The Power of An Invitation

08 October, 2017

In the opening scripture portion, John 2:1-2 we read, On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. So when they arranged the wedding, they thoughtfully invited Jesus and his disciples to the wedding feast. This is a wedding that went down in history and we still remember that wedding because the hosts of the wedding invited Jesus to that wedding feast. In the same way we all receive different invitations from different social groups and circles. Invitations are received to betrothals, weddings, parties, christening, convocations etc. As the receiver of the invitation, it is our choice whether we should accept or reject an invitation because we cannot attend every event we are invited to.

But was there any specific invitation that changed the rest of your life either negatively or positively? For example, a friend invited you to join a study course and that course led you to an excellent career and you are well settled today. Or, a friend invited you to join a political party and you climbed the rungs of the ladder one by one. Or, a friend invited you to join a cult group and you wasted many years before receiving the true light from Jesus. Or, a friend invited you to join his business or firm. Or, a family member invited you to come settle abroad. Or, somebody invited you to watch Blessing Today or attend a Blessing Festival or a Blessing Group or a Blessing Centre. In my life, around 33 years back, a Jesus Calls evangelist, Br. Suresh Kumar, invited me to attend a small local church. I accepted this invitation and went there and this went on to change my life. He was studying in Cochin University for his M.Phil at that time and he was a part of that church to which he invited me. One invitation can change your whole life.

In the Bible, Jesus had just started His ministry and Andrew met with Jesus. He quickly went and invited his brother, Peter, to come and meet Jesus. Later, as we know, Peter became the chief of the apostles. He became a great preacher and minister and was an anointed man of God. Similarly, Philip brought his friend Nathaniel to Jesus. And at first sight Jesus told him that he was a true Israelite and he was going to see heaven open and the angels of God coming up and down on the Son of man. In John 4, we read about the Samaritan woman. She met a Jewish young man near Jacob’s well and in the conversation she realises that the man is Messiah. She was so excited that she went back into the city and brought her neighbours and all the city folk to Jesus. One day, Jesus invited a tax collector named Matthew who also went by the name Levi. He was in the tax collectors office and Jesus had invited him to join as one of the twelve disciples. After that, the Bible says that Matthew went back to his house and invited all his neighbours and family members and a dinner party was arranged in honour of Jesus. He was building a platform where so many people could meet Jesus personally. In another occasion, we see Cornelius, who sent out an invitation to Peter to his house. And when Peter came, Cornelius invited the whole family to gather in his house to hear Peter’s preaching. The Bible says, as Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit came down and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

An invitation makes us feel special, especially if it is from someone important in our life. An invitation makes us feel wanted and accepted. Many came to Jesus by way of an invitation. There is power in one invitation. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Here, God is inviting sinners. We cannot cleanse ourselves or make ourselves holy. But we can go to Him and He will make us just like Him.

In Isaiah 55:1-3, it says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. With God everything is free. He says that He has prepared the banqueting table with all the delicacies served and you can just come and eat and drink until you are satisfied.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus is calling out to the whole world, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  He is giving out free tickets. So, anyone can come directly and not through any recommendation. Jesus is waiting with His arms open wide. Through the Holy Spirit, every burden will be lifted from our shoulders. When we read John 1:46, Jesus was walking and two former disciples of John the Baptist were coming in search of Him. And they asked Him where He lives and Jesus responded, “Come and see”. And that day, all of them stayed together. Imagine receiving an opportunity to spend one whole day or night with Jesus under the same roof. You are getting so much time to ask questions and Jesus will be answering one by one. And they got this opportunity because of the invitation, ‘Come and see’.

In Revelation 22:17, is an extension of this invitation, The Spirit and the bride says, “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. The bride is the church of God. Let’s read Isaiah 2:3 which is a prophesy about the end times, “Come, let us go up the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. It is said here that in the end times, people will go out and ask people to come to the mountain of the Lord. This prophesy of Isaiah  is getting fulfilled now. People will invite their friends to come to church. Many of us were once invited by someone to church.

