This scripture offers some answers to a nagging question: How can self-idolatry ever end? Paul’s rhapsodic exultation about Christ’s love opens the window to a satisfying, lasting remedy: Replace your self-adulation with worship of God!
Paul suggests that we can correct the critical error of naming ourselves as our own god by replenishing ourselves with “all the fullness of God.” The moment self-idolatry runs out of gas—when enough mea culpas finally convince us that this isn’t going to work much longer—then God’s love and power can replace the tawdry idolatries we have constructed.
How can that work? We start by assessing our most grievous faults. We admit to our emptiness, our inadequacy, our selfishness. We repent of this most basic sin, this acting as though the universe centers on us. We surrender false notions of superior control, power, or worthiness. By the Holy Spirit’s influence, we come to see that Jesus can save us from ourselves.
This God-filling is more than an aggregation of neuronal firings—something more mysterious and wonderful is going on. (Paul measures this state of mind as wide, long, high, and deep.) A Spirit-enabled identity helps us daily to push aside the recurring temptation to name ourselves preeminent. The love of Christ overflows and washes away again and again our knee-jerk immediacy of watching out for Number One.
We will always be sinners—that part of us remains—but the saint part of us will have the opportunity to transcend self-idolatry more often. And our faults, our faults, our most grievous faults will be forgiven. Assuredly, completely, graciously.
Gracious Lord, send your Spirit into my life and replace my self-idolatry with your fullness. Amen.
The Bible is filled with the stories of imperfect people. David is a classic case. In Second Samuel he commits adultery, tries to cover it up, and then plots a murder. How can this be the same man who penned this week’s psalm, which decries the foolishness of people who act in a godless way? Like us, David was a fallen person who needed God’s extravagant mercy. In Ephesians we read of this same extravagance given through Christ, whose power can do what we cannot—namely redeem all of us who are also foolish and fallen. The Gospel author demonstrates the power of Jesus through what he describes as “signs,” which Jesus performed not primarily to amaze the onlookers but rather to point them to his identity as the Son of God.
• Read 2 Samuel 11:1-15. How often do you consider the ramifications of your decisions and actions on the wider body?
• Read Psalm 14. How frequently do you find yourself envisioning a life free of constraints? What does that life look like?
• Read Ephesians 3:14-21. How does “being rooted and grounded in love” manifest itself in your life?
• Read John 6:1-21. When have you tried to force God into a mold of your own making to serve your needs?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.