Prayer for Christ to Dwell in Us (Ephesians Sermon 18 of 54)
November 15, 2015 | Andrew Davis
Life in the Spirit, God's Love, Worship
Well, as we come this morning to Ephesians 3:14 through 21, the text that you just heard Chris read for us, we're coming to, I think, the loftiest theme that can ever occupy the human mind. Here, we are truly walking on the highest of high places in the experience that we can have with Almighty God through faith in Christ. In 2011, I went on an unforgettable mission trip. We were trekking in the mountains of Nepal and we hiked through some of the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayan Mountain range, and we landed in the capital city of Kathmandu, and I had Mark put a slide up there, a picture of the city of Kathmandu, and I want you to fix this picture in your mind. Nepal ranks as the second most polluted nation on Earth with Kathmandu leading the way in air pollution. Kathmandu is situated in a bowl-shaped valley, surrounded by stunning mountains, which you can see in that picture there, but because of the smog of the increasing population, of industry, and of automobiles and because of various other things, that people can hardly see those peaks at certain seasons of the year. So you can see in that picture, there's like a three-fold layer. There's the city of Kathmandu, and then there's this layer of fog, and smog, and darkness, and then above it, these majestic mountains. And I want to use that picture and kind of fix it in your mind, to create somewhat of a parable of Christian experience based on Ephesians 3:14-21.
Picture a city, a Christian city, inhabited by Christians, lying in a low, low lying flat valley area covered by smog and low gloomy clouds, and the people who live in that city scarcely ever see anything other than the pale filtered light of the sun through that layer of smog, and fog, and drizzle. I know, you think I'm describing Seattle, but I'm not, but you picture that and you can see that middle layer there, and just picture it as a parable. It's overcast most of the time, and there's a drizzle most of the time, and the people just have their heads down and just live their daily lives under this cloud cover, under this drizzle. That's their constant experience. Now, they have heard that beyond the city limits, there is a lofty mountain, it's towering over the city, but it's barely visible from the city because of the cloud cover. Occasionally, there are breaks in the cloud cover, and they can see the mountain from afar but it scarcely has anything to do with their daily lives. As a matter of fact, some people don't look up at those key times enough so that they actually wonder, if such a place even exists. They never get out of the city, they never are able to look up beyond the smog, and they actually wonder if a mountain like that ever even exists.
But one day a Sherpa, a mountain guide comes, breathless, to tell the citizens of that Christian city that there is a mountain, and he's climbed it, does exist, and he's breathed the sweet mountain air, and he's seen sights that are almost beyond the ability to capture in words. He's so filled with joy, and peace, and power, and energy, and he's trying to persuade citizens of that city to leave the low-lying area, and to go on a rigorous climb with him. And if they do, though it may be arduous, and though it may be a time before they break above the cloud cover, they will be rewarded with some of the sweetest mountain air they can imagine, and some of the most scenic vistas beyond their wildest dreams. If they will exert themselves and leave their daily experience in that head down, drizzle-covered Christian existence, they will be rewarded with fresh mountain air and scenic vistas. It's well worth the climb. So this is a parable. You can turn the slide off now.
It's a parable I think, of what Ephesians 3:14 through 21 is all about. A mountain of Christian experience, of the love of Christ for you. Christian brother and sister, do you understand how much Christ loves you? Do you have a sense of it? Can you savor it? Do you have a sense of it? Say, "Well, I know Christ loves... " No, no. Do you understand how much Christ loves you? That's what's happening in this prayer. It's like the apostle Paul is gripping us by the shoulders and looking us in the eye and saying, "I yearn for you to know how great is the love of Christ for each one of you.” And my prayer for you has been simple. I don't think you can do any better than the actual words of Paul's prayer. “I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ, and that you would know that love that surpasses knowledge, so that you could be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Has that ever happened to you? Be honest. Have you ever been able to say, "I mean there was a day, there was a time, I was filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." I think that many Christians go through their whole lives, never having had anything like that experience. I think you can do that. I think most Christians do that, actually, but I don't think it's necessary. Paul is praying for all Christians, and because it's in the scripture, God intends for all Christians of every nation, every generation, every realm, every phase of church history, every individual Christian, could have this kind of mountain top experience of Christ's love for them. And that it goes so far beyond language is the challenge of my preaching today. Paul says in verse 20 and 21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine," it says in NIV, "Ask or think," in other translations, "He can go infinitely beyond anything you can possibly think. To Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus both now and forever more, Amen."
