The Door of Your Heart

Original Date: 
Sunday, October 28, 2012

Revelation 3:14-22 Open Doors: The Door of Your Heart

Say “Yes” to Jesus
In the book Not a Fan Kyle Idleman tells the story of William Borden:

William Borden will forever be known as a “follower of Christ.” There are plenty of other ways he could have been described. He could have been described as a “multi-millionaire.” He was born in the late 1800s. He was the heir of a family fortune, a dairy company that is worth billions today. He could be described as an “Ivy-league graduate”. He did his undergraduate work at Yale and earned a graduate degree from Princeton. But William Borden decided to be known as a follower of Christ. He left his millions and followed the call of Jesus to reach an unreached Muslim people group.

After he had graduated from high school his parents sent him on a tour around the world. As he traveled across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, God began to call to him to reach out to the lost people who had never heard the Good News of the gospel. He wrote home to tell his parents he was giving his life to Jesus on the mission field. On that trip he wrote two words in his Bible:

No Reserves.

He knew that following Jesus in this way would require a complete commitment. William’s father insisted that he attend the university so he enrolled at Yale. His freshman year, he found that his passion for Christ was not shared by many, so he began meeting with a friend in the morning to read the Bible and pray together. Before long other students joined them and it became a revival on campus as students met in different groups for Bible study and prayer. By the time William was a senior, 1,000 of the students [out of 1300!] were a part of one of these groups. One entry he recorded in his personal journal during that time simply said, “Say no to self and yes to Jesus every time.”

During his time at Yale, Borden also worked with the homeless and the hurting who were living on the streets of New Haven. He founded and personally funded the Yale Hope Mission in an effort to rehabilitate alcoholics and addicts. His father died while he was at Yale, leaving William with a significant family fortune. Upon graduation from Yale, Borden wrote two more words in the back of his Bible:

No Retreats.

He knew that following Jesus meant that he couldn’t look back. He knew Jesus was calling him to world missions and decided to take the gospel to the Kansu people in China. Before going to China, he went to Egypt where he could learn the Arabic language and prepare for his ministry to Muslims. While he was in Egypt he caught spinal meningitis. William Borden died one month later at the age of twenty-five. He was buried in Cairo.

There might be some who would say that he didn’t make a good trade. He gave up his family, his fortune, and a future career to follow Jesus as a missionary and he died before he reached the mission field. But this man, who sparked a revival at Yale and ministered to hundreds through his Mission, and has inspired thousands of missionaries with his commitment, knew he had made the right decision. After his death there were three phrases found written inside the Bible of this completely committed follower of Jesus:

No Reserves.

No Retreats.

No Regrets.

Is that the way you are living your life as a follower of Christ? What would change if you were to go all-in and be completely committed to following Jesus? (pgs. 207-209)

Commitment Sunday
Today is commitment Sunday. Today is the end of our Open Doors Campaign. For the better part of this year we’ve been casting vision and making plans for this day. We’ve set a vision for our church to open doors to Jesus in Spencer, NW Iowa, and around the world. Part of that is our plan to expand our building so that we have room to welcome more people into the church. For the past month we’ve been preaching on that vision and studying stewardship in our small groups.

And now, today, is commitment Sunday. Today, we are going to ask you to make your commitment to this vision, to this church.

We’re asking for money, to be sure. But more than that, we’re asking for your heart. We’re asking you to commit to the mission of the church in a deeper way than maybe you ever have before. My hope is that, like William Borden, we’ll be all-in when it comes to Jesus. As Bob Campbell said a couple of weeks ago in a prayer meeting, “When Jesus calls, let’s make sure our “yes” is already on the table.”

And our text this morning—the call of Jesus to us—is Revelation 3:14-22. This is one of the “letters to the seven churches” in Revelation. A letter written by the resurrected Jesus to—in this case—the church in Laodicea. It’s a letter calling the Laodiceans (and us!) to whole-hearted commitment. It’s a warning against lukewarm complacency and an invitation to earnest fellowship with Jesus.

There are two parts to this letter. The first part I’m going to label “caution.” The second part I’m going to label “counsel.” Jesus speaks to the church, and He gives a word of warning and then a word of advice.

Blinded By Success
So, first the caution. Begin with verse 14:

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Jesus begins by identifying himself. In this letter, He is going to be fairly harsh. Of the seven letters in Revelation, the letter to Laodicea is the only one in which Jesus has nothing good to say about the church. And so, He establishes his right to say what He is about to say.

He is “the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” “Amen” means “yes.” Jesus is God’s “yes” to all His promises. The confirmation of everything God has ever said. He is reliable and trustworthy. He is the truth. And he is “the ruler of God’s creation.” He owns and governs the universe, including this church. And so, Jesus is uniquely qualified to come to the church and call it to deeper commitment. He alone has the credibility and power to challenge the church to be more.

