The Low Door

 

Door-Sheherd.jpg
“Explore the Ideal Shepherd”, Step Into The Story (stepintothestory.ca)

“Get down on your hands and knees and scrub the tiled floors….and begin at the back of the house.”

This was the message I heard in my heart and mind. Though not audible, it was compelling and it did not come from my own mind.

I surveyed the edges of the floor to see if maybe something was amiss.  Okay, there was some detailed baseboard work that could be done, but I could just touch-up as I wet-mopped.  I disregarded that little calm “voice” in my heart and cleaned my own way.  But the compulsion didn’t go away. Instead, I felt that “naughty” feeling of having disobeyed something important. Does this sound familiar?

Time went by and every time I cleaned house, I heard and felt it again. It was a very tangible impression on my heart and mind that there was something I needed to learn and I was missing it by not following through. Sensing a lesson in pride, I rationalized: “That’s just a silly notion I’m making up in my own mind.”  But I knew. It weighed on me, even as I distracted myself with other things. This went on for some time.

Finally, I could no longer disregard it.  “Okay, I’ll just do it and see what happens,”    So I got a bucket and sponge and began to scrub, but I began in the front bathrooms instead of the back.  Oh, my! As soon as I got down on my knees, I saw so many ugly things that I hadn’t seen while viewing the floor from up on high. Immediately, scriptural principles came flooding into my mind and heart like a light switch had just been turned on–principles I saw now I was guilty of having broken.

Lesson #1 was obvious: “You can’t see accurately from a distance.  You need to bend low to see the true condition of things, of people, of your own heart.”

Okay, I get it.  I saw tiny bits of grunge, the start of mold in some corners behind the commode, the baseboards were collecting a layer of dirty dust.  “But would the guests have seen this?”  Ah!

Lesson #2 : “Have you noticed that you begin in the living/entertaining areas every time you clean.  Why is that?”

My own heart knew the answer:  It is because it is what people see–I clean the obvious places first.

Do you always get around to cleaning the master bathroom in the back of the house?  No? why not?”

My heart knew it well: the back areas can remain hidden with all its junk and who will know? When I get tired of cleaning, I leave off the last bits that “can wait”.  Ouch.  The compelling lessons wasn’t about housecleaning at all, but about heart cleaning. I had heart issues that I’d not dealt with. I had been content to look good on the outside, to look admissible before people.  But there was yet more.

Lesson #3:  “Who lives in the master suite at the back of the house?  You and your husband.  You are putting him last.”

People outside my family see me as I present myself, but my family knows me better.  And yet they are loyal and kind.  And I “clean up” for them last of all.  I pay them less attention; primarily, my own husband. He gets the last dregs of my day. “He won’t mind.” But I know he does. A cleansing wash of love flowed in my heart for this gentle, hard-working man who loves me anyway.  And then the clincher.

Lesson #4:  “How long did it take you to obey the quiet message I brought to you to clean your floors by hand?  Why is that? Who do you worship beside me?”

People ask me how I know the Lord is talking to me. This is how it works. Would my own mind have asked that question?

See, I had been enjoying personal Bible studies, Christian literature, and amazing Christian friendships. I had been praying and intentionally relying on the Lord to give me success in parenting and teaching my children. I had seen many wonders of miraculously answered prayer for myself and others.  I had a very good relationship with my dear husband. Others even came to me for informal counsel.  For all practical purposes, I was an active and dedicated Christian wife and mother and served in church and the homeschooling community.

A homemaker’s mind might could have spotted a need for deeper cleaning, but the addressing of the sin nature of my own heart?  Impossible. To address the idolatry of my adulterous heart did not come from my own mind, I assure you.  The Holy Spirit was calling from the outside of me to pass through the low door of humility. I needed to see my heart, not as others imagined it to be, or even as I imagined it to be, but as God Himself sees it in truth.

