THE INVITATION TO COME
By Jeannette Haley
“My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
– Song of Solomon 2:10
When I was a child, receiving a pretty little invitation to come to a friend’s birthday party always stirred up delightful pictures in my mind of friends, games, prizes, cake and ice cream along with the fun of guessing what surprises were to be revealed as each gift was opened. Just thinking back to those days of so many years ago still brings to mind the scents of dusting powder, bubble bath crystals and perfume. Days were much simpler, sweeter and more secure back then, and I am so thankful to have lived before sin, sex and Satan was in your face 24/7 as it is today. But even though the world has fallen into a cesspool of debauchery, there is still an Invitation to “come”—not to a birthday party per se—but to the Father in heaven. It is the highest privilege to hold His Invitation in our hands as we read it in the Holy Bible. We find our name there wherever it says “whosoever.” Right to the end of the last chapter in the last book of the Bible we can read the Invitation: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17.
We can only try to imagine what took place in the hearts of John the Baptist’s disciples who were standing with him when John looked upon Jesus as he walked, and said to them, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36.) According to verse 37, we are told that the two disciples heard what John said and they “followed Jesus.” Their quick response to follow Jesus indicates that their hearts were tender towards God, ready to receive, and that they longed for the promised Messiah. They recognized John the Baptist as a prophet, believed his words, and were drawn to him as a man of God. They had undoubtedly repented of their sins, and been baptized by John in the Jordan River. Thus, when John recognized Jesus as the “Lamb of God” they were prepared to leave his company and follow Jesus.
Preparation is vital in the life of a believer. Oswald Chambers put it well when he said, “It is easy to imagine that we will get to a place where we are complete and ready, but preparation is not suddenly accomplished, it is a process steadily maintained. It is dangerous to get into a settled state of experience. It is preparation and preparation.
“The sense of sacrifice appeals readily to a young Christian. Humanly speaking, the one thing that attracts to Jesus Christ is our sense of the heroic, and the scrutiny of Our Lord’s words suddenly brings this tide of enthusiasm to the test. ‘First be reconciled to thy brother.’ The ‘go’ of preparation is to let the word of God scrutinize. The sense of heroic sacrifice is not good enough. The thing the Holy Spirit is detecting in you is the disposition that will never work in His service. No one but God can detect that disposition in you. Have you anything to hide from God? If you have, then let God search you with His light. If there is sin, confess it, not admit it. Are you willing to obey your Lord and Master whatever the humiliation to your right to yourself may be?
“Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to have brought it to your mind, it is that thing He is detecting. You were looking for a great thing to give up. God is telling you of some tiny thing; but at the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy: ‘I will not give up my right to myself’ — the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Looking back over the years, I can remember a few of the “John the Baptists” or mentors, God placed in my life for a season. These people were far from perfect, of course, but they had “something” I didn’t have as a Christian. God began preparing me as a child, although I didn’t realize that until later in life. That early preparation was especially though my great-grandmother, and a good Sunday school teacher. As an adult, two mentors in particular that the Lord brought into my life knew God in a way that I didn’t and their faith, courage, knowledge and experience drew me to them. I wanted to learn the Bible, but more than anything I wanted to know God, and literally “hungered and thirsted” to know Him personally. It’s all part of the preparation.
To prepare the way for Jesus, God sent John the Baptist. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” Mark 1:3. John was no whiny wimp, and no doubt rebels and sinners trembled on the day described in Matthew 3:7-12: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Of course, I had no clue that all of this training, which was just as much about what not to do as it was about what to do, was preparation for the day when God would team Rayola and I up to go forth and give the “Invitation” to various people in various situations and places. The “Rock” upon which this ministry is based is Jesus and His declaration in Luke 4:18, 19, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
What I find interesting is when Jesus turned and saw John’s disciples following Him, and He asked them “What seek ye?” they answered, “Rabbi….where dwellest thou?” (verse 38.) They wanted to know where He lived. They had just been told that Jesus was the “Lamb of God” and all they asked Him was where He lived! Maybe the reason they didn’t spring some complicated doctrinal question on Him was that they half expected Him to be mysterious and elusive about His dwelling place, or perhaps they wanted to “nail down” a literal, physical place so they could rest assured He would be dependable, approachable, and available. If He truly dwelt among them, then they could rest secure in the fact that He would “be there” for them and not mysteriously vanish. But we also know that “He had no place to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58.)
