How many of you are familiar with Gary Larson’s The Far Side? Anyone? No? Well, briefly, The Far Side is a nationally circulated, single-panel comic depicting surrealistic scenes bathed in awkward social situations and anthropomorphized characters who offer humorous and sometimes insightful perspectives on the issues of life. But did you know he’s actually a keen theologian? It’s true. Perhaps his most insightful and biblical cartoon pictures a kid going to school. Book in hand, he’s walking up the steps pushing on the door to the building. Only, the door is clearly marked with notice that says “Pull.” And, near the bottom of the steps, there’s a sign that reads: “Midvale School for the Gifted.”
But you know, there’s a lot more to this caricature than what you see at first glance. In fact, Christians are very often like this young kid, walking up the steps and trying to push open a pull door. “Truly, truly, I say to you,” Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “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” (John 10:7–9). Sin has forever broken the perfect fellowship we once enjoyed in the Garden. Now, an infinite chasm exists between man and God, and the only bridge between creature and Creator is the Son, Jesus Christ. He is the the Door to God, the gateway to heaven, the entryway to a life of grace, the portal through which lost souls are found and rescue and reclaimed for the glory of the Father. And there’s no opening this door on your own.
We too often treat the gospel of God’s salvation as this “gifted” kid does the door to his school. We earnestly, fervently push and beat on the door, trying to get it to open, to no avail. With all our might we seek entry; by any means or merits possible, we strive to access this door. And yet, with all our intentions and zeal and strivings, we fall short, every time. The enterprise we’ve conjured up to open this gate is nothing in the way of God, indeed, it’s the very opposite of God’s way of salvation. To do so is to push, to no avail, on a pull door. No, even more, it’s to bar the way which was cleared by Christ. Because, you see, this door is already open.
There’s no need to try and push the door of salvation wide open, ramming it down with your semblances of righteousness and your religious resumes and presumptions of grace. The gateway to redemption is forever opened by the cross! Your blood-bought redemption can’t be earned by anything you do. All your performances in righteous don’t bring anything or add anything to the justification you’ve been given. They merely prove and evince to the world the glorious grace that has resurrected and remade your entire life.
What I wish all would acknowledge is that their righteousness doesn’t open the door to salvation, but because the door is open and they thus believe, they’re imputed the righteousness of the Messiah. “The office of faith,” says Dr. Bonar, “is not to work, but to cease working; not to do anything, but to own that all is done; not to bring near the righteousness, but to rejoice in it as already near.”1 The passage has been cleared; the way is opened; not requiring the smallest shove to move it ajar. The door before you reads “Pull” — and, furthermore, has been eternally pulled open by the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who brings his righteous grace near wretched people who think they’re righteous and sinners who pray to be saints. Cease uselessly pushing on a pull door; repent, believe, and “enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:23).
Horatius Bonar, God’s Way of Peace: A Book for the Anxious (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1864), 85.