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About this series
The Four Great Invitations
Lessons from My First 50 Years with Jesus
Do you have a mentor? That one person with lots of life know-how you completely trust for sound wisdom and guidance? Well, if not, in this series, Chip will be that mentor for us as he shares some insightful experiences he’s learned from - through 5 decades of walking with Jesus. He’ll unpack how these lessons are rooted in 4 essential invitations Jesus challenged His disciples with throughout the Gospels. Don’t miss how these biblical insights can encourage, motivate and comfort you through all aspects of life.More from this series
All I want you to get is there’s a series of invitations – you are bombarded by them every single day. And some of them are small and insignificant and don’t mean much of anything, and some of the invitations that you receive, based on whether you say yes or based on whether you say no literally shape your destiny.
You are and you will become how you respond to invitations from people and even more so, invitations from God.
In this series, I want to talk about the four great invitations of Jesus. He invites us to come, He invites us to follow, He invites us to abide, and He invites us to go.
I have the privilege of getting to come to the church where my son is the lead pastor. He said, “Dad, what I’d like you to do is, you know, we get a lot of good Bible teaching. I want you to teach the Bible, but I want you to mentor our church. I want you to teach it through the lens of your journey and your life and be honest. Share the good, the bad, and at whatever you’re comfortable, share the ugly.” And so, that’s what I’d like to do.
And here’s what I want to tell you about this journey. Each invitation, we are going to learn about a love from a faithful Creator in the midst of our worst failures and times when we have struggled the worst, that there’s an invitation that He will be with you, that He will love you.
You’re going to meet a Savior who is caring and compassionate and kind, who is not surprised by your mistakes or your sin, who you don’t have to go and hide when you blow it. And you’re going to find a God who is so loving and so holy that He is compelled to not allow you to stay the way that you are. And that some of the things that even in the midst that this couldn’t be good, this couldn’t be kind, how could God let this happen? You’ll look back in a decade or two or three if you live that long and the Lord doesn’t return, and you’ll see, as I will share, some of the worst things that you thought were happening in your life were some of the kindest acts of God you have ever received.
Because you didn’t know what you needed protected from. You didn’t know what you needed to become the kind of person that you will become. You didn’t know at all what God’s ways and plans and the mystery were. And I’ll just tell you this, there were a handful of men and women in my life over the last fifty years that they blazed a trail and it was just so good to stop and talk and ask them when it felt like God couldn’t be in this, this is so hard. Everything from going through the time in my marriage where I didn’t know if I would make it, time with one of my kids where I thought he was going to die, time with another one where he said, “I don’t believe in God and I don’t want your God, Dad.” And time where I sat and wondered whether my wife would be with me much longer when she had cancer.
Life is hard, but Jesus has given us an invitation. And the invitation I have put in your notes, it’s from Matthew chapter 11: verse 28.
Jesus says, “Come, come to Me, all of you that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,” and then He gives a reason, “for I am gentle and humble in heart,” and here’s the promise, “and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When He said this to the first audience in context here, if you go back and read Matthew chapter 11, just before this, Jesus has done miracle after miracle after miracle. I mean, stupendous miracles in two or three different cities: Capernaum, Bethsaida.
And despite all the miracles, the people reject Him and the people don’t believe. Jesus says, “If the miracles that I have done in these cities would have been done in Sodom and Gomorrah or Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented.”
And then after all that rejection, He turned to a group of people who are observing how people responded and begin to ask about their own lives. And here was the invitation, “Come to Me. Come to Me, all of you that are weary.” It was a picture of, they were weary under the oppression of Pharisees and religious rules. They were weary from a Roman government that pushed them down. They were weary and heavy burdened for taxes that – most of the people were desperately, desperately poor.
And then they were like us. People that you just, I mean, “Is life ever going to make sense?” You know, most of us live the if/then. “If I can get into school,” or, “If I ever get married,” or, “If we can ever have a child,” or, “If my health ever shapes up,” or, “If we could ever own a home,” or… We play this game where happiness or contentment or satisfaction or meaning or purpose or life, it’s always over the next horizon.
