“….so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:17-19
Years ago, in our home we had an Aloe Vera plant growing in a little pot. One day we noticed that it had stopped growing, so we thought, no problem, it just needs a little more feeding/watering/light. We fed it, we watered it, we moved it. For weeks it was fed and moved, fed and moved, fed and moved. No matter what we did, it never grew, in fact with all the stuff we were pouring onto it, it began to look worse. One day I went to throw it out, but I didn’t want to throw away the nice pot, so I pulled it out of the pot. In an instant I could see what the problem was. Underneath the superficial layer of soil the pot was totally filled, not with soil, but with the roots of the plant. The pot itself had limited the size of the roots. That plant could never have grown because it could not physically grow past, or grow through, the wall of the pot.
No matter what we would have fed that plant, even ‘miracle grow’, no plant can grow beyond the size of its roots. Nothing planted can grow beyond the size of its roots.
Oak trees can grow over 100 feet tall, but you are never going to grow a hundred-foot oak tree in a flower pot. Why not? Because a 100-foot high oak, requires 100 feet in width for its roots. So too in fruit trees, the roots have to go out a certain length and become established, before fruit appears. If the roots don’t get that freedom, that room, that liberty to be established, to go down deep and wide, then the fruit that could have appeared, never appears. To see great growth, those roots don’t need to be contained, they need to be established in liberty. Nothing planted can grow beyond the size of its roots.
The same goes for a life. The roots of your life and mine are our beliefs (what the Bible calls the heart). When Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else guard your heart for out of it flows the issues of life,” that Hebrew word ‘issues’ means borders. What you are believing borders your life. You can’t live beyond the borders of what you have believed. So, above all else, let nothing restrict, let nothing hinder, let nothing limit your believing, because what limits your believing, limits your life, how much you can grow in life. Nothing planted can grow beyond the size of its roots.
No matter how often we fed and moved that plant, even ‘miracle grow’, could not make it grow. Now here is a remarkable thing. Even in Pentecostal churches, where for years we have witnessed the miraculous and the gifts of the Spirit, where in meeting after meeting, with great messages and ministry, we have been fed and moved, fed and moved, fed and moved, even after all that ‘miracle grow’, many of us as believers never seemed to grow beyond a certain point! We never grew, as we should have grown…
- out of the self-life into the Christ-life,
- out of the slave mentality (If I do this for Him, I will get that from Him) and into sonship (All these things are already mine in Christ),
- out of walking in the flesh (living focused on sin, self and satan) and into walking in the Spirit (living focused on heaven’s reality; that “the principle/law of the Spirit of life in Christ, has set us free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom.8:2), that in Christ, “we died and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God”. (Gal.3:3)
Just like, no amount of more fertiliser, or water, or sunshine could make that plant grow, so no amount of preaching or prayer can grow a believer, whose mind has never been renewed, (whose believing, whose roots, have never broken through) into the truth of what happened at the Cross; that there, Jesus Christ made one sacrifice for all sins, for all time and sat down (Heb 10:12), so that you, believer, are no longer a mere man or woman, separated from God by your sin, for that old creature was crucified with Christ and buried (Gal.2:20)
You wouldn’t attempt to grow a 100-foot oak tree, by leaving it in a flower pot. It is just as crazy to try and grow the life of Christ in believers, by trying to grow the seed of the Gospel; the proclamation of Christ as your life, within the confines of a religious/’obedience to Law’ mindset. Religion is too tiny a pot to grow much more than twigs. Oaks of righteousness can’t grow in religious pots. The only thing that grows in a pot called self, is self-righteousness! The new wine cannot be contained in the old wineskin (Mark 2:22). Our life in the Spirit, hidden with Christ in God, cannot be contained within the old wineskin of living as if our sins still separate us from God. Our new life of union with God, that revelation, of the enormity of His love for us, that belief, that mind; the mind of Christ about us, must be the limitless open ground that believers are rooted and established in, in order for the ‘fullness of God’ life to blossom in ours (Eph 3:19).
