My pastor started a new sermon series a couple of weeks ago. This past Sunday, he asked a question that has been marinating in my mind ever since. What happens when Jesus is taken out of church? He pointed to Revelation 3:20. Jesus told John to write a letter to the church at Laodicea. The church at Laodicea was considered “lukewarm” – neither hot nor cold toward Jesus. They considered themselves to be “rich; acquired wealth and didn’t need a thing” (Revelation 3:17). However, Jesus said they didn’t realize their true nature – they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. He asked the church at Laodicea to be earnest and repent! In verse 20, Jesus said He was standing at the door knocking, waiting on them to respond. Consider this: Jesus was outside the church – He was knocking on the church’s door. I find this very disconcerting.
My pastor gave us this mathematical equation: Christianity-Christ=Religion. Religious people are good people. However, Jesus has more in mind for us than being good. When you consider the Pharisees of ancient Judaism, you get a picture of a religious person. They were sincere in their belief system. They were zealous. They gave sacrificially – doing more than the required tithe (tenth of their income). They were scholars of Moses’ Law – they knew it by heart since they had memorized it. They believed in miracles. They kept the traditions alive from generation to generation. They prayed all the time. And they even expected to see their Messiah come at any time. You would think these were the ones Jesus would be hanging out with and teaching. Yet, these are the ones who ultimately killed Him.
Jesus saved the harshest criticisms for the religious ones and turned to uneducated men to spread His Good News. Jesus flipped religion upside down. The Pharisees were upset with Jesus’ teaching. They believed they were right with God. But they didn’t understand the spiritual application of what they were learning. It was all head knowledge. They had no heart change. Revelation 3:20 is the passage many point toward when telling sinners about Jesus waiting for them to open their hearts to Him. But if Jesus is at the church doors waiting to be let in, what does that truly mean?
Over and over, Scripture tells of repentance and forgiveness. True heart change comes through repentance – agreeing with God of our unrighteousness; we don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s impossible to live a sinless life. But with Jesus all things are possible. We are given His righteousness when we repent of our sins. It’s His clothes we put on every day. Priscilla Shirer says we have to intentionally put on the breastplate of righteousness. It’s His righteousness because there is no one righteous. We don’t have it in us unless Jesus lives in us.
I have the picture in my head of Peter asleep in his jail cell. He was sleeping so soundly, an angel had to strike him to wake him up. The angel escorted him to freedom. I see this image as the church body fast asleep. I believe we are being poked and prodded into wakefulness. The angel told Peter to put on his clothes and sandals. I believe we too need to be clothed in righteousness. We need to be set free from all the chains that are keeping bound to the darkness in this world. Yes, the church body is bound up – we are neither hot nor cold. We hear the word yet it doesn’t change us. We comment that is was a good sermon, but is it applied to our lives? Do we do drive by readings or memorize Scripture for anything other than checking a box?
When people truly encountered Jesus, they were changed. My pastor’s sermon series is Re Jesus. He is going to teach us about the radical Jesus who changed the religiousity of His day. Maybe it will change ours too. If you are interested in learning more, check out the sermons at takeajourney.org. They will be life-changing! The antidote to religion is Jesus. Jesus is knocking. Will the Church open the doors to real change?
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 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. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22