As many of you know, less than two weeks ago, my wife and I had our fifth child—our first girl— Landry. Before she was born, many fathers warned me that she would have me wrapped around her finger from day one… and I am not embarrassed to admit that has been the case. Even so, at this stage of Landry’s development, my interaction with her is limited to holding her and changing the occasional diaper. As her father, I love her deeply, but I cannot necessarily engage in a deep relationship with her because she is not capable of that yet. As she grows and matures, however, my relationship with her will also change. For example, I am now able to play more actively with my five-year-old son. I am able to teach my seven-year-old and nine-year-old sons more about God’s Word and His plan for their lives. And I am able to have much deeper conversations with my eleven-year-old son than I can with his younger siblings. You see, as our children mature, we enjoy a deeper, fuller, even more intimate relationship with them.
The same is true of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Have you ever wanted to experience a deeper, fuller, more intimate relationship with God? Well, He wants that type of relationship with you too. But it is not God who has to change so that can happen. You have to change. You have to grow and mature so that you are capable of enjoying a more meaningful relationship with the Lord.
In Ephesians 3:14–19, the Lord tells us what type of relationship He wants to have with you, how that relationship becomes a reality, and the result of entering into such a relationship with your Heavenly Father. God wants us to experience a deep, meaningful, loving relationship with Him. God desires to have an intimate and interactive relationship with you.
A. God Desires an Intimate and Interactive Relationship with You.
In verse 17, Paul writes to these believers that he prays for them, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Ephesians 3:17a). The goal or objective of Paul’s prayer is that Christ would dwell in the hearts of believers through faith in Jesus Christ. When we speak of Christ coming to dwell in our hearts, we are often referring to our justification. In this passage, however, Paul is not talking about your justification, he is talking about your sanctification.
1. Christ Enters Your Heart through Justification.
Our justification is that glorious moment when we trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. It is through our justification that Christ declares us not guilty! At that moment, Christ enters our hearts through his Holy Spirit. But there is a difference between entering and dwelling. While Christ enters your heart through your justification, he dwells in your heart through your sanctification.
2. Christ Dwells in Your Heart through Sanctification.
Your sanctification is the process that takes place after your justification. It is God’s plan for you and the purposed progression of the Christian life—that you become more and more like God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29–30; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
The difference between inviting Christ to enter your heart and allowing Christ to dwell in your heart is like the old story of the two men who asked Christ into their homes. The first man invited Jesus into his home. He welcomed him, gave him a place to sit down, even shared a meal with him. But as the evening wore on, the man become more and more uncomfortable. He wanted to watch his favorite television show, but he knew he couldn’t really do that with Jesus around. Jesus invited him to study the Bible and pray together, but the man didn’t have time for that. And he definitely didn’t want Jesus poking around in other rooms and closets. I mean, after all, he was a houseguest. “Obviously,” the first man thought, “this isn’t working…”
The second man, however, invited Jesus into his home, and gave him the keys to the castle. He gave him a tour of every room, every nook and cranny, then he turned to Jesus, “Make yourself at home because it’s all yours. Do what you want with it, and tell me what you would like me to do.” Jesus and the man spent time together, Jesus instructed the man in God’s Word, Jesus interceded in prayer for the man. They walked together through good times and bad. Before long, having spent so much time in submission to Jesus, the man started to look a lot like Jesus. You see, while the first man treated Jesus like an unwanted houseguest, which resulted in a strained and superficial relationship, the second man gave Jesus dominion and control, which led to an intimate, meaningful, and fulfilling relationship.
If you want to have an intimate relationship with God, you have to allow Jesus to truly dwell in your heart—that is, you must give him dominion and control over your life. As you submit your life to him and spend more time with him, you become more like him—you become more spiritually mature—and you are thus capable of engaging in an intimate and interactive relationship with him.
OK, you might say, I want to have an intimate relationship with God. I want Jesus to dwell in my heart. But how is it even possible for me—a mortal and sinful human being—to have such a relationship with a holy, mighty, and sovereign God?