Unlike illusive cult leaders who love money and power, and who try to mesmerize their deluded followers into believing that they are more “god than man,” Jesus, who was God Incarnate, dwelt among man and, while being fully God, He was also fully man. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” John 1:14. In 1 John 1:1-4 we read these beautifully inspired words, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
What an Invitation God has given to us so that our “joy may be full”! What greater joy is there than to receive eternal life, and fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ? Can there be any greater invitation on this earth than that? Unlike an earthly invitation that only promises fleeting joy, this heavenly Invitation lifts our tear-filled eyes and heavy hearts upwards to heaven! The Invitation to come to the Father through the Son is for all who will come, but sadly, only a remnant responds. As for me, the heavenly Invitation gives me strength from day to day through these end times of sorrow and tribulation for “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10.)
And so, after the two disciples asked Jesus where he dwelt, He invited them to “Come and see” (John 1:39a.) I don’t know about you, but if I had been there that day and received such an invitation, I’m sure my heart would have been fluttering, my mind spinning and my steps quickened. How far they had to walk, we do not know, but we do know that they “abode with him that day.” Again, we have no clue as to what they talked about, what questions the disciples asked, or what answers He may have given. There was no scribe, no recorder, and no cell phone with which to capture that special time. It was personal, priceless, and no doubt profound. But, isn’t that the same experience our LORD wants for you and me today? His call to “Come and see” is for all who long to hear His voice, and all who will follow Him into the secret place of communion with Him through the Spirit.
One day, as Simon and his brother Andrew were busy casting a fishing net into the sea of Galilee, they received another invitation from Jesus. Imagine yourself in their place on that day, which was to them probably just another ordinary work day trying to catch fish, when suddenly Jesus walks by on the beach, sees them working, and says to them, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” Mark 1:17. The Bible says that they immediately “forsook their nets, and followed him” verse 18. The same happened a short distance down the beach when He called James and John. All four of them accepted Jesus’ invitation and followed Him. No doubt exciting this must have been exciting for these strong, young men. I suppose if it was me, there would be questions spinning uncontrollably in my mind—questions such as, “Where are we going? How long will we be there, and how do we “‘fish for men?’” I’d probably also ask, “Where are we going to eat dinner?” and no doubt, “Do we get to go home after dark?” These are all human considerations, but our LORD knows very well all the things that we have need of, and when we answer His invitation to rise up and follow Him, He takes care of all the details. Our duty is to answer the Invitation, and follow Him.
One of Jesus’ invitations that I love is in Mark 6:31 which says, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.” Sometimes Jesus invites us to come apart from the crowd, the busyness of our daily lives, the distractions of life and even from “ministry.” He not only knows that our minds and bodies require rest, but our souls and spirits as well. True rest can only be found in Him, but as Christians we all too often unintentionally leave Him behind as we pursue our different avenues of ministry. Churches, pastors, programs, and Christian works should never become our total focus, agenda and purpose. There are many temptations along this line, and they all seem good, but the danger is they can subtlety replace Christ in our lives. After all, Jesus calls us to follow Him, not to run off on our own line of thinking and way of doing.
God sent out His Invitation to rebellious Israel to come, in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Come now,” the LORD calls. Not tomorrow, not some convenient time when you feel like it, not on your terms, but NOW. Invitations are generally for a specific time, and even though God’s invitation to come has extended over many centuries, the day is fast approaching when the door will close, and the Invitation will no longer be valid. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 2 Corinthians 6:2.
The Invitation to the rich young ruler is indeed a sad story because riches were more important to him than answering the Invitation of the One who loved him. to come and follow Him. Jesus presented His Invitation to the young man who wanted to inherit eternal life, and had kept most of the commandments, by answering him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” Mark 10:21. How tragic that this young man turned away from the Invitation and went away grieved because he had great possessions. His love for the wealth of this world was greater than His love for the priceless treasure he could have had in Christ, so from this example we come to the sobering realization that the Invitation carries with it certain conditions and responsibilities. Jesus was clear that in order to be His disciple there is a price to pay. Even invitations to social events in this world often require certain conditions to be met, such as acceptable attire, gifts, donations, beverages, food, or other items that may pertain to the particular occasion.
