You might have guessed, by now, that I love to write about faith and church. I was sitting around the other day thinking about the word church and realized that, often, people mean about four different things.
Sometimes people mean a building. To some, church is simply a space that is used two or three times a week. Other than that , they may think it is a waste of valuable real estate.
Others think of it as an organization to join. They may join for many various reasons. It may be to help their standing in the community. It may be to gain business contacts. It may be so that they can use the church gym. It is simply a community organization that is there to be used.
Others, still, look at the church as a local outpost of God’s kingdom. There may be many around, but they find the one for them and join. They can discover where God wants to use them in His kingdom. They have a place where they can use the gifts He has given them. They can join on a regular basis with other followers of Christ and worship corporately.
Finally, some look at the church as something much bigger. They look at the Church as all followers of Christ. They seek the Church as Christ’s body. They believe the Church to be the Bride of Christ. They see the Church as a universal, unified unit.
How do you view the church? Do you know people who view it in each of these four ways?
I don’t know if your church gives an invitation or not. Mine does. In fact, all churches that I have belonged to during my lifetime have had invitations at the end. So, of course, the logical question that I have to ask is this.
Why do we have invitations?
It’s not like invitations the way we do them have been around through the history of the church. From what I can tell, the way we do them originated around the time of Charles Finney. Of course, I may be wrong, but that’s what I think. Correct me if you want. Based on what I see and hear whenever I raise questions like this you would have to wonder how anyone got saved before we began having invitations at the end of the service.
When I look at how Christ handled people, I don’t see Him inviting people to join them.
His first message was “Repent!!! The Kingdom of God is at hand.” He didn’t say anything about how He would be waiting for anyone to make a decision.
When He called His disciples, He said, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” He didn’t say that He would be waiting for them at the boat.
When Peter gave his sermon in Acts 2, he didn’t preach and then tell the crowd that he would wait for them at the altar.
When Paul preached at Mars Hill, there was no altar call.
What I notice, though, is that there was always a reaction.
I think the problem is that we don’t trust God and His Holy Spirit to do the work. I think we act as though we believe that it all rests on us. We simply don’t believe.
Am I saying do away with invitations? No. Invite someone to your small group. Invite someone to your Sunday School. Invite someone to the service.
Trust in the Lord to do His work.
Does your church have a traditional invitation?
Today you will have a visitor at church that you weren’t expecting. You couldn’t have imagined that she would show up at your church. Never in your wildest dreams would you have believed that Casey Anthony was coming to your church today.
Let me know if you saw her. What? You don’t believe me when I say that she is coming to your church? Trust me, I know. She’ll be there. She’ll be at my church too.
How do I know? Let me tell you how I’ve figured it out.
Jesus said that if someone hates his brother, he is a murderer. That means hating your brother is the equivalent of murder. Trust me. Someone at your church hates his brother. Someone at your church might hate you. You might hate your brother. I don’t know. Someone at my church hates one of their brother or sisters. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s me. But whoever it is, they’re Casey Anthony. They’re a murderer. Oh, I know she was found not guilty. But we Americans never let anything like a verdict get in the way of what WE know about a case, do we? You hate? You murder. You’re Casey Anthony.
So am I.
Casey was out partying while her child was “missing.” Want to bet on what she was doing? All manner of immorality, I bet. Nothing like anything you or I have done. Well, there is that matter of lust. If you’ve lusted over someone, you’ve committed adultery. Think she didn’t commit adultery or fornication during that time? We’ve never heard about a father for Cailee. Was she the product of fornication? Well, if you’ve lusted, you’ve committed the same act. Or at least the equivalent. You lust. You commit adultery/fornication. You are Casey.
So am I.
What are you going to do when Casey comes in and sits down in your church house this Sunday? Are you going to shun her? Slap her in the face? Punch her? Spit on her? That’s what Jesus would want you to do, right? That’s what Christ would do, right?
Paul held the coats of a mob who stoned Stephen. He cheered it on. He started going after Christ’s followers. He was headed to Damascus so he could drag some back to Jerusalem to face their music. Jesus stopped him. Jesus blinded him. Jesus chose him. Jesus used him.
How would you feel if He decided to use Casey? Well, is he using you? If so, he is using Casey.
He’s using me.
I know. What she did was heinous. Disgusting. Maddening. And in no way do I believe that anyone should get away with crimes they commit. Yet, God rescued people like that in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians, Paul listed a bunch of people who had committed all sorts of tragic sins. He said that those people would not inherit the kingdom of God. He said that his readers were such people. But they had been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know, you may have gone and read that and the list didn’t include murderers. I kind of think murderers were covered when Paul mentioned the unrighteous.
When it comes down to it, Paul was one of those kinds of people. Paul was Casey Anthony. The Lord washed him, sanctified him. and justified him.
When it comes down to it, you and I are those kind of people. You and I are Casey Anthony. The Lord washed us, sanctified us and justified us.
Casey? She is that kind of people. The Lord can wash her, sanctify her and justify her.
How would that make you feel?
Live in your church today……Casey Anthony.