Jesus At The Door
(We apologize that the video cuts out at about the 5 minute mark. It returns about a minute after that.)
We come to our third window with Jesus knocking on a door. The Scripture is Revelation 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
What a lovely image. There are several well-known paintings depicting this verse. Perhaps you have seen one or even have one in your home. And perhaps we have heard this verse before. We have probably heard it as a warm, gentle invitation. Jesus sweetly knocking at the door. Jesus is stopping by to have tea. How lovely.
Actually, Jesus is a little hacked off. The paintings don’t show that but let’s look at the actual verse. It’s always a good idea to actually read the Bible instead of guess what something means.
Here is the context: it comes from the book of Revelation. Many of us have preconceived notions about the book of Revelation. We think of the end times, raptures, beasts, 666 and tribulation. Yes, there is that, but there is much more to the book of Revelation.
Revelation is a book about the church, to the church. It is a book full of symbols which is where most of us get stuck. We read Revelation too literally. Revelation is like an inspired picture book. Pictures are used to point to spiritual realities and things that are indescribable.
Revelation is also about the victory of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.
The book of Revelation is a vision given to the apostle John by an angel of the Lord. Jesus Christ sends this angel to show John certain things. John’s first vision is of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, himself.
The first thing the risen Lord does is speak seven letters – seven messages – to seven churches. Each church is in an ancient city of that day. Jesus addresses each of the churches: always saying he knows who they are and what they are like, commending them for what pleases him and sometimes chastising them for things that are out of whack. He gives each church a brief word about what he wants them to do and gives a promise that if they do that then they will be rewarded.
The seventh and final letter is to the church in the city that was called Laodicea. It is the only church of the seven to which Jesus says no good thing. To every other church Jesus has some commendation. Not Laodicea.
He says the works of the Laodiceans are neither hot nor cold. They have no passion nor are they totally lazy. They are just lukewarm. Their works have no real consequence. Maybe they were apathetic, lacksadaisical, without conviction. Jesus tells them that he can’t stand this and that he is going to spit them out of his mouth. That is an image for “You make me sick.”
The Lord says the reason they are neither hot nor cold is that they think they are rich and don’t have any needs. Laodicea was a city known for its prosperity. It had a booming clothing industry. It was a financial center. Many people were quite wealthy. Apparently, the Christians in this church saw themselves as self-sufficient and having no needs. They were set. Prosperous. Comfortable.
Does our prosperity cause us to be rather lukewarm and apathetic toward Christ? Oh, we get interested in God when we get in a difficult spot, but when times are good we pretty much live our life as we want. We belong to ourselves. We are materially comfortable so our faith just kind of lays there.
Jesus calls out the Laodiceans. He says that though they see themselves as rich and having no needs, they are actually wretched, poor, blind, and naked.
I hear this and I wonder about faith in our nation. We are the most prosperous country in the history of the world. Most people, if they have any faith, probably say they believe in God and that’s about enough. Our homes, food, vacations, leisure, bank accounts, pleasures keep us from totally depending on Christ. We become tepid in our faith.
Tepid is when something is neither hot nor cold. Tepid religion is nauseating, and Jesus repudiates the church by warning, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” This church in Laodicea boasts about their material sufficiency. They show a proud, smug self-complacency. Jesus says though they are materially affluent and self-satisfied, the church is spiritually “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
I said of these seven letters to seven churches this is the only one to which Jesus has nothing good to say. About the only good thing about the Laodicean church is its thoroughly good opinion of itself – and that opinion is false.
But Jesus makes an offer to this church. He tells them to buy from him gold, white garments, and salve. The gold Jesus offers is pure and refined. There is nothing false. The white garments stand for right standing with God through Jesus Christ. Throughout Revelation “white garments” are a symbol of what those who do what God desires wear. It is “God clothing” you might say. Salve is for the eyes. Jesus said that they were blind and wants them to see themselves for what they are and him for what he is.
I pointed out that Laodicea was a center for clothing. Hence, the Laodicean Christians don’t see themselves as naked. Laodicea was also known for a medicinal eye ointment. Hence, Jesus calls them to see.
To buy these things takes no money or effort. Jesus offers these freely. They have already been paid for by his grace.
Jesus is talking tough to this church. But he says that he does this to those he loves. He disciplines those whom he cares for. Never push way the discipline of the Lord. It is a chance to get back on track. Every chance to repent is grace. Be careful about being defensive with the Lord. What if you never had that chance? What if you never knew if you were going the wrong way, or headed for a cliff?
If you were wearing spaghetti sauce all over your face, didn’t know it, and no one said a word, how would you feel about that?
Good parents discipline their children in love. They do not over-discipline. They do not discipline harshly. They discipline with firmness but love. Of course, the child doesn’t think so at the time. But with maturity comes wisdom.
