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Online Text Sermon - Spiritual Progress, Ephesians ch.3 vv.16-19

Date30/12/2001
Time11:00
PreacherRev. Dewi Higham, Cardiff
Sermon TitleSpiritual Progress
TextEphesians ch.3 vv.16-19
Sermon ID365

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Let us turn to Ephesians, the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians: chapter three, verses 16-19. "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3, 16-19).

THE LADDER OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESS

As we look at these verses, I want to consider the matter of spiritual progress, of Christian development, or even of spiritual recovery. If we have neglected the things of God in some ways, here is a ladder shall we say: a path of spiritual recovery. Imagine this ladder, we can see the rungs of the ladder in verses sixteen, and seventeen, and eighteen, and nineteen. The rungs of spiritual recovery. I believe one godly preacher referred to these verses as the celestial ladder.

Maybe I should first mention, that if you are a Christian, you are on this ladder. That's the first thing to remember; you are on this ladder already. Nothing can remove you from that ladder; God has put you there. It's a wonderful thing to reflect upon, that whatever the condition of our Christian life, God has placed us on the ladder of the Christian church: the ladder of Christ, the ladder of heaven - whichever way you want to describe it. Consider the Christian conversion that has put us there; there is so much more to the Christian life than conversion. I don't like speaking in such a way about conversion, for conversion is wonderful, but conversion is the door to so much more. There is so much described in this passage to begin with: the great depths, the great heights - whichever way you want to describe it - to the Christian life.

Having brought before you a picture of the ladder, the ladder maybe is not the best picture because it might give the impression, as you progress from verse sixteen, and move on to verse seventeen, and eighteen, and so on, that you leave verse sixteen behind. That's not the case. We will never leave verse sixteen behind whilst we are on this earth. Whatever our experience, however great our experiences of God, we will always need the basics of verse sixteen.

Perhaps a better picture would be this: if we were to take, say four books and the first book is the blessing of verse sixteen. We then pick up the blessing of verse seventeen, but without putting down verse sixteen, and then continue until you are holding the blessings of all four together. That's perhaps a better picture of Christian progress. You don't leave behind verse sixteen, no, but rather, even if you experience the remarkable blessings of verse nineteen of being filled with the fullness of God, you will always need to be strengthened in the inner man, as it says in verse sixteen.

Now of course, we aren't all at the same stage in our Christian lives. Some maybe just converted, beginning to grow in the things of God. Others of us have known the Lord for many, many years and are experienced Christians. In addition, it is true that some of us progress well, and others of us do not progress so well. We all know something of slipping back as well. Even if we have progressed well, how quickly we can slip back. But wherever we find ourselves here this morning, this appeal to progress is applicable to all of us.

For the purpose of making things clear, I want to divide Christians into four categories. Of course it is true as it says in chapter four, verse four "There is one body..." and there are no four categories. We have an unity and equality in the Christian life as we help each other. We have all been washed by the blood of Christ: equally washed and dressed in Christ's righteousness; and all those things are true of all of us. In Christ we are saved and equally saved. But, nevertheless, it is true that there is such a thing as being near God, and others being not so near God. We are not identical in our experience of God and of Christ. Although we have been saved and are on the same foundation, there is great variety in our spiritual conditions. I want to press this message home by adapting an illustration used by Edward Payson.

FOUR CONCENTRIC CIRCLES

Edward Payson from America in the nineteenth century referred to Christians being in four concentric circles. My maths isn't very good but I can just about grasp this concept of a concentric circle. You have a centre point and you have a compass and you draw a circle. Then you extend the compass form the same centre point and you draw another circle, until you have four circles around the same centre point: four concentric circles. In his illustration the point he had was this: In the centre is Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness; Christ is there with His healing rays, with the warmth of His presence: the Sun of Righteousness. Then you have Christians in these different circles. Some near Christ and some quite far out of Christ.

