November 14, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 3)

Submitted by Emily K. Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 3:14-19

  • One of Apostle Paul’s prayers for these Christians is for Christ to dwell in their hearts.  What does this reveal about what our hearts are prone to?  How does faith enable Christ to dwell in our hearts?

The fact that Apostle Paul is actively praying for Christ to dwell in the hearts of the Ephesians reveals that our hearts are prone to being filled with many things other than Christ.  As we go through the mundane goings on of each day, we accumulate many different thoughts and feelings.  There’s the mild anxiety over the to-do list that only seems to grow longer; the stress of time sensitive projects, issues, and deadlines; the pain of different relational issues; endless thoughts replaying different conversations and what we could have or should have said; worries about health problems, whether our own or in the lives of loved ones; financial difficulties; and, so much more.  In the midst of each day it is so easy to get focused in on these things and to push Christ out of our hearts.

But faith enables Christ to dwell in our hearts.  As we grow in our knowledge of who God is and become “rooted and grounded in love,” as we grasp more and more of the “breadth and length and height and depth” of his love, we are able to believe on His word and His promises for the very real matters of our lives.  We grow in our ability to entrust our fears and worries to Him.  We grow in our assurance of God’s forgiveness of our sin and shame.  We invite Christ to reign in the real areas of hearts and minds.

  • What might get in the way of comprehending the “breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love? 

One thing is spiritual complacency and pride.  When I become a little distanced or dull to the sense of myself as a wretched sinner, Christ’s love becomes something that I can start to take for granted.  It becomes smaller–a little less amazing and awesome, not as wide, long, high or deep.  It is when I am painfully aware of who I really am before God and others, a forever sinner who is in desperate need of Christ’s redeeming blood to cover me, that I experience God’s love in deeper, more expansive ways no matter how old I get.  I become that much more grateful for the ministry I have been entrusted with, and understand God’s mercy that much more.

Another thing that might prevent me from experiencing the fullness of Christ’s love is giving ear to Satan’s lies, whether that I am not fully forgiven for my sins, that I am never going to change or that God cannot use someone like me.  Getting trapped in thoughts like these can preclude an understanding of Christ’s love in all its breadth, length, height, and depth.  That is why it is important to come to God’s truth each day, and to bring my full attention and focus to God’s word each time I read or hear from it, whether in personal times of Bible Reading, DT and prayer, or corporate times of prayer, worship service, or Bible study.

  • Apostle Paul prays that they would “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”  If this prayer were answered in our lives, what effect would it have in the church? 

Should this prayer to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” be answered in all of our lives, the church would be a powerful testimony to the watching world.  It would be able to reflect the glory of God, as it was intended.  As each of us knows Christ’s love personally and more deeply, we would be freed from the need to wear masks before one another, freed from the chains of envy and competition, and it would result in genuine relationships and a building up of the church.  It would enable the church to attempt more for God, knowing that everyone is sharing a common vision and goal–for more and more to know the love of Christ in the same way.  The church would be that much more effective in sharing the good news of Christ’s love with others on a collective level, because each member would be experiencing that love personally themselves.

Ephesians 3:20-21

  • Reflect on all the ways I have experienced God doing “far more abundantly than all that [I] ask or think.”  How should this truth transform how I approach my future? 

I was actually thinking about these verses throughout the Thanksgiving Retreat this past weekend, as well as the farewell and send-off of Mark & Naomi Lee’s family to our Minneapolis church plant.  I kept coming back to this verse as I thought about my own life. As I watched videos and heard testimonies of how God worked in our various ministries this past year, I was able to share in the joy and amazement of God’s goodness simply by being here, by sticking it out over the years.  My heart was so full it felt like it would burst, and I stopped to wonder and marvel at how it is that I was there at all.  How amazing it is that I am here, that God rerouted the entire direction of my life and planted me within a community of believers who are taking the Great Commission seriously and trying to live out the Acts 2 vision.  I had such a limited view of what Christianity and what life in general was, and I was headed for such a small life.  I used to think being a Christian was going to church on Sundays and that’s about it.  But God has done far more than all I could have asked or imagined for my life, showing me a higher-dimensional life that I never even knew existed or was possible.

I haven’t “contributed much” to God or to our church if we are measuring by worldly standards.  In fact, the opposite could be said of me.  But because of God’s great mercy, I am able to experience his blessings in abundance.  In a world where people are increasingly lonely, my life is full of so many people with whom I have a shared history, people who aren’t just acquaintances, but friends and leaders who know me for who I am and love me anyway.  In a world where people are searching for meaning and purpose, I am given such good work that He has prepared for me to do.  Currently that is serving the high school students in Element.

