Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig, Pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. As these teachings are shared worldwide, our prayer is that God uses them to impact lives for his glory. Do you want to join us in sharing the love and hope of Christ to people around the world? Well, then partner with us by supporting this ministry financially. Just visit Calvaryabq.org/giving to give online securely.
If this message inspires you to tell others about the love of Jesus, tell us about it. Email us at email@example.com. Now, we invite you to open your Bibles, as Pastor Skip begins the message, The Power of An Invitation.
Revelation, Chapter 22. As we start this morning and before I read the text itself, if you are one of those people that has a bumper sticker on your car announcing that you're a Christian, I do not want to offend you by what I'm about to read. But there are things people will not say because you have a bumper sticker.
Here's the top 10 things people won't say when they see a Christian bumper sticker on your car. Number 10, they won't say, look let's stop that car and ask those folks how we can become Christians. That's probably not going to happen. Number 9, they won't say, don't worry Billy-- [AUDIO OUT]
[INAUDIBLE] followed by, Dad can we get a bumper sticker like that, too?
Number 5. Stay clear of those folks, Martha. If they get raptured, that car's going to be all over the road.
Number 4, oh look. That Christian woman is getting a chance to share Jesus with a police officer.
Number 3. No, that's not garbage coming out of the windows. Those are probably gospel tracks for road workers. They won't say that.
Number 2. Oh man, we're in trouble now. We just rear-ended one of God's cars. And number 1, they won't say, quick, Alice, honk the horn, or they won't know that we love Jesus, Now, if you have a bumper sticker that says, honk if you love Jesus or, follow me to Sunday school, or whatever, great. I think it's wonderful, and I don't want to offend those of you who believe that's an important expression.
I do, however, want to tell you that that is information. That's all that is. That is information. You're telling people what team you're on. I get that. But there's a big difference between information and an invitation.
Information is impersonal; an invitation is personal. It's individual. It is risky, but it is more successful, because it is personal in nature. And there's something special about receiving an invitation. It makes you feel wanted. It makes you feel accepted, whether it's a boy asking a girl on a date or a boss inviting an employee to coffee or a couple inviting another couple out to dinner.
I think of some of the special invitations I've had over the years. I had an invitation to attend a meeting at the White House; another invitation for a presidential prayer breakfast; another invitation for Billy Graham's birthday party; special moments, where someone thought it was important to have you at that special meeting. It gives you a sense of significance.
Well, we're doing a series starting next week, called, Where Lives Are Changed, where we want to look at the core Biblical values that make us this community called Calvary. We're a group of people that pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do it with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world. We want to examine that, but the word that I want to highlight, here, is the word we. That's who we are. And what that means is all of us, you and I, are part of a process.
And I want to talk to you about the power of an invitation. In a book entitled, Evangelism in the Early Church, historian Michael Green said this, "Christianity was supremely a lay movement spread by informal missionaries." I love that term, spread by informal missionaries. "It was the spontaneous outreach of the total Christian community that gave immense impetus to this movement from the outset."
Revelation 22 is the last chapter of the book, right, of the Bible, not only of the book of Revelation, but of the revelation of God in the Bible. Revelation 22 is the last of the 1,189 chapters that comprise the scripture. Essentially, it is an invitation that goes out to the world in this paragraph. And what I want to show you from this paragraph is three elements of the Christian experience. I hope their your experience, three elements of the Christian experience-- the personality of God, number one; the power of Christ, number two; and the participation of the Christian, number three.
Let's read it together, and I hope you'll see it. Beginning in verse 12, Revelation 22:12. "And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me to give to everyone according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and whoever loves and practices a lie.
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him who hears say, Come. And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."
The first thing that grabbed my attention in that paragraph, as I looked at it again this week, was the personality of God. Our God is an inviting god. Three times the word "come" is used. Come, come, come. It's an invitation. God is not forceful, rather he is inviting.
Now, I always like to give context whenever I go through a text. And I want to give you where we're at. We know this is the end of the Bible. It's the end of the Book of Revelation. By the time this chapter is written, John, through the Spirit of God, has swept through all of human history to the final period of humanity. It's after the seals of judgment have been opened, after the trumpets have sounded, after the bowls of wrath are poured out on the Earth, in a final period of history known as the Tribulation.
This is after the vision of the millennial kingdom, after the Great White Throne judgment. And we are now at what is called the eternal state. The eternal state is where this heavens and this Earth have been uncreated. They're gone. And God creates a new heaven, a new Earth, with a new capital city called New Jerusalem.
