November 21, 2014

“Come to Me”: God’s Invitation

dv0103come-to-me-posters.jpgMatthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Certainly, one of the most compelling aspects of the Bible is the personal invitation to come to God through his son, Jesus Christ. The invitation from Jesus himself to every person is one of the Bible’s most powerfully comforting messages.

The imagery connected with these invitations are deeply significant in and of themselves. The hungry and thirsty are invited to come and be satisfied. The guilty are invited to come and be forgiven. The broken and weary are invited to come, be lifted up and made whole. The sinner is invited to come to Jesus and be saved.

Christianity is not first a philosophy or a comprehensive worldview. It is an invitation from God to individuals. “If anyone…” Jesus said. Anyone is invited. All are invited. All are addressed in “Come to me…”

Behind this is the gracious love of God for those who feel unloved and deserve justice, not forgiveness. The invitation is not to a way of life or a system of theology. The invitation is “Come to me.” Directly into the heart of the Father himself.

This is a missional God’s word at the end of everything that we call Gospel: Come to God through his son, Jesus Christ. He invites you. He has made the way.

In this invitation is the guarantee of God. Come, and “I will…” Come and drink. Come and be saved to the uttermost.

The prodigal was poised to conduct a transaction with his Father there on the road home. He would apologize and perform as a servant. The Father has no interest in a system of servant sons. He is interested in magnifying his own joy in forgiveness and restoration.

Our persistent and consistent interest in what must be believed frequently obscures that we are not invited into a business and handed the employee manual. We are not given a problem to solve or a task to perform.

We are invited by God himself, to God himself to receive from God himself a salvation that is God himself. All that is asked of us is to come.

If we do not come, if we insist on conditions of our own, if we come to someone else, if we call “coming to God” a system to bring God to us on our own terms, we are not answering this invitation.

This is not the public invitation of the revivalist, but we who are his ambassadors may invite anyone to come to God through Jesus Christ. Paul said…

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We cannot add anything to the simplicity of this invitation. The fact that we, as his representatives, are the communicators of the invitation does not give us permission to make the church into a system of additional requirements or redefined meanings.

To come to Jesus is to hear the Gospel and believe it. Fair warning to those who take what flows from this relationship or follows this invitation and makes it somehow into the the invitation itself. Blessings to the one who takes all that the Gospel demands and means and refuses to hear it apart from clearly saying, “First, we must come to God, by faith, through Jesus.”

There is no invitation to salvation except the invitation from Jesus, to come to Jesus.

This is the Christian’s great Word of peace with God. The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, the one mediator who is our salvation says “Come to me.” To those of us who believe that in Jesus crucified, risen and exalted, God embraces us without reservation, this invitation is the heart of the Good news.

Comments

  1. Right on! Christianity is Christocentric. It’s a relational embrace of love, wherein we encounter not an ideology, but a person, who changes us interiorly and conforms us to himself, who is the image of the Father.

    “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1)

  2. Once again you insights hit the bullseye. I made a decision many years ago to forsake theology and arguments etc and focus on knowing Christ in my life. I used (and am still using) the simplest Bible Translation (Good News) and I read from the 4 gospels until His character was primary in my thinking. That was the only way I could be healed, I came from a fundamentalist baptist church and my image of God was so negative. I purposely put away my theology books, study bibles, etc. This was the only way I could know God as revealed in His Son.

  3. Ruben, why forsake theology? Theology is not the problem; perhaps it was the way it was shown to you or the way your viewed it.

    Michael, excellent post. I’m new to your blog and I’m loving it so far. One question: you speak a lot about God (generally) and about Jesus – how do you see the Spirit fitting into this? Thanks.

  4. Brian Pendell says:

    Thank you, Michael. It’s stuff like this that keeps me coming back.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

  5. nicholas anton says:

    The appeal of the Christian faith is both to the mind and the will. In the Bible we are warned against false Christs. I must therefore know the historic Jesus in order to be saved. Any Jesus will not do. Saving faith must also have definition. Not everything called faith qualifies. Jesus said, “…the devils also believe and tremble.”

  6. I had to forsake theology, at least for some time, to clear my heart and my head. Sometimes it obscures the simple truths we are supposed to cherish.

  7. Hi Michael. Excellent stuff but you lost me with the line “Fair warning to those who take what flows from this relationship or follows this invitation and makes it somehow into the the invitation itself.” Forgive me. I’m a little slow on the uptake. Can you unravel this for me, please? I think I sorta, kinda get it but it seems the weight of this statement is of greater import than I can squeeze out of it, at least without your further elucidation. It seems you might be on the cusp of revealing the biggest hindrance to understanding the profound and yet simple understanding of what the gospel is, or isn’t, but I’m a Swede, so be gentle with me. Keep on going Michael. Peace to you! Bruce

  8. Buckley says:

    Indeed. I painted a mural of Christ giving this invitation once, at a homeless shelter. The scarred hand of Christ opened towards the sinner is the Gospel.

  9. Cool timing! Nice post.

    This sunday I am preaching from Isaiah 55:1-9, rather than using dr. merritt’s sermon for Father’s Day. :