I Pray To God (Part 3) – Eph 3:14-21 Eph 3:14-21.  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory 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—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV) This is our third week here, because this passage is as rich and deep as the love it describes. And provides a pattern for our prayers. A pattern I’ve framed in the first person, because it’s what I’ve begun praying for you. And would encourage you to do the same. If your prayers for our church have grown cold or rare, this is the solution. Starting with our unity in v14. I pray to God . . . For our heart-felt unity (v14) Second, I pray to God . . . That you pray fervently (v14) On your knees and from your heart. Third, from v15, I pray to God . . . That you trust his sovereignty (v15) His power and control in your life. His goodness and love for you. His ways and purposes. I pray to God you trust that, because it’s the only real and lasting source of peace in this life, and the only way to conquer your fear. And then last, from v16, was strength. I pray to God . . . For your spiritual strength (v16) Strength that’s full of power to fight the good fight and live for Christ. That brings us to Part 3 and the 5th aspect of Paul’s prayer from v17. That you are ___________ by Jesus more and more (v17a) I pray Paul says, that God may grant you to be strengthened . . .  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Before we get to the point, let’s be clear about what this isn’t. When Paul prays that Christ may dwell in your hearts, he isn’t talking about our initial salvation. He’s not praying that we would be saved. Because the word strengthened in v16, implies that we already have some strength. And prior to conversion, we’re strengthless. Dead in our trespasses and sins (2:1). So Paul can’t be talking about our salvation here. When we first receive Jesus into our heart. That means, he must be talking about our sanctification. Where we are strengthened by God in our heart, to better house God in our heart. To be a better and better temple as Paul
says it elsewhere (1 Cor 3&6; 2 Cor 6). A better place of worship. Where God is honored and glorified more and more, and we are influenced and sanctified more and more. Paul isn’t talking about our salvation, when Jesus first enters our heart, but our sanctification to have more of our heart. Enabling him to influence us more. That’s the point. I pray to God . . . That you are influenced by Jesus more and more (v17a) If someone dwells with you, someone lives with you, they’re going to influence you. That’s the idea Paul is conveying. That’s what he’s praying for when he says I bow my knees . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts (17). But his reference to Christ dwelling in us raises a question. What about the Holy Spirit? I thought the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, and Jesus dwells in heaven. Like Paul says in 1 Cor 3:16 – Do you not know . . . that God’s Spirit dwells in you? His Holy Spirit? Doesn’t that contradict Eph 3:17 with Christ dwelling in our hearts?” No. Because Paul refers to them interchangeably. Like in Rom 8:9-11. Where he says . . .  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit [contrary to those who set their mind on the flesh; their sinfulness], if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ [referring to the same entity] does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you [yet another way of referring to the presence of God], although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. He uses them interchangeably: Spirit, Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, and Christ. And then, lest we think they’re all the same, he distinguishes them. V11.  If the Spirit of him [God the Father] who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you [if God’s Spirit dwells in you], he [God the Father] who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So technically, it’s the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in us, put there by God the Father, with Jesus at his right hand in heaven. But Paul sometimes refers to them interchangeably, because they share the same divine essence, and enjoy perfect divine fellowship. It’s no contradiction at all.***** That said, the point of Paul’s prayer in this verse, is influence. Because the point of Christ dwelling in our heart isn’t to just have a place to stay and a hot meal in the morning. Like a hotel. It’s to influence us. Help us. Change us. Conform us more and more to be like him. That’s the essence of Paul’s prayer here. That we would be influenced by Jesus more and more. I’m so thankful for pictures like this in that respect. It’s Vice President Pence leading his team in prayer in the thick of the Coronavirus outbreak. February 26th. Bowing their heads and asking for the influence of Jesus, just like Paul. His influence on them, as a task force, and his influence on our entire country. More of that, Lord. In all of us. More prayer, to be influenced more and more, by
him access to all the rooms. Access to clean the rooms, and use the rooms. More faith brings more access and more influence.
But that’s not the only aspect of Paul’s prayer here. He alludes to 2 more as well. The first, is more capacity. He prays that we would have more capacity for his presence and influence. More openness to his impact. More availability to his leading.
On the other hand, to the extent that he lacks faith – faith in God’s forgiveness, God’s mercy, God’s sovereignty, God’s power – he closes his heart to the Lord.*****
That’s the implication of praying that we would be strengthened in v16, so that Christ may dwell in v17.
How about you? Is your heart full of God’s presence these days? Are the doors wide open so Jesus can have the maximum amount of influence on you? Or are some of them closed? Off limits? Do not disturb?
The question is, strengthened how? And the answer, is strengthened to receive all that Jesus gives and does, to influence us more and more.
I hope not. I hope your entire heart is Christ’s home. I hope his presence is all pervasive. So that you’re influenced by him more and more. I pray to God for that. (Summary)
It would be like turning your screened-in porch into a bedroom. You strengthen and insulate the walls, so that you have more capacity to receive more people into your home. People God gives, so that you can not only bless them, but they can influence you.
Prayer – Lord, forgive us for our lack of faith. Forgive us for offering some of our lives to you, but not all. Will you change that? Give us the desire to be influenced more and more, and then do it. Give us more faith and more capacity to follow you and be like you. We pray in your name, the name of Jesus, amen.
