In this message, we learn that we are God’s living invitation to the world.
All right, welcome to the party. I am so glad that you are here with us at Valley Creek Church. If this is your first time, welcome. We are so glad that you came to hang out with us this weekend. Uh, before we jump in, just one quick reminder: this Friday is our first ever Volunteer Summit, so if you’re one of our amazing hundreds of volunteers who do an amazing job of making this a great place week after week, man, I want you to come be there. We’re going to laugh. We’re going to have a good time. We’ve got some special stuff planned, and we want to celebrate you because we couldn’t do all of this without you. In fact, aren’t you super grateful for the amazing volunteers we have around here … and all that they do? We couldn’t do it without you, so make sure you register, sign up.
It’s gonna to be great, and maybe you’re here and you’re not yet on a serving team. Maybe that’s the next step that God has for you, and we would love for you to join one of our teams. The easiest way to do it is just go to Iserve. It’s kind of our new on-ramp to serving, happens during services. You can check it out on the website. If you’ve been saying, “Man, I want to feel more connected. I want to belong more. I want to be used by God,” then just join a serving team. There, there’s something about when you get involved with serving other people that it makes you feel a part of something bigger than yourselves, and community is always forged in mission. So, if you feel kind of lonely, and you don’t feel like you’re really connected, join a serving team and watch as community gets forged in your life, okay?
All right, you’ve got a Bible, Luke Chapter 5. Luke Chapter 5, it is a party, people. We’re in a series called “It’s a Party,” and we’re talking about having a spirit of invitation, and we started it last week, and we just defined the kingdom of God. We said that the kingdom, in a lot of ways, that it’s a party. It’s a celebration of who Jesus is and what He has done. Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking. It’s not religion, but it’s a matter of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy. When Jesus came, he made wrong things right, and when wrong things are made right, peace is released into our lives, and when we have peace with God, joy is the result in the Holy Spirit.
It’s a party. It’s a celebration, and we said last week that it honors God to enjoy the party that it cost him everything to throw, and that you have to first enjoy the party before you’ll invite anybody else to it because we only invite people to things we ourselves are enjoying. Like for example, it’s really easy for all of us to invite anybody to anything that has to do with the Cowboys. Would we agree? That’s a party that we all enjoy. It’s easy to invite them to that unless it’s the 4th quarter. That’s when we don’t … invite anybody.
I really thought that would’ve gone better than that, but maybe you’re more hopeful than I am this year. Okay, the Cowboys, or think of like CrossFit. People that are interested in CrossFit, man, they invite everybody. The think CrossFit is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They tell you about it, or if you like a restaurant, man, it’s easy to invite people to it and tell them they should check it out. The same is true with the kingdom of God. Once you start enjoying it, you start inviting everybody else to it because we only invite people to things we ourselves are enjoying, and once you start enjoying it, you can’t stop inviting people to it.
In fact, I was thinking about it this week. Over the last four or five years of doing Guest Central, when we meet new people after the services, 90% of people I’ve met at Guest Central have been personally invited to this church. 90% of everybody that shows up at Guest Central, personal invitation, and you say, “Well, where does that statistic come from?” I made it up, okay, but it’s 90%.
But it’s like 90%, I mean, it’s not (laugh), it’s not because we have a cool sign on the building or the website. It’s personal invitation, and here’s how Guest Central goes … If you’ve ever been, been afraid to come down, let me just kind of … Just, just this is basically it: people come down, and I love it ’cause it’s the first time I get to introduce myself to them meet them.
It’s always starting, “So, tell me a little bit about your story, a little bit of who you are,” and they start talking, and then I always say, I say, “Well, how do you … How did you get here?” And about every third person looks at me kind of confused and says, “A car?”
Like, “No, I thought you teleported here. Like no, how did you … How did you hear about Valley Creek Church? How did you get here?” They say, “Oh, well I was invited by so-and-so.” “My kid invited by another student that started coming to Hub, and then my kid invited me to come to church,” o-, or, “Somebody at work invited me and told me about this church,” or, “I moved into a new neighborhood, and the neighbor helped me get adjusted and settled in, and then they invited me,” or a family member, or a friend, or a person at the store. I met a lady last week. She was in a pedicure chair getting a pedicure, and the lady next to her started talking to her and invited her to Valley Creek, and she came, and she loved it. 90% of the people that come to this church… of the people that come to this church is through personal invitation, and that’s God’s design. The kingdom was meant to expand through personal invitation, from person to person.