But to establish those roots, what restricts those roots must be taken away. Old Covenant, Law based thinking, cannot be allowed to remain our mindset, the pot we are planted in. That’s why Hebrews 10:9,10 declares, “He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”. Just as no amount of more water, or more sunshine could make our Aloe Vera plant grow, so no amount of preaching or prayer can grow a believer into the fullness of God, whose mind has never been renewed, (whose believing/roots have never broken through) into the truth of what happened at the Cross (Hebrews 5:12,13).
Because as believers, our old self-life (you or I living apart from God, dead to God, in sin), what Paul called the I, the ‘ego’ (Gal.2:20), died with Christ and was buried with Christ, then all who are now in Christ, who have His Spirit, no longer have a self-life. When I married my wife, my old single life died and I died to the principles of how a single man should live (Rom.8:2). Believer, you are now married to Christ (Rom 7:4). If you don’t have a self-life, you are effectively dead to that which demands self-righteousness; the Law (Rom.7:1-6). If you can reckon your self dead, if you can believe the gospel and leave your self buried, where Christ buried him (Col 3:3), then your believing, your roots, will finally break out of that tomb, that pot called self and they will go deep into the rich soil of Calvary, deep and wide into the love of God and you will begin to “comprehend with all the ]saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
The Gospel has not changed since the time of Paul. There is no new gospel, just the same old religious objections, that surely the gospel you preach must be wrong because you seem to be saying that we have been released from the Law. I am not saying it, the Holy Spirit is saying it! it’s just that most of us in the Church struggle to see ourselves as released from the Law, because we struggle to see our ‘selves’ (our self-lives) as dead! This is too important to take my word for. Listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Paul in Romans 7:1-6.
“Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
What is it, to serve in the new way of the Spirit? The way of the Spirit is simply to live seeing what the Spirit sees. As believers, many of us may not have fully understood this when we were baptised, that our baptism declared the burial of a life that was dead (self-life) and the rising up of a totally new life, because to accept Christ, is to accept your death and burial, the death of self and so the death of your relationship to the Law. You as a believer can’t have a relationship with the Law and simultaneously, with Him whom you are now married to; Christ. (You can but heaven sees it as adultery. It quite sad that Christians who want to flirt around with the Law, think that God would be pleased with that.) Church, if we rose with Christ, it’s time we saw ourselves doing what He did, leaving behind the grave clothes of death (which for us is self-righteousness) and walking out of that tomb. We need to walk out of that mindset, that tomb, that small pot called self, because the extent to which we are still relating to the Law, is the extent to which we are still more believing in ourselves than in Christ, still more believing in a sinning less life, than in a sinless life. Let the preaching of the Gospel roll away the stone that entombed us, not strengthen it. It may sound so glorious to hear the ministry that brought death, which was engraved on stone, proclaimed over New Covenant believers, but it is the sound of the stone that was rolled away being rolled back! The ministry of the Spirit is the Gospel that rolls away what entombed us and it is always more glorious (2Cor.3:7,8). Resurrected Church, its time to leave the tomb!
We all have a great desire to bear fruit, to be those oaks of righteousness, blossoming in every season with the fruit of God’s Spirit, for our family to see the fullness of God in us, but for that to happen, our roots, our believing, have to be broken out of that small pot called self and the shallow soil of our love for God, so they can plunge into the depths of God’s love for us. Jesus said that the prodigal son came to him self, just before he got up and came home (Luke 15:17). He had a revelation that self and all the pride of self, had to die, or he would. For a man or woman to be saved, they have to see that self isn’t the answer, self is the problem.
So too, for a believer to continue to grow up, into this new life, into Christ, we have to continue to see that self isn’t the answer. There is no point in digging self up from where Christ buried him, so we can preach the Law at him, in the hope that the preaching of the Law will make a bad self into a better self, or even a bad Christian into a good Christian.
Ironically, that thinking totally underestimates both sin and Christ. Religion totally underestimates both the depths of man’s separation from God and the heights of the believer’s union with God.
