, jot those down as well and ask your pastor about them. While we never want to rely on commentaries (good preachers don’t), they are a valuable tool. By far the best one-volume commentary I have seen is The Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald. It’s a good investment for your reading.
2. Submit to the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word as absolute Truth. We have dealt with this issue before, so this is just a reminder. If you are in a church where this is not the primary ministry, find one where it is. Scripture is very clear on this issue, for no other so-called “ministry” will bring real growth.
3. Obey what we read and hear. Knowledge without application is less than worthless—it’s actually destructive. As Paul told the Corinthians, “knowledge puffeth up, but [love] edifieth” (I Cor. 8:1). Facts only make us arrogant. It’s application that makes us humble.
For example, when you read, “Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9), then obey it by never saying anything with the intent to deceive, embellish, or mislead. When you read, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Prov. 26:22) and when you read, “The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:5), then obey it by never gossiping and being careful about every word you say. When you read, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3; see I Cor. 1:10 ), then obey it by striving never to be the cause of a disunity or disharmony among God’s people. Reading a command of God without obeying it is rebellion, and if you disobey God’s Word, chastisement will come in one form or another.
4. Spend time in prayer. Mark it down, you will not consistently do the first three—read, listen, and apply—unless you pray. Unless you commune with God, you won’t understand what you read, you won’t want to listen to preaching, and you won’t apply anything because you aren’t humbling yourself before God. It is through prayer that you will confess your sins (I Jn. 1:9), ask for wisdom (Jas. 1:5), and pray for others (Col. 1:9; I Thes. 5:25). Test your prayer life against Paul’s. Do your prayers have a spiritual end? Even when you pray for physical needs, does it point ultimately to a spiritual result?
May we each be challenged to be dominated by God’s dominance, to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18).