Alfred Place Baptist Church

3:16-17 The Prayer For Power

Ephesians 3:16&17 “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.”

Paul has bowed down and worshipped God, our great Father, and then he brings his first petition to God for the Ephesian church. Basically it is that all the congregation may be strengthened with power. That is his initial concern for them. How very fascinating that is. It is a topic of burning debate in the contemporary church. Christians acknowledge, “We are lacking in power; we are so impotent in confronting the culture of unbelief that surrounds us.” How often have we heard words like that during the last century. They are true words, and so how should we pray about our current weakness, and what are key criteria for knowing that our prayer is answered? This is where these words of Paul are helpful. See where he begins in the careful Trinitarian structure of these verses.

1. OUR FATHER IS A GOD OF GLORIOUS RICHES.

Paul knew God as Father, and that was the basis of his peace, and confidence and steadiness of heart and spirit in the Roman prison. If we were greater students of God, his character and his attributes, then we would be happier and more useful Christians. When men of God make God their study they discover in him those things that make him their refuge in times of distress, a help in labour, a strength in times of weakness. Do we all have a clear knowledge of God in our minds and hearts? Is God just a proposition to us, or is he a person? Is he a person about whom we know certain things. If you do not know that God is of a certain character and a certain disposition you won’t reap the benefits of those things. Are we convinced of God’s character? Are we enthralled by his glorious riches? It is these clear views of God as our Father, that lead to growing confidence in him.

Paul’s faith was focused on his Father’s glorious riches. In other words, Paul always knew that he was the son of an immensely rich Father in heaven. That kept him sane; it kept him strong. Left to himself in the cell, and chained to a soldier 24 hours a day, Paul would have been a broken man, as timid as a kitten; left to himself even an apostle would be a bruised reed, but, as used to be said long ago, one man with God is a majority. Yes, one plus the glorious riches of God produces a mighty man of valour. If we search for the hero inside ourselves we know we’ll fail in the hour of trial. Great men and great boasters are very often the first to shudder, but the Christian is constantly directed to their glorious rich Father.

What are these glorious riches that Paul refers to? The apostle is thinking about the measureless immensity of God, the great reservoir of grace that is in him, the fulness of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control that is his character. All such virtues are in God to an infinite degree. If they all poured forth from heaven like a vast Niagara this moment, and then kept flowing out for a million years there would be just as much in God at the end of that time as when the current first began. These graces in God’s fulness have no height, and no depth, no breadth, and no length. The first-born seraph cannot begin to plumb the depths of love divine. So, if it is contentment you need there is an illimitable supply to be found in God. If it is wisdom you need then God’s wisdom has no limits at all and he gives it generously, without upbraiding, to all who ask him for wisdom. If it is pity and kindness and a forgiving spirit and hope for the future you are seeking then all these graces are to be found without measure in the glorious riches of God. The wisdom that planned the universe and the power that made the worlds is all in God. All his riches are glorious, in other words they all reflect the absolute perfection and heavenliness of God. What are our own pathetic riches? How does the world describe them? They have become “filthy riches” to the cynic and the disillusioned. The lust for money has brought into their lives, corruption, prison and separation from their families. Our own bank-notes are dirty things; our wealth is a burdensome responsibility; our possessions are attacked by moth and rust and thieves. But God’s riches are like himself, infinite, eternal and unchangeable. They have about them the unalloyed glory of heaven. Glorious riches!

Don Carson emphasises that these riches can become ours only through Christ. “This is clear from another and perhaps better-known passage: ‘And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19). From Paul’s perspective, everything that’s coming to us from God comes through the glorified Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus has won our pardon; he has reconciled God to ourselves; he has cancelled our sin; he has secured the gift of the Spirit for us; he grants eternal life to us, he promises us the life of the consummation; he has made us children of the new covenant; his righteousness has been accounted as ours. Risen from the dead he is now glorified and seated at the right hand of God. All of God’s sovereignty is mediated through him and directed to our good and to God’s glory. This is the Son whom God sent to redeem us. In God’s all-wise plan and all-powerful action, all these blessings have been won by Jesus’ odious death and triumphant resurrection. All the blessings God has for us are tied up with the work of Christ. God has made his Son to be head of all things to the church.” (Don Carson, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation,” IVP and Baker, 1992, p.189).