When I reflect on the course of my life, I can only say that God has been good.  And this leads me to respond with greater trust in God for my future, through whatever ups or downs may come my way.  I have experienced God redeeming and working through some of the most painful and darkest parts of my life.  I can also testify that God has worked his good each time I have obeyed and taken a step of faith, no matter how small.  As this year comes to a close and I look ahead to the coming year, I know there will be continued opportunities to repent and struggle with persistent sins and character issues, more opportunities to love and serve people, to rise up and to share more in God’s heart and vision.  I commit to embracing those opportunities, and though my understanding is limited, I can trust that as I strive to obey God each time, he will do far more than I could even ask or imagine.

Submitted by Grace T. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 3:14-19

  • One of Apostle Paul’s prayers for these Christians is for Christ to dwell in their hearts.  What does this reveal about what our hearts are prone to?  How does faith enable Christ to dwell in our hearts?

It is not natural to be taken for granted that Christ would be able to dwell in our hearts–so much so that Apostle Paul prays for Christians to be “strengthened with power through His Spirit” to make this possible!  When I look at my own heart, I see how much I do need the power to open up my heart for Christ to come in. My heart is so prone to cynicism, to pride, to distraction, to fears, to the lies and accusations of Satan, as well as self-deception (Jer. 17:9).  Our hearts are prone to running away from facing anything that is disturbing or challenging, especially our own guilt of sin. And in Mark 7:21-23, Jesus says this about what our hearts produce: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Yet faith enables Christ to dwell in our hearts.  Instead of believing the lies, trusting my instincts, or avoiding the reality of who I am, I can believe in the depth of Christ’s love and invite Him into this kind of mess and sin in my heart because He will not cringe or condemn but will descend even into the darkest and deepest parts of my sinfulness.

  • What might get in the way of comprehending the “breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love? 

Those very things that tend to dwell in our hearts get in the way of comprehending Christ’s love to the fullest extent–whether our hearts are too crowded with selfish desires and idols, distractions, anxiety, pride, bitter thoughts, denying who I am or what I’ve done, etc., these prevent us from facing the reality of our own sinfulness which in turn keeps us from actually experiencing God’s grace and love.

Also, not remembering my own history or condition before God can prevent me from understanding the reach and the generosity of His love. Apostle Paul reminds the Ephesians that though they are gentiles and once had nothing to do with God, Christ’s love extends to them–they are now “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).

I got a chance to listen to many testimonies over this past weekend and I feel like it opened my eyes to the kind of hugeness of Christ’s love that Apostle Paul tries to describe. It filled me with gratitude and joy not only for those people’s salvations, but for my own salvation as well because each story reminded me of how I was also an enemy of God, lived whatever way I wanted, yet felt so broken, isolated and burdened, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). God had mercy on me and reached out to me, and over the years He has continued to forgive and love me, though it didn’t have to be this way.

Submitted by Dennis C. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 3:14-19

  • One of Apostle Paul’s prayers for these Christians is for Christ to dwell in their hearts.  What does this reveal about what our hearts are prone to?  How does faith enable Christ to dwell in our hearts?

I am reminded of one of the Bible memory verses from Survival Kit 1 that says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Our hearts are prone to sin if we do not store up God’s word in our hearts. There is not a day that goes by that I am not confronted with a choice to follow God, or to follow the desires of my flesh. I make decisions every day to sleep in or get up to get to work on time. I make decisions to do my devotion or to spend much more time than I ought on the internet. I make decisions to be patient with someone or treat them with less dignity or care or love than God calls me to for one another. With God, I am tempted to ignore Him in my life rather than confront Him, confess, repent, speak truth, be humble, obey, and so on. In every man’s heart is darkness. But for God, there would remain pure darkness. So this verse speaks volumes to me because I know how true it is that my heart has the potential to be very dark, to sin here in my heart first, and then for me to turn on those I love, to seek hiddenness and isolated ways, and so on. And so I know how crucial it that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Doing so reminds me of a different perspective, specifically that God is God, that my own desires apart from Him is not only harmful to me, but others as well, and that a failure to hold onto knowing Him, honoring Him as God or giving thanks to Him, I will become futile in my thinking, and my foolish heart darkened (Romans 1:21).

Continuing to walk with Him, to follow Him, to come to Him, to obey Him, to abide in Him are conscious decisions and steps of faith towards Him. Taking these steps of faith opens up gateways / pathways for more of these good decisions. The next decision point may be difficult to decide faithfully, but with more and more of these consistent steps of faith, in my experience, there is a point in which those small decisions get wrapped up into a pattern. That is the fruit of these little decisions, these little steps of faith towards Him. C.S. Lewis said it in a way that has often helped me to understand decision making and taking steps of faith, that is, that

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every date are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge of railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible” (C.S. Lewis, Chapter 9, Mere Christianity).

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response