Strength, Depth, Apprehension, and Fullness! #2
Jeremiah 17:5-10; Ephesians 3:14-21
This morning we continue our meditations on Ephesians chapter 3:14-21. As I mentioned last Sunday, Ephesians 3:14-21 is basically a prayer Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus. Paul’s prayer is like a staircase by which he climbs higher and higher in his aspiration for his readers. His prayer-staircase has four steps. One step, one request, leads into the next one, and so on. He prays that the inner being might have spiritual strength, which will, in turn, lead to a deeper experience with Christ. The deeper experience will enable them to “apprehend” (get hold of) God’s great love, which will result in their being “filled unto all the fullness of God.” So, Paul was praying for strength, depth, apprehension, and fullness. Last week we covered the first part of the prayer, strengthening the inner being. This morning I would like to cover the second request of the prayer ~ the dewlling of Christ in our hearts through faith. It is a prayer for a deeper experience with Christ.
A Deeper Experience with Christ!
The aim of the first part of the prayer, the Spirit strengthening us with power in the inner being, leads to that second part of Paul’s petition ~ “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” It is clear from Scriptures like Galatians 2:20 that Christ indeed indwells every believer through the Holy Spirit. In fact, Romans 8:9-10 Scriptre affirms that if Christ does not live in us, we are not Christians, no matter how religious we may be or how strongly we affirm the Christian creeds.
So, why then in our text does Paul pray that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith? He was writing to Christian believers. What does Paul mean? I believe Paul is talking about something more than Christ indwelling us at the point of salvation. He is talking about Christ being at home in our hearts. He is talking about having close fellowship with Christ. Let’s look at this from three important angles:
First: Living in Faith and Obedience
Christ comes to dwell in our hearts as we live by faith and in obedience to the Scriptures. Biblical faith is an active reliance on God and His promises, often in the face of impossible circumstances. As we do this, Christ takes residence in our hearts. Listen to Ephesians 3:16-17 one more time, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Presbyterian theoogian Charles Hodge (1797 – 1878) explains, “Christ dwells in us by faith, because it is by faith we perceive his presence, his excellence, and his glory, and because it is by faith we appropriate and reciprocate the manifestations of his love.”
Biblical faith is always linked with obedience. If you trust God, you obey Him. To obey God, you must trust that His Word is true. In John 14:23 Jesus spoke of the link between our obedience and His being at home in our hearts, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Christ is not at home with a disobedient Christian. Christ will never take a residence in a disobedient heart.
Second: Living under the Lorship of Christ
Christ comes to dwell in our hearts by progressively and seriously taking lordship over every area of our lives. Many years ago, Presbyterian minister Robert Boyd Munger (1911-2001) wrote a little booklet called My Heart, Christ’s Home. In it he imagines the believer’s heart as a home with many rooms. The heart has a living room, a dining room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a computer room, a TV room, many closets, and an attic. He said, “Too many believers keep Christ in the entryway, as if to say, ‘Jesus, I’ve got you in the door. Now stay there and don’t bother the rest of my life.” But the Lord wants to enter every room. He wants to enter your kitchen, your bedroom, your library, your TV room, your computer room, and he wants access to every closet and even to the “attic” of your heart. The verb “dwell” that Paul uses in Ephesians 3:17 refers to a permanent indwelling or residence of Christ in the heart. He means that we should welcome Christ into every aspect of our lives, so that there is no known area of our lives that we would be uncomfortable having Christ share it with us.
I believe the question is not, “How much of the Lord do I have?” but rather, “How much of me does the Lord have?” Ephesians 3:17, then, is a prayer for a deeper experience between Christ and the believer. Call it what you will—sanctification, total surrender, dedication, or even the filling of the Holy Spirit. I call it “what we desperately need.” I call it “that most of us lack.” Bible teacher and commentator Warren Wiersbe says, “To know God personally is salvation ~ John 17:3; to know Him increasingly is sanctification ~ Philippians 3:10; to know Him perfectly is glorification ~ 1 Cor. 13:9-12. “I pray,” says Paul in Ephesians 3:16-17 “that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Third: Rooted and Established in God’s Love
As a result of Christ’s permenenat dewlling in the believer’s heart, we will be “rooted and established in love.” Here is a double metaphor; one taken from agriculture, the other, from architecture. “Rooted” is an agricultural metaphor, which should paint a picture of an extensive root system that not only attaches itself to the source of nutrients but keeps the plant set in place. “Established” is more structural or architectural and offers us another picture of stability and strength. This is a foundation that cannot be shaken. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
Friends, we live in a world that is more mobile than it’s ever been before. It is estimated that roughly one out of every thirty-five people live in a different country than their country of origin. We don’t need statistics to tell us that it has become the norm for people to uproot their lives on a regular basis to chase whatever it is they are looking for out of life. The problem with this is Scripture tells us over and over again that we can only grow in our faith when we are firmly planted in Biblical community. To put it another way, deep faith will never be cultivated in isolation or even in shallow relationships. In other words, a person only grows spiritually when he commits to putting down deep roots and chooses to live within the confines of Biblical community.
Friends, let’s be clear about it—each believer does have the Lord Jesus Christ living in them. His presence is real. No doubt about this truth. If this is so, again, what is the significance of this petition? Again, the emphasis here is on the significance of the manifestation of the presence of Christ. This is not a prayer for Christ to enter the life, but rather for Christ to be manifest in and through the life. It is one thing to have Christ in you, and another to have Christ at home in you. When He is at home in you, His presence will be obvious in every part of your life. Let me concolude with this short but meaningful story. A little girl, on the way home from church, turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.” The mother said, “Oh! Why is that?” The girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” “Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?” Again the mother replied, “Yes.” “Well,” said the girl, “if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?” May Christ’s dwelling in your heart show through everyday. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.