Christ At The Door
October 22nd, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
CHRIST AT THE DOOR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-22-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled Christ at the Door. In our preaching through the Bible and through the Book of the Revelation, we have finished, as of last Sunday, the first great section of the Apocalypse, the last church [Revelation 3:14-22]. Beginning at the fourth chapter, we enter the consummation of the age. It had been my thought, and it is announced in your program, that the sermon this morning begins that fourth chapter of the Revelation. But as I looked at this third chapter, I could not find it in my heart to leave it without preparing a message on this most beautiful and tender of all of the texts in the Bible.
So before beginning this fourth chapter, which will describe and outline, (and in the chapters that follow)—the great and final period of trial that shall come upon all of the earth—before beginning those awful and terrible revelations of the judgment of God in this earth, and before beginning the wonder of the triumph of God’s people in glory [Revelation 4:1-22:21], we are pausing before this beautiful text in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, 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.”
One of the amazing things of the text is to be found in its location: where it is—for our Lord had words of commendation, approval, approbation, encouragement for all of the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:13], but this one [Revelation 3:14-22]. There is no letter to the seven that is all rebuke and reprimand, except this letter to Laodicea. To every church and to every congregation, He had some word at least of approval, except to this last church: to the Laodiceans.
The letter is stern. It is full of rebuke, and yet it is in this epistle of rebuke and chastisement and judgment that you find this tenderly beautiful invitation. It is as though one found a lovely flower in a burning, searing desert. It is as though one hears a mockingbird sing on a bleak and wintry morn. “Behold,” He said, even in the stern rebuke of Laodicea, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” [Revelation 3:20].
It is also an amazing text because of the person of the One it describes as standing at our door. Behold, Christ has come our way! The thrill of it, the thought of it, the wonder of it: He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain [1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6, 6:18], He in whom God hath invested all authority in heaven and earth [Matthew 28:18], He is at our door—ours. He has come our way.
I remember more than seventeen years ago, and how could I forget it? When the pulpit committee of this glorious church in Dallas came to Muskogee where I was pastor; the wonder of it to me, the thrill of it to me was beyond what I could describe, that this church should come to my door and to speak to me. And had I known the consequences to follow, I would have been even more thrilled.
The Lord has come our way, and He stands at our door. Why, had it been an angel from heaven—how marvelous, how sublime, how wonderfully great— like the angel came to see Abraham [Genesis 18:1-3] or Manoah [Judges 13:13-21], or as the angel appeared to Zacharias, standing on the right side of the altar [Luke 1:11], had it been even an emperor, or a king, or a prime minister, but that it should be He who is exalted above the heavens [Psalm 57:11]: our risen Lord! Do you remember the description of Him as the Revelation opened?
I turned to see the voice that spake unto me. And being turned, I saw One standing in the midst of the lampstands, like unto the Son of God, the Son of Man, the King of glory, clothed with the garments down to the foot, regal and kingly, girt about the breast with a golden girdle. His hair was white as snow; His eyes were as a flame of fire. His feet like unto brass that burned in a furnace; His voice as the sound of many waters. In His right hand, He held seven stars; out of His mouth, the sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance as the sun shineth in its strength.
He is at the door: our risen Lord and exalted King—knocking, knocking [Revelation 3:20]. This passage is an amazing revelation of the character of our Savior, exalted in heaven, for it reveals to us our Master is on the same quest in glory as brought Him to this world from heaven, when He was incarnate. “For the Son of Man” you read in the passage, “has come to seek and to save that which was lost” [Luke 19:10].
And that same entreaty and that same appeal and that same quest consumes the yearning heart of our Savior now—still at it, still doing it! When He was here in the days of His flesh, He made appeal to all kinds of people: publicans, sinners, mothers and their little children, the outcast, and the desperate, and the scholar like Nicodemus [John 3:1]. And all alike heard Him gladly, pressed to see Him, as Zaccheus [Luke 19:1-10].
He hasn’t changed—still appealing, still visiting, still knocking at the door, still seeking and searching—the eternal seeker, as the shepherd looking for the lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], as the wife with a broom sweeping the floor and lighting the candle, searching for the coin that was lost [Luke 15:8-10], our Savior still.
And He seeks aggressively, purposefully. We sometimes think it is our part to seek and that the initiation is with us. Sometimes we are persuaded that He holds us at arm’s length and denies us the secret of His presence. How mistaken we are. All of our salvation is initiated from God: “Not that we loved Him, but that He loved us” [1 John 4:10]. And not that we seek Him, but that He is seeking us! [Luke 19:10].
