Preparing to Live
Living Requires Christ at Home
A man and his wife are having their nightly tiff, with the husband waxing poetic about all the things his wife does that he finds irritating. The wife says, “I tell you what – make a list of all the things I do that bother you.” About ten years later, as they are about to start watching television, the wife says, “Listen, ten years ago, you said you were going to make a list of all the things I do that aggravate you. Where’s the list?” The husband says, “I’m working on it, but so far I’m only up to the M’s.”
I think it’s safe to say that that husband and wife did not feel very much at home with each other, wouldn’t you? What do we mean when we say that we feel right at home somewhere? Well, we mean we’re comfortable; we can be ourselves; that we feel secure, safe, wanted, compatible with the surroundings. We’ve all said, “Nice place to visit; wouldn’t want to live there.” We didn’t feel at home, right? The food was different, the customs were unfamiliar and uncomfortable. We saw interesting things, but we were not at home.
Now, I have a question for you this morning. Is it possible that Jesus Christ your Savior is saying about you, “Nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live there?” Is that possible? In the passage before us this morning we are faced with a very fascinating, challenging and largely unrecognized truth of the Christian life and that is that it is possible to have invited Christ into your heart and life – possible to truly be a Christian and yet for Christ not to be indwelling your heart. You say, “That’s not possible. Why that’s contrary to everything I’ve ever heard or been taught.” But I tell you, it is possible, and it’s taught right here in our passage.
Look at Ephesians 3:17. Paul prays, “ so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Why in the world would Paul pray that? Aren’t these already Christian people? Yes, they are. He addressed his letter to the saints in Ephesus, and has assumed their salvation all along, so there is no question that he is praying for people here who are already in Christ. And if they are “in Christ”, is it not true that Christ has been invited in? Yes, that’s true. The Bible says in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God.” All who have accepted Christ have Him in their life. They have received Him in – but having done so, many of us turn and immediately put severe restrictions on Him – some purposeful, some not, but we limit this wonderful Savior and it is Paul’s prayer that these Ephesian believers get beyond that and take their Christian experience to a whole different level – one where Christ can truly feel and be at home – one where He is in control and not self, one where He finds that which is familiar, acceptable, comfortable, pleasing, desirable – one where our will is subordinated to His.
This is the second rung in the ladder of Paul’s prayer that these believers learn to live with a capital “L”. It is an audacious prayer aimed at focusing the attention of the Ephesians at the absolute highest of possible spiritual heights – even while still living here in this world. Rung one of that ladder was that we might be strengthened on the inside to bear what is coming. Rung two is that Christ will dwell in our hearts by faith – a rich, rich request. Let’s look at it in three parts. What is Paul praying here?
I. He prays for Christ to be at Home
To get the message of this passage, we must first understand the word “dwell.” It is the Greek word κατακοιεω. The Greek word οικος means house. The verb form of that, οικεω, means to abide or dwell in. Now, there is a Greek word, παροικεω, that means to dwell in as a stranger. That word describes the condition when we go visiting and are given our bedroom, but we would be uncomfortable to go just anywhere in the house. We are there as a guest. But Paul’s word is κατοικεω, an intensified form that means to settle down and really feel at home – free to go anywhere in the house. Big difference, Folks. This is why it’s possible for Christ to be in our heart – but not really indwell, in the sense of being very at home.
One way to think of this is that when you accepted Christ, you truly desired that He forgive your sins and become your Lord and Savior. You’re not a Christian if you have not opened yourself that way to Him. So, He came in. He became a part of your life. But now, you have reverted in many ways to your pre-Christian ways, wants, desires, habits, and interests. Far from being about seeking the kingdom of God, your life is about getting by with as much pleasure and ease as possible. No sense of mission attaches.
In essence, you have confined Christ to a single chair in the formal living room or even on the porch. You visit him there occasionally – perhaps on those Sunday’s when you are feeling good and there is nothing else to occupy your attentions – and once in awhile when life really implodes on you, you may, as a last resort, come to him to meet your need with never a further thought for His desires, for His will, for His purposes – and certainly with no desire that He move from that seat. “Please God, do not come into the remainder of my heart house.” He is παροικεω in our lives (dwelling as a stranger), but He’s surely not κατοικεω.