So here’s His warning to the Laodiceans. Verses 15-17:

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Laodicea was a wealthy center of trade and transportation. Located at the crossroads of a major trade route in Asia Minor connecting the middle east to southern Europe, it was known for a strong banking industry; a medical school renowned for its treatment of eye ailments; and a clothing trade known for its black wool.

The city was so wealthy, in fact, that it made news in the ancient world after it sustained major damage in an earthquake in 60 AD. The destruction was so great that the Roman Empire came into the area with their version of FEMA, prepared to help with the rebuilding and recovery efforts. Neighboring cities, such as Philadelphia, gladly took the help. But when the relief workers got to Laodicea, they were turned away. “No thanks,” the Laodiceans essentially said, “we don’t need a thing.”

That sort of self-sufficiency is admirable in civic institutions, but apparently it was also reflected in the church, where it is not so good. We don’t get a lot of details about the church, but my guess is that to us it would seem highly successful and respectable. Like the city itself, the church probably had a lot of resources. It probably had consistent attendance and a membership that was drawn from the leading citizenry of Laodicea. The people in the Laodicean church were probably very proud of their church.

But Jesus sees things differently. Where they saw themselves as a church that had it all together, Jesus saw a church that had forgotten about Him. In their pride over what they had accomplished, they failed to see how much they were spiritually missing. In a town known for wealth, Jesus says they are poor. In a town renowned for eye medicine, Jesus says they are blind. In a town famous for black wool, Jesus calls them naked.

In fact, Jesus says their problem is that they are lukewarm. When it comes to their relationship with Him, they’re “mehh”, rather bland. They claim Jesus, they participate in the church, but there’s no white hot passion that makes Him the center of everything they do. They are keeping Jesus on the front porch of their church. They don’t fling open the door and let Him in. They do their business with him coolly, lukewarmly, through the mail slot.

Here’s something else the city of Laodicea was rather famous for, or in this case infamous for: their water. Their water wasn’t very good. Their neighbor to the north—Hierapolis—had wonderful hot springs known for their healing properties. Their neighbor to the east—Colossae—had wonderful, cool, pure mountain streams to drink from.

But Laodicea, for all its wealth, had awful water. They had to build an aqueduct and bring their water in from hot springs about 5 miles away. By the time the water reached them it was warm and brackish and filled with mineral deposits. For the uninitiated, to take a drink of Laodicean water was an invitation to a gut ache.

And that’s how Jesus says He feels about the lukewarm, tepid, half-hearted spirituality of the church in Laodicea. It makes Him sick. It makes Him want to puke.

I read this, and it exposes my biggest fear for us as a church. I’m so afraid that we’ll get to a point where we feel like we don’t really need Jesus anymore. That we’ll get so good at what we do as a church--raise so much money, have so many people in attendance, hire such good staff people—that we’ll stop inviting Jesus to show up.

It’s possible to become so proud of what we’re doing that we’ll think we’ve arrived. Even as we’re growing as a church, we can lose our passion for Jesus.

This is something I feel so vulnerable to. Something I have to watch in myself all the time. Spiritual pride.

Take this last week for example. I’ve been walking around on clouds ever since last Sunday, when we announced the pledges of our leaders. I want to tell everybody about it. I go to the bank and the teller asks me how it’s going, and I want to say: “We raised $617,000!” I go to Kiwanis and I want to throw a happy dollar in the pot and talk about all the new members at church. I want people to ask me how things are going at church…

And it’s so easy to forget that it’s not about me. It’s not about what I do as a pastor. It’s not even about Hope Church. It’s about Jesus. It’s about growing in a relationship with Him and sharing Him with as many people as possible. If we let the flame of our relationship with him flicker out, then we can look as successful and respectable as we want, but it won’t mean a thing.

I said that this first part of the letter was a caution, and here’s how I’ll phrase it: Success can lead away from Jesus. Success can lead away from Jesus. Material success, business success, relational success, and even success in the church can lead away from Jesus. We can become proud. We can become satisfied. We can become spiritually complacent.

Clearly, Jesus does not like complacency.

*Don’t Forget Me!**
So what do we do? How do we avoid this deadening, Christ-upsetting lukewarmness? Jesus provides the answer. The second half of this letter contains Jesus’ counsel. Verse 18:

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Jesus wants our poverty replaced by spiritual wealth. He wants our nakedness and shame to be covered with the robes of righteousness and good deeds. He wants our blind eyes to be opened so that we see things as they truly are.