What a wonderful thing that God should seek for a man, made of dust, who blasphemes, and sins, and curses God, and doubts His grace, and repudiates His mercy, and does despite to His Spirit. What an amazing, overwhelming thing that God should seek a man!
But in His aggression, our Lord stops at the door [Revelation 3:20]. In the parable of the lost sheep, I suppose, when the shepherd found the little thing, he picked it up by force, put it on his shoulder and brought it home [Luke 15:1-7]. But in a third part of that parable of the prodigal son, the father waits and yearns and prays, but the boy had to come back. There was no coercion and no force [Luke 15:11-24]. And when the elder brother, because of his anger, refused to go in, the parable says the father went out and entreated the boy and pled with the boy that he come in [Luke 15:25].
It is thus with our Lord. He has a deep reverence for a man’s personality, and He never violates the freedom of choice given to a man’s soul. And the Lord pauses at the door, having done all that omnipotence could do. He never forces the decision; it lies in the hand of the man on the other side of that door. And the Lord pauses and He knocks and He knocks and He knocks, asking entrance [Revelation 3:20]. Like the glorious sunlight, when the shutter is down and the blind is closed, no mystery of the glory of the light of God fills the room until the shutter is opened wide and the blind is raised. Thus it is with the entrance of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6]: first, to open the shutter, to raise the blind, that the King of glory might come in.
How unusual is it to find so many men saying: “If God were to do some miraculous thing, I would accept Him. If He were to force something upon me, then I would acquiesce, but until He meets me in some irresistible miraculous way, I will not open the door of my heart. I shut Him out,” and what an unusual attitude, as though God would force any man’s soul. He comes in at an invitation. And we have the right to deny Him and to send Him away [Revelation 3:20].
What an astonishing thing: as the Lord looked upon the rich young ruler and loved him, and saw the young man decide against Him and walk away [Mark 10:17-22]. Why didn’t the Lord seize him? Why didn’t the Lord force him? Why didn’t God compel him? Because God never does a man’s soul that way. It is yours to decide. And if He comes in, it’s because you open the door.
Once in a while, a man will say: “But, I’ve never felt God knock at my door. He knocks at the door over there and over yonder and over there, but He doesn’t knock at my door. The door of my heart has never been touched by the pressure of the hand of God. I’ve never felt that He knocked at my door.”
Ah, my friend, my brother, my neighbor, there was never a man who ever lived but who had the experience of the appeal of God to his soul. I may be a lost man, but He knocks at the door. I may be a bad man, but He knocks at the door. I may be blasphemous and indifferent, but He knocks at the door.
Wherever there is a beating heart in this world, there is a yearning Savior, knocking at the door! In all of the clamor of life and the vicissitudes and fortunes of every passing day, there will be the Savior knocking at the door of our hearts. In how many ways does He knock? He knocks in the Word. He seeks entrance through the Word. Every quotation of the Bible, every reference to the Holy Scripture is a knocking at the door of one’s heart.
He knocks at the door of our heart in every service held in His name. Every church with a spire pointing up to God is an invitation to Christ. Every time a hymn is sung, every time a message is preached, every time His name is heard on the radio, every time God’s people gather together in public convocation and in public worship, that is a knocking at a man’s heart on the part of our Savior. He knocks at our heart’s door in the feeling of unworthiness and sin and shortcoming that is the experience of every man that is born. No man ever lives without that oppression in his soul of guilt and having come short of the glory and expectation of God [Romans 3:23].
He knocks at our heart’s door through every memory, every tear, every prayer of father and mother, every childhood experience that might have drawn us closer to God. Many and many a man, many and many and many a girl has bowed his head, has bowed her head, in remembrance of a mother’s prayer, of a father’s entreaty. These all are appeals on the part of our Lord.
He knocks at our heart’s door through all of the experiences that come to us in life. When two are joined together in marriage, Christ is there, knocking at the door. When the little baby is born, the Lord is there, knocking at the door. When the two are parted and the heart is empty and the casket is filled, He is there, knocking at the door. In all of the deep sorrows and sufferings and disappointments of life, each one is a knocking at the door of the heart.
And the Lord knocks at the door of our heart in the mercies and the blessings by which He fills our life with every rich gift from heaven. “Behold,” said Paul, “it is the goodness of God that leadeth thee to repentance” [Romans 2:4].
