GraceLife Church of Pineville

Grace alone. Faith alone. Christ alone.

Live by Faith: Strengthen Faith (Part 4)

Table of Contents

Scripture focus: Various passages

In this sermon series on living by faith, the foundation we’ve laid is as follows:

  • Through faith in Jesus, we are granted eternal life.
  • By faith in Jesus, we are maintaining our earthly lives.1See January 8, 2024, sermon, “Live by Faith: Seek Faith,” for a more in-depth discussion of these foundational points:

Please understand that “maintaining” isn’t a static activity. Faith is a study in movement—faith toward God. It’s dynamic. Maintaining faith involves cultivation and renewal. It’s the only hope you have of preservation. Faith is something that we are to be built up in, to progress in. Stagnation—staying still—is regression.

We do not want to become dull of hearing like those warned in the book of Hebrews. To be dull of hearing is especially bad because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (see Romans 10:17). We seek to strengthen our faith through the continual hearing of Christ’s word, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17).

Christ dwelling in my heart? Wait a minute; that sounds more like an evangelistic message than a sermon to the faithful. Doesn’t Christ already live in my heart if I am a believer? Yes, He does. But let’s look at Ephesians—a letter (like others in the Bible) written to Christians.2Numerous verses (including some before chapter 3 of Ephesians) point to the fact that Paul wrote this letter specifically to believers in Jesus.

The language of Ephesians used to describe Christians is not primarily Christ in the believer but, rather, the believer being in Christ. Modern evangelistic efforts and misappropriations of verses have dislodged this concept of “Christ in the heart” as a matter of sanctification and placed it confusingly and exclusively in the category of justification. But that is not correct. And Ephesians 3:14–19, verses that take the format of a prayer, show that:

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.

The book of Ephesians is about building a church. Part of that process is the building up of its members. So when Paul prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts, he was not praying that they’d become Christians; he was praying that their sanctification would be quickened and complete. It’s a prayer for the inner life to be strengthened, such that our eternal reality, brought about by faith in Christ, would manifest also as internal reigning, brought about through faithfulness to Christ.

Harold Hoehner, in his commentary on Ephesians, notes that the word “dwell” (katoikēsai) “refers not to the beginning of Christ’s indwelling at the moment of salvation. Instead, it denotes the desire that Christ may, literally, ‘be at home in,’ that is, at the very center of, or deeply rooted in, believers’ lives. They are to let Christ become the dominating factor in their attitudes and conduct.”3H. W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 2, eds. J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 631.

There are some elements in this passage in Ephesians that you’ll do well to note:

  • The Father provides for us from His riches.
  • The Father empowers our inner lives by His very Spirit.
  • It’s possible that Christ can dwell in your hearts through faith. But note, too, that if Paul was praying for this to occur, you have to also consider whether anything else would want to, or possibly could, live there instead. Are there things that can dethrone Christ from the heart? This is not the idea of losing eternal salvation but of no longer living the life that you are called to.
  • There is a progressive satisfaction and fullness to be had in God.

With this clarification of Christ dwelling in our hearts, let me remind you where we were: Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of Christ, so we seek to strengthen our faith through the continual hearing of Christ’s word, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And so we guard our hearts—“with all vigilance,” as Proverbs 4:23 says, “for from it are the sources of life.”

In the previous sermon, I discussed guarding the heart against the sensational—specifically, in the form of false representations of sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Those false representations frequently come in the form of what appears to be great knowledge, often offered up by the religious charlatan.4A fraud or a phony. Guarding the inner life in these areas might make you think of guarding the mind more so than the heart, but heart is the frequent biblical term used to reference the entirety of the inner life, including the mind, the emotions, and the will.

We now turn to guarding our hearts against things that we might more readily identify with passions of the heart. Doing so will help to strengthen faith.

Guard Your Heart Against Greed

In Luke 12:15, Jesus says to the crowd:

Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.

His message couldn’t be clearer: Guard your heart against greed. But let’s go further with this. Greed is an easy target for a sermon, and easy targets can lead to inexact thinking. And here’s how that happens: Greed is quickly linked to money, and then money is too quickly linked to wealth, and these subject matters become quick fodder for the false teaching I warned about before.

It’s a mistake to look at wealth and judge the heart. Character isn’t based on the amount of someone’s property, whether that property is worth a lot or a little (monetarily speaking). Errors in thinking exist on both ends of the spectrum:

  • Some will think, “I don’t have (much) money. I’m not one of those greedy rich people.”
  • Others will say, “Wait a minute, it’s the gap between poverty and wealth that is exactly what’s needed for greed to be present, so it’s the poor who are more likely to be greedy (because they don’t have things).”

If your views on greed pits one class of people against another, I challenge you to suspend that view as we look at guarding against greed. You can’t guard against greed if you’ve given yourself over to these misconceptions.