In fact, I don’t know if you know this or not, but you are literally God’s living invitation to this world. 2 Corinthians 3:2 and 3 says, “You yourselves are our letter written on our hearts, known, and read by everybody.” You show that you are a letter from Christ, or an invitation. The result of our ministry written, not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God. Not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. It literally says, “You are God’s living invitation to this world,” that He has written something on your heart and sent you out into the world, and on the address portion of the envelope are the names of everybody that’s around you. You are God’s invitation to the party, and it’s not just a invitation that he wrote, and sealed up, and put on the shelf somewhere. No, He sent it out into the world. John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, so I now send you,” and the invitation is so important that it cannot get lost in the mail.
I remember a few years ago friends of ours were getting married, and me and Coleen were super excited for them, and they invited us to the wedding. They sent us an invitation, but it got lost in the mail, and so as we got closer and closer to the wedding, Coleen and I started feeling really bad about ourselves like, “Why didn’t they invite us?” Like, “We love them, and we want to celebrate them, and we want to be there with them, but they didn’t invite us,” and they were over here thinking, “Why don’t John and Coleen love us? Why didn’t they respond to the invitation? Why aren’t they coming? Why aren’t they at least telling us why they can’t come?”
Well, it got lost in the mail, so we had no idea that we were invited. I’m convinced that the invitations that God sends out into this world often get lost in the mail of our lives, in our business, because our lives are full, our levels of insecurity, we’re afraid to actually invite, or fear, or whatever it is, but it’s too important an invitation to get lost in the mail.
So, look with me at Luke Chapter 5. I think this a great story for us where we’re at. Luke Chapter 5, starting in verse 27. Here’s what it says. It says, “After this …” After what? Jesus has just healed the paralytic, the guy lowered though the roof. First time in his life he walks, and we said last week, “Everywhere Jesus goes he brings a party.” So, he heals the man, and a big party breaks out, so picture it, there’s a huge group of people around Jesus worshiping Him, praising Him, some are partying. And they’re walking down the street. Jesus in encompassed in this middle of this party. After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.
“Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, and left everything, and followed Him. You say, “Who’s Levi?” Levi is Matthew, one of Jesus’s 12 disciples. And you say, “Well, then why does his name change from Levi to Matthew?” Because when you start following Jesus, everything about you changes … everything, your identity, your name. You become a new creation. Then, Levi, or Matthew, held a great banquet for Jesus at his home. He throws a party, and a large crowd of tax collectors and other were eating with them, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Got to love this story. I want you to just picture it. It’s graphic. You can see it. Jesus has healed the paralytic. A party breaks out. All these people are around Him, worshiping, celebrating. He’s walking down the street, and in the midst of the party, the only person who’s left out on the sidelines is Matthew. And he’s sitting at his tax collector booth, and Jesus is so in tune with Matthew and Matthew’s brokenness that in the midst of the party, he stops everybody, looks over, and says, “Hey Matthew, you come and follow me.” He notices Matthew. He believes more in Matthew than Matthew believes in himself. He doesn’t see who Matthew is. He sees who Matthew can be, and He calls him to come and start following.
You see, it’s so important for you and I that we never forget that we don’t come to Jesus. He comes to us. We didn’t choose Jesus. Jesus chose us. We don’t find Jesus. Jesus finds us, and because he comes to us, chooses us, and finds us, we now can respond to Him. Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.” He came to seek you, passionately pursue, and save you, rescue you out of darkness. And when God rescues you out of darkness, you want everybody else to see the light.
Matthew is rescued, and he wants everybody else to see who this Jesus is, and so what does he do? He throws a party, and he invites the only people he knows: a whole bunch of sinners and tax collectors, and they come, and he literally becomes God’s invitation into their life, and Jesus gets into the lives of these sinners and tax collectors through Matthew. And the same is true with us. We become God’s invitation to the world, and Jesus gets into their life through us. The invitation cannot get lost in the mail. So, three really practical things for us on how to be a living invitation for this world, super practical. Are you ready?
