Ephesians 3:14-19. 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The greatest, most important thing that we can pray for, as those who are united to Christ, is an experience of Christ.
And that is what Paul’s amazing prayer here in Ephesians 3 is all about – that…he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Let’s try to understand this prayer by seeing both what Paul IS NOT praying for and then contrasting it with what he IS praying for.
1. Paul IS NOT praying for the presence of Christ. He IS praying for an experience of the presence of Christ.
This prayer can get a little confusing because Paul prays that Christ would dwell in our hearts. But doesn’t Christ always dwell in our hearts? Isn’t that what our union with Christ is all about? Yes.
So how do we make sense of this prayer request?
One clue is the word Paul uses for “dwell.” It means to settle down. To make yourself at home somewhere. Back in chapter two Paul described our justification as moving into God’s house. Here he is describing our progressive sanctification as Christ settling into our heart house.
This is not a prayer to receive Christ or even to receive more of Christ. This is a prayer to experience Christ’s presence more fully. Yes, Christ lives in your heart house, but is he making himself at home? Yes, Jesus has already moved in, but has he unpacked his suitcase into the dresser? Can he go to the fridge without asking? Can he control the TV remote? Has he been in the basement?
2. Paul IS NOT praying for a spiritual experience that is separate from Christ. He IS praying for a spiritual experience found only in union with Christ.
It is extremely important that we see here the parallel between an experience of the Holy Spirit and an experience of Christ. Look at the scripture again. The power of the Spirit allows Christ to dwell in our hearts.
There is no Spirit filled experience apart from an experience of the indwelling Christ.
And the indwelling Christ is the Christ who suffered and died, and then, only after suffering, did he rise to glory.
So many Christians are looking for spiritual experiences that have nothing to do with the man Christ Jesus. Spiritual experiences completely disconnected from suffering. Maybe we expect the Holy Spirit to drop diamond dust on us (OK, that’s the extreme). Or, more commonly, we expect the Spirit to help us overcome our addictions and struggles without any connection to the suffering of Christ that is required. We want the Spirit to fill us with strength that is separate from faith in, and dependence upon, an indwelling Jesus. In short, we want a spiritual Christianity that is often a Christ-less Christianity.
3. Paul IS NOT praying for strength for the outer man. He IS praying for strength for the inner man.
We pray for strength to overcome. Strength to withstand the burden. Strength to walk through the illness or the loss. Strength to resist. But are we asking for a power that works from the outside-in rather than the inside-out? Are we just asking for a psychological crutch, or Marx’s opiate of the masses?
The true strength of the Spirit comes from finding the weakness and dependency of Jesus. But aren’t the things listed above dependency? Aren’t we dependent on the Spirit when we ask for his help? Not when we are asking the Spirit to increase our own personal strength to “power through” our hardships.
True spiritual dependency is dependence on the work of Christ alone on our behalf on the cross. There’s a huge difference. One is asking the Spirit to build you up. The other is asking the Spirit to let you remain weak so that the powerful grace of Christ can be revealed.
“To live is Christ” means you have all of Christ. But you may not be experiencing all of Christ all of the time (in fact most likely you’re not). But that is our prayer. A prayer for the Spirit to give us strength in the inner man as we allow Christ to make himself at home in our inner man. Jesus, make yourself at home in us.
You are one with Christ, but are you experiencing your union with Christ in an intimate way?
You in Christ
Is there something you could do daily to know the love of Christ more and more?
Christ in you
Is it ok for you to not be ok, knowing that Christ will be revealed in your weakness?
Playlist: Christ in our hearts.