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I Bow My Knees — Part Two

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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July 31, 2023 4:00 am

I Bow My Knees — Part Two

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 31, 2023 4:00 am

The apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be strengthened through God’s Spirit. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg walks us through Paul’s prayer to show how God empowers believers and what’s actually involved in saving faith.


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The Truth Pulpit
Don Green

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he prayed that the church would be strengthened through God's Spirit. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg walks us through Paul's prayer to help us understand how God empowers believers and what's actually involved in saving faith. Alistair is teaching from Ephesians chapter 3. We're focusing today on verses 16 and 17. Now, we began last time to look at this prayer, and we noted that, first of all, it was selfless, and then secondly, that it was spiritual, that Paul's concerns were not what we might have anticipated, and then we said we would go on and consider the fact that the prayer is also specific. There's no vague generalities here from the lips of Paul or from the pen of Paul.

He is very direct in knowing to whom he comes and why he comes and exactly what it is he's asking of God. And there are essentially two requests in these verses. First of all, a prayer for inner strength through the resources of God's Spirit, and then a prayer that these Ephesian believers might comprehend the measureless, limitless love of Christ. We'll deal with them each in turn.

In fact, we will only deal with the first of them this morning. As we do so, it's very important that we recognize that Paul here is addressing those who are believers. He's addressing those who are in Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He began his letter who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. It is in him that we have been chosen, and it is in him that we have redemption through his blood. If you doubt this, just go back and start reading the letter again, and you will see that he makes it perfectly clear. He is not writing now and praying now in chapter 3 that those for whom he prays might become Christians, might become believers. Yes, he is going to pray that Christ will dwell in their hearts through faith, but that is not a prayer for their salvation. As we will see, it is a prayer for their progress in the faith. Now, they had heard the word of the gospel, and they had believed the gospel. Let's just be clear in case anybody's wondering. When the Bible talks about believing this good news, believing the story of who Jesus is and what he's done, to believe the gospel is to put one's trust and confidence in the person and work of Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Let me say that again. To believe the gospel is for one to place one's personal trust and confidence in Jesus as Savior and Lord. In other words, it is not simply to believe that there was a Jesus or even to believe that Jesus was the person he claimed to be, but it is to give up all confidence in myself and place all of my confidence in Jesus. With all that by way of a long introduction, let us now consider this particular prayer that Paul is praying here, this specific request, that according to the riches of his glory, verse 16, he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you being rooted and grounded in love. Let's consider it, first of all, in terms of the source. Where is this strength provided?

To what reservoir does Paul go? To what does he appeal when he asks God that those for whom he is concerned may discover the strengthening power of the Spirit? Well, the answer is, the source is the riches of God's glory, according to the riches of his glory. What are the riches of his glory? What is the glory of God? The glory of God is, if you like, the summation of his being. The glory of God is the sum and substance of all that he has revealed to us of himself that our limited minds are able to grasp. So, for example, it is an expression of his might, of his self-existence, of his majesty, of his justice, his truth, his righteousness, his holiness, his purity, and so we could go on.

In other words, it is a vast reservoir. And so Paul, when he speaks of the riches of the glory of God, he clearly is not addressing some little idol that is a man-made invention. He's not regarding God as a kind of cosmic principle. He's not addressing God in a pantheistic kind of way, whereby God is everything and we are part of everything, therefore we are part of God.

No, he's not doing that at all. No, he's addressing the fact that God is outside of us, that God is outside of time, in his essence, that God is the one who has created the entire universe, that God is in charge of the ebb and flow of the stars and the planets, and the vastness of the moon the other night is directly related to his creative handiwork. God does not look from the heavens, as it were, and say, My, my, that is remarkable!

No, he is the God who has revealed himself in the sum and substance of his majesty. Now, this is the source. This is the great need, and this is the great provision. Limitless and incomparable are the riches of God. Now, some of you, I think, will inevitably be sitting there saying to yourself, Well, this seems a bit remote from life.

Couldn't you give us something a little more practical than this? No, you see, what most of us think we need is different from what we really need. And that's why we need the Bible to show us who God is and to show us what we are, so that then we may get a proper understanding of the fact that to speak about the riches of God's glory, of his unsurpassable majesty and magnificence, is actually of fundamental importance to my life, to my job, to my exams, to my relationships, to my everything. You see, we start from the wrong end. It is to God and to the vast reservoir of the riches of his glory that we go first. And out of the abundance of his provision, the other things may fall into line. But some of us, you see, are thinking that we will manage to finally get to that place along the line of our other, more important, practical, pragmatic considerations. And we short-circuit the resources that are made available to the believer from the source of the riches of his glory.

If that's the source, then what of the agency? How are these riches then made available in the life of the believer? Well, Paul answers that, doesn't he? He points out the fact that this will be through his Spirit in your inner being. Let's just stick with through his Spirit for the moment. How is it that we are to know this amazing surpassing power? Answer by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, coequal, coeternal.