Okay, a couple of us are ready. The rest of us are, are not sure if we’re ready. Okay, but here we go. First thing is this: boldly pray. If you’re going to be an invitation to this world to the party, you’ve got to boldly pray. I am sure that Matthew was incredibly nervous because he had never done this before. I mean, what’s it going to be like? How’s it going to go? How are people gonna respond? I think he was so nervous and understood the gravity of the whole thing that he hit his knees and just started praying, “God, I, I pray that they would just come, that they would receive the invitation, and that they would come to this party, and that they would be open, and meet Jesus, and seeds would be planted in their hearts.”
You see, I think Matthew understood that it wasn’t just a party, that it was a spiritual battle. It was a spiritual battle being waged for the lives of the people he was inviting, and he understood that spiritual battles require spiritual weapons. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage wars the world does. The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” When we are inviting people out of darkness into light, it’s not just a party. It’s a spiritual battle that requires spiritual weapons, and the weapon we have that demolishes strongholds is the weapon of prayer.
Five minutes of prayer can change more in the heart of that person than five years of trying to convince them to come to church.
And so, if we’re going to pray for them, I think there’s three verses. In my life, here’s the ber-, verses I pray, three verses in particular that I pray. John 6:44 “Jesus says, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,'” so pray, “Father, I pray that You would draw this person unto Jesus, that they would literally be by, drawn by the grace of Jesu-, the, the grace of Jesus to Jesus. Father, draw them unto Yourself.”
The second verse is 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The God of this age …” Satan, “… has blinded the mind of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Catch it, he says Satan has literally blinded the mind of the unbeliever so they cannot see the gospel, and they cannot see Jesus. So, we pray that God removes the blinder so that they can see the gospel, and see Jesus, so that they can respond.
And the last verse in Romans 2:4, that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Pray that God would overwhelm their life with kindness. This is where we get confused because it feels like a paradox to us. We’re like, “Shouldn’t God overwhelm their life with brokenness?” No, no, it says, “Kindness leads us to repentance.” Got to overwhelm them with kindness that they would see repentance in a different way and change their mind about who you are and start following you. Five minutes of prayer will do more than five years of convincing people.
I think that Matthew prayed for who is coming, but I also think he prayed for the disciples, because I think Matthew understood that how the disciples acted at the party would shape his friends’ view of who Jesus was. So, I think Matthew prayed something like this … I think he was praying for the guys. He was like, “Oh Lord, I just pray for Peter tonight at the party. “
“Just, Lord, for once in his life, could just for one hour, could Peter just not do anything stupid?”
“That would just be great for all of us Lord, nothing dumb. And G-, God, I pray for John. I just pray that he just wouldn’t be angry tonight, that there would be … No one need to call down fire from heaven and condemn anybody, just n-, just nothing angry about him. So, may he just be full of peace, the fruit of peace be released into his life. And Lord, I pray for Judas. Man, could Judas just not try to steal anything from anybody tonight?”
“I mean, these are tax collectors, and so if he tries to take money, it’s just not going to go well for anybody, Lord. And Thomas, could just maybe, just once in his life for five minutes … Could he believe that you could bring dead things to life, just a little bit of faith for a few moments, and Bartholomew, Lord, I know he doesn’t talk, and he’s introverted, but if he could just shake one person’s hand and say, ‘I’m glad that you’re here,’ I would be great with that, Lord. Just once would be awesome.”
You see, he knew how those guys acted would shape his friends’ view of who Jesus was, and the truth is is that when you start inviting lost people into this church, you start praying for us, because you know how we act together determines your friends’ view of who Jesus is. In fact, every single weekend, people are praying for you. Whether you realize it or not, people that are inviting lost people into this church, they pray for you.
Just like Matthew they pray, “Lord, I pray that the parking lot guys would be here and do a great job even though it’s 105 degrees out, and I pray, Lord, that the greeters would be on time and be at their door. And Lord, I pray that they would’ve brushed their teeth and put a breath mint in their mouth …”
“… because that morning breath coffee thing, it’s just, it’s just not good for anyone. And Lord, I pray that when they check their kids in, they would feel safe about the environment that their kids are in and be able to leave that behind. And Lord, I pray that the atrium would be full of life and happy people making eye contact. And Lord, I pray for the person sitting to the left and the right of my friend in service, that they would worship not for themselves, but so that your presence comes and sets them free from the bondage that’s in their heart. And I pray that people around them would shake their hands and look them in the eye, and genuinely welcome them to this place, and that everyone would engage, and be here, and be passionate, and live like it’s a party so that my friend would know how great you really are, Jesus.”
