Summary: What is the most important invitation you have ever received?
Invitations come in all sizes and shapes – for all kinds of occasions. What’s the most unique – or ridiculous – invitation you’ve ever received? Julie Potter wrote that her mother volunteered to help her with her wedding invitations while she visited her parents in North Carolina. They spent two long nights addressing envelopes and adding a handwritten note to each invitation, "Please stay for dinner following the ceremony." When she got back home, she realized she hadn't sent an invitation to her parents. Before putting it in the mail, she personalized it with a note at the bottom: "Please pay for dinner following the ceremony." (i)
Marc Horowitz has received numerous dinner invitations because he wrote his cell phone number on a whiteboard when he was working on a photo shoot for Crate & Barrel. The board, with his number on it, showed up in a Crate & Barrel magazine, and that’s when the calls started rolling in. As an aspiring artist, Horowitz decided to turn the calls into a project so he planned a nationwide road trip to have dinner with any caller who wanted. He received invitations for “a mean lasagna” in Georgia, coffee in Wisconsin, and Shabbat dinner in Maryland—all from complete strangers. (ii)
So what’s the most important invitation you’ve ever received? Wait – don’t answer yet. Let me share an invitation with you first. Then decide.
The invitation starts with an announcement in Romans 5:1 - “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” The announcement is WE ARE AT PEACE WITH GOD. This is not a matter of feeling or emotion – it is a fact. Paul has taken great care in demonstrating that we all have been at war with God. We all have rebelled against Him. We all have missed the target repeatedly. Our self-centered desires have pitted us against God in a war we cannot win. We are condemned to die. But – but Jesus died in our place. And since God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, the war is over. We are at peace with God. Are you experiencing the reality of being at peace with God?
The announcement continues by informing us that GOD HAS PROVEN HIS LOVE FOR US. (6-8 NLT): “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” We Americans concoct a lot of slang in our language. It’s our way of emphasizing something way out of the ordinary. So something’s not big – it’s humongous. It’s not a large church – it’s a mega church. It’s not “double the order” – it’s “super-size” it. When someone serves a cake with extra chocolate, it’s not mega or super – it’s “Death by Chocolate!” And when something or someone is the ultimate, it’s “to die for.” “Look at him – he’s to die for!” “Wow – look at that Cadillac – isn’t that to die for?” Similarly Paul, trying to emphasize God’s extraordinary love, said that God looked at you and me, considered us the ultimate, and said, “YOU’RE TO DIE FOR.” While we were still sinners! There was a movie, starring Tom Cruise, called Minority Report. It was about an elite police task force that routinely arrests people who will commit crimes in the future – in other words, this force could see the future and they arrested people to prevent crime from happening. It makes me wonder what God sees when He looks into my heart. What sins did He see in me as He hung on the cross dieing for me? Knowing full well what was in my heart, knowing fully all the times I would come up short and miss the target, still He loved me and died for me.
During the war in Vietnam, a young West Point graduate was sent over to lead a group of new recruits into battle. He did his job well, trying his best to keep his recruits from ambush and death. But one night, when they had been under attack, he was unable to get one of his men to safety. The soldier left behind had been severely wounded. From their trenches, the young lieutenant and his men could hear him in his pain. They all knew any attempt to save him – even if it was successful – would almost certainly mean death for the would-be rescuer. Eventually the young lieutenant crawled out of hiding and got dying man to safety; but before he could save himself he was killed. After the rescued man returned to the States, the lieutenant’s parents heard that he was in their vicinity. Wanting to know this young man whose life was spared at such a great cost to them, they invited him to dinner. When their honored guest arrived, he was obviously drunk. He was rowdy and obnoxious. He told off-color jokes and showed no gratitude for the sacrifice of the man who died to save him. The grieving parents did the best they could to make the man’s visit worthwhile, but their efforts went unrewarded. Their guest finally left. As the dad closed the door behind him, the mother collapsed in tears and cried, "To think that our precious son had to die for somebody like that." Yet that’s what Jesus did. When we were utterly helpless, in total rebellion, with no way of getting into a right relationship with God, Jesus died for us. At our worst moments in life, we can look deep into the heart of God and see the words, “You’re to die for.” JESUS LOVED US ENOUGH TO DIE FOR US.