First I want to say that the thoughts and message contained in this post are in partnership with LifeHouse East, Hedgesville’s parent church. As a Network of LifeHouse Churches, we look to share resources and ideas because God blesses us through our unity.
Ever get caught in the hustle and bustle of life that you sometimes miss the magnificent things happening right in front of your eyes? I know I do. I get involved so much with what needs to be done – caring for kids, keeping up the home, attending meetings, writing sermons, etc. – that I sometimes think I don’t have time to stop and rest. So because I don’t stop, I miss the sunrises and sunsets of life. I miss the time watching my kids and playing with them. I miss the opportunities to go into the woods and explore God’s creation. You get the picture, I miss too much.
But, do you think the busyness of life, the busyness of routine, which you and I experience in 2011, is any different than the culture of Jesus’ day? Actually no! Not much has changed in 2000 years.
But you say they didn’t have the distractions that we have today – technology, cars, television, sports and extracurricular activities, etc.? You’re right, they didn’t have these things. But what they did have caused them to miss out on the greatest thing mankind has ever seen.
How do I know? The Gospel of John, chapter 1 verses 4-5 and 10-11 provides that in that moment of time, Christmas was completely missed by the very people the baby Jesus came to save. Think about it. There was the busyness of life, though we can’t say exactly what that looked like. There was the confusion of what the Messiah would truly look like since a King would not come from such humble beginnings. There were the religious practices of following rules and laws that took their attention away from what truly pleases God.
They were busy doing what they thought God desired rather than asking and understanding what God really wanted.
Does that sound like today? Does that sound like you? I know it sounds like me – so busy doing and not taking the time to really see what God wants me to see.
Two thousand years ago, it was literally “God in the flesh” – it was Jesus giving up His position in Heaven to become a babe in an unsterilized manger, born of a lowly teenage virgin, whose father is really not His own, who would one day be moved by his parents to a town known as “the God-forsaken town of Nazareth”, where He would follow in the footsteps of His earthly father’s occupation of carpenter.
Yet because of the circumstances I outlined, the people of His day, busy in their own right studying and taking from the scriptures what they desired to see, had to determine what they were going to do with this invitation from God. And as the New Testament scripture told us, they could not see Jesus for who He really was. Their thinking, “There is no way this could be the Promised One, the Messiah. How is this babe – eventually man – the one to be our King who will drive out all our enemies?”
So just like our counterparts, what do we do with this God among men, Emmanuel, who interrupts our busy schedule and challenges us that there is more to life than the busyness of our dull routine?
Well God’s Big Idea is this: ReceiveHis Invitation.
As it says in John 1:12-14, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” we have a response to make to this invitation.
God has shown Himself to mankind in many ways over the years – through parting the Red Sea and Jordan River, through prophecy, through lightning from Heaven, through carving a rock with 10 commandments, through providing a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. And that’s just to name a few. Yet in all the magnificent and spectacular ways God has shown Himself over time, the most magnificent one was when “He just showed up,” removing His royal robes, and becoming one of us.
And so our response is demanded and awaited? Do we believe Jesus really is the Son of God? And honestly, if we choose to reject the invitation to believe in Emmanuel, it’s like being at the Grand Canyon and ignoring that it really is magnificent because we don’t thoroughly understand how it was created.
Let’s not reduce knowing God to mere religious service and learning – that we have to understand it all before we accept it. Instead, sometimes we need to just look at the splendor and say “There’s God.” You don’t have to understand how the Grand Canyon came into being to be amazed and believe in it.
Jesus came to offer an invitation for us to know Him. Think about it: Someone gives you an invitation to their wedding. You have a choice. You can either accept the invitation to attend the wedding or decline. And in order for us to know Him, we have to acceptHim.
The same is true of the invitation God gives us for belief in His Son. It’s the most beautiful invitation ever given, yet each and every person who’s invited can RSVP with a yes or a no. And because the invitation is given to each individual, no one can come to the wedding through the response of someone else. It must be your decision.
The reality of an RSVP to an invitation is nothing more than, as I have said before, a yes or a no. The invitation didn’t come because you worked for it, earned it, or paid for it. In fact, in the case of God’s invitation, you and I don’t even deserve it. All we can simply do is open arms wide, accept it, and say “Thanks.”
The RSVP is nothing more than receiving the invitation, and then accepting to attend. Now keep in mind, accepting the invitation, saying “yes” on the RSVP card, means we acknowledge we don’t deserve it, but are willing to accept it by repenting of the sins that keep us out of relationship with God.
But you know how sometimes we receive gifts that we have no use for and we set them on a shelf somewhere to either collect dust or be regifted? Well, that can’t be the case with God’s gift.
In verse 10 of John 1 it said, “His own did not recognize him.” What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that they didn’t know who Jesus of Nazareth was as a person. It does mean that they didn’t know Him personally– that they didn’t have an active understanding of this man and what He was about.
In verse 12 of John 1 it said, “To those who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” What’s the difference? These people accepted the invitation, meaning they knew God and welcomed him into every aspect of their lives.
By accepting the invitation, we’re only beginning the journey. And the journey is not an annoying disruption to the good life, a pot-hole in the road that we fill leads us to success and fame, or a Christmas gift that can be returned after we’ve tried it out. Instead the journey is extremely valuable because on it we find that Jesus is the meaning of life and that through Him our lives are changed for the betterand we become the person God intendedus to be.
So, imagine if we lived like this. Imagine that we truly understood that God’s invitation is His meticulous care at intersecting with our lives in every way possible so that we can fully know and follow Him.