That’s what you pray. When you start inviting people to the party, your heart is connected to this family in a totally different way. In fact, that’s how you move from a critic to a contributor. A critic sits there and just thinks about themselves like, “Man, why did we have to sing that song so many times over and over? Why was it so loud,” and, “Why is this sermon so long? Land the plane, bro!”
Like, that’s what a critic thinks, right? You’ve never thought that, I know, but a contributor, they’ve invited somebody here, so they’re sitting there and praying and engaging, fighting the spiritual battle, and then doing everything they can to make it a great experience so people will meet Jesus, and realize how great He really is, and that it really is a party in the kingdom of God.
So, we’ve got to pray for the people we invite. We pray for each other, but I think sometimes we also have to just pray for ourselves. Matthew 9:36 and through 38, uh, 37-38, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful. The workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers out into his harvest field,” and we read that verse, and we often think about sending missionaries to foreign parts of the world, but really, what I think Jesus is saying is He’s saying sometimes you just need to pray that you would be willing. Sometimes the most missional prayer you pray is that you would have an open heart to be an invitation to this world, because it’s really hard to pray for other people to go if you yourself aren’t willing. Sometimes it’s just, “Lord, help me be willing. Give me an opportunity. Make me open. Give me the courage and the strength to actually invite somebody.”
If you just start praying that, you’d be amazed at who God sends into your life and gives you the opportunity to invite them to the party. In fact, the spirit of invitation is the greatest way to start a powerful prayer life, because when you start living missionally, you realize very quickly mission does not work without prayer, so it drives you to boldly pray, okay? So, you’ve got to boldly pray.
Second thing is this: intentionally build relationships. What I love about Matthew is the guys that he invites to this party are the people he already has a relationship with. Like, I think the coolest thing about Matthew is he doesn’t get saved and then writes a letter to all his friends and say, “Hey guys, I met Jesus, and I now have to leave the world and enter the Christian bubble. I’m not allowed to talk to you anymore. Thanks for the time.”
He doesn’t do that. He sees the people he has relationships with as the opportunity. I mean, listen to this, John 17, Jesus says, “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth. You word is truth. As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” Let’s be honest. We don’t really believe that, that Jesus says that. Like, that seems counter to what we think He would say. We think Jesus would say, “Father, I pray You take them out of the world.” He says that, “Pray that You send them into the world.”
Now, a lot of us are trying to get out of the very world that Jesus has sent us into. I mean, think about it like this, if the only goal of Christianity was just to get to Heaven, then the moment you got saved, you would just be teleported to Heaven, bloop, gone. Which, think of how cool church service would be.
People are getting saved just like, “Bloop, bloop, bloop, bloop, bloop, bloop!” The only problem is, is if you’re here to witness that …
(Laugh) I’m not going to be preaching. Someone else is preaching. I’m just, I’m just telling you … If that’s the only goal, you’d just be transported in, but that’s not the only goal. The goal is to partner with God in redeeming this world. To read Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the Earth, rule over it, and subdue it.” To literally be a living invitation to this lost, dying, and broken world. And so, God sends you into the world to intentionally build relationships with people at work, and at school, and, and in your sports teams, and in your neighborhoods to do what you’re already doing and go where you’re already going but with intentionality.
See, the main reason a lot of us say we can’t get involved in mission, or like change the world, or invite people is because we say our lives are too busy and too full, okay? And in a lot of ways, that’s actually, like, a realistic excuse. Like, just for a moment, let’s just give that a whole lot of reality. Our lives are busy. Our lives are full. Okay, well if your life is busy and full, then just be intentional with what you’re already doing.
