15/12/2016 - Ephesians 3:16-19 ‘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 to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’
This is a Bible Insight on a passage but I want to share it with you because it draws together truths that have the potential to change our lives forever.
Paul is praying for the Christians in Ephesus and he asks that God will do certain things for them ‘out of his glorious riches’. What that really means is that God has a gift for them – and it is his glory. He wants to give them his glory. He wants to give them everything that he is – all the attributes of his character. Now we are obviously not saying that we become God but he does want us to ‘participate in the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4).
The first thing Paul prays for is that ‘he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being’. He has already written about this ‘incomparably great power for us who believe’ (1:19) which is that same power that raised Jesus from the dead and took him to the highest place above every power and authority. There is no emotion, no downward pull of nurture or nature or anything that is stronger than God’s power within. It is down to us to make the right choices. God is willing us to – but we have to choose – and then that dynamite power is released within us to make the good thing happen.
What does this look like in practice? When I want to switch off, or sulk, or wrap myself around with the warm cloak of self-pity, or indulge my self-absorbing emotions – precisely at that juncture – I must choose to let myself be led by God’s Spirit within. Is switching off glorious? No – then don’t do it. Is it like God to sulk? No - choose to be led by the Spirit and all that divine energy kicks in and strengthens you. Make the wrong choice and you are weakened. This is the point at which we stand or fall.
When we are strengthened by the Spirit in this way, Christ takes up permanent residence within. Instead of the stench of guilt and fear pervading the rooms in your house, Jesus can move in with the beautiful aroma that he brings. This indwelling happens ‘through faith’. What is that faith? It was the faith that you put into practice when you made the right choice. You didn’t give in to the fear or guilt or anxiety or low self-worth. You trusted that God knew what he was doing in your life and you responded accordingly and because of that you were strengthened and room was created for Jesus to live within you.
Where does all this activity take place? In our ‘inner being.’ That is where we are strengthened. Where does Christ dwell? ‘In your hearts.’ In the Bible, the word ‘heart’ is used to express the centre of who we are, the core of our being. This is why we talk so much on our courses about the importance of God’s work of salvation going deep down into our introvert. Understanding our own temperament enables us to see more clearly those choices that we must make. Each of us has an introvert. Not everyone has an extrovert. The introvert is that indispensable part of who we are and it is here that we need strengthening and here that Christ wants to take up permanent residence.
As these processes take place we become aware of an increasing maturity and stability in our lives. We find ourselves ‘being rooted and established in love.’ Instead of being susceptible to the vagaries of our changing circumstances, or turbulent emotions or racing thoughts, we find that a foundation is beginning to develop beneath our feet that brings peace. To mix our metaphors, ‘a rock grows beneath our feet.’ Instead of hearts and minds being occupied with chasing elusive emotions and thoughts, we find a spiritual clarity and awareness of Christ. As this happens, so our capacity to wonder at the sheer vastness and comprehensiveness of God’s love begins to occupy and excite us.
Now the importance of living in, and from, our introvert becomes clear. We could polish up our extrovert until it was near perfect – but what good would that be if the introvert beneath it was full of turbulence? It would be building on shifting sand.
Peter was outwardly strong but his inner weakness was exposed by a servant girl who recognised that he was a disciple of Jesus. He had to go through that painful experience of having to face his own weakness in order that he might experience the strengthening. (e.g. Luke 22:31-32).
Paul’s prayer builds to a wonderful climax. What is the goal of this working of God in our lives? ‘That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ What does this mean? Everything that God is in his character, he wants to impart to us. We all have our own natural tendencies but God wants us to have the whole range of strengths that he has. Isn’t that amazing!