In the busyness of an active Christian life, I had disregarded my priorities. My idols had become almost legion. Thankfully, our loving Lord doesn’t reveal everything all at once, lest we despair and lose all courage.  But these top idols were revealed:

* personal comfort– I didn’t like bending down on and getting dirty–not physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and especially not socially

* action– I didn’t like taking longer than absolutely needed to do menial chores               when so much that is exciting and novel awaited elsewhere

* independence– I didn’t like being answerable to anyone but myself; asking for help with parenting was a big important thing, but the dirt in my own heart that no one will see? Not so much.

* approval of others– No one was going to congratulate me for cleaning up         things in my life that even I had not noticed before, so why bother with them?  Forget dealing with the buildup of guilt and pain that hurts and is not presentable; move on to the powerhouse things that get noticed!

* myself– In all these things, God had become an after-thought, a magical genie when I needed Him, a comforting thought when I needed comforting, a figurehead instead of my Lord. I reigned supreme instead.

In the heat of doing good things and following the obvious dictates of my faith, I had let myself and others take precedence over the loyalty I owe my heavenly Father and my Savior, his Son.

The outcome of this unholy drift, however, had not been immediately visible.  In other words, my husband had not complained about the back of the house, though I knew it annoyed him.  He didn’t complain about less attention, though I often felt his loneliness. No one had complained (unless, of course my ears had become stopped up and couldn’t or wouldn’t hear). In fact, my family and friends praised me!

But the less-visible outcomes were now revealed to my heart and gripped it in sorrow.  I was a hypocrite!  While it looked like I was putting my family first, others were first. I was hurting God’s honor, and I was neglecting the people who loved and needed me most. I was inadvertently deceiving those who looked or came to me for counsel and companionship. While it looked like I was putting my Lord first, I was first.  I was a fake.

The Cross of Christ

This was a pivotal moment. The Holy Spirit revealed the condition of my sin-darkened heart and it was ugly.  But thankfully, our Lord doesn’t point out our sin to bring us down in guilt and shame.  Christ intersected my thoughts.  In that moment, I remembered that Christ went through the low door of death on the cross to become my Savior.  He paid the price for my sin (Romans 6:23) in humble obedience to his Father:

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!”    (Philippians 2:8 NIV).

A door is a passageway into something different and “other”. Jesus broke the chains of sin and death by rising up from satan’s clutches (Psalm 107:14) and into resurrected and glorious Life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).  He is now seated at the right hand of the Father in power and dominion and glory (Acts 7:55-56) [1] Jesus Himself became my door:

I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”(John 10:9-16).

The low door is a passage through, not a dead-end!

Amazingly, he calls me to follow him in the power that he now gives me to break free of those clutches as well.  I don’t have to be a lazy, selfish, approval-seeking hypocrite.  I can be victorious over the bondage of sin to live a new life of love and joyful service to him and to others.

The cross of Christ is not easy to bear.  It means I must also put to death my secret “loves” (Matthew 16:24-26).  I must embrace the hard road of self-sacrifice.  But victorious life awaits me on the other side of obedience (James 4:10).  And along with the victory of having escaped the imprisonment comes a flood of joy as I begin to walk in the wholesome light of life again.

As I confessed before God and repented of my idols, I felt joy instead of drudgery. I fell in love with my Savior all over again. Furthermore, I fell in love all over again with my long-suffering husband. I knew that no one would compliment the visible changes in the house (no approval), no one but me would know the change that had taken place in my heart; but I had the personal approval of God and that felt very, very good.

A daily life of confession, repentance, and faith obedience

Down on my knees that day, I learned that God means what He says.  And many times I don’t like what He says.  Though that moment yielded good fruit at the time, I have spent the rest of my years having to be brought back to that moment to re-learn the lesson. It was a humbling moment then, and it still is every time I find myself cleaning the outside and “not finding time” to search my soul for hidden grunge.

I still pay less attention to the important people in my life than I do the “urgent” people in my life.  Only recently, my heart had to be tamed back as I studied a part of scripture that reallypricked my pride and shamed me before God.  God is after our hearts, though, not our shame.  In all discipline, there is a sure hope of the fulfillment of all that He has made us to be. We will be more than restored, we shall share in His glory! But there is a door that mustbe passed through first.

