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Ephesians 3:8-21

Be Transformed from the Inside Out

  • Jean Marais
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 12, 2023

This letter was written to encourage the church of Ephesus to continue the good work. And not only that but to grow deeper in their faith in Christ.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Be Transformed from the Inside Out
Ephesians 3:8-21
February 12, 2023

There is a car advert that really stuck with me. It is the Carfax advert where a buyer is shown two cars that looks identical on the outside. Then the buyer has to choose. But first, he asks the opinion of a friend on which car to get. The friend then chooses the car by what can be perceived on the surface. When the buyer then asks the Carfax fox which one is better, it reveals the brokenness and problems that were not perceivable by the naked eye.

This is the dilemma of man. People can look fine on the outside, but if we could see deep inside, we would see many hurts, frustrations, fears, anxieties, and insecurities. These can pile up as we go through life and affect our lives deeply.

God is not oblivious to this. In fact, He is the only one that sees deep inside and knows us even better than we know ourselves. His heart is for us to be set free and strengthened in the inner man.

This is the subject that is addressed in this section. Paul is writing to the church of Ephesus which was a vibrant God-loving church. He was not admonishing this church because of problems trying to keep them afloat. This letter was written to encourage them to continue the good work. And not only that, but to grow deeper in their faith in Christ.

I believe that we have a very healthy church because it is grounded in the word of God. So, in some way, this relates to the church of Ephesus. God’s heart for us is to grow even more in maturity and faith by strengthening the inner man.

We read in the first chapter of Ephesians about our sanctification, which is a continual process as we grow in the grace of God. This is relevant to new believers and also to those who have been serving Christ for many years.

God wants to transform us from the inside out. The secular way is to try and do it in reverse, from the outside in. The power of the Holy Spirit though is a transforming power changing us from within as we choose to surrender to His love, power, and guidance.

Paul’s prayer for them is to be strengthened in faith by growing deeper in love. Love is still the key. It is the reason why God’s heart is for us to be changed.

I. God’s Love is a Transforming Power

  • Verse 12 – We come to the Father through Jesus Christ, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said, “no man comes to the Father but by Me.”
  • But the idea that we have bold and confident access to the Father is a remarkable idea and counterintuitive to the way people often think about God.
  • This is part of the “unfathomable riches of Christ” that Paul spoke of; these are the great truths that Paul brings to light.
  • Most people see themselves as sinners who have no right to be bold or confident in their access to God. But if you would see yourself as an adopted son or daughter, then you would realize that your relationship to God has been completely defined by that great truth that you are now adopted as a son.

Illus.  – My kids have the boldness and confidence to come to me. They do not have to follow the same protocols that outsiders must follow. My kids can run to me and jump into my arms, jump on my lap, and have access to me and privileges that others do not have.

  • You have to understand that God loves you unconditionally, but He loves you too much to leave you as you are; under the tyranny and bullying of the lies of the world. He wants to set you free to be all you can be in Christ.
  • This is the foundation from which we start the journey of change.
  • For this reason, Paul wrote, I bow my knees before the Father… This is Paul’s second powerful prayer for them — and for us.
  • To grow in strength, one must first be willing to submit to His power, because God is the source of our power.

James 4:6-8, But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

A. God strengthens the inner man

  • The inner man is where the most ‘work’ has to be done.
  • Verse 16 – Paul prays that God would grant, according to the riches of His glory, that you be strengthened with power in the inner man.
  • The inner man is strengthened by the Holy Spirit. What difference would it make in your life if you were truly strengthened in the inner man by the Holy Spirit? Strong spiritual bearing comes from having a spiritual foundation and then building upon it.

2 Corinthians 4:16, Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

  • What happens when the inner man is weak? Faith is weakened and then when storms and troubles come faith is shipwrecked. People with weak faith react in the flesh when offended, emotions become their master and they are easily defeated.
  • Strengthen the inner man day by day. How? The Holy Spirit strengthens the soul; therefore, build your life spiritually and give attention to your soul. The Holy Spirit is the greatest personal inner growth coach of all time.

Illus. – How much time do we spend on the outer man, primping and prepping our appearance? How much time do we spend on the inner man?

  • Could this be because people can’t see the inner man? Exercise is a good example of the difference between the outer man and the inner man.

1 Timothy 4:8, Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise for this life and that which is to come.

  • There are many reasons for exercise and not all of them are honorable, some just want the appearance.

1 Samuel 16:7, God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Illus. – I cannot see the real you. It is like a computer. I cannot see the software at work just from the outside. As soon as I start to interact with the computer, it becomes evident what is inside. I can see what has already been set up, what it is lacking, and what might be corrupt.

  • To try and live healthy has value, simply because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It should never have paramount importance. In fact, people might be impressed with your physical body, but as soon as they start to interact with you, the real YOU on the inside becomes evident. It cannot be hidden. If on the inside you have weak character, it nullifies the outward appearance.

