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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
Shortly after Jesus talked about, “Now I am going to go.” It’s getting near the end of the ministry. “I’m going to die,” and three days later…
And Peter takes Him aside, “May it never be.” You know, You can’t die! See, Peter has got this picture of: You’re going to take down Rome, You’re going to clean up the Jewish system, there’s going to be twelve thrones, I’m going to be one of Your right-hand guys. I mean, You’re the Messiah! You’re the King! You’re going to make everything right and You’re going to do it right now!
And Jesus, remember His words? “Get behind Me, Satan!” And do you remember His explanation? “Because you have the things of man on your mind instead of the things of God.”
What he wanted was the crown without the cross. And I don’t know about you, but I get that way. And Peter blew it on this one.
And so, after he crawls back in forgiveness, he begins to walk where Jesus restores him. And He did it in such a way where He wanted Peter to own, “Yes, you blew it. You were confident in yourself, and you messed up. But it doesn’t mean I have given up on you.”
And then you find where Peter starts to run. He preaches the first message, he becomes one of the great leaders of the Church, and that’s the pattern. And so, I would just encourage you, if you – look up these verses maybe this week. Do a little study. And then I encourage you to think about your own life. When did I start crawling? And when have I walked? And when I have stumbled?
And so, I told you last time that I came to Jesus at that Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. I didn’t really know much, but he said He’s standing at the door of my heart. If I would open the door, put my faith in Him, He would come into my life, forgive my sin, take up residence. He did. And my desires started to change and I had a joy that I never, never experienced. I could not put the Bible down. I hid it under my pillow.
And then within a couple months, I went away to college. And I went away to college mostly to play basketball and maybe get an education on the side. And I thought, you know, I didn’t have, I didn’t really know what a Christian was, because I had rejected religion and my church experience.
And so, I had one small little poster that I can’t remember the picture, but it said, “To the glory of God.” I thought, I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I put that one poster up and I put my Bible, I put it on my dresser. And it’s those old school rooms where two people roomed. I thought, I don’t know what my roommate is, where he’s coming from, but, you know, this is who I am and I’m not ashamed of being a Christian.
And so, as a guy walked by and it was an athletic dorm and he kind of knocked on the door and said, “Hey, what’s up?” And he was the fullback on the football team. And he saw my little poster, he said, “You a Christian?” And it was, like, my first time. I said, “Well, yeah!” I didn’t know what one was. But yeah! You know? And he goes, “Well, hey, you’re coming with me tonight. We’re going to go to a Bible study.”
So we, it was a tiny, tiny little town where you could walk, and it had just one bar and a little red church and a little white church. I mean, tiny area in West Virginia, but a beautiful, kind of beautiful campus up on this big hill.
And three or four five thousand students. Something like that. But a lot of commuters. And so, we walk uptown, and we meet Dave the bricklayer. And I had never been to a Bible study before, and it was me and the fullback and two other guys. And I didn’t know what to expect. All I can tell you was it was pretty boring. The guy, the bricklayer was, like, you know some people are really charismatic? He was very non-charismatic.
He had a high school education. Down-to-earth would be an understatement. And I thought, Well, you know, this is interesting. And so, I went back, because the fullback said I should and he was really big, so I obeyed him.
And then I remember Dave said, “Hey, would you like to learn to study the Bible?” And I didn’t, wasn’t really attracted to the guy, but it’s kind of like, it was like saying I’m a swimmer and someone says, “Would you like to learn to swim?” You sort of feel obligated. And so I said, “Oh, sure.”
So he, on Tuesday mornings would come at seven o’clock and he would come and teach me how to study the Bible. There was a little kitchenette on the floor and we’d go there and he would open the Bible. And, again, it was not dynamic. It was not exciting. He would just open it, we would read a little bit, he’d ask me a few questions, and I had never prayed out loud before. And so, he would pray, and I would sort of mumble a couple things.
And so, I was starting sort of to crawl, to walk, pretty soon they have, they called it a rally. And there were maybe twenty, thirty kids and sitting on the floor and playing guitar and singing and saying “Jesus” out loud and it’s just like, “Where am I?” This is like the Outer Limits. But something, there’s the real sense of God’s presence and that bricklayer would get up and kind of read a little bit from the Bible and I heard these different people and their lives and how they would come to Jesus and they cared, they loved. And something just drew me to it.
