Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 42

By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000
Verse 17 says “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” How does Jesus dwell in your heart? What difference should that make to the way you live? Dr. Barber details five areas of your life that will be impacted.

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Ephesians 3:17

A Prayer for Fullness – Part 3

We are in Ephesians 3:17. In verses 14-21, Paul is praying that the Ephesian believers might live in the fullness of all that they have in the Lord Jesus Christ. What God expects of us and wants to see in us is not weak, anemic lives, living discouraged and depressed. He wants us to walk in His fullness. He gave us the Lord Jesus Christ in whom are all the spiritual blessings. He wants us to walk in reality, in the fullness of all that He has given us in Jesus Christ.

The first principle in doing that is found in verse 16, in Paul’s prayer. If you will exam­ine this prayer very carefully, you will see the whole Christian life laid out before you. In verse 16 it says, “that He would grant you, according to [not out of] the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” The word “strengthened” means “to be made mighty.” “Do you mean that we as believers can be made mighty? How?” Well, Paul says, “with power.” The word there means “the ability to do that which we could never have done before, the capacity, the divine ability to live a life on a higher plane.” Paul is praying for these believers to learn to tap into that which they already have in Jesus Christ. You see, the area in which we are strengthened is the inner man. That is the spiritual part of our life.

Let me make this practical to you. As we yield to the Holy Spirit of God who resides in our spirit, as we surrender to Him, as we allow Him to control us, we experience the full­ness of all that He has given us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” The divine Holy Spirit of God lives in believers, and we are not to grieve Him. We are to cooperate with Him. In 5:18 it says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” That word “filled” means “to be con­trolled.” It is in a tense that means “ongoing.” We are never to grieve the Spirit. We are to be under the control of the Holy Spirit of God. When you and I are willing to do that, we start tapping into that which is ours in Christ Jesus. Then comes the fullness of God. The degree of my surrender determines the degree of my realization of the fullness that He offers.

We are going to see in the text that being strengthened in the inner man, with a divine ability through the Holy Spirit, is so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. I wonder how many of us really understand that. When Thursday morning comes around and there is no choir around you and nobody to encourage you, do you, as a believer, have that high view of your salvation? Do you understand the fullness and the riches of God, that are within you? Have we learned to tap into that which God has given?

Well, let’s continue the prayer. I think perhaps it will turn some lights on as to what the normal Christian life is all about. This is the Christian life; this is why Jesus saved you and me, not for heaven necessarily; He saved you and me to do a work in us and to us and through us. We must learn to cooperate with Him fully, not to grieve the Spirit but to be controlled by His Spirit.

Ephesians 3:17 says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” A lot of people, when they see this, don’t know what to do with it. “I have not lived like that. I’ve been going to church. I am a good person. I try as hard as I can. Isn’t that the Christian life?” No! It is learning to recognize self for what it is and learning to die to it by saying yes to God day by day and moment by moment. Therefore, many Christians are living anemic, weak and subnormal lives.

Look at what Paul says in verse 17. That little phrase “in order that” or “so that” is the Greek word hina, which always introduces a purpose clause. Paul is saying, “I am strength­ened with ability, God’s ability, by the means of His Spirit being in me in my inner man.” As that happens, something else takes place in order that Christ may dwell in my heart.

Now that is a powerful phrase. What does “that Christ would dwell in my heart” mean? First of all, he is not praying for these Ephesian believers to receive Christ. They have already received Christ. In 1:13 it says, “you were sealed in Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit of promise.” We know we have not only received Him, but we have been baptized into His body. The seal of the Holy Spirit is upon us until the day of redemption.

In Colossians 1:27 Paul goes a step further and makes sure we understand. You have to have Christ before you can talk about His dwelling in your life. He says in Colossians that Christ in us is the hope of glory. So Christ is in our lives.

What Paul is praying for here is not that they receive Him, but that the Christ who is already there might dwell in their hearts. What is the term “dwell”? First of all it is aorist infinitive. Aorist means that it may become a fact, a known reality, that people everywhere would look at the Ephesian church and say, “These believers have understood what the Christian life is all about, that it happened to them, that it was an established fact.” Infinitive means that’s always a purpose tense. In other words, why did Christ come into your life? He came in to do what we are talking about here, to dwell in your heart by faith.

