Scripture 2 Peter 3:8-14
HE COMES BY THE BACK DOOR
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (NIV)
Christmas was the day that God snuck in the back door. You see, he seldom comes in the front door, where everything is neet and clean. He comes in the back door, where the screen door needs painting, where the shoes clutter the floor, where the garbage on its way out has been dumped until someone takes the initiative to take it where it belongs.
God slips in the back door.
And he seldom does it with warning. He makes no telephone calls saying that he will be here at 4:30 Am Christmas morning, He isn't polite in that way. He comes unexpectedly, in the way I least want, in the hour I least expect and I might find one day, that he has arrived, and I was not ready.
That's how he arrived two thousand years ago Christmas day.
That's how he arrives today - in our lives in his desire to make his presence and his victory known.
That's how he will arrive, at the end of time, when he dissolves this earth and all that is not holy and blameless will not stand.
God - he comes by the back door - like a thief.
Two Thousand years ago, he snuck in the back door of human history through a feeding trough. Jerusalem had its front door open, it was waiting for him. All was prepared; the pharisees wore their robes, the people came to the temple and gave their ritual tithes, the system of religion was well in place for a triumphant royal king to come marching in and usher Israel into her glory.
The front door and the living room was in order. Each chair, each candle in its place.
The spot light, the focus, the national interest was Jerusalem, always Jerusalem! It was the front door where the King of Glory would come in.
He seemed to be taking his time, delaying some might say. The prophets of old had cried out
"He is coming Emmanuel, He is coming
Repent, Oh Jerusalem, Repent"
Jerusalem did not repent, though the front room remained clean the back room remained a mess. Besides, Messiah, he did not come. They waited, and waited and waited.
There was one crying in the wilderness
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
Jerusalem heard that voice in the wilderness. But most heard as another passing fanatic that would turn into a whimper with opposition and die with age. Besides their front room was ready and spotless, their front door was open, they would welcome his high and mighty majesty.
Then He came, but in the back door, in a feed trough with a camel and an ass as his bed partners, a baby with nothing to boast, not born of royalty, rather born of a virgin whose reputation was questioned by some . He came in the back door, into the back porch, where the clutter and mess of Israel's culture left no room for him to lay his head. There was no national attention, there was no royal welcome, simply a silent, mostly unnoticed, night.
That was the day he first snuck in the back door.
On that day the angels rejoiced and called out "Glory to God in the Highest," as the pharisees slept in their comfortable beds awaiting that future day when the King would come.
On that day a young virgin magnified the Lord her God because He had looked upon her delivery room misery in mercy - now all generations would call her blessed.
At the same time, the inn keepers hustled to keep their guests satisfied. Caesar Augustus had filled their inns and their pockets. In the excitement there was no room left for God.
The day he came, the proud, the mighty, the rulers slept uncomfortably, something unsettling had happened. But the uneducated shepherds working the graveyard shift, and the pagan gentile wise men from the east saw the wonder of a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
Some heard the back door slam, and they knew what it meant. Others were only watching the front door, they knew nothing of his first coming.
That was when he first snuck in the back door.
Today, he is no different, he still comes as a thief in the back door.
My home has both a front and a back door. The front door of my home leads immediately to my living room where a guest is welcome, the atmosphere is pleasant, it is pretty consistently neat, and if my little family makes a mess, we are quick to clean it up. And we have a ringer on the front door, it tells us that a person has arrived, a guest, and if there is any straightening up to do, it is done within the thirty seconds before we answer the door.
The front door is our welcoming door
We also have a back door, with a squeaky hinge and torn screen. It leads to the back porch. There I lay to rest my unfinished business until the day that I get the time to clean it up. Junk lays there, broken toys, tools, treasures of junk I value to much to throw away but value to little to display, one on top of another piled in confusion - incomplete projects,gadgets in sore need of repair are laid side by side. Dog food and sawdust . Mud covered boots and a dogs muddy footprints. That's my back porch. It's a mess, something like a manger.