If I bow my head in a bitter disappointment, the Lord is there knocking at the door. If I stand by the side of an open grave, it is an invitation to trust in the Lord. Every experience of decision that you face is an entreaty on the part of Christ to stand by the soul, to give strength and encouragement to the life. Every turn and vicissitude and fortune of our day is the Lord knocking at the door of our hearts. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” [Revelation 3:20]. And with what eagerness does He enter in. How is it that a man becomes a Christian? Well, he buys it. No, he works for it. No, he follows an outlined program. No, he studies and he ferrets out. He digs deep and deep. No, he climbs up and up and up.
How does a man become a Christian? Fellow, we all did it alike. The man may be learned and erudite and a scholar; the man may be ignorant and unlettered and untaught; the man may be wealthy and rich; he may be poor and live in a hovel. Wherever the man is, whoever he is, we all come to Jesus alike; in a humble, simple act of faith, we open the door and invite the Savior in [Revelation 3:20].
And you don’t buy Him. And you don’t be good enough for Him. And you don’t program Him. And you don’t ferret Him out. And you don’t work for it. It’s a gift of grace. In an act of faith, you open the door of your heart and you invite the Lord Jesus in [Ephesians 2:8-9]. And like opening the shutter to the sunset, sunrise, and opening the shade to the glory of the light, you will find the Savior come in.
The great forces of this world are unseen, except as they are demonstrated in quiet, quiet ways. When the sun rises in the morning and plays on a baby’s cheek, the little child will not awaken. In those humble, quiet ways does God bring His miracles to pass. And so it is when a man is saved; he may have a cataclysmic experience, but he wasn’t saved by the cataclysm! And he may have a light above the brightness of the sun to strike him to the earth, but he’s not saved by the blinding flash of the lightning’s crash! [Acts 9:3-4]. All of us are saved alike: by that humble experience of opening the door of the heart and inviting the Savior in [Revelation 3:20]. And a child can do it. An old tottering man can do it. A learned scholar can do it. An unlettered, unlearned, ignorant man who can’t read and who can’t write, he can do it. Anybody can do it: open the door of his heart to the Lord Jesus and invite the Savior in [Revelation 3:20].
In my preparing this sermon, I read the most unusual thing. A mountain preacher in Tennessee was caught in a snowstorm and lost consciousness in the freezing blizzard. His horse carried him to a mountaineer’s cottage. And when he regained consciousness, the mountain preacher heard the crackling of a fire and looked up into the face of a bearded man, bending over him, cursing because he couldn’t get the preacher’s mouth open to put in the neck of a bottle.
And as he came back to consciousness, he recognized the man: a notorious outlaw and blasphemer. The bad man and his wife nursed the preacher back to life. And when the day came for him to go his way, the preacher put his hand in his pocket and offered the notorious sinner all of the money that he had in payment for the saving of his life. And the bad man refused his money and said, “Had you come to my house as a preacher, I would have shot you. But when you came last night, frozen, I couldn’t turn you away. So you go on; you go on, keep your money. You go on.”
And the preacher had a feeling in his heart that he ought to say something to the man. And he said, “Before I go, would you let me read the Bible and pray?” And before the bad man could curse an interdiction, the wife said, “Yes, parson, go ahead. Go ahead.” And the [bad man] looked at him and said, “Listen, twenty years ago, when the Almighty took our only son, our little boy, I said no man representing Him would ever, ever, ever enter my house.” But, the wife said, “Parson, go ahead. Go ahead.” Well, the parson read the fifteenth chapter of Luke, got down on his knees, and as he talked to God, in his heart he said: “O Lord isn’t there some way to reach this man for Thee?”
And it came into his heart; the preacher says—came into his heart: the hospitality of a southern family. So he prayed like this, “Dear Lord, last night when I came to this cottage, I was unconscious. And this man opened the door of his home, and took care of me, and nursed me back to life. But, Lord, Thou hast been at this door over twenty years with outstretched hands, and they’ve done nothing but slam the door in Thy face. O Lord, help this man to open the door of his home to Thee.”
What a prayer! And the preacher said, when he opened his eyes that the big, bad man was there, staring through the open door—the melting snow, the glorious sunlight, and he stood up and walked to the door and said, “Come in. Come in.” And he turned to the preacher and said, “Preacher, He came in!”
Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. He asked for the preacher that he leave his Bible with him and turned down the passage in the fifteenth [chapter] of Luke and said that he was going to get somebody to read it to him again and again. He asked when the preacher’s next appointment was up in the mountains. “And I’ll be there.” And when the preacher’s appointment came, the man’s wife met him and said, “Parson, I can’t describe it. I can’t describe it. You wouldn’t know him. And you wouldn’t know our house. And you wouldn’t know our home. I can’t describe it. And preacher, when you get through today, call for mourners”—as they say in the mountains.
