For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

–Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:9

In case you haven’t realized it, there is a battle being waged for the heart and soul of our nation. It has been going on for years, but it seems to have sped up in recent years.

We have witnessed the changing of definition of words such as what a husband or a wife is. People can’t decide what a woman or a man is. Children are being taught in schools that they get to decide who or what they are. They are being told to not tell their parents if they want to identify with as a gender that does not match up with what their birth gender was. We have witnessed the rampant evil of people killing children in schools.

What is worse is that once faithful denominations have abandoned the historic Christian faith with a “if it feels good do it” philosophy. Things that were once considered sinful are now glamorized and elevated to the point that if you don’t support them then we are the ones who aren’t living the Christian faith. The book of Revelation of John warns us of this.

As great as that battle is, it pales in comparison to the greatest battle that has ever existed. It is a battle that began when God said to the serpent

Genesis 3:15 CEB “I will put contempt between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.”

It is a battle for the heart of humanity. The war has already been won. It was won as Matthew recorded it: Matthew 27:51–52 CEB “Look, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised.”

That curtain that separated the people from the Holy Place was torn from the top to the bottom. The way into the presence of God was opened to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike.

Further on in Matthews Gospel he records: Matthew 28:1–7 CEB “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”

The war was won by Jesus’ death and resurrection. We know the outcome. The war may be won, but there are battles still being waged. We are a part of this battle. Jesus did not leave us to figure out how to wage this battle. He did not leave us alone to handle it ourselves.

Luke in his book of Acts wrote: Acts 1:7–8 CEB “Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority.” Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.””

That power was given through the Holy Spirit on that day we celebrate as Pentecost. Luke recorded the events of that momentous day. Acts 2:1–4 CEB “When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

This was not just one time giving of the Holy Spirit, it was just the beginning. Luke recorded the first sermon that was preached by the new Holy Spirit emboldened Peter. Acts 2:38–39 CEB “Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.””

Jesus told those first disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they receive power. That power came on Pentecost. Peter says that those who turn to Jesus will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift is not just for them, but for all who are far away. We are the ones who are far away. Look at how many generations we are removed from that amazing day.

There is something that we all face that will take us places that we never thought we’d end up. That thing is called sin. The thing with sin and many Christians is that they erroneously think that they can handle it, that they can take care of it by their own strength and power.

Guess what we can’t handle it! We don’t have enough strength or enough power to handle sin. If we did, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die on the cross for us.

— Nathan

Paul in Ephesians 6:10 CEB “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength.”

Paul throughout this letter has written about living the Christian life and the blessings and benefits we have through Jesus Christ. Up to this verse he’s told us the what, what God has done for us; what it means to live as a Christian and here he moves into very practical teaching of how. How do we live the Christian life? Notice that Paul doesn’t say to be strong and in your power. Paul says “be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength” This battle that Paul is going to talk about requires strength and power but it is beyond human strength and power it requires the Lord’s strength and power.

The Psalmist captured this reality very powerfully. Psalm 84:1 CEB “How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD of heavenly forces!”

Lord of heavenly forces captures the idea of the battle that is being waged. If you continue reading down through this psalm you see the journey that we are on and he comes to an amazing point in Psalm 84:7 CEB “They go from strength to strength, until they see the supreme God in Zion.”

They go from strength to strength. Who’s strength is it? It is God’s strength. You read further on down in verse 11 and the psalmnist writes: “The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity.”

God does not withhold and that promise was played on on the day of Pentecost.

We are so independent minded. We think that we can accomplish anything by just sheer determination and our own strength and power. That carries over to the church, we plan and program and attempt to accomplish lots of stuff but all too often we fail to stop and check with God to see if this is where He wants us to be headed and doing. We attempt stuff and make a huge mess and then we wonder why God didn’t bless our efforts. If we’d just stop and seek God’s will first before we do anything we’ll know that we are on the same page with God and not off doing our own thing.

If you want to be successful in the Christian life it begins and it ends with God. Seek Him first and last. Do you remember what Jesus said about seeking God? Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 CEB “Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The strength and power that you need to live this life of Holiness comes only by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist at the very beginning of Jesus public ministry said this: Luke 3:16 CEB “John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

God had kept His promise and the Holy Spirit came and they were baptized by the Holy Spirit. That was a transformational event in each of those 120 that were in that upper room that day. The strength and power that they had beginning that day was not their own, it was from the Holy Spirit.

Do you remember when Paul and Silas were arrested and locked up in prison? Do you remember what happened? Luke wrote: Acts 16:25–26 CEB “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. All at once there was such a violent earthquake that it shook the prison’s foundations. The doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose.”

Now that is strength and power, and I’m not just talking about the earthquake. They had the strength and power to sing and pray and praise God in spite of their circumstances.

So for you or me to be strengthened by the Lord and in His powerful strength begins with fully surrendering our lives to the Holy Spirit. That implies a present reality today. We cannot rely on something from a year ago or 10 years ago or 50 years ago, we need to be connected to Christ today by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us today.

