Opening our doors to God – Revelation

This post by Nigel Coles was originally published at Seventy Two

The Bible passage which has provided a key focus in fuelling our praying this month has been the letter ‘to the angel of the church in Laodicea’ in Revelation 3:14-21. As I’ve read and re-read this passage, listening for the heart of God, I’m struck again how this passage simultaneously provides one of the most gracious, yet frightening images from the whole of the New Testament.

Gracious, because of the beautiful reality of their implication: If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Frightening, because the one who says here I am! I stand at the door and knock is the Lord who is our saviour, Jesus Christ. It is the resurrection and the life who is shut outside of the church, his church, the body of Christ.

Some headlines:

Our God is a God of grace. He remains the same, yesterday, today and forever

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (20)

This presents us with a wonderful scene, which re-kindles memories of Jesus sitting and eating with the couple at Emmaus, but it’s personal and pertinent – it could be you. Let me underline what we are seeing here: the Almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, one, true, living God wants to sit down at your table and share life together. His with mine, mine with his.

His grace and mercy are constantly available, even when they are not continually received. There’s a reminder here for us, both as ‘persons’ and as churches.

The Lord has not finished with us yet. The UK church. Once we were sending missionaries all over, but now we need reverse missionaries. We need humility: to both receive from others, but also in relation to the Lordship of Jesus and the word of God.

Our God is waiting for hearts to open

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (20)

The Lord is addressing the church in Laodicea. The Lord Jesus Christ is shut outside of the church, his ‘body’.

The Light of the World Painting by Holman Hunt portrays the figure of Jesus is preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door:

  • There is no handle on the outside, only inside
  • What does this mean for a local church, or the wider family of Baptists (both regional & national)?

We are in grave danger of assuming we are who we say we are, whereas the reality depends on our relationship with Jesus, our saviour who is our Lord.

What’s happened to our conviction?

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth (15-16)

These are challenging words, which we need to listen to and not presume simply because we are known as the church we are, in fact, consciously operating under the Lordship of Christ.

  • We need humility (again) – specifically humility before God
  • Any assumptions based on our own thinking, or even ‘theology’, which is rooted primarily in us (whether that be individually or collectively) and not founded upon the rock is arrogance
  • There has always been a tendency towards drift. The recognition the church is only one generation away from extinction, has always been assumed by Baptists, but have we become captive to our own institutionalism?
  • Which generation typifies our present condition?:

The first generation – Believe and act on the word of God

The 2nd generation – Assume they know the word of God and concentrate on acting

The third generation – Are acting

The 4th generation – Have forgotten who wrote the script

Repentance is our pathway to re-align with the purposes of God

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent (19)

  • When was the last time you heard the word repentance during a Sunday gathering for worship? It’s no longer PC, but when we acknowledge the Lordship of Christ we say an absolute ‘yes’ to the reign and rule of God in our lives and the life of our church.
  • Repentance involves a change. A change of heart, behaviour or direction. It begins with an openness and willingness before God: my will, not your will be done.
  • There is no denying the UK is in numerical and spiritual decline. However, churches are growing, directly as a result of people becoming Christians, new followers of Jesus Christ without a ‘church’ background, or upbringing, are being born in every conceivable context across the nation. There is a direct correlation between such churches and the straight-forward proclamation of the gospel. The gospel has not changed, although general confidence in the gospel, within the church, has significantly declined.
  • Have we become captive to the pre-dominant host culture?
  • Post-Christianity is not pre-Christianity; rather post-Christianity attempts to move beyond Christianity, whilst simultaneously feasting upon its fruit. Post-Christian culture attempts to retain the solace of faith, whilst gutting it of the costs, commitments, and restraints that the gospel places upon the individual will. Post-Christianity intuitively yearns for the justice and shalom of the kingdom, whilst defending the reign of the individual will. Post-Christianity is Christianity emptied of its content. (Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church). In other words, Jesus is no longer Lord – I (or you) are.

Our big challenge across the UK is what is the spirit saying to the churches?

 

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