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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
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.
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. And I remember becoming a workaholic by the time I was twelve. I had eight or nine lawns, two paper routes, and lent my parents three thousand dollars at six percent interest.
And by the time I graduated from high school, I had a basketball scholarship, a pretty girl, and I graduated in the very top of my class. The end! Great life, right?
But I remember being in an apartment off of Ohio State’s campus. I grew up in the Columbus area. And the apartment was empty and there were about twenty-five or thirty of us sitting in a big circle, passing a joint around. And I was sitting next to a girl, I still remember her name, Jackie.
And so, as it’s coming around, you know, as one famous president said, “I didn’t inhale.” I actually didn’t, I passed it on. I was so small and so skinny I thought, Man, I can’t do anything that is going to hurt my body, because, man… I thought all I cared about was basketball, but I was so desperately insecure, all I really cared about was impressing people and trying to find significance and longing for someone to love me just for me. Because what I had learned was the only reason anyone every cared about me is what I could do or what I had accomplished. And I was a prisoner.
But the benefit of becoming friends with Jackie was her boyfriend was about two years older, about six-three, about two-twenty and very mean. And so, she was really safe. He would kill you if you messed with his girl. And so, we became friends.
And as we were sitting there on the floor in the big circle, she looked at me and she looked at me and she goes, “You must be really happy.” I said, “Why is that?” And she named my cute little girlfriend and then she said, “You know, you ended up real near the top of the class and, you know, your dream. Your basketball stuff, you got a scholarship.”
But something happened where I thought, Oh. I never even thought about whether I was happy.
I was driving home, it was about two a.m., that, “You must really be happy.” And I already had projected to the next set of goals. And then I thought, So, why am I here?
And I remember, probably it was my first adult prayer. I kind of got real quiet, got in the house, and I remember, literally remember, sitting on my bed and there’s a window right next to my bed. And I looked out and it was a really starry night. And I thought, You know, someone must have made this.
And I said, “God, I don’t know if You exist or not, but here’s the deal. If You exist, what do You want from me? I mean, if, I don’t know if there’s a God or not, but if You exist, what do You want from me? And then here’s my proposition. If You can reveal Yourself to me in a way that I can really understand, I’ll do whatever You want me to do."
And so, that was my kind of first adult prayer. And I prayed it. And the guy that taught me so much, he was a basketball coach. I was lined up to do, paint houses with him before I went away to school. And there was a delay for a week. And the same day I got my summer job, was going to delay for a week, the football coach for reasons I don’t know – as you can see I did not play football – said, “Hey, Chip,” maybe he asked a number of other people, talk about the providence of God. “I’ll pay your way to this camp. The best basketball players in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio are going to be there.” I said, “I’m in!”
And so, I go to this camp and as I go to this camp, it was like, okay, great. And then I’ll never forget, literally, it was a Good News Bible, a little bit smaller and it had a little cross. And on the bottom it said, “FCA.” Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Well, I didn’t know what the Fellowship of Christian Athletes was. All I knew was Tom Landry, who was the coach of the Cowboys, was going to be one of the speakers. I mean, Bullet Bob Hayes, Roger Staubach, you all don’t know who I’m talking about. But Google it. Cowboys. They were great.
And then I walked in, it was on a college campus and there were about six hundred athletes, and all I – when I used “Jesus” it was with other words connected to it, but not in prayer. And I heard people saying “Jesus” out loud and they had Bibles and they gave you a t-shirt with a cross on it. And I thought, Oh my lands. It’s 1972, I’ve been dropped in the land of Jesus freaks. I am – this is, these are the hypocrites, these are the weird people, not going here.
So, every morning for twenty minutes before you ate breakfast, then you did a lot of really fun sports, is they had, they called it “quiet time” or something. And so, they gave you this Good News Bible. And so, I did like this and I sat like this and I looked at five hundred and ninety-nine guys and said, “If you suckers want to believe this crap, you can. But I’m not.”
And so, I wouldn’t open my Bible. Day one, day two, day three. And then each day, some guy, I can’t, so, his first name was Max. Some guy named Max got up, opened the Bible, read a paragraph, and talked for twenty or thirty minutes.
