Commonly Misapplied Scripture – “I Stand at the door and knock”

Left Picture: Del Parson’s “Jesus at the door”

Right Picture: William Holman Hunt’s “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Is the image depicting:

– Salvation or Sanctification?

– Regeneration or Relationship?

I was watching a great evangelistic animation recently and I was really pleased with the simple way it explained the Gospel: God created everything; We had a perfect relationship with God; this relationship is spoiled by sin; sin separated us from our Creator; man tries everything to put this right, but is unable and comes up with all sorts of religions/things to fill that need; Jesus, the Son of God, sinless, perfect and able, since He is God, dies on the Cross to take the sin barrier away; now by faith, trusting in the finished work of Christ on the Cross we can be freed from our sin and restored to a right relationship with God. Great so far. Then the ‘how to’ is explained and an offer is made to the sinner using Revelation 3:20, as quoted above. It sounds like a lovely idea doesn’t it, Jesus knocking on the metaphorical door of our hearts asking to come in? But the Bible just doesn’t say that is what happens. The onus is always on the sinner to repent (turn to Him) and believe (trust in all that He offers). For example:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)

There are many more Scriptures that make this clear, however, it’s obviously not all of us, all believers can testify to the inevitable involvement of God in the process of the journey to faith in Christ (some might say it’s all Him, but that negates the free will we have to obey or disobey God, we are not robots). There are usually a number of connected incidents, explained Bible truths and convictions that bring us to that moment when we believe and are regenerated.

Many things can draw us:

Creation itself it’s beauty and order which point to a Creator/designer, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

The fragrance of Christ which is attractive in believers, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). This is what causes Christians to be the ones that people sidle up to when they have problems. It’s that sense of assurance, their compassionate nature, love and kindness.

The Word of God as contained in the Bible which, “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). Countless Christians came to faith purely through reading a portion of Scripture.

God is involved in the process, but we must respond, as it was with Lydia in Philippi: “The Lord ‘opened her heart’ to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). God works in our hearts through all these things and we respond. Jesus isn’t standing and knocking on the doors of our hearts asking to come in. He achieved all that was necessary and gave the job of communicating this good news to His people, the church.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Context is Everything

The fact is most often, we needn’t even use cross references as above, or tried and tested doctrine to show us what a scripture teaches, as with any Scripture misused or otherwise, the context itself is usually sufficient to clarify the intended meaning. So let’s read the passage in its immediate context:

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.

16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,

18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:14-20)

It is worth noting that in a wider context, Laodicea is the seventh church to whom Jesus directs John to write. And here we see our first contextual truth; the letters are to the churches, this one being to the church at Laodicea; the letters are not addressed to unbelievers. When Jesus addresses lukewarm, self sufficient, wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked people, He is talking about Christian’s. It was the sad reality of the church at Laodicea, it is the sad reality of many churches today. The words of Jesus’ appeal to “Open the door” addresses Christians who seem to think they can do without Him; who seem to think they have life sorted; they have everything they need, thank you very much. Jesus’ appeal is for intimacy with Him and reliance upon Him. This is especially counter culture today.

We champion excellence, professionalism and self sufficiency. We are a nation of superficial thrill seekers and fun lovers who want to experience God, but don’t want to know Him the way He has determined (by faith in Christ firstly and then through His Word, not via some mystical ‘goose bump’ experiences). In contrast, Jesus wants us to have “gold refined by fire” (3:18), refining gold takes time, but the effort is worth it. Jesus wants us to wear “white garments” (3:18), which speak of purity and righteousness. Jesus says we need “eye salve” (3:18) to remove our spiritual blindness.

Jesus is knocking on the door of these “lukewarm” (3:16) Christians’ hearts. He wants to commune with them. He wants them to truly know Him and His ways and to walk in them. It would be a two way communion, because God wants to be in a relationship with His people. Imagine a car without an engine, it’s going nowhere, but you get someone to keep the background scenery moving so it feels like you are. Imagine having a friend who continually bails you out time and again, but you didn’t take time to get to know him or her! It’s like, thanks ever so much, but I got this now (a bit like parenting can be). Imagine being married but living a single life, the relationship would just crumble, since we were designed to live in communion with each other.

“”God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:6-8)

It is apparent to me that since God revealed Himself through Christ and Christ gave us His word through His Spirit, we can only really get to know Him through His revealed word, the Bible. So, dine with the Lord in His word, receive your daily bread, your necessary sustenance, you will renew your minds (Romans 12:1-2), feed your souls and learn how to live to please Him (Colossians 1:9-12) . You will have success in your attempts to witness or in ministry (see Joshua 1:3-9). Jesus is then able to reveal Himself to you, you become reliant upon Him, learning to trust as He leads. Your eyes will have received that salve it so desperately needed and you will no longer be in the foggy deceitfulness of self reliance and self sufficiency. I have discovered for myself how difficult my walk is without it. It really is the most wonderful thing to be continually blessed by the enormity and the intimacy of God as found in His word.

So which picture was more accurate to Scripture? The one with a nice clean door and a warm glow from within? Or the one with weeds growing out of control over the doorway, outside which Christ knocks with a light in his hand waiting patiently to be invited in. He is only ever a heartfelt and contrite prayer away.

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