HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO OPEN DOORS, CLOSED HEARTS?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
by Ron Ritchie
I had a phone conversation recently with a woman who had been praying for
for several years that her mother come to know the Lord. Knowing her mother,
I recalled that many times in the past when we talked of spiritual things
her heart would harden. Yet this loving daughter saw the "open door,"
as it were, and lovingly walked through it to share the gospel until the
Lord softened her mother's heart to accept the good news of Jesus Christ.
A few weeks ago a Christian friend of mine asked me to pray for he and his
wife as they visited with his family. They were looking for an open door
to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
On Monday I was invited by a daughter to share the message of salvation
at the memorial service of her beloved Christian father. She saw his death
as an open door for her immediate family as well as their many friends to
hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, many for the first time. I was able to
walk right into that open door to share the word of God.
How many of you as Christians have looked for open doors to share the good
news of Jesus Christ with your family and friends? When presented with a
possible open door, how many of you were tempted not to share your faith
because they knew what you were like before you became a Christian? For
many of us, the hardest open door to walk through has to do with those people
who knew us in the past. I experienced that 10 years ago when I was asked
to preach the gospel to people who knew me in my youth. I was frightened
that they would reject me and Jesus Christ because they remembered too much
of who I was before I became a Christian and not enough about how much they
Yet the scriptures, and especially the book of Acts, encourage us to share
with those who knew us best before we became Christians. We can see how
God delights in whole families coming to him once the door of their hearts
are open. Therefore, if he gives us an open door to share with them, we
should step right in to share the gospel until they reject the Lord and
his good news. When that rejection comes, then we should step right out.
In Luke 4, the scripture will speak to this issue: How should we respond
to open doors?
I. Step Right In, Luke 4:14-22
And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit; and news about
Him spread though all the surrounding district and he began teaching in
their synagogues and was praised by all. And he came to Nazareth, where
he had been brought up; and as was his custom, he entered the synagogue
on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah
was handed to him. And he opened the book, and found the place where it
was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed
me to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release
to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who
are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." And he
closed the book and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the
eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon him. And he began to say to
them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
When studying Jesus' life, it is important to use a "Harmony of the
Gospels," a study book which lines up all four gospels in a chronological
order of events. Unlike Matthew and John, who wrote to the Jews, Luke moves
quickly from the temptation of our Lord into the Galilean ministry because
he was writing with Gentiles in mind. In doing so he passed over almost
the first full year of our Lord's ministry with the Jews in Judea and the
Samaritans in Samaria. That year is covered in the first four chapters
of John's gospel.
While John the Baptist was baptizing at Bethany beyond the Jordan he told
the priests of Israel that he was not the Christ, but identified his cousin
Jesus as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
After Jesus was baptized by John, he was then led by the Spirit to be tempted
by Satan in the wilderness. Shortly after the temptation the Lord began
his public ministry. John pointed Jesus out to his two disciples, one was
John, the other Andrew, who immediately found his brother Simon (Peter).
The next day Jesus called Philip to follow him, and Philip found Nathaniel.
These five became the first disciples to minister with the Lord in Judea.
Jesus then traveled north some 80 miles to the small village of Cana, about
10 miles northeast of his home town of Nazareth. While at the wedding of
a family friend, he accomplished his first miracle by the power of the Spirit,
turning water into wine. Shortly after the wedding, Jesus, his mother Mary,
his four brothers and sisters (John 2:12, Matt.13:55), and the five disciples
walked 20 miles northeast to visit Capernaum, home of Peter's mother-in-law.
Capernaum was a Roman garrison city located on the north shore of the Sea
In the late spring of 29 A.D. the Lord and his followers went south to Jerusalem
to attend the first Passover of his three-year public ministry. At that
time he cleansed the temple from the merchants who were turning his Father's
house into a "den of thieves." Shortly after this first cleansing
he was visited by a Pharisee named Nicodemus. At that point, Luke recorded,
"And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (4:14).
