BEST FRIENDS INVITE FRIENDS TO MEET JESUS
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, November 10, 2019.
Text: John 1:40-42.
THE POWER OF PERSONAL INVITATION
Welcome to a two-week teaching series on the power of personal invitation. Almost everyone who finds and follows Jesus as their God and Savior was introduced to Jesus by a family member or friend. Faith is personal and it takes a person to help us find it. The number one reason people come to the Cornerstone is because someone took the time to invite them. Best friends invite friends to meet Jesus.
Over the next two weeks, I want to reinforce the vital importance of personal invitation in the journey to faith. And I want to share some simple, practical, ways each of us can get on board with that.
First, let's read a Bible passage that's all about the power of personal invitation. The story takes place at the Jordan River where the prophet known as John the Baptist was proclaiming the coming Kingdom of God and calling people to get ready. He had gathered some disciples to learn from him, but one day Jesus came by and everything changed:
(John 1:35-42) The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
When Austin, TX business owner Kim XX found her life out of balance and her anger level rising, she accepted an invitation from a friend to a Work-Life Balance workshop. She enjoyed the presentation and checked a box on a response card indicating she'd like to learn more. The next day, she received a call from a woman called Kay and they arranged to meet at a coffee shop to discuss the workshop. In the course of the conversation, Kay shared about her faith in Jesus and invited Kim to experience it too. Kim was not offended by Kay's invitation, but she needed time to think it over. She took her dog out for a walk and in her words "realized that I was the only one holding me back from having a relationship with God. So I asked God to take control of the throne of my life." After that, she and Kay continued to meet every week at the coffee shop so that Kim would learn how to follow Jesus.
Stories like that are lived out by the thousands around the world every single day. The power of personal invitation to lead people to Jesus is indisputable. My life and destiny were massively changed by a personal invitation to meet Jesus. I dare say that is true for most of us here.
In light of that, I want to share two principles and two practices we can all use:
TWO PRINCIPLES OF PERSONAL INVITATION
THE PRINCIPLE OF CONFIDENCE: Most people are open to a personal invitation to meet Jesus.
John pointed Jesus out to his disciples: "Look, the Lamb of God!"** Andrew went to check out Jesus and became convinced that he was Israel's long-promised Savior. In turn, Andrew went looking for his brother Simon and invited him to meet Jesus. Simon said OK and went with him. I wish John had included more details about Simon's reaction to Andrew's invitation. However, we know the most important detail: Simon readily said yes.
I think you'll find that your friends and family members are open to an invitation to discuss spiritual things and they are curious about Jesus. So, we can invite with confidence.
When they're in town, Warren and Sharon Hessling are part of the Cornerstone family. You've probably seen or talked to them, but what you may not know is that they are retired missionaries to the nation of Niger in West Africa. They have some amazing stories to share, but I have asked them to talk to us about natural ways to share Jesus.
**According to the notes in the NIV Study Bible, "John the Baptist probably has in mind the apocalyptic warrior-lamb (found in some Jewish texts (1 Enoch 90; Testament of Joseph 19; Testament of Benjamin 3) and picked up in Rev 5:6,12; 7:17; 13:8; 17:14; 19:7,9; 21:22-23; 22:1-3), who would come in terrible judgment of all unrepentant sinners (see Matt 3:12). But John the author, writing after Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, could grasp a fuller picture than John the Baptist and also apply this title to Jesus as the sacrificial, substitutionary lamb of Isa 53:7,10 or perhaps as the Passover lamb."
THE PRINCIPLE OF FOCUS: When Jesus is the main topic of conversation, people stay open.
So many things divide people and cause arguments and anger, but Jesus seldom does. People, by and large, like Jesus because he was a loving and compassionate healer. He was a brilliant teacher with amazing spiritual insights. People don't like religion very much. They've heard horror stories about churches. Mixing politics and religion is a recipe for conflict. So, don't make the conversation about sexuality or immigration or the President.
Stick to Jesus. If you show how he fills our need for a spiritual side to life, then your friends will stay open. Refuse to go down bunny trails that lead into bunny traps. Stay focused and don't quit if the first invitation to talk goes nowhere. Stay friends and wait for the next right moment to renew the invitation because best friends invite friends to meet Jesus.