If you’re a mom that’s taking kids to 1,000 activities, then every time you sit at a practice, sit with the same three or four moms and start building a relationship with them. You’re a guy that travels all week and you’re barely home. Okay, then when you travel, build relationships with the same people on the road, in your office, in the marketplace, in those sales calls. Start building relationships. You’re a student. Sit at the same cafeteria table every single week, and eat with the same kids, and build relationships. Shop at the same grocery stores. Go to the same coffee shops. Go to the same counter. Sit at the same table so you can start building relationships with the world. Listen, learn, and love, ask questions, remember details, and just be kind, and you’ll change the world.
People are hurting, and they are lonely, and if you will build a relationship with them, you’d be amazed at how desperate they are to get to the party. Listen to me, missionaries are not people who move to foreign countries, they are people who intentionally build relationships with the world. That’s a missionary. We think missionaries are people who move to Africa, or South America, or Antarctica, like whatever. Okay, do you realize you can move to South America and still not be a missionary if you don’t intentionally build relationships with the world? It’s just building relationships with lost people and inviting them to the party. That’s a missionary.
In fact, in Matthew 4:19 when Jesus says, “Come follow me, and I’ll make you fishers of men,” we, we’re, like, never sure what to do with that because we’re not fishermen, so it doesn’t translate with us, but just think about it. He’s using common vocabulary with common men. He’s talking to fishermen, and He’s basically just saying, “Hey guys, just follow me, and I’ll help you be intentional with what you already do.” Like, if they were teachers, He’d say, “Come follow me, and I’ll make you teachers of men.” If they were builders, He’d say, “Come follow me. I’ll make you a builder of men.” If they worked in the healthcare profession, He’d say, “Come follow me. I’ll make you a healer of men.” If they were coaches, He’d say, “Come follow me. I’ll make you a trainer of men.” If they were stay at home moms, He’d say, “Come follow me. I’ll make you a nurturer of men. I will use you to reach them. Just become intentional with what you’re already doing.”
He says, “We’re salt and light.” Salt, we bring flavor to a tasteless world, and light, light to darkness. Salt is pointless if it stays in your cupboard, and light is pointless if it’s always covered up. We, in a lot of ways, are pointless if all we do is sit in these chairs. We have to build relationships with the world.
Listen, I’ll throw myself under the bus here, okay? Make us all feel a little … Take a breath for a moment. Um, A while back, uh, at Guest Central, normal service like every other service, service is over, at Guest Central, new family comes down, start engaging with them, “Hey, tell me a little bit about you.” They start telling me about them. I say, “How did you get here?” They said, “A car.” I said, “Good, good. I’m glad we got that sorted out.” And, and we start talking. I said, “No, how did you really get here?”
They said, “Oh, a friend of ours invited us, and we’ve been coming, and we love it.” We had this great conversation. Five, six, seven minutes of conversation, and at the end of it … Somebody invited them, all this stuff, they love Valley Creek, and at the end of it they say, “Oh, and by the way. We’re your neighbors. It’s really great to meet you for the first time.”
“Oh … It is so good to meet you too.
Yup, yup. (Laugh) I’m really glad someone invited you …”
And if that wasn’t bad enough, true story, a month later, I met a second family. The exact same thing: somebody invited them, they were my neighbors, first time I had met them. If you feel bad about this whole thing, there you go. I just took all the shame… and the guilt for everybody. We’re all free in Jesus. Thank you, Lord for forgiveness, and second chances, and redemption. (Laugh) And I remember sitting there thinking, “If there are no lost people in my life, there is something wrong with my life.”
If there are no lost people of this world … Intentionally, not just because I went to the grocery store, intentionally in my life, there is something wrong with my life. I don’t have to go and reach the neighborhood next door, but I do just need to be kind to get to know my neighbors. You don’t have to win the other marketplace, bu you do just need to be kind and start engaging in your marketplace. You don’t have to change someone else’s school, but you do need to engage with the students that God has put in your place every single day. We are the invitation to the world, and if we don’t invite them, who’s gonna?