Well, what is the term “dwell”? The term comes from two words, the word kata, which means down, and oikeo, which means to reside or dwell in a house. In the context here, it becomes very clear. He is not saying that Christ should be in your house. He is already there if you are a believer. He should be comfortable in your hearts and be at home. He should be settled down in your heart. This really begins to build. “You mean Paul is praying that the Lord Jesus might be comfortable while He is in my life?” Absolutely! We are to make sure we make Him comfortable in our life. That is why he says in 4:30, “Don’t grieve the Spirit.” It is the Spirit of Christ in you. We are to make sure He is at home, that whatever He needs is there, that He is not offended or grieved by anything we do, so that He might dwell in our hearts by faith.

The heart is the center of an individual’s life. It is the seat of his desires, his feelings, his affections, his passions, his impulses and in many situations could be interchangeable with the word “mind.” That is where Christ comes to dwell, in that inner man, in our hearts. We want to make sure that we make Him feel at home in our hearts. Our hearts, here in verse 17, are pictured, in a vague sense, as a house. He wants to be in the house of our hearts, and He wants to be at home while He is there.

I want to tell you something. If you are not being strengthened in the inner man with power by the Spirit of God, it is very obvious that you are not making Christ at home in your hearts. Because you see, Christ is His Spirit that lives there. If you are living a lifestyle that is not pleasing to Him, if you have grieved Him, then no wonder you are a mess. No won­der your life is falling apart. There is something that is very basic in Scripture. When you come to grips with it, it becomes very understandable what victory is all about. It is not me doing for Him. It is me being strengthened. That enables the Spirit of Christ to be welcomed in my heart.

I starting thinking about what rooms would be in our hearts. There are five areas I want us to look at.

The Room of Our Thoughts

First of all, the room of our thoughts. What is your thought-life like? “Now, come on, you are meddling.” That is exactly what happens when you start talking about the heart. You start meddling real quickly. By the way, I am not meddling just with you. This is also meddling with me. We are all in the same boat. None of us have arrived, so nobody can point any fingers. Let’s look in Luke 9:47. I want you to see something about the thoughts of the heart. You say, “You could have translated that “mind.” Yes, I could, but it is the word “heart.” Let’s stay with what the text says and try not to be complicated with it. Let’s associate the fact that thoughts in the heart have something to do with one another.

The context in Luke 9:47 is after the transfiguration. They have come down from the mountain. Jesus has just healed the demon possessed boy, and then we have a test here. Verse 46 says, “And an argument arose among them as to which of them might be the greatest.” It appears here that the disciples are the ones fighting over this. They were saying, “I am better than you are. I will be on His right hand. No, left hand. I guarantee you I will be on one or the other.” Look at what it says in verse 47. “But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for he who is least among you, this is the one who is great.’”

I just want you to see that somehow the thoughts are attached to the heart. How are your thoughts? In II Corinthians 10, Paul says we are take every thought into captivity in the obedience of Christ. You know, thoughts do a lot of damage to a person, especially in the arena where Christ dwells. You are not to allow thoughts to be entertained in your life. You already know what they are, and you are letting your mind be eaten up with things that are making Christ uncomfortable in your life. That is just simple proof of the fact that you have not yet learned to tap into the resources you have in Christ Jesus. When you are made strong with His divine ability, then victory is not you overcoming your thoughts, vic­tory is Jesus overcoming you. That is what it is all about.

You are going to find in the book of Ephesians that the Word of God is involved in this process. How many times have we said this? It is like a broken record. Get in the Word. Get in the Word. Get in the Word. Folks, you can’t stop having lustful thoughts. You wake up in the morning, men, and you say to yourself, “I will not have a lustful thought today.” Friend, you won’t make it 30 seconds out of your prayer time before one bombards you. You don’t live life that way. When you come to God and say, “God, I am aware that my body causes these thoughts, and I am susceptible to all these things. I know the devil is out there tempting me. God, I have trouble with my thought life. This is making Christ uncom­fortable. Strengthen me by the means of the Spirit. As I get into the Word of God, over­come me by Your Word. Then let Christ be comfortable so He can dwell in my life.” That is the way it works. The victory is Christ overcoming you.