At this point, all of the ungodly are in the Lake of Fire, and at this point, all of the godly are in the New Jerusalem. And so with one final invitation, confident of the revelation that has been given, is the last invitation, the ultimate summons, for people to come. It's an invitation.
You that know the Bible well know that the Bible is filled with invitations, invitations from God to humanity. One researcher discovered 55 invitations in the scripture. I want to give you a few notable ones, some that you'll recognize.
Isaiah, Chapter 1, verse 18-- God says, "Come no. Let us reason together. Though your sins are a scarlet, I will make them as white as snow." That's an invitation to forgiveness, to being pardoned. Here's another one, a notable one. Isaiah, Chapter 55-- "Come, all you who are thirsty. Come to the waters. You who have no money, come, buy, and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost."
Now, that is an invitation to be satisfied; first, forgiveness, now, satisfaction. And if you think about it, you meet people every day of your lives that need those two messages, forgiveness and satisfaction. You meet people who are burnt out on life. They're fed up with life. Their dreams have been dashed. Their hopes have gone.
It's just day after weary day. They have no hope. They have no money. They have no strength. They are unfulfilled. They are unsatisfied.
God has a message for them. He would say to them, you are just the candidate I'm after. Because I have what you would need. I have forgiveness for your sin. I have satisfaction for your soul. Our God is very inviting. He'll never force a person, but he will give people the option and the choice, and he will invite them to make the right choice.
When we get to the New Testament, and we see Jesus Christ, the person of Christ, he was always inviting. And I love his style. When Jesus was at the Jordan River, after he was baptized, there were two disciples of John the Baptist, who just worked up enough curiosity to ask him where he's living.
So they walked up, and they go, Jesus, Master, where are you staying? And Jesus didn't say, my address is 13447 Zion Way, Jerusalem. What Jesus did say to them is this, Come and see. Where are you staying? Well, come check it out. It was an invitation for them to follow him and find out what he's about.
As time went on, he made the invitation even more formal, and it included them in his mission. He said, "Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." And then, perhaps his greatest invitation ever, is when he said to the crowd, "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." So inviting.
Then, later on, he fortified that in John, Chapter 6, when he said, "He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out." God is an inviting God. He invites humanity to come. He invites people to be pardoned. He invites people to be satisfied at his banquet table. The power of an invitation.
I read a story I want to convey to you. Five days before Christmas, years back, five days before Christmas, a 10-year-old boy by the name of Chris Carrier, Christopher Carrier was outside of his house, when a stranger approached him. He'd never seen the man before, but the man said that he was a good friend of his dad's and that he wanted to buy his dad a gift for Christmas. Would that little boy help them.
So the little boy not knowing what to do, but he thought, well, I want to help my dad out, was convinced to get into that man's motor home parked up the street. He got into the motor home. The man drove him to a vacant lot and took out an ice pick and stabbed the 10-year-old boy in the back with an ice pick. Then, he drove down a dirt road, took out a pistol, and shot the little boy in the head, the left temple, opened the door, threw him out, left him for dead in the Florida Everglades, the alligator infested Florida Everglades.
His body was there for six days before he was discovered by a driver, and miraculously, Chris survived. Permanently blind in his left eye, he was rehabilitated. They never caught the man who did it because he left without a real trace, so an arrest was not made. And so Chris had problems as the days wore on, months, weeks, even years, sleeping at night and feeling safe. He was very agitated, even though he had police protection.
When Christopher Carrier turned 15 years old, suddenly, one day, an invitation came, an invitation from a local church, to be a part of a hay ride. They were going to go on a hay ride and have a little campfire. So he went out. And he said he never had as much fun in the last five years as he had that night. The invitation just made him feel welcome, make him feel at home. By the end of the night, he was so comfortable, that for the first time in five years since the incident, he told his story to those people around the fire.
By the end of the night, that 15-year-old boy prayed with that church group to receive Christ as his Savior. And wrote, "I was overwhelmed with emotion because I knew I had never really accepted and personally met the Savior." Well, Christopher Carrier decided that he would go into the ministry, and he would be a help and a counselor to those who needed rest and peace from having suffered similar experiences as he did.
Now, there's more to the story. But I'm not going to tell you the rest till the end of this message. Because I just want you see, here, the power of an invitation and that our God is an inviting God. This is the personality of God. Come, come, come.
