He lives within your heart.

INDWELL ɪn'dwɛl verb. Be permanently present in someone [namely their soul or mind]. Possess spiritually.
[Indweller ɪn'dwɛl'ər noun.]

There’s a hymn we sang in my church growing up; “He Lives” by Alfred Henry Ackley. Chorus goes like yea:

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart

’Cause that’s the common Evangelical belief about where Jesus currently is: He’s in our hearts.

As a boy I was taught Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts, asking to come in. (Much later, I read that particular bit of Revelation and found out it doesn’t mean that. But anyway.) Once we permit Jesus entry, he takes up residence in our hearts. As kids a lot of us took this literally: We imagined a tiny Jesus taking over one of the chambers of our cardiac muscles, and even moving a bed and furniture into it. Bit cramped. One kid even told me the reason we bow our heads to pray is so Jesus can hear us better.

Where’d this live-in-our-hearts idea come from? One part bible, 99 parts popular Christian culture. And the bible part is dependent on the King James Version. Here it is:

Ephesians 3.14-19 KJV
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” in verse 17 is the only passage in the bible which refers to Christ Jesus living in anyone’s heart. It’s not that good a translation of the original, κατοικῆσαι τὸν χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν/katikíse ton Hristón diá tis písteos en taís kardíes ymón, “Christ dwelling [among you] through the faith in your hearts.” Paul wasn’t telling the Ephesians Jesus lived in their hearts, but that the deep trust they had in Jesus—the trust in their hearts, not the Christ in their hearts—was why Jesus was with them.

But you know how we humans are: We take the germ of an idea and go nuts with it.

Hence the idea of Jesus in our hearts is really popular. You’ll find it all over English-speaking Christendom—and thanks to English-speaking missionaries, everywhere else. You’ll find it in Christian testimonies: “I know he’s real because he lives in my heart.” Sometimes they mean this metaphorically: Jesus occupies my thoughts, has my loyalty, I’m devoted to him, I love him. And okay, it’s fine to describe “Jesus in my heart” thataway. But does Christ Jesus, in whole or in part, materially or spiritually, dwell in me?

Nope. Wrong person of the trinity. That’d be the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1.13-14 KWL
13 In Christ you heard the truthful word—the good news of your salvation!
In Christ you believed; you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit!
14 He’s the down payment of our inheritance—
releasing our trust fund—praising God’s glory.

We’re the Holy Spirit’s temple.

Jesus told his students once he left, the Holy Spirit would come to take his place in their lives. Jn 14.15-21 He’d advise us. He’d remind us of everything Jesus taught, and tell us any new stuff. Jn 14.26 And once Jesus was resurrected, he gave his students the Spirit, Jn 20.21-22 then baptized them in the Spirit, Ac 2.2-4 so the Spirit could lead them, empower them, and get ’em to build this kingdom God’s so interested in.

The Spirit constructs them—and us, and every Christian in Christendom—into his temple. 1Co 3.16-17 Us collectively; the Spirit doesn’t have two billion temples, but one, same as in ancient times.

1 Corinthians 3.16 KWL
You don’t know you’re all God’s temple,
and God’s Spirit lives in you all?
 
1 Corinthians 6.19-20 KWL
19 Or don’t you all know your body’s the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God?
You’re not your own: 20 You were dearly purchased, so think about the God in your body.
 
Ephesians 2.19-22 KWL
19 So then you’re no longer foreigners and strangers.
Instead you’re fellow citizens of saints. Family members of God.
20 Constructions on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—
Christ Jesus being the foundation wall himself.
21 In Christ the whole building fits together, growing into a holy temple, by the Master.
22 In Christ you’re also built together into a dwelling-place for God, by the Spirit.

The entirety of God won’t be found in any one individual Christian. God doesn’t work like that. He wants us to have interactive relationships with one another, as well as with him; to love one another, not just him. The whole of every Christian, everywhere, is the Spirit’s temple.

God indwells us, and not just me and you and each of us individually, because he’s trying to make us family. His family. And for us to recognize one another as family. We’re to grow together. We’re to pool our resources, share our supernatural gifts, encourage one another, teach one another, and love one another as Jesus loved us. Jn 13.34 Individually, we don’t grow as fast in Christian maturity. We don’t get much done. We only do so collectively. God is relational, and wants his kids to likewise be relational.

Since we’re living stones in God’s temple, 1Pe 2.5 it means we can make contact with God anywhere and everywhere. We don’t have to go to a holy site, a worship center, a prayer room, or a sanctuary, in order to find God’s presence. We don’t have to get ritually clean first. We can talk to God right here, right now. We might need to practice recognizing he’s here, but he is—always ready to encourage, instruct, correct, and direct us.

So why do we Christians insist on taking pilgrimages to holy places? It’s mostly psychological: We expect to find God there, or more of a sense of God there. And there’s something to it, provided we interact with fellow Christians along the way. But otherwise, it’s really not necessary. We’re part of God’s temple. He’s already here.

Indwelling, Old Testament style.

Many Christians claim the way the Holy Spirit interacts with us today, is significantly different from how he did in Old Testament times. They figure back then, the Spirit only “came upon” individuals (as the KJV puts it)—he temporarily went into them to empower ’em to do particular things. He “came upon” prophets so they could prophesy; “came upon” artists so they’d make inspired art; “came upon” the bible’s authors so they’d write scripture; “came upon” Samson so he could tear the Philistines a new one.

Then, supposedly, he went away. But now, after Jesus, the Spirit “comes upon” nobody—he just indwells us. Permanently. Forever. Unlike those pre-New Testament days.

Here’s the problem with this belief. Before Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit indwelt John. Wasn’t just “coming upon” him. Wasn’t temporary.

