When we open the door of our hearts Jesus comes in. He has been there knocking for some time. I didn’t respond to the first calling to confess Jesus as Lord. But, by God’s grace, he remained at the door continually knocking until I finally surrendered my will to his and opened the door.
The image of conversion ends with a promise (Rev 3:19-20). If anybody hears the knock (the voice of God’s Spirit) and opens the door (favorably responds to the call to repent and believe) then Jesus promises to come in.
Three things happen at conversion, 1) Jesus comes in, 2) he eats with you, and 3) you eat with him. The metaphor of sharing a meal together is the ultimate picture in ancient times of having a close friendship with another person.
Previously, we discussed how God opens our ears to hear him knocking on the door of our hearts and how he enables us to get up and answer the door (Rev 3:19-20). This indicates that salvation is a sovereign, gracious, and loving act of God.
When I was a young teen life was good. Sports was a large part of my life, as were friendships. My life appeared full, fun, and endless. God’s was calling me to himself, but I was too busy to hear that call. He was knocking on the door of my heart, however, the busy activities of a young man were knocking more loudly and distracting me from any sense of my spiritual emptiness.
As a young teenager, I sensed a divine calling to acknowledge Jesus Christ as my Creator God and Savior. At the time it hadn’t sunk in exactly what that meant and I didn’t fully understand what had happened to me after I made a profession of faith. Several decades later, as I reflect on that youthful experience, what happened and what it meant to be redeemed has become clearer. I now more fully, but not completely, understand how a person is redeemed. Based on one of the most popular verses in the Bible used to call individuals to saving faith, we can learn how a person is converted.
John, in his vision of heaven, used the metaphor of Jesus knocking on a door to describe entrance into heaven. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:19-20 ESV).
A Healthy Fear of God
Believers have fears related to their surroundings, future, or relationships, just as unbelievers do. But, there is a difference in the way a believer fears God from that of someone who doesn’t know God personally.
To know God is to trust him in a personal way. A healthy fear of God is to fear him as your loving father. It might be better to use the word “respect.” One way to distinguish a dreadful fear of God from a worshipful fear of God is to call it the fear of the Lord. In Hebrew, the phrase is “Yerah Jehovah.” Yerah means to fear and Jehovah is the personal or covenantal name of God reflecting his imminence or closeness through tender mercies and love for his people. Faith in God’s goodness is part of what it means to trust him as your Lord.
The Fear Unlike Any Other
Although unbelievers and believers suffer from similar fears, there is one fear that is dealt with differently between Christians and non-Christians. Let’s consider the unbeliever’s and believer’s perspectives on fearing God.
Most of our fears relate to our surrounding, future, or relationships. But there is a fear, unlike any other fear. It’s a fear of God. The unbeliever has an impersonal fear of God. In Hebrew, it is identified using the phrase “Yerah Elohim” translated “the fear of God.” Yerah is the word for “fear” and Elohim is God’s name referring to his transcendence, great power, and authority to judge. Fearing God more resembles a panic-stricken fear in that it includes the sense of condemnation (Jn 3:18-20). Adam and Eve first felt this fear shortly after they sinned against God. Sin broke their relationship with God and out of fear they hid from God. They were fearful of his judgment, which overtook their confidence in his forgiveness (Gen 3:8, Rev 6:15-17).
The Fear of Being Afraid
I know this sounds strange, but can you be afraid of being afraid? Our culture is chock full of fears. Fears enslave. People, religious and non-religious, have sought solutions to overcoming fear. Yet, our fears continue to grow. We are even afraid of being afraid!
Using others to satisfy ourselves is a mask hiding our deepest fears. Some seek to overcome fears by seeing others as their private gas pump. The strategy is to feel happy and fulfilled you must use other people to fill up your emotional gas tank. Once full, you can drive away into the sunset doing your own thing again until the tank runs dry. When on empty you return to others for a fill-up. Fear, in this case, develops a people user mentality and makes mayhem of relationships.
Uncertainty and the Future
From children fearing a bogyman under their beds to adults fearing future employment, the fear of the unknown or the uncertainty of the future are common fears. Doubt feeds on the unknown. Fearing what we can’t know causes irrational fears and behaviors. It produces a prejudice against anything other than what we do know.
Salespeople use the fear of the unknown to sell everything from extended maintenance contracts on electronic to sowing seeds of doubt that a competitor’s product is as good as theirs. The trifecta of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) all relate to each other, thrive in an environment of misinformation, and lead to a gamut of fears from racism to fearing anything unfamiliar.
Replacing Fear with Faith
For many, fear is a constant part of life. Ignoring fears won’t make them go away. Vicarious experiences of fear through watching a horror movie or attending a haunted house don’t quench the fires of fear. The biblical model for overcoming fear is to replace it with something more powerful.
Adam first felt fear when God visited Eden to see him after he sinned (Gen 3:10). This is the first mention of fear in the Bible. The first recorded feelings of fear relate to Adam’s disobedience. With fear came shame, and shame wreaks havoc on relationships. Adam’s relationships with God and Eve were stained because trust broke down and fear took over. By the time of Noah’s flood, fear had become rampant over the earth. It had become a dominant part of human existence (Gen 9:1-3).