Please Strengthen The Person On The Inside Of Me!
September 7, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
By [God's] Power Which Works Inside [Us]
1. The end of the passage of scripture that we read today concludes [as follows], "To the one who is able to grant and do far more than we can ask or think, through the power of God at work inside us, be glory without limit for ages and ages in the church and also through Christ Jesus! Amen," (verse twenty).
2. The God whom we are worshipping now is "the the one who is able to grant and do far more than we can ask or think." Please take note that the text here has written in it, "the power Of God at work inside us." It does not have written "the power at work outside us."
3. Most of the times when we ask for something from God, don't we usually ask that the power of God be at work "outside" of us? --That the power of God be at work and everything goes your way. --That the situations we're placed in might change for the better. When a person suffers in human relationships, he or she might ask "That the power of God change the people around me." But the scripture is saying here, "the one who is able to grant and do far more than we can ask or think, through the power of God at work inside us." God is certainly able to grant and do much more than we might ever ask for him to do. But the power of God at work at those times is not at work on the outside of us but is primarily at work inside of us. What must change first is not anything on the outside of us but [rather] the inside of us must change.
4. Therefore, even [in] the prayer of Paul, written in the passage of scripture that we read today, something having to do with the inside [of us] was prayed. There are times when something must take place inside. The reason he recorded this is not merely to tell us what he prayed. It was probably written [to] the Ephesian disciples as something that they were supposed to seek for in their prayers. Of course, even for us here in this place, these are important words [for us] to know how we "ought to pray first of all."
Please Strengthen The Inner Person!
5. First, I would like for us to re-read beginning with verse sixteen. "That the father might strengthen your inner self by the spirit and according to [his] abundant glory, cause Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith, ground you in love and make you stand firmly in love,' (verses sixteen and seventeen).
6. The first prayer is the prayer of "Please strengthen the inner person!" "The inner person" is not our mind. By saying, "Please strengthen the inner person," it does not mean, "Please make me strong psychologically." "The inner person" means "the new person born by faith."
7. When a person believes in Jesus Christ, a new person on the inside is born by the Holy Spirit. A new person as a child of God who calls God "father" is born. When "the inner person" has just been born, he or she is sort of a baby. Babies are weak. Therefore, the person outside, the old person from before, will sometimes be predominant. Sometimes we hear, "Even though you have become a Christian, you haven't changed much." That's because the new person is a baby and is weak. But, God the Father strengthens the newly born "inner person." He strengthens [us] "with power, from the spirit, according to [his] abundant glory." Therefore, we are supposed to earnestly seek in prayer that the inner person be strengthened and not think it okay to always stay the believers we were when we were born.
8. Well now, "when the inner person is strengthened," what is it that might happen to a person [more] specifically? In what direction should one expect the maturity of the believer to go? Paul prays "That he cause Christ to dwell in your hearts by faith, he ground you in love, and make you stand firmly in love," (verse seventeen). This is what the strengthening of the inner person is about.
9. As I mentioned earlier, it is not merely about "becoming psychologically strong." The strengthening of the new inner person born by faith is about becoming [someone] who loves. It is not just words for your heart, but words for specific every day living. This activity of loving is not some kind of pretense, or some kind of disguise in a drama, but like a plant, as it spreads its roots firmly over the land, so does this love spread its roots in our every day lives. Also, like a building, love is not a decoration on the outside, but is probably [more] like the foundation. It kind of means that where it says "[make you] stand firmly in love."
10. Well, with that being the case then, we will see right away that the reasoning here is not on the level of "Let's be a little bit better and study the Bible." Unless God truly changes our hearts, we've got nothing to stand upon. Unless he causes Christ to dwell in our hearts, these day to day lives of ours have nothing upon which to stand. That's the truth. Therefore, we will seek in prayer. We will seek in prayer for the working of the Holy Spirit, who will cause Christ to dwell in our hearts. We will seek in prayer that God will strengthen our inner person and cause us to mature, with power, from [His] spirit.
