After realizing an error, I have updated this to referring to the correct audiences described in the text. My apologies to any who read earlier and were a little confused.
Here’s a blast from the past:
“But I can only show you the door Neo, you have to walk through it.” -The Matrix 1999.
Doors. They’re an effective illustration tool eh? Especially when you talk about them in the same voice as Lawrence Fishburne.
Maybe that’s also why the bible uses the picture and idea of a doorway as an illustrative tool more often than you might think. One such example of this is in the book of Revelation.
One particular day, I found myself thanking God for and reflecting upon a time in my life where he really spoke to me through Revelation 3:8 which goes like this:”
I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” (Rev 3:8 NLT)
Let me take a moment to tell you about that time.
I’ll never forget the day, the moment when feeling utterly, utterly weak, on the verge of giving up, I opened my bible and; boom! This verse hit my eyes. I was in a place of such discouragement partly because I had been laboring so long under the misapprehension that pursuing God was kind of like trying to smash through a castle wall.
It was almost like God was saying “hey Peter, if want to put down your battering ram for a moment, stop toiling so hard simply shift your gaze over here, you’ll see that I have opened the door for you, and you’ve been so busy trying smash that wall down, you’ve never noticed.”
Like a said, it was a bit of a discovery for me.
Fast forward to now. Thinking about that moment again, somehow another thought popped into my mind. Actually a question: I wonder if that other famous ‘door verse’ (‘behold I stand at the door and knock,’) that people quote all the time in appears in this chapter?”
It turns out that it does, 12 verses later:
Revelation 3:20 Look! I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. (NLT)
So, within one chapter we have: a door that only Jesus can open and he’s inviting us to enter, followed by a door that only we can open and he wants in. I think that to say this is interesting is a bit of an understatement.
Let’s look for a moment at their original audiences. Rev 3:8 is in the speech to the Church in Philidelphia. On the other hand, 3:20 is addressed to Laodicea.
As far as I can tell, the problem with Philadelphia is that they are somehow ‘weak’. In the latter, the issue is far more grave.
In Laodicea, they are no longer spiritually ‘hot’. They’ve wandered, not necessarily from the truth, but definitely from that truth igniting thier bones. It’s also interesting to note that at the very same time they seem to think that everything is peachy when in fact the truth is that they are blind, naked, pitiful, poor etc.
The point is, amidst what is often some scary verses there is some enormous encouragements here. Why? Because God is not done yet.
Let’s look at door 1. It seems that Jesus is far less concerned about the amount of strength we have and far more concerned about how much obedience we have. Perhaps we could also say how much faith we have is not as important as who it’s in. The old chestnut preachers’ analogies of the super confident person walking on to a rickety boat verses the nervous person walking on to 100 million dollar aircraft come to mind.
Jesus’ gentlest rebuke is for the weak. What I particularly love however, is the content of the encouragement for weak, the exhausted is essentially: “I have opened the door.” “I have done the hard yards, all your responsibility is, is to perceive it and walk through it.” I don’t know about you but that is extremely relieving for me.
Weakness in the bible has extreme ironic value because weakness tends to get to a point where we can’t hide it anymore. We break down, we fall apart and in that moment the door is opened to an entirely new level of intimacy with God. If we’ll walk through it.
What about door 2? That seems the opposite. These people seem to have an attitude of ‘business as usual.’ It seems that something more perilous than ‘we’re loosing this’ is the attitude: ‘we got this’. There is a saying that goes: ‘for every ten that can handle adversity only one can handle prosperity.’But again, I am amazed at the sheer grace of Jesus in this passage. 3 verse’s after telling them that he is about to ‘spit them out of his mouth’ he is assuring them that such a rebuke flows from love, that he is interested not in spitting them out at all but rather thier eventual restoration.
Because he loves them.
And because he loves them, he shows them the way back into a healthy relationship:
Revelation 3:18-20 So I advise you to buy gold from me– gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
Of course the gold and garments are external metaphors for clothing ourselves in his righteousness, but where it really ‘hits the road’ is verse 20. Essentially “you have to let me in.”
Nothing but the presence of Jesus can prepare us for the full and literal presence of Jesus to come.
But how wonderful, how amazing that he cares enough for us……to want to come in.
Do these two things, two doors have anything in common? Well perhaps it is this. They both represent the entry points to true spiritual safety. Sometimes we are weak. Sometimes we are deceived but this side of eternity there’s always a door. In order for us to live individually and communally there’s a part for god and a part for us.
There’s his door.
There’s our door.
God’s grace in our lives is this: God has done his part, he’s opened his door and invites us in, but moreover he highlights to us the need to open ours and invite him in.
All judgement will be conducted on this principal. God’s not going to ask how we felt about things, nor is he going to ask for our ‘reasons’. He’s going to say: Did you respond to my part by doing your part?
What an opportunity. What a release to know that he has done the thing we can’t do (open his door.) I genuinely believe that the more time we give to simply marveling at that fact; the the God of the universe would welcome us in, the more our hearts melt to open our door to him.