The second thing I want you to see, and it's related to it, is the power of Christ. As you work your way through the passage, there are several titles of Jesus that he introduces himself as, that give you a hint as to who he really is. Notice in verse 12, he says, "Behold"-- Jesus is speaking, "Behold I am coming quickly and my reward is with me to give to everyone according to his work."
So we know he's the coming one. He came once; he promised to come again. He's the rewarding one. When he comes, he will remunerate those who have been faithful to him. Look at the next verse, verse 13. "I am the Alpha and the Omega." That's the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet. "The beginning, the end, the first, and the last." So he's the goal, and the consummation.
If you know your Bibles, you know that these are terms for God himself. Isaiah 41, Isaiah 44, Isaiah 48 call God in heaven, almighty God, the first, the last, the beginning, the end. So Jesus introduces himself as God Almighty, the be-all end-all of humanity in human history, the Alpha, the Omega; the beginning, the end; the first and the last.
I'm belaboring that point because I don't want you to miss something. It's important to connect the nature of God in inviting, with the power of Jesus to save. You see, when you invite someone, make sure that you invite them to the one who can do something for that person. The reason we invite people to our group or to our church or to our meeting is because we ultimately want to invite that person to Christ. He's the only one who has the power to change the life. When you invite someone to this one, there is no one who is unchanged.
But look at this. Verse 16, "I Jesus." He's speaking. "I Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David." A Messianic term, he's of the lineage of David. But look at this last, "I am the bright and the morning star."
I don't know if you know this or not, but the ancient Hebrews used the word, the description, star, to refer to a person, much like Americans do when we call somebody a star. To them, it meant a hero. He or she had done something, and they were a cultural luminary, a star.
If you go to Hollywood, there's the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There's 2,500 plus stars in the sidewalks of Hollywood, brass stars with names on it. Some are music stars. Some are film stars. And that Hollywood Walk of Fame is visited every single year by 10 million people from around the world.
Have you ever wondered, how do you get a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame? And just in case you ever want to do that, there are three criteria that you have to meet before that can happen. Number one, you have to produce something iconic. Number two, you have to wow the selection committee. And number three, you have to pay $30,000 for the brass star and the upkeep for the first few years. So you've got to produce something iconic, wow the selection committee, and cough up 30 grand. And then, you'll be considered a star.
One day, all of the world will see that Jesus Christ is the ultimate star on the stage of human history. And he qualifies. He produced something very iconic; salvation for humanity. And he paid the price, more than 30 grand. He bought it with his own blood. And he will wow the selection committee, for the Bible says, "Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
He's the star. He's the bright and the morning star. He's the one who changes people's lives.
But I love that description, he's the bright and morning star. The morning star is what you see in the darkest part of the night just before the dawn. It's a beautiful description of Christ. Because when you come to him, the shadows flee away. It's like beginning a brand new day. You have a bright future because you've had that encounter.
Now, we live in a state that has, well, look outside, lots of sunshine, 310 days a year of sunshine. That's important, because we need it for our chiles, right? You've got to have a lot of sun to get those chiles hot. Sunlight is the fuel of life. The energy from the sun regulates and maintains everything on the Earth.
Some people don't live in such sunny conditions. They're beautiful places, but there's no place like this. If you live, for example, in the Pacific Northwest, there's a light deprivation that occurs. And experts will tell you that because there's less light, lots of cloud cover, that that affects personality. There's mood swings. There's even depression that comes because of it. Experts call this Seasonal Affective Disorder, giving the acronym SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
And so what doctors will do, if somebody is diagnosed with this condition, is there are special lights that give a certain kind of Kelvin temperature just like daylight. So you can set it up in your house, and it emulates that light that comes from the sun. All to prove the point that people need light to survive. And that's the reason, in the old days, they would punish criminals by locking them in the darkest dungeons.
Essentially, what the devil has done in our generation is consign people to spiritual darkness. They cannot survive without the light of the Son, the S-O-N, the Son of God. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world, and whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." But being in darkness and being blind, they don't see it. They don't even know their own condition. They reject the notion that somehow they're blind and that you have something they don't have.
But that's where you and I come in. And that's where we have these two principles, but we need a third element in the Christian experience. Yes, there is the personality of God. He's an inviting God. Yes, we have the power of Christ. He's a capable and competent Savior. He can change people. But unless we invite people to him or to a place where they can hear about him, it may never happen.