You see, folks, your thoughts could be clogging up the whole process of what God is trying to do with your life. You are entertaining thoughts that are not right and you know it. Young people, you are allowing certain things to get into your mind and they are making Jesus very uncomfortable. Perhaps people around you have become aware of that and have tried to confront you on that, but you have not been willing to deal with it. You see, when Christ dwells in our heart, He is at home. We have done everything to accommodate Him. He feels absolutely at home in our hearts.

By the way, if you ever leave the Word for a while and think that church is going to give it back to you, it will not. You are just going to get more frustrated. When you finally come to the cross and let God’s Word get into your life instead of you getting into it, then it changes. If you have strayed from the Word and are not in it daily, I promise you are miser­able, critical, and the most judgmental person in your church. Christ is no longer dwelling in your heart. The Spirit has not strengthened you with that which you could not have done yourself. You are left with what Adam gave us.

The Room of Our Attitudes

Secondly, there is the room of our attitudes. Look in Matthew 19:8. We have an infer­ence here to attitudes. This is the chapter where Jesus talks about divorce. I have never yet talked to a divorce person who would not agree that if he could go back and do it again, experiencing the fullness of God and tapping into the fullness of God, his life would have been different. In Matthew 19:8 notice what Jesus said. “He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.’” Divorce was never commanded, as somebody told me one day. It was never instructed. It was only permitted. The only reason it was permitted was because of the hardness of people’s hearts.

Folks, do you realize the attitudes that are in your heart affect your relationships? You may be married and, nobody knows it, but you are going through hell in your home. You hardly speak to one another. You are fighting with one another. Why? Listen, somebody has to drop anchor at some point. When you allow the Holy Spirit of God to strengthen you with the divine ability to love when you couldn’t have loved before, to forgive when you couldn’t have forgiven before, then something unique and powerful begins to happen. Christ feels at home in your life and you begin to see what victory is all about. Your mar­riage may still end up on the rocks but you, for all eternity, will be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit of God in your life. That is the key. I am not throwing a rock at anybody. If we would learn to tap into what God has given us, make Him feel at home in our life, make Him feel at home in our attitudes, then even our marriages, even our relationships would be different.

Turn to Matthew 18:35. All of this flows like a river together. Matthew 18 is about restoring a brother, discipline. It moves on down into concerning divorce. It is amazing how the thought pattern just flows there. In verse 35 look what Jesus says, “‘So shall My heav­enly Father also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.’” Oh, folks, is Christ at home in your attitude? If He is not, then you are a bitter person. You haven’t yet learned how to tap into that which God has, which is His divine ability to do in and through you far beyond what you could have ever done. You can’t forgive, but God will forgive in and through you. When Jesus is accommodated in your life, then you begin to experience His power to do what you could never do.

The Room of Our Emotions

Thirdly, there is the room of our emotions. Look in John 14:1: “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” I want you to see something here. Somehow the emotions are associated with the heart. I don’t understand all of that, but somehow they are. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” The word “troubled” has the idea of being anxious, the idea of being fearful, the idea of dreading something. Listen, when that attitude gets into our emotions and our emotions get involved in our hearts, we are not accommodating the Lord Jesus Christ at all. We are not trusting Him. He says over in Luke 18:1, “Listen, you’ve got an option here. You either worry or you pray. Which are you going to do?” Paul says the same thing in Philippians 4:6. “Be not anxious over anything, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving in your heart, let your requests be made known to God.” What are you anxious about? What is your heart troubled over? Are you going through something but you don’t realize that the very emotion that you are allowing to pervade in your life is something that is not accommodating the Lord Jesus who wants to be at home in your life? We don’t ever think about this. It is very obvious if I have been overtaken by an emotion that I am not being strengthened in the inner man by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is very obvious that somehow I have grieved Him. Somehow I have not surrendered to Him. How clear can the scriptures be? Folks, when we don’t accommodate the Lord Jesus in our emotions, all kinds of havoc can come from that.