So I have been staring at this text for seven weeks, eight weeks, more really since 1986. This is my favorite part of Ephesians right here. So we're going to be looking at it for 40 weeks. No, I'm just kidding. We're going to go letter by letter. No, we're not going to do that, but we're sure not going to do it in just one week. There is too much here. This is a glorious, a majestic payer. And what I want to do today is give you a brief overview of it, I want you to get a sense of the lay of the land and I want to just begin to move through it, and little by little, I'm going to kind of unfold what I think is happening here over the next few weeks.
A Glorious and Majestic Prayer
Context: Paul’s Greatest Prayer
So let's get a little bit of a context. This is Paul's greatest prayer. He prays a lot of prayers in the New Testament. We have a record of many in his epistles. Even in this epistle there's two different prayers. One in chapter 1, one in chapter 3, so there's a number of them, but I think this is the greatest of all of Paul's prayers. Second greatest prayer in the Bible behind only Jesus is high priestly prayer. And he begins with these words in verse 14, "For this reason," you see that? He also began the whole chapter with the same words. Verse 1, "For this reason." So I preach verses 1 through 13 as an interruption. Paul interrupts himself, very gloriously and explains his own ministry as apostle to the Gentiles. Who he is, who's praying these things, and why he's praying them. And so, we've had that, but let's get a sense of the lay of the land of the whole Book of Ephesians and where we've been.
Ephesians soars so far above the low-lying areas of everyday Christian life. It's almost like you're looking at it down from 35,000 feet or maybe even from the satellite looking down, you can see the whole thing. And then he's come down now and inviting us to climb this mountain of Christian experience, laying aside wickedness, and sin, and idolatry, and worldly desires, so that we can find ourselves fully satisfied with God. That's the nature of the climb. But before we even got there, he's given us an eternal perspective on the saving work of God in Christ. So in Ephesians Chapter 1, he says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." The lavish blessings of the Gospel, “for He chose us in Him before the creation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless in His sight.” “Before the foundation of the world He chose us” “in love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” So through faith in Christ, we have now having heard the Gospel in Ephesians 1, “having heard the Gospel of Christ shedding his blood for the forgiveness of our sins, we have been included in Christ, we have been marked by Him with the Holy Spirit, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit, guaranteeing our full inheritance.” And so that's what he talks about, he gives us a sense of that and then he prays at the end of Ephesians 1, that the “eyes of their heart would be enlightened” so that they would have a sense of the power that's at work in their lives, and the riches that are waiting for them in Christ, in Heaven, and all of these things, and he prays for them. And he says, "That power is like the working of God's power on Christ when He raised Him from the dead, physically, and He's now seated Him in the heavenly realms, far above all things." That's Ephesians 1. And the same thing that happened to Christ physically, oh Christian brother and sister, has happened to you spiritually. “You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live. When you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of the flesh following it to the desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” That's who we were. We were enslaved by Satan to sin into the worldly ways, and we couldn't have saved ourselves. But God in his infinite mercy, and kindness, and grace, to us in Christ, God “made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions. It is by grace that you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ, spiritually, and He seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms,” spiritually. And forever, “He's going to be showing us how kind and generous He was to all of us in Christ forever." Ephesians 2:7, "For it is by grace, each one of us has been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves, it's a gift of God, not by works so that no one could boast." So that's how we were included in the Gospel.