1 Peter 3:3-4, And let not your adornment be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

  • Why? Verse 17 – So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Yet, Christ already promised to abide in us when we receive Him through faith.

John 14:23, Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 

  • This ‘dwell’ in verse 17 has another implication. The Greek word translates ‘to have divine powers, influence, pervade, prompt, govern.’
  • When we are strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man, we have the faith to submit to Christ’s leading, influence, and governance in our lives.
  • This faith derives its power from our understanding of being rooted and grounded in the love of Christ.

B. Be rooted and grounded in love

  • The idea of being firmly rooted is that roots that grow deep make the tree firmly planted so that it is always full of life, bearing much fruit.

Illus. – There are two major types of root systems. We have the taproot system and the lateral root system. Many trees are beautiful, but they have lateral root system which is weaker. When hard times come and storms blow against them, they are easily uprooted. Trees with a taproot system are much more robust. They are anchored very well. It is interesting to note that it is much harder for a tree to grow a strong taproot system because the ground gets harder the deeper it goes.

  • We can learn from this that when faith-roots are grounded in love, even pressing through hard times and adversity anchors you in deeper faith in Christ. As a result, you are not easily shaken.

Psalm 1:3, He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

  • Verse 17 -To be grounded in love means that there is a deep foundation built on the Rock of Christ. You know there is a strong foundation when that house is not destroyed by the storms that come against it.

Luke 6:47-49, Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like; he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well-built.

II. Experience the Love of Christ

  • Paul prays that we be rooted and grounded in love so we may be able to comprehend the breadth, the length, the height, and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.
  • The words ‘know’, and ‘knowledge’ are different words; they come from the same root but have different meanings.
  • To ‘know’ is to experience the love of Christ that surpasses all ‘knowledge’ – mental apprehension.
  • There is a great difference between the mental apprehension of theological knowledge of Christ and experiencing His love.

Illus. – I can teach a seminar to you on who my wife is. I can tell you how amazing she is, how beautiful her smile is, what makes her tick, what she doesn’t like, etc. You can have all the knowledge, but still not know her as I do. I will need to introduce you to her, and you will have to spend time with her to really ‘know’ her.

  • When you experience the love of Christ that takes hold of a broken life and brings radical transformation, it goes far beyond knowledge.

A. Be filled to the fullness of God

  • Verse 19 – Paul prays that we would experience the love of Christ so that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
  • This captures a great truth. One of the keys to victory in life is what it is that fills you.
  • In Eastern religions, they meditate by emptying their mind to become one with the universe. The Christian fills his mind with God’s word to fall in love with the creator of the universe.

Psalm 77:12, I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.

  • To be filled up to all the fullness of God means that God fills with His Spirit; He builds up, edifies, and strengthens. In other words, we are filled up by what we take into our lives.

Illus. – Garbage in – Garbage out – Bad computer programming makes the system crash. It needs to be debugged.

  • What fills you is what comes into your soul through what you see and what you hear.
  • That is why I love listening to worship music and worshipping God. It fills your soul with meditation on God, His goodness, and who He is.

Romans 10:17, Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

B. God is able

  • Verse 20-21 – Paul finishes this prayer with a powerful grand finale.
  • Paul is preaching about the unfathomable riches of Christ and when he gets to this great point it’s like he has to stop and declare the glory of God in it all.
  • If a Christian can come to the point where he truly believes that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, he has reached a great point of maturity of faith.
  • It’s not that God can do all that we ask or even think, He is able beyond that, in fact abundantly beyond that, well, actually, exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think… According to the power that works within us.
  • Faith that believes that God is able is faith that believes that “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Illus. – For all of recorded history it was considered impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes. Many tried, but everyone failed. That is, until May 6, 1954, when Roger Bannister, believing that it was possible, did the impossible. Within a year four other runners broke through because they knew it was possible.

  • With God, it’s all about faith. That’s why Paul prays for them, open the eyes of your heart, and know that God can do exceedingly abundantly beyond…

1 Corinthians 2:9, As it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

  • This is all about God. All about His glory. All About His, power, majesty, and omnipotence. If you see Him for who He really is, it will stir your faith so you can believe that he CAN do the impossible in your life. He can change everything.
  • He not only can, but He wants to.

Matthew 11: 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.


To me, the very least of all [a]saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to [b]enlighten all people as to what the plan of the mystery is which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 10 so that the multifaceted wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the [c]eternal purpose which He [d]carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and [e]confident access through faith [f]in Him. 13 Therefore I ask [g]you not to become discouraged about my tribulations in your behalf, [h]since they are your glory.

14 For this reason I bend my knees before the Father, 15 from whom [i]every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner [j]self, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the [k]saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations [l]forever and ever. Amen.


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