Invitation to Life
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - March 11, 2012
*Invitations make a difference! -- I am standing here today because of an invitation Georgia Savoie Canterbury gave to me 36 years ago. Georgia simply invited a new co-worker to church, a lost co-worker, one who, by the grace of God was seeking the truth. She invited someone who was almost ready to receive Jesus Christ, and I got saved less than two months later.
*Invitations make a difference! -- We can see this truth in the life of Jesus Christ, because He is an inviter. In Matt 11:28 Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!”
*That’s just one of many examples. Jesus is an inviter and He calls His followers to be inviters, too. The Lord wants you to invite people to come to Him, and God’s Word shows us how.
1. First we have to find the Lord.
*It is most unlikely that we will help other people find Jesus, unless we have found Him ourselves. WE have to find Jesus first.
*Philip is our example in vs. 43-45:
43. The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me.''
44. Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.''
*Philip had a definite, personal testimony about finding Jesus. What about you?
-Have you found Jesus Christ?
-Have you really found Him?
-Has Jesus been a vital part of your life this past week?
*Do you have the presence of God in your life? -- Or are you living a godless life?
*One of my all-time favorite professors was Dr. Donald Potts from East Texas Baptist University. Over at the seminary in Shreveport, he used to give these killer pop quizzes, but he graded easy. Dr. Potts would let out this deep belly laugh and say, “Grace abounds!”
*Someone would ask him: “Is so and so right?” -- Dr. Potts would laugh again and say: “No! -- And we’re only giving half-credit for wrong answers today.”
*The reason I mention Dr. Potts is because he taught me something so important about living a godless life. I used to think that a godless life meant living some kind of horrible, sinful lifestyle, but that’s not necessarily true. A godless life is just a life that leaves God out. A godless life is living your life on a day-to-day basis without God.
*Did you leave God out of your life this week?
-Has Jesus Christ crossed your mind?
-Has He been the central focus of your life this week?
*We can find Him! You can be as close to God as you want to be. The Lord promises that we will find Him, IF we will search with all our heart.
*So, how can you find Jesus? -- Philip reminds us in vs. 45. Listen again to the testimony Philip gave to Nathanael: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
*How can you find Jesus? -- You will find Him in the Word of God. And you will find Him through His witnesses, like Philip and the Holy Spirit who is here with us right now.
*But the ironic thing is that after you find Jesus, you will learn that He really found you. Philip thought he found Jesus, but vs. 43 tells us the greater truth that Jesus found him. That’s because Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who came into this world to find His lost sheep. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
*The Good Shepherd even gave up His life on the cross, so that He might save you. And the same Jesus who found Philip in vs. 43 is here today by His Holy Spirit.
-He loves you.
-He died on the cross for you.
-He rose again.
-And He wants you to find Him by putting your trust in Him.
-We have to find Jesus.
2. Then we have to follow Him.
*What was the first thing that Jesus said to Philip in vs. 43? -- “Follow me.”
-Are you following Jesus? -- The biggest mistake we can make in life is not following Jesus.
*Matthew Stoll compared it to being in a burning building with smoke all around. Then a fireman comes in and yells, “The building is on fire! All of the exits are blocked by the flames. You need to follow me! I know the only way out.”
*But some of the people respond, “How do I know the building is really on fire? -- Maybe you created all of this smoke just to get us to abandon our comfortable place to follow you.” Others say, “I believe there is a fire but I think I would rather find my own way out of the building,” -- not trusting the word of the only one who could save them. How foolish those people would be. (1)
*But are you following Jesus? -- This is vital for us to become the people God wants us to be. Remember what Jesus told Peter and Andrew in Matt 4:18-19:
18. Now Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
19. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.''
*We can be the inviters God wants us to be, if we will follow the Lord.
3. But we also need to find our friends.
*That is exactly what Philip after he started following Jesus. Verse 45 says: “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”
*Philip found Nathanael. I wonder how he did it. No cell phones, no GPS, no email, no facebook, the only way that Philip found Nathanael was by some dedicated, intentional effort.
*We live such hectic lives these days, and are so busy with other things that we forget about finding our friends for Jesus. But God wants us to be intentional about it.
 God wants us to set a goal to find friends for Jesus.
*Invite them to church, knowing that you are really inviting them to Jesus. This is a great time to do it, because Easter is just four weeks away. Lord willing, over the next two Sundays we will take an in-depth look at the cross.
*Then on Sunday, April 1st, we will hear our Easter Cantata. And on Easter Sunday, April 8th, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with a special service at 8:00, followed by a great fellowship breakfast.
*God wants you to invite your friends. It might be someone you have known for years. But maybe it’s a brand new friend. It may be someone who is struggling with all kinds of issues. Or it may be the best person you know.
*It’s worth remembering that Nathanael was a good man. In vs. 47, Jesus called him “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” In other words, Nathanael was a good and honest man. But he still needed Jesus!
*Some of the nicest, sweetest people you know may be just as lost as they can be. Everybody needs Jesus! And we need to try to reach them.
 Philip found Nathanael, because he had a goal. But he also had to go.
*In order to find Nathanael, Philip had to get up and go. Most of the time we have to go to our friend, and that’s what God wants us to do.
*We can be the inviters God wants us to be. So find your friend.
4. Then follow-up on your friend.
*What does it take for you to follow-up?
 First, it takes a good attitude.