I don’t want to belabor this point of strength and power to much, but if we don’t have a clear understanding of what Paul is writing here then we are going to miss out on what God wants to do in and through you. Listen to what Paul prayed for the Ephesians back in Ephesians 3:16–19 CEB “I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.”

God wants to strengthen and give you power by the work of the Holy Spirit within. It’s out of His glorious riches – and that is what we call Grace. Out of God’s grace He by the Holy Spirit strengthens us with power. Why? Why does God do that? Paul said so that Christ may live in our hearts. Paul goes further to pray that after being rooted and established in love that we would have power to grasp the love of Christ. One hymn found in our hymn books has these words in verse three:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky. – The Love of God by Frederick Martin Lehman

What the song writer describes is the inability to write everything there is to write about the love of God. Paul said he prayed that so that we would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. That’s beyond our imagination. I love what I read in one commentary on this passage, listen to what the author wrote:

Halford Luccock, one of the most imaginative preachers of the twentieth century, remembered a marvelous phrase from Lytton Strachey’s book Eminent Victorians: In writing about General Gordon (a general for the British Empire), Strachey says, “The Sunday before General Gordon started for the Sudan, he drove around London to a number of churches to take Communion as many times as possible, ‘In order,’ he said, ‘to start… brim full of God.’ Would six Communions in one day supply more of God than one Communion? Hardly. But to begin every day and every enterprise “brim full of God.””

Wouldn’t that be something—to begin every day “brim full of God”!

It is possible, and Paul prays… – that we be filled with all the fullness of God. Why is it that we barely, if at all, get beyond the passion and death of Jesus? Why do we hang back, refusing to move on to Resurrection and Pentecost? Read the New Testament. Christians are promised fire, not a feeble flicker; light, blazing, not dim—like that of a city set upon a hill; joy, not momentary happiness, abiding joy which flows from the satisfaction of our hungering and thirsting for God; radiant excitement like that of a man finding a treasure hidden in the field.

“Filled with all the fullness of God” — unbelievable, to our natural minds, but believe it we must! Though we cannot contain God’s fullness, we can receive it to the full measure of our capacity and to the degree of our yieldedness. This is what it means to be Spirit-filled or baptized with or in the Spirit: to have a relationship with God that is so yielded to Him that He comes to us and dwells with us in intimacy and power, so that we can experience in life all the things Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would do for believers.[1]

Did you catch what he said? “Though we cannot contain God’s fullness, we can receive it to the full measure of our capacity and to the degree of our yieldedness.” We can’t contain all the fullness of God because God is God and we’re not, but we can receive a full measure of the fullness of God based on our capacity and that is based on our yieldness to God.

That word yield is a somewhat archaic word. The most common way it’s used today is with the Yield sign meaning that you give the other car the right of way and you wait before coming out into traffic. The word has a deeper meaning when it comes to our Christian faith. The word means:

• To give up possession of

• To surrender or relinquish control

• To surrender or submit

• To relinquish one’s possession of

That’s way more than just giving the right of way to someone else.

How much have you yielded to God? The meaning of that word doesn’t seem to imply a sliding scale of yielding. It’s a verb, there is action involved, it’s not a passive thing. The definitions include: give up, surrender, relinquish – those are all actions. Have you yielded to the Holy Spirit; are you yielding to the Holy Spirit today? It’s an ongoing thing, not just a onetime event.

The result of that yielding is what Paul wrote: that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Being filled with the fullness of God is because of what Jesus has done for us. Paul in his opening words of this great letter wrote: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

So when Paul writes to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power and then tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. When Paul writes that, we know that we have already been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Isaiah wrote one of my favorite passages: Isaiah 40:28–31 CEB “Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He doesn’t grow tired or weary. His understanding is beyond human reach, giving power to the tired and reviving the exhausted. Youths will become tired and weary, young men will certainly stumble; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.”

It’s about what God the Holy Spirit does in and through us. He gives strength, He increases the power. It’s all about Him. We can’t defeat the enemy ourselves. We can’t live a holy life by sheer determination and effort. We can’t live successful Christian lives by our own strength. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians these words: 1 Corinthians 1:23–25 CEB “but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

Christ, is God’s power, the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Who are you going to depend on? Would you rather depend on your strength and power or would you rather have Jesus, the power of God, yes even the weakness of God which is greater than all your strength and power? Have you yielded to the Holy Spirit? Are you yielded to Him right now, today, this very moment? It takes action on your part to yield. It’s taking up your cross daily and following Jesus. It’s dying daily to yourself and living for Jesus. Don’t miss out on the best that God has for you. As Paul said, He’s already blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

[1] Dunnam, M. D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon. The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Vol. 31, pp. 187–188). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.


  • Nathan Zipfel

    Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist, Certified Trauma Professional

By Nathan Zipfel

Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist, Certified Trauma Professional

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