In the winter of 29 A.D. the gospel of John tells us that Jesus went from
Judea through Samaria on his way to Cana of Galilee. It was in Sychar that
Jesus had a conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well (John
4). As a result of her witness and the evangelism that took place in the
city, many people believed in him. Jesus also received the word that Herod
Antipas had arrested John the Baptist (Mark 1:14). In John 4:43-45 we read,
"And after the two days [in Sychar] he went forth from there [north]
to Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his
own country. So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans received him, having
seen all the things that he did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves
also went to the feast." Matthew 4:17 says, "And news about him
spread throughout all the surrounding district. From that time Jesus began
to preach and say, 'Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
Luke continues in verse 15: "And he began teaching in their synagogues
and was praised by all." It was during this time that our Lord visited
Cana for the second time. On his first visit our Lord changed water to wine,
to give the first sign that he was the Messiah. The second sign occurred
almost a year later when he healed the nobleman's ailing son down the road
in Capernaum by his words, "Your son is healed."
Luke 1:1-4:13 reveals Jesus in a time of preparation from his birth until
his temptation in the wilderness. Now in Luke 4:14-9:50 we will be studying
our Lord's Galilean ministry. We will discover many spiritual principles
that can we applied to our daily lives as we watch Jesus interact with a
variety of people from every walk of life. "For the Son of Man has
come to seek and to save that which was lost" (19:10). A key factor
is Satan's direct antagonism to Jesus as he looks for "an opportune
time" to defeat the king of Israel within the next two years of ministry.
We will see the spiritual warfare that bombards the Lord in his ministry,
the same way that it happens in our lives.
Luke's account thus far has shown us that our Lord's ministry was Spirit-led
and empowered, widely known, well received, and synagogue-centered. After
preaching and teaching in many synagogues in Galilee Jesus finally returned
to his home town. The door was open to teach the Word of God, and Jesus
walked through it.
"And he came to Nazareth, where he was brought up, and as was his custom
he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath..." Jesus ministered in the
power of Holy Spirit and was available to be led throughout the Holy Land
by the same Spirit. After leaving Cana he was led to his home town Nazareth,
in his second year of ministry. He had become quite popular as the "news
about him spread." People were familiar with his ministry of healing
in Cana and the message of hope that he preached: "The kingdom of God
is at hand." The Pharisees had not yet begun to question his authority;
it was a time when he was "praised by all."
The Lord waited until Saturday to step into an open door of spiritual opportunity
by going to the synagogue. The temple in Jerusalem was designed for special
feast days such as Passover, Pentecost, and the Day of Atonement. One would
go there to worship God and make sacrifices to him. The synagogue, however,
was like our local church, meeting the spiritual needs of a local community
on a weekly basis. Someone would read from a scroll, out of Deuteronomy,
the She-ma: "Hear O Israel, the Lord God is one." Then there would
be a time of prayer. Someone would then take the Pentateuch, the first five
books of Moses, and read a passage from there. Everyone would praise the
Lord, have prayer again, and then thank God for the Pentateuch. Following
that, another attendant would invite an older man or visitor to read from
the prophets. The scroll was read, and then followed a time for the reader
to comment on the text. Finally, there was a time of praising the Lord for
what was spoken out of the prophets, prayer, and lunch.
On this particular day, Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah. He unrolled
it to chapter 61, and read these words: "The Spirit of the Lord is
upon me because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has
sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the
blind. To set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable
year of the Lord." He rolled the scroll up, and the audience sat there
waiting for him to make a comment about Isaiah. Jesus did not say a thing
about Isaiah, however. He said, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled
in your hearing."
For generations these people had been hoping for the coming of Messiah.
They were suffering under the Roman heel. They wanted a king, a deliverer,
a great warrior to destroy Rome and put Israel back in its proper place
as the light of the nations. They were primed to hear Jesus proclaim himself
to be the fulfillment of that hope.
The response to the Lord's proclamation was favorable: "And all were
speaking well of him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling
from his lips." Unfortunately, their reaction was based on their perception
of his voice, his mannerisms, his presentation. They never understood the
meaning of his words because they got caught up in the wrong issues. At
times, we preachers grieve when our presentation has become the focal point
of our message. Our desire is that you hear the voice of God, and as a result,
move towards righteousness. We are simply vessels, mouthpieces to communicate
the truth. Our prayer is that your lives will never be the same when you
hear the word of God. Likewise, Jesus did not want to be known as gracious;
he wanted the people to know that he was Messiah.
