Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says only Jesus can let you into the Church.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You see, others can admit you into the visible organized church. You sign here; you go to this class; you do whatever it is you have to do to join your church. That’s what we call the visible church. But not everybody who’s a member on the rolls of the visible church is a member of the true Church. Only Christ who holds the key that can grant entrance into the true Church.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

Who holds the keys to your church? The pastor? The custodian? The person who gets in early to make coffee? You’ll get to know the One who truly holds the key to the church as Nancy continues in the series Encouragement to Persevere.

Nancy: I have a set of keys in my hand. One is the car key. One is the fob to get into the office building. Then this key, the only one that really looks like a key, is the key to my house. When my house was complete—well, I didn’t build the house. Somebody else built the house. But when it was complete, the builder gave me a key to the house. I carry this key with me. I use it to get in and out of the house or my garage door opener to get in and out of the garage.

This key symbolizes authority and control over my house. It symbolizes possession. It symbolizes the right to go in and out of my house. And it also symbolizes the right to say who else can go in and out of my house.

Occasionally, I will loan this key to someone so they can have access to the house. I might say, “Go on in. Make yourself at home.” I have the right to do that because it’s my key.

Recently I had a couple living in my home. For that period of time I gave them a copy of the key to my house and gave them the freedom to come and go and to use the house as they wanted. But they didn’t own the house. They didn’t own the key. They were using the key, and I have the right to give them that key to use because the key is mine. The house is mine. (Well, it belongs to the Lord. It all belongs to the Lord. But speaking here of keys.)

Now, I don’t just let anybody have access to that house. Sometimes I use this key to lock the door if there are people I want to keep from being in the house. The keys to that house belong to me. I have the right to determine who can come in and who can’t.

People who know me know I am very generous with those keys, and people come in and out a lot. But at night I lock the door. I don’t want intruders coming into the house, and so the key helps me to do that.

Keys symbolize authority, control, possession, rights. As we’re looking to the letter that Jesus sent to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation chapter 3, we see a key. And we see who holds that key, the Lord Jesus Himself.

Let me pick up back at verse 7 just to help us reset here:

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: "The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. [He says,] ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut’” (vv. 7–8).

I suppose if the letter to the church in Philadelphia is remembered by people for one thing, it’s the open door. In fact, somebody called me last night to pray with me before we got into this recording session. They said, “What are you teaching tomorrow?”

And I said, “The letter to the chuch in Philadelphia.”

And my friend said, “Oh yes, the open door, the church of the open door.” And we actually have a Church of the Open Door in the Philadelphia area. This is where it gets its name.

But Jesus says, “I am the one who has the key of David. I open and no one shuts. I shut the door, and no one can open it.” This key of the house of David speaks of Christ’s authority, as we saw in the last session.

The door that we come to today speaks of the church’s opportunity. Christ has the authority and He opens the door. We’re going to see that it’s a door of opportunity.

And He says, “I have set before you an open door.” The literal translation of that phrase would be “I have given to you an open door.” Every open door that Jesus gives us is a gift from God. It’s not something to be taken for granted. It’s a gift. It’s a privilege.

Christ is saying that He has absolute authority over the household of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. He has given to the believers in Philadelphia in the first century and to us today in the twenty-first century an open door that no one, not even the enemies of the church of Christ, can close.

Now the obvious question as you look at this passage is, “Okay, there’s an open door that we’ve been given, but an open door to what?”

This is the key that opens the door to my house. It's important to know what this key opens. Jesus say, "I have opened a door." What's it an open to? What are we supposed to go into?

Well, as I’ve read on this passage there are two primary interpretations and some secondary ones. I think they’re both true. How’s that for taking a position? And I want to look at both of those positions today, an open door, two open doors, that Jesus opened to those believers and to us.

First is the door of salvation. Christians who lived in the town of Philadelphia seemed to have been excluded from the synagogue, as we will see later in this passage. The Jews who had converted to Christianity were excommunicated from the synagogue. They were thrown out and the door was closed in their face. They were shut out of the synagogue.

Now you say, “What’s the big deal?” If you were a Jewish believer in that day, that was a huge deal. That was your whole religious upbringing, your whole spiritual background centered in that synagogue. Your social relationships, your life centered around that synagogue. And here they had the door slammed close in their faces as they became believers in Jesus Christ.