So, our loving Lord cares enough about us to speak to us and say, “Phil, this is not who or what I made you to be. You are living in a way that is not going to go well. Let me show you what I desire for your life.” Jesus tells them to be earnest or zealous in doing what he says, and to repent, turn around and go in a different direction.
And then we hear the invitation which the window in our sanctuary depicts.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.” What does that knocking sound like to you? Is Jesus knocking softly? Is it a friendly knock? Is it an urgent knock? Is he pounding on the door saying, “Let me in!”?
“I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice…” We have to first hear Jesus’ voice. He stands at the door of every heart and asks to come in. He might speak through a deep conviction in your heart. You might hear his voice in a passage of Scripture. He might speak in something you hear in a sermon. You might hear his voice in something a friend says to you. Or in a book you read. Or in a dream. He might speak to you in a spiritual suspicion: something you suspect you need to address but you have been trying to ignore having to do so. But you sense Jesus is leading you to do this.
There are lots of voices in our lives. There are lots of voices in our world. And we all have a door into our lives. Who and what we open to is our choice. God gives us this freedom. But here’s the deal: whoever you let in, you have to live with that person or persons.
I think, in fact I know from experience, that Jesus is a good person to have in your house, and by house I mean your life. When he takes up residence in your life things are different.
He says that anyone who responds to his voice, opens the door and allows him in, then he will come in and eat with us. What does this mean? Sitting down at a table and eating in Middle Eastern culture is a sign of acceptance, relationship, and intimacy. If you are invited to eat in someone’s home it is a high compliment.
And when we open the door for Jesus to come in we can’t just let him into the entry way and then keep him from every other room in our house. Do we do this? We’ve opened the door to Jesus but kept him in the entry way. We don’t really invite him into the important and deep places of our lives. And we certainly don’t want him walking through the rooms of our life.
“Welcome in Jesus. But please don’t go there or there. I don’t want you to see those parts of my life.” “Oh, don’t go in there. I don’t want you messing with that part of my heart.”
No, we need to let him into the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, the family room…everywhere. (You know what I mean?) We have to let Jesus be Lord over every part of our lives.
He is Lord over our family life, our friendships, how we spend our time, our work and our leisure, where we go on the computer, our phones, our finances, our hopes, our frustration, our grief.
This verse is often used in an evangelistic context. It is often spoken to those who don’t know Christ as an invitation to open their lives to him. But note that these words are spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ to a church, to Christians, to people who gathered in their worship service on Sunday.
Some Christians need to be converted. Some people in churches haven’t opened their hearts to Jesus, yet. There is a lot of the church in this country that is still living on its own terms and not on Jesus’ terms.
The church in this time seems to be losing some of its effectiveness. Is it because too many people sitting in churches haven’t had a transforming experience of Christ? We are still unconverted. As one pastor put it, “We have built a church culture where serious discipleship is seen as an option, as if there were such a thing as biblical Christianity without discipleship.”
We look to Christ after we have made our choices apart from God. We let other things define our lives.
Revelation 3:20 is really a wake-up call. Laodicea was not in a good place with Jesus. If he has to say, “Here I am! Please open the door. I am knocking.” Then was Jesus not in their church? The only cure was to let him in. The only cure for our lives is to let Jesus in.
This is the last of Jesus’ seven messages to these churches. It is really his last appeal to any congregation that has shut him out. This beautiful invitation that we have in our church window is at the same time a wake-up call for any church that is self-sufficient, complacent, and only partly Christian.
But the invitation is to each individual. Only you can open the door of your life to Christ.
Look closely at the image in the window. There is no door handle on the outside. The only way the door can be opened is from the inside. It is up to us. Christ knocks and a person can answer or refuse to answer. Christ does not break in; he must be invited in. He waits for our permission.
But he is persistent. He just keeps knocking. Christ is pleading. He stands at the door of the human heart and knocks. That God is seeking people is a unique thing.
Christianity is unique in this idea that God is seeking people. A Jewish scholar said that no Jewish prophet or Rabbi ever conceived of the “conception of God actually going out in quest of sinful [people], who were not seeking him, but who were turned away from him.” But the gospel is that God has come in Jesus and is seeking every person.
Jesus had a message for the Laodicean church. What would be his message for American Fork Presbyterian Church?
My hunch is that Jesus doesn’t just want to be in our windows, but in our lives. Churches are not memorials to some historical figure who we merely admire and revere. Churches that are alive are full of people who have Christ living in them. They have heard his voice. They have heard his knock. They have opened the door and he is inside eating with them. There is a relationship. It molds every aspect of life.
They are walking with him in love, faith, and devotion. And those who enter that church sense it. Those who know the people of that church can see it.
And what matters isn’t how many people are in that church, but whether or not the Lord Jesus Christ is within it. So when you see that window think of your own heart and the One who is knocking.