Was 2019 a year of spiritual growth and service for you? Did you make substantial progress or regress? Did your spiritual power grow or shrink? Did your love for the Lord Jesus Christ expand and reach outward or did it wither and die?
Whatever your evaluation of the year we leave behind, the year forward holds promise of positive change, powerful transformation, and eternal influence. The key to it all is spiritual power, its source the Holy Spirit of God: We are “strengthened with power through his Spirit” Ephesians 3.16.
How does such power come to us? The larger passage of Ephesians 3.14-21 offers us many paths.
1. Prayer, 14: “I kneel before the Father.” Some see a mirrored (chiastic) structure to Ephesians and think this prayer makes up part of the focused center of the letter. The great apostle, as we consider him, bows the knee before God in full dependence for his salvation and service in the Kingdom and in seeking spiritual power for the Ephesian saints. He knows nothing happens without “praying in the Holy Spirit” Jude 20.
2. Definition, 15: “from [the Father] every family in heaven and on earth is named.” God defines family. The concept and the execution comes from him. We call him Father, and he is that in the truest sense. Whether it’s the church, worship, or love, God is the one who defines it and exemplifies it. He is Spirit, so our worship of him is spiritual. He is pure and sacrificial love, so our love imitates his. When we let God define the terms, the Spirit’s power will find plenty of space in us to work.
3. Inner person, 16: “with power through his Spirit in the inner person.” The Spirit is able to reach our innermost being and satisfy our deepest need. He does what no psychology or psychiatry can do, what no doctor or therapist can dream of accomplishing. This is the age of the Holy Spirit, not demonstrated in miracles or tongues, but in transformed lives, in souls redeemed for eternal life, in empowered saints who serve to do the Master’s bidding. The Spirit enters our inner being so that from within we may live and act and speak from a heart dominated by God.
4. Profusion, 16, 19: “according to the wealth of his glory … filled up to all the fullness of God.” As long as we maintain a mentality of poverty, God can do little to us, in us, or through us. It is one thing to be poor in spirit; this is Jesus’ requirement. It is another thing to think that God doles out his gifts in tiny trickles. The Lord is generous and desires to bless. We must be willing to receive. Then his Spirit can open the storehouse of heaven to pour upon us his strength.
5. Habitation, 17: “that Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith.” Here is the great divine objective. The Spirit’s power is focused upon causing Christ to inhabit our hearts. When we seek other goals, his power is frustrated. Christ is God with us. He came to carry us into the divine presence, “to bring [us] to God” 1 Peter 3.18. The Spirit’s power makes that happen, when we “through faith” seek that restoration.
6. Comprehension, 18-19: “you will be able to comprehend … and thus to know.” By the Spirit we know the unknowable, we understand the impenetrable things of God. This impossible knowledge comes from love and delves deeper and deeper, through the Scriptures and our perception of his care and providence, into his love. The intricate marvels of the universe studied by scientists are dry and boring data compared to the warm and embracing love of God. The Spirit’s power causes love to dominate.
7. Glorification, 20-21: “to him who by the power that is working within us is able.” Paul’s prayer of intercession ends with praise. He knows what the Spirit’s power can do for the Ephesians, for he has proof in his own life. He marvels, with an apparent lack of words, at the unlimited power of God. We understand, but we cannot measure. His glory means our salvation. All eyes turn to him. It is his word that we hear, his glory that provokes our repentance, his name that we confess, his salvation we seek in immersion, his Kingdom we promote in the world.
Whatever we did or failed to do in 2019, the new year holds promise of the fullness of God coming to fill our lives and overflow to others.
Will you meet and complete the new year with the power of God’s Spirit?