And one of the things about being a follower of Jesus for fifty years and living another eighteen is I will tell you, after pastoring for almost forty, I have just have thousands of conversations. And I hate to be the big spoiler alert, is that once you find that person, then you’ll ask God for something else. If you ever get to buy the house or if you have the house then you’ll want to fix it up. And if you have one house and you start making a lot of money, you’ll want another one in a little bit different location. And if you ever…
And I’m just telling you, there’s no end, there’s no end, there’s no end. And then there comes a day when you get honest, and you realize you are weary and you realize you don’t measure up. And you realize that the goals and the dreams…
And then we play the game when we become parents, well, “If my child is smart,” or, “If my child gets into the right school, or whether they make the traveling team or if they can…”
And we play all these games and people get weary and weary and weary. And we are looking at a world where people are so discouraged and so anxious and so depressed and so confused. And it’s into the chaos then and into the chaos now where Jesus says to each one of us, “You come to Me.”
I am for people whose lives recognize their need, who you recognize that this world, no matter what you get or how much you get or who other people think you are, it never measures up. You keep grinding and grinding and grinding. He goes, “I want to give you peace, meaning, satisfaction, purpose. I want to give you life itself. And here’s the prerequisite: You need to come to Me.” And we’ll talk about what that means and what it looks like.
And then notice it’s not just a moment, it’s not just an event, although it is a moment and an event. It says, “Come to Me all of you that are weary and heavy laden,” just, in other words, there’s a lot on your back. There’s a lot of pressure. “…and I’ll give you rest.” And then notice He says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.”
In the day, they would talk about the yoke of the Law or the yoke of the Roman government. In other words, a yoke in that day was a picture of two animals together, right? You know, you have the two oxen pulling together? And to come under a yoke would be a metaphor for submission. It’s a metaphor, “I’m going to do life with this person.”
Jesus says, “Come to Me and let’s join together and I want you to do life with Me and then I want you to learn from Me. I want you to learn what life looks like, how it actually works, how relationships work.”
In fact, everything is super counterintuitive with Him. There’s a set of values in the world that are going this way that if you have success and money and power and fame, then you’ll be a someone, then you’ll be secure, then you’ll be significant. And Jesus says, “No, actually, if you want significance and security and meaning and peace, there’s a whole different set of values and I am going to teach you and I’ll be with you. And we are going to do life together.”
And then He gives them this great line. He says, “For I am gentle and humble of heart.” See, one of the things that we all have is a warped view of God. It can get better and better and better, but the more warped it is, the harder it is to come to Jesus.
When I was growing up, I went to a church, and it wasn’t a bad church in and of itself. This particular church was not a very good church. It didn’t teach the Bible, the people who were there didn’t take it very seriously, they said one thing and lived another way. By the time I was about fourteen, fifteen years old, I opted out; “I don’t need this.”
And when I began to meet people who said they were Christians, basically, most of my experiences were people that were very hypocritical.
And then, now and then, even back then with only three channels – can you imagine? – I would watch a little TV and people who talked about God on TV, it seemed like all they wanted was your money and I just thought, I don’t know about this Christianity, but I don’t buy it. I just don’t buy it at all.
And so, I became a profound skeptic. And my view of God was, from my church experience, that His arms were crossed, His toe was tapping, if it was fun, He was against it. And I just felt like there was always guilt hanging over my head and no matter what I did it was never good enough. And so, I just finally realized, Forget it.
And so, I rejected Christianity. I believed in some vague way someone made the universe but, you know what? Who that is and what they are like, I really didn’t know. The Jesus of the Bible stories that I learned as a kid, I mean, I don’t know if there really is a real Jesus or not, but that’s where I came from. But I never ever imagined that when Jesus says He’s gentle, in other words, He’s safe, He leans in, He doesn’t want to create a box that He knows you’ll hate and then gets you to do something that would be the worst thing for you.
He is a God who cares and is compassionate and who made you and created you and has a plan for you. And He invites you to come.
And so, as I was thinking through how to share that with you, I just, like, in your notes you might jot down, first, there’s an invitation. It’s to come. The audience is for people that have ears to hear. You never come unless you see your need.
