Shelby G. Floyd
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I love the “ancient words” from the word of God and from the song (Ancient Words) that we have just sung. The longer we live and the more we read and study God’s word, the more beautiful they become. It was good to hear the reading of the “ancient words” from Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 3:14-21).
The last time I spoke to you about three weeks ago our lesson was on “The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart.” At that time we pointed out that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, his magicians had something to do with hardening his heart, and the Bible declares over and over again that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. As a result God brought ten plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the last of which was the death of the firstborn sons of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. It was at this point that Pharaoh urged the children of Israel to leave Egypt as rapidly as they could.
From all of this, we learn that the condition of our heart is ultimately up to each one of us. We have the final say as to how receptive our heart will be to the word of God. So today I want to continue that theme on a positive note. Our lesson today is on the indwelling of Christ in our heart. All of us desire to to think, speak and act better than we normally do. But we will never reach the fullness of faith, hope, and love until Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. In that regard I have always loved the Scripture that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So we want Christ to live in our hearts. But how does Christ live in our hearts? He lives in our hearts by faith! Why did he want us to let him live in our hearts? Because he loves us, he died for us and he cleanses us by his precious blood shed on Calvary.
PAUL’S SECOND PRAYER FOR THE EPHESIAN CHURCH
In our text today the words are part of the second prayer that Paul prayed for the Christians at Ephesus. You notice that in most of our public prayers, we usually pray regarding external things. We thank God for our food, clothing, shelter and other things regarding our outward person. I hope in our lesson today that I can motivate all of us including myself, to pray that in spite of ourselves Christ will abide inside of us and take up his abode in our hearts. We can all do this by exercising a stronger faith in God and his word.
Now let us notice the first words that Paul wrote in his prayer to the Ephesian church:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14-15).
Paul mentions his posture in his prayer to the Father by the word “bow.” To bow the knees is always a sign of humility, respect and reverence when we come before the deity. But there is no particular posture that is bound when we go before God in prayer. We read in the Bible of people who stood, sat and prostrated themselves upon the ground when they prayed to Almighty God. The important thing is that we bow our hearts when we come before the Lord. I heard of a church that had a hobby that you had to bow when you had a public prayer. But they asked a visiting preacher to lead the closing prayer and he stood when he prayed. One person rebuked him for standing instead of bowing. His classic reply was, “while I was standing and praying you were peeping and praying.” He pointed out the inconsistencies of all religious cranks. The important thing is that we humble ourselves when we come before God in prayer.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was addressed to “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Fatherhood is under attack today in our country. Fathers and boys are being belittled by many in the major establishments in America. But according to Paul all fatherhood originated with God the Father. All Christians are called sons of God (Galatians 3:26-27), and the Lord Jesus Christ is said to be the Son of God. So the universal archetype of fatherhood is Almighty God. If we want to be better fathers and better sons, we should study the Fatherhood of God because he is the perfect Father over all his creation. Remember God is the perfect Father of the whole family in heaven and on earth!
THE INDWELLING CHRIST
The life which pleases God not only observes outward forms, but it is characterized by purity, holiness, and a Christ like attitude within the inner man. What we see is the outward man, but we also have an inward man. Let us notice our text again in which Paul prays,
“that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:16-17).
So Paul is praying that these Ephesian Christians will be strengthened with might. The word “might” translates from a word from which we get the words “dynamic and dynamite.” He wants every one of us to be strong in the inner man. And how is this done? We are strengthened in the inner man when we let Christ dwell in our hearts by faith. Therefore our might and strength comes to the inner man through faith. We will further explain how that is done as we develop this theme. Do we let Christ come and visit our heart on Sunday or do we let him come and take up his home and abode in our heart permanently? Christ wants to dwell in our hearts by faith. The word dwell is in the aorist tense and it simply means he is to make a permanent home in our heart at a certain point in time and then continue throughout the rest of our life. And when will this take place? It should take place when we are baptized into Christ. Just as God the Father was pleased to have his fullness dwell in Christ (Colossians 1:19), so we should let the fullness of Christ dwell in our hearts (Colossians 2:9-10).
ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE
When we are rooted and grounded in the love of God, Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:17). “Rooted” is an agricultural term. From trees to vegetable plants we all understand the need for the seed to be planted and to be rooted in order to produce fruit. “Grounded” is an architectural term that involves the building of houses and gigantic buildings. The bigger the building the deeper the foundation must be grounded. This same principle applies to the Christian life. When the love of God is rooted and grounded in our hearts, then Christ can come and make himself a permanent home in our hearts by faith.
THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST AND FULLNESS OF GOD
Next, we notice Paul mentions the four dimensions of the love of Christ and the fullness of God. He prays that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).
Have you ever tried to comprehend the width and length and depth and height of the universe? There is no end! Scientists tell us that our universe seems to be expanding for ever and ever in all directions. That is a good illustration of how much the Lord Jesus Christ loved us and loves us still.
