An invitation to come
A traveller on a country road comes to a stream where the bridge has been swept away by a recent flood. The traveller sees an old farmer standing next to where the bridge used to be. He asks the farmer, “Is there a way to backtrack and find somewhere else to get across the stream?”
The farmer responds, “Yeah. Just, go back two miles, turn right, and … No, go back one mile, and turn left, …”.
The farmer stops for a minute, shrugs his shoulders, scratches his head, and then says to the traveller, “Come to think of it, you can’t get there from here.”
This is an old joke, but it illustrates a real problem for many people.
They cannot get where they want to go from where they are. We are disciples who are making disciples. Part of our job is to show lost people the way.
Everyone has a desire built into them that compels them to seek certain things. This is because god has planted eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Paul is talking about non-believers when he says. “God’s law is written in their hearts.” (Romans 2:15)
Everyone is made by God with a desire for love, for fellowship with God, for goodness – essentially a desire to live in God’s kingdom of heaven. But many people don’t know how to get there. Trying to find the way they dive into all kinds of sin and follow all kinds of false teachings. People take drugs, get drunk, engage in promiscuity, steal, lie, and so on as ways of feeding the desires God gave them. Instead they just get lost and soon find that they can’t get where they want to go. So they slide into hopeless despair.
This is the story of the prodigal son that we read this morning.
There are two sons in this story, and you are one of them. You are either the son who stayed at home, which makes you a disciple. Or the one who is lost.
(The father in this story is of course God himself.)
What would have been really nice is if the son who stayed at home had gone out and rescued his brother and brought him home. But Jesus didn’t tell the story that way.
In Jesus’ telling of the story, the good son is extremely upset and resentful of his brother and throws a major tantrum when he comes home. This is sadly how some disciples feel about non-believers who want to follow Jesus.
That is not the point I want to make today. Today I want you to notice that the lost son could not become a disciple until he went back to his father’s house. He could not get there from where he was. He had to go somewhere else first.
In John 6:37, Jesus says: “Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.”
“아버지께서 내게 주시는 사람은 다 내게로 올 것이며 내게 오는 사람은 내가 절대로 쫓아내지 않을 것이다.”
What must a person do to become a disciple? First, they must come to him.
Just like the lost son, we must come to him with all of our problems, sins, and failures.
This is conversion, when a person changes. It is not a long process. It is immediate. It is instantaneous. But it is not a matter of thinking. It is something that has to be done.
When to lost son was in the far off country, he knew he needed to go home. He woke up one day and realised he had wasted all his money on wild living and would die alone if he didn’t go home.
Thinking about it and doing it are different things.
We are making disciples by inviting people to come to Jesus. We are not offering them a theory to agree with or to reject.
This is how we make disciples. We share the good news and then we invite them to come to Jesus with us and to follow Jesus together with us.
The good news is simple and plain. Jesus died for you. He rose again on the third day.
This is how Paul did it. Listen to this highly educated and intellectual man explain in 1 Corinthians 2 how to share the good news.
“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.”
“형제 여러분, 내가 여러분에게 하나님의 말씀을 전할 때 고상한 말이나 인간의 지혜로 하지 않았습니다. 그것은 내가 여러분과 함께 있는 동안 예수 그리스도와 십자가에 못박히신 그분의 죽음 외에는 아무것도 알지 않기로 결심했기 때문입니다. 그래서 여러분과 함께 있을 때 나는 약하였고 두려워하였으며 몹시 떨었습니다. 내가 가르치거나 전도할 때 지혜의 설득력 있는 말로 하지 않고 성령님의 능