I mean, have you ever, have you ever not been invited to something, like, that you wanted to be a part of, like a wedding, or a party, or a meeting, or a sports thing? Has that ever happened to you? Come on, that’s a horrible feeling isn’t it? We’ve all had that feeling. Right, I remember a few years ago, a bunch of my friends were starting a sports league together, and like literally, every one of my friends was in on it, and they were all doing it, and they all were invited, and I was, like, the only one that didn’t get invited. And I remember feeling, like, so bad for myself, having a little pitty party of why they didn’t invite me and all this stuff. Every time I’m around them they’re talking about the sports league, how amazing it is, constantly just feeling bad. And so what do you do if you don’t get invited? You get passive aggressive, and at a gathering you just kind of say something like, “Well, it sure would’ve been nice to get invited to be a part of that thing… Hope you feel bad about it,” you know? And I remember a guy looked back at me and said, “Man …” He said, “We would’ve totally invited you. We just thought you were too busy, and we assumed you would say ‘no.’ We assumed you would say ‘no,’ so we didn’t invite you.” Do you understand the world lives its life with that feeling of being left out? Th-, the only feeling they have in this world is that they haven’t been invited yet to the party. They, they don’t even know that the party’s happening, so they live with this lonely brokenness. And they sit there, and we have all our reasons why they’ll say “no.” They’re too busy. Man, they, uh, th-, they don’t like that church thing. They won’t really be interested. I don’t know, it might be awkward if they say “no.” We have all the reasons, and we assume they’re going to say, “No.”
Can I just tell you something? Don’t say someone’s “no” for them. Don’t assume. Your job is to invite. Their job is to respond. You are not responsible for what they do with the invitation. You are responsible to extend the invitation. And think about it like this, even if they say “no,” when you invite people to something, it values them. Whenever you’ve been invited to something, that even if you’ve said “no” to it, it values you because what somebody’s saying is, “You’re wanted. You are accepted. We would love for you to be here. We think highly of you.” It values them to just invite them. And the paradox is it’s usually the least likely people who are the most likely to say “yes.”
Like Matthew says, “Yes.” They come and follow Jesus, but all the Pharisees say “no.” The religious people who everyone would think would follow Jesus, they’re the ones that said “no.” Sinners and tax collectors like Matthew, they were the ones who were desperate to come and follow Jesus. Does that make sense to you? And let me go ahead and say this, the people of this world, they are not your enemies. That boss you can’t stand, that bully in school, the person with an alternative lifestyle, somebody with a political view you don’t like, that, that person in your life that just, you just don’t like, they are not your enemies. They are God’s lost children enslaved in darkness. They are victims of Satan and his kingdom where he has come to steal, kill, and destroy everything in their life, and they are stuck in the consequences of sin. They’re not your enemies.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” People are not our enemies, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil and the heavenly realms. Satan and his demonic kingdom, that is our enemy which Jesus has already defeated, people are not. They’re his lost children enslaved in darkness waiting for an invitation. Listen to me, the world has dehumanized humanity. We’re told we come from an amoeba. We’re told we grew out of a monkey. We, we argue about when life begins and ends. We’ve dehumanized humanity, so it’s easy to see people we disagree with as our enemies, but even the worst human being on this Earth … Catch this, the worst human being on this Earth is still a lost child of God made in his image and His likeness with massive redemptive potential just waiting to be invited to the party that the Father is throwing for them.
Okay? Your belief in humanity will always determine your missional engagement. If you believe humanity is your enemy, then you will sit there and judge and condemn, but if you believe humanity are God’s lost children enslaved to darkness, you will do everything you can to invite them to the freedom that He offers. And remember, it’s our job to love, not convict.
Don’t do the Holy Spirit’s job for Him. He’s really good at his job. He, he doesn’t need anybody else to do it. We love, we build bridges through love. We don’t build barriers through condemnation. We’re the Father’s invitation to the party for his lost children, okay? Gotta build relationships with the world. Don’t be afraid of ’em.
And the last thing is this: courageously share your story. Here’s what I think happened at the party. I think everybody was there. They’re all having a good time, and I think Matthew got up, and he got everybody’s attention, and said, “Guys,” said, “You know me. I’m a tax collector just like you. You know what we do. We rip everybody off, but what you probably don’t know is that I’ve ripped a bunch of you off along the way as well.”
