This morning’s Morning and Evening considers a classic passage with ageless wisdom. This small verse hangs on the lips of virtually every believer. And yet, as Spurgeon observes, “Paul’s words mean more than most men think.”
Some of us grew up in churches where weekly “re-dedications” were as common as coffee. These altar-led appeals were probably offered with fine intentions, but they never sat well with me. The gnawing in my gut was not the Holy Spirit’s call for me to join the crowd, but a host of unanswered questions.
Is Jesus really knocking on my heart… begging me to open the door and let Him in? (Whatever that means…) If I don’t, will He eventually stop knocking and move on to the next house? What’s that…? After opening the door and praying the prayer, He now wants the key to some locked room that contains the “hidden sins” I still hold dear? Oh my! I’m still wrapping my head around the first metaphor… how can I practically obey such a thing? Here’s the key, Lord! Now what?
Like many others, I was surprised to discover none of the above metaphors in Scripture. Jesus does knock on the door of the Laodicean church in Revelation 3… but my heart is not in that equation. And yet, we run with the heart-door illustration and hope that maybe a few will follow Christ in the process. There is so much to say about this topic, but here are three short considerations for now…
Jesus does not want us to include Him. He wants us to abandon ourselves.
Luke 9:23-24 says,
And He said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
This powerful calling is also found in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34, and carries the central theme to Jesus’ ministry. Compare this call to the heart-door metaphor. Jesus is not asking for admittance. He is asking for self-denial and death. His call is not “let me in!” Rather, He says “come after me.”
Galatians 2:20 says,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
This is what coming after Christ, denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Him looks like. It is death to self and faith in His loving sacrifice.
Jesus does not want to conditionally and comfortably visit. He wants us.
In Matthew 22:35-41, Jesus answered a lawyer’s tricky question with the greatest and highest commandment.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Look again at Luke 9. In verse 24, Jesus said,
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Jesus is not asking for a fresh start and tidy heart. He is calling for total commitment. Lastly…
Jesus is greater than that.
Christ is not begging for us to reluctantly relinquish the key to our spiritual junk closet. He wants us. Jesus paid the price once for all and has no need to ask for permission to save us. While we were yet sinners and enemies of God, Christ died for us! He was victorious then and is victorious now. The heart that recognizes the love and glories of Christ has no need for extra-biblical metaphors.
Our hearts do not have doors or windows for Christ to crawl through. We think that by “letting Jesus in” we are saved. But only those who are truly saved can say with confidence that their very life is found in Christ. He is our all in all, our rock, our refuge, our hope, and our deliverer. May we say with a clear conscience and full assurance that Christ is our very breath, the soul of our souls, the heart of our hearts, and the life of our lives.
Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.
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For to me to live is Christ… — Philippians 1:21
The believer did not always live to Christ. He began to do so when God the Holy Spirit convinced him of sin, and when by grace he was brought to see the dying Savior making a propitiation for his guilt. From the moment of the new and heavenly birth the man begins to live to Christ. Jesus is to believers the one pearl of great price, for whom we are willing to part with all that we have. He has so completely won our heart that it beats alone for Him; to His glory we would live, and in defense of His Gospel we would die. He is the pattern of our life, and the model after which we would sculpture our character.
Paul’s words mean more than most men think; they imply that the aim and end of his life was Christ — nay, his life itself was Jesus. In the words of an ancient saint, he ate and drank and slept eternal life. Jesus was his very breath, the soul of his soul, the heart of his heart, the life of his life. Can you say, as a professing Christian, that you live up to this idea? Can you honestly say that for you to live is Christ? Your business — are you doing it for Christ? Is it not done for self-aggrandizement and for family advantage? Do you ask, “Is that a mean reason?” For the Christian it is. He professes to live for Christ; how can he live for another object without committing spiritual adultery?
There are many who carry out this principle in some measure; but who is there that dares say that he has lived wholly for Christ as the apostle did? Yet this alone is the true life of a Christian — its source, its sustenance, its fashion, its end, all gathered up in one word — Christ. Lord, accept me; I present myself, praying to live only in You and to You. Let me be as the creature that stands between the plow and the altar, to work or to be sacrificed; and let my motto be, “Ready for either.”