And then he stops and says, "Now I want you Gentiles to know you were at one point aliens, strangers, you were outsiders. There was a “barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” between you and the Jews that was set up in the Old Covenant, but now in Christ by His death on the cross, that barrier has been removed. Circumcision, dietary regulations, Old Covenant regulations. It's been removed. And now, God is doing a new work here. He's making one “new man” out of the two Jew and Gentile. The one “new man” is a Christian person, a believer in Christ. And He's joining us together in a vast building project. This majestic, glorious temple of God, temple of the living God, that's rising and getting bigger, and more ornate, and more glorious with every generation. It's getting bigger and more glorious with every new person who comes to faith in Christ, the spread of the Gospel, and it is a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
Borrowing Peter's language, in 1 Peter 2, we were “living stones,” quarried out of Satan's dark kingdom and brought over and put in the walls of this rising spiritual temple. “For this reason," Paul says, "I pray." For the reason of this glorious building project, this glorious temple that's rising. Now, what does he mean by, "For this reason?" He's praying because there's more to be done. There's still more to be done. Even in your lives. He's not praying here for evangelism, that more lost people will be saved. He's talking about existing Christians. There's more to be done in your hearts. There's more to be done in your lives. So the image I have here is of translucent, kind of opaque bricks, like glass bricks, living stones. And they're dark, and they shouldn't be. They should be radiantly shining with this glowing glory from inside. Shining radiantly brightly as this temple is rising, and he's praying that they would be. That these living stones would be shining radiantly with a sense of the love of God for them, in Christ. That just is a light shining in a dark place, and it just radiates to the glory of God. So that's what, "For this reason," means. "For this reason I pray for you."
Looking Up to the Summit: Where We Are Going
So that's context. You're like, "Pastor if that's just the context, and we haven't even started, how far are we going to get?" I don't know, but we're going to have a glorious journey as we travel. The idea is, you know, how James says, in James 2, "As the body without the spirit is dead." Let me just take that and say, "So, this rising temple is dark and unattractive, until the Christians glow with the Spirit of God," and so we need to radiate from inside, with the Spirit of God. That's what he's praying for. Let's look up to the summit, and let's try to see where we're going in this prayer. Let's just kind of trace out the contours. I was watching a documentary recently on a team that went up to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world in that same country of Nepal, and what they did was they traveled for a long time, and moved a lot of equipment and supplies to something called the base camp. 17,000 feet up and they stayed there for like, three days, and they just hung out and just breathe the air. It's called getting “acclimatized.” Because if they just go right up they might end up having altitude sickness, they might have problems, because the air is so thin up there, so they just have to get used to the rarefied atmosphere of Mount Everest.
And so that's kind of like today, for us in this sermon series. We're going to get acclimatized to the rarefied air of Ephesians 3:14 through 21. We're going to just go over the words, briefly and get a sense of how lofty and glorious this prayer is, and then the time will be up and then, God willing, next week will come back and look at it more in detail and start to ask the question, how can something like this happened to me? I mean, how could God do something like this in my life? So we're going to get acclimatized. So just look, Paul begins in verse 14, he kneels and prays for the Ephesian Christians. And that's a key insight, I'm going to make it every week, Paul is praying for Christians not for non-Christians. He's praying for people who are already believers, in Christ, and not just for some of them, or a special category of them, but for all of them. "Together with all the saints," he says. He's got everyone in mind. And he's praying for these Ephesian Christians to have power, strength. Where does that power come from? It comes through the Holy Spirit, that they would have power through the Holy Spirit. And what is the measure of that? It's according to the riches of God's glory, or His glorious riches. That's how much he wants this power to be filling through the Holy Spirit. And what is the locus or the focus of this power? It is the “inner being,” or the “inner man.” Some translations give us, the “inner being,” the “heart,” “inner person,” and to what end does he pray? That Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith. And what does that mean, you say? "Well, I'm already Christian. Isn't Christ already in my heart," and we're going to talk about that, not today, but a sense of settling down. Christ, settling down in the heart by faith. A sense of the presence of ongoing, consistent fellowship with God, with Christ, from the inside out, that you're glowing with that. And Paul goes beyond that. He prays that, "We having been rooted and established in love," there's a sense of rootedness here. We'll talk about a little bit today. So that this tree has a vast root system, this building has a solid foundation, “rooted and established in love, may have power," there's that word again, "power together with all the saints to grasp” or comprehend.