So the supply of the Father’s “glorious riches in Christ Jesus” to the church is unlimitedly magnificent because it is commensurate with the glory and honour that is bestowed upon the Son. God rewards the body as he rewards the Head. The riches that come to us are in Christ. To depreciate that supply is to depreciate Jesus himself; to doubt the provision God has made for us is to doubt the enormous achievements of the Son of God. The God who has already blessed us lavishly in his Son has yet more blessings, matchless reserves of grace, to pour out upon the whole church as he brings us all to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

“My every need he richly will supply,
Nor will his goodness ever let me die.
In him there dwells a treasure all divine
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.” (William Gadsby, 1773-1844)

That is why Paul petitions his Father for this transforming power to come upon all the people of God. For God’s grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much. The heavenly reservoir will never run dry. Its supplies are as extensive as the benefits secured by Jesus Christ at Golgotha.

2. THE SPIRIT STRENGTHENS EACH CHRISTIAN INWARDLY WITH POWER.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (v.16). God’s glorious riches comprehend everything which makes Father, Son and Holy Spirit glorious – his goodness, his love for his people, his immeasurable resources, the fulness of his perfections, and so on. All of that is not simply for the purpose of the admiration of the angels but to the strengthening of the church. Out of those riches the church receives grace upon grace. Take, for example, the Christians in Thessalonica. Paul commends them like this; “your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing” (2 Thess. 1:3). How was that possible? It was, of course, that they were getting faith and love from God’s glorious riches. They would bow before the Father and would say, “Our hearts are so hard and loveless. Warm and soften them and fill them with affection for thyself and all the people of God.” God heard and answered them. That was the only explanation for the moral transformation of their lives. The sections on sanctification in all the great confessions of faith pick up that Pauline phrase, “more and more” (2 Thess. 1:3). The Christian life is one in which we receive more and more obedience and love and understanding from God’s glorious riches.

Christians have to appropriate them for themselves because they don’t come automatically just because you are a Christian, or just because your sins are forgiven. Many of you know that. You could wish that becoming a victorious Christian were something as automatic as breathing, something you could forget about completely, like the beating heart, or the oxygen entering your lungs and then the blood stream, but it is not like that. The divine riches have to be sought and thankfully received. You have to wait on God for them, stretching out your own arms of faith and laying hold of these riches for yourself. It seems perhaps a daring thing to say, that a man must appropriate, must lay hold of, the living God, and surely some of us would protest that the emphasis is the other way, that God is the one who in his rich grace stretches out and lays hold of us. Blessed be God that is so, yet we are the ones who also need to stretch out and lay hold of God’s riches because of our poverty and weakness. Yes, God does lay hold of us, or none of us would ever be Christians. The God who has enriched our lives with saving faith and a new heart is a God of unsearchable riches, but the riches are to be received by faith. There is no other way. Paul is praying here that his Father would minister to the Ephesians, that “out of his glorious riches God may strengthen you with power . . .” (v.16). Paul was laying hold of the God he knew for the sake of his friends in Ephesus. No one can survive without some external life-support system. The Roman soldiers whom Paul talked to during their hours on duty sought to lay hold of the poor gods they knew. They would tell Paul how they went with their gifts to the temple and presented them to the priests on duty hoping that that would placate the gods’ anger for neglecting them and make them propitious for bestowing new favours. Paul would then tell them about these glorious riches of God, and how he could tap these resources even in prison each day. We have to be like him and lay hold of God. We must daily receive his glorious riches. I am pleading that we cultivate such an attitude as this, “I must receive rich grace from my Father today.” Religion in its substance is a sense of dependence on God, and the more we depend on him the more total and intimate our walk with God is. I am pleading that instinctively, day by day and hour by hour, we be found lifting up our hearts to God for strength for ourselves and others.