What is the problem? Oh, folks, that answer is very simple, and it revolves around that same word οικεω. Paul says this in Romans 7:18: “18) For I know that nothing good dwells (there is our word, οικεο) nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. See, what Paul is describing in Romans 7 is exactly what we are looking at – the experience of a true Christian, but one not living in the power of the Holy Spirit, and so he is controlled by the remnants of his old life, by the sin and self that still remain – wanting in a sense to do good (wouldn’t be a Christian if at least the desire weren’t there), but giving in quickly to the old desires, living in accordance with a very visible physical world and confining Christ to His single, little chair. Christ is in the life, but He is certainly not at home.
I saw a cartoon not long ago. It showed a fisherman and a game warden standing together on a dock. The fisherman is holding a line behind his back with a fish attached, obviously trying unsuccessfully to hide it as the warden says, “When I said, ‘Throw it back,’ I also meant cut the line.” A lot of us haven’t cut the line, folks. We’re still hanging on for all we’re worth to pre-Christ lifestyle.
Let me give you a picture. The Lord, in company with two angels, visited Abraham one day as recorded in Genesis 18. Abraham, sensing that this was the Lord, begged them to stay, to wash their feet and to rest while he brought a morsel of bread. They agreed and notice what Abraham did starting in verse 6, “And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7) And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8) Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.” What a picture. He couldn’t do enough to make them feel at home and they did, and so you will see later in the chapter the Lord shared His heart with Abraham.
But contrast that with Genesis 19. This same heavenly group is actually on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah and they show up at Lot’s house in Sodom, on a mission to destroy this most evil society that Lot has chosen to live among. Lot is a believer; we are so told in II Peter 2:7, and there are indications in Genesis 19 as well. He invites them to come to his home rather than stay in the city square where he knows full well they will be assaulted by neighbors given to licentiousness. He feeds them and tries to protect them. He’s a believer. But notice, the whole travel contingent didn’t get to Sodom. The Lord dropped out and sent the angels on alone. Though Lot was a believer, His Lord would never have felt in the least at home at Lot’s place. In fact, He had to completely destroy Lot’s place, with Lot barely escaping himself. Now I suppose at some level, Lot thought he liked his life in Sodom; he didn’t dislike it enough to leave it, that’s for sure. But later, in the light of eternity, when he compared with Abraham, when the cheap, tawdry thrills of this life were over – how do you think he felt then? So, the question is, Beloved, just how at home is Christ in your life? Can He truly settle in and be at home? Is our heart more like Abraham’s place or more like Lot’s? Let’s look further at Paul’s prayer.
II. He Prays for Christ to be at Home in Their Hearts
The next important word in our text is the word “hearts”. Paul prays that Christ may dwell – be at home and settled – in their hearts. When the Bible uses the word “heart” it is not just referring to the emotions. Rather, the entire inner person is in view – mind, will and emotions. So, Paul is praying that there be no part of our inner being where Christ is not comfortable. So, Christ is seated in His easy chair welcome for His power to save, but absolutely unwelcome anywhere else in this heart house. The problem, of course, is sin. It occupies every corner. So what has to happen? Doesn’t take a brain surgeon, does it? If Christ is going to be at home in our hearts, sin has to go.
Let’s start in the library. What we are will all start there, so what do we find? Remember we’re like a computer – Garbage in; garbage out. Well – there’s plenty there, but it is clearly mostly trash. Seems to be a lot of space devoted to the gossip magazines. There’s a huge video section, with almost nothing that could be called truly edifying, plenty that is just plain wasteful and a good deal that is calculated to foster materialism, lust, greed and other worldly values. There are enough video games to dull any conscience against violence, but worse, show signs of almost constant use to no productive purpose. I do see one Bible on the shelf, but cobwebs and dust have nearly destroyed it. Oh, look at this guy, McNeff – let’s see, 455 books and magazines on how to play golf, most of them open and out on the table – 2 theology books on how to live for Christ sitting pretty dusty on the shelf. Pretty easy to see why he’s not succeeding very well at the latter, but you’d sure think his golf game would be better!