Now, let's talk about two practices of personal invitation ...
TWO PRACTICES OF PERSONAL INVITATION
Practice One: Make lots of friends. The more friends we have the more we can invite to meet Jesus. Is it wrong to look at people this way? Yes, if it's just fake friendship. But no, if the friendship is real and you want the best for them. Jesus changes destinies. That's why he changed Simon's name to Cephas or "Rocky." Jesus wanted Peter to know that he was on a new road, going in a new direction, in a new relationship with God. Don't we want that for all our friends and family?
Pray and ask God to bring people into your life. Be a good and genuine friend. It's hard to overstate the power of friendship. I was led to faith, not by clever arguments, but by the persistent goodness of a friend. I was open to Jesus because my friend was. I trusted my friend, so I trusted Jesus.
Practice Two: Use helpful resources. Resources are tools to make us more effective. They keep conversations on track and focused on Jesus. John the Baptist used the Jordan River and some scary preaching as resources that resonated with the people of his place and time.
There are so many ways to introduce people to Jesus and the key is to fit the resource to your friend's personality, interests, and learning style. Some folks want to read a book; others want to watch videos; others want a conversation. Some people have a hundred questions, but others just need a gentle nudge to take that first or final step to faith in Jesus. Here are some ideas:
Years ago, Kim and I hosted the Alpha Course in our home. It investigates questions about Christianity over ten or so sessions and creates conversations that lead to interest in the gospel. We invited a bunch of people to go through it with us. I thought it was really good and I'd like to see it offered again. If you're interested, let me know.
Scott and Claudia Nill offer the Starting Point course as a small group in their home once or twice a year. It's an introduction to God's story and how our lives fit into it. If you haven't check it out, I recommend getting into the next time it's offered.
Inside your bulletin is a little booklet called Steps to Peace with God. Maybe you could ask God for an opportunity to share it with a friend this week.
I bought this box of cards - Empowering Question Cards. It's a conversation starter that uses questions to help people open up about their lives. I want to take this to a coffee shop and try it out. Got any ideas for how to make that work?
Our website has a Jesus tab in the top menu. In it, we recommend all kinds of resources for all kinds of people. I've also listed some other resources in your outline: Here are several additional resources to consider using:
EveryPerson.com – A website with dozens of articles and videos answering questions about life and God. The articles direct interested readers to a gospel presentation that explains how to receive Christ and provides immediate online follow-up for those who make a decision.
ExploreGod.com – A website with lots of articles and videos addressing key apologetic issues people have about God, Christ, the bible and the gospel.
Jesus Film – A film of the life of Christ, taken from the Gospel of Luke. Can be used to create interest in Christ and His claims. Available to stream for free at: https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch/jesus.html/english.html.
Discovery Study – A five session study investigating the claims of Christ and reliability of the Bible. Available at the Cru Store online.
“A Guide to Your Most Important Investment” – A gospel explanation based on the “Four Spiritual Laws” in a format appealing to the adult community. Available at the Cru Store online.
“Knowing God Personally” – This update of the “Four Spiritual Laws” is gospel presentation most used by Cru staff. Available at the Cru Store online.
CONCLUSION: IT'S A GREAT TIME TO INVITE
The holidays are getting close and we'll all be around friends and family for parties and meals and such like. This would be a great time to invite them to church.
I've planned two holiday teaching series that are helpful to people outside the church: Surviving the Holidays and Christmas Promises: The Difference Jesus Makes. Inside your bulletin is an invite card to the first series. Please pray about it and give that card to someone outside the church. Extra cards are available at the Welcome & Information Center.
Some people won't be interested, but someone will be and coming to the Cornerstone will almost certainly change their lives. They'll meet God here. They'll experience the warmth of our church family. Their hearts will be moved. They may even take a step closer to Jesus. All because you invited them.
Andrew invited Peter to meet Jesus. Peter was never the same. He became the apostle to the Jews and his preaching formed the foundation for the church. One man who found Jesus turned into one billion men and women who have found him today. Never forget the power of personal invitation because best friends invite friends to meet Jesus.