Let us look at several Scriptures that tell us how much Christ loves us and even then his love passes our knowledge:
1. John 14:23
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
That is a beautiful promise. But it is a conditional promise. When we love Jesus then both the Father and the Son will come and make their home in our hearts.
2. Romans 8:8-10
So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
The idea here is that we cannot please God in the flesh. Even though we are in the flesh alive, we are not in the flesh in the sense that we live the fleshly life. The reason we do not live the fleshly life is because the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God dwells within us. And when the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ dwells in us we crucify the fleshly life and live the spiritual life. And we have already learned that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith and the Holy Spirit dwells in us through the word of God.
3. 2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
We all need to examine ourselves—physically, mentally, morally and spiritually. When we do that then we will know whether Christ is in us or if we have failed the test and been spiritually disqualified.
4. Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
5. Revelation 3:20
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
According to John the apostle, Christ is knocking on our door. He does that every day. He wants to come in and live in our hearts and our lives. He wants us to glorify him by what we say, by what we do as we live the Christian life. And when Christ lives in our hearts he will make great changes in our lives. His indwelling will affect our social relationships and our conversations. His indwelling will shape our business transactions and keep our religious views within the teaching of the word of God.
CHRIST DWELLS IN THE BIBLE HEART (“INNER MAN”)
Now a few weeks ago I explained what the Bible heart is according to the teaching of the Scriptures. Sometimes people will ask, “What in the world is the Bible heart?” The inspired apostle Paul referred to the heart as “the inner man.” The heavenly Father wants us “to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). Therefore the inner man equals the Bible heart. We all have an outward man and an inward man. The Greeks looked upon the inner man as made up of the intellect, emotions, conscience and willpower. And the Greeks got that right because that is exactly how the Bible describes the Bible heart. The Bible heart is the seat of your intellect, emotions, willpower and conscience. Therefore, these are the areas which we must strengthen with the power and might through the Spirit of God who dwells in the word of God.
THE ADVANTAGES OF CHRIST DWELLING IN OUR HEARTS
What are the advantages of having Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith? We have many advantages and we will specify two or three.
Someone said one time, “Oh that I was always what I am sometimes.” There are many advantages to be steadfast in our faith and the indwelling of Christ in our hearts. We definitely want to imitate Christ in every way that we possibly can. And it was said of Jesus Christ “that he is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And it was said of the early Christians on the day of Pentecost, that they continued steadfastly in the apostle doctrine, the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). And we should definitely be inspired by Paul’s closing words to the church at Corinth in his first letter: “therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Another advantage of Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith is that we will have a better understanding of God and his will for us today. When Christ dwells in our hearts through faith and we have been rooted and grounded in love, then we will be able “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-18). Every Christian should desire to have the four dimensional knowledge and understanding of the will of God. Christianity has been defined as the reproduction of the life of Christ in the human heart. This was the prayer of Paul for the Ephesian church and for the church today!
CHRIST INDWELLS THE HEART BY FAITH
Let us now investigate as to how Christ dwells in our hearts. When we began this lesson, we quoted Paul to the effect that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17). The Bible says we live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). But what is faith? We are not left in doubt. The Bible defines faith in simple terms: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). According to this statement faith is the substance or foundation of everything that we hope for. Notice the prefix in substance. We all are aware that the prefix sub is found in many words. For instance, submarine means a boat down under the water. A subterranean passage way is down under the ground. A sub foundation is the foundation on which the structure is built. We could go on and on that these words illustrate the function of faith. Faith stands down under all of our hope for eternal life. And the Hebrews writer also has stated that without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
And Abraham is the best example of faith. He is called the father of the faithful. Because when God commanded him to offer up his only son– he is unique son of promise, he was ready to do the deed! He was ready to plunge the knife through his son’s heart. But God stayed his hand. And God said, “Now I know that Abraham believes. He stood the test. His faith was strong. He did not waver; he believed that God was able to raise him from the dead.
So Christ dwells in our hearts by faith when we become Christians and we live by faith after we become Christians. Let me give you any example. Paul went over into Europe to the city called Philippi. And there were some business women who went out by the Riverside to have a prayer meeting. We speak of Lydia and some of her friends. And the Bible says that the Lord opened her heart that she might attend to the things that were spoken by Paul. And she was baptized and considered to be a faithful Christian lady (Acts 16:14-15). This illustrates how Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. Therefore, Christ will dwell in our hearts by faith when we will have a mind and life in complete harmony with the mind and life of Christ formed in our heart. The apostle Paul declared that he was in the pains of childbirth until Christ would be formed in some of his dear children (Galatians 4:19).
Our prayer for any who are not Christians is that you will be baptized into Christ even this very day. According to the teaching of the Bible faith is unto (Romans 10:10)), repentance is unto (Acts 11:18), confession is unto (Romans 10:10), but baptism is always into! “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). Will you become a Christian and let Christ dwell in your heart by faith? And then he will add you to the church where you can glorify Christ “to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).*
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon, Sunday morning, November 3, 2019, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.
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