And so the third and final thing I want you to see in verse 17, is the participation of the Christian. Verse 17, notice, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him who hears say, Come. And let him who thirsts come on. Whoever desires let him take the water life freely." The Spirit mentioned here is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said he's in the world convicting people of sin, righteousness, and judgment, drawing people to the cross.
But then, notice, the Spirit and the bride say come. Who's the bride? It's the church. It's unmistakably the church. Three times in the New Testament the church of Jesus Christ, the people of God, are called the bride of Christ. II Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, Revelation chapter 19. So yes, the Holy Spirit is in the world drawing people to Christ, but the church has to be part of the process.
We who have been changed by the gospel should become instruments of change for the gospel. I bet some of you have heard of Henry Blackaby. He wrote the book, Experiencing God, a very, very famous book some years back. It still is very popular. There's one sentence in that book I want to read to you, because I got my attention.
He said, what you do in response to God calling you to this task of being part of the process-- evangelism, inviting people-- what you do in response to God calling you to this task reveals what you believe about God. Now, that statement made me stop and think. I thought, that makes sense.
If you really believe in a product, you'll want to make sure that as many people as possible get exposed to that product. If you're not too sure about the product, but you feel good being around it, OK, good. And it's just, I'll make it about me; I don't want to invade anybody else's space. But if you are sure that the product of the gospel really works, boy, that's a message you're going to want to get out.
And so what you do in response to God's calling you to this task reveals what you believe about God. We're to be part of a process. God is inviting, which means we should be inviting on his behalf. We are the body of Christ. We're his mouth. We're his hands bringing people in.
Remember when Jesus gave a parable of that great feast, where people were invited, and they said, oh, I'm busy. I don't want to come. I can't come. So they turned away the invitation. Remember that Jesus said, "Go into the highways and the hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
And then, there was Andrew, who invited his brother Peter. Aren't you glad there are Andrews to invite guys like Peter. And he said, we have found the Messiah. And he brought him to Jesus. He invited him to come to Jesus.
Phillip did the same with his friend Nathaniel. He said, we have found the one the prophets and Moses said would come, Jesus of Nazareth. Nathaniel said, can anything good come out of Nazareth? I think we could say that about a lot of towns. Can anything good come out of that place? Nazareth was like, whatever.
And I love how Philip answered his friend. He said, come and see, like Jesus. Come and see. You don't believe me? Come. Just come and check it out for yourself. Then, there was a Samaritan woman, whose life Jesus changed. And afterwards, she went to all of her neighbors and all the villagers and said, Come and see the man who told me everything I've ever done. Come and see.
Then, there was Paul the Apostle, who said, this. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors"-- this is II Corinthians 5:20. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you, on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."
Listen. Never underestimate the power of the simple invitation. It changed Peter's life, Nathaniel's life, the Samaritan villagers' lives, and thousands of people, ever since.
This last Wednesday night, before a service-- I mean, we were 15 minutes before the service-- I'm in the back prayer room with the worship team. And one of the guys in the worship team said, I've been trying to get this guy to come to church for a long time, but I bet an invitation from you, Skip, would be helpful.
So he got out his little phone, and he has an app called Snapchat. Some of you use it. And go, Snapchat my friend. Invite him to church. I said, I'm in. So I called him by name. I said, come on, get down to church; I want to meet you. He came. I met him right after the service. So simple. A little app, a little Snapchat, a little invitation.
I think we make evangelism more difficult than it really ought to be. You want to know why people come to Christ and why people come to church? I'll give you the statistics. This is from the American Institute of Church Growth. They polled over 10,000 church goers, asking them a simple question. What was responsible for your coming to Christ and you're coming to this church?
2% said, I had a special need. 3% said, I just walked in. 6% said, I like the minister. I find that amusing. Only 6% liked the minister.
1% said, I just was visiting. 5% said, I like the Sunday School. One half of a percent said, I attended a gospel meeting, like a special crusade. 3% said, I like the programs. But 79%, 79%, 79%-- you see, I really want you to know this statistic-- that's almost 80%. 79% said, a friend or relative invited me. That's powerful. That's powerful.
One leader said, every Christian knows about 200 people-- friends, family, extended family, neighbors, or workmates, about 200 people that are within your circle of influence. And he found that 95% of all conversions come from that category. An invitation. I know many people are just waiting for a personal invitation, not posted information; a personal invitation.
I told you that I'd tell you the rest of the story about Christopher Carrier, right? So fast forward years after those events that I just mentioned. In 1996, a detective found Christopher Carrier, now married with children, still blind in his left eye. He's grown up. He has his own family. A detective found him and said, the man who committed the crime against you has finally confessed. We found him.