What is bugging you? What emotion has overwhelmed you? Folks, we are only to be overwhelmed by the Lord Jesus Himself. No wonder Paul prays this prayer. He doesn’t want them to end up on a shelf for the weak, anemic, depressed Christians. He wants them to be walking in the fullness of what God offers.

The Room of the Hidden Things

Fourthly, there is the room of the hidden things. In our house my idea of cleaning up is putting everything into a closet where nobody can find anything. Or I can put it under our bed. I think our bed is only supposed to be about twelve inches high, but we have to climb up on it because we have got so much stuff crammed up under it. Do you clean house that way? I bet every one of us are just alike. Now some of you are just these picky cleaners. The rest of us are all in the same boat. You just stack it wherever you can stack it. If it’s got dust on it, leave the dust on it. That’s the way I look at it.

Now listen, some people do that with rooms in their heart. They hide things away. They tuck them away. There are secret hidden things in their hearts, and they think nobody knows. Oh, yeah? God does. He is not at all being accommodated by the fact that they are still there.

Look at I Corinthians 14:24-25. Here Paul is talking about a problem in the church. Chapters 12-14 have to do with that. He says: “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed.” So evidently you can keep secrets in your heart. There can be a room that you keep locked. You don’t want anybody to touch it. That is truly a private room. That is where you have your pity party that nobody knows about.

Look in I Corinthians 4:5. There is going to come a day when this is going to be made known to all. I think the hidden rooms of most people’s hearts are hidden motives, motives they don’t want anybody else to know about. They have motives that are not accommodat­ing to the Father or to the Lord Jesus. Verse 5 says, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” You see, there are a lot of things that are hidden, locked in closets in our life. We don’t want people to know about them. They are not accommodating to the Lord Jesus for them to be there. When we are strengthened with might and power in the inner man, that means we are dealing with sin. Sin is decreasing. The Holy Spirit of God is increasing in our life. We deal with the hidden secret things of our life.

The Room of Our Choices

Romans 6:17 gives us the fifth room, the room of your choices: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” A conscientious choice is made in the arena of the heart. When we make the right choices to honor Christ, He is being accommodated in our life. We are being strengthened with might in the inner man by the means of His Spirit that lives within us.

I was doing a service one time at a camp. A group of young people came up to do a drama and it was so good. This young teenager had just come to know Christ. You got the information as the drama unfolded. He was a brand new Christian. Now Christ lived in him. The boy that played Jesus was perfect for the part. He followed this other boy every where he went because Jesus was now in his life. This other boy was trying to get used to the fact that now Jesus lived in his life. But there were some things in his life he did not want Jesus to have any control over. He did not want Jesus to even bother him with these things. So he kept trying to push Him away. I think the clincher came in the drama when a phone call came to the house. He walked over and picked up the phone. Here came Jesus listening in on the conversation. The young man was very irritated and said, “Get away from me. This is my phone call. This is my life. Don’t you bother me.” That is the same attitude that so many of us have. He got back on the phone and was invited him to a wild party one night after a football game. He said, “Oh, man.” He pushed Jesus away, stuck his hands around his ears and said, “I will be there.” Well, he tried to leave, but Jesus just wouldn’t let him go. Jesus followed him everywhere he went, while he was getting dressed, while he was get­ting ready to go. Finally, the boy got so irritated (I know that theologically this has a lot of problems, but it sure drove the point home) he turned Jesus around to a wall, took his hand and nailed his hand to the wall. He nailed his other hand to the wall. Then he nailed his feet to the wall, walked out, slammed the door and said, “There, I am going to live my life. Don’t you bother me anymore.”

That is Christianity, folks, in the 20th century. Until you become strengthened with divine power in the inner man by the means of the Spirit, Jesus may be in your life, but friend, you are not accommodating Him. No wonder you are miserable. What thoughts, what attitudes, what emotions, what hidden things are in your life that maybe even effect you physically? What is it that is in your life? That is what Paul prays.

Read Part 43

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