Note the context in which this process happens. It is, ‘together with all the saints.’ God works through our relationships to bring about this maturing and growing. That is one of the reasons why God puts us with people who are so different to us. They are the ones who can do you the most good! We all have our own natural tendencies but having to relate to someone very different from us means that God can, through that experience, impart those attributes to us that we don’t naturally possess. Getting stuck in cliques might feel comfortable but is entirely counter-productive to God’s purposes in our lives. We are on a journey. We have glimpsed the grace of God. He doesn’t simply want to deliver us from disaster but deliver us into something glorious – nothing short of living his life, as his representatives here on this earth. May we be prepared to make those choices that mean that this gift of grace truly changes our lives forever.
See comments below:
On 17/12/2016 Tim wrote: An excellent insight into that verse and into what it means to be a follower of God. Thanks for the time and effort taken to write such profound and life changing material.
On 19/12/2016 Kathryn wrote: Thank you for explaining this profound truth so clearly. I have struggled for most of my life to value myself in my introvert, so spent a lot of energy trying to be 'good enough' by trying - exhausting. Recently I have been able to start accepting that I am already good enough - the Lord made me good enough & loves me as I am - and I have begun to relax and let that powerful knowledge pervade my introvert & begin to give me a new sense of who I am. It is the power of the Lord that has allowed me to start to choose to accept myself - something that I had been afraid to do my entire life.
On 20/12/2016 Phil wrote: Thanks John! Incredible truths. Such a positive, amazing view of this incredible gift and promise we have in The Lord. Rarely do we hear in our sermons this view - how can we not be stirred by this to say, come on then Lord, bring this on. Let's go for the fullness of this gift! Your glory, living in us. And all the beauty that brings - to ourselves and all those we touch. The how we get to this gift still remains a bit abstract however. You mention choices against the negatives we feel - ok. But just recently I found myself being too forceful and unkind, trying to get a view across that I was adamant was right, fair etc. This happened several times in quick succession and the results were hurt people - by me. I still can't quite work it out (I'll be phoning about it when u have some time). I guess, what I'm trying to say is. Beyond choosing to go against negative feelings, there are times when I can think I'm doing the right thing, using my introvert to feel the right thing then my extroverts come in and deliver a nasty message. Was it even my introvert feeling the right thing in the 1st place?? It's a bit of a minefield sadly in the practical application of living a life that consistently demonstrates this gift of Gods glory even when we so desire it and are passionate for it. If I run through these scenarios again in my head, I'm not sure if react differently to them in the future. It can be so automatic. How do we learn to do different things when we can't see the choices in front of us?
On 20/12/2016 Mary wrote: Thank you for an incredible insight into this wonderful verse. It is a challenge to make those good choices, to live in our introvert and to know we don't have to rely on our own strength because God makes makes his power available to us. It's such an encouragement.
On 20/12/2016 Andy wrote: Thanks John, really liked this one. In regards to choices... for me an important choice has been allowing myself to make mistakes. When I have previously made mistakes or in my view done something wrong it would really bother me, feeding into negative views of myself. The Lord's opinion of us through Jesus does not change due to 'mistakes' we make, so really we should not allow these mistakes to bother us. We can learn from them and move on. Sanctification is an ongoing process. Depending on what happens it may still take me some time to come back around to this truth however.
I have also been thinking about the reasons why we want to change. To be more spiritual? More effective? Just better? What is our motive? I think (at least for me) if examined closely it can be the ego at work. In truth we reflect Gods glory by looking at him (his nature and characteristics), it really is all about him.
On 23/12/2016 Joy wrote: Just to say thank you for your wonderful commentary which spoke into my life and circumstances. Going through life as a double introvert can be a bit of a struggle at times especially when your surrounded with many who live on their extrovert . I was very encouraged by Kathryn comment and was reminded that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and loves by my amazing saviour Jesus -it dosent get much better. Pray you have blessed Christmas x
On 23/12/2016 John replied: Thank you to everyone who has written in with responses to my last Insight. The feedback is appreciated.