He wants you stable, strong, strengthened inside to think about something. To comprehend it. To understand. To understand what? The dimensions. How “wide and long and high and deep,” he says. And it doesn't say what, but it's very clear he's talking about the love of Christ. How wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ. NIV just puts it in there, others don't, other translations, but that's what he's talking about. Couldn't be anything else, a sense of the dimensions, the greatness of Christ's love for you. That's the fundamental goal. I'm praying for you Ephesian Christians, that you be strengthened so that you would know how much Christ loves you. And for you to just say, "Paul, don't waste your time. I'm good, I'm a believer. I know Jesus loves me." No, you don't. Not like I mean. I want to take you on a cosmic tour of the dimensions of infinity. That's what I want to do. The language's source. To know something that's beyond knowledge. And then it kind of caps off for me. The peak or the summit moment is that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. That you would have a sense that you are as full as God is. Not that you are gods, and goddesses. I'm not saying that, and we'll get to all of that but you are completely filled as God is filled. Unless we think that this is something we should not ask, this is too extreme, it's too excessive, it's ridiculous, nobody ever has this, so why should we even be thinking about that? Paul says, "Wherever you think that peak is. However high the level of Christian experience you think I'm talking about, wherever you set that bar, God is able to do immeasurably more than that, in Christian experience."
He's actually able to do immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask Him to do in your life and He's actually able to do immeasurably more than anything you could even think He would do in your life. That's what this prayer is like. I'm thinking, do you pray like this? Do you have an experience like this? Do you even know what Paul's talking about here? Now, if I can just be honest with you, it's a dangerous thing for a pastor to preach an experience, or an activity, or behavior, and enjoin it on the people that he has not experienced. Now, I've started the climb, and slid back down a few times, but the kind of things, the testimonies from church history, that we're going to see over the next few weeks, it's not happened to me. And if I can say this honestly, it's not the kind of thing that you have to take by faith. Okay, if I can just share with you? This is not something that we take by faith. What do I mean by that? Well, in the Campus Crusade for Christ, four spiritual laws. They've got this little booklet at the back after you pray the sinner’s prayer they want you to know, “don't trust your feelings.” I get all that, I understand that.
It's like, what if somebody prays the prayer and says, “I don't feel any different”? Well, then you give them the train diagram, least you used to, I don't know, they still use the train diagram. You have fact, biblical fact, faith and feeling. So you've got the engine, you're driven by facts, you've got the coal car of faith, and then you've got the caboose of feelings that's trailed on behind. It's like the feelings are not really that important. Don't trust them, they'll come along in time, but you've got the biblical facts and you've trusted. Friends, this experience that I'm preaching here is not something you take by faith. If you're not sure whether this has ever happened to you. It hasn't. We're like, "Well, if it's so rare and unusual aren't you leading us astray to say, pursue it?'" Not at all. I'm urging you to pursue it and I'm pursuing it too. I'm going to pursue it with you, and I'm going to talk about how we pursue it, and what benefits there are to pursuing it, and what dangers there are from not pursuing it. That's where we're going in the next few weeks.
Now this is an incredible prayer. I want you to have a sense of Christ's love for you. It says in Song of Solomon 8:6, "Love is as strong as death." Isn't that a strong statement? “Love is as strong as death.” Christ's love for you is stronger. Stronger than death. Stronger than His own death, stronger than your death. It is an infinitely strong thing that Jesus loves you, and I want you to have a sense of that. That's what we're talking about here.