“Don’t worry. I got restitution for you when the party’s over.” You know? “You, you know me, and you know that on the outside, my life looks awesome. I had money. I had power. I had influence. I had authority. I had everything the world said I needed, but what you don’t know is that my marriage was falling apart. What you don’t know is that my kids wouldn’t really talk to me. What you don’t know is that I had a secret addiction that nobody knew about, and I couldn’t sleep at night, and I never felt like I had purpose, and I always wondered, ‘Why on Earth am I here in this life,’ and, ‘What is this all for,’ and I was lost and broken, and one day this guy named Jesus is coming along in the middle of a party, and in the midst of this party, he calls me to come and follow him, and no, my life is not perfect now, but for the first time in my life I have found the freedom of faith, hope, and love in Jesus.”
He would’ve just told his story, the greatest thing he could’ve done. 1 John 1:3 says, “We proclaim what we have seen and heard.” Just tell people what you have seen and heard. Tell your story. See, this is what we say … We say things like this, “Ah, I can’t invite somebody, because I just don’t know the Bible enough. Like, I don’t know how to … And I don’t know the right verses, and I don’t know the theology.” Okay, listen to me, just talk to people like the gospels, not the epistles.
Maybe it’ll help you to remember it this way. Talk to people like the gospels. Jesus, in the gospels, told stories in common vocabulary to common people. The epistles is Paul writing in big theology to the church. Tell your story, not your theology. But listen to me, please don’t this. Like, don’t go to somebody and say, “Hey, would you like to hear my story?” They say “yes,” and they sit down, and you start, and you say, “Well, I just want you to know I was unregenerate and depraved. I was unrighteous and unreconciled with God, literally at war with Him, but because God predestined me to be conformed to the image and the likeness of His son, He sent the Holy Ghost into my life. And when the Holy Ghost came into my life, He convicted me of sin, guilt, and righteousness. And because I was convicted of sin, guilt, and righteousness, I was justified in that moment. I am now being sanctified. I am being transformed from glory to glory. I am no longer enslaved to the law. I now sit at the right hand of the Father in Heaven until he makes our enemies a footstool for us. Would you like to have that as well?”
No, no. I don’t even know what you just said.
How can I want that, and there is nothing about that that sounded good. Don’t do, don’t do that! Seriously, don’t do that. It’s not good for you, for them, or for us who are going to have to do damage control on the backside five years later, and they’re like, “Man, I met this one guy said … He told me this one time …”
“Yeah, I know. He … Don’t worry about that. Let me tell you a story.” Tell a story! The woman at the well, she meets Jesus, she goes back to her town. “Come meet a man who told me everything I ever did.” She tells her story, whole town comes and gets saved. The demoniac full of demons, Jesus frees him and says … This is what Jesus says, “Go back and tell your family all that the Lord has done for you.” He doesn’t say, “Go back and tell your family a message on spiritual warfare and the principalities of darkness.” No, go tell your story.
Paul, who wrote the theology of the epistles, in Acts when he engages with lost people, he tells a story about meeting a man names Jesus on a road to Damascus. No one connects with you over your theology. They connect with you over your story, and you have a great story that needs to be shared. Just be like Matthew. “I was …” I was lost. I was hurting. I was broken. I, I was miserable. Just tell people your, what you’ve seen on Earth. My marriage was falling apart. My kids hated me. I had an addiction. I was religious and miserable, and then Jesus showed up. Your story is the perfect invitation for the people in your life. Your story is the key that will literally unlock the door of someone’s heart, and the greater the brokenness, the greater His glory is revealed in your story.
You’re a mosaic. Ephesians 2:10, you’re His workmanship, His masterpiece. Think of a mosaic. You take pottery, you smash it on the ground, and the more those pieces smash, the more it’s broken, the more beautiful picture that can be created by the artist. And a lot of us, what we say is, “Man, I, I can’t, I can’t share my story. I’m too ashamed of, of what it was.” Listen, if you’re ashamed of your story, you don’t really understand what Jesus did for you. Why are you still trying to pay for what’s been paid in full? Why are you choosing to remember things He says He’s forgotten?
Satan knows how powerful your story is, so he wants to make you keep in darkness, ’cause as long as it’s in the darkness he has authority over you, and he knows that that story won’t rescue anybody else, but the moment you bring it out, and you tell somebody else, “Here’s who I was, but here’s what Jesus did,” you become free of the shame, and it becomes a powerful tool to set people free. Brokenness redeemed is the invitation that brings people to the party, and there are people in your life that need your story. They won’t listen to your theology. They will listen to your story.