I am a sinner and am in need of cleansing every moment. There will never be a day in this earthly life whereon I can claim to be superiority or perfection. But I am growing more like Christ gradually and one day He has promised that I will be made complete in His righteousness, not having a righteousness of my own.

PART II:  Daleth (v. 25-32) means “door”

 Daleth reveals a man who has been laid low. This does not feel good at all!

My soul sticks close to the dust of earth!”(v25a),

My soul melts with the weight of my guilt and sorrow” (v28a)

He cries out in agony of spirit:

Speak to me again and make this dead man live!” (v.25b, 28b).

He is afraid of a distracted mind:

Make me understand your ways, remove deceitful rationalizations and self-justifications from me, take away this shame” (v27, 29, 31).

When we are humbled, we are often distracted by our discomforts and pain. Sometimes when we are lifted up, we are distracted by the comforts and blessings, and the cycle of pride begins again. Distractions keep us from hearing that still, gentle call of God to our hearts to wake and live!

Yet the psalmist knows the way he must go.  It is from this very low position that he has the highest audience with the King of his soul. The King can do for him what he cannot do for himself–bring truth (the diagnosis) and cleansing (the cure).

He looks at what he knows of the truth of God and looks toward the good fruit that he is sure of receiving:

You hear me” (v. 26),

“You bring life” (v25),

“Your word is truth”(v.25-32),

Your works are wonders to behold” (v27),

“You strengthen me” (v28),

“Your law is the law of grace” (v29),

“You forgive” (v31),

“You will grow my selfishly small heart to be big like your own large love” (v32).

Finally, the psalmist sets his will to follow his Lord in humble obedience according to the hope that God will keep him and give him the power to do so:

“Teach me and I will learn” (v26),

I will tell others of all that you are and have done” (v27),

I choose your truth even when it conflicts with my own desires and the culture of this world” (v30, 31),

I will be quick to obey and not procrastinate, whenyou empower me; which you will, for I cannot do any of this on my own” (v32).

From this we no longer see a man who has stayed at the bottom of life looking up.  Though he remains humble, we see a man with a very strong spirit who foresees active service for his Lord ahead.  He is not weak, he is strong! But his strength is not pride.

His strength is made perfect in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), because he no longer relies on his own mortal abilities; instead, he relies on the truth of God’s Word, who is Jesus Christ, to give him real Life (“…I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6).

Our psalmist predecessor is not just strengthened to sit back and enjoy the easy life! He is strengthened

to go on serving,

go on giving up self,

go on loving when loving is hard,

go on forgiving when forgiving seems impossible,

go on serving when serving is unnoticed and unappreciated and even maligned,

go on telling others about hope when he feels ill-equipped and embarrassed to step onto holy, private ground in others’ lives.

He is strengthened to remain humbly obedient.

Jesus told the rich man that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than it is for him to get to heaven.[2]  Why? It is impossible to see God unless I bow low before the King in quiet submission, handing authority to the One who rules my life.

There are many low door events in scripture:

  • Naaman’s healing,
  • Joseph’s life of slavery and exile,
  • Moses at the burning bush,
  • the Israelites being denied iron or horses in the center of culture of war,
  • the woman at the well,
  • the adulteress woman brought to Jesus for trial,
  • Ruth as she knelt below the feet of Boaz,
  • Paul’s Conversion and training experiences, his many persecutions, his “thorn in the flesh”, imprisonment, martyrdom

This list is hardly exhaustive! But the greatest low door–the greatest pivotal time in history, such that our world’s timeline of history centers upon it–was the cross of Jesus Christ.

We are called to pass through that same door, offering up our own self-consciousness, self-protection, self-righteousness, self-justifications, self-comforts to be put to death in order for true life to raise us up as new creations in Christ’s image.