Greed cannot be defined or confined by economic status. It comes in various forms, and the Bible says in Luke 12:15 that we’re to be on guard against all forms (“every form”) of greed.

Greed cannot be defined or confined by economic status.

You might be thinking, “Come on, you know this is primarily about the rich—just look at the example Jesus uses.” Well, let’s keep reading:

And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool. This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16–21)

Carefully consider that final verse, verse 21. Jesus does not say, “So is the rich man.” Rather, He says, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Jesus is warning against the easiest target for the greed category: the person who is rich by the world’s measure but poor toward God.

But it’s possible to be at the other end of the spectrum: poor by the world’s measure and rich toward God. As an example from the Bible, a widow gives her mite to the temple treasury (Mark 12:41–44). This woman was poor by the world’s standard but rich toward God.

You could also be poor by the world’s measure and poor toward God. The prodigal son is a biblical example of that situation. In this well-known parable, the son left his parents’ house and blew everything he had as he lived an ungodly life (read the full story in Luke 15).

You could also be rich by the world’s measure and rich toward God. A good example in the Bible is Job. Though we often remember him more for his suffering, he was in fact the richest man in the world before adversity struck (Job 1:3) and at the same time righteous or “blameless” (Job 1:1).5Adversity struck and he lost everything, but at the end of Job, we find him even richer than he was before (Scripture tells us God restored his fortunes twofold).

The lesson of all these examples is this: We don’t measure greed according to possessions. We measure greed in accordance with disposition toward God.

Greed is in direct competition with faith.

Note well: Greed is in direct competition with faith. Here’s why: At the heart of greed is a growing discontent over and distrust of God’s provision for your needs. Greed, lust, coveting—these lead to desires and actions that are not in accordance with faith that pleases God. Although it’s reasonable to expect to reap the benefits of hard work, actions that are fueled by greed ignore that God is our provider and we are stewards of His possessions.

Hebrews 13:5 reinforces this truth that greed is in direct competition with faith:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for [God] Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

Note, this verse doesn’t say to be free of money but free of the love of money. It addresses your character and its loves—the objects of your desire. The person of character, the person of strong faith, is content when it comes to possession. Not content because of possessions, but content with current possessions because of the foundational and overarching belief that God will not and has not deserted or forsaken us. The passage in Hebrews 13 goes on to add:

… so that we confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

Greed is a gap in faith. We must guard our hearts against it.

Greed is a gap in faith.

The next thing to guard our hearts against is related to greed, but its object isn’t restricted to money or possessions.

Guard Your Heart Against Worldly Overindulgence

Let’s heed again the words of Jesus and the Gospel of Luke as we look at a second thing to guard our hearts against:

Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap. (Luke 21:34)

In this passage, Jesus is urging us to guard our hearts against worldly overindulgence.

Contextually speaking, there’s a generation that Christ is referring to in this verse, a generation that’s alive just prior to the Second Coming of the Lord. People in that generation are warned that they will be tempted to saturate their hearts with the world. And when that’s the case, they will be weighed down, unable to look up in anxious anticipation of the Lord’s return.

We do well to heed the general warning given to them in their specific situation: Guard against the things that weigh you down to the earth. Here’s the specific list from this passage: dissipation, drunkenness, and worries.

Dissipation is a word for unbridled indulgence. It references both the acts of indulgence and the effects of partaking in the indulgence.

Drunkenness is fairly self-explanatory, and it’s not only about alcohol; it’s about a tendency either to seek pleasure to excess or to escape some aspect of the world by giving oneself over to some other aspect of the world. You could give yourself over to dissipation or drunkenness.

Overindulgence might not take on the form of some vice. It might not look like dissipation or drunkenness. It may be that you simply indulge yourself on your worries. You may be drunk on worries and hungover in your own anxiety. What a poor way to live.

You may be drunk on worries and hungover in your own anxiety.

Guard Your Heart Against Entertainment

We’ve talked about guarding your heart against greed and worldly overindulgence; this third thing we could classify as a type of worldly indulgence, but it’s specific enough and worthwhile enough to note for our modern times: Guard your heart against entertainment.

What’s preached here is not legalism nor prudishness, but a call for wisdom. Remember Proverbs 4:23: From the heart flow springs of life. The wise will not want to pollute the waters. In guarding your heart against entertainment, you should guard both what you look at and what you listen to.

Guard What You Look At

Psalm 101 is a psalm of David, a man who struggled to guard his heart against what he looked at. He wrote: 

I will sing of lovingkindness and justice,
To You, O Lord, I will sing praises.
I will give heed to the blameless way.
When will You come to me?
I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil.
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy;
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. (Psalm 101:1–5)

How do you guard the heart by guarding the eyes? This could become a sermon of its own, but let’s review some steps for guarding the heart by guarding your eyes based on this passage in Psalm 101.