- Religion says that you are bad and you need to be good. So, you need the Law, for the Law makes bad men good.
- The Gospel says, your problem is much worse than being bad.
Christ didn’t come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men alive! God’s Word never tells us to present ourselves to God as good from the bad, but as alive from the dead! (Rom 6:13).
We were cut off from God and so cut off from life as God knows life. Christ entered into our death, our separation and brought us life, not by standing back from us like Moses and giving us the Law, but by entering into our lives, by giving us His very presence (John 1:17). It is Christ’s presence that is our righteousness, our sanctification, our very life (1Cor.1:30, Col 3:4). If He is our very life, then to put the Law on believers is to put the Law on Christ. No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, for was he not the very man who one day decided to travel to Damascus and put the Law on the Christians there? And who confronted Him on the road? No less a person than Jesus Himself, who declared in effect “What you are doing to them, you are doing to me” (Acts 9:4). Was Jesus in effect not saying,”Saul Saul, why are you persecuting me, why do you put the Law on me, why do you attempt to judge me?” To every misguided Christian preacher who is trying to use the Law to make bad Christians good, Christ can still say “Saul, Saul, why are you judging me?”
You may be struggling to see it, but all of heaven and hell saw the Fathers judgement on His Church at the resurrection of Jesus, when every believer was raised with Christ (Eph.2:6), (unless you think that when He rose, you didn’t.) If you have any doubts on this, it may help you read the translation of Rom 4:25 from Youngs literal Greek translation, which in speaking of Christ says “who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised up because of our being declared righteous.” (our justification).
Not only have many of us for years tolerated a little Law with our gospel because we underestimated the depth of our separation, but also because we have totally underestimated the heights of our union. Again we have struggled to see what Paul declared to the Ephesians “even when we were dead in our transgressions, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. So now you, resurrected and ascended believer, don’t have to live as someone who needs the Law to get you a little closer to God, because you, resurrected and ascended believer, are now hidden with Christ in God (Col.3:3). If you can’t see that, then just keep setting your eyes on things above, not on the earth below (keep sitting under the heavenly Gospel of Grace, not the earthly mixed gospel (Gal.1:7) and you will see that “you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God and when Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with Him in glory. (Col.3:2-4)
All the Law will do on believers is treat them as if they are separate from God and so in their minds estrange them from Christ, estrange them from His presence, from the very life that is their righteousness. Believer, the Law won’t rob you of your salvation, but it will rob you of your sight, because it can only ever speak to you in one way; as if you are still not married to Christ. (Rom 7:4, Gal.5:4). Your vision in the Spirit, your ability by the Spirit to see what Christ has done and to walk in it, is so important, that Paul rose up like a Lion when he heard that someone was introducing a little leaven, adding a little Law to the Gospel he had left the Galatians. It often doesn’t seem much harm, adding a little Law to the Gospel, especially when you think it will help Christians behave better, but once you start to go blind to what Christ has done, you will start to live as if He is not with you and so of no value to you. Listen to the urgency of Paul’s words to the Church. They are a warning to every generation, of what happens when we do not stand fast in the liberty that our believing needs to be rooted and established in. “ Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Gal.5:2-4
You might be quite a mild-mannered person, but when someone is trying to harm your children a righteous anger will rise up in you. Would you sit by and say nothing if you heard that your children’s school was adding an ingredient to their food that was affecting their eyesight and would eventually rob them of their vision completely? When you understand that Law preaching robs believers of their sight in the spirit realm, you will understand why the apostle of grace cursed those who were trying to help the Galatians become better Christians by asking them to try harder to be more righteous. He could see that such teaching was only divorcing believers in their minds from Christ and would ultimately blind them to the presence of God in their midst (Gal.3:5-9). Yes, God had mercy on the pleas of blind Bartimaeus, for His presence to draw near, but how exactly does it glorify the work of Christ, for His bride to take Bartimaeus’ place?
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 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, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph.3:14-21)