And then basketball season started and I have these new basketball friends and, you know, you want to kind of make the traveling team as a freshman and you want them to like you. And so, you know, I’m playing a lot of basketball and working out really hard and there’s a little thing like going to class. And then Friday, the guys on the team said, “Hey, we are going down to Wheeling, going to hit a few bars, and you coming?” “Well, yeah!” So, you know, I’m in the car with the guys and because my father was an alcoholic, at least I didn’t drink just because I saw what that did.
But I had the people skills, so I would be the guy that would introduce us to all the cute girls in all the bars and we would bar hop and, you know, I’d get home at two or three in the morning and Friday and Saturday night and sometimes – I made it to church maybe once a month.
And then I’d go to Bible study and get all fired up and then I’d go hit the bars on Friday and Saturday. And then I – you know, all I can tell you was my life was like I was schizophrenic. And I couldn’t have been more sincere, and Dave would come and knock on my door and it would be like, I would pretend I was asleep. Like, I do not want to meet with that bricklayer.
And then I’d go on Thursday night and God would speak to me. And I would remember where I was and what a phony I used to be and now I’d see me start to play some of those games again. And then with Christian friends I put on this face and then with the basketball guys, I put on this face, and with girls I would put on this face.
And I found myself reverting back to a lot of the old. And it was stumble, stumble, stumble. And I was miserable. And I just had one foot honestly with the Lord and one foot in the world. And I felt like there was a horse pulling me in both directions. And I just felt guilty a great majority of the time.
And then internally, when I wasn’t doing things that I knew were wrong, I was just – we all have our issues. I just felt like lust was something I just couldn’t overcome. I mean, I know I was supposed to have pure thoughts and we would sit as a basketball team. There was a cafeteria on the bottom floor of the freshmen girl’s dorm, and it had, like, six levels. And so, they would come in to get their food and we were just crass. You know, “3.2, 8.9,” rate every girl very specifically. And it was just ugly and crude and I would feel guilty and then I would pray and then I would as God to forgive me. And I just remember getting on my knees, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll never do that again, I’ll never do that again, I’ll never do that again.” Until the next day when I did it again.
And finally, I went from stumble to fall. And I just decided, “I guess I can’t live this life.”
And so, I took my Bible and I opened a drawer and I put it in the drawer and I took down my little poster. And literally it was almost this formal, “Dear God, it’s Chip again. Thanks for everything You did, I really do believe in You, but I can’t hack it. I’m done. I quit. I’m not a Christian anymore. I’m not going to read the Bible, I’m not going to try and be good, I’m not going to go to Bible study. I just want to officially resign.” I didn’t know, I didn’t know if you could do that or not, but I did it.
And so, I went about my day and got up the next day and I lusted like normal and I did the same thing, with the same… And then I still felt, I felt guilty and I felt this conviction. And it was like, “Whoa! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” I just, “Michael, Gabriel, can you get the message? I’m done! I’m out! I don’t…”
And I remember talking to an older guy and he goes, “So, you quit, huh?” I said, “Yeah. But how come God keeps messing with me?” I mean, I’m done. I can’t live this life. I’m a failure.” And he said, “Well, can I ask you something?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “Before you were a Christian, you sinned, obviously, like we all do.” “Yes.” And he named a few very specific sins we were both familiar with. He said, “Did you enjoy that?” I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “Did you feel guilty afterwards?” I said, “Eh, a little. Not much.” I thought, actually, I was a pretty good guy. I always compare myself to other people who are, like, axe murders and stuff. And I thought, You know, I’m no Billy Graham, but I’m not an axe murderer so, you know…
And he said, “Well, when you sin now,” and we were pretty specific, he said, “how do you feel?” I said, “Well, while I’m sinning, I feel pretty good. But afterwards it’s terrible. It’s just weight of guilt and…” And he says, “Well, that’s really good news.” I said, “Why is that?” He says, “Because when the Spirit of God comes into your life and seals you, He’s a jealous God. You are His son.”
And then he took me to this passage in 2 Timothy. It says, “This is a trustworthy statement: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure with Him, we’ll also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will disown us.” In other words, if I say, you know, “God, I forget it,” then He, okay, no blessing. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, because He cannot deny Himself.”
He said, “Chip, do you remember when you prayed and He’s standing at the door and He died for your sins and said if you would open the door, He would come into your life? And you said yes?” “Yeah.” “Who else said yes?” I said, “Jesus.” He said, “He keeps His commitments.” He said, “Chip, that’s why there’s a lot of verses about God’s discipline. He doesn’t throw people out of the family. He brings the velvet vise of discipline. You’re going to be miserable. And if your misery doesn’t get you to turn around and get on the right path, then He’ll allow you to be more miserable.”
