Episode 1. There's Someone at the Door Dear
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As we rush around doing all the things we do in life, the easiest thing in the world is for us to kind of believe in this Jesus … out there somewhere … but not really ever have a relationship …
As we rush around doing all the things we do in life, the easiest thing in the world is for us to kind of believe in this Jesus … out there somewhere … but not really ever have a relationship with Him. It’s kind of a lukewarm thing … and as things turn out, that’s the last thing Jesus is looking for.
Knock, Knock – Who’s there?
It’s so exciting to be with you again at the beginning of a new series of messages that we are kicking off today. And before we get going, let me share with you what brought me to this place.
One of the things that I have done many, many times in churches around the world is to stand up the front, either leading worship or preaching, and one of the things I have noticed, especially, let me say, as people are supposedly worshipping God, is (what are the words?) a lack of engagement. You look around at the sea of faces and you can see the minds wandering – people being distracted by who is walking in late behind them; people looking at their watch … well, you can just tell that they are not there! Blankly staring into space – their lips might be moving, sure, but the last thing they are doing is actually worshipping God.
Now, I don’t care whether you are someone who believes passionately in Jesus, or maybe … maybe you are someone who is not in that place. Maybe you would call yourself more an agnostic or an atheist but irrespective of where we are at, if we wandered into a church amongst people who professed to believe in this amazing God, we would all expect them to be sincere about their faith, wouldn’t we? I mean, we would!
But a good many people aren’t! They go to church out of – I don’t know – a sense of obligation, maybe or maybe its habit. It blows my mind and that’s what led me to this series of messages. The series is called, “There’s a Knock at the Door,” and that’s a phrase that comes straight out of the Book of Revelation, as Jesus is speaking to a church where the people are lukewarm towards Him.
Now, we might think, “Well, at least they are lukewarm – that’s better than ice cold, right?” Um! We’ll have a listen to Jesus and see what His take on it is. Revelation chapter 3, beginning at verse 14:
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation. I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For your say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realise that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
So this idea that lukewarm is better than cold is far from the truth. Jesus wishes we were either cold or hot. Have you ever drunk a lukewarm cup of tea or coffee? It’s disgusting! What you want to do is spit it out of your mouth. And see, the thing doesn’t start with the church; the thing starts in our hearts – you and I – we’re hot, or we’re lukewarm or we are cold, when it comes to this Jesus; this God who loves us with a love that would have Jesus nailed to a cross for you and me. Nothing, absolutely nothing lukewarm about God’s love for you and me! God is passionate about you and me.
And yet it is so easy for us to live a lukewarm life. Just recently, I had to fill out a census form here in Australia – we had a national census, I think it’s every five years or so. They ask you all sorts of questions; one of the things they ask you is your religion. You can tick the different Christian denominations or boxes for other religions. Last census, almost two thirds of us ticked a box for a Christian religion and yet only ten percent of us are regularly part of a church. That’s at least over fifty percent of the nation who are probably lukewarm Christians – probably more because there are plenty of people in churches today who are lukewarm Christians. Okay, it’s a broad generalisation, but you get my point.
By far, the vast majority of people who would call themselves “Christian”, aren’t committed followers of Jesus Christ. By far, the majority of people who would call themselves “Christian”, aren’t in a dynamic, vital community of faith. By far, the majority of people who call themselves “Christian” have anything but an intimate relationship with Jesus. Hello? I’m sorry if I am getting in your face here. I’m sorry if this has you squirming in your seat a bit, but this passage that I just read before – this passage of Jesus talking to a bunch of lukewarm Christians, is bound to make us squirm a little in our seats if we happen to be a lukewarm Christian.
Anyone who kind of believes in this Jesus as a bit of an insurance policy, just in case; anyone who kind of believes in Jesus but has Him at arm’s length; anyone who goes through the motions – plays out the religious rituals but doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus; anyone who is in that place is going to squirm just a bit. That’s good; I think that’s what Jesus is looking for, because today, if you are in that place, the last thing I’m here to do is to criticise you or condemn you because I spent a huge part of my life in that place. I know it well. And the longer I stayed in that place the less certain I even became that there was a God who had sent His Son to earth to die on a cross to pay for my sins.
So if you are one of the people who are kind of squirming a bit – wondering whether you really are a Christian; wondering whether Jesus would consider you hot or cold or lukewarm, this is especially for you. Today there is a knock at the door; a knock at the door of your heart. Today as we spend these minutes together, I believe Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart and asking you, “Where are you at?” Today, I believe Jesus is calling you to open your heart to Him.
And I remember when He first came knocking on the door of my heart. It was a shock! You know those “Knock, knock” jokes – “Knock, knock, who’s there?” And that’s what it felt like. Hang on, someone or something is kind of knocking at the door of my heart. I had this sense that God was touching me; that God was speaking to me; that God wanted to fellowship with me. It was such a weird feeling. It was like, “What’s this? What’s going on? Who is there?” It was an unsettling feeling. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, as I speak these words, there is many a man, woman and child listening who has the same unsettling thing happening inside them right now.