Many years back, a survey was done and one question was asked to all the people. The question was ‘What brought you to church?’ The result showed that 2% of the people said that they had a special need like sickness, financial or family problems etc. 3% of the people walked into the church based on their preference. 6% of the people said that they like the pastor and his preaching. 1% of the people said that they visited the church once and became a part of it eventually. 5% of the people said that they liked the Sunday school. 0.5% of the people said that they attended a gospel meeting and came to the church. 3% of the people said they liked the programs and events of the church. 79% of the people said that a friend or a relative invited them to church. Nearly 80 percentile people come to the Lord through the invitation of a friend or a family member.

There are three categories of people that you can invite to the Lord. First one is Oikos, second is On the Go, and the third is Opportunities created. Oikos are the people with whom we have regular interaction. This is a Greek word. Every believer knows an average of 200 people who are friends, family, neighbours, or colleagues. They are your circle of influence and you spend time with them regularly.

So, we are sharing our time with people but most of the time we don’t share the Gospel with them. In Oikos we have friends and relatives. In the Bible, Jesus, John the Baptist and several apostles were related. Jesus and John the Baptist were second cousins because the Bible says that Mary and Elizabeth were cousins. Andrew and Peter were brothers as well as James and John. James the Less in the 12 disciples was also cousin to Jesus because he was the son of Alpheus (Clopas) who was brother to Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Many in the ministry at that time were related. Similarly, Nathaniel was Philip’s friend and he brought Philip to the Lord. The Samaritan woman brought almost the whole city out to meet Jesus. Thirdly, colleagues are invited. Paul was also a tent maker and in this business he met a couple, Priscilla and Aquila. And Paul brought this couple to the Lord and later, all of them worked together in the ministry.

The second category, On the Go, involves inviting gas station attendants, waitresses, checkout personnel, bank teller etc. When we move around and travel, we meet a lot of people on a daily basis but they are not Oikos as you may not have a daily interaction with them. When Jesus met the woman at the well, he was primarily thirsty. His physical body was thirsty and he stopped for refreshments. Jesus asks the lady for a drink at first, then proceeds to strike up a spiritual conversation. Philip shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch while he was travelling in a chariot. While Paul was travelling aboard in a ship, he took the opportunity and almost all the people came to know God. We are constantly being solicited by salesmen. We meet them in supermarkets, malls, and other shops. People may come to sell life insurance, kitchen spices, study books etc, to our door step. You can share the Gospel with them as well and invite them to church and get their contact details and send them encouraging messages. Maybe, one day you will find them sitting in church.

The third category, Opportunities created. Here, we create the opportunities consciously and deliberately. We should go knock on the doors of others inviting them. If you try, you will see success. In Acts 16, Paul went to a riverside and was looking for a place to pray. He noticed a group of women coming their way. There was one particular lady, Lydia, and she was selling costly dresses. Through that lady’s prayer group, they had an opening in that place and they planted a church. In the same way, we can go forward aggressively and create some opportunities and preach the Gospel.

Jesus taught an entire parable on this kind of inviting. In Luke 14:16-24, we read about a rich man who prepared a banquet and he sent out invitations. At first, all of them said that they will come but when the banquet was actually prepared, none of them came. This parable has four parts; invitation to the banquet, rejection of the invitation, extension of the invitation, and exclusion of the rejecters. When you invite people, they will give all kinds of excuses.  This rich man spent a lot of money and the whole banquet hall was filled with delicacies ready to serve but nobody came. And this man was angry, he decided to feed all the poor instead. The paradox of how the preparation was done for the rich, upper class people but the ones who came were the poor, low class people.

The three kinds of excuses that were given are still applicable to this day. First, materialism, in the name of house, land, property, they will not come. Second, in the name of jobs and business. Third, in the name of marriage and family obligations. So, the heavenly Father is extending the invitation. When you invite people, you should compel them to come inside. There is power in an invitation. God extended His invitation and many souls were saved. The disciples did the same and won souls to Christ. Most people have been saved by receiving an invitation. Today, you can invite and bring someone to Jesus.