Closed or open doors?
We live in a world of closed doors. Doors of opportunity closed because of unemployment, poverty, and illiteracy. Doors of broken relationships, hostility, and ill feelings that cause us to withdraw from each other. Doors of failures and defeats. More importantly, doors that have shut out God by barriers of fear, doubt, and unbelief.
I wish there were none of these—especially none of the last three.
This I know for sure: Our loving Saviour doesn’t like closed doors. The Gospels consistently record how Jesus unlocked the closed doors of ordinary people’s lives. Consider the magnificent incident recorded in John 20:19, 21, 22. We read: “So when it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them ‘Peace be with you.’… So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you: as the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”*
Why did the disciples lock the door?
Fear. Fear can close doors. It paralyzes and immobilizes people. It has the force to isolate one into a corner. But the disciples didn’t have to be afraid. Early that morning they had seen the empty tomb. They were eyewitnesses to many miracles that He had performed. They saw Jesus feed more than 5,000 people with two fishes and five loaves. Some of them had seen Him walk over the waves and command the boisterous sea to be still.
Doubt. This is only implied in the text. But the fact that Jesus took the trouble of showing the disciples His nail-pierced hands signifies that all the disciples had yet to be convinced of was the reality of His resurrection. “What if He really has not risen from the dead? What if we were tricked and fooled?” The disciples must have been brooding over these questions when Jesus appeared to them that Easter evening.
Guilt and shame. It was also possible that the disciples closed the door partly because of guilt and shame. They must have been feeling the pain of failure and remorse because they had let Jesus down. Remember that fateful Thursday evening. Even Peter, probably the most fearless among them, betrayed the Lord.
The disciples froze in fear, entertained doubts, and recounted failures when, suddenly, Jesus came and stood among them. He went through the back door, so to speak, and brought the keys that opened the front door of their lives. Those keys ignited the fire of Christianity during the first century. The same keys are available for us today.
The keys to a fulfilled Christian life
The key of new peace. The door of our lives may be closed by sin, failure, and guilt. We cannot find a decent job because of our so-called track record. We cannot lift our heads up high because of our checkered past. We cannot perform to the maximum our capabilities because of hate, frustration, or remorse. To all of us, Jesus says “Peace be with you.”
Peace is not the absence of problems. It’s not a life without disturbance. True peace comes when the Prince of Peace is in the heart. When Jesus reigns in the center of our lives, we will have peace. It was only when Jesus was in the boat and shouted, “Peace be still” that the disciples were saved from that terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee. It was only when the Gadarean demoniac met Jesus that his wife and children were fully able to open the door to their house and live in peace. It was only when Jesus was present that the wedding celebration in Cana was saved from a big embarrassment.
As He did to the disciples, Jesus came to bring us the key of peace. He is pleading with us now, “Open up the front door” Please don’t say, “Sorry, we’re closed.” Enter into the joy of His salvation, and peace will be with you.
The key of new purpose. Our doors may be closed because of broken relationships. Just as sin makes us hide from God, so fear and hurt make us hide from others. The disciples on that first Easter were ready to isolate themselves from the outside world. To open things up, Jesus brought them the key of new purpose. He said to them, “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (KJV).
When we have the key of new purpose, we open the door of service and caring for those who have been hurt by life’s broken relationships. We can go out and touch the lives of people with a noble agenda and generous motives. We don’t serve because we want to be saved. We serve because we are saved. We serve simply because God’s peace and purpose have a created in us a compelling urge to help others.
The key of new power. Our doors may be locked by failures and self-doubt. Just as sin makes us hide from God and from others, so failure makes us hide from ourselves. Many turn to alcohol, drugs, and even sports to offset that sense of failure. To us all, Jesus brings the key of new power.
Power is one of the most sought-after commodities in this world. People have become heroes because of power. Others have been destroyed by power. There are various kinds of power—coercive, utilitarian, and legitimate.
Coercive power depends on issuing orders and using punishment to force obedience. The military and the police use coercive power as a means of achieving compliance. There is danger in relying wholly on this kind of power because it usually generates alienation, hostility, and anger.
Economic power or utilitarian power uses resources to induce others to conform to expectations. This kind of power produces cooperation and compliance as long as the economic and remunerative rewards continue at satisfying levels. But the use of utilitarian power brings with it the spirit of greed and other problems.
Legitimate power is derived from the position one holds. A well-prepared and dedicated teacher has legitimate power over the students. I was surprised when I gave the first examination to my first class at the graduate school where I teach. It had not occurred to me that I could compel a group of international students (some of them church leaders much older than I) to scramble for paper as I announced an exam. Legitimate power may be useful, but is not always enough. This kind of power sometimes causes people to resist.
Jesus dispenses spiritual power. The last key Jesus gave to the disciples on that Easter evening was the key of the Holy Spirit. “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). The Holy Spirit is a powerful key that makes one’s life successful in service for God and humanity.
Think of those who were in the locked room that first Easter evening. There was Peter who denied Christ three times. There were James and John who had been bickering about who was going to be the greatest among Jesus’ followers. There was also the doubting Thomas. There were nameless women. They had little formal education, if any. But when they received the power of the Holy Spirit, they turned the world upside down.
Jesus is willing to dispense the same power of the Spirit to us all. Have you been reluctant to venture for Christ because of your failures in the past? Have you been too timid to plan greater, grander schemes for Christ, because of self-doubt and fears of failure? To us, Jesus says, “Open the front door. Please don’t say, Sorry, we’re closed.” Experience the wonders of His power.
Life’s door of success and fulfillment doesn’t have to be closed. Jesus has all the keys. He says: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’” (Luke 11:9, KJV). He also says: “‘I am the door. If any one enters through Me, he shall be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture’” (John 10:9).
However, there is a door that could remain closed. It’s the door to our hearts. Today, the same Jesus is pleading: “‘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’” (Revelation 3:20). Let us open the front door of our lives to Him. Any time now, Jesus—the Bridegroom—will come. He will then close all doors of opportunity. And to those who do not have the keys, He will sadly say, “I don’t know you. Sorry, we’re closed” (see Matthew 25:1-13).
* Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations in this article are from the New American Standard Bible.
Reuel U. Almocera teaches courses in the field of applied theology at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS). This article is based on Leighton Ford’s sermon, “Let’s open up the front door.” Almocera’s mailing address: P.O. Box 038; 4118 Silang, Cavite; Philippines. For more information about AIIAS, visit its website: http://www.aiias.edu.