And I thought, Oh, come on. And my god was basketball. I didn’t realize it was really me, basketball was just the cover. But I had this, “Oh, I’m going to be this great player and it would be twenty-five points a game and afterwards, I thought, It’s all Jesus. It’s all Jesus. You know? I wanted Jesus to make my life work out so I could be a great someone. Basketball was just my idol.
And so, freshman year, gosh, made the traveling team, started to get into the rotation as a freshman, and stress fracture in my foot, there goes that year. Next year, it’s my year, I’m going to be a sophomore, I’m really going to do it. And I played baseball as well, I came out of the batter’s box in fall baseball, getting ready, and pulled my quad from the top all the way out. There goes year number two.
Year number three, it was literally, it was literally like the vise of, okay, as long as you’re going to think that basketball is your god, with this girlfriend or so on the side, in His kindness, He just kept…
And I remember my great lordship moment, I would love to say was this deep, I really want to respond in ways…
And I remember coming to the point where I realized, God loves me so much that He will not let me have my own way. And I can keep going the way I am, and I suppose I can harden my heart. The Bible talks about getting to where you can actually sear your conscience.
In my strength, in my power, with my willpower, with my best efforts, I can’t live this Christian life. I can’t have pure thoughts.
And what I found out was little by little I actually found out that bricklayer wasn’t so uncool.
I share how uncool and how undynamic because I think we are living in a world that is so about flash and not substance. So much about façade and fame and… And you know what he did? He wouldn’t give up on me. An older guy told him, you know, “Ingram is a loser, he’s a flake. Dave, you’re wasting your time.” But Dave wouldn’t quit. He just kept coming on Tuesday morning. And it wasn’t like He wanted me in a Bible study or wanted to be some Christian goody two-shoes.
And he invited me up and I found myself a couple times a week, at times, eating around His table. And I came from a dysfunctional family. From about thirteen to seventeen, my dad was gone. Thank God for coaches. He was just gone. I didn’t know what a man was.
And I sat around Dave’s table and I watched: What do families do? They eat meals together like this. And I watched him come down smelling with all this cologne and with a tie on. I mean, this is a blue-collar, hardcore guy. His hands were so rough it was like shaking hands with a lobster from laying those brick.
And he was this manly man and he had a tie on, the coat. “What are you doing?” He goes, “I’m going on a date.” I said, “With who?” He said, “Who do you think? Polly, my wife.” “What?” A man goes on a date with his wife? I watched my parents for twenty years. I didn’t see them ever go on a date. I rarely saw them hug. I rarely saw, I mean, what is this?
And then I watched him with his kids, and I watched him with me. And then I worked part time with him and I saw how he treated people. Then I remember being in the truck with him and someone was broken down and it’s pouring rain and he pulls over and he gets
underneath this thing and fix[es] this guy’s car.
When I got done with my three or four years around Dave, this uncool guy had this impact on me. I wanted to be a man like Dave someday. I wanted to be a Christian like Dave. Instead of my life and how I was living it, with, “Oh, how many people could you date?” I wanted someday, some way to have a Polly. And God gave me it when I said no to the junk and yes to that.
And then I wanted to have the kind of marriage that He had. I wanted to be the kind of dad that he was. I wanted to be the kind of person that cared the way he cared. It was just so attractive. And he wasn’t cool and it wasn’t external. It was the beauty coming out from inside of him. And he was this just down-to-earth guy that read his Bible and loved people and cared about me.
And from that little group of three or four, we grew to about two hundred and fifty in Bible study in the next two or three years. And I could tell you, if people, like myself and others, and every continent around the world that we take our spiritual lineage back to a bricklayer with a high school education, who just followed Jesus and basically never said it out loud, but just, “Follow Jesus the way I do.”
And I will tell you, there’s not enough money, there’s not enough fame, there’s not enough likes, there’s not enough esteem, there’s not enough success in all the world that will ever deliver the invitation that Jesus delivers: Follow Me. I will make you a fisher of men.” Purpose: to discover why you’re on this earth, to crawl and walk and stumble and fall and mess up and get back up and allow God to even take the worst things you have done and reorient them around His grace to love people and see Him work through you the way Dave did in me, I will tell you, there’s nothing better. Nothing more glorious.