Heavenly Father and my Lord, Jesus Christ, I remember these low doors in my life when you taught me hard lessons so graciously and so kindly. You raised me up   in love and not shame.  You took my burdens that I hardly realized were weighing me down and you freed me from myself.  You remade me into a joyful spouse and parent and friend. Remake me again as I embrace the humility that you first showed to me at Calvary.  Let me serve you by being in obedience to your word.  I have all I need in your Word to instruct me in the way I should go, and strength through the power of your Holy Spirit to stay in it. Because of you, I can give and give and lean on your strength to give again without counting the discomforts, inconveniences, embarrassments, and even pain. I can look back and see how faithful you have been in my life and how you have enlarged my heart and kept my life from sinking.  You have kept all the gold that I have given back to you, and burned all that was dross in it.  Because of you I can and I willshare these humbling moments with others, in order to tell of your wonderous works that you have done.I lift up to you, Lord, those who are right now reading this blog that you will speak to their heart, encourage them in truth and in love, and guide and help them to stoop low and walk through the door that opens them ups to Life and holiness in You.  In the name of Christ my Lord, Amen.

© 2018 by http://www.readpsalm119.com

FOOTNOTES:

[1]Glory in the truth of this by reading a collection of relevant scriptures that tell of the significance of Christ’s work and glorification for us.  He lives to intercede for us!  Visit https://www.esv.org  at this link (click on “link”). Let this be a worshipping moment for both of us today!

[2]According to most major commentaries, this was a common Jewish hyperbole and it literally means an eye of a sewing or medical needle (but don’t think of modern-day needles!), and not a “cable” or thread, or a narrow doorway in Jerusalem as tour guides would lead one to believe.  The truth is the same, that what looks to man as impossible–the rich man giving up his riches–is possible with God.  God could have empowered the rich man to keep the commands of God to the uttermost, but the man declared his loyalty to himself and broke the first commandment to love God first.  He broke the second commandment when he made earthly wealth into an idol.  And by saying he had kept the commandments, but hadn’t–he had broken the third commandment and had blasphemed (dishonored) the Name of the Lord God. When we make ourselves first, we also break the first three commandments.  It is no wonder, then, that we move on to break the other seven!

**********************

FURTHER RESOURCES 

I need thee every hour, by Fernando Ortega” (“Lindsaygillespie”, YouTube.com, December 3, 2009).  Words by Annie S. Hawks (1872), refrain tune by Robert Lowry (1872).  The words given below are from The Christian Sunday School Hymnal: a compilation of choice hymns and tunes for Sunday schools #33 from hymnary.org (printable music score in PDF and MusicXML available on the site).

I Need Thee Every Hour

1

I need thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need thee, O I need thee,
Every hour I need thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to thee!

2

I need thee every hour,
Stay thou near by;
Temptations lose their power
When thou art nigh.

3

I need thee every hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.

4

I need thee every hour,
Teach me thy will;
And thy rich promises
In me fulfill.

5

I need thee every hour,
Most holy One;
O make me thine indeed,
Thou blessed Son!

Jesus Declares Himself the True Shepherd of Men“, Explore the Ideal Shepherd, http://www.stepintothestory.ca  The graphic of the shepherd’s gate on this page provides a link to this excellent article (click on the photo or the link in this footnote) and explains the passage in John 10 illustrating Jesus as the Door and Jesus as the Great Shepherd. I would add that the porter or shepherd that slept at the door did so at cost, laying down his own life for the sheep.  The idea of the lack of humility lay behind the charge of Christ against the Pharisees.

 NOTE BENE:  A great debt of gratitude is given to Dr. David Powlison at CCEF.org School of Biblical Counseling (“Dynamics of Biblical Change”), and Dr. Tim Lane and Dr. Paul David Tripp (“Counseling in the Local Church”) for showing me the structure inherent in the Word of God for the process of change and the significance of the first three commandments in their book how people change (2008 second ed., New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC, http://www.newgrowthpress.com).  Also to the late pastor and Westminster Theological Seminary professor of practical theology, C. John Miller, for the most memorable lessons in humility found in this collection of pastoral letters, The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R Publishing, http://www.prpbooks.com).

 

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