Paul prayed that Christ would live in the hearts of his people. Our question is what Paul meant by that.
We often read in the Bible about people who had evil spirits. The desire for spirits to possess people was an important part of the magic in many false religions (Acts 19:19). Those evil spirits dealt with the people in a very cruel manner (Mark 5:1-20 and 9:14-29). The spirits possessed the people, so that often the people lost all control over their lives. Christ cared about those poor people. He ordered the evil spirits to leave their lives. However, he warned the people that, afterwards, they must not leave their lives empty (Luke 11:24-26). They must give to God the place that the evil spirits formerly had in their lives.
Christ does not possess (take complete control over) a personís life as an evil spirit does. Rather, we choose whether to receive Christ into our lives, as we can invite a guest into our home (John 1:11-12). We give him a place in our hearts and lives by faith, that is, by trust in him. Christ wants to be our close friend, like the friend with whom we eat and talk (Revelation 3:20).
Our friendships affect our lives, and even change our own character. Evil friends can persuade us to be evil too (Proverbs 1:10-19); good friends can improve our own character (Proverbs 27:17). When Christ is present in our life, we become more like him (Romans 8:29). We do not still want to live for our selfish desires; we care only to please him (Philippians 1:21).
Christ has promised never to leave his people (Hebrews 13:5). However, Christians do not always give him his proper place in their lives; perhaps that is the reason for Paulís prayer. Love for God should fill their hearts (Mark 12:30); they must not allow selfish desires, or anything else to take its place (Revelation 2:4-5). In the Bible, the Ďheartí means our true attitudes and desires, which should be for God alone (1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 6:21 and 6:24).
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© 2018, Keith Simons.