It actually made sense. When I grew up going to church, some guy would talk for about ten or eleven minutes and we lit a lot of candles and we sat, kneel, stand, sat, kneel, stand. And I had everything memorized and I could be thinking about the NBA and going, “And also with you.” You know? I had it down.
And I’m not, by the way, I don’t mean that critically. I just, it was just, it was just words, because there’s no reality. And so, day four the peer pressure got to me. In fact, I dug out a Good News Bible so I would have the exact. And so, you know, I don’t suggest this is how God always leads people, but what I did is I did this. Everyone is looking around, I’m thinking, this is, like, day four.
And I looked down. It said, “So then my brothers, because of God’s great mercy to us, I appeal to you, offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is what He really wants from you.”
And again, I had never heard of the Holy Spirit before, but it was like, Pfff. Literally, I could see myself in my room, in my mind, God, if You exist, what do You really want from me? And this verse said, “You.” Not your money? No. Not going to church, a bunch of stuff? No. You. I want you.
And then the very next verse said, “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you’ll be able to know God’s will, what is good and pleasing to Him,” what’s actually perfect for you. Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. So, I mean, I read that verse and literally I saw pictures in my mind. And I saw me with a girl, dating and talking sweet and telling her what I wanted her to hear for ulterior motives. And then I had this picture come to me that, you know, in a classroom, with the teachers and parents and all this stuff. And I gave them the all-American boy stuff.
And then I had this picture, this video came up of me in the locker room. And I was always the shortest and the skinniest, always recruited the biggest, baddest dude on our team to be my enforcer. And I had the mouth and he had the brawn.
It was like – if the dictionary, if it came up and said, “Chameleon,” it was like there was my picture. And I would pretend to be different people with every different group, because I was so desperately insecure and so afraid and had no rest in my soul and so longing, I didn’t know what to do other than play everybody off one another so that somehow, someway, because you’re only as valuable as what people think of you.
And then, the next verse, it says, “And because of God’s gracious gift to me, I say to every one of you, do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be modest in your thinking and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.” And all I can tell you was, I was scared and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And later that afternoon, I was coming off the field and they would put you in these, they call them huddles. And you’d have about ten or twelve guys and you play all the, you know, flag football, basketball, all kind of stuff. And then they would throw a bag of ice in the middle and you, they’d talk about God and things.
And if you can picture this, I couldn’t have been a hundred and thirty-five, a hundred and forty pounds. And skinny little kid. And the fullback for Illinois was here and the wide receivers for the Atlanta Falcons was here, and they are walking off the field and this, those wide receivers look very small on TV. They are very big in real life. I still remember his quads were, like, this big. I’m going, Dude, man, that’s amazing.
And I could hear about every third word and I heard a very intimate conversation. And the fullback was struggling with something; I couldn’t make it all out. And this guy was talking about what was more important than his NFL career and his wife and his faith and Jesus, but he wasn’t cussing. And I saw the gospel. Again, I didn’t know any verses about, “By their love you’ll know that the Father sent Me.”
All I knew was something happened inside as I was walking behind these guys, I thought, I have never seen a grown man love another grown man ever in my life in this powerful, non-sexual way. And something just welled up and said is, I want what they have. But I didn’t know how to get it. I had no understanding. All of a sudden, I’ve got all this new information and these Jesus freaks, and I’m a skeptic and I don’t believe any of this stuff. And all my bad background. All I know is what God really wants is me and I’m the biggest hypocrite. And that night, that fullback got up and he sang the Lord’s Prayer.
And I can’t, I can’t, again, I don’t, I didn’t have any background with God. He sings the Lord’s Prayer and I start to water. Why am I crying? I don’t understand. And then a guy got up with some chalk and he started drawing something. And he was drawing the story, I would learn later, it’s called the gospel, or the good news. It wasn’t a transaction, it was a declaration. It’s that God did something good and he who has ears to hear. “Whoever would like to come to Me, this is how you can actually come to Me and have rest for your soul and purpose,” and all the things that I looked for. And he drew this picture. In fact, I’m going to put it up. This is my little version of this picture.
So, he gave this verse in John 5:24 that says, “Truly, truly,” or, “verily, verily I say unto you, he that hears My word and believes on Him that sent Me,” and this is what just, it’s killer, not will, “has eternal life.”
