John Stott had all the right pieces in play.
As a young man, he believed in Jesus. He took time to pray, read his Bible, go to church. He tried to do good and be good. What more can you ask for?
How about this: In 1938 while at school he heard a sermon engaging the text of Revelation 3:20 where Jesus said:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me…”
Stott later recounted this moment:
“For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realizing it, I was holding Christ at arm's length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realize that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life." 1
There is movement here. First we realize what we’re doing. Know it or not, we’re keeping Him outside. At arm’s length.
Second, we realize He wants more. He wants to come in. To abide, to be at home with us, to be at table in dynamic communion with Him. No separation.
Third, we realize there’s something to do. He’s enabling us to open the door. To welcome the most profound change anyone will ever know.
And do it everyday. Keep the door open!
At the very heart of the sin nature is separation. As Christians living in this fallen world we’re going to constantly set up divides. Without knowing it. Gently, quietly closing the door. Again and again.
We fall back into patterns of doing all the right things. Having all the right answers. Even in our quiet time. But losing the intimacy of His fellowship.
And there comes a knock on the door. He wants more.
This is what I find in my life. He demands integration. This has always been the downfall of Christian leaders. We learn how to study Scripture. We become skilled in putting together teachings for others. We become brilliant in our presentations so that it’s appealing. Attractive. Winsome.
But we ourselves are untouched by the very truths we speak.
We do all the right things. But keep a safe distance. An arm’s length.
Something terrifying happens when we do this for a long time. We actually become dull of hearing. The Lord is speaking His word to others through us but His word has no place in us. It’s not penetrating. Not integrating.
And so He knocks. And knocks. And knocks. But we can’t hear.
Oh yes! We can tell the story of the day He enabled us to open the door and welcome Him into our lives. But here’s the story of today. Right now! He wants us to keep that door open. Always open. Intentionally open.
No separation. Never at arm’s length.
Is that you today?!? Ask yourself. Search your heart. Make a choice.
Keep the door open!
1 Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott: The Making of a Leader, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1999. p. 95