Jesus told the people he was there, and "the Spirit of the Lord is
upon me." It is the Holy Spirit who empowered him to be the spiritual
king of Israel, to invade the kingdom of darkness, and rescue the victims
of the devil who were slaves of sin. "If therefore the Son shall make
you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). Jesus said that the
whole world is caught in a net, a prison of evil and death from which they
cannot escape. But he had now come and would release them from their helplessness.
"Because he anointed me to preach the good news to the poor."
Christ was the "anointed servant of the Lord," preaching the good
news to free the poor, those who are spiritually bankrupt. This includes
all humanity born in Adam. Jesus' goal was to change their hearts so they
could see him as Lord and Savior. He could then give them his life in the
Spirit, a brand new creation from the inside-out, not the outside-in.
Isaiah 61 outlined the good news as a message of hope and deliverance from
the people's present condition. First, the Messiah would "proclaim
release to the captives," setting them free from their sin, shame,
and guilt. Israel knew what it meant to be held captive by an enemy; its
history was filled with lost wars, the Assyrian captivity, harassment by
the Persians, living in exile, and the present Roman captivity. All of that
tragic captivity had taken place because Israel had spiritually forsaken
Jehovah God for idols.
Second, there would be "recovery of sight to the blind . . ."
Jesus certainly healed the blind physically (John 9), but there was deeper
significance to this truth. As Paul said to King Agrippa, he came as a minister
of Jesus Christ, that his ministry was ". . . to open their eyes [the
Jews and Gentiles] so that they may turn from darkness to light and from
dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of
sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in
me" (Acts 26:18). The issue was spiritual.
Third, he would "set free those who are downtrodden." Jesus looked
back to Isaiah 58:6, where it refers to the deliverance of those so crushed
and oppressed that they no longer have the ability to help themselves. The
problems of the homeless in our country, for example, are that 60% of the
homeless are "downtrodden;" they cannot help themselves anymore.
In our arrogance we must not say, "Just get a job!" We don't understand
the situation-they can't. There is nothing left. Their spirit is killed.
The joy of living is gone, and they cannot even get up. Jesus was proclaiming
that he came to pick them up by starting with their spirit.
Fourth, Messiah came "to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
For 40 years the prophet Isaiah (740-700 B.C.) had warned the 10 northern
tribes to turn away from idolatry and return to Jehovah God, but they would
not listen. As a result, they were carried into the Assyrian captivity (721
B.C.). Isaiah therefore boldly declared that through a small godly remnant,
world-wide redemption would come through the Messiah at his first coming
Using Isaiah's words, the Lord Jesus now said that this favorable year of
the Lord was not a year like the Year of Jubilee (Lev.25:8-16), which took
place every 50 years to proclaim liberty throughout all the land (Lev.25:10).
The favorable year of the Lord was a symbol of the beginning of the messianic
age, the period when God would grant salvation to all his people and the
Gentile nations. During this period of time all who placed their faith in
Christ would experience true freedom; no longer would they need to live
in constant fear of Satan and his demons, the world, the flesh, sin, and
The Lord stopped reading Isaiah 61:2 in mid-sentence: "To proclaim
the favorable year of the Lord. . . ." He looked up so as to catch
their attention, and said "Today this scripture has been fulfilled
in your hearing." He never read the last phrase, "And the day
of vengeance of our God." Why? Because this was the day of salvation.
The opportunity for spiritual healing was available for all in that synagogue
as well as those in the nation of Israel who would place their faith in
Jesus as their long awaited Messiah. Redemption, salvation, and the forgiveness
of sins was available. Now was the time to be saved. The day of vengeance
would come one day on all who rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior.
John the Baptist and many of his baptized converts were hoping the Messiah
would come to forgive their sins and give them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He would come with judgment upon the evil Roman Empire, bringing in the
kingdom of God on earth through Israel as in the days of David. In his book,
"According to Luke," David Gooding says, "It is almost impossible
to exaggerate the importance of the point which Christ was so dramatically
making; he was the Messiah, his coming had instituted the Lord's favorable
year; but it had not begun the day of vengeance; he had no intention of
executing the wrath of God upon evil men or evil societies and institutions
at this stage in history."
