Does Christ Dwell in Your Heart?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17

Almost exactly fifty years ago, I went forward at a Billy Graham crusade in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. One might truly say I responded to the invitation to become a Christian or to put my faith in Christ. But, in fact, the language used that night talked about accepting Christ into my heart. On the field of the Coliseum, my counselor guided me to affirm the base truths of the Gospel and then, through prayer, to invite Jesus into my heart.

The evangelical stream of Christianity often uses this language as a way of describing the experience of putting one's trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. When I received God's grace through faith, I "accepted Jesus into my heart." This image of Jesus dwelling in our hearts is found in Scripture, in Ephesians 3:17. Ironically, this is the only passage that uses this metaphor. Far more commonly, Scripture speaks of our being in Christ or dwelling in him. But, when we receive God's grace through faith, a reciprocal indwelling occurs. We come to live in Christ, and he comes to live in us.

It is interesting, though, that Paul prays for Christ to dwell in the hearts of those who received the letter we call Ephesians. These readers were, after all, already God's "holy people" (1:1). They had already responded to the Gospel in faith. Thus, folks in my theological tradition would say that they had previously accepted Christ into their hearts. Why does Paul pray for this to happen to those who are already Christians?

In a sense, once we put our faith in Christ, he dwells in our hearts. Yet, in another sense, his indwelling is something that we need to receive on a regular basis. Christ has a home in you if you have received God's grace through faith. He has every right to dwell within you. But will you allow him to be fully at home in you today? Will you open to him your whole heart?

Remember, in the biblical understanding, the heart is not only the place of emotion. It is the center of our inner lives, the locus of thinking, willing, and feeling. So, in light of Paul's prayer, let us consider the following questions today.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Is your heart open to Christ today? Will you invite him to live within you through his Spirit? Will you offer to Christ all that you are inside: your thoughts and feelings, your dreams and fears, your loves and yearnings?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, yes! Please live fully and freely within me today. Make your home in my thoughts, my emotions, my desires, my hesitations. Even as I once invited you to live in my heart, may this be the focal reality of my life today. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.