*And that’s the kind of attitude Phillip needed with Nathaniel, because in verse 46, Nathaniel was very skeptical at first: “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
*Philip could have given up on his friend, but instead, he followed-up. Get this picture in your mind: Philip found Jesus. Now filled with excitement, he runs to find his friend and says: “We have found Him! We’ve found the Messiah!” But Nathanael says: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” That’s a roundabout way of saying: “I don’t believe a word you say.”
*Sounds like Nathanael had a bad attitude about Philip’s testimony. But hey, even good people can get bad attitudes. Sometimes we’re like the little boy Rick Stacy told about. He was usually good, but one day his mother had to tell him to sit down over and over again.
*The boy just kept standing there, defiantly disobeying his mom. Finally, Mom went over and plopped him down in a chair. But that fuming little boy said, “I may be sitting down on the outside. But inside, I’m standing up!” (2)
*Bad attitude! -- And Nathaniel had a bad attitude in vs. 46. But what if Philip had gotten a bad attitude too?
-He could have gotten mad at his friend.
-He could’ve walked away with his feelings hurt.
-He could have given up on Nathanael.
*But Philip did not give up on his friend. He had a good attitude.
-So keep focused on the cross!
-Keep focused on Jesus.
-Keep focused on how much He loves you, and how much He suffered for you.
-Keep focused on how patient Jesus has been with you.
-And that will give you the good attitude you need to follow-up on your friend.
 Philip had a good attitude. That’s why in vs. 46, he also had a good answer: “Come and see.”
*If we have a good attitude, then God will give us a good answer too. And we can be the inviters God wants us to be. So follow-up on your friend.
5. And keep focused on your future.
*This is the lesson the Lord gives us in vs. 47-51:
47. Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!''
48. Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?'' Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.''
*Here Jesus revealed that He miraculously saw Nathaniel before Philip ever found him. Only God could do that. So starting in vs. 49:
49. Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!''
50. Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you, `I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these.''
51. And He said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.''
*By vs. 49, Nathanael had opened his heart to Jesus. He had trusted in the Lord, and he showed his faith when he said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
*Nathanael was saved! What a great victory for him and the friend who brought him to Jesus. But it was just the beginning, because in vs. 50&51, Jesus said:
50. “Do you believe, because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree?’ You will see greater things than these.”
51. “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
*Here Jesus was promising a miraculous future to all who believe in Him. But to understand His promise in vs. 51, we have to go back 2,000 more years to the story of Jacob in Genesis. Jacob had lied and tricked his older brother Esau out of his birthright and blessing. It was about the worst thing he could do. And Esau planned to kill Jacob as soon as their father was dead.
*So Jacob took off for his uncle’s, and stopped for the night in the countryside. He had nothing but rocks for his pillow (extra, extra, firm).
*Lying there in the wilderness Jacob didn’t have a thing, but his shepherd staff. But Jacob had all he needed, because God was in that place! You see, God appeared to him in a dream. We read about this back in Genesis 28:12-17:
12. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.
14. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
15. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.''
16. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.''
17. And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!''
*“The Message” put it this way: “Jacob woke up from his sleep, and said, ‘GOD is in this place -- truly. And I didn't even know it!’” He was terrified. He whispered in awe, “Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God's House. This is the Gate of Heaven.”
*Fast forward to Nathaniel, who surely knew this story. And Jesus was saying, “Nathaniel, you remember Jacob’s ladder? -- I am that ladder. I am the way to heaven. I am the only way to heaven. And you can see it one day. You can have Heaven, because you believe in Me.”
*There is an infinite, miraculous future in store for all who believe in Jesus.
*Dr. R.G. Lee was the much loved pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis from 1927-1960. One day when R.G was a little boy, he asked his mother what was the happiest day of her life. Her name was Elizabeth. And she thought back to the time of the Civil War when she was a little girl.
*Elizabeth’s dad had fought for the South. And while he was away, her mom had to do all the work in the fields. One day a letter came saying that her father had been killed in battle. Elizabeth’s mother didn’t cry much during the day. But the children could hear her sobbing at night in their small house.
*About four months later it was summer and they were all sitting on the front porch shelling beans. A man came down the road and Elizabeth’s mother watched him for a while. Then she said, “Elizabeth honey, that man coming yonder walks like your father.”
*The man kept coming down the road, but the children thought, “It can’t be him.” Then as he came to the break in the fence, he turned in. Her mother jumped up and cried, “Children, it is your father!”
*Elizabeth’s mother ran all the way across the field and kissed and cried and held him for the longest time. And many years later, Elizabeth told her son, “It was the happiest hour I ever knew.” (3)
*That’s just a taste, -- just a hint of the joy-filled future in store for all who have received Jesus as Savior and Lord.
*That is why Jesus wants us to invite people to come to Him, and we can do it. Make a commitment to invite at least one person every week. We will see wonderful things happen when we invite people to come and see Jesus.
*And if you have never trusted in Jesus, I would like to invite you to come to the Lord today. You can do that right now as we go to God in prayer.
1. SermonCentral sermon “I AM The Way, The Truth, and the Life” by Matthew Stoll - John 14:1-6
2. SermonCentral sermon “Compelled to Kneel in Worship” by Rick Stacy - Eph 3:14-21
3. Adapted from “Illustration Digest” by Jon H. Allen, May-June-July 1994, p. 9 - (Personal note from Jon Allen: R.G. Lee, long time pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis Tennessee, and my father were friends. He visited in our home and ate at our table many times. In 1965, I heard him preach in Fort Worth, Texas. This is from that sermon.)