7 Steps to Guard the Heart by Guarding the Eyes


  1. Recognize that there is a positive direction of the heart (v. 1). If all the messages are simply preventative (“Don’t do this, don’t do that; don’t look at this, don’t look at that”), it’s game over. But if there is a positive direction of the heart, you’re more likely to succeed. David’s positive direction was to sing of the lovingkindness and justice of the Lord; his faith toward God led him to sing praises to Him.
  1. Recognize that there’s a positive path to walk and an expectation that the Lord will meet you there (v. 2a–b). David says he’ll “give heed to the blameless way” (v. 2a), signaling his recognition of the positive path to walk, and indicates an expectation that God will meet him there (“When will You come to me?” [v. 2b]). He’s saying, I’m on the positive path, the righteous path, the blameless path; when will you come to me, O Lord?
  1. Recognize the realms of integrity (v. 2c). At the end of verse 2, we see two realms; David says, “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” There’s a responsibility for yourself (your inner life, an integrity of the heart) and a responsibility for your surroundings (your “house”).
  1. Recognize and practice preventative measures (v. 3a). When David says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes” (v. 3a), he is speaking of preventative measures. The world is full of worthless things for you to look at. Some are obviously worthless. Others are just time-wasters—things that may not be clearly “vile” but, if you continue to look at them day after day, you’ll soon find your life has been spent on them.
  1. Recognize the power of evil (v. 3b–c). You don’t have to be given over to evil, but you’d be foolish not to recognize its power. Look at the latter part of verse three:

I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.

Evil does have a power—a grip; it seeks to reach out and grab you, to take hold.

  1. Recognize the price of evil (v. 4c). The price of evil is a perverse heart (v. 4). It is a price you do not want to pay.
  1. Recognize the need for repeated resolve (vv. 4b–5). David says, at the end of verse 4, “I will know no evil”; in other words:
    • Do not get to know evil.
    • Destroy it where it hides.
    • Do not keep company with others who have bad eyes and hearts.

Now, let’s turn to a proverb that, like Psalm 101, speaks to the idea of being aware of what you look at:

Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
Nor are the eyes of people ever satisfied. (Proverbs 27:20)

The first line is about “death and destruction” (as the New English Translation, among other translations, put it).6You could also substitute the word “hell” for “Sheol and Abaddon”—the idea is “the place of the dead.” But there is something else that is never satisfied as well: the eyes of people.

If you’ve ever struggled with what you’ve put before your eyes, then you know the truth of this proverb and the picture that is painted here. Just as the grave is never satisfied—always taking more—so are the eyes never satisfied. “Just one last look” is a lie.

“Just one last look” is a lie.

Here’s the thing: Perpetual desire is actually a gift. The challenge is to direct the eyes only at that which is yours, and only at that which you have a right to share in.

The legitimate objects of our gaze direct and elevate the mind and the senses to God. Illegitimate objects render the eye diseased, causing it to wander further. Instead of elevating the mind, these objects cause us instead to be given over to depravity.

Guard What You Listen To

If we’re to guard against what we put before our eyes, it makes sense that we should also guard what we listen to. Do not be so naïve as to think your heart is impervious to that which travels through your ears. You can no more be unaffected by what you hear than you can refuse to see what your eyes are looking at.

You can no more be unaffected by what you hear than you can refuse to see what your eyes are looking at.

Music is an expression of the soul. That means that music also speaks to the soul. Be on guard, or you will fill your soul with the words of the angry and perverse.

I’m not here to give you a list of banned items; I’m not going to say “Don’t watch this movie, don’t read that book, don’t listen to that song.” But there is a list. It’s probably different for different people, but don’t use that excuse to justify self-indulgence. If I were to give a list, it would probably contain some items that you’d consider me puritanical for listing. There are other items that you might consider me unpastoral for not listing. The bottom line is to be wise: Walk within your house in the integrity of your heart.

If you need practical application—you’re thinking, “Pastor, tell me what to not look at, what to not listen to”—try this one: If there are children in your home, our modern Super Bowl Halftime Show is probably on the list of items not to look at or listen to. But just maybe it should be on your list, too, regardless of whether you have children or are a child.

You’re the gatekeeper to your heart. Be careful what you usher in.

Conclusion: He Will Satisfy and Fill Us

I started this sermon with the Ephesians 3 passage for a reason. In a sermon on guarding the heart against greed and indulgence and entertainment, it’s very easy to get caught up in the negative. One can feel hopeless that that this world is either too evil or too enticing to overcome. But that’s not true. Here’s what is true:

  • The Father provides for us from his riches.
  • The Father empowers our inner lives by His very Spirit.
  • It’s possible for Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith.
  • And it’s true that there is a progressive satisfaction and fullness to be had in God. All other pursuits are a lack of faith in the fact that God will satisfy and fill our souls.

And God will indeed satisfy and fill us; trust Him to do just that.