THE FIRST CIRCLE

Let me just press that illustration home a little further as we consider these four circles. Think of the first circle: those who are nearest Jesus Christ. What a blessed place this is surely, to be near Jesus Christ, to live our lives and always be near Him. We enjoy His blessed presence, and His blessed influence. For Christians who are in this circle, Christ is so, so precious. They don't want to lose Him at all. They live their lives, they do their work in the presence of Christ. It is a lovely blessed life to live a life like this. In such people you won't find a sense of superiority. I know, maybe in work, in the factory or the office or whatever, when people have progressed and they do well in their work, many have a sense of superiority - they feel they are better than others. We don't find this in the spiritual life. Those who are nearer Christ, who are in this first circle shall we say, they will be humble people. They could not be there unless they were humble. In fact you could say, they are there because they have been humbled. These are a humble people; no sense of superiority here, but rather they will be broken people, humble people and very blessed people, walking near Christ, living near Christ.

THE SECOND CIRCLE

In the second circle, here are Christians also who are anxious to be in the presence of Christ. They are not so near Christ; they are a little further out. This is probably because of the little distractions of life. Little sins come in and separate us from Christ. Even legitimate things that become too important and they have a control over us and they steal Christ away from us. That's what you find in this second circle - although these people want to be near Christ, and they love to be near Christ - they allow these things to come in and steal away the very blessed presence of Christ. Nevertheless, it is a lovely circle and these Christians love Christ, and love to be in the presence of Christ, even though they are denied the best of His presence because of these distractions.

THE THIRD CICRLE

In the third circle, Christians are still further out from the Sun of Righteousness, yet they are within the healing rays and the blessed rays of Jesus Christ and His presence. But these Christians, you could say, are standing sideways to the Sun. Yes, they can look to Christ and enjoy Christ from time-to-time but what you will find also is they are looking to the world as well. They are between two things: they are looking to Christ and yet they are looking to the world. Things in the world occupy them for long periods of time - then they remember and look to Christ - and then the world comes in again. And so it is, they are half way between the world and Christ. Nevertheless, they do look to Christ from time to time.

THE FOURTH CICRLE

In the fourth circle Edward Payson describes these people as being amongst the last scattered rays, and yet they are within the influence of Christ, even though you might wonder whether they are under the influence of Christ, so far out are they. You wonder are they truly saved? Yet, these people as I am describing them this morning, they are indeed within the influence of Christ. God's grace has reached them. But as we note their condition we see that they are not even sideways; their backs are turned to Christ. But even so, the rays of Christ are beating upon their backs, you could say, even though they are turned away from Him and are very occupied in the world. Hardly you could call them Christians, but God's grace is upon them. They are the Lord's, even though they spare little time for their Saviour, very sadly. It's a shameful thing, but nevertheless, they are the Lord's; they have been saved.

AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION

I believe Edward Payson gave us a very accurate description of the church; a very telling description and perhaps a convicting description as we consider which circle we are in this morning. It is also a very gracious description because it includes those at the very edges and calls them brothers and sisters in Christ. They are saved! They are saved even though they are poor Christians.

It's not the business of this illustration to distinguish the difference between the Christian in the outer circle and the unbeliever. It is hard to tell sometimes the difference between those in the outer circles and the unbeliever. There is a big difference, of course, because the unbeliever is not in this illustration at all, is he? The unbeliever is in another place all together. He's not within the reach of the rays of Christ. He's in a dark place, another place all together. However, through our fallible earthly eyes, it is difficult to tell the difference between those in the outer reaches of the influence of Christ, and those in the world. There is a big difference, but it is hard for us to tell a difference.