What you write Kathryn and Joy about the way the Lord values us - even if we struggle to properly value ourselves - is so important and potentially life-changing. Andy's comment ties in with this because if we stop judging ourselves by our ability to 'get everything right' then we will find that what the Lord is after is the love of our hearts - not a false perfection. Your comments too Andy about our motives is important and, as you rightly point out, it has to be all about him.
Phil raises an interesting question concerning those times when your introvert is serving you well and accurately showing you something, but then, as he put it, 'my extroverts come in and deliver a nasty message.'
The simple answer is that the introvert needs to deliver the message, possibly aided by the extroverts but not primarily via the extroverts. If we only use our extrovert to communicate truth we will tend to come down on people. If we use our introvert we will draw alongside and the person we are talking to won't feel threatened.
That raises the question as to why we let our extrovert dominate the communication. The simple answer is that we need to learn to live in and be comfortable in our introvert. If we lack confidence, or are overly negative about ourselves, or are unwilling to process emotions within the introvert, then we will use our extrovert as a substitute and possibly a defence. There subjects are dealt with more fully in Steps Two and Four of our 'Understanding Yourself' series. We can see that the central issue still lies within the introvert.
How do we know whether we are talking from our introvert or extrovert? This is where the 'together with all the saints' (3:18) comes in. When we 'miss it' and someone cares enough about us to point that out then, rather than getting defensive, that is when we need to allow ourselves to 'get the feel' of what they are saying. This is how we grow.
2/12/2016 - Ephesians 2:4-5 'But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.'
We were dead. No life, no energy or strength – utterly powerless to change anything. We were born dead – and we couldn’t lift a little finger to help ourselves. While we were in that condition God ‘made us alive with Christ.’ When was that? At the same time that he ‘raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.’ And when was that? In God’s calculations, it has always been that way. Jesus is described as ‘the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8). As one commentator put it: ‘God has certain things done in time, but to God these things are done as completely before time as on the date in time; this slaying of the Lamb is one of them. God is timeless’. Imagine, long before you were born, someone deposited £5million in a bank account with your name on it. You don’t know the person but you were told that this person somehow knew you and decided to shower his love on you in this way. Clearly this is grace. You can choose to ignore it. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if you did – you would just lose £5million. We could ignore God’s grace – and it would be the end of our world. Or we could believe, and enter in to all that God has for us. It is all done. The offer is there. Our salvation is complete. In fact, everything that we need to live each day to the full, in a different dimension, has already been set up. Everything we need to be a good friend, church member, husband, wife parent, daughter or son or employee is already in place.
What do we have to do? John Wesley struggled to be at peace with God and to live right. It was only when he heard that his salvation was by faith that he felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ Even the faith with which we believe is the gift of God. Live in it. Live believing in the grace of God. Let God’s grace become a river that knocks us off our feet and carries us in its flow. Let it wash out the antagonism that we have towards ourselves in our morbid self-condemnation. When we face challenges that we don’t have the strength to handle, cry out to God for his grace. When we crash against the negatives in ourselves and others that irritate or discourage or threaten to pull us down, we can lift our eyes to those heavenly places and choose to live in God’s grace. What do we find when we do? The river gets deeper and fuller. We discover the freedom to be what God intended. Living in grace becomes a way of life.
 Lenski, R. C. H. (1935). The interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (p. 401). Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern.
See comments below: On 2/12/2016 Nicky Ailleris wrote: Thank you, John for this strong and lovely Bible insight. It reminded me of something I experienced recently; I woke up in the morning after a pretty good night's sleep, feeling very negative about myself - it was as if I was looking for anything I could to find wrong with myself in order to prove that I really was a failure. Suddenly, fortunately, I realised what was happening and I stopped myself from doing any more self-damage. It was as if God was telling me - and I believe he was - that he needed me to believe the truth about my value, so that I could share his love and grace with others. We are blessed with his grace and we need to let go and live in it, every minute of the day.
On 3/12/2016 Tim wrote: Great stuff. Life changing if we choose to live in the good of grace.