The Humility and Boldness of Prayer
The Vital Role of Prayer
So let's look at it and let's start at verse 14. We're going to start with the vital role of prayer itself. Paul was fundamentally a teacher and a preacher of the Gospel. The Word of God. He poured out the Word of God faithfully. He had full confidence in the Gospel message to be, “the power of God for salvation to anyone who believed its words.” He believed in these words, and he preached them, and taught them, but he wasn't merely a preacher and teacher of the words of God. He also prayed them into the people he taught and preached to. So it was a combination of prayer, and the ministry of the word that's being commended here. And what's amazing is, this is Paul's prayer, but there's so much doctrine in it. It's a teaching prayer. Have you ever been in the presence of an incredible saint to brother-sister in Christ, and they're just pouring out prayer, and you're just learning by listening? Well, how much more than the Apostle Paul, and as we just listen to him pray, we're learning things. So there's a combination here of doctrine and of prayer.
Prayer Cannot Be Chained
And now, prayer is essential to the spread of the Gospel, it's essential to the work of the Kingdom, and prayer cannot be chained. Paul's in chains. He said, "I'm a prisoner of Christ Jesus, for the sake of you gentiles," verse 1. So he's in chains, but his spirit isn't chained. Here's a brother who's like if you were to go to him that day and say, "So what's your day look like? It's Tuesday, I like Tuesdays. What's your Tuesday like?” “I'm going to be here, I'm going to stay here in prison. I'll be here in person, I'll eat whatever it is they serve me." But here, his spirit is soaring like an eagle higher than yours ever has. He is just a free man though incarcerated. His prayer is not chained. Are we being faithful in prayer? Are we praying? Are you giving yourselves to prayer? What's your prayer life like? Let's take the words of this magnificent prayer, and start praying them for ourselves and for each other. It's not that hard. Just say, "Alright, I'm going to pray this prayer every day this week for myself, and for one other Christian brother or sister. I'm going to choose somebody and pray for them.” By the way, not limited to one, but let it be at least one other person. Because it's just beautiful to pray this for someone else, “I pray oh Lord that you would strengthen so-and-so with power through his or her spirit and their inner being so that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith,” and do that for yourself too, just do this. It's an application right in the middle of the sermon. We see also here the boldness of prayer and also the humility of prayer. We have astonishing access to God. Look at verse 12. Ephesians 3:12. He says, "In Him,” Christ, “and through faith in Him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence” or “boldness and access." It's another translation. Because of our relationship with Christ, because we are Christians, we may approach God with “boldness and access.” It's just amazing.
The Boldness of Prayer
I came across a verse recently that struck me powerfully. Jeremiah 30:21. You can look it up later. There are different translations, but this is a good translation. Just toward the end of the verse, it says, "Who would... " This is God speaking to us, "Who would dare of himself to approach me, declares the Lord." Ponder that. “Who would dare of himself to approach me.” You remember the story of Queen Esther? Remember she was a Jewish woman, who was the queen of the Persian empire, and she found out through her caretaker, kind of adoptive father, uncle or cousin, I think, Mordecai, what edict had gone forth for the genocide of the Jews, and he was urging her to use her position of influence to influence King Xerxes, to save the Jews. And she said, "Do you understand that in the Persian empire, if anyone ever approaches the throne room of the king uninvited there is only one penalty. Death. The only exception is if he extends the golden scepter." Well, whatever you think about the might of the Persian emperor, God is infinitely more powerful and infinitely holier, and we are infinitely less welcome than God, apart from Christ’s atoning work. We were at one point, aliens and strangers. “We were by nature vessels or objects of wrath.”
Who of ourselves, would ever dare to approach such a God? But now, in Christ, in Him, and through faith in Him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence. There has been open for us, a new and living way through the body of Christ, by His death on the cross. We have that. And so we have not only an invitation, but actually a command to come into the “throne room of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16. So, we are commanded to come into this throne room. Now, Paul's actual requests here are stunningly bold. You look at the prayer, we've been over already, but just what is he asking for? He's asking for just astonishing things culminating in that the Ephesian Christians would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. So he's asking for bold things, but God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or think, it's not too bold. You can't out-ask God.
