Two days ago, I taught a Bible lesson on Naomi, in the book of Ruth. She was left empty in the land of Moab when her husband and sons died. There was nothing to keep her there after hearing about the end of the famine in her homeland. However, merely stepping foot in another geographical location didn’t satisfy her longing to be complete, full, or satisfied. Naomi was still empty when she arrived in Bethlehem and asked others to call her Mara (bitter). Many people move to a new country with dreams of a completely different life. Long-held dreams of Immigrants often end abruptly in nightmares of financial poverty and isolation from mainstream society, crushing their dreams of a perfect life. Refugees may receive aid for a time and then are left entirely on their own unless someone steps in to help them. Their lack of inclusion and acceptance, of purposeful work and friends, reflects the emptiness we all have in the world. Sometimes missionaries are shocked at the greed of some when they pour out their money and time for those who have little resources. Or, expat owners who think they will make it rich, find that the competition is overwhelming. Like Naomi, our emptiness follows us wherever we go, in whatever we do, if we expect the world’s priorities, values, and rewards to fill us. But through his fullness, Jesus Christ gives Christians grace whereby he reconciles them to himself for peace with him. Believers in Jesus Christ lack nothing for peace here or in eternity. We find our fullness in him.
When we think of something full, we envision completeness, to its maximum capacity, not lacking in anything. God is infinite in all of his attributes, which is way beyond full. (See 2 Chronicles 6:18; Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:25-26.) Paul writes in Colossians 1:19-20, “For in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Jesus has all the attributes and authority of God and used his life, through his incarnation, him to make atonement for us. Christ’s fullness comes from him, through his blood, to make peace. The grace he gives us is abundant. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) We have access to his infinite grace. The fullness of Christ leads to our peace in a world that unsuccessfully tries to fill the empty voids with material and romantic throw-aways.
In “The Scorch Trials,” the main character, Thomas, is subjected to trial after trial. At one point, he hears the voice of his friend saying that he will have to experience something tough and painful, but he will be okay in the end. He isn’t sure who to trust at this point, and is utterly conflicted about this girl, since she has been extremely unpredictable. Sometimes she acts like she wants to kill him, and does, in fact, injure him. At other times, she is sweet, loyal, and apologetic for acting like his enemy, set out to destroy him. He describes himself as empty. He has no point of reference for absolute truth. I wonder how many young readers identify with Thomas and the other kids who don’t know who to trust, or the purpose of the trials they are forced to endure, leaving them feeling empty. (1) But by Christ’s work, through faith, we are inoculated against condemnation to everlasting torment and emptiness. However, we still suffer from temporary sicknesses and contamination because of worthless ideals around us, or the distortion of what is meant to be good. For example, in the American legal system, meant to offer hope to our citizens, a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty. But is that really how we view the accused, or our legal system? Reality and fictional TV shows, sports, and business are all about competition these days instead of inspiration. There are a few winners and many losers. Empty promises. Empty contests that mean nothing. Unlike Thomas, though, we know who our enemies are, without any doubt: the world, Satan, and our flesh. Unlike Thomas, we also know who to trust—Jesus Christ. Every word of His in Scripture is true. He wants us to experience his peace. He and his band of apostles warn us about embracing the emptiness of worldly promises and ideas. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
The world keeps trying to fill itself up, as do we all, like a perpetual all-you-can-eat-buffet or like rabid consumers on Amazon Prime Day. More is better. More will fill us up. But with what? That which leaves us empty or full? Christians have the fullness of God to feast upon continually. The more grace we receive, the more can spill over into the lives of others. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that as we receive more peace from Christ, feeding on him, we become vessels of peace for others. As John Gill writes, “…grace upon grace, heaps of grace…’ goodness upon that goodness’…an abundance of it, an addition to it, and an increase of it…joy upon joy, is an abundance of joy, a large measure of it; and ‘holiness upon holiness’, abundance of it.” (2) This we have from Christ, who made his atoning sacrifice for us to have peace with God, in him, through him, and from him, by his blood. “The basis for Christ’s reign of peace is the blood of his cross. The cross truly is the pivotal point in human and cosmic history.” (3) Our story’s point of crisis, whereby the plot revolves, is at the cross of Christ. Here is the point where peace broke into the world. God used a grandchild to cut through Naomi’s bitterness and emptiness. She knew the pre-incarnate Christ, given to her as a deposit against future credit when he died on the cross. We have his credit ahead of our debt, the finished work of Christ before death. (4) Now living Christians lack nothing for our peacefulness. So we must ask ourselves what we are willing to do to extend this gospel peace to others in our families, churches, neighborhoods, workplaces, and groups. We are vessels of God’s peace and fullness. Will we offer hope to the Thomases in our noisy, busy, empty, hungry, and thirsty world? Christ says, “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) May our peace be like a bubbling fountain, spilling the water of the gospel into the dry, empty people of the world.
(1) “The Scorch Trials,” (#2 in “The Maze Runner” Series) by James Dashner.
(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Colossians 1:20, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/colossians-1.html
(3) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Colossians 1:20, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
(4) Toussaint, Dr. Stanley, Hebrews lecture series for Dallas Theological Seminary.
July 17, 2019