It is difficult to step through an open door of spiritual opportunity when
that door leads back to your home town, your immediate family and old friends.
I encourage you to walk through that door as long as they keep it open.
As I was driving with my wife to a conference recently, we listened to an
inspiring tape of Christian music. This was not a slick recording star,
but a woman with one eye and a debilitating kidney problem. I knew she was
one of five children from a broken home who had become a Christian through
much suffering. Since she had been privileged to lead her father to the
Lord, it gave her the courage to step into her mother's life, who was not
a Christian. Without any musical training, she began singing and had recorded
her songs on this tape. The tape began, "Dear Mom, Thank you for the
opportunity to give you the gift of these songs. You asked for them so I'm
here to sing these songs for you." The most beautiful Spirit-filled
singing came from that tape! I was certain that this woman's mother would
receive Jesus Christ-how else could she respond? A loving Christian daughter
had walked through the open door in faith when her unbelieving mother had
asked her to send the tape.
When I saw her mother later, she said, "I love my daughter, don't you?"
I said, "What a wonderful tape!" She responded, "Yes, I love
the music." The story isn't over. But thank the Lord the daughter was
willing to walk through that open door, which is still open.
How should we respond to open doors? Step right in! How should we respond
to closed hearts?
II. Step Right Out, Luke 4:22-30
And all were speaking well of him, and wondering at the gracious
words which were falling from his lips; and they were saying, "Is this
not Joseph's son?" And he said to them, "No doubt you will quote
this proverb to me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done
at Capernaum, do here in your home town as well.'" And he said, "Truly
I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town. But I say to you in
truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the
sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came
over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to
Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were
many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them
was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." And all in the synagogue
were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they rose up and cast
him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their
city had been built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But passing through
their midst, he went his way.
The truth finally began to sink into the hearts of the Jewish audience.
They understood that Jesus was proclaiming himself as the Messiah of Israel
at that moment. Their response reminds us of Luke's words at the end of
our Lord's temptation a year earlier: "And when the devil had finished
every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time" (4:13).
Now we know that Satan seeks to mount a direct attack, such as the temptations
in the wilderness, or an indirect attack through people like the Pharisees.
In this case, Satan moved indirectly, using his spiritually blind and downtrodden
captives to reject the king of Israel. The more they thought about what
Jesus said, the more they felt the slow burn of pride, envy and jealousy.
It would eventually break into a full flame of hatred, driving them to attempt
murder on "the anointed servant of the Lord God."
"And they were saying, 'Is this not Joseph's son?'" Initially,
the people loved the message about the Messianic Age, a time when Israel
would once again be ruled by one from the house of David. They believed
that all the nations of the world, including the present Roman government,
would be in subjection to the people of Jehovah, God's Israel. At the same
time, however, they heard Jesus, their own home-grown boy, apply this Isaiah
passage to himself. How could he be saying he was the Messiah, when they
all knew him as Mary and Joseph's son? His brothers James, Joses, Jude,
and Simon, as well as his sisters, were still living there in Nazareth.
How could this son of a carpenter, he himself a former carpenter turned
preacher, say he was the Messiah?
Resentment grew in their hearts. After all, the Messiah would perform signs
and wonders. All they had for proof were some rumors that he had done miracles
in Judea and Galilee. However, nothing of that sort had happened in his
own home town with his own kinfolk, many whom were sick with various diseases.
The Lord responded by giving three sermons in one to the Jewish synagogue.
He said, "no prophet is welcome in his home town." The Lord saw
the look of unbelief on their faces and was reminded of a popular, ancient
proverb, "Physician heal yourself." Jesus was calling himself
the "spiritual physician" who could bring spiritual healing to
the nation as well as the individual. The Jews were saying, "If you
are the long-awaited Messiah of Isaiah 61, make good your claim and do the
miracles you did in Capernaum and the other districts." In Cana, for
example, he had turned water into wine, and had healed the official's son
who was sick 10 miles away in Capernaum. Later, some of the leaders of Israel
saw and believed the miracles, but not the fact that Jesus was the Messiah.
It is interesting that Mark 6:5-6 records: "And he could do no miracle
there except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.