What I think is so cool about Matthew, God rescues you, him from the darkness and he wants everybody else to see the light. So, he becomes an invitation, throws a party. Here’s my question: who did the guys become after they came to the party? Who did these guys become? Did some of them become some of the 72 disciples? Did some of them become the 120 in the upper room? Were some of them part of the first century church that turned the world upside down? It doesn’t tell us. We don’t know, but the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Who will the people in our lives become once we invite them to the party?”
So, here’s what we’re going to do together … I think this is a perfect day for us to end this message with communion. So, our ushers are gonna get up, and they’re gonna come forward, and they’re gonna start passing it out, and here’s what I’d like you to do: just put your stuff down for a moment and sit still, and let’s just engage with God on this.
You see, maybe you’re here today … and you’ve never started to follow Jesus, and maybe today is your day where, like Matthew, Jesus comes walking along, and He looks over, and He calls you by name. He’s come to seek and save you, to rescue you from darkness because he passionately pursued you. And if that’s you and the communion plate gets to you, then I encourage you, for the first time, to reach out and take a hold of a cracker and a little bit of juice, because what you’re doing is you’re rea-, reaching out and taking a hold of the finished work of Jesus. And as this plate gets to you and you’re holding it in your hand, this is what I want you to be conscious of, for all of us, is this is your story.
Your story is not who you were. Your story is not what you did. Your story is not that thing you’re so embarrassed, and afraid, and ashamed of that you think God could never use it. What you’re holding in your hand, that’s your story, that Jesus was broken so you could be healed, that Jesus’s blood was poured out so that your life could be poured into. This is your story. This is what He did for you, and sometimes you have to come to this table and remind yourself, in the midst of the pain and the brokenness of life, that the kingdom of God really is a party because of this, that you are forgiven and free, you are healed an cleansed, you are renewed and restored, and he has not only changed your name, He has changed your identity, and He has made you new in Jesus.
And not only did Jesus do this for you, He did this for them, only they don’t know it yet. This wasn’t just for you, ti was for them, and they just don’t understand the party that they’ve been invited to, and so what God does is our lives is He makes us the invitation. We come to new life in Jesus. We have new purpose. We live with meaning, and our purpose is to help everybody understand how great the party the kingdom of God is and what Jesus did for them, and so we just simply invite people to come and experience this. This is what you’re inviting people to: forgiveness, freedom, healing, and wholeness.
And so just for a moment, will you just close your eyes and just ask the Holy Spirit what does He want to say to you today? What does He want to whisper in your life? Maybe it’s to have the courage to invite. Maybe you just need to ask the Lord to send you into the harvest field. Maybe it’s to believe you’re like Matthew, and you can leave the past behind and start a new life with Jesus. Maybe it’s just to have the courage to tell your story, because you have a great story.
You see, on the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, after He had given thanks, He took the bread, and He broke it. Said, “This is my body broken for you.” He says, “I’m gonna be broken so you can be whole.” I think there’s some brokenness in this room today that needs to be made whole by faith in the finished work of Jesus. Can you receive that together? And in the same way, after the supper, Jesus took the cup, said, “This is the cup of the new covenant. My bud-, blood poured out for you.” Said, “I’m gonna be poured out not only so you can be forgiven, not only so you can be free, not only so you can be redeems, but so that you can have purpose, and your purpose is to be a living invitation to this world. And as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me, what I did, and what I have sent you to do.”
This is your commissioning, church. This is your anointing. This is your empowerment to not be afraid of that person at work, or that neighbor, or that kid at school, or that person at the grocery store, but to walk in courage, in faith, in strength to say, “I am just an invitation to the party.” Can we receive that together?
Jesus, I believe you’re doing something powerful this weekend. Would you keep working in our lives in a new and profound way? Thank you for the story that we have in you, and I pray that we would be Your invitation to this world. Thank you for the party that you are throwing that cost you everything for us to enjoy. We receive it, we embrace it, and we invite others to it. We love you Jesus, and we leave this place refreshed, restored, and renewed in Jesus together. In Your name we pray, amen.