But Jesus is saying, “I’m giving to you an open door. I’m giving you an opportunity to enter God’s household, God’s kingdom. In spite of the fact that you have been excluded from the synagogue, you worship God. You may have been excluded from the synagogue. You may have been excluded from the fellowship of the people you’ve grown up with. But if I have opened the door to my Father’s house to you, no one can shut that door or shut you out. You are welcome. It’s the door of salvation.”

The house of God to which Jesus holds the keys is the Church of Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded that it’s only by Christ who holds the key, who owns the key; it’s only by Christ that anyone is admitted into or gains entrance into that house. Admission into the family of God, the house of God, admission and exclusion, are in His power alone.

John chapter 10 Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep. . . . If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (vv. 7, 9). You can’t get in except through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he opened the gate of heaven for all who come through Him.

Hebrews 10 tells it to us this way: “We have confidence to enter the holiest place,” referring to the holiest place in the tabernacle or the temple where the presence or the glory of God dwelt; the holiest place that was set apart and was sacred and nobody but the high priest could ever enter into that place.

The Scripture says we have confidence to walk right in, to walk into the holiest place "by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain" (vv. 19–20), that big, heavy veil that separated the Jewish Old Testament saints from the presence of God.

When Jesus died what happened to that big curtain? It was torn from the top to bottom. He has opened that way for us through the curtain, that is through His flesh. When His flesh was torn on that cross, when He gave His life on that cross, He opened the way for us to come into the holiest place. He holds the key; He opened the door.

I remember getting an email from one of our listeners who was talking about a retreat she went on where they had a replica of the tabernacle. They could actually walk through it and in it. She said it struck her the moment that she walked into that holiest place.

The Old Testament Jews couldn’t do that. They had to send a representative in with the shed blood of animals. But today we can walk right in to the presence of God because the blood has been shed, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. He holds the key and He has opened to us the door, the path, the way, into the presence of God.

He opens the door of salvation. He also shuts the door. One day the door to salvation will be permanently closed for those who have not already entered.

As I thought about this passage, I thought about Noah and the ark and how he and his family came in and were safe in that ark. But then God shut the door and all those who were outside who had refused to believe the gospel as it was preached by Noah, they were shut out.

Jesus says in Luke chapter 13,

Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door saying, "Lord open to us." Then he will answer you, "I do not know where you come from."

Then you will begin to say, "We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets." [We know you, Jesus.] But he will say, "I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me all you workers of evil!"

In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out (vv. 24–28).

That’s a stern passage. It ought to strike fear in the hearts of those who have never entered through the door of salvation through Jesus Christ into salvation. You see, that passage is suggesting in Luke 13 that you can be a churchgoer, you can be baptized as an infant, as an adult—forward, backwards, all the way immersed, sprinkled, whatever way they do it in your church. You can be a “good” person. You can be very familiar with Jesus and know the language like a good church person and still remain outside the door of salvation.

You see, others can admit you into the visible, organized church. You sign here; you go to this class; you do whatever it is you have to do to join your church. That’s what we call the visible church. But not everybody who’s a member on the rolls of the visible church is a member of the true Church. Only Christ who holds the key can grant entrance into the true Church.

You have to enter on His terms through Him, not because of anything good you’ve done. Not because of any efforts on your part, but based on His sovereign choice, His electing mercy.

Now you may think that what you have done is so bad that it has ruled you out and that there’s no way you could come in to the house of salvation, the house of God. But I want to tell you, this passage in Revelation 3 tells us that if He has opened the door for you, you may come in because your entrance is not based on what you’ve done.

It’s based on what He has done and the fact that He shed His blood. He gave His life. He died in our place so that we could come into that door.

No one can keep you out when He opens the door, not even you yourself.

The question is, “Have you entered that door? Have you responded to the invitation to come into the door of salvation that Jesus has opened for you?”

Now having opened the door of salvation for us, Christ now opens a second door to us, and that is the door of service. First the door of salvation, and then the door of service. As Christ holds the key to the door of salvation, so Christ holds the key to opportunities for service.

We mentioned in the last session that Philadelphia was founded as a missionary city to evangelize the Greek culture. Now the church of Christ in Philadelphia was to be a missionary for the gospel of Christ. Not for Greek culture, but for the gospel.

