Like many Christians, I had no idea that Jesus was in me to love me first and foremost. I saw him as demanding perfection in my obedience, my performance and worked really hard at it for years. Though I was unravelling on the inside, I kept trying harder and harder to please him so he would give me rest from my condemnation and feeling that I never would measure up.
I was greatly deficient in what it meant for Jesus to live in me. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he was in me but I really didn’t know why. I thought he was in me to make me toe the line, to show me what I wasn’t doing that I should be doing and to make me feel bad when I failed. It was only after I burned out on Christianity as I knew it, that God began to rearrange my understanding of why Jesus was in me.
First, I learned and experienced the reality that Jesus was in me, first and foremost to love me. And boy did I ever feel loved. That period of time was the greatest time in my life that I felt more loved than I ever have by anyone. And it was all happing inside of me independent of my circumstances.
Most Christians today are the same as I was. If you ask them if Jesus is in them, they will say “yes” immediately. But if you ask them why, you’ll probably hear that he is in them to get them into heaven, to show them when they sin or to save them. All of those are true, but they are not the main reason he is in us.
That is why there is such a lopsided focus on obedience to God, serving God, loving God and going to heaven. Even if intimacy with God is spoken of, it is focused on how much one prayers and reads the Bible. All of those things are certainly important, but they don’t come close to giving people an understanding of why Jesus is in them.
How do we know that he is in us primarily to love us?
Ephesians 3:14-19. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; 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.
When you read this Scripture, it is surprising that Paul prays for the Christians in Ephesus that God would strengthen the power of the Holy Spirit “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Now wait a minute! I thought Jesus already lived in our hearts through our faith in him. He does but he is telling us this: there is a difference in knowing the fact that Jesus lives in us and living by faith in Jesus who lives in us. That is a transition in our Christian lives where Jesus in us goes from Bible knowledge to a revelation from the Holy Spirit, so that he is more real to us than we could have imagined. He goes on to tell us that as that revelation occurs, whether its slowly or quickly, we will experience the love of God in a way we can’t fully explain and we will be filled up to all the fullness of God!
That is exactly what happened to me. I went from a worn out, frustrated, depressed Christian to someone who had such a revelation of Christ in me, God’s love and presence so filled me, that I couldn’t fully explain it. But people around me couldn’t help but notice that I was different, especially my wife.
Why don’t you pray that prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19 for yourself and for those you care about and let’s see what God does!
Excerpt from God’s Best-Kept Secret. Copyright 2017 by Mark Maulding. Published by Baker, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.
For many of us, the attempt to live for God can leave us feeling burdened rather than free. Yet that’s not the kind of life God intends for us to experience. What if he never meant for us to try so hard? What if overcoming sin doesn’t rely on our own self-control? What if loving others isn’t about saying and doing all the right things? What if we could feel closer to God without doing anything?