That’s because Jesus is knocking on your heart. He doesn’t want you to lukewarm any more. He wants something so much more; so much better for you – here and now, for the rest of your life and for all eternity. I can speak the words but I can’t touch your heart, only He can and that’s precisely what may be happening to you right now.
When Jesus Comes for You
There was a time in my life – twenty years ago or so – when I was completely alone on this earth. I mean, completely alone; no friends, no family. Now, sure, I knew people but none of them were my friends; at least, that’s what I thought. I’d never been alone like that before.
If you have been in that place, you know how devastating it is to find yourself completely alone. And then, little by little, a handful of people – three people at first – came out of the woodwork and gathered around me and became my friends. I was going through some awful stuff in life and these three people all had a couple of things in common. Firstly, they were Christians and secondly, because I hated Christians, I’d never been very nice to them.
As I look back on those times I realise that back then, I wasn’t particularly easy to love … truly. Not only were things difficult for me, but I had an ego the size of a small planet; I wouldn’t listen to people and boy, did I hate Christians. So for these three people to step up to the plate and care for me the way they did, to this day, I find that completely astounding.
Now Jesus had been on my case in the months leading up to that time and as I shared earlier, He had been knocking at the door of my heart – I knew that but it was when He brought these people into my life that, all of a sudden, He became real.
We are chatting today about this sense that Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts and whether we have been a church goer for a life time or perhaps not, that simply isn’t the issue. There are many people who warm the pews of a church each Sunday and yet they have never experienced a dynamic, life changing relationship with Jesus. They’re the people who – as I once was – who are lukewarm. Let’s have a listen again to what Jesus has to say about that. Revelation chapter 3, beginning at verse 16. Jesus says:
Look, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.
Now, that bit about being rich is something I really relate to. I wasn’t rich per se but I was pretty well off. I thought I was self sufficient. I subscribed to the theory that you make your own life. Life is what you make it – work hard, focus, achieve – life is going to be fantastic. And truly, I thought my life was fantastic but there was always something missing; there was always an emptiness there; there was always a sense that, as hard as I was working and as successful as I was becoming – according to the world’s standards and the world’s plans – I was somehow missing the point.
When I first read these words of Jesus, they were like a sword that cut through all the pretence and the pride, straight to the quick; straight to my heart. I knew in an instant what the problem was:
You say, “I’m rich, I have prospered, I need nothing.” You don’t realise that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.
Absolutely, that was it! That was precisely the life I was living. I was kidding myself. I thought I could see clearly but I was blind and what a terrible state that is to live in! Again, Jesus puts it this way in Matthew chapter 6, verses 22 and 23. He says:
Look, the eye is like the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
In other words: if you think you have your act together; if we think we are seeing life clearly – but we are deluding ourselves, we have it all wrong – then, “Houston, we have a problem!”
Now interestingly, Jesus said that in the context of wealth – the delusion of wealth – thinking that we are all well and good if we are provided for and we have plenty of money in the bank and a good income; hey, it’ll be a good as gold! And that’s how many people live their lives. That how I lived! I really didn’t need God because I had provided for myself – that was the delusion I was living out.
And so I went from believing in Jesus in my late teen years to kind of going lukewarm for a good many years on the basis that I was self sufficient, to finally not even knowing if Jesus was real. That, as it turns out, is a pretty typical cycle. You can’t stay lukewarm forever, eventually you go cold.
And so my prayer for anyone today who has anything but a rich, fulfilling, dynamic, passionate relationship with Jesus – if you are in a place that falls a long way short of that, then my prayer for you is that by hearing what Jesus is saying, your eyes will be open to the truth of the reality of life that you are living. Not for any other reason than the fact that Jesus has so much better planned for you.
For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, I need nothing.’ You don’t realise that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Therefore I counsel you (this is Jesus talking remember) – therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
When I came to that realisation, it took some doing. I had to ditch my pride; I had to admit that I was in the place that Jesus was saying I was at, so I know how hard it can be to admit that. Even though once we may have professed some sort of faith in this Jesus; even though once our backsides may have warmed the pew of a church, today, now, here, maybe you are in this place; maybe you are lukewarm or going cold and it’s time to admit that and do something about it. So if this is speaking to your heart right at this moment, I know … believe you me, I know what it feels like.
But let me encourage you to trade in the pride and the desire for the world’s riches for the real God; the real truth that will truly make you rich. Let me encourage you to accept the white robes that Jesus is offering you in this place right now – the robes of complete forgiveness; complete right standing in God’s sight – free from shame and reproach. Let me encourage you to let His Word be the salve to anoint your eyes so that you may truly see. Know the truth because as you do, it will set you free to live the life that Jesus always planned for you.