APPEALING TO CHRISTIANS

The whole point of this illustration is this - to appeal to all Christians to come closer to Christ and to know Christ better. That is the purpose of this illustration. It is not the business of this illustration to distinguish the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever - that would be another sermon all together. Here is the sermon for the Christian. For those who are on the outside circles - even the inside circles - to come close to Christ, to draw near Christ, to press in upon Jesus Christ and His blessed person and His wonderful presence. In order to help us to press in on Christ just look at these verses -verses sixteen to nineteen. There you find the way in - the way to Christ. The God ordained way. Yes, through Christ you've been saved, and yet, we can know Him more. There is a God ordained way, to be strengthened in the inner man, it says in verse sixteen. This will result in Christ dwelling in the heart. Then it says in verse seventeen to be 'rooted and grounded in the love of Christ', and this will result in knowing the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of the love of Christ. Finally the blessings of verse nineteen - to be filled with God will result in knowing something of the fullness of God. Can I just pick out some words from there, some catchy words shall I say? The words 'strengthen' 'rooted and grounded' and 'filled'. Strengthened, rooted, grounded and filled, there we have the rungs of the ladder, shall we say. The first rung is to be strengthened. The next rung is to be 'rooted and grounded'. The final rung is to be filled even with the fullness of God.

THE FIRST RUNG - 'STRENGTHENED IN THE INNER MAN'

Let's look at verse sixteen - "To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." This is a powerful and profound matter, although it is the very first rung of the ladder.

This verse suggests weakness. I know a strong person can be strengthened, but it is the weak in particular that needs to be strengthened. Those who are weak need to be strengthened with 'might by his Spirit in the inner man'. We are so often weak, aren't we? Sometimes we are surprised by our own weakness. We think we have gone on and been strengthened, but then we see and are struck by our weakness.

Let's think of this now: how can we be strengthened? Let me compare spiritual strength to bodily strength for the moment. We have an idea here: a picture here, don't we, of being strengthened? We know that for the body to be strengthened, food and exercise are basics to our physical strength. A baby needs milk, and an adult needs food and exercise. Maybe the exercise part is not something all of us will enjoy to the same degree, but we all do exercise. If we were, because of some circumstances, forced to stay still for a long period of time, the body would suffer. We need to walk around, if not to run, then to walk; that is exercise. Food and exercise are important for the body's health. These are the basics of physical health. These principles of eating and exercise can be compared to the basics of spiritual health. What is it that we need? What is it to eat and to exercise spiritually, this first matter, this first rung on the ladder? Can I begin by saying that you must come to the church meetings. This is the 'table', this is the 'mealtime' shall I say. I'm not referring to the communion season now, I'm referring to the services where the Word is preached; here is the mealtime. Here is the place we must gather round to have our food. There is a call to come to eat, isn't there? I don't know what it is like in your house. I can refer to my own upbringing; when the meal is ready, there is a call. The call goes through the house. In our house, it happens to be in Welsh, "bwyd yn barod!" You may say it in English or Gaelic; 'food is ready' you call out. Then everybody in the house comes down from all directions, and they come to the table. In churches some have bells, don't they, calling the people to come to worship? We don't have a bell do we? But we have a conscience. At 11a.m. and 6.30 p.m. the bell rings: the call to come to the house of God, and we come around the table, here is where we eat. If we stay away from the house of God, we deprive ourselves of a meal, and physically how we would suffer if we deprived ourselves of a meal. Spiritually it is equally so, if not more so. We suffer very much if we do not eat. Maybe at first we think, 'Oh, that wasn't too bad, I can do without that.' You miss one, two, three, four meals; soon the soul becomes impoverished. So it is we must come around the table.

Then there is more. We don't observe the food, we eat it, and we drink it. So it is spiritually, we must take this food to ourselves, and of course we know what this means, don't we? We take it: we listen, we apply it, and we drink the Word in. We apply it to our lives. We begin to exercise it. We begin to live the Truth, to speak the Truth and to pray the Truth. The Truth that we receive here on a Sunday and at the Prayer Meeting works its way into our language and into our thinking and into our very praying. It becomes part of us. The food works its way into our very soul.