The work of the Holy Spirit, bringing home to the life of the individual the truth concerning God. Now, we understand this if we are in Christ, don't we? Because we realize that it was the work of the Holy Spirit that convicted us of our sins. Because in many cases, we had decided that, yeah, sure, there were some problems in our life, but they weren't really that bad. And especially if you consider them in relationship to the other people in our class or to the rest of the people working in our office or our lab.

You know, I'm not the best of guys, but, well, I'm sure if God is grading on the curve, I'm gonna be absolutely fine, because you should meet some of the people that are in here with me. And we used to think in those terms. And then suddenly we began to see ourselves in a different light. We began to read the Bible. The Bible seemed to understand us. We began to listen to the Bible as it was explained. And suddenly, in a way that we couldn't fully articulate, beyond the voice of a mere man, it was as though the very Bible itself was speaking to us. It was as though the Bible was doing diagnosis on us. It was as though the Bible was saying, Now, this is you here, you see, when it says, All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We find ourselves saying, Well, that includes me.

Whereas before we said, Well, that must include them. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. How was it that we were then convinced that Jesus is the Savior, that the Spirit has convicted us that we're in need of? Answer, by the same Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit says, And what you need is not self-improvement.

What you need is not just to turn over a new leaf. What you need is a life-transforming encounter with the living God. And that was the work of the Holy Spirit. It's mysterious, isn't it? The hymn writer says, I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word and creating faith in him. It's miraculous!

It's mysterious! And it is the ongoing ministry of God the Holy Spirit to do what Paul prays for the believer in these verses. Paul has reminded these believers that the Holy Spirit has been given to them as a guarantee of their inheritance. And one day we will enter into the fullness of that inheritance. Now, he says elsewhere, we see through a glass dimly. One day we will see face to face. One day we will know even as we are known.

But for now, here's where we are. And what a tremendous encouragement it is that he would pray for them that, out of the vast resources of God's provision and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, this may be their portion. We need the work of the Spirit, don't we, in our lives? Every hour, frankly, every moment.

Why? Because we're so easily distracted. Easily distracted.

You can go through a day, two days, three days, a week, a month, suddenly realizing you're diverted from course. In the words of the hymn writer, I've seen the sights that dazzle and the tempting sounds I hear. How do we handle the sights that dazzle and the tempting sounds we hear? Well, some of us say, well, you need to stop that. Well, you need to get away from those sights.

And of course, that's good to do. But what we'll really set us free from it is an understanding of the immensity of the riches of God's grace and glory, you see, because then we are so transfixed with that that that means nothing. When you've fallen in love with somebody who has captured your heart, and you love her with a passion, and you write to her, and you long to see her, there's not a person in the world can turn your head. There's not a girl in the world can turn your head.

You could walk through all the J. Crew models for forty-five minutes and never give it a consideration. Why? Because of this.

Because of this. I see the sights that dazzle. I thought they would only dazzle when I was a teenager, or only dazzle when I was a young married man.

But they still dazzle. What do I need? And how is it provided? Through the Spirit. If you're not distracted, some of you are depressed. I know because you tell me. I know what it is for you to feel destabilized, overwhelmed.

What do you need? You don't need a book about that. All the resources in relationship to that are provided in the glorious riches of God, which are ministered to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same is true of those of us who have doubts.

Will you come from nowhere? What is the answer? Not a book on apologetics. The ministry of God's Spirit. And what about the devilish thoughts that come our way? Strange and bizarre and horrible thoughts that can come while you're singing, or while you're engaged in something. What is this?

Where does this come from? How is this addressed? Answer, through the agency of God's Holy Spirit. You see, that's why the notion of Christianity or some kind of external religious experience whereby we try and attach things to us that make us look as if we're different from what we are, that we attempt to make ourselves acceptable to God, is a complete nonstarter.

It is a dead-end street. It is not Christianity. No, if any man or a woman is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come. And it is to these new believers that Paul says, You should be sure about the source, and you should be clear about the agency, and thirdly, you should be aware of the locale, of the locale, the work of God in your inner being. In your inner being.

Look at that there. What is this inner being? Well, it's like in your hearts, your soul, your mind, your will, the epicenter of who you are. The outer man is our body with all of its functions and its faculties, and it's important to us.

But what he's saying here is that the minister of the Holy Spirit is at work in terms of our inner self, at work within us. We all know that in terms of our outer self, all of the powers are declining. You're declining! But not inside, I'm not!

No! Inwardly, I'm being renewed day by day. That's why, you know, they said of Moody—remember, Moody says, One day that you will read in the newspaper that Moody is dead, but do not believe it for a moment, because on that day I will be more alive than I have ever been. What did he mean by that? He was talking about the inner man, the real you and the real me. Our whole Western culture is preoccupied with the outer man—how I look, what I have, where I live, what I do, what I earn, how significant I am, my identity, and all of these things.