What are we putting in our mind? Is your Lord comfortable in the library of our heart? Tough to clean out because we often won’t call trash what He calls trash. I read of one federal employee who was faced with mountains of useless old reports in his office. He stacked them on top of his wastebasket with a sign reading: "Rubbish." The next day, the papers were still there, so he added the words: "Please remove." On Wednesday, nothing had changed, and therefore a more explicit notice was used. "This is rubbish," it said. "I do not want it. Please remove." Thursday revealed the need for still stronger words: "This is RUBBISH, REFUSE, GARBAGE. Get it out of here!" This sign had been heatedly scrawled with a red felt-tipped marker. On Friday, the papers were still not removed. However, a small note in pencil had been written beneath Thursday’s sign. I read: "Cannot remove unless marked "Trash." Get the point, folks. If Christ is going to be at home in our hearts, we have to clean out the library, and to get that done, we’re going to have to call garbage what it is – TRASH! Of course not everything goes, but much will have to be replaced by His precious Word which has to have a place of great privilege if Jesus is to feel at home.
How about the dining room? What’s on the menu? What appetite just must be met – cannot live without? Is it money, prestige, leisure time, a hobby? I think it is interesting how quickly we learn to turn “wants” into “needs” because that communicates a whole different level of urgency to everyone. I was talking to Jim and Julie Kennedy one day to get the latest on Ellie and Lillie and what they told me was interesting. It’s no longer, “I want to watch Veggie Tales,” first thing in the morning. Now – it’s “Mom, I need to watch Veggie Tales.” I need it. Oh, how quickly our wants become needs. Our appetites drive us, do they not? I don’t want pizza – I need pizza. Aren’t we all the same?
So, how comfortable is Jesus with the “needs” in your life? As we’ve often mentioned Paul said in I Tim 4:4-5, “4) For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5) for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” Notice what makes things holy – it is the Word of God and prayer. Is that what drives our appetites – or is it greed and self-centeredness? Is Christ at home in the dining room?
How about the den where you are yourself and emotions are given full reign? Is there a temper problem that crops up way too often, quick on the trigger? Are your relationships with your family absolutely solid? Do you respect your spouse and children, love them in spite of themselves, give of yourself for them? Are you lazy and spend way more time there than the Lord would be comfortable with? How many mindless hours a week of TV are you exposed to? Is what you are reading edifying? Would you be happy to share it with Christ?
Who’s in the living room? Are we welcoming to good people? Are you hanging with people who will enhance your love for Christ, or are you hanging with those who will eventually tear you down -- encouraging a life of selfish indulgence, whether it is out-and-out sin or just a self-centered lifestyle. Now – before you go jettison all your unbelieving friends, realize that’s not the solution. Jesus was perfectly at home with sinners – thank goodness, right? We should all have friends who do not know the Lord. That’s our mission field. That’s our primary outreach program! How else will they ever get to see Him? Their only shot at Christ may well be you. Don’t kick them out. Jesus loves them. Here’s the question – are you becoming more like them or is Jesus at home with your unbelieving friends because you love them, care for them, and are living a Christian life before them? How’s your living room?
How about the smell emanating from that closet in the back of the house? What secret sin is hidden in there? What is it about you that no one else knows? We quickly condemn others, but who among us could really cast the first stone were our true inner life known? Is Jesus comfortably at home with our secret life? Would He approve of the bitter thoughts that we take out and massage when no one is around? Would he be comfortable with the vengeful attitude that we have toward those who have harmed us or those whose political views differ from ours? Would He be at home in our thought life – or does the closet need to be cleaned out?
You say, Man, Dave, this is getting too intrusive for me. If I paid attention to that whole checklist, Christ would be taking over my whole life! EXACTLY! Paul is praying that Christ will dwell in the hearts of the Ephesians which simply means Christ in control. I don’t know if any of us here today could say – got all bases covered. But I pray that we want to. Paul could say it. Gal 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Listen, it should be our life goal to be able to say that. Just back up one chapter to Gal 1:16 where Paul says God “ was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.” Our normally very reliable ESV missed the translation here . See the little word “to”. It is actually “in”. God was pleased to reveal his son in Paul. It was like his own life was transparent and you could see right through Paul to the Christ inside. Oh, to be like that! That is Christ at home in our hearts.
