The Invitation

by Tim Isbell, April 2015

A few weeks ago I visited Ohio on family business and attended a Sunday worship. I quickly realized that Heather Kimura's message would head toward an invitation to follow Jesus. So I took notes, and I am glad I did!

Last week I read the week's Revised Common Lectionary scriptures, which included Acts 11.1-18, describing Peter's improbable trip to Caesarea. It contains three invitations:

1. Gentile strangers travel to Joppa to invite Peter, a Jew, to return with them to the home of an influential Gentile leader who lives in Caesarea. Peter's Jewish response should have been, "No way! Jews cannot even enter the house of a Gentile." But, a few days before the strangers arrived, God prepared Peter for their visit. So when the Gentiles invite Peter to return Caesarea with them, Peter rounds up six Jewish friends, and they head for Caesarea.

2. Upon arriving, the Gentile leader gathers his household, which means family, workers, and slaves, and invites Peter to tell them "how to be saved."

3. Though Peter hadn't heard Heather's sermon, the Spirit of Jesus apparently helped him invite everyone to turn from their ways and follow Jesus! And they did. That must have shocked Peter.

As I read the passage I noticed how God prepared Peter and the Gentiles for all these interactions.

And I realized how God still works this way today. I've offered many invitations to follow Jesus. Sometimes I'm awestruck to see that God's Spirit so obviously prepared the receiver to accept it. It's obvious that there was something larger than just my invitation at play. Other times, the person responds politely, but I can tell they are not yet ready. So long as I offered the invitation at the prompting of God's Spirit, I've learned to assume that God is using my invitation as a part of some future invitation that may not involve me, at all.

So, I decided to polish up my notes from Heather's sermon, add a little, and post them here. Maybe you're a follower of Jesus and, like me, always looking for another fresh way of packaging an invitation to follow Jesus. Or maybe you are like the Gentiles in Caesarea and God has already prepared you for this invitation yourself. Either way, here's my version of Heather's invitation:

The Invitation

1.  Set aside your life and plans. Instead, follow Jesus.

At its fullest, Christian faith is not something we attach to an already busy life. It is an invitation to start putting the person of Jesus at the center of our life. We won't get it right immediately, but God's Spirit will coach us towards mature Christian faith.

Check out these scriptures: Matthew 4.18-22 and Matthew 10.39. Or find your own.

2. The journey

Living "strapped to Jesus" is an adventure. It involves living transparently as a citizen of God’s Kingdom while residing at a postal address squarely in this world. It means accepting the assignment to live as a reconciling agent for a reconciling Lord, no matter what - including through hardships. After all, Jesus suffered and told his followers that they would, too. They did. And so will we. But Jesus assures us that his Spirit will indwell and empower every one of his followers.

Check out these scriptures, or find some of your own: Ephesians 4.1, Matthew 7.24-27, 2 Corinthians 5.18-20, 1 Peter 4.1-2, Philippians 2.5-10.

3. The destination

In this life, the Spirit grows the willing hearts of his followers to beat more and more like his heart. Here are some relevant scriptures: Galatians 5.22-23, Matthew 5.1-16, Colossians 3.13, Philippians 2.1-11.

And in the next life, Jesus promises his followers an eternity living in relationship with God and other followers of Christ.

Check out these scriptures: John 3.16, 4.14, 5.24, Romans 6.23, 8.38-39, 1 Corinthians 15.48, 2 Corinthians 5.1-5, Philippians 3.20-21.



Note: This framework is from a sermon I heard at Delaware County Vineyard Church in Sunbury, Ohio on 2/14/2016. The sermon was “The Call to be a Disciple” by Heather Kimura. You can listen here:

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