Christopher said, I want to visit him. And so the detective took him to a convalescent home. The criminal was now 77 years old, totally blind, in very ill health, incapacitated, in that home, a broken man. Chris recognized him, but very differently. Christopher approached his bed, and he spoke with him and told him his story and told him his testimony. And he said this to the man, what you meant for evil, God meant for good.
Then, he went home, and he had to tell his wife and his family, his kids, that he finally met the man who caused him to be blind after all these years. He finally met him; told them about his encounter that evening. They committed to praying for him, and they committed as a family to visiting him regularly in that convalescent home.
And one Sunday afternoon, with that family gathered around-- because that guy couldn't get out and come to church, so the church came to him-- as people were gathered around that bed one Sunday afternoon, that 77-year-old man, who was a criminal, prayed with the victim to receive Christ as his Savior. A simple invitation to go on a hay ride and now, a simple invitation in that convalescent home to know Christ. The power of an invitation. The Spirit and the bride say come.
Have you heard of Max Lucado? He's one of the great authors in the Christian world. One of his great books is called, In the Eye of the Storm or, The Eye of the Storm, I forget which. But he tells a story in there. And I'll close with this. Promise.
He said that when he was a teenager, his family used to go camping. He loved it. Every spring break, they would get in a camper and go fishing. Well, one year, his brother and mother couldn't come. So his dad told young Max, now a teenager, you can invite any one of your friends to come camping. So he invited a buddy. And they were all excited. They talked about fishing, and they're going to have a lot of fun.
So they get in the camper. And they drive all night, and they get there in the dark. And they set up the camper. And they can't wait for the morning to come, go fishing. Well, in the middle of the night, this freak storm, known as a nor'easter, a Northeastern wind, in that part of the country, blew through, so that the next morning, they could hardly even open the camper door, the wind was so ferocious. The lake was choppy. The sky was gray. Fishing was out.
They're confined to a camper all day long. They play Monopoly, which turns into monotony. They have one copy of a Reader's Digest. They tell a few jokes. They don't know many of them, so it gets a really long day. So by nightfall, they want to get to bed early. They can't wait for the next day. They've been waiting all day.
The next morning comes. And now, the door wasn't hard to open because of the wind. It was almost impossible to open because of the ice. An ice storm was in the tail of that nor'easter that brought incredibly cold temperatures and that ice storm. Fishing was out; too cold.
Well, now, their patience is running very thin, and their words with each other are very short. And they're not so happy, and there are no jokes to tell. And monotony, which was once Monopoly, is just now downright anger. They have to make the best of it.
They suffer through the day in that little camper, thinking, OK, tomorrow is going to be very special. You can't make this stuff up. The very next day, they wake up to the sound of sleet hitting the camper. It's even worse. It's cold, choppy. They start hitting the walls of the camper and then, saying bad stuff to each other. They're just mad at each other. They're fighting now.
The next morning, it's even colder. Four days in a row. So they go, we're going home. In his book, Max said, that weekend, that long weekend, I learned something, not about fishing. I learned about people. And here is his concluding statement in the story. "When those are called to fish don't fish, they fight."
I read that, and I thought of all of the churches and believers that I know who find it so important to disagree and fight about so many little squabbles. And if they were fishing, they wouldn't be fighting. If they were consumed with people who don't know the truth and don't know the Lord and don't have a family and could be invited to a place to hear the gospel, it could be different.
I realized something. I'm looking at a packed house. And I know we have overflow, and I know we have four services. And the very idea, I know, that if everyone here decided, I'm actually going to apply this sermon to my life. I'm actually going to apply this message and invite someone. You're saying, Skip, invite them? Where are you going to put them?
I still feel like I'm a young man. If I need to do two or three more services on a Sunday, let's go for it. We have the rest of the day.
We can have our four services and add a couple more and a Sunday night, or whatever, if we need be. But good problem to have. There's lots of people who need to know the truth. I'm in if you're in.
Father, thank you for your nature, so inviting, so welcoming. It makes us feel so welcome and significant to be invited by you. "Come, let us reason together. Come and partake. Come if you're weary and heavy laden. Let me give you rest." Those were your words. But we are your ambassadors, as though God were pleading through us, be reconciled to God. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Many of us came to know Jesus Christ because of someone inviting us to church. We pray that God will fill you with the boldest to do the same for someone else. Has the power of an invitation changed your life? Well, then, let us know. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.