We Don’t Have to Tidy Up
The other weekend my wife, Jacqui, and I had a bunch of people over for drinks on Saturday afternoon. We live in an apartment complex and a new couple have moved in on our floor so we thought, “Let’s invite the other people as well so this new couple could meet their neighbours.” It was a really good time. But you know, with my upbringing and all, I can’t help myself – I have to do a major cleaning operation before we have visitors. I whizz around with the vacuum cleaner and I make sure the bathroom is sparkling clean and the kitchen and all that.
Not that we live in a mess, we don’t. And it’s not that I’m interested in impressing people either, because I’m not. It’s just that that’s what my parents used to do and somehow that kind of behaviour has been – I don’t know – imprinted on me, if you like. Some people are tidy, other people are messy; I’m a tidiness freak and I really enjoy living in a tidy place.
Now, these were our neighbours; nice people all of them but they were just our neighbours. So as I was hauling the vacuum cleaner around the lounge room, I’m wondering to myself if this is the trouble I go to for a bunch of neighbours, imagine … I mean, just imagine if Jesus was coming over for dinner tonight. Imagine if I knew that the Son of God was going to be knocking on my front door at 6.30pm tonight and come in a join us for dinner. I suspect that that impulse to clean up and tidy up would have been about, I don’t know, a gazillion times stronger than it was for my neighbours. I suspect I’d want to clean the place to within an inch of its life.
But is that really what Jesus would want us to do? To tell you the truth, it was this idea – can I call it a delusion; yea, that’s not too strong a word – it was this delusion that caused me to keep my distance from God for probably – I don’t know – twenty years or so. I started out believing; knowing there was a God but I was doing things in my life that I knew were wrong. And when you know what you are doing is wrong and you want to keep doing that, how can you possibly get close to God? I mean, any kid learns growing up that if it does something wrong it’s going to get punished. So we run away from God because that the natural reaction we have to our own disobedience.
Nothing new in that! I mean, Adam and Eve that very first time they sinned, had the very same response. The first sin in the history of the human race – eating the fruit from that one tree of which God said, “Don’t eat the fruit from this tree.” Genesis chapter 3, beginning at verse 8:
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden.
Just like Adam and Eve, I spent twenty years on the run from God, deluding myself that my success and the money I was earning and the house that I bought were where it was all at. I was self sufficient and so I reasoned: I didn’t need God! To tell you the truth, that was just a cop out; that was just my excuse to keep on keeping on with my anger and my selfishness and all that stuff. Are you relating to any of this?
I think we can all fess up to this happening in our own lives at some time and so like Adam and Eve, we feel compelled to run and hide from God. Have you ever thought how stupid that is? As though we can hide from an all seeing, all knowing, all loving, all powerful God!! Give me a break!
And so there we hide, thinking to ourselves, “I can’t face God. I have to clean up my act.” Until one day, God comes looking for us, just as He did with Adam and Eve:
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” And Adam said, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
That’s the discomfort we feel when God comes knocking at the door of our hearts. But here’s the amazing thing: we don’t have to clean up our acts first – that’s something that Jesus will help us do later. Have a listen with me again to exactly what He said – Revelation chapter 3, beginning at verse 19. Jesus said:
I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.
In other words, “I love you and because I love you, let Me reprove you; let Me discipline you.” And literally, the original Greek words that sit aback of our English translation carry with them the sense of correcting and training. In other words what Jesus wants to do for us and with us, out of His great love, is to help us clean up our act. And what does He want us to do? What’s our part in this transaction of transformation?
Be earnest, therefore and repent.
What does that mean? Literally it means to “change our minds”; to turn back to Him. That’s all! The reason we want to run and hide is that we have the sequence confused in our heads. We think it’s (1) clean up our act and (2) then come back to God through Jesus. And right here and right now Jesus is saying, “No! You have got that wrong. You have forgotten about this thing called “grace”. What I want you to do is (1) repent – first change your mind and come back to Me. And then (2) together, we will clean up your act. And that makes perfect sense because you and I simply don’t have the power to clean up our respective acts.
Now, I’m one of the strongest willed people you will ever meet. I went from smoking three packs of cigarettes a day to completely giving up in a single instant. That was thirty years ago and I haven’t had a cigarette since that time. And yet still, I can’t clean up my own act. That’s what Jesus is doing for me now.
When Jesus knocks on our door to have dinner with us, we don’t have to race round and clean up – we don’t have to vacuum the lounge room and tidy the cushions on the sofa. He didn’t come to do a ‘house cleanliness’ inspection. He came to have dinner with us. Cleaning up the mess? “Let’s have dinner first”, says Jesus, “let’s sit and chat first – let’s be together, then I’ll help you clean up your act.”
Don’t believe me? Have another listen to His own Words. Listen:
I am standing at the door knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.
This is not a point of condemnation; this is a point of invitation. What an invitation – dinner with Jesus!! – dinner with the Son of God who will help clean up the life of anyone; any man, any woman, any child who earnestly has a change of mind.
Jesus is knocking at the door! Jesus is inviting you into a relationship with Him – will you open the door?