And the preacher, as I read his story—the preacher said, when he called for mourners, that big, bad man came down to the front and turned around and said—he said, “What the preacher has preached is the truth. He got on his knees in my house and prayed for the Lord to come in. And I saw Him come in! I’ve never been the same since,” he says. “Come, men; come, women; come.”
The preacher said, “It looked to me as if the whole congregation came.” I grant you that the preacher’s story has a melodramatic turn because the man was so bad, and it was an unusual providence that brought him to the door of the mountaineer’s home. But the same opening of the door that brought Christ into that bad man’s life brought Christ into my life and into yours. Just invite Him and see what Christ does. Ask Him in every decision. Ask Him in every trial. Ask Him in every way. Ask Him down every road. Ask Him in every experience in life. Ask Him. Invite Him.
Open the door and see if there is not an unseen kingly presence standing by your side. He will come in the first time in the forgiveness of sins. He will come in any day, any hour thereafter, and abide in your house and live in your heart. Answer, throw open and wide the door [Revelation 3:20].
Martin Luther said: “Had you knocked at the door of my heart before I was converted and asked, ‘Who lives there?’ I would have replied, ‘Martin Luther lives here.’ And had you come in, you would have found a monk, with his head shaved, dressed in a hair shirt with a scourge hanging down by the side of his bed, sleeping on a pillow of two stones! But if you knock at the door of my heart now and ask, ‘Who lives there?’ I will reply: ‘Martin Luther no longer lives here, this is the house and the home where the Lord Jesus lives.’” Isn’t that right?
If you are tired of the load of your sin,
Let Jesus come into your heart.
If you desire a new life to begin,
Let Jesus come into your heart.
Just now, your doubting give o’er.
Just now, reject Him no more.
Just now, throw open the door.
Let Jesus come in to your heart.
[“Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart”; Leila N. Morris, 1898]
“Behold, 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,” an eternal fellowship that lasts beyond death and beyond the grave. Lord Jesus, come in. Come in. Come in [Revelation 3:20].
Would you invite Him thus this morning? Would you? “Pastor, I give you my hand. I have opened the door of my heart to Christ. And here I am. Here I come.”
Would you, today? “Pastor, this is my wife, and these are our children. We all are coming today, all of us.” One somebody you, if you’re in that last top row of the balcony, if God bids you come, make it this morning. There’s a stairway on either side of the balcony at the front and the back, and there’s time and aplenty to spare, make it today, come.
On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Preacher, here I am and here I come. I’m opening the door of my heart to God. I have invited Him to come in.” And He will never break a promise, “I will come in, and sup with him, and he with Me” [Revelation 3:20]. Will you do it? Will you do it now? In the earnestness of this hour, in the prayerful appeal of this great congregation, in the singing of the song of invitation, as the Spirit shall woo and make the appeal, come. Come, on the first note of this first stanza: “Here I am, preacher, and here I come. I’ll make it today,” while we stand and while we sing.
CHRIST AT THE DOOR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-22-61I. An amazing text
A. Where it is located – this letter is only one of seven that was all rebuke and reprimand
B. Who is knocking
C. Amazing good news – Christ has come our way
1. The pulpit committee coming to me in Muskogee
2. Description of our risen Lord (Revelation 1:12-16)II. What the text tells us about our risen Lord
A. Christ is still on the same quest that long ago brought Him to this world(Luke 19:10)
1. Same appeal consumes His heart now(Luke 15:3-10)
B. Christ is seeking aggressively, purposefully(1 John 4:10)
C. A limit to His aggression – He stops at the door of your hearts(Luke 15:11-28)
1. Does not violate the freedom of choice given to a man’s soul
2. When shutter closed and blind down, no sunlight comes in the room (2 Corinthians 4:6)
3. So many wait for something irresistible, some forced entrance I spite of their refusal
a. One condition of the blessing is you must respond, open the door(Matthew 19:16-23, Mark 10:17-22)III. How does He knock?
A. Through the Word
B. Through the services
C. Through the sense of unworthiness, sin, shortcoming in our soul
D. Through every precious memory of yesterday
E. Through experiences in life
1. When two are joined in marriage
2. At the birth of a child
3. At the last parting at the grave
F. Through the mercies we enjoy(Romans 2:4)IV. The eagerness of His entrance
A. Do not have to buy, earn, work for Him
B. Christ is not far away from anyone
C. As light through an opened window, so Christ into the heart
1. Mountain preacher in Tennessee caught in a snowstorm – taken care of by a notorious outlaw
2. Martin Luther