We hear of the crisis of power in the Christian church, that there is a lack of force and spiritual energy. Let us be careful when we talk about that. Does any believer lack potential? Does the church suffer from a poverty of resources? Not at all. Where is the church? Where does the believer stand? He stands in Christ. He stands with Christ. He lives, moves, has his being, in the power of Christ. It is not that there is no power, but there is certainly a failure to appreciate the power that we have, to realise that we are in the Lord, that we are with the Lord. It is not miracles that we need. What we need is to realise the immense resources that exist for our advantage in God’s glorious riches in Jesus Christ, to realise that this is the provision available for the whole church, not because our faith is great, but because our faith is real. There is nothing wrong with our resources. We are being filled with all the fulness of God, and Paul’s whole argument in this letter is, “I will tell you first of all your glorious privileges. You are men and women who are receiving the glorious riches of your heavenly Father, and I am praying that you will live like that, not like spiritual paupers, but like people all of whose needs are being richly supplied in Christ Jesus.” The great thrust of this prayer is, “Lord make them what they are.”

So not one Christian will ever tell God reproachfully that his or her resources were insufficient. In the tremendous day when we stand before him there won’t be one Christian soldier who’ll protest to the Lord, “But you sent me into the battle without enough protection. I lacked fire power.” Not one. God will point to the infinite reserves of grace and glory, and he will say, “Did you appropriate these? Did you stretch forth your hand to me day and night for help? Was there one single occasion when I spurned your requests?” What has our Father provided for us to be ‘more than conquerors’ this year? His glorious riches in Jesus Christ. Justification you know is a complete and perfected work. The Christian does not need to pray, “Justify me Lord! Declare me to be righteous Lord! Please impute to me the spotless robes of Christ, Lord.” Free justification is the privilege of the weakest lamb in the flock of Christ; the newest Christian as much as the oldest Christian, the most backsliding Christian as much as the most Christ-like Christian, all alike are pardoned, justified, righteous in Christ. The work of justification is definitive; once and for all, complete and perfect. However, the work of sanctification is not like that. It is progressive. Punctiliar justification, but linear sanctification. So we are exhorted to constantly follow after holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. We are urged by the apostles to follow after that which is good, to follow after love, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. For those graces we must address the God of glorious riches, and never cease doing so. I was once talking to an old Strict Baptist pastor who had come through a serious operation. He said to me that the specialist came to talk to him just before his discharge from hospital and he brought some packets of various pills. “Now take these every day,” he said to my old friend, “and never stop!” So Paul says to us, “Kneel before your Father in heaven and pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you, and never stop!”

In other words, that we increasingly realise and appropriate the vast resources that are ours. Keep saying to yourselves, “God is going to supply all my needs. He really is. That is not whistling in the dark. God will strengthen me with power through his Spirit in my inner being.” I am not sure but sometimes we put our humility in the wrong place. We are not ashamed of our salvation, or of our status in Christ, or of our station, or our position, or our resources, are we? “I am not ashamed of this gospel,” we say. Then it is time for us to realise what is our real dignity, to realise what is our potential, in the Lord, and to take pride in them, and boast in them. That kind of boasting in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only acceptable kind. There is nothing wrong with our power if only we could reckon ourselves to be in possession of it. Imagine an Olympic boxer with the most superb physique and skills, but he had this fatal flaw, he considered himself to be as weak as a kitten. He would see his opponent getting in the ring to fight him and immediately he would get weak at the knees. “How can I possibly overcome that man? He will defeat me in 10 seconds. What am I doing here?” What is the problem with that man? His mind! His judgment! He is an ignorant man, an unrealistic man. He is not facing up to what he has and is, and his coach has to work with him, and persuade him that with his resources – his physique, and manual dexterity, and fast reactions, and powers of endurance, and fitness, and strength he can overcome any boxer in the world. The apostle Paul is the coach of the church, and he’s telling us what he is praying for, “that out of God’s glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (v.16).

I am saying that there is nothing wrong with the power of God if we would reckon we are plugged into it, if we would work out what God has done for us in Christ. We are a transformed people, transformed by the re-creative power of Almighty God. Are we living according to this teaching? Are we living new, powerful, holy, loving, patient lives? Are we living as those to whom daily the glorious riches of Christ are being poured out upon us? Our Redeemer is strong. His glorious riches are not only of love and joy and peace, but of strength and power. Paul is praying that we will live according to our resources which God makes available to us, and according to what God has done for us.