These basics of coming to the house of God - of making sure we are there, of applying the Word, and living the Word - these things are not boring or below any of us. However much we have progressed, these things are always good and a part of our every day Christian life. We will never leave this Christian and this glorious Christian stage, it is part of our health. If we have been neglectful of these things, when we come back to the house of God, how we feel the strength coming back to our souls. In the same way perhaps you have been ill physically with some kind of virus or cold and you feel lethargic and the strength draining from you. Then you come back to health. Your limbs become strong again, don't they? Power comes into your veins again and you feel strong, healthy, and invigorated. So it is spiritually. When you come back to the things of God and of Christ, your soul becomes strong again. As with the body the strength increases, the muscles are strong again, and the colour returns to your cheeks, so it is spiritually with the soul.

These things are very simple, aren't they? They are so simple they are almost embarrassing to mention. Come to the house of God, listen to the Word, and apply it. Yes, they are simple, and yet they are profound as well. Here lie the depths of the Christian life. Yes, it is simple, but as with eating and exercise with the body, these basics of the soul are connected to life itself.

Can I just bring you an illustration of how an elderly Christian appreciated these simple things. This Christian in our church is the oldest member in the church by a long way; she is one hundred and four years old. She comes to five meetings a week! - which surely makes us all feel guilty. She comes to two services on Sunday, the Prayer Meeting on Wednesday, the Women's Meeting on Wednesday and to another Women's Meeting on Tuesday. Some of us have the privilege of taking her to church and what a lovely thing it is to take this lovely Christian lady to church. Whenever you speak of the Lord, her face lights up. You can talk of many things and she will be quite polite and interested, but speaking of the Lord makes her face light up. One time on the way to a Wednesday meeting, I believe, I said to her, "Isn't it lovely to go to the house of God. It is the highlight of life, isn't it?" She responded like this, "Yes, it is life itself" she said. What a lovely testimony of a one hundred and four year old lady. "It is life itself." Yes, it's simple, ah but it is also profound.

You will find in these things a route of recovery. Here is your strength and your health. If you come to the house of God, if you show obedience, how greatly you will be blessed. The might and the strength of the Spirit will come to your heart. What is more, Christ will dwell in your hearts by faith. However far you have been from Christ and from God, here is a wonderful promise: that Jesus Christ the Second Person of the Trinity will dwell (that is, will make His permanent abode) in your heart, (that is the centre of your being.) How simple and yet profound, that the Creator, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, will make His home in the centre of your being. These are blessings indeed!

THE SECOND RUNG - 'ROOTED AND GROUNDED'

The first blessing is wonderful. Then we go on to be 'rooted and grounded'. Here we have a picture of not just being strengthened, but of digging in our position - like an army would dig in its position as it makes progress: digging trenches to make itself secure - so it is as Christians, as soon as we make progress we must dig in our position. Being 'rooted and grounded', in case we slip back.

The word rooted, of course, is linked to a tree: a tree and its root system going down to the earth, gripping the earth. The word grounded or founded is linked to a building, as the foundations go down into the earth to make sure that the building can stand. The Christian is 'rooted and grounded in the love of Christ'. This makes sense doesn't it? If you have known something of progress in your Christian life, and you have gained much, but then perhaps you lose it, don't you feel, "Oh, can I have that back? Can I go back to where I was at least?" I am sure you know the feeling of losing the presence of Christ. So it is a natural development of logic to be to be 'rooted and grounded' in Christ, so that we don't slip back again.

How can we be 'rooted and grounded'? Well it's more of the same in a way. Oh, these boring things are not boring, they are really quite profound. To read and pray again, not just in the basics, but now in a deeper manner. To put time aside, shall we say, a time of seeking. A time when we must say, "I must seek the face of God. My life is going by. I'm ashamed of my Christian life. I will put a day aside - I will put everything aside - and seek the face of God! I will read and I will pray." This is the way to be 'rooted and grounded'.

It also means something very practical from day-to-day. You put a structure into your life. You take measures in your life so you don't fall into the sins of the world. You find a weakness and you shore up and block the hole. So it is, we are constantly taking measures to eradicate the sins that grieve the Lord. What will happen is this - when someone is 'rooted and grounded', a godly order will come into their life, a godly structure, a discipline will come to their life. This discipline is the framework for the blessing of God. You will see a strength that comes from being 'rooted and grounded' in Christ.

