In Ephesians 3:17 the apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”
You might be thinking to yourself—“why is Paul praying that Jesus may dwell in their hearts—I thought he was writing this to Christians who already had Jesus living in their hearts?”
It is true that Paul is writing to believers living in Ephesus. It is also true that Jesus lives in the heart of every Christian the moment they receive Him into their heart by faith as Lord and Savior.
So then what is Paul actually saying here? The answer is found in the word “dwell.”
According to the Greek scholar Dr. Kenneth Wuest the verb literally means “to settle down and feel at home.”
Certainly Jesus was already living in the hearts of the Ephesians, or else Paul would not have addressed them as “saints” in Ephesians 1:1.
What Paul is praying for is a deeper experience between Jesus and His people.
He yearns for Christ to settle down and feel at home in their hearts. He’s not talking about a superficial relationship, but an ever-deepening loving communion.
However, Jesus will never feel at home in our hearts until He feels welcome and comfortable in every room and secret chamber of our hearts—otherwise He will go on feeling like a tolerated visitor.
Remember one thing—Jesus didn’t force His way into your heart when you became a Christian.
He said in Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock—if anyone opens the door I will come in…” Notice the Lord didn’t say, “Behold I stand at the door and kick it open.” He said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock”.
There was an English artist, Holman Hunt, who attempted to capture this scene on canvas—the painting now hangs in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
He pictured Jesus standing at a door of a neglected cottage—knocking to be let in.
When he first painted the picture, he invited his artist friends to critique it.
After studying it for awhile one of them said to him, “Holman, you have left off a very important part of the door–the handle, you left off the handle of the door.”
“Ah,” Mr. Hunt replied, “This door is a picture of the human heart, and the handle of the door is only on the inside. You see it’s up to the one within to respond to the knock of Jesus and open the door of their heart to invite Him in.”
Jesus will not force His way into a heart. He won’t barge in where He’s not welcome.
He’s a perfect gentleman who knocks and says, “If you’ll respond to Me, I’ll come in and dwell with you—but the choice is up to you.”
Most of us have made that choice. We heard His knock and said, “Come in, Lord. Come into my heart and make it your home.” And He did.
And now that He has come into our hearts He won’t feel comfortable until He has full access to every room and closet so that He can clean out the junk and rearrange and redecorate things so that He really feels at home there.
In his booklet My Heart Christ’s Home, Robert Munger pictures the Christian’ heart and life as a house, through which Jesus goes from room to room.
In the library, which is the mind, Jesus finds trash and all sorts of worthless things, which He proceeds to throw out and replace with His Word.
In the dining room of appetite He finds many sinful desires listed on a worldly menu. In the place of such things as prestige, materialism, and lust He puts humility, meekness, love, and all the other virtues for which believers are to hunger and thirst.
He goes through the living room of fellowship, where He finds many worldly companions and activities which He replaces with godly friends and fellowship with Himself.
Next the author pictures Jesus going through the workshop, where only toys are being made and He replaces these with the work of the Kingdom.
Then He goes into the closet where hidden sins are kept which He proceeds to clean out, and so on through the entire house.
Only when He had cleaned every room, closet, and corner of sin, carnality and foolishness could He settle down and be at home.
Author William MacDonald has said concerning this,
“[Jesus Christ will never feel at home in our hearts until He has] full access to every room and closet; that He might not be grieved by sinful words, thoughts, motives, and deeds; that He might enjoy unbroken fellowship with the believer…In effect, the apostle prays that the lordship of Christ might extend to the books we read, the work we do, the food we eat, the money we spend, the words we speak—in short, the minutest details of our lives.”
The problem with all too many Christians when they invite Jesus into their hearts, is that they lock Him in a ‘back bedroom’ somewhere and only bring Him out when they need His help.
They make most of their lives “off limits” to Him because they really don’t want Him intruding into areas of their thought lives, their associations, or interfering in how they spend their time and money.
But if Jesus Christ isn’t Lord of all He isn’t Lord at all.
Another problem with a lot of Christians is they have neglected their heart relationship with Jesus so much and allowed it to grow so cold that Jesus feels unwelcome, unwanted and abandoned.
Again, using Holman Hunt’s painting of Jesus standing at a door of a neglected cottage knocking to be let in.
One author put it this way—
“How often I have seen Christians whose lives are represented by the neglected cottage in Holman Hunt’s famous painting. Where the fire of passion once filled the windows with the light of vibrant life, now only the dimness of passivity is evident. Once the pathway was packed firm and the grounds weeded and trimmed for the frequent, welcomed visitor, but now the threshold is rarely crossed. And the door that was always ajar in anticipation of the Master’s fellowship is now shut and locked from the inside against a friend who is now regarded as a stranger.”
Folks, if you’ve never opened your heart to Jesus then know that He is standing on the outside of your heart knocking—it’s up to you whether or not you let Him in.
But understand that if you do it’s all or nothing. You must be willing to give Him total control of your life to clean it up and make it holy.
And for those of you who are Christians whose hearts have grown cold to the Lord know this—Jesus loves you and is saying to you, “It’s not too late to repent, it’s not too late to renew the warmth of our fellowship with one another.”
Of course the key to all of this is faith even as Paul stated in verse 17—“that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”
Why has your relationship with Jesus grown cold? Maybe it’s because your faith is failing.
The reality that God has revealed to you has begun to seem unreal. Your faith is dragging.
The solution—you need to turn back to Him and renew your relationship by doing the things you used to do when you first opened the door of your heart to Him.
This would include getting back to church and back into your morning devotions.
Fill your day with praise because God inhabits the praise of His people.
But most importantly you must get back into His Word if your faith is going to be strengthened and renewed.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. (Romans 10:17)
The first thing to believe is the most fundamental fact of the Christian life and that is that Jesus Christ has come to live in you.
This fact is not dependent upon your feelings, which ebb and flow. It rests solely upon Jesus’ promise given in the Upper Room in John 14:23 when He said to His disciples, “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.”
And also, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)
That is what Paul refers to when he prays that Jesus may dwell in our hearts through faith.
First of all remind yourself of that every day as a Christian—that Jesus Christ lives in you. He has taken up residence in you and He promises never to leave you nor forsake you.
He has made your heart His home and you belong to Him forever!
Now make Him feel at home by surrendering every area of your heart and life to Him that He might start giving you an Extreme Makeover Heart Edition!
May the Lord richly bless you as you walk with Him day by day.