The Humility of Prayer
So there, we see the boldness of prayer, but we see also the humility. “For this reason, I kneel” or bow the knee, “before the Father.” And so he kneels before God. Now there is no one set physical posture for prayer. Actually in the Bible of the most common physical posture, mentioned is standing, with arms uplifted. Standing in prayer. You see that again, again, New Testament, Old Testament alike. But here we see in, have a glimpse into Paul's prayer life and and his humility. Why does he kneel? He kneels before his loving tender-hearted Father, out of honor and respect, and a sense of fear and trembling and awe at the greatness of this person that he's about to address. So we need some balance here in our prayer life. We need a sense of freedom and confidence, and access, so we're not too formal, or distant or mechanical in our prayers, but we need not to be flippant as though we forget who it is we're talking to. So the idea of kneeling is attractive to me. I kneel in my quiet times every day. That's what I do. And you don't have to kneel, you can stand, you can sit, you can lie down in prayer, all of these things, but there's something powerful about the physical body. And as Kyle was talking about before, you know, the sense of with my body, I'm saying "You are my Almighty God." And I was very convicted, I was just reading one book written by Martin Lloyd Jones about this, how quickly I blunder into God's presence, all the time and just go right in with a request. Don't do that, don't do that. Guard your steps before you go into God, Ecclesiastes 5 says, "Go near to listen, rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart, to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on Earth." So that we have a sense of the awe and wonder and majesty of God before you say anything to Him. So it's made me not just blunder into God's presence but to pause and think, "Who am I about to talk to?"
The Fatherly Love of God
God’s Fatherly Love for His Children
And he zeroes in here on the fatherly love of God. "For this reason. I kneel before the Father," NIV says, “from whom His whole family in Heaven and Earth derives His name.” So I want to start with the fatherly love of God, this Almighty God that you're addressing. He is, if you're a Christian, He is your adoptive Father. He has rescued you from Satan's dominion and has actually adopted you as a son or daughter of his family, and He's put the Holy Spirit inside your heart, “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” And so we have been born again, we have been rescued out of Satan's kingdom, and we have a loving Father and that Father is saying, "Pray to me and ask me for big things, and I'll give them to you ask me for more than you thought I could possibly ever do and I can actually do more than that. Jesus said in Luke 11, “What father among you, if his son asks for fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” It's fascinating. Matthew's Gospel, says “give good gifts.” That's true as well, But that you as a Christian already, have the Father, you actually can get on your knees and say, "God give me of your Holy Spirit. Pour out your Spirit on me pour out the love of God into my heart by the Holy Spirit, whom you have given me. And He'll tell do it. “If you fathers know how to give good gifts to your children, and you’re evil,” God knows how to do that. So he's speaking to his Heavenly Father, and He says the “whole family,” and I think the NIV has actually has it right, His “whole family derives His name.” I think it's the unity of the Fatherhood of God over the entire vast complicated family of God. It's not so much that the whole idea of fatherhood came from this one Father, that's one translation some take that, but no. The family of God, worldwide, has one Father, That's what I think he's getting at. So look at Ephesians 4:4-6. Next page probably. It says, “there is one body and one spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is overall, and through all and in all.” So, that's who we're addressing.
The Resources: God’s Glory, God’s Spirit
God’s Glory in His Perfections
Well what are we paying for? Well, “ pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” So these are the resources. He speaks of the glorious riches of God or the riches of God's glory. That's the collection of all of God's perfection, His Holiness, His power, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, His self-existence, His sovereignty, all of these things. This is the glory of God. I pray that according to how glorious God is, He would strengthen you. So the idea here is of a radiant sun shining emanating just power and light, and heat, and it's just burning up there in space and the light comes across 93 million miles and comes and just warms the whole earth and it gives strength, and there's nothing that He can do to in any way diminish His own strength, He's not tired out by helping us, so when he prays for God according to His glorious riches, to strengthen you, God isn't dimmed by that. There's not a sagging of it. You think about a house with inadequate wiring, and you turn on the microwave and all the lights dim, have you ever seen that? God's not like that God isn't going to dimmed when he helps us. I love what it says in Isaiah 40, "Do you not know, have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, He will not grow tired or weary, His understanding no one can fathom He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” He's not burdened by helping us or strengthening us, it's according to the riches of His glory, that He strengthens us, and that's what he's praying for, he's praying for power for strength.