A Christian who is 'rooted and grounded' will become strong, because he has this framework that holds him in place. He's 'rooted and grounded'; he's taken measures not to slip back: taken measures so that he can develop and grow. Rather like the scaffolding of a building, the scaffolding is there for the purpose that the building might go up. So it is in the Christian life, you take measures so that you can know more of Christ.

THE THIRD RUNG: 'FILLED WITH GOD'

What a lovely phrase this is, " to know the breadth, length, depth and height of Christ". What a remarkable phrase. You could say many things regarding these words, but I'll limit myself to this, they express the whole dimension of Christ. That's what the language here is aiming at. 'The breadth, the length, the depth, the height' of the knowledge of Christ: the whole dimension of Christ. In truth there are no dimensions to the blessings of Christ, they are unsearchable, unfathomable. But the words are an attempt to describe the vastness of this matter of knowing Christ. What a remarkable phrase we have here: to know Christ, to know the dimensions of His person, to know the dimensions of His work, and all His beauty.

The word 'knowledge' in the Bible means two things: knowledge, as of a book - that we know Him, we read about Him, we take it into our minds. But 'Knowledge' in the Bible always means more than just head knowledge; it means heart knowledge, experiential knowledge. So it is that something else comes in when we read of Him in the Book, our heart knows Him, our heart experiences Him. So we might know, might know, in the head and in the heart, the 'breadth, the length, the depth and the height' of Christ.

The phrases in verse sixteen and seventeen are similar in meaning, where we find Christ dwelling in the heart. It is an expansion of that phrase, isn't it? To know Christ: 'the breadth, the length, the depth, the height'. Our fathers explored these verses very much didn't they? Read your history books - Oh, how they knew Christ. Not just a head knowledge of Christ, but their very life spoke of a knowledge that had reached their heart, they knew Him! It showed in their faces, and in their words, and in their praying.

THE FOURTH RUNG - 'FILLED WITH GOD'

But there is yet more, there is another rung to this ladder in this verse. It speaks about being filled with God, with the fullness of God. That is of being satisfied; yes, of being strengthened; yes, of being established - 'rooted and grounded'; and also to be satisfied.

The first thing I shall mention here in the matter of being satisfied with God and the fullness of God, is that we must be emptied ourselves, of the world. We cannot be filled, if we are full of self and of the world. That's true on the first and second rung of this ladder. It's true with the matter of Christ dwelling in our hearts. It's true of being 'rooted and grounded' and filled with the whole dimension of Christ. It is especially true here, in the context of the language that Paul chooses here: being filled with God. You must be emptied of self and the world. No way can we be filled with God if we are full of self and full of the world. These things are enemies of the presence of God and the presence of Christ. We must be emptied of these things: the presence of the world, and the presence of self in the heart, if we are to be full of God and full of Christ.

Consider now, as we move on and accept the fact that we must be emptied. What is it to be filled? Filled with God and filled with Christ - what a remarkable phrase we have here - one of the most remarkable phrases in the Bible: that a sinner, saved by grace, should be filled with the fullness of God. It hardly makes sense, does it? We shall begin with the very easiest understanding of it. It means surely, that we are to be thoroughly Christian and thoroughly godly. That godliness and Christlikeness permeates the whole of our character: it is to be filled with God.