If you came to my back door, I would quickly usher you to the front door. I hide my back porch, its my private place. I would rather keep it in the dark, keep it closed from company and myself . You see, I have a lot of work to do.
My life, your life has a back door and a front door.
My front door is the entrance to where I do my public living. You will see there, my house is clean. I'm a nice person. My living room wears smiles, humour and kindness. My living room is decorated with love and conformity. My living room is the acceptable side of me, where hospitality is the furniture.
But I also have a back door, a back porch where I dump things I don't want to deal with relationships that have turned sour. I have chosen not to repair them, to forgive or seek another's forgiveness. There is dirt from a lifetime of being exposed to a muddy world and a cruddy culture, and I always forget to wipe my feet before I enter the porch. There is a garbage bag filled with anger, it could explode any minute for the fumes increase in silence, and my unhealed wounds continue to fester. And treasures that I value too much to throw away, yet I must keep them to myself for fear that another will recognize my idols and corruption.
This is my back room, the hidden part of my life hidden from myself, from you, and from God. But he that comes as a Christmas Savior comes in by the squeaky door with the tattered screen. He comes to the back room as a thief, to see if the way is prepared in the messy room. He doesn't come to see if the room is spotless for he knows the mess and he knows that we ourselves cannot clean it up. The only soap we have leaves stains worse than before.
He comes to the room to see if there is a person who will welcome him, and let him clean up the mess. A soul that thirsts for him, that will let him take away the junk, the garbage, the treasures, as painful as the loss may be. He comes to see a heart that is repentant, that sees the ugliness of sin, and is willing by his help to hate it with every once of human effort. There He comes to clean, to make holy, pure and blameless. He carries load upon load to a cross, each one crushing upon his shoulders. He cleanses that person, that room, by the washing of his blood - His own life poured out for the redemption of a soul.
When he births there, in that back room manger, he births as a King. All other thrones will shake at his coming. They will collapse, bow down or be crushed. Before him every mountain will be brought low. But in his grace, that which is low, the valleys, he himself will lift up. He will reveal his glory, the glory of the Lord as he comes bringing peace among men and fills the hungry with good things.
Sometimes he tarries, he waits. It is because a heart holds onto useless treasures or a throne will not be emptied to make room for his majesty, the Holy one of Israel. He is not slow about his promises as some count slowness, rather he is forbearing, patient, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.
That's how he comes today. He waits, until we see our sin. He waits until we are willing to expose it to him so that he might take it away. He waits until he can reign and reign alone.
He came in the back door, in a Christmas manger. He tarried a long time, Israel would not repent!
He comes to our back door. Sometimes there to, he tarries, waiting till we become humble and repent.
He will come again, at the end of history without ringing the door bell! He will steal into the back room. Yet there to, he tarries, waits, forbears just a ittle longer desiring...
But this time, when he comes, the birth pangs of the earth will be tribulation, nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines and earthquakes will be over the earth, the sun will be darkened, the moon will loose its light, the stars will fall from the heavens, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. For when he comes, he will not come as a baby! He will come as a conquering King. They will tremble at his coming for this time he will come, not to cleanse and forgive.
No! In majesty, he will come to judge the nations with justice! The heavens will pass away and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works on it will be burned up!
The time for turning to the lord will be past. Some will weep. Others will gnash their teeth for they ignored the Christmas baby, the one who brought salvation through the back room.
When he comes again, he will bring only judgement for those who ignored the prophet's call - prepare, repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Yet, again, even now, he tarries, he forbears, he waits, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Even now he stands at the door and knocks, real quiet like a still small voice to see if there is anyone quietly weeping in that back room to hear him, to open the door and welcome him, so that he might enter and eat with you and you with him. He will satisfy you with good things. He will turn your mourning into dancing. Still he tarries, waits and quietly knocks, but how long...
The thief is coming in judgement!
Is your back room simply a dirty ugly stable, or has it become a manger in which the Christ is born?
*(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.