Strengthened So Christ Can Dwell in Us
Now, why does he ask for strength for this? Well, this strength mediated by the Holy Spirit, according to the “Spirit in the inner being,” the Holy Spirit of God in your inner man, strengthens, strengthening you to the end that Christ would dwell in your hearts you face. So we have a picture here of the ministry of the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, He who in Genesis 1:2 was “hovering over the waters,” is hovering over your inner being, your heart. And He has the power to mediate Christ to you. As Jesus said of the Counselor, “when He comes, He will take from what is mine and make it known to you, He will witness to you concerning me.” That's what the Holy Spirit does. He mediates Christ to the human heart Paul's praying that that would happen, that you would have strength in your inner man through the Spirit.
God is a Jealous God
So, why all this need for power? Well, there's two different things I would want to give you a picture of. One is that's going to be an arduous climb to get there. Now, Paul doesn't talk about that much here, but I believe it's true, God is jealous. And if we set our affections, and go after things to make us happy and give us exhilaration and give us ecstasy and excitement that He meant to give us directly here through spiritual means and we go after material physical things, He is jealous over that. And until we put those things to death and lay aside all the weights and the hindrances, it's not likely you're going to have any different experience Christian experience than you ever had before. And so, it's a climb. That's why I gave you the picture at the beginning of the Sermon of an arduous mountain climb. And you actually will end up spending the first section of that climb still under the cloud cover wondering if anything's going to come of it. And you're going to need strength to persevere and believe that there's a good outcome if you only continue to fast and pray, and seek and be diligent, and make sacrifices, and pursue, pursue, pursue to seek the face of God you're going to be tempted to give up. So that's one reason you need strength.
We Need His Help to Bear His Love
Another is because the thing that God's going to give you will be so massive that it will crush you from the inside out, unless He sustains and strengthens you. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” and if He gives you a massive upgrade of your experience of Heaven now, you'll need to be strengthened so you can handle it. So think about Fort Knox, think about gold, think about gold bars, and a third of the treasure at Fort Knox They're going to move into your dining room, okay? They're going to move it, alright back it in the boys, you know the whistle. It's like, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” if you do that, my house will be crushed. Well, He knows that better than you do. So, He sends an advanced team of structural engineers to start putting I-beams under the floor and do some stuff with the walls in your inner man to sustain and strengthen you so you can handle what He's about to do in your life. Again and again, men and women of God have had encounters with God, and then left on the ground as though dead when it happened. You know what I'm talking about.
Biblical Encounters: Man and God
Think about when Daniel, in the Book of Daniel, was praying, and God gives them a revelation of a far lesser theme than the one we're looking at here today, the future of Israel under the Greek overlords. Kings of the north, kings of the south, back and forth warfare between them. It's an important detail in redemptive history. God sent an angel to give the message of Daniel 11, to Daniel in Daniel 10. So He sends this angel. And He is so glorious. The angel now, not the second person of the Trinity, the angel, is so glorious that Daniel is knocked to the ground and can't breathe. Daniel 10:17-19. “How can I,” he's talking to the angel, “‘How can I, your servant, talk with you, my Lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.’ Again, the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength.” Do you hear that? “Touched me and gave me strength.” “Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed. He said, ‘Peace, be strong now,’be strong.’ And when he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak my Lord since you have given me strength.’” It's all about strength in the inner man, to handle the revelation of what God's about to lay on him.
