Looking To Jesus, Chapter 10

By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR

On any given day, if I don’t think about it too much, I’m rather content. Now, Scripture calls us to contentment, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Most days I’m content to simply be average: averagely comfortable, moderately productive, and conveniently involved in the lives of others. I will see what’s happening among others in my church community or ‘out there’ in the world and I can get energized or upset by current events, but only until it pushes me against my comfort zone, and then—that’s quite enough already; simmer down; back to average comfort. After all, I’m an introvert. A low-energy introvert. Don’t even talk about looking inward. This is how God made me. Leave me alone—I mean, I’m fine.

Really though, in the light of scripture, I’m not “fine.” Yes, Jesus found me “just as I was” and saved me right where he found me. But he wasn’t finished with me at that point; he was only beginning. I love the way Ligon Duncan says it in the final chapter of Women’s Ministry in the Local Church:

“To be indwelt by Christ means that our hearts, the very essence of our minds, wills, and affections, the core of our inner being, becomes a suitable habitation for Christ. . . . the Holy Spirit does a work of interior decoration in us so that we become a suitable habitation for the Lord Jesus Christ.”[1]

I don’t know about you—no, actually, I do know about you. All of us have rooms in our hearts which need extreme make-overs. There are rooms in my heart to which I have closed the doors in the hope that others won’t see what a mess lies there. Maybe you’re like me with my messy desk or the closet in the spare room: I have good intentions to get in there some day, in my ‘spare time,’ and give it a good cleaning. Until then I just tip-toe past the door and don’t look in. Or, just maybe, also like me, when it comes to the disaster in the garage, there are boxes in that mess that you do not want to open, not ever again.

In the final chapter of our book study, Ligon focuses on prayer, beautifully expounding one of Paul’s prayers for the Believers in Ephesus as an outline for how we ought to pray for one another in the church:

“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.”[2]

Paul asks the Father to strengthen the Ephesian Believers with power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Asking our omnipotent God for power is asking him for a resource he has in abundant supply. And this power is not for the purpose—at least in this prayer—of changing the circumstances facing the Believers outside of themselves. The purpose of this power is to strengthen them within so that Christ may dwell in their hearts. And as he takes up his abode in their hearts, that they would begin to grasp, “have strength to comprehend,” the vastness of his love for them. Paul asks that they might know the unknowable; that they would contain that which cannot be contained; be filled with the infinite fullness.

How can this be possible? How do they—we—know such fullness and not burst?

I’ll tell you right now (spoiler alert): I don’t know. I suspect, however, that part of the answer is in the identity of the “you” for whom Paul prays. Most of the “you’s” in Paul’s writings are not singular, but plural. (When will they come out with a Texan translation ya’ll? This would be cleared right up.) He’s not asking that Believers individually have strength to comprehend, to know, and be filled. Notice he says, “strength to comprehend with all the saints.” It is together with others in our covenant communities that we are able to grasp the unknowable love and be filled with infinite love.

We are not called to walk alone; we are called to the body of Christ: the church.

As we have learned from Susan and Ligon about women’s ministry we have seen over and over that the covenant community is the laboratory for growth in faith. In our study we have covered the gospel principles of submission, compassion, community, discipleship, and Scripture. We now come to final principle: the power source: prayer. Ligon explains:

“The bride of Christ knows that she is called to do things she does not have the strength to do, and she knows that the Holy Spirit supplies that strength. So if we are going to look like the bride of Christ, we must live in dependence upon the spiritual strength that only God can supply. One way this will manifest itself is prayer. Prayer itself is an act of continual confession that we do not have what we need in ourselves to live and minister as we are called to do and that we look to our heavenly Father to supply that need.”[3]

None of us has the strength or the wisdom to create in our own hearts a suitable habitation for our Lord Jesus Christ. So we must pray for the strength; for ourselves and for one another. And as we pray and are prayed for, the Lord does his work in our hearts: giving us the courage to open those closed doors as he shines the light of his truth and love into the dark corners; releasing our grip on those things which we must let go; healing broken hearts; refinishing old hurts with redemptive glory; replacing moldy habits with the fresh fruit of the Spirit.

Praying together with others teaches us to pray and encourages us to more prayer. As we pray together we learn covenantal unity. To pour out our hearts in prayer in the company of other Believers is to kneel in humility, submission, compassion, community, and discipleship before our loving Father. As we live in community together we learn that we all have messes which need cleaning. As we live and pray together we see the renovations which the Lord is accomplishing in the lives of our sisters, from which we can draw deep encouragement.

I sat down last week with a friend to pray for a heart-wrenching difficulty her daughter and son-in-law are facing, and, as her eyes glistened with tears, she confessed, “This has made me love God so much more as I see how very much he loves them in putting them through this—so they will learn to trust him more fully,” my heart overflowed with praise and I saw a glimpse of unknowable love.

To look squarely at a trial and see an opportunity for God’s glory is to reflect the image of Christ, “who, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”[4] Jesus looked squarely at the cross and saw beyond to the joy of a redeemed people, his bride, cleansed by his blood, without spot or wrinkle, presented to him in splendor. He went to the cross to make us his; to make us holy.

I don’t want to be content with where I am. As I see my friend reflecting the glorious image of Christ I too want to reflect his image! I want the cry of my own heart to shout with Paul:

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”[5]

So, no, I’m not fine, thank you—neither are you. But, as the saying goes, God’s not through with us yet. As we have been called by the Father, empowered by the Spirit, and indwelt by our Savior, together with the church and surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith!”[6]

Soli Deo Gloria


[1] J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 149

[2] Ephesians 3:14-19

[3] Duncan and Hunt, p. 147

[4] Hebrews 12:2

[5] Philippians 3:8-10

[6] Hebrews 12:1, 2