Luke 1.13-17 KWL
13 The angel told him, “Don’t fear, Zechariah, for your request has been heard:
Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son, and you’ll name him John.
14 He’ll be happiness and joy to you, and many will rejoice at his birth,
15 for he’ll be great before the Lord.
He may never drink wine or liquor:
He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb,
16 and many of Israel’s children will turn back to the Lord their God.
17 He’ll precede him in Elijah’s spirit and power,
‘to turn back fathers’ hearts to their children,’ Ml 4.6
and rebels back to orthodox thinking—
to get the people ready for the Lord.”

Being “filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb,” as the angel Gabriel put it, means the Spirit indwelt John from his conception onward. There was no “coming upon” with John. There was just the Holy Spirit, permanently sealed to John, empowering him to minister to Israel in all the ways Gabriel predicted.

In describing John, Gabriel compared John’s abilities with “Elijah’s spirit and power.” Now that was a Spirit-empowered man if ever there was one. Jesus himself stated John was Elijah’s second coming. And since John’s prophetic anointing was a deliberate sequel of Elijah’s prophetic anointing, it implies Elijah same as John was also indwelt by the Spirit. Permanently sealed to Elijah, empowering him to minister every which way.

It’s a safe bet those Christians who claim the Spirit only “came upon” OT prophets, never actually studied the books of the Prophets. Read ’em. You’ll notice the Spirit never just came and went when it came to them. He indwelt Elijah. He indwelt Elijah’s successor Elisha. 1Ki 2.9-15 He indwelt King David. 1Sa 16.13 He permanently indwells his prophets. Always has.

Why do Christians assume he’s only permanently indwelt us? Chalk it up to ego. We like to imagine we have a special relationship with the Spirit, which looks like nothing which came before. But we don’t actually have the biblical evidence to prove that claim. The Spirit indwelt his prophets. The only suggestion he left one to empower another, comes from a fake prophet. 1Ki 22.24

True, in the Old Testament the Spirit only appears to have indwelt his prophets. Doesn’t appear he had the same relationship with just anyone who believed in the LORD. But in the New Testament, he’s come to indwell every single Christian. That’s different.

Now… have you considered the ramifications of what this really means? Simon Peter sure did.

Acts 2.16-21 KWL
16 …but this is what the prophet Joel had said: 17 ‘God said this’ll happen in the last days:
“I’ll pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters will give prophecies.
Your young ones will see visions. Your old ones will will dream dreams.
18 In those days I’ll pour out my Spirit even on my slaves, men and women.
And they’ll give prophecies!
19 I’ll show wonderful things in the skies above,
and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and smoke in the air.
20 The sun’ll be turned to darkness,
the moon to blood before the great Lord’s Day comes,
21 and everybody who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved.”Jl 2.28-32

Appears to me the purpose of the Spirit indwelling every Christian is to make every single last one of us a prophet.

Yep. That’s why he poured out the Spirit in the past. That’s why he pours out the Spirit now. He wants us to hear him. Then share what we hear.

As for any further empowerment, like the ability to do supernatural gifts, we Christians can’t simply do them; the Spirit’s gotta grant us the power to do those things on an ad hoc basis. And that’s the proper interpretation of when the Spirit “came upon” the Old Testament folks: It was so they could perform miracles, cure disease, fight and win despite impossible odds, and otherwise do what they can’t do alone. He still has to come upon people before we can do the impossible. Beginning with his baptism, which I wrote about elsewhere. Look into it.

How do we know we’re indwelt? We get fruity.

Many Christians, who understand neither the Spirit, how he indwells his people, nor how his baptism works, mix everything up and make the strangest claims about him. Or, frighteningly, dismiss him altogether.

Hence they don’t do any of the things the Spirit comes to us to empower us to do. No prophecy. No miracles. Not even fruit. We’ve no proof they even have the Spirit in the first place. Oh, they think they do, ’cause they believe really hard. But belief ain’t proof. Fruit is proof.

If the Holy Spirit is really in us, really living in there, really rooting around and fixing our lives, really making us more like Jesus, we oughta see him at work. Doesn’t always have to look supernatural. In fact don’t look for miracles; they’re fairly easy to fake, as any stage magician can demonstrate. Look for fruit. Despite how often Christians try to fake it, fruit is still kinda hard to fake. So look for fruit: If we lack the real thing, it’s a good bet we lack the Spirit.

Hypocrites will of course insist there’s other proof. I’ve heard so many evangelists claim if you wanna know you’re saved, know the Spirit’s in you, say the sinner’s prayer again, just in case. Say it, mean it really hard, write down the date in your bible, and every time you doubt your salvation, go back and look at the date. Where’d they get this formula? Pulled it out of their own keisters.

The Latter-day Saints claim if you wanna know you’re saved, just pray really hard and the Spirit will give you a warm tingly burning sensation (which they promise you totally did not psyche yourself into feeling), and that proves you’re saved and Mormonism is real. Christians will laugh at that one… and yet we’ll tell doubtful Christians to “write down the date you said the sinner’s prayer; that’s your spiritual birthday.” As if that’s any better.

Of course, many Christians claim we know we’re saved ’cause our theology, our beliefs, our orthodoxy, is all correct. Contrary to James 2.19, of course. See, all these methods are meant to alleviate our worries, but none of them came from bible. Jesus said it’s fruit. Paul said it’s fruit. James said it’s fruit. Maybe we should follow the Master and his apostles, huh?

So look for fruit. Ask your fellow Christians whether they see any fruit in you. Try to develop it: Use some of that tiny faith you have and follow Jesus, and watch what the Spirit does with it. If the Spirit’s really in you, it’ll grow. If he’s not, you either can’t, or it’ll come out all fake and hypocritical. That proves whether the Spirit indwells you—your every action, for the rest of your life. As it should.