Touchy-Feely Coffee Mug Theology And The Christian Heart?

Text: Ephesians 3:13-21

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I wasn't the best student in high school biology. You see, while I have no problem cleaning a pheasant or fish, I do get queasy with the human body. And so, with my fairly limited knowledge of the human body, I have always understood the three main parts of the body to be the head, heart, and stomach. Perhaps, like you, I have seen these three parts of our body as three different zones with three different functions. For example, the head is where we do all of our thinking. This is the rationale part of our body where we do all of our reasoning. It is where we store knowledge, enact our will, and make determinations on the tasks set before us. It is where our intellect is found. 

Moving downward, we come to our hearts. This is where all of our emotions and affection come from. Our passion, appreciation, love, care, and feelings come from our heart. We think with our heads and feel with our hearts.  

And last but not least, we have our stomach – our kidneys, liver, and intestines. This is the part of our body where we get nauseous with the flu or sick when we eat too many tacos. This is the part of the body that we associate with the bathroom and being sick. 

And so, simply stated, the head is where we think, the heart is where we feel, and the stomach is where we get sick. I am assuming that you view things the same way.   

And so, to the point, when the Apostle Paul prays from prison that Jesus would dwell in the hearts of the Christians in Ephesus, is he praying that Jesus would be with their feelings?  

Keep in mind that our reading from the Epistle of Ephesians comes from the Apostle Paul during his first imprisonment. And so, are we to understand that from prison, Paul is praying that Jesus would dwell in the feelings of the Ephesian Christians? Listen to what Paul said again, 

 "I pray that Christ may be more and more at home in your hearts." (NLT)

In other words, is Paul wishing the Ephesian Christians positive Christlike vibes? You know what I am talking about. Today, we often hear people say that they are sending positive feelings to another person. And so, is this what Paul is doing, but instead, wishing that a nice and positive Jesus would be in their nice positive feeling hearts? Tragically, much of American Christianity will view the Christian faith just like this. They view it as little more than coffee mug slogans meant to give encouragement to an emotional heart. 

It is important to keep in mind, though, that in the Old Testament, there is no word for 'brain.' In fact, in the Old Testament, when emotions and feelings are talked about, they are not considered to be within the heart. Yes, you heard that correctly. When emotions and feelings are talked about in the Old Testament, they are ascribed not to the heart but to the stomach – the kidneys, liver, and intestines. In other words, the Hebrews looked to the stomach as the seat of a person's tenderest and deepest emotions, not the heart.  

Perhaps we should develop a brand new business here at St. Paul's Lutheran making Valentine Cards. This February, we could have a picture of two kidneys with an arrow going through them with a font that says, 

"I love you with both of my kidneys."


"I love you with all of my intestines."

But this brings up an interesting point. If the Hebrews identified the kidney, liver, and intestines as the seat of emotions, how did they understand the heart? Well, unlike our culture today, the ancient Hebrews saw the human heart not as the seat of emotions and feelings but as the seat of understanding, knowledge, determination, thinking, and will. For the ancient Hebrews, a person's mind was not in the brain but in the heart. Please hear that again: for the ancient Hebrews, a person's mind was not in the brain but in the heart.

So, with this in perspective, consider our Epistle reading from Ephesians again. Paul's prayer for the Christians in Ephesus was that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith. And since Paul came from the tribe of Benjamin and was a Hebrew of Hebrews, we know that He is not wishing Christians a touchy-feely Jesus to stir up their touchy-feely emotions. He is not sending positive vibes to their emotional hearts. Instead, Paul's bold prayer is that the  Ephesian Christians would lay hold of and know the depth and width of Christ's sacrificial love… that they would understand the high privilege of being people forgiven by Christ… that they would appreciate the depths of Christ's love. His prayer is that they would recognize the rich love of Christ who left the heavens, was born and become a man of sorrow, was persecuted, and put to death in the most shameful manner – all for them.  

I have said it before, but I will say it again: as Christians, the goal is not for you and me to make Jesus a bigger part of our lives. Jesus' Word and His gifts do not occupy a small segment of our lives. It isn't as if we have our jobs in this box over here, our families over here in this box, and the church over here in this box. It isn't as if Christ needs to fill up and occupy our church box more and more. In other words, what Paul is saying to you and me, as Christians here at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, is not to take Jesus and fit him into our neat little churchly box or take a warm feeling Christian sentiments and sprinkle it on our feelings in our hearts. No, this is not Christianity! Instead, dear friends, your whole life – your sleeping, eating, your going to work, and your walking around in life belongs to God. Furthermore, your habits, behavior, feelings, thoughts - your entire way of conducting yourself - are not shaped and formed by a perishing world. You do not belong to yourself; how can you? You were crucified into Christ! You do not belong to the world; how can you? You were snatched from the world and given truth in Christ!  

And so, let us not assume that we are here at St. Paul's to hear a bunch of religious slogans or touchy-feely coffee mug sayings. Let us not assume that we are here at St. Paul's to get a small-minded list of rules and principles to make our lives more manageable. Let us not assume that we are here at St. Paul's for the sake of upholding tradition or denominational aspirations. Let us not assume that we are here at St. Paul's to somehow protest our culture. No – we are not here for any of that. Instead, we are here at this church at this time to be reminded of a Savior who redeemed us not with gold or silver but with His precious blood to make us His own. 

We are here in this church to receive continually from this Savior so that we might be strengthened in faith, refined in our thinking, and granted continual assurance that as bad as it might get in this life, that we belong to Him and He to us.   We are here because our mind, body, heart, and soul rest in Christ, not our understanding.  

Baptized Saints, listen up! You no longer live by your own knowledge, feelings, and understandings, but you live by faith in Jesus, who loves you and gave Himself to you. 

Furthermore, you do not live according to the world, for in your baptisms, you were snatched from darkness and placed in the marvelous Light to walk in truth. And so, because of this, Paul's prayer is that we Christians would be completely and totally captivated by Christ and His Gospel – not just in our feelings and not just in our intellect but our whole being. Paul's prayer is that you and I be strengthed with our feet planted firmly in the Gospel, with our emotions governed by the truth of God's Word, and our minds wrapped around Christ and His gifts. Again, the reason is, you and I belong to Christ. We are Christians who have the generosity of Christ. We are Christians who have the sheer gift of the forgiveness of sins.  

May the God of all grace through Jesus Christ, His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit, strengthen you, Baptized Saints, as you continue to abide in the Lord's sacrificial love that is for you.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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