The Holy Spirit: Our Inside Minister
I Thessalonians 5:23,24—Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
Ephesians 3:14-16—For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…
As branch leaders and vineyard ministers, we are called upon to serve both the inner man and the outer man. While the inner man effect of our labors is often assumed through our preaching, teaching, or conversations about Bible texts, outer man ministries take on flesh and blood and are clear. The elderly need yards mowed and gutters cleaned. Widows and orphans have special needs, and the Lord holds them in high priority. Those coming out of the hospital need meals while they are recuperating, and the couple with the newborn need basic items like diapers! The outer man needs never stop, and the loving, generous church that provides such things is valuable to God and blessed by Him.
We can and should help the needy with tangible physical needs. At the same time, we must not overlook the great needs of the inner man. Also, a church with enough helpers and resources can meet the outer man’s needs, but only the Holy Spirit can change the heart! Here’s the really good news—we have Him. He is the Inside Minister given to the church body to be constantly in the process of transforming believers’ hearts to be like the heart of Christ through the often difficult pilgrimage on which we find ourselves. Romans 8:28-29 assures us that all things in our lives are used by God to conform us to the image of Jesus, but that must be done by the Holy Spirit as the child of God says yes to God through it all. This is a miracle and a mystery performed by the Spirit over long periods, and we are helpless without Him (John 15:5).
Let me illustrate some common but often overlooked situations where inner strength is needed.
A family who is putting a loved one in hospice
Someone left behind in a divorce
The wife and children of a sex offender
The mother of 7 stricken who is stricken with arthritis
The single man or woman longing for marriage
The widow or widower overcome with loneliness
The believer who is afraid to repent for fear of failure again
The stay-at-home mom with little ones
The overwhelmed go-to-work dad
The family with a rebellious child
The glutton needing to say no to his stomach
The sloth who needs to get up and work
The sluggard who needs to be responsible
The spendthrift who needs to manage well
The timid soul who needs to confront
The offender who needs to say I’m sorry
The offended who needs to forgive and release all bitterness
The believer who needs to flee youthful lusts
The believer who deals with depression
The believer who struggles with doubt
Truly the list is endless. We are helpless, and we need our Inside Minister whose specialty is transforming lives from the inside out.
Sometimes it is hard to explain the need for inner strength, but it is very real. Times of doubt, discouragement, fear, and anxiety are all a part of our lives throughout our journey. Because we are called to glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits (I Corinthians 6:19,20), we must address these inner needs and that’s why the Father sent the Holy Spirit through Jesus. How gracious! The majority of Scripture prayers address the needs of the inner man. Here’s an example from one of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesian believers.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Here are some observations about Paul’s very specific prayer for inner strength by the Holy Spirit.
It was a worthy cause for an apostle’s prayer (14). As Paul observed the world in that day and the believers in it, he was led to pray for their inner man.
It was a father and family issue (14,15). Our heavenly Father considers us family and knows the ongoing intimate needs of the inner man.
Inner strength is available. The word “that” in verse 16 indicates that the purpose of this prayer can be accomplished.
Inner strength begins in the character of God; it is according to the riches of his glory (16). I love that! It lets us know that God will never run out of strength to give us!
It is by His Spirit in the inner man—it’s a mystery—invisible, yet real (16). (II Corinthians 4:16-18; Colossians 1:27)
It is enjoyed by intentional faith in Christ (17). The just must live by faith. In hard times of inner weakness, we must quench fiery darts of the mind and soul by lifting the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).
Inner strength has a corporate aspect. We have a personal yet shared relationship with Christ. There is no place for individualism or isolation. We do not have a private relationship with Jesus. The church is a body, a gospel community, so if inner strength is to be fully enjoyed, it must include all the saints (17,18).
It is knowing you are loved by Jesus Christ (17). Hearts are always strengthened when we know we are loved. Perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18,19).
When we enjoy this strength on the inside, there is a satisfaction that comes, an inner contentment. We are at peace because we realize we are being filled with all the fullness of God (19). Everyone is filled with something. Sometimes it’s bitterness, anger, greed, or lust. How wonderful to sense contentment in God.
This inner strength shared by the body is for God’s glory in the church throughout all ages, world without end (21). There is a long-term effect of the fullness we enjoy.
All of this comes with a promise (20). When we are slain by our obvious frailties and tend to cower in our faith, we can cry out to the Holy Spirit who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. These inner provisions then become testimonies of this Holy Spirit who wonderfully enables us to live life abundantly from the inside out!
As Paul prayed for enablement in this prayer, he also prayed for enlightenment in Ephesians 1:15-23.
In conclusion, we might ask, “So what’s the big deal about little ole me and little ole you being filled with all the fullness of God—because we have strength in the inner man?” From Chapter 3 of Ephesians, we find 7 very credible reasons for this need to be addressed.
We need strength in the inner man because the lost are watching our lives and attitudes (1-9). Our lights must so shine that they might see us and glorify our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16).
So that the manifold wisdom of God will be made known to principalities and powers in heavenly places (10)! Wow, our lives testify to angels both holy and unholy! The holy angels rejoice (Luke 15:10), and the fallen angels are confronted with the reality of the resurrected Christ (Ephesians 6:12).
So that believers in tribulation and those watching will not lose heart (13).
It is for the family of God (14). Those testimonies of grace on the inside are faith builders for the church. How much more effective and contagious is a church filled with joy compared to one filled with contention and defeat.
It is for Jesus’ sake (17). The inner man of our church needs to be a place where Christ can feel right at home. Grieving and quenching the Spirit, whether individually or corporately, is not a place where love dwells.
It is for God’s glory (21). God gets glory in the church by Christ when believers live in harmony by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. This is mission accomplished.
It is for the children (21). One generation must praise God to the next (Psalm 145:4) if the message of knowing God through Jesus is to be preserved. Adults and parents must show their satisfaction in the fullness of God if we expect our children to do the same. Joyful, loving, God-filled adults are contagious and powerful influences in the lives of children.
I trust this article is an encouragement to give thanks and to helplessly depend on the Promise of the Father, our Inside Minister.
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A Touch of Tozer
I would like to make an emphasis here and make it clearly: A revelation of the Holy Spirit in one glorious flash of inward illumination would teach you more of Jesus than five years in a theological seminary—and I believe in the seminary! You can learn about Jesus in the seminary. You can learn a great deal about Him, and we ought to learn everything we can about Him. We ought to read everything we can read about Him, for reading about Him is legitimate and good—a part of Christianity. But the final flash that introduces your heart to Jesus must be by the illumination of the Holy Spirit Himself, or it isn’t done at all.
I am convinced that we only know Jesus Christ as well as the Holy Spirit is pleased to reveal Him unto us. For He cannot be revealed in any other way . . . The Church cannot know Christ except as the Spirit reveals Him.
(John 16:13-15; I Corinthians 2:12-16; I John 2:27)
The Tozer Topical Reader, p. 263
(Holy Spirit: illumination)