16/06/2018 - Revelation 4:1 ‘After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.’
Imagine yourself as a child. You are out exploring with your friends and you come across a building in a clearing in the forest. You creep up to the front door which is wide open and look in. What you see takes your breath away – the splendour, the beauty, the lavishness of it all. John is on a barren, rocky prison island. By the Spirit he sees an open door into heaven and a loud voice invites him to look in. The scene that met his eyes transported him to another world. Or was it another world? No, it was the world he was already in but now his eyes were open to see things as they really are.
What did he see? Through powerful symbols and vivid pictures John discovered something that would change his perspective forever. He knew from harsh personal experience that it was tough being a follower of Jesus in the first century. All his fellow apostles had already been killed for their faith - and things weren’t about to get any easier. The pressure on these early Christians was such that they could be forgiven if they began to be fearful and to lose heart.
So, what did John see? He saw a scene that made one thing absolutely clear. Despite the way things look, despite what those followers of Jesus might feel in their circumstances, God is in control. Really in control. And because Jesus died and rose again, all of history is his story and becomes the story of all those who trust in him. Read chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation and you will discover that all of life only makes sense when it circulates around our Creator and Redeemer. While we face away from him we are broken by this fragmented world in which we live. Let me put it another way.
We are born into this world gravitating around our own egos. Every human being is a miracle of uniqueness but, despite being made in the image of God, has this fatal flaw of being stuck in an orbit around self. We cannot break that orbit – the pull of gravity is too strong. Jesus was the only person, fully God and fully human, who wasn’t stuck. He had one aim and that was to please his Father. He was not orbiting around self but around his Father. The heart of the good news about Jesus is that, by the Spirit, Jesus can live his life within us. That life breaks our old orbit and enables us to be in a right relationship with God and each other because we are gravitating around the Father. We have been set free from self.
It is easy to have a view of God that he is under obligation to make life comfortable for us. When things go well we say that God is good. When life gets rough we might be tempted to doubt the goodness of God. That is because our true god is being comfortable. It is about us. When we look through the open door we find that this is not the way that the universe works. It only works when it is about God and his honour. We understand that principle when we see a child with his parents. Each parent wants their child to be happy and fulfilled. How is that achieved? By making it your priority to make him comfortable? Is it really in his best interests to spend all day every day eating popcorn on the settee? No, it isn’t about being comfortable but about growing.
Things were about to get tougher for those early Christians. Are you in the middle of intense and painful struggles? Have you had a time in your past when things got so bad that you gave up on God? Do you go up and down in your faith according to what is happening at the time? If we think that following Jesus obliges God to make us comfortable then we will remain egocentric and fail to grow. We will feel the victim of painful circumstances and subject to them.
But there is an open door – another way of looking. A way that makes sense of life. God is God, he created us and although we wandered away from him he loved us enough to step into our shoes so he could buy us back. It’s what pleases him that matters.