Christians believe that the 'Book of Revelation' is every bit as much part of God's word, as any other part of the Bible; yet comparatively few of them attempt to get to grips with it.
They claim that 'Revelation' is far too complex; filled with images difficult to understand; and say: ‘I just can't make head or tail of it’. Yet, strangely, a brief text from Revelation 3: stands near the top of any list of most-quoted pieces of scripture.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’.
Perhaps this text is much quoted: not only because it uses simpler images than other parts of ‘Revelation’, but also because it speaks to a great need.
Throughout our lives, our biggest, single mental, emotional and spiritual need is that of security. Everything essential to us; or treasured by us; is close-linked to some form of security.
At the heart of our general need of security, is the particular need of acceptance through relationship; and the text speaks to us about that very matter; as it assures us of the Lord's continuing, loving acceptance of us.
However, Christ never works in a vacuum. His continual acceptance of us cannot be made effective, without our full and continual acceptance of him.
In terms of the text, and its images, the 'house' of each individual life not only has an ‘outer door’, but many 'inner doors' as well. These must be wide open too, if Christ is not to be locked out of some part of a life.
Some versions of the Bible say: ‘Here I am’. Others say 'Behold'. Either way, the meaning is the same: look ... see ... become aware...and take notice.
I once knocked at the front door of an old couple’s house. No reply. On my way round to the back door, I passed their living-room window, and saw them sitting in front of the telly - fast asleep.
Through being asleep, they had not ‘looked’ and ‘seen’; therefore, they had not ‘become aware’, and could not ‘take notice’.
In much the same way, many people are mentally and spiritually asleep; unable to be aware of, or take notice of God's love for them, in Jesus Christ.
Although people who are physically asleep will, eventually, wake up and respond to a persistent knock at the door; it doesn't mean to say that someone who is spiritually asleep will do the same.
I once knew a very deaf old man, who lived alone, in a block of flats. He tended to keep himself to himself, and had little to do with the other tenants.
When he had been out walking, or shopping, and returned to his flat, he would remove his hearing aid. Visitors could knock until their knuckles were sore, but he could not hear.
No matter that he was 'awake' in the ordinary sense, he was fast 'asleep' in that other sense, of a total lack of awareness and response. The only way to get through to him, was to override any will that he might have had in the matter, and to fetch the Warden with her pass-key.
Vast numbers of people appear to be, not only cut off from God by means of their background and environment; but also shut away from the Lord, by means of their life-style.
With them, a sort of divine 'pass-key' is of no use; for God enters a life, not by force, but by invitation. ‘If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him’.
If, by the grace of God, we 'behold' Christ in the biblical way; we should always be asking this question: ‘How might we help others to behold Jesus in that same manner, so that they become aware of him; respond to his presence, and invite him into their lives?’
'Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’.
Here is where offering ourselves to others, in loving service, is so very important. Few Christians could ever say: ‘I came to a saving knowledge of Christ, without any help whatsoever, from other people’?
God's grace seems to be offered to people, through people. To us, through others; to others, through us.
If we can encourage someone else to 'hear', with their 'inner ears', the voice of Christ speaking to them, we might be able to encourage them that bit farther, to open up their lives to God, through Jesus.
Most of us have seen a print of the Holman-Hunt picture of Christ, standing outside a closed, ivy-covered door; holding a lantern, and knocking.
It will have been pointed out to us, that the door in the picture has no latch on the outside, and can be opened, only from the inside.
Many people keep the 'door' of their life firmly closed from the inside; and this, mostly from fear of one sort or another; a fear of becoming involved with others; a fear of relationship and commitment; a fear of change, of losing something, and so on.
Helping someone to overcome barriers; and to open their life to Christ, and to other people; is the greatest ministry than any of us can have.
If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him’.
Jesus does not want a standing-at-the-doorstep relationship. He wants to fully enter people's lives, and bless them with his presence.
Have you ever knocked at a door, and had someone open it a couple of inches or so, and peer round the edge of the door, with one suspicious eye, and ask: ‘Yes: what do you want?’
It hardly makes you feel welcome, does it? Some while ago, I switched the radio on, and heard a small part of a play, set somewhere in the north. There was the crunching sound of feet on gravel, then a knock at the door.
A woman said: ‘Albert: there's someone at the door’.
He said: ‘I’m not deaf. I 'eard it’. She then asked: ‘Well, aren’t yer goin' ter answer it then, luv?’.
He replied: ‘I've no idea who it is. I don’t recognize the knock’. She then said: ‘If yer don't open it; yer'll never know who it is, will yer?’.
There was a further crunching sound, as the would-be caller walked away down the path. The man then said: ‘e's gone now, any road’.
There is a very real sense in which, when Christ first knocks at the 'door' of a life, he is a stranger, and his knock won't be recognized, as that of someone already well known.
To really know Christ, the 'door' must be opened, and not just a crack; with a suspicious eye looking round the edge of it; but wide open, so that Christ may enter, and make himself known.
Jesus said, that when the 'door' was opened: ‘I’ll come into him, and eat with him’. Today, as in the ancient world, eating and drinking together in that close sort of way, is a very important sign of acceptance and fellowship
Although, in strict, theological terms, these words may relate to the closeness of communion, in the Lord's Supper, I believe that they have the meaning of Christ's acceptance of an individual life, and of his desire to have fellowship with that soul.
I will come in to him, and eat with him, and he with me’. It is not a one-sided thing, but a sharing thing.
Once, from theological college, I was sent to take the morning and evening services at a church some twenty miles away. I had lunch with one family, and that was a happy experience.
But it had been arranged that I was to have tea with another couple. When tea-time came, I discovered that they had laid the table for one - for me. They said: ‘We never eat at this time of day. We'll have something later’.
So, there I was, feeling rather awkward, as they sat opposite me, watching every bite that I took. I felt little, if anything, of acceptance and fellowship with them. How different it could have been if they had eaten with me.
Many people are like that, in relation to Christ. They hear the 'knock' at the 'door' of their lives, and respond to it. they look, see, become aware of, and take notice of Christ - but to a limited extent.
That is, they invite Christ into their lives on their terms; whereas, it is Christ who takes the initiative; as he approaches the individual life, and requests entry into its deepest places.
A full response to his initiative, produces an open-hearted acceptance of Christ .... who he is; what he is, and what he does, on his terms. And, as he is allowed to enter that life, into its deepest places, the deepest blessings follow. But first, there has to be a full acceptance of Christ.
Most people invite others into their home, on their terms. There is restricted access to certain parts or the house only, at certain times; for general, social reasons, but for all sorts of personal reasons as well - and here's a thought:
Our attitudes to each other are, more likely than not, reflected in our attitudes towards God. What we keep closed to our families and friends, we are likely to keep closed to God; as we invite him, on our terms,
Where we have entered into a more than front-doorstep relationship with Jesus, and have blessings to show for it, two questions arise.
The first is: ‘Am I encouraging someone else to stand where I stand, just as I was encouraged by others, years ago?’; and…
…‘When I opened the 'outer door’ of my life to Christ; did I open all of the 'inner doors' as well? Amen.