The city was built on a great Roman road. It was on a trade route. It was an ideal location and a perfect opportunity to spread the good news. The church of Philadelphia did become a missionary church. In fact, some believe that Christianity first penetrated into India because this church in Philadelphia sent out missionaries.

Now, I want to look at several principles that stand out to me as I’ve meditated on this concept of Christ opening the door for service and challenge you to think about what doors Christ may be opening for you.

First of all, there is no door of service that God cannot open. There is no door closed so fast or so hard that He can’t open it. There’s no situation, no mission field, no people group, no heart, no government that God cannot penetrate.

There is no door. You think about the Islamic world and how so many of those countries are in darkness and in the clutches of deception. It's easy to feel disheartened and discouraged and to think, Nothing could really open those closed countries. But God can.

Christ holds the key. There is no obstacle He cannot overcome.

Maybe you're thinking, It's not the Islamic world that I'm concerned about, it's my husband's heart. He's hard. He's cold. He's indifferent to the gospel. There is no heart that God cannot open. There is no earthly power that can stand in the way when God wants to move.

When we were beginning to start planning what became the True Woman ’08 conference held in Chicago in October of ’08, there’s a passage that the Lord put on my heart right at the outset that became so precious to us as we needed one divine intervention after another to do that conference.

My heart was drawn one day early on in that process to Isaiah chapter 45. Listen to what that passage says.

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,

And that’s a whole big, long story; we won’t go into that. But this king, this pagan king

Whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him . . . to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: [God says,] "I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron” (vv. 1–2).

Now, you don’t just go knock down doors of bronze. If they’re locked against you, you can go and use all the influence, the effort you have. But if you don’t have the key, you can’t open that door. You can’t knock it down. You can’t get around it. You can’t get past it.

I knew that going into this True Woman ’08 conference (as has been true with many other aspects of this ministry), there were lots of obstacles, lots of hurdles—financial ones, personnel ones, permissions that we needed for different kinds of permits and things related, speakers to come and be a part and have that date open on that calendar—lots of doors that we could not open.

But God encouraged our hearts with these promises from His Word that when He opens a door no one can shut it and that He does open doors of opportunity. There is no door that God cannot open.

Then I’m encouraged as I look at this Scripture that we need to ask God to open doors. Not just stand and stare at them and let them overwhelm us, but actually pray. Prayer will do more to open doors that seem fast closed against us than all the knocking and banging and hammering and fretting and stressing that we can do.

The apostle Paul said in Colossians chapter 4,

Pray . . . for us, that God may open to us a door of the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison (v. 3).

So here’s Paul in prison, and he’s writing a letter to those outside the prison to his believing friends saying, “Pray for us that God will open for me in this prison a door to proclaim Christ.”

You may not be sitting in a literal prison, but you may be sitting in a place where you think, I'm so restricted; I'm so restrained. I can't really talk about Christ in my home or my workplace or in this setting. I'm bound.

Paul says, "Pray that God will open those doors."

It reminds me of Peter being in prison and the church back there praying for him. God sends an angel to open how many doors to get Peter out? And the only door he can’t open is when he gets to the door of the house of the believers who were praying and didn’t believe that God was really going to open doors. God is the one who opens doors. Ask Him to do that.

And then wait until God does open the door. Don’t try to force your way into doors that God has not opened. Don’t try to make your own way.

I have people come to me, often younger women, who want to be a speaker or an author. They come and ask me, “How do you do it? How do I get started? I want to have a ministry.”

I can just tell you from my personal testimony that of all the types of ministry God has given me over these years not one of them is a door that I opened myself. They’re all doors that God opened and made it clear, “This is the time to walk through this.”

Wait until God opens the door. And when He does—here’s the value of that—once you get though it and you find that there are hard patches, which there will be, if you know that God opened the door and you didn’t bang it down yourself, then you will be able to trust God for grace to get you through those hard times after you walk through that door.

Then be alert to doors that God has already opened around you. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16, “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (vv. 8–9).

There are doors that God has already opened that we may be oblivious to. Sometimes we don’t recognize the doors that He has opened. We’re looking for something different, some kind of ministry, some kind of open door when God may already have opened all the door that you need.

