By David Kowalski
The Bible clearly commands us to change our sinful ways but also makes clear that we must rely on God’s strength to do so. Ephesians 1:16 and 3:16-19 are bookends of the foundational section of Ephesians. In 1:16 Paul begins to tell of his prayer for the Ephesians: “[I] do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers” (NASB).
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As he elaborates upon the content of this prayer he makes periodic, lengthy digressions regarding points he makes along the way. An outline of Ephesians shows that 1:16 and 3:16 are at parallel points as Paul opens and then closes this foundational prayer. In 3:16 Paul reveals the ultimate content of his prayer for the Ephesians: “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (NASB).
In the rest of his letter Paul follows this prayer with exhortations to godly living, but these exhortations are founded upon God’s strengthening of the Ephesians inwardly to obey as they should. The Ephesian Christians’ changing of their ways will involve their choices but must be done in the Lord’s strength.
I recently put up a used, particle board bookcase to display some items and found that the shelf that was permanently situated was sagging noticeably. The bookcase was centered along a stud in the wall and I was able to place an L bracket (corner brace) in the stud under the sagging shelf. I did so, however, in such a way that the bracket did not fit without raising the sagging center of the shelf. Once the bracket was installed the shelf was straightened and strengthened.
The shelf had no power to straighten or strengthen itself. That had to be supplied by an outside source (me, using the bracket). At the same time, the particle board was pliable enough to respond to my working and not resist it. Only a pliable material can be straightened.
We must be pliable and cooperative in our choices for God to straighten us out and strengthen us. Nevertheless, this process cannot happen through human effort alone. We are helpless in ourselves to do what is needed. It is only through Christ who strengthens us that we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). The Christian life is not passive but it is only powerful through God. Thankfully, He has committed Himself to see through the work He began in our lives:
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 1:6 NASB
Just what is it that most urgently needs to be straightened out and strengthened in our lives just now? The Master Craftsman is able to do this if we will cooperate with His working. I pray that God grant us, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.
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