Ephesus: A Blueprint for Christian Living – The Prayer of Pastor Paul

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Ephesians 3:14-21

I have had the opportunity to live in several states and serve the Church in all of them. One thing I have never enjoyed about any place I have served is moving. Moving is without a doubt one of the most tedious, aggravating, exhausting experiences that a person can go through. The combination of physical work and mental stress makes it among the most difficult experiences a person can go through according to mental health workers. It is something I hope not to do again for a long while if possible. But one thing about moving that is good: you clean house when you leave; the bad thing about moving: you clean it again when you get there.

Moving makes things cluttered.

We have spent the better part of the last month unpacking, sorting, straightening, and otherwise trying to put some sense of organization to things around the parsonage. I think we are about there. Most everything seems to have found a place somewhere in the house and those things that haven’t found a permanent home are mostly out of the way. But that first week or so, that was difficult.

And you all know the feeling, right? Most of us have had to move at one time or another in our lives and the cluttering and decluttering that goes on is nothing short of stressful. You go to the drawer to get a spoon, but the utensils are not next to the stove anymore, they are next to the refrigerator. You want to make a cup of coffee but can’t remember the new place where you keep the filters. On and on it goes, the first few weeks of decluttering the house after a move are kind of like playing a game of hide-and-seek with yourself.

Even after we get everything where we want it, there are still those moments when we look around and think to ourselves, “What did I do with…?” And it takes very little time – especially in a house with children – for things to be left on the kitchen table, the couch, the counters, and before long, it’s all cluttered again. And there is usually someone in the family who decides after a few months – or maybe weeks – that the living room really needs to be turned around and facing the other direction or the kid’s rooms are not quite cute enough or the books in the study need to be on the living room shelves and we end up doing the room reshuffle.

Clutter also seems to find a way into our lives whether we want it there or not. Some clutter is a byproduct of simply living and some is self-made. Sometimes it’s simply the normal course of dealing with growing up, on, and older. We start off okay and then through the years and circumstances and relationships we start to accumulate emotional and spiritual baggage. It’s simply a part of living to create some internal clutter. Relationships fall apart; jobs that loved go away; family and friends that we were close to become distant for one reason or another.

Some of the clutter, we create ourselves. Some of us are overcommitters; we like to be involved up to our eyeballs or we feel obligated to do things because certain people asked us to do them. Some of us are uncomfortable dealing with the little things in our lives and we let them pile up until we are dealing with mountains of stuff. And some of us are emotional hoarders; we seem to like having stuff that we can clutter up our lives with and being able to say that we have too much because it makes us feel like we actually have something.

But when it comes to our inner life, God wants us to declutter our spiritual house and make sure it stays clean[1] so that we can “…be filled with all the fullness of God.”[2] That’s what the writer of Ephesians is talking about in this section of the chapter. It’s a prayer for the people coming from the heart of a pastor who wants to see the congregation grow. And this little note is intended for those who have come to faith and are trying to grow in their faith. All of the you pronouns in this passage are plural meaning ‘all y’all’, as in all y’all who have accepted the Way of Jesus as a way of life. “[The writer of Ephesians] is not referring here to the initial dwelling of Christ in the new converts heart. Rather [the writer of Ephesians] is praying for the continuing presence of Christ within the Christians through faith.”[3] So this message is largely for those of us who have been walking through life and the faith long enough to have developed some clutter or are dealing with the clutter we brought with us when came into the faith.

The prayer being offered for those believers of Asia Minor is that our ‘inner being’ will be a place for the Spirit of Christ to live. The word for dwell means ‘to make something a habitation or dwelling by being there’[4] but it also means ‘to govern or administer’.[5] In other words, we are allowing the Spirit of Jesus to take up residence as our way of life and because of that, we allow the Spirit to guide and direct the things we do. When we do this, we are in communion with God and with one another. True communion shows itself from the inside out. If our ‘inner being’ is in Christ – that is, if we are living into the teachings of Christ and the Way of Christ – the outer being will show these traits. If both the inside and the outside agree, we are people of integrity – the same inside as outside, being with Christ internally, living like Christ externally. And the person we are becomes a version of the person Christ is, an image of Jesus pointing people to God.

The problem comes when other things begin to take over control in our lives. When things like pride, anxiety, fear or social pressure begin to creep in and try to evict the Spirit of Jesus and take over the governing of our spirit. When this sort of thing happens, people live out the brokenness of their lives in their day to day interactions with the world around them and the Spirit within them. They try to force their spiritual and emotional lives into something they were never intended to be. They try to run from who they are or who they were made to be. They try to conform to an image that others have for them instead of the perfected image God has for them.

The writer of Ephesians is recognizing this in the congregations in Asia Minor and saying to them, “Get the other stuff out of the way so the Spirit of Jesus can fill your life in such a way that it flows out into every part of your being.” In doing this, we are experiencing what the writer calls, “the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love in Christ filling up our being. We become ‘rooted and grounded in love’ and because of this, the power of God can be seen in our lives. That overflowing change becomes something that not only we experience, but that others around can see and experience and be drawn to as they see the true expression of what God has made us to be. In doing this we live into the Kingdom of God; not a far away, we’ll get there one day by and by kingdom, but a right here, right now, living and being the hands and feet of Christ to change the world and make disciples for Jesus Christ.

So, what is cluttering up your relationship with God and your spiritual life? What are the spiritual and emotional boxes you’ve been afraid to open, the stacks and piles you’ve been afraid to touch or move? What is it that causes you to wake up in the middle of the night shaking and keeps you awake with insecure thoughts?

The point: The pastoral prayer is that we make our ‘inner being,’ our spiritual self, uncluttered so that the Spirit of the Christ can live there.

The question: Is my inner being cluttered. Is the Spirit of the Christ able to live there?

The application: Through the love and grace of God, we must declutter to be the kind of person that the Spirit of the Christ would want to live in.


Sources

Brown, Sally A. “Commentary on Ephesians 3:14-21” Accessed 24 July 2018. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1333

Danker, William Frederick; Bauer, Walter; Arndt, W.F.; Gingrich, F.W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Peterson, Brian. “Commentary on Ephesians 3:14-21” Accessed 24 July 2018. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2546

Tufts University. “Perseus Greek Word Study Tool – katoikeo” Accessed 25 July 2018.  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=katoikew&la=greek#lexicon

Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007

Wright, N.T. Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (Louisville: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 9


Endnotes

[1] 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Ephesians 3:16-19

[2] Ephesians 3:19

[3] Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007, 274

[4] Danker, William Frederick; Bauer, Walter; Arndt, W.F.; Gingrich, F.W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000., 534

[5] http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=katoikew&la=greek#lexicon

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