That You May Know Christ's Love!
11. Next then, let's read from verses eighteen and onward once again. "Also, that you might, with all the ones who are becoming holy, understand how great is the extent of the width, the length, the height, and the depth of Christ's love, and that you will come to know this love that exceeds human knowledge by far, and finally then, that you will have a share in all of the abundance which God is filling over, and that you will be filled by it," (verses eighteen and nineteen).
12. The second prayer is "That you might come to know the love of Christ!" Becoming a loving person is inseparably related to knowing that one is loved. A person who does not understand that he or she is loved cannot love. Therefore, he not only prays "That he ground you in love and make you to stand firmly in love," but he also prays "That you might come to know the love of Christ." In regard to this love of Christ, it says, "This love surpasses human knowledge by far." Because it refers to knowing a love that has surpassed human knowledge, it could not be possible to do this by one's own nature. In order for that which is impossible to take place, the power of God must be at work there. In referring to understanding the love of Christ, it is a miracle which only the power of God can make possible.
13. In the first place, even among people visible to each other, there are times when it is impossible to know love. Arrogant persons cannot know love. Persons who think that being loved is just something natural [you do] cannot experience true love. -- Much less then, when it comes to God. Persons who think that being loved by God and being loved by Christ should be a given owed them cannot know the love of Christ.
14. However, the power of God crushes our arrogance. By shinning his light upon us, he makes our sinfulness plain. Properly speaking, he shows how we are so helplessly castaway by God a long time ago. In addition, we find out that we are utterly unqualified to condemn others as if we are righteous persons. In this way then, by having been crushed under the power of God, the love of Christ, which has been directed to persons unlikely to be loved as they naturally are, begins to become visible. Then actually, we come to understand, though little by little, "the width, the length, the height, and the depth" of it. We must thus be changed in that way. We get to where we are truly understanding the love of Christ, the love of Christ that surpasses what we've known. I repeat. Only the power of God can make it possible. Therefore, we [must] be steadfast in prayer to seek for it. We should ask God the Father for it.
That You May be Satisfied By God's Fullness!
15. At last, please look at verse nineteen. Paul prays, "Finally then, that you will have a share in all of the abundance which God is filling over, and that you will be filled by it." When translated literally, this statement says, "That you be filled by God's fullness!" It is saying that may God himself, the Spirit of God, fill us full on the inside.
16. You probably know "The Parable Of The Prodigal Son" that Jesus told. The prodigal son, after he had left his father, had tried to satisfy his hunger and fill his stomach with "pea pods that pigs eat" (Luke 15:16). Similar to him, there are more than a few persons today trying to satisfy themselves on things like pea pods that pigs eat. People were originally made to be satisfied by the Spirit of God himself, in a fellowship with God the Father. But, when [people] are apart from God and are not filled by God's spirit, then they attempt to satisfy themselves by anyone and anything that will satisfy their carnal desires, by anything that will satisfy their desires for materialistic things and worldly honors. That is not the original way people were supposed to be. So it is painful. So it is futile. God comes upon us with his power and at last fills us by the Spirit of God. We ought to pray earnestly for this.
17. Finally, let's give verse twenty another read. "To the one who is able to grant and do far more than we can ask or think, through the power of God at work inside us, be glory without limit for ages and ages in the church and also through Christ Jesus! Amen."
18. That's what Paul said. Aren't you glad? The one whom we worship and praise is the one who "grants and does far more than [we can ask or think]." Many of [us] who are gathered here today have more than likely already experienced some great measure of the power of God. That's why we are meeting here. It's the same for me too. But on the other hand, I feel that I still don't know but only a part of God's power. I am still on the way [learning]. But I am also happy with that. Because I can still count on God and put my hopes in him. God will respond to my hopes because he is "the one who is able to grant and do far more than we can ask or think." So, shall we not seek in prayer and keep seeking for him to strengthen the inner person and that we grow and mature from here on out? And, shall we not keep moving forward as we give this Great One praise and glory from our hearts?