Jesus, what does it mean? How do you come? “He that hears My word,” what you’re hearing right now, “and believes,” put your trust in, not intellectually agrees with, “believes on Me has eternal life and will not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
And so, that picture is over here, that was me. How do you like my stick figure? And he explained that all of us blow it, all of us have sinned. And he explained that the wages of the consequences of our sin before a holy God is we fall short. I mean, Mother Teresa may have been a ninety-seven out of a hundred and Billy Graham a ninety-six point five, but they still fell short.
And with a holy God, there’s just, there is no hope because He is absolutely pure and holy. But what we couldn’t do for ourselves, He did. Jesus is the bridge. John 1:12 says, “As many as receive Him, to them He gives the right,” the word is “the power,” or, “authority to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.”
And afterward, I saw that and for the first time in my life, I recognized coming to Jesus is not being religious. It’s not intellectually even agreeing that Jesus was a person or even that He was God or even that He was the Savior of the world. Those are important.
But it’s actually a transfer of trust that you believe that what He did on the cross paid or covered for your sin. And then His invitation, I’ll still remember this, literally that man, he said, “Jesus is saying this to each one of you athletes in this room, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man, if any woman, if any student hears My voice and opens the door, I’ll come into him and live with him and He with Me.”
And all I can tell you was I was so aware that I was at a crossroads in my life. And I thought, If I allow You to come into my life, if I get this right, You want to forgive me, but You want to give me a new life and You want us to do this life in the future, together. And it wasn’t like I thought I had to stop this, this, this, or that. But I realized I can’t play God. I can’t mess with Him.
There were some things that I knew I was doing that if I was going to get on this path, those things were going to have to go. And I didn’t know if I wanted to let them go. And then I kind of replayed in my mind, I am so tired. I am so weary of trying to project that I’m something that I’m not. I’m so weary and laid down with grinding it out, trying to be this and that and get these people to like me and, whoo. God, I’m not sure exactly what it means for You to come into my life.
In fact, my prayer was like a letter. Dear Jesus, this is Chip. I didn’t know how to pray. Whatever it means for You to forgive me right now and for me to trust You to come into my life, I want to do that right now.
And Jesus says, “Come to Me,” and the promise is, “I will give you rest.” And very imperfectly I said, I want to do life with You, but I don’t know how to do it. But I prayed and I asked Christ to forgive me and to come into my life, in June of 1972. So, I had this little Good News Bible and I, when I got home, I put it underneath my pillow. I didn’t want my parents to think, you know, I went to a camp and now I’m a Jesus freak.
And when people weren’t looking, like in the morning, I started reading through the New Testament. And I remember thinking, How could, does someone have a recorder underneath my bed? How could anyone know this about you?
And then at night I would read it before I’d go to bed and then I would hide it under my pillow. And then I still remember about two weeks later, because I had such a, I mean, a mouth that was unbelievable. Foul. I just quit cussing. And then I remember it was a month later and a big law had come in from instead of twenty-one to eighteen you could drink. And so, my buddies said, “Hey, man, you’ve got to come with us.” So, I go with them, and we go to this bar and, in fact, it’s not just a bar. I mean, it’s a super sleazy place.
And I remember sitting in this booth in this really dark place and feeling dirty. And I remember turning to my friend and this was so weird. It was like, “Man, I’m just not into this.” “What? Man, Chip, we have been waiting for this! Come on, man. Blah, blah, hey, ah!” I said, “I just, this just isn’t for me.” And I remember I got up and I left. God changed my desires. Life is hard, but Jesus has given us an invitation. You are and you will become how you respond to invitations from people and even more so, invitations from God.
My wife Theresa who couldn’t be with us, she’s sick this morning, my subtitle that I put for this was, “The Four Great Invitations: Lessons from My First Fifty Years with Jesus.” And she said, “Well, do you think you’re going to get fifty more?” I said, “No. I think I’m going to get forever.” These are my first fifty years. I’ll have five hundred years, I’ll have five thousand years, I’ll have five million years, I will have five billion years, I will have a google years in the presence of a faithful, kind, loving, holy Savior because in 1972, Jesus said, “Come, I will give,” it’s a gift, and I came.