“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory 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, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:14-19).
I recently rented a car with a clutchless-manual transmission. Having never driven one of these, I lurched and groaned along in first gear wondering why the non-existent automatic transmission wasn’t kicking in. Once I figured out how this semi-automatic transmission worked, I was quickly on my way.
Often our counselees are like this. They learn about their hearts and their idols; they understand what thought, attitudes, desires, and actions need to be put off and put on. Yet they lurch and groan along. They seem to be going through the motions and lack passion and fruitfulness. Too often this is because they are relying on their own strength; they can’t seem to shift into a higher gear. As counselors, we need to remind them of the power that is found in God!
Living Fully for God
The book of Ephesians has always been one of my favorites in helping counselees through their struggles. The first few chapters give us a wonderful picture of the gospel and remind us of the many riches we have in Christ (Eph. 1: 7-8, 18; 2:7). The second half of the letter is filled with application: living in a manner worthy of our calling (4:1), the new life we have in Christ (4:17), the biblical process of change (4:22-24), walking in love and right relationships as seen in marriages, families, and work (5-6), and standing firm against the devil (6:10-20). The first part of the letter speaks of the potential we have in the gospel and the latter part of the plan for how we can live out the gospel. But what we cannot miss is this central section, Ephesians 3:14-19, which speaks of the power we have in the gospel.
So how does this passage teach us to acquire this divine power?
1. Strengthen Our Hearts (v. 16)
First, we are to be strengthened with power through the Spirit in our inner being. One of the main ways that the Spirit works in our inner beings is through Scripture. As the Spirit reveals truth through His Word, this in turn affects our thinking, our desires, our attitudes, our actions, and our faith. So let God’s Word continually shape our worldview. The world preaches incessant lies; we must be strengthened by daily rehearsing God’s truth to ourselves. Also, rather than focusing on circumstances and externals, look to the inner man, the heart, for this is where true change must start.
2. Love is Our Foundation (v.17)
As the passage continues, we are implored to be rooted and grounded in love. This love is an agape love – a love that seeks the other’s highest good even at cost to self. Not only must we have a correct understanding of God and His ways, but we must also have a right motivation. Christ is to dwell in out hearts (v. 17) in such an intimate way that He cleans up and leaves no room for all of our false loves and becomes the main love in our lives. We develop an agape, Christ-like love. But be careful, these false idols can be subtle and deceiving; when they misplace our love for Christ, we are sapped of strength. With a right understanding and a right motivation, God’s power begins to flow.
3. Know the Love of Christ (v. 18-19)
Comprehend in this verse means to seize and make your own. There’s this sense of personalizing this knowledge. So know here is the idea of experiencing – this knowing is more than intellectual knowledge but also a knowing that is personal and emotional. Like the difference between reading a how-to-drive manual versus hours of practice behind the wheel of a car, we want to truly know Christ beyond a factual understanding of Scripture. A right understanding and grounding in love gets us on the right road toward truly experiencing the deep love of Jesus. We must continue by spending meaningful and personal time with Him. We need to pray and meditate on the person of Christ. We then learn that His agape love wants the best for us. It is sacrificial, gracious, wise, patient, forgiving, caring, and refreshing. And we are empowered to live likewise.
4. Filled with the Fullness of God (v.19)
When God is working on our hearts, thinking, and desires and we are experiencing Christ and His love, we can’t help but grow to be more like Him. We become what we behold. Our lives should increase in righteousness, holiness, and fruitfulness – we can stop lurching along in first gear! And God is then able to do in us so much more than we ask or think (v. 20). We have divine strength to live fully for Him.
Questions for Reflection
Do your counselees ever seem stuck in their progress? How might this idea of divine power affect our counseling?