Or how about a hot-air balloon (photo). I don’t know a lot about them, but it’s obvious that the fabric out of which they are made has improved over the years. Early on they had ropes around them, but now it’s just fabric. Because the fabric has strengthened. Enabling it to contain more hot air, and be more influenced by it, in order to travel farther, higher, and faster. As God grows and strengthens us, our capacity to follow Jesus and live for Jesus also increases. Enabling us to soar on wings like eagles, and receive all that he gives and does.***** How about it? Are you influenced by Jesus more and more these days, or less and less? Are you soaring to new heights, or sinking to new lows? Are you stronger or weaker in your walk? That’s the idea of Christ dwelling in our hearts. It’s about influence and capacity. More capacity. And more faith. More trust. Greater belief. I pray Paul says, for God’s strength in your life, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (17a) The key to making your heart Christ’s home, is faith. Faith in who he is and what he’s done. And the key to being influenced by him more and more, is more faith. He enters our heart when we put our faith and trust in him initially, and he changes our heart as we put even more faith in him. The Christian life isn’t just about initial faith, but ongoing faith. More faith. I can’t help but think of that little booklet My Heart Christ’s Home every time I read this. It was written by Robert Munger back in 1951, but it’s just as relevant today as it was then. And it’s based on this very verse: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
I pray to God that you’re influenced by him more and more. Second, and 6th overall, I pray to God . . . That you understand the love of Christ (v17b-18) V17b. I pray Paul says, that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of that love]. The love of Christ as we find in the next verse. Strength to comprehend there in v18, is the heightened ability to understand. The spiritual aptitude to recognize Christ’s love when you see it, and appreciate it for all it’s worth. Or more literally, it’s the power to take hold of his love; seize it. That’s the point. That we grasp the love of Christ. And do so, with all the saints. V18. I pray Paul says, that you may have strength to comprehend [the love of Christ] with all the saints. Implying 2 things: A. Everybody’s doing it – all the saints. B. It takes everybody. Every single child of God, every single believer, is trying to understand the love of Christ more and more. Or should be. Because it’s the source of everything good in this world, and without it we fall apart. Like scientists who are trying to understand gravity. Because it’s the glue that holds the universe together. Everybody’s doing it, and it takes everybody to do it. The love of Jesus is so deep and wide we can’t possibly understand it on our own. There are too many facets, too many nuances, and too many implications. It’s over our head. So we need to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and those who are around us. It takes everybody. But even then it’s not easy.
Munger lays out an allegory of accepting Christ into his heart as if it were a home, a home with various rooms. And to the extent that he trusts Jesus, he opens all the doors and gives
Our grandson is turning 1 next week and we’re going to the party. Where he’s going to be
presented with a chocolate cake covered in icing. The only problem is, he’s never had chocolate cake. In fact, he’s never had sugar. Except the little bit of ice cream his grandma snuck him here and there. But not enough for him to understand what sits before him on that blessed day. That glorious occasion. He has no idea. Which is a lot like us when it comes to the love of Christ. Especially when we’re first saved. We have some appreciation of it, some understanding, but not enough to do it justice. Not enough to really know what we have. Not enough to fully appreciate it. And we certainly don’t have enough understanding to throw inhibition to the wind and dive in headfirst. Scooping it up with both hands and rubbing it all over our face because we can’t get enough. “Give us that kind of understanding, Lord. That kind of comprehension.” Understanding and comprehension equal to the blessing. Are you there? Do you understand the love of Christ to the point of desiring it and pursuing it and soaking it up more than anything else in the world? I don’t. Not all the time. And I imagine you’re the same. Which is why Paul starts with our foundation. Our base. Being rooted and grounded in love, 17b. I pray Paul says, that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend Christ’s love. No familiarity with love, no understanding. No foundation, no grasp. No perspective, no appreciation. Just like sugar and cake. Or like a new husband who grew up in a dysfunctional family, and struggles to see and appreciate all the ways his wife is trying to love him. He doesn’t get it because it’s a foreign concept. He has no grounding in love. No rootedness. Or how about the pre-teen who was abused as a little girl, and has trouble receiving the love of her adopted parents? They’ve never tasted – tasted and seen that the Lord is good. If you want to understand the love of Christ, start with a taste. Start with his expressions of love nearest to you, familiar to you; however faint they may be. Just like a 1 year-old starts with a little bit of sugar. If you don’t, you’ll never know what you’re missing, never long for more, and never understand at all. And last, I pray to God that you understand the love of Christ, even though it’s infinite. That’s the idea of the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ’s love. It’s an expression of its infinite nature. Think about it. The love of Christ is wide enough to embrace the world, long enough to last forever, high enough to take us to heaven, and deep enough to reach our sin. (Hughes, Preaching the Word, 115) That’s infinite. (Summary) So whatever you do, don’t miss out. In fact, I pray to God that you grasp his love more
and more. Prayer – Father, will you give us a greater understanding of that? A greater understanding of the love expressed and embodied by Jesus? Will you show us your love more and more in our church, along with all the other saints? Will you increase our desire to grasp it and spread it? We love you, and are so thankful you love us. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.