Ezekiel had a similar vision of God, the glory of God. Ezekiel 3:15 after it was over, Ezekiel 1 is the vision, after it was over, he was transported to where the exiles were and it says, “And there, where they were living. I sat among them for seven days, overwhelmed.” He's like in some kind of a catatonic state for a week unable to even talk just there. Or the three apostles who went with Jesus up on the Mount of Transfiguration, and He was transformed before them, transfigured, Jesus, and his face was shining like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light. And then Peter spoke up, you remember that? He said, “Lord, it's good to be here, tell you what, why don't we build some booths and all that, and this bright cloud suddenly enveloped them and God was in the cloud, and he said, ‘This is my beloved Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased, listen to him.’" The implication is stop talking and listen to Him. But when all that happened, the three of them that were on their faces as though dead, and Jesus had to go have touched them and lift them up and give them energy. Or then the apostle John in Revelation, chapter one, had a vision of the resurrected Christ in all of his glory. And it says in Revelation 1:17, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. So that's why you need strength in your inner person, to endure this level of revelation of the love of God.”
D.L. Moody’s Experience
D.L. Moody, the 19th century evangelist 19th, early 20th century evangelist had been a Christian serving God, doing a ministry, then in charge of a mission was seeing people converted, but he wanted more. This is his testimony:
“I began to cry, as never before, for a greater blessing from God. The hunger increased, I felt I really did not want to live any longer. I kept on crying all the time, that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York. Oh, what a day. I cannot describe it. I seldom refer to it. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for 14 years. I can only say God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love, that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”
What's going on there, what happened to you, God started pouring out His love through the Holy Spirit inside of me, that finally I said, stop, I can't take anymore. That's why strength is needed for this power is needed for this, for the journey, for the climb, but then even more for the experience.
Now, we're going to talk more over the next few weeks about this, we're going to talk more about the verses. I just want to stop and ask, first and foremost, do you know Christ as your Lord and Savior? I mean the things I'm talking about here are for Christians, but I'm aware that God in His providence, every week, brings us people who are outside of the love of God in Christ. I believe God brought you here. If you're like that, you know yourself to be lost, I'm pleading with you, to come into faith in Christ, and to know for the first time the assurance from the Holy Spirit that your sins are forgiven, and that you're going to Heaven when you die. God sent Jesus as a substitutionary atonement. He shed His blood on the cross, that sinners like you and me might have full forgiveness from God, not by works, as we already said, but simply by faith. Trust in Christ.
Now, if you are a Christian, you've already been a Christian, this prayer is for you. There's more work still to be done in your soul. If you can honestly say I've never had anything like what you're talking about here. I've never had something like, "Oh, what a day I can't even talk about it! It's like what Paul experienced, and didn't talk about for 14 years and it was so overwhelming. I had to ask God to stop because I thought I might die. No, actually that's never happened to me Pastor. Never.” Well then what I'm going to do with you over the next three, four, weeks is encourage you to seek that experience of God's love in Christ. I'm going to do it unashamed, I'm going to say seek it, seek it by holiness seek it by laying aside things you're conscious of that are offending God. Seek it by prayer, either alone or with others.
Seek it by meditation on this passage and other passages that talk about the greatness of God in Christ, meditate on those kind of passages. Say, “God I want you to do something in my life that I'll never forget the rest of my life, I want you to work in me an experience of your love that goes so far beyond anything I thought you could do, anything I could ask or imagine. I want you to do that in my life and I want you to do it in this brother, or this sister's life.” So I don't want you to just pray for yourself, I do want you to pray for yourself, but I want you to pray for others that God would do this for you. We'll continue this next week.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank You for Ephesians 3:14-21, we thank you for what Paul's praying for here and I pray that you'll do it to FBC. I pray that you would call together a group of people who will pray for these things in extraordinary ways. We don't even have to know about it, but maybe in someone's living room, or maybe here at the church, or in some other quiet place individuals can gather together with other brothers and sisters and pray that God would pour out His Holy Spirit on First Baptist Church in Durham to the end that we would be holy and to the end that we would be powerfully fruitful in evangelism and missions. I pray this in Jesus' name, amen.