You notice what Paul specifically asks for here, “power through his Spirit in our inner beings” (v.16). I was visiting one of our church members last week and she was saying how frail she was these days, and she certainly is. “The outward man is perishing,” I commented. “Yes,” she acknowledged, “and I just hope that the rest of that verse is true.” In other words that her inner man was being daily renewed.” I am convinced that it is. Paul’s outer man was wearing away in the cold and darkness of the prison; the ‘inner being’ is what is left when the outer man has wasted completely away. Don Carson says, “Most of us in the West have not suffered great persecution, but all of us are getting older. In fact, sometimes we can see in elderly folk something of the process that Paul has in mind. We all know senior saints who, as their physical strength is reduced, nevertheless become more and more steadfast and radiant. Their memories may be fading; their arthritis may be nearly unbearable; their ventures beyond their small rooms or apartments may be severely curtailed. But somehow they live as if they already have one foot in heaven. As their outer being weakens, their inner being runs from strength to strength.

“Conversely, we know elderly folk who, so far as we can tell, are not suffering from any serious organic decay, yet as old age weighs down on them they nevertheless become more and more bitter, caustic, demanding, spiteful, and introverted. It is almost as if the civilizing restraints imposed on them by cultural expectations are no longer adequate. In their youth, they had sufficient physical stamina to keep their inner being somewhat capped. Now, with reserves of energy diminishing, what they really are in their inner being is coming out.

“Even for those of us who are still some distance from being senior citizens, the restrictions and increasing limitations of the outer being make themselves felt. My body is not what it was twenty years ago. Every time I take a shower, a few more hairs disappear down the drain never to be seen again. I have arthritis in two or three joints; I have to watch my intake of calories; my reaction times are a little slower than they used to be; in a couple years I shall need reading glasses. And some day, if this old world lasts long enough, I shall waste away, and my outer man will be laid to rest in a hole six feet deep. Yet inwardly, Paul insists, in the inner being, we Christians ‘are being renewed day by day.'” (Don Carson, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation,” IVP and Baker, 1992, pp. 184&185). Out of God’s glorious riches the church is receiving grace upon grace.

There is no circumstance, and no combination of circumstances in which God’s power is insufficient to strengthen our inner being. By his Spirit he has access to the deepest recesses of our heart. There is no no-go area to the Spirit of God. There are conditions which baffle the finest medical men in the world, but they don’t baffle God. Our Father is never at his wit’s end. He knows the cause of the weakness, and he is able to minister to that weakness. Let us be solemnly aware that it is God’s will for each one of us for our outer man is to perish. Nothing can prevent that, and God will provide dying grace. No Christian should ever ask God that he might not die. That is a sinful request. It is appointed unto us all to die, but it is also God’s will too that our inner man will be renewed day by day, even when so many forces seem to be moving against us.

The God who is in charge of our lives is a God of purpose; our Father has a plan and a reason for our lives; of course he has a reason for death too; God has an objective in all the disciplines of life. Christianity is not some fair-weather religion that will help you when all is going well. Who needs to be strengthened by the might of God’s power in the inner man for a fair-weather religion? You just need your emotions stroked and your prejudices rearranged. That’s not a religion worth having. I am not proclaiming such a fantasy. I am proclaiming to you an all-weather religion, the religion of a God who has a purpose in everything, who moves in every age, and moves on to the destiny of the ages, a purpose that takes account of the fact that in God everything began, everything continues, everything will come to its consummation and end, our Father who gives an answer to the questions that the individual soul asks, Who am I? Why am I here? Where have I come from? Where am I going? How can I get there. A God of purpose. You look at life in the world today in so many spheres and so many relationships and you could come to the conclusion that it does not make sense. It is not fair-weather living. The Christian life itself is one of storm and tempest, and skirmishes and wars, and illness and persecution. It doesn’t make sense to you, but our Father in heaven is a God of purpose, and God knows the end to which he is ordering everything – joy and sorrow, pleasure and adversity, disaster as well as success, and to fulfil that end he blesses the inner life of every Christian with strength to persevere.