He has given you opportunities for service, for witness, for usefulness, for fruitfulness right where you live, right where you work, right in that house where those little children that make you feel very constrained and restrained right now. And you think, If I could just get these children grown up, I could have a ministry.

No! You have a ministry right where you are.

Maybe you are listening to Revive Our Hearts on the radio and are incompacitated physically. You're in a hospital. You're in a season of life where you are older and you can't move around. You can't get around. You can't get out. We have listeners who are in prison—may inmates who listen to Revive Our Hearts. They are thinkings, What can I do to serve the Lord?

Wherever God has put you, be alert to doors that God has opened right where you are.

There may be a younger person God has around you that may need to be discipled or a co-worker who is struggling in her marriage and needs to be pointed to Christ or children who need to be cared for and nurtured or a husband who needs encouragement and prayer support or opportunities to invest financial resources or a Pregnancy Care Center that's opening in your community and God's given you a heart and a burden for those women.

I talked with a woman at church a couple weeks ago whose family has taken in a teenaged boy who is from a broken home. He's actually living in their home. She said, "It's been hard. It's been challenging. Some days I think it would be so much easier if he wasn't here." But God opened the door for this young man's life and they've walked through it. Be alert to doors that God has opened.

And then be satisfied and content with the doors God opens for you. Sometimes we’re not pleased with the particular doors He opens and shuts for us. We want the door He opened for somebody else.

And God says, “You be content with the door I’ve opened for you.” We want to call the shots as to what kind of ministry we’re going to have. But remember that Christ has the key. He is the one who has the control and the authority over what doors are opened to us.

I think of how many single women are missing the doors that God has opened for them because they’re pining for a door that God has not opened.

I think of how many married women who thought that marriage was the big open door they wanted and thought that kids were the big open door they wanted until they get there and find out that puts some restrictions on you. Now they’re pining for an open door and looking with envy at their single sisters who can go out.

You know, we’re just not content are we? Be content with the doors that God has opened for you.

God has closed some doors for me, but He’s opened many others. He’s closed some doors for you, but He’s opened others. When God opens the door, go through it. Don’t let fear or doubt or challenges, obstacles, a sense of personal inadequacy, criticism from others—don’t let that keep you from taking opportunities that God has given you.

I hear people whine about different reasons they can't be really useful to God—lack of education, background disadvantages, tied up with family concerns, a certain season of life. Listen, when God opens a door, no one can shut it. God through it.

And just this word—if you miss the opportunity, one day the door may be shut. If we don’t embrace the opportunities for greater fruitfulness and usefulness that God is giving now, we may find that one day those opportunities are not available.

Jesus is the One who has the key of David. He opens and no one will shut. He is opening doors around us. This is a great day of opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ. The church in Philadelphia had opportunities to witness, but we have advantages and opportunities today that they could not have dreamed of in the first century—means to reach people’s hearts with the gospel through the electronic media, through the Internet.

You say, “Well, I’m not into . . . Are you on Facebook? What an opportunity! Talk about how word spreads. Use it to connect with friends who connect with friends who connect with friends, talk about something that matters. We’re too often blind to the things that God is up to and consumed with things of secondary importance that have little or no eternal significance.

What doors has God opened for you? The door of salvation? If you haven’t received God’s gift, walk through that door today. Then having gone through that door, go through the door of service. Now give to others and bring them into the kingdom with you.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth suggesting that there might be some open doors before you that you might need to walk through. That teaching is part of a series called "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 7: Encouragement to Persevere."

These series on the churches in Revelation have made a big difference in the lives of Revive Our Hearts listeners. Like one woman who wrote and said

Thank you ever so much for the Revelation study. I had been extremely discouraged with our church situation. I’m not through all the series yet, but I’m getting a glimpse of how much Christ loves His Church, and despite all the issues of today, I’m asking God how I can be involved again and have a burden to pray for the purity of His Bride. 

I’m so grateful Revive Our Hearts are part of this woman’s desire to re-engage in church. Just think how her involvement can affect others. If you’ve given to support Revive Our Hearts, you’re part of that story, too. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we’d like to say thanks by sending you a book by Nancy called Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

I hope you’ll read this book leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday and experience thankfulness like never before. Ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call with a gift of any size. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Plenty of people are trying to gain power through political influence, through money, or popularity. But do these channels truly provide lasting power? Hear about the one true source of power when we come back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to encourage you and your church. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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