Third, you’ll notice there’s a promise of rest. And this isn’t just physical rest. This is rest in your soul. It’s getting up and having a sense of, “I am who I am, I am where I need to be, my life has focus and meaning and peace and direction. And I love who God made me to be. And I’m on a track that gives me absolute significance and satisfaction, each and every day, waking up being just who God made me to be.” That’s the offer. And then He gives us a process where you take His yoke and you learn from Him.
And so, let me share a little bit about my journey and I’ll let you sort of think through.
Your family of origin, I don’t know about you, anybody here get to choose your parents? Yeah, I didn’t either. But an all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign God either directed, allowed you to have the parents that you had and if allowed, He’ll take even the most difficult situations and use them for your good.
And my parents were the Great Generation. My dad, at about sixteen or seventeen went into World War II. He was a great athlete. He actually got a football scholarship at a prep school to go to a private high school. At about sixteen and a half or seventeen, he signed on to be in the Marines.
And being a big, strapping guy, they made him a .50 caliber machine-gunner. So, at seventeen, if you can imagine, going to Afghanistan. Well, to him it was Guam, Iwo Jima. If you know your World War II history, it was the bloodiest battles of anywhere.
And so, I had a dad that I grew up with who, the good news was he lived or I wouldn’t be here. Bad news was he saw things and did things that no human being should ever have to experience. Despite protecting our country and all the rest, it still doesn’t change what happens. And then all the guys he went in with didn’t come back. So, he had the guilt of being a survivor and he had the trauma. My dad died at about eighty-six years old and even despite becoming a follower of Christ in his mid-fifties, he had nightmares until the very last years of his life.
Well, my dad, they didn’t do counseling back then, and weed was not really popular at the time. And so, my dad found with two or three beers he felt better. With five or six beers he felt a little bit better. With about eight or ten beers he was a pretty nice guy to be around. And so, from about two thirty or three o’clock, as a schoolteacher, he would go to the bar and he would drink until suppertime. And he came and was a very functioning alcoholic.
By the time I got to be about fourteen or fifteen, he missed a lot of suppers. And he was becoming less functioning.
Saturday mornings were very typical. At nine a.m. a guy named John would come over and they would have two cases of beer and they would sit at the table and tell stories from nine a.m. until nine thirty or ten. And I remember he would get up to go to the bathroom and I would go and I would pour out the beer thinking I was rescuing.
If you know anything about the research on alcoholic families, it’s literally, produces very dysfunctional families. My mom was emotionally intelligent, a guidance counselor, a teacher, an amazing person. And she became an enabler. And so, our whole life was, my dad had a very violent temper. When he blew up, you better run for cover. Never abusive in terms of hitting us and things, but scary.
And so, my mom always wanted to keep the peace, so in a classic alcoholic family, the oldest child usually rebels, which my sister did. The middle child usually becomes invisible, which my other sister did. She had an eating disorder and got down to about eighty-some pounds.
And the youngest child often becomes a rescuer. That’s where I came in. Now, on the outside, you would have thought, I mean, both parents were very educated. Both thirty-plus hours past their masters. My mom did all of her coursework, was working on her dissertation. Out in the community, we just looked like the really, really good family.
And my dad taught me a number of things that were really, really positive and really helpful in terms of my life. He taught me that if you want to be happy, here’s the mantra: be successful. Successful people are happy. And he wanted to help me be successful.
So, as a small child I can still remember I was two or two and a half. He was, in the summers he would manage the swimming pool, a teacher during the other year.
And he liked to show me off. And so, he got me to go to the high board, you know, the three-meter board. And the whole pool would stop and I can still remember climbing up it, climbing up it, and then I would get like this and then he would say something and then I would fall. I couldn’t swim. I’d fall in and dog paddle and everyone would cheer.
When I was three, every day before I would leave the room, there was a little easel and there were letters on the easel, and I was learning to read when I was three. I can still remember as a kid he would walk in and sometimes take me to the bar and say, “Okay, Chip, show them! Spell intercontinental ballistic missile.” I’m three years old. “I-N-T-E-R…” I’m not sure I even knew.
But you need to understand he literally said things by the time I was six, seven, eight years old, “You know, this country needs a great president. You could be that person.”
Now, on the one hand, he built a lot of confidence. On the other, he created a performance addict.