If you had some kind of utensil or a bottle, when you fill it, it fills into all the corners. So it is that godliness and Christlikeness permeates the whole of our character. Nothing is left untouched or unfilled; it fills the whole of our character. That's what it means here: that we are godly and Christlike in all aspects of our personality and character. It's a very thorough matter. It also means something else though, doesn't it? Yes, it means the influence of God - the influence of Christ - upon my life. But it also comes back to this experimental, experiential matter again: that we are to be filled with the fullness of God. It means something of the knowledge of God, the presence of God filling our being to overflowing. That's what it means surely? There is something quite remarkable in this phrase. Oh, the presence, yes - Christ dwelling in my heart, yes - to know the 'breadth, length, depth, and height' of the love of Christ, and even to be filled with the fullness of God: what a phrase! One Puritan said if this phrase was not in Scripture, it would be blasphemy itself, that a sinner, yes, saved by grace, could be filled with the fullness of God. How can it be, for God is so glorious? But here are the promises of God to His people. God is willing to bless His people in such a way. Can I just try to explain what this verse is talking about in the following manner? Just imagine the Christian heart is so wide by so tall, and God can come into our lives and fill it to capacity. Yes, with His influence but also with His presence, even to overflowing. But that is not the limit of God, is it? It is not the limit of God; it is the limit of our hearts. What God can do is this: there is more, God can enlarge your heart to be wider and taller and He can fill it again, to overflowing again, and so on. That's why Christian blessing is such a lovely topic to speak about, because there is no top rung of the ladder; there is no capacity of volume to this container that contains the blessing of God, which is our hearts. It can be expanded more and more. As infinite is God, so infinite is His blessing. Indeed this verse comes to the very borders of heaven, because that's what we are talking about here: heaven coming into a soul. Oh, the blessing of heaven! There is no limit upon heaven and the blessings of the knowledge of God for eternity. Eternity is too short to know Him. This verse comes to the borders of heaven and these blessings are the blessings of the Christian life.

Are there any here who are not converted? See the wonder of the Christian faith. Yes, it is forgiveness, blessed forgiveness. How we sing and enjoy speaking about the blood of Christ. Yes, it is righteousness that we are dressed in Christ's righteousness to face God. It is also to know God, to be blessed by God. There are great experiences that will thrill the human heart, will go beyond your greatest expectations. What has the world to offer you? The world will delight for a season and then they will disappoint you, and even worse than that, they will bring you down to hell itself. The Christian blessings, they are goodness, they are joyous, they are beautiful and they are Godward and Christward.

WHICH CIRCLE ARE YOU IN?

Can I just finish by returning to my picture of Paul and concentric circles? We look at this matter of progressing and pressing in. Are we pressing in upon Christ, upon God? It is the time of the winter sales. When people really want something they press in towards the entrance. Have you ever been to the continent? They don't queue, do they? They just press in. So it is we have a sense here of pressing in. People press in for all kinds of things that are unworthy, but here is somebody who is worthy. Are we pressing in, pressing in upon Christ; trying to find a way in towards the blessing and the person of Jesus Christ?

I'm appealing to Christians here; this is not a Gospel appeal. The Gospel appeal is something which is quite difficult it seems. People who are dead to the Gospel and yet we appeal to them. Of course, by the power of the Spirit, it can be successful, but here is something quite different. I'm appealing to people who have already been won over. In your hearts, I know that you desire Christ; you want the things described in this passage. The power of the Spirit is still required, that is for sure, but I know that I am going with the tide here. I am appealing to the people who want these things. Let us therefore press in.

THE FOURTH CIRCLE

If your are in the fourth circle and your back is turned to Christ, can I just point out to you the shame of what you are doing, and the way you are. Christ is your Saviour and you shall spend eternity with Him. It's a scandal surely, a scandal to be so far from Him in this life. It is not logical for God to be your Saviour forever and ever, for Christ to be yours forever and ever, to enjoy the blessing of heaven, and yet be so far from Him in life. That surely is something that should cause you to blush, if not in your physical frame then in your soul. Therefore, turn round. What you will find if your turn round, is that God will surprise you and be gracious to you.

THE THIRD CIRCLE

Those in the third circle who are sideways to Christ; I think of people in my own church who I am burdened for. You've left the job half done; don't just stop there. Yes, you have turned half way. You are not in the fourth circle. You are looking to Christ from time to time, but Christ didn't half save you, did He, so don't you half turn to Christ? Rather be 'rooted and grounded', dig in, and maintain your position.

