“‘Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'”
“‘Lord,” another of His disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” – Matthew 8:19-22
It’s called the cost of following Jesus, and it comes fearlessly from the mouth of the Messiah Himself. He was clear that following Him would not be a journey of 5-star hotels, but a narrow gate to a narrow road and most of what we clutch in our hands and our hearts will not fit.
He was equally clear that there is an urgency in the Gospel and no other perceived obligation can come first. To the man’s request that Jesus wait until he tied up his loose ends, Jesus’ answer was no.
But what really caught my eye was the missing invitation.
Neither of the men invited Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. Instead, they each said they would be His follower.
And for some reason, that became meat on a bone for me. A bone that I need to pick with us, the ambassadors for Christ, the disciple-makers, the carriers of the Gospel. So many of us present people with the same message, in varying forms:
“Invite Jesus into your heart/life to be your Lord and Savior, and you will be saved.”
We must stop presenting the Gospel as though it is our invitation to God.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” Acts 2:36
Our invitation does not make Him what God has already made Him.
I think the real reason that our invitation to Jesus has become a point of contention for me, is that it feels too much like we are standing on a level playing field with Jesus. Like we have the power over whether or not He is Lord. We do not.
“…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11)
It’s not that the Christians have a Lord, and everyone else doesn’t. Jesus is Lord of all. The question will never be, is He Lord and Savior?, but did we obey the Gospel and receive life? Faith is an act of obedience, not an invitation. (Romans 1:5, 16:26; Romans 10:15-17)
I know what you’re thinking. The invitation gives them a starting point, a way of expressing verbally what is happening in their heart. It’s semantics, really.
Except it isn’t. I cannot find even a theological principle that implies our ability to extend an invitation to the Creator of heaven and earth, for anything. Even our opening the door that He is knocking on is not our invitation to Him, it is our yes to Him. He’s already at the door. No invitation needed. (Revelation 3:20)
Gospel means good news. The good part is not that we can invite Jesus in. It is that He can make us stop being dead.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world… But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses.
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift. (Ephesians 2:1,4, 8 – emphasis mine)
Lazarus comes to mind as a physical picture of a spiritual event. He was very dead. Jesus neither gave an invitation nor waited for one. He gave a command — “Lazarus, come forth”. Disobedience would have kept him in the grave. Obedience brought him out.
Invitations are nice, polite. Unintrusive. Friendly. I think maybe that’s what we want the Gospel to be.
But it isn’t. The keys to death and hell were not politely handed over, they were taken with earth-shaking force. There was nothing friendly about the atonement for our sin.
The Gospel is bloody and real and hell shattering and it is not about making bad people good, or hurt people better, but about making dead people live.
This was not to make us better but to put an end to our death.
It leaves me a little wrecked with wonder as I look back through this lens and see what really happened in April of 1989 when I thought I was inviting Jesus to come into my life to be my Lord and Savior.
In reality, He stood at my tomb and commanded me to come forth. And in His love, goodness, and mercy, He took my invitation as obedience and removed my grave clothes.
Oh. How I love Him.