Did you ever get frustrated after hearing a talk about some aspect of Christian living because there just didn’t seem to be a clear articulation as to where you were to get the power to make it happen? Maybe it was a “how to” live with difficult people, or be pure in singleness, or have a successful marriage, but in the end the “how to” was not sufficient to enable you to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Of course, the New Testament is not written in a “how to” way, but all the writer’s infuse in their practical teachings Gospel truths, so that when appropriated by faith give the reader the where-with-all to live a holy life. Such is the case with the letter to the Ephesians and chapter 3 beginning with verse 14,
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 3:15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 3:19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
Paul begins this section by saying, “I bow the knee” meaning he was praying for the Ephesian believers, and what follows of how he prayed becomes our example as to how we likewise should pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul then added, “From whom every family in heaven and earth derives its name” which implies no separation by family unit, culture, creed, or ethnicity. We are all equal because the ground is level at the cross, and because as Christians we have been made acceptable to God by the sacrificial death that Christ.
When Paul prayed for people he prayed with godly priorities in view, “that He (God) would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Trials may assail us, the devil assault us, the flesh and the world tempt us, but we shall overcome if we are strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit in our inner man.
But what does it mean to be strengthened in this way? We have been given at the new birth a desire to know, follow, and obey Christ, which is the reason we study our bibles. The power to follow Christ is optional, it is contingent upon the presence of Christ in our life, which is further contingent upon our prayers and the prayers of others. Paul prayed for his beloved brothers, so that they might grow in their ability to obey Christ. But you will say to me, where does it say Christ’s presence is needed, I thought Christ’s presence was given at the time we were saved. It is true that when we were saved we were born again, given new life through the Holy Spirit, and the very presence of Christ Himself. However, we are still left in a state where we can be led by the desires of the flesh or the Spirit and according to James these are contrary the one to the other.
The person who walks in the flesh cannot also walk in the Spirit and for this reason Paul tells us in Galatians, “5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Paul tells us in Ephesians to walk in the Spirit and then explains what it is the Holy Spirit accomplishes for us when he writes, “[so that] Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The word “dwell” here is taken from two Greek words that mean to settle down and also to dwell, and when put together gives the idea to settle down and feel comfortable or at home in a certain dwelling place.
Christ is made to feel at home in our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit that makes us holy and fit for Christ’s presence. It is Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones that said, we are no more fit to house the Son of God apart from the work of the Holy Spirit than a paper bag is able to hold a bolt of lightning. And for this reason, it is so vitally important that we welcome the Spirit’s work in our life. The Holy Spirit as recorded in John’s Gospel is to convict us of sin. When we refuse to hear the Holy Spirit when He talks about sin in our life, it then becomes impossible to experience the fullness of Christ because when refuse the Holy Spirit’s conviction over sin we grieve Him and forfeit His filling.
One final thought, often God uses secondary means of communicating His will, which means a word from an unsuspecting source may speak to our hearts about our sins. If we are old He may use someone young and thereby make it easy for us to discount their admonition. Make no mistake, no matter where the conviction comes from we need to pay attention and confess sin if it is true of us.