THE SECOND CIRCLE

If you are in the second circle, then what about you? Here we are moving closer to the Sun, aren't we? Here we feel the warmth of Christ increasing, as we come to the second circle of the blessing of the Christian faith, the blessing of Christ. What can I say to those in the second circle? Oh, these small distractions, these sins that grieve Christ, that drive him away! Also there are legitimate things that preoccupy you, but they take a position that is not right; they take away the presence of Christ. So it is if you allow these things of the world to come in and take the place of Christ, they become thieves, don't they? They rob away Christ. They should indeed be thought of as enemies. Not that we are not natural in our beings and enjoy the things of this world, but if they take the place of Christ, they become enemies. We should view them as enemies and remove them so that we can have the wonderful, deeper, profound blessings promised by God to His people, and of which many of His people have experienced throughout the centuries.

THE FIRST CIRCLE

Then for those in the first circle: what can I say to them? I have much to say to those who are in the first circle. First can I just say, God bless you; how we thank God for you. You are such an encouragement to the church. Where would the church be without you? You are an example to us all. I don't want you to lose what you have, you must press on in order to keep what you have and to have more as well. I want you to progress more, not to stay where you are, to progress more, to press on.

In a way we are all on the perimeter, aren't we, these four circles are a long way from the infinite blessings of Christ? You are just a little closer than the rest of us. Oh, you who are in the first circle must be strengthened in the inner man. You must be 'rooted and grounded' that God would expand your heart. Know more of His influence and more of His presence - to know the unsearchable riches of Christ.

'PRESS IN' WITH CHRIST

Wherever we find ourselves here this morning, as Christians, let us understand this; we are joined together by the same goal. We are all pressing in on the same Jesus Christ. It's a lovely thing that we can help each other in this. I don't know how you feel but just say for the sake of argument you are in the second or the third circle and somebody in the fourth circle suddenly turns round and looks to Christ and speeds past you. Wouldn't you say, Oh, hallelujah! You wouldn't begrudge him his progress. God forbid! How your heart would be encouraged to see somebody who was in the edges and the shadows of the church suddenly come into the light, out of the half-light into the light. Who knows, but that person may link arms with you and drag you along with him. How we can help each other by bringing each other along.

Indeed there is such a thing as a church and a body progressing together. God has created individual souls, but He has created another entity, that is the church - the body of Christ. You are the body of Christ. Together we are an entity and indeed there is such a thing as the church in the Prayer Meeting drawing close together. As your pastor mentioned in his prayer: together seeking Him and coming to the house of God. So it is we should together draw close to Christ and to seek His face. The Psalmist says, "It is good for me to draw near to God" (Psalm 73:28). It is the goodness of the very best kind. A Welsh hymn based on the psalm says "nesau at Dduw sydd dda i mi", that is, to draw near to God is good for me. These things are good. To go away from God is to damage and to harm my soul.

Let us just press in so that God would strengthen us. There is a lovely co - operation with the Spirit here: we turn and God comes and helps us. Perhaps nearer the truth is that God draws near us and we respond. It is a lovely co-operation, as we set our faces towards God, how God comes and strengthens the inner man. We must be determined to look to Him for every step we take, for every rung of the ladder. We take the step, but looking to Him. May God keep us from sin and from damaging ourselves that we might not put ourselves back years and decades. Sin is an awful thing, like an awful virus that will make us ill for a long time. How important to avoid those viruses: to stay healthy spiritually. May God give us spiritual health, that we can enjoy the health of the Christian life. Isn't physical health a lovely thing? If you have lost it, you know how lovely it is. Even more so spiritual health, what a blessed thing it is. That God may give us the health to know Jesus Christ and the fullness of God. That these things might be so in our days, that we might report to each other of Christian progress. That God would do it and do it even now, even today, that we might find ourselves facing Christ and seeking Christ. May God bless these words to our hearts.


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