3. CHRIST THE SON DWELLS IN OUR HEARTS THROUGH FAITH.

It is a curious phrase in verse 17, that Christ might dwell in our hearts through faith. Don’t we hold that Christ by his Spirit takes up residence in all of us when we become Christians? Why then does Paul say that the purpose of his prayer is that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith? Isn’t he already doing that?

Don Carson is helpful here: “It helps to recognise that the verb here rendered ‘to dwell’ is a strong one. Paul’s hope is that Christ will truly take up his residence in the hearts of believers, as they trust him (that’s what ‘through faith’ means), so as to make their hearts his home. The picture becomes clearer if we think of an analogy. Picture a couple carefully marshalling enough resources to put together a down-payment. They buy their house, recognising full well that it needs a fair bit of work. They can’t stand the black and silver wallpaper in the master bedroom. There are mounds of trash in the basement. The kitchen was designed for the convenience of the plumber, not the cook. The roof leaks in a couple of places, and the insulation barely meets minimum standards. The electrical box is too small, the lighting in the bathroom is poor, the heat exchanger in the furnace is corroded. But still, it is this young couple’s first home, and they are grateful.

“The months slip past, then the years. The black and silver wallpaper has been replaced with tasteful pastel patterns. The couple has remodelled their kitchen, doing much of the work themselves. The roof no longer leaks, and the furnace has been replaced with a more powerful unit that also includes a central air conditioner. Better yet, as the family grows, this couple completes a couple of extra rooms in the basement and adds a small wing to serve as a study and sewing room. The grounds are neatly trimmed and boast a dazzling rock garden. Twenty-five years after the purchase, the husband one day remarks to his wife, ‘You know, I really like it here. This place suits us. Everywhere we look we see the results of our own labor. This house has been shaped to our needs and taste, and I really feel comfortable.’

“When Christ by his Spirit takes up residence within us, he finds the moral equivalent of mounds of trash, black and silver wallpaper, and a leaking roof. He sets about turning this residence into a place appropriate for him, a home in which he is comfortable. There will be a lot of cleaning to do, quite a few repairs, and some much-needed expansion. But his aim is clear: he wants to take up residence in our hearts, as we exercise faith in him. When people take up long-term residence somewhere, their presence eventually characterises that dwelling. A hymnist asks for what Paul is referring to;

“Make my life a bright outshining
Of Thy life, that all may see
Thine own resurrection power
Mightily put forth in me.
Ever let my heart become
Yet more consciously Thy home” (Jean Sophia Pigott)

“There was a much-loved emphasis among the Puritans. They were profoundly concerned that Christ might be formed in believers. Make no mistake: when Christ first moves into our lives, he finds us in very bad repair. It takes a great deal of power to change us; and that is why Paul prays for power. He asks that God may so strengthen us by his power in our inner being that Christ may genuinely take up residence within us, transforming us into a house that pervasively reflects his own character.” (Don Carson, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation,” IVP and Baker, 1992, pp. 186&187).

There was a family who were members here in our congregation who bought a derelict house in Cwm Ystwyth, high in the hills. John stripped it down to the stone, and then he lifted the roof, laid new floors and extended the building. It was not easy because it was on the side of a steep narrow valley. All this time they were raising a family of three children. What inner strength, spiritual and psychological strength, let alone physical strength, Caroline his wife needed to live in that house for all those years. You would feel weak just looking at the work yet to be done there. That rebuilding is the analogy of the Christian life. We are occupants of the house; all our daily duties are being done there and yet, at the same time, the house itself is being extensively renovated and transformed. Now that is how we’re to understand the apostles’ frequent exhortations about changing our lives so that they may become fit dwelling places in which Jesus Christ can live. To live so that the Lord Christ is at home everywhere in your life you have to have the divine power that comes from the glorious riches of the Father. But that is what Paul is demanding when he says,

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in those ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” [Col. 3:5-17].