One of my favorite Invitations from our Lord is found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. Concerning our rest in Him, Oswald Chambers wrote, “God means us to live a fully-orbed life in Christ Jesus, but there are times when that life is attacked from the outside, and we tumble into a way of introspection which we thought had gone. Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of the life in God, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling. Self-consciousness is not sin; it may be produced by a nervous temperament or by a sudden dumping down into new circumstances. It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs rest in Him must be cured at once, and it is not cured by being ignored, but by coming to Jesus Christ. If we come to Him and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him.
“Never allow the dividing up of your life in Christ to remain without facing it. Beware of leakage, of the dividing up of your life by the influence of friends or of circumstances; beware of anything that is going to split up your oneness with Him and make you see yourself separately. Nothing is so important as to keep right spiritually. The great solution is the simple one — ‘Come unto Me.’ The depth of our reality, intellectually, morally and spiritually, is tested by these words. In every degree in which we are not real, we will dispute rather than come.”
I need to point out that the “Christ-consciousness” Chambers wrote about is not to be confused with the occultic New Age definition of “Christ-consciousness” which belongs to eastern mysticism and the New Age. To them it means being conscious that we are Christ, instead of the biblical admonition “to have the mind of Christ” through the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 2:16; Romans 11:34).
The glorious Invitation in John 7:37, 38 took place on the last day of the great feast of Tabernacles when Jesus stood and called out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Here is an interesting teaching excerpt from Sapphire Throne Ministries, where we read, “…the water drawing ceremony took on a new dimension of meaning when Yeshua attended the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). On the seventh day of the feast – Hoshana Rabbah, which literally means, “the great hosanna, the great salvation” – the festival activities were different from those of each of the six previous days when the priests circled the altar in a procession, singing Psalm 118:25. On the seventh day of the feast, the people circled the altar seven times. That is why the day is called Hoshana Rabbah, as all the people cried, ‘Save now!’ seven times. This is when the man who was sent – Yeshua – stood up ‘and cried out, saying, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38 NKJV) on Hoshana Rabbah. (By Robin Main.)
This Invitation to drink of the living water was offered to the Samaritan woman at the well when Jesus said to her, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” John 4:14. She hurried to carry Jesus’ Invitation to the men of her city, thus being the one who gave the invitation to “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” vs. 29. After we have received Jesus’ Invitation to come to Him, then we are to share His Invitation to all the world, just as the man who made a great supper and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, “Come; for all things are now ready.” But the people who had been invited began to make excuses why they could not come, so then the servant’s master sent him “quickly into the streets and lanes of the city” to bring in the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind, but even so there was yet room. Then the master sent his servant back out to “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (See Luke 14:16-24.) How great an Invitation our God has sent to everyone, to you and to me!
Moving on to the next Invitation, picture yourself answering a knock on your door. There stands the glorified Christ holding an Invitation with your name on it in his hand. He extends it out to you, and you carefully take it from His hand. He smiles and nods for you to read what it says. The words written there cause you to drop to your knees, rejoicing with tears of joy for it reads: “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” How can you and I receive such an Invitation? It tells us in Matthew 25:31-34 where we read of the judgment of the nations, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Then go on to read the conditions in verses 33-46 where Jesus gave the sobering basis for His judgment, revealing those who will be on His right hand, those who will be blessed of the Father, those who will inherit the kingdom prepared for them, and who will have life eternal. The great Invitation to enter into these things is given to those whom the “King shall answer and say…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” verse 40.
Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus knows when His own are discouraged and confused, such as many are in the times in which we live? Sometimes when nothing makes sense in this world you just want to “go fishing” to get away from it all as did Peter along with several other disciples. (See John 21:1-3.) They caught nothing, which no doubt added to their dampened spirits, but then something wonderful happened. The resurrected Jesus stood on the shore, even though they did not recognize him at first until He told them what to do to catch fish, and then another miracle took place. Afterwards “Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine” John 21:12a. How their hearts must have rejoiced at this loving, personal, gracious Invitation from the Lord to “Come and dine!” Who could refuse such an Invitation? The Bible tells us that “This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead” verse 14.
The Invitation is still going forth to “come and see, come and let us reason together, come and follow, come and be taught to ‘fish for men’, come apart and rest, come and lay down your burdens and learn of Me, come and drink of the living water, come and dine, come and inherit the kingdom, life eternal, and so much more! Jesus promised, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” John 6:27. [Emphasis added.]
Has there ever been, or will there ever be, a greater Invitation? The answer, of course, is “No” for the sum total of God’s Invitation is His Son—Jesus Christ Himself is The Invitation.
Revelation 22:17 “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
And, our invitation, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:21b