Doors are important. Without them change is nearly impossible. They provide an entrance to resources otherwise unavailable.
It is cold outside, very cold. Your breath freezes as you exhale and plummets like frozen raindrops to the ground. You are tired, very tired. But you know if you try sleeping here you will never wake up. Then you see a cabin just a short ways ahead. If you can only get inside…
The feelings, the urgency, the hope invoked in the few sentences above is what I want you to hold on to for a few moments. In order for doors to benefit us we must have a need—and the more urgent it is the greater the benefit. If we had no need, why need we enter?
Rev 3:16 Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth, (17) because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
This is the courtyard door, first of three. Jesus stands here with an outstretched hand, inviting us to enter with Him. This door is for the sick, the poor, the miserable and despondent, the lonely, the desperate and the addicted. If there is no need, this door will do no good. Why is it so powerful to turn these people around?
Because it opens to them resources they never dreamed of having. In Christian lingo we call it the Gospel. In Revelation talk it is referred to as the First Angel’s Message (Rev. 14:6-7).
Instead of just a cure to stop their pain, they also get an infusion of joy. Instead of a generous payment for their lifelong debt, they also receive an abundance they can share with others for eternity. Instead of freedom from tight chains that have enslaved them for years, they are given wings to soar with the eagles.
Through this door we learn how intimately God is involved in our life, how much and how well He knows us, and the lengths He is willing to go to make us truly happy. Here is One who knows us intimately, has experienced our pains, knows personally how deep poverty can cut into living flesh, and how horrible addictions can distort the life. Here, in the courtyard we meet Jesus, our Brother and our true Friend. And here we get our first sight of blood. As we backtrack the crimson drops throughout the courtyard we are horror struck to see they all began at the bloody knife we hold in our hand. Yet the risen Lord has no condemnation in His eyes or voice. He only says, “Follow me. I want you to see our Father.”
“Fa- Father?” we stammer. “You mean, like, an earthly father?”
“Sort of. ” Jesus smiles as He says that. Then adds, “Like those who really know how to love, how to endure, how to embrace and inspire. That kind. But we have some cosmetic work to do first.” And with that He disappears behind the second door.
“Cosmetic work? On me? Will it hurt? Will I still be me?”
By following someone, we recognize them either as leaders or at least someone knowing the way we should be going. When we turn from their leadership we turn from the destination they intend for us to reach. Consequently the destination we choose can come short of God’s if we don’t follow Him all the way. This is the critical part—as long as we stick close to Jesus, wherever He goes, we shall always receive the benefits of His ministries. But if He enters a door to perform a needed duty and we recoil and turn back, the room that held so much abundance before is now ruled by another power who has no scars, just a twisted smile. He assures us that the benefits will continue as long as we give him the same homage we gave our Saviour moments before.
The benefits may remain (the cures, the abundance, the freedom, the joys), but they are now under a different ruler… with a different agenda—not that of the compassionate, loving Saviour.
Just keep this in mind.
After Jesus is resurrected He all too soon disappears into the heavens, but assures us He will continue to be with us through His Spirit, sent with the Father’s blessing.
As He fades from sight we hear Him say so faintly off in the distance, “Follow Me.”
What more can we gain than what we already have secured? All our needs are supplied. As we look back into the court Jesus has now left we see the man with the twisted smile. Instead of scars on his hands we see fingers bedecked with costly jewels, and on his scarless brow a golden crown bedecked with costly jewels. Yet behind him is a black, impenetrable darkness highlighting all the more his glory. And all he says is, “Come, stay and enjoy. Everything has been paid for.”
Only the brave will once again turn westward and enter the Holy Places to learn of the new level of growth awaiting them. Now we see only the form of our Saviour ministering for us at a candlestick, a table, and an altar. It isn’t long before we put the pieces together.
Besides still enjoying the benefits of the room we safely left behind (that another now commands his own way) we learn our Saviour is fashioning us into His likeness. As we follow Him around we notice our fears are being replaced with joys, and our debilitating habits are giving way to new, glorious ones. New gifts. New abilities. New purposes. We are experiencing sanctification—a life empowered for service!
Just as we get comfortable with this new life and our deeper relationship with our Friend and Brother, Jesus gets up slowly, gives a big sigh and glances back at us with a sorrowful look. Why would He do that? What is bothering Him?
He pauses a moment and speaks to us in a firm but loving tone,
“I am going in to be with my Father to finish the cleansing of this tabernacle. I would very much like you to join me, but you must do it by faith, for this is something only my Father and I can do.”
Startled, we ask, “What can we do?”
He gives another sigh, for He knows many will turn from Him when He tells us.
“You must eat my flesh and drink my blood.”
Puzzled, we inquire what He means.
“You must live as I lived while on the earth. You must be willing to die to self and do only what the Father directs. You may feel that you have lost your identity, your will, everything that makes you you.”
“But why?” we ask.
“Because we are cleansing the temple, going through all the records of those who have had their names written in the Book of Life, and making final judgments. After we finish with the dead we must continue with the living. Once a judgment has been made on one who is still alive, that person’s character is sealed, though he or she will know it not. And when all have been judged the temple will be closed forever. This is where you come in.”
“What do you mean?”
“Our Father has been falsely accused. The one with the crooked smile has stated that God’s law is too strict, too heavy, too encompassing, that no one could possibly live by it and be happy. When the temple is finally cleansed sin will still reign on this earth. In fact, only a very few of my followers will be alive. It will be a terrible time, but a glorious time for them, for they will live without sin until we come to take them home (though they will know it not).
“Today, if you follow me by faith into this final phase of Redemption, you must stay very close to me through My Spirit, and practice living wholly for my Father’s glory. Sin cannot reign in your mortal body.”
“You mean we must be perfect?”
“I mean you must be perfectly devoted to our Father. If you are, He will take care of your battles with evil. Your focus will not be on yourself, but totally on the Father’s reputation. You will find yourself saying, as did Joseph when he was tempted, ‘How can I do this and sin against my God?’”
This will be too much for many followers. They will turn away in disgust. They have loved the sanctified life and are content with it. It has brought them many joys. But thinking that the occasional sin, the tiniest indulgence will cause them to lose everything will be too much. And in turning back they see a bright shiny being with no crooked smile. His arms are outstretched, and the blackness behind him is gone. All seems so lovely and inviting.
But, at this point, if we retrace our steps we lose all. To retain the blessings secured for us by our Saviour, we must never let go of Him, but follow Him all the way, even to the fullest expression of devotion possible.