And the Bible says to us, that is flawed thinking. No, it's in your very inner man that these things then find their place and find their significance. And just in case you're wondering about how that would then take place, is this ministry of the Holy Spirit in our inner being, then, something that just happens, as it were, in a completely mysterious and unrecognizable context? The answer to that is no.

No. Because, you see, the work of the Holy Spirit in our inner being is a work that he conducts through means. Through means. And the means that he uses to fulfill his purpose so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, so that we might, as we will see tonight, be filled with all the fullness of God.

This does not happen in a vacuum. And the means that God uses to complete his purposes are these—preaching, prayer, fellowship, and the proper use of the sacraments. You say, Where'd you get that from? From the Bible. From the Bible. God says, My Spirit will work through these means.

I have appointed them to this end. You see? So when we do not attend upon the preaching of the Bible, when we do not engage meaningfully in the fellowship of God's people, when we decide that we actually don't need to be baptized, when we absent ourselves from the Lord's table, when we disengage from seeking God in prayer, then we ought not to be surprised if we discover in our lives an absence of the strengthening power for which Paul prays. You see, again, we start at the wrong end. We, some of us, are waiting for God to move us—whatever that means—so that we might then pay attention to the teaching of the Bible, then we might get involved with God's people, then we might start praying, then we may do a bunch of stuff.

It didn't happen that way. He uses the means to fulfill his plan. So we neglect the means, we miss out on the provision. Finally, he has provided the source in the riches of his glory, the agency in the power of the Holy Spirit, by means that he has given to us in and through his Word.

The locale is within that part of us that will be there when everything else is gone. Essentially, Paul is dealing with, in a spiritual way, what has become common parlance in physical exercise. I mean, there's hardly a person now that's involved in any kind of physical exercise that doesn't want to tell you about the core. The core. When I was fifteen, nobody knew about the core.

That had to do with an apple or something like that. But now, no, no, it's the core. Are you dealing with the core? Well, it makes perfect sense. Your abdominal muscles and your back and various things is perfectly understandable.

That's why golfers are able to hit the ball so far, because they are able to deal with that core. That's the significance of polities and all these different things. I get that. It makes perfect sense. And what Paul is saying is that's the same thing true spiritually. It's the core that God is interested in. It's the very inner being.

It's the part of you that isn't obvious to people. It's the real you. It's you on your own. It's you in your bedroom.

It's you in your car. The part of you that lasts forever. And to what end? Well, he says, to this end, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. How does Christ come to dwell in our hearts? By the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Don't stumble over the fact that the believer is already indwelt by Christ, otherwise he wouldn't be a believer. If anyone does not have the Spirit, then he is none of his.

So we've covered that, haven't we? We've said, these people are believers. So what does he mean, then, that I'm praying for you, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith?

Well, I think the verb is important. It is an important verb in Greek, and that the dwelling is the notion… In other words, your heart is not to be regarded as an Airbnb but rather as a permanent residence—that God comes to dwell intimately and consistently and progressively in your heart. And as he does so, you will discover, he says, that you will then find your roots are going down into the wonder of his love, and your life will be built upon that same foundation. You have there at the end of verse 17 two metaphors, don't you?

One is horticultural, and the other is architectural. And Paul does this all the time. So he says, when, out of the vastness of his resources, the Spirit strengthens you with power in your inner being so that Christ now is manifesting himself with you, he's dwelling within you, that the Spirit is at work within you, you are then rooted and grounded in love.

Not a superficial passing display, but a deep-seated, settled affection. And it is that which provides the context for us to be enabled to then—and this is his second specific request in prayer, to which we will come this evening—it is then in that context that we may then have strength to comprehend and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. This is not an impractical prayer. This is as vital a prayer as Paul could ever pray.

And we might pray it for one another, as you think of one another during the week, praying that we might be rooted and grounded in love, that we might comprehend the wonder of the resources that are ours in God's vast and limitless reservoir of grace, that we might seek to know Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that our preoccupation will be with that which lasts rather than the transient, passing fancies that clamor for our attention. There is no self-help book or how-to blog that can ever compare to the riches of God's Word. We're listening today to a message from Alistair Begg on Truth for Life.

He's titled the message, I Bow My Knees. Surprisingly, there are many Christians who actually shy away from trying to study the Bible on their own, because they think it is shrouded in mystery, difficult to understand. Well, there's a book we've been recommending, a book called Knowable Word, that will teach you three clear and simple steps for unlocking the meaning of any passage of Scripture without having to use additional commentaries or study guides or other materials. When you read this book, you'll not only gain a better understanding of the Bible, you'll learn how to apply what you've learned. Today is the last day we're offering Knowable Word, so request your copy today when you give a donation to Truth for Life. Go to slash donate or call us.

The number is 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. Tomorrow we'll find out why comprehending Jesus' love requires engaging our minds as well as our hearts. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-31 06:34:22 / 2023-07-31 06:43:06 / 9

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