By Lasserre Bradley, Jr. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me"(Revelation 3:20). A few years ago I wrote an article calling for change in the Church. A man confronted me, letting me know that he was quite disturbed that I was calling for change. I asked if he had read the article, and he replied that he had not read it but had heard about it. I replied that if he would read the article he would see that it was not me, but the head of the Church, who is calling for change. The article was based on these letters to the seven churches of Asia.
Jesus, the head of the Church, calls for repentance — and that is change.
Jesus is described as being outside the Laodicean church, knocking at the door. Some have given that scene an interpretation which was obviously not intended. They depict Jesus as being frustrated and defeated because there are hard-hearted souls that will not let him in. A review of the description given of Jesus in chapter one will refute any idea that Jesus is weak:"...his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun sinneth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me. Fear not, I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
Jesus has all power in heaven and earth and so can never suffer defeat. But it is also true that he grieves when people fail to walk in the light they have been given. "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes"(Luke 19:41-42). Jesus was, of course, displeased with the church at Laodicea.
They had a great need but didn't realize it. They were complacent and unconcerned. Does this not describe many churches in our day?
They still have a sign out front that says “church” but they have drifted far from what a true church ought to be. They are “increased with goods,” having the appearance of prosperity, but their focus is on pleasing men not on honoring God. They claim to see, they boast of special insight and superior understanding, but they no longer preach the message that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only Savior. When a church meets on Sunday morning, a request is often included in public prayer that “the Lord will be with us today.” Suppose Jesus did walk down the center aisle in the form in which he appeared to John. His eyes as a flame of fire, his voice as the sound of many waters, his countenance as the sun. Would not some of the songs that have replaced hymns of praise seem a bit out of place? Would not some of the forms and customs appear rather empty? Would not a sermon designed to please men now look like what it is, an affront to the head of the Church?
In the presence of the penetrating eyes of Jesus change would be necessary. True repentance would be called for.
Today Jesus is not making a startling appearance at the morning worship service, but he is knocking at the door. He is counseling the church to use eye-salve so they can see. There are churches that need to see how far they have drifted from the tone of the New Testament. They need to see they have been depending on human schemes rather than power from above. They need to see they have substituted human reasoning for biblical truth. They need to see they have failed to zealously circulate the gospel as it was done in the early church.
Acknowledging error and neglect is always difficult. Implementing the changes that are necessary often brings about a good bit of tension — but look at the promise! Jesus Christ is inviting you to dinner.
Although the whole church has a problem, the promise is that “if any man...open the door, I will...sup with him.”
This forever removes the right of a person to complain that he or she is spiritually hungry, but it is some else's fault. No matter what challenging circumstances may be faced, if that one soul will hear the voice of Jesus and open the door, they can have communion with him. If that one person opens the door and enjoys close fellowship with Jesus, it may be that other lives will then be influenced by their example. A church that had drifted may be called back. A member who had strayed may be restored. Jesus says that his words of rebuke are an evidence of his love. He cares enough to call back those who have become “poor, blind and naked.” The church that was close to being spewed out of his mouth can be revived.
One vital part of this recovery and ultimately feasting with Jesus is to hear his voice. There are many voices that regularly call for our attention. There is always a call from the world to fit in and not become a religious fanatic. There are the voices of friends and family members who may offer unsound advice. There are the voices of other church members who may be pushing agendas that are not in harmony with what Christ taught. They speak loudly about their concern to contend for the faith when in fact they promote loyalty to long-standing traditions and personal preferences. When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration the voice of the Father in heaven was heard to say, "This is my beloved Son: hear him"(Luke 9:35).
Jesus Christ speaks with authority. We are not left with the option of choosing what part of his teaching we like and rejecting or ignoring the rest. We are to hear him.
Not only hear him as we read his word, but also embrace what he says as the truth and then act on it. Jesus concludes his word to this church by saying, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” The warning is given — take it seriously. “I will spew thee out of my mouth.”
The promise is given — claim it joyfully. “Open the door.”
Admit that you have been lukewarm. Acknowledge you are poor. Confess your sin. Then dine with Jesus. How precious is that fellowship when we are communing with Christ! Love then is not just a word spoken, but flows from a heart that is excited about who Jesus is. Zeal does not have to be worked up; it springs from a heart that is excited about what Jesus has done. Work is not then a burden, but a service rendered by one who is thankful for what Jesus is doing.
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