And Jesus says there’s only one place where we can get these things. We must buy them from Him. He is the source of everything that we are missing. He is the missing ingredient in this lukewarm, self-satisfied church.

But let me ask you this: how are we supposed to buy gold if we’re broke? Jesus knows that this church in Laodicea is broke, he just said so in verse 17. They’re wretched, pitiful and poor. And not just broke, blind. They can’t even work. And not just blind, but shamefully naked—they can’t even leave the closet.

So how are we supposed to buy gold and garments and salve when we are poor and blind and naked? How do we get the wealth of Christ, the passion to obey, the wisdom to see things as God does when our house is empty and we are too frightened and ashamed to even venture out?

The answer is: we don’t go out, we invite Jesus in. We set aside the pride that makes us think we can do it on our own, and we recognize that every spiritual blessing we have comes from Him. Verses 19 and 20:

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! 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.

It is not out of anger that Jesus is writing this letter. It’s out of love. He loves his church too much to watch them drift away from Him in aimless complacency. And so, to those who would rather keep Him at arm’s length—those who think He’s nice to have around as long as it doesn’t get too personal—He comes to the door and knocks.

John Piper says this: “Christ did not die to redeem a bride who would keep him on the porch while she watched television in the den. His will for the church is that we open the door, all the doors of our life... The opposite of lukewarmness is the fervor you experience when you enjoy a candlelit dinner with Jesus Christ in the innermost room of your heart.” (How to Buy Gold When You’re Broke, Jan. 2, 1983)

How do you buy gold when you’re broke? You let Jesus in and you receive it as a gift. You get “earnest” about your relationship with Him. Earnestness (is that a word?) is the opposite of being lukewarm. It means being all in. It means being committed. It means putting your “yes” on the table.

When I was growing up the old, fortress-like church I attended in Hospers had this painting hanging in its Sunday School wing. It’s called “Christ at Heart’s Door” and it’s by a man named Warner Sallman. It’s a rather well-known painting that I did a little research on this week.

As it turns out, Sallman’s painting was based on an earlier painting by a man named William Holman Hunt called “The Light of the World.” Hunt was an English painter who painted three versions of this painting between 1853 and the early 1900s.

Sallman was a painter from Chicago who painted in the 1940s through the 60s. Sallman is probably best known for his “Head of Christ”, which I’ve always thought of as Jesus’ graduation picture. It looks like the kind of pose you’d see in a yearbook. We have a print of this painting hanging in the library. I think nearly every church in America that existed in the 60s and the 70s probably had a print of a Sallman painting.

But, anyway, back to “Christ at Heart’s Door.” This is clearly a painting based on Revelation 3:20. If you look close, you’ll notice that Jesus seems to be shining. The light coming off of Him shines like a spotlight on the wall in front of Him. The outline of this light forms a heart around the door. The weeds and flowers growing all around the door are supposed to hint at disuse. The idea is that this door hasn’t been opened in a while.

And, something else you’ll notice if you look close, something pointed out to me when I was a child, and something Sallman’s painting has in common with Hunt’s: the door has no knob or latch on the outside. Jesus will not force His way. The door can only be opened up from the inside.

Now, we shouldn’t read too much into the theology of a painting. It’s not like Jesus is a homeless traveler standing on the porch begging us to let Him in. He is the “ruler of God’s creation”, and every heart always and forever belongs to Him.

But Revelation 3:20 does tell us that He is looking for a response from us. He is knocking, He is calling, and He wants us to let Him in.

His counsel, His solution to the problem of spiritual pride and lukewarm complacency, is to turn it over to Him. Give Him the first place in your heart. Take off all the locks and go all in with Him. Turn over every last bit of your life to His control.

Walk Through The Door
So, now, back to Commitment Sunday.

There’s a way that we could do this that would be entirely wrong. We can come make our pledges, raise a whole bunch of money, and then sit back and say: “Look at how great we are! Look at our growing church! Look at our shiny new lobby! We’ve got it all, we don’t need a thing.” We can be proud and self-sufficient and absolutely lukewarm in our passion for Jesus.

Or we can see this as being about more than money. We can see this as being about our hearts. We can see this as being about our passion for Jesus.

We’ve heard the vision. We’ve heard the call to be missionaries right where we live; to be a part of building His kingdom in our region; and to take courageous risks in bringing His Word all around the world. Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart, are you going to let Him in?

As I’ve been saying, the final number that is going to be most important to me isn’t going to be the amount of money pledged but the number of people who make pledges. I just feel really strongly that this is an opportunity for us to mark our commitment to Hope Church—and more than that—our commitment to Christ.

Like William Borden, I hope that we can say yes to Jesus.

No Reserves.
No Retreats.
No Regrets.