And he wondered at their unbelief." Jesus was there to offer life to
all, and he wondered at what was preventing them from accepting it. Unfortunately,
it is the same thing which keeps us from accepting the fullness of life.
It is pride, pride that says, "I can do it by myself. I can control
my own destiny." The age-old philosophies that deceived people in the
past prevail today.
As the Prophet of Deuteronomy, the Lord identified with the prophets of
old to illustrate two other points. At times these prophets were not accepted
in Israel because the people wanted to participate in idolatry. Jesus used
Elijah and Elisha to illustrate that when the Jews rejected his prophets
the Lord God mercifully sent them to the Gentiles to bring spiritual and
In the second part of his message, Jesus directed their minds back 800 years
to I Kings 17 and 18. God instructed his prophet Elijah to deliver a message
of judgment to the wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who were ruling the
northern kingdom and leading the people of God into Baal worship. Elijah
told the king that there would be no rain for three and a half years. Although
there were many widows in the country who were starving during the drought,
God sent Elijah to a Gentile widow in Sidon who was willing to share what
little she had with the prophet despite her circumstances. Miraculously,
he provided her with flour and oil until the drought ended, and raised her
son from the dead as well. Jesus used this story to show the Jews in Nazareth
that God's plan of redemption and mercy is bigger than the immediate group
of Jews in their local synagogue. Redemption is offered to all, Jew and
Gentile, who place their faith in Jesus.
The third part to Jesus' message illustrated the same principle: redemption
is offered to all who place their faith in God the Father and his Son, whether
Jew or Gentile (II Kings 5:1-14). While the Jews remained in unbelief the
Lord used Elisha to heal the leper Naaman, a Syrian who was the commander
of the whole Syrian army. A slave girl told Naaman of a prophet who could
heal him if he placed his faith in Yahweh. After a bit of arguing, he followed
Elisha's instructions to dip himself in the river seven times. He came up
clean and worshiped the living God. Just as God told Elijah and Elisha to
leave the unbelieving Israelites to offer the message of redemption to the
Gentiles, Jesus was warning the people that if they rejected his message
he would do likewise. Some 25 years later the apostle Paul would experience
this unbelief in a Jewish synagogue in Antioch, Turkey. Paul responded,
"It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first,
since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life. Behold,
we are turning to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46).
Meanwhile, Satan was in the background fanning the flames of hatred and
murder: "And all the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard
these things," and they tried to murder Jesus. But he slipped away
for two more years of ministry, and went down to Galilee and into Jerusalem.
I know a man in this fellowship who has come to know the Lord and is praying
for the open door to share his faith with his adult sons. I know of a Christian
woman who is praying for her non-believing husband, but she has been forced
to step right out of the relationship because his heart is closed at this
time, and he wants nothing to do with her or "her Jesus."
How should we respond to open doors, especially when they involve an opportunity
to share the good news of Jesus Christ with family and friends in our home
town? We must step right in. How are we to respond to closed hearts? Step
right out for a time, and let the Spirit of the Lord give us wisdom as to
when to step in and out. The issues are critical. Jesus Christ says, "I
can bring salvation to anyone who will place their faith in me." The
apostle Peter said, "For there is salvation in no one else; for there
is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we
must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Salvation is the issue in our lives. Men and women are held in the captivity
of blindness as prisoners of the evil one. They need to hear the good news
that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and he wants those of us who
know him as Lord and Savior to deliver the message. We must start with our
families and friends. By the Spirit of God we must ask to say the right
word at the right time and the right place. Be faithful and watch what God
will do among us.
"These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds
the key of David. What he opens, no one can shut; and what he shuts, no
one can open." (Rev.3:7)
Catalog No. 4124
Ron R. Ritchie
July 23, 1989
Copyright © 1989 Discovery
Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula
Bible Church. This data file is the sole property of Discovery Publishing,
a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church. It may be copied only in its entirety
for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must
contain the above copyright notice. This data file may not be copied in
part, edited, revised, copied for resale or incorporated in any commercial
publications, recordings, broadcasts, performances, displays or other products
offered for sale, without the written permission of Discovery Publishing.
Requests for permission should be made in writing and addressed to Discovery
Publishing, 3505 Middlefield Rd. Palo Alto, CA. 94306-3695.