B. An Intimate Relationship with God Must be Pursued, Granted, and Enabled.
In Ephesians 3:14, Paul begins this passage, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” This verse is possibly better translated in the NIV, “For this reason, I kneel before the Father from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Here, the whole family refers not necessarily to every creature in all creation, but to the saints that have gone before us and to the saints of today—the church of Jesus Christ. It is all who can rightly look to God as our Heavenly Father because we have been adopted as his children (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:4–6).
1. We Pursue an Intimate Relationship through Passionate Prayer.
Here in Ephesians 3:14, Paul says, I fall down on my knees before our Father and pray that you might experience a personal and intimate relationship with Him. Have you pursued a relationship with the Lord with this same passion? Have you gotten down on your knees and asked the Lord to dwell in your heart so that you can enjoy an intimate Father-child relationship with Him?
2. God Grants an Intimate Relationship from His Reservoir of Riches.
While we must pursue this relationship, God must grant the relationship. God looks down from His throne in the council of heaven and chooses to grant us the opportunity and privilege of entering into a relationship with Him. In Ephesians 3:16a, Paul prays, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory…” I want you to see here the source of our growing relationship with God. It flows from the boundless and infinite riches of God’s glory and might.
3. God Enables an Intimate Relationship by the Strengthening of His Spirit.
God grants us an intimate relationship from His boundless reservoir of riches, and enables that intimate relationship by the strengthening of His Holy Spirit. In 3:16, Paul continues, “that he would grant you, according the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…” So, God enables an intimate relationship with Him by strengthening our inner man through the power of His Holy Spirit.
There is a war waging within us—our flesh vs. our spirit (Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:17). But Ephesians 3:16 tells us that the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit strengthens our inner man so that we might gain victory over the flesh as we are progressively transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ through the regenerating presence and power of His Holy Spirit.
So, what is the result of an intimate relationship with God? Put more crassly—What’s in it for me?
C. An Intimate Relationship with God Leads to Life-Changing Love.
An intimate relationship with God leads to life-changing love like you have never experienced! Paul tells us what happens when God enables us to enjoy an intimate relationship—picking up in verse 17b—he writes: “… and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17–19).
1. We are Established in Christ’s Love.
First, we see that we are established in Christ’s love. Paul mixes agricultural and architectural metaphors here, saying we are “rooted and grounded in love.” When Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts and we enter into a maturing, intimate, and interactive relationship with Him. We are rooted in his love like a growing tree. We are grounded in his love like a strong building constructed upon a sturdy foundation. When you are rooted and grounded in Christ’s love, you will be able to withstand the attacks of the enemy, the schemes of the devil, and the trials of this life.
2. We are Edified by Christ’s Love.
Second, we are edified by Christ’s love. Paul desires that believers “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18). Here, the Greek word for comprehend means to understand intellectually, and to know means experience. So Paul is saying, “I want you both to understand Christ’s incredible love intellectually and experience it for yourself!” Through an intimate relationship with God, we come to know and experience the incomparable love of Jesus Christ—a love like we have never experienced before.
3. We are Empowered through Christ’s Love.
Third, we are empowered through Christ’ love. We are empowered to be more like Jesus and to act more like Jesus. Paul continues, “and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). When Christ dwells in our hearts, we are empowered by His love—we are being filled up to all the fullness of God. Here, that means that we are becoming all that God created us to be. We are becoming more like Christ.
D. Seek Spiritual Maturity that Allows for a More Intimate Relationship with God
So, what should you do? I want to leave you with three intensely practical points of application that will lead to spiritual maturity that allows for a more intimate relationship with God.
First, position Christ over your life.
Second, plant yourself in Christ’s love.
Third, place your life in Christ’s Church.
If you do these things, you will become more spiritually mature as Christ dwells in your heart, and you will enjoy a deeper relationship with Christ that will allow you to understand and experience a love greater than you have ever known before.
Full Passage: Ephesians 3:14–19