III. He Prays for Christ to be at Home in Their Hearts Thru Faith
Okay, so now we get down to it. Christ wants to be at home. He wants to be at home in our hearts. He wants to be at home in our hearts through faith. What does it mean that this has to happen by faith? Well, we read in Hebrews 11:1, “1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So -- faith means that you are trusting something that you can’t see. It means that you are putting confidence in something that is not obvious. It seems like the thing to do with my life is get as much enjoyment out of it as I can as I go along – plan for a restful retirement that will increase my years of ease and fun – and that’s the best I can hope for. That’s what I see. So why would I trust anything different. Why live for the “conviction of things not seen”?
Well, go on down to verse 13 of Hebrews 11, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14) For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.” Why did these people live by faith? People like Abel and Enoch and Noah? Why, he says, because they did see something. No, not the something you can see with physical eyes, but something seen afar off. What does He mean? Why he means that they received by faith the promises He made to them – a homeland – in heaven! They saw with spiritual eyes that they were strangers here – that their reward was in heaven, and then they lived accordingly. They got an eternal perspective.
Why would anyone quit living for self and begin to live for Jesus. How about because you’ve believed the Word of God that you are just a stranger and sojourner on this earth -- evidenced by the fact that you are going to spend only 80 years of your eternal existence here. You absolutely can’t get out alive, you know. If you’re a Christian, you’re an exile here and seeking a homeland in heaven. And you can be sure that if Christ is at home in your heart, your reward in heaven will be great. That’s why!
Let me close with this thought. One of the most misused verses in all the Bible – perhaps the most misunderstood – is found in Rev. 3:20. Look at it with me, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” It’s a great and wonderful verse that is almost always used in the context of explaining how Christ is knocking at the heart’s door of the unsaved and waiting to come in. Well, Christ is knocking on the heart’s door of the unsaved and wanting to come in – but that’s not what this verse is about. Now, please get this. This verse is picturing Jesus standing outside the heart’s door of a believer and asking to come in. How sad!
This is in the opening section of Revelation where the Lord is sending messages to the seven churches in Asia Minor through John, and to the church at Laodicea he had some frightening comments. They are addressed to believers, but very American-like ones. Let’s look starting in verse 15: “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot (in other words, you are apathetic. You have your ticket to heaven and are now living however you want with little thought for your place in the kingdom of God and eternity). Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Oh, Beloved, surely we don’t want to be with that crowd) 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing (I’m a self-made, self-sufficient, hard-working successful person, and I intend to enjoy my success – but look at Christ’s evaluation), For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (speaking spiritually, of course – the only thing that really counts). 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (In other words, WAKE UP, He is saying. You do need me. You need my vision and my help to become spiritually alive). 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 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 eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
Folks, our Christian hearts need to be changed, because while we love ourselves, Christ cannot be at home there. We have to be rid of the love of self. That is the most difficult of all tasks in our experience. The ultimate battle in the Christian life is to get rid of self and of self-love. In and of ourselves we cannot do this. You drive it out as it were by one door of your house, but it soon returns by another door, or through some window, or by the chimney. To get rid of self-love seems impossible. But Christ will not come into our hearts without an invitation. So we must invite Him in and let Him go to work. That takes faith because it is likely to mean that we have to jettison that which is secure, familiar, and comfortable to us to make it comfortable for Him. We must take a risk – but the miracle is, when we do that, we will soon find greater comfort, greater security, and greater joy than we ever thought possible.
I want to close with an illustration that I used at Christmas time. You’ll forgive me for re-using one so soon, but it captures the message of this passage so well. When Queen Victoria reigned in England, she occasionally would visit some of the humble cottages of her subjects. One time she entered the home of a widow and stayed to enjoy a brief period of Christian fellowship. Later on, the poor woman was taunted by her worldly neighbors. “Granny,” they said, “who’s the most honored guest you’ve ever entertained in your home?” They expected her to say it was Jesus, for despite their constant ridicule of her Christian witness, they recognized her deep spirituality. But to their surprise she answered, “The most honored guest I’ve entertained is Her Majesty the Queen.”
“Did you say the Queen? Ah, we caught you this time! How about this Jesus you’re always talking about? Isn’t He your most honored guest?” Her answer was definite and scriptural, “NO, indeed! He’s not a guest. HE LIVES HERE!” May I humbly and earnestly ask this morning, does Jesus Christ live with you? Or would He have to say, “Nice place to visit. Wouldn’t want to live there”?