To live like that is to show that you are indeed being strengthened with power through God’s Spirit in your inner beings. There is no other explanation for life of that Christ-likeness. Without the power of God what will happen? You are going to give in to your temper and your lusts. You are going to surf the net and watch those despicable websites. You are going to retaliate; you won’t forgive the smallest slight; you’ll hit the bottle; you’ll go along with your animal instincts; you’ll destroy your marriage, and you’ll find plenty of excuses for living like that – that it’s ‘your temperament;’ it was the pressure you were under from your friends, and from your job, and so you couldn’t help it, because it is the way you are, and so on. Of course while you reject the power of the Spirit of Christ that is exactly what you are. None of those excuses will pass muster at the throne of God. The Father will indicate all his glorious riches which are freely offered to sinners like you, and he will say, “But you never cried to me for any of this. You did it your way,” and every mouth will be stopped. You will have nothing to say.

Paul is praying for Christians like us, people who already have the Lord Jesus. Christ you have in his righteousness, his forgiveness, as your prophet, priest and king, your mediator with God, your shepherd, the friend of sinners; Christ you enjoy in the privileges of faith and sonship, but this Christ you want more and more. You want him to come into every area of your life, so that there’s not a room in which Christ doesn’t dwell. There’s not a secret place which is off-limits to him. You want him everywhere in your heart, and you are desperate for this. You prepare all your life as a fit dwelling for God the Son. You are absolutely desperate for this. You are impoverished and helpless without Jesus Christ. To survive you must have the Son of God at all costs. That is what you are praying for, not the possession of gifts, not for religious experiences but for Christ really to dwell in your hearts by faith. You are absolutely desperate for him to have absolute sway over your thinking and imagination and desires and hopes and fear. He is your Saviour and Lord and you long for his sweet, rich, happy influences to spread throughout your entire life. Paul says it again, “For to me to live is Christ.” That one thing.

Haven’t you noticed how identical Christ and the Holy Spirit are? You could quite easily and correctly replace the word ‘Christ’ in our text with the word ‘Spirit’ and replace the word ‘Spirit’ with ‘Christ.’ Then verses 16 and 17 would read like this, “God may strengthen you with power through Christ in your inner being, so that the Spirit may dwell in your hearts through faith.” There would no problem at all for us if the apostle had written it in that way, because all the divine attributes that Christ has the Spirit also has. But we know that the work of the Spirit is to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not to magnify himself, and so in our longing for more power we have to exalt Christ in the glory of his person and perfection of his finished work as he is offered to men and women in the gospel. We make much of Jesus Christ and then the Spirit will come. The greatest experiences for the church are when she knows afresh the greatness of her Saviour, Jesus Christ. So our task in life is not to talk about the Spirit but about Lord Jesus and point men to him, and that will draw the Spirit of God to work and glorify the Son of God in the world,

What a group of people in the world are those who make much of Jesus Christ. You cannot explain the way they live from how they were brought up. You cannot explain it in terms of the education they had. You cannot explain it in terms of their temperament. It is a mysterious life to the world. I wonder whether the people in the office ask what’s different about us. We should be living lives that can only be explained by the glorious riches of God, by the power of God’s Spirit in our inner beings, by Christ dwelling in our hearts. The Father has done something and continues to do something to make it absolutely certain that the most drastic changes are effected in my life and conduct.

I am talking of this reality that is evident in ordinary men and women. They are people in whom the Son of God lives, and he affects every part of their lives. They are in organic and living and spiritual union with Jesus. That is the only way you can explain how they’ve lived, that the Lord of Glory, risen from the dead, has this pervasive influence over them in all their behaviour. Let’s think of the picture in the book of Revelation that describes how the glorious riches of God reach us. John sees the river of the water of life. Where does it come from? It came, he says, out of the throne of God and of the Lamb and it is flowing to all the church to irrigate, refresh, wash, make fruitful, make glad and make strong the people of God. You see that vast river flowing down to us from heaven, right out of the midst of the throne.

That is true for each one of us today in whose lives Jesus Christ dwells. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His grace is sufficient for us, and so we are living new, different, transformed lives that cannot be explained in terms of behaviourism, but only in terms of the glorious riches of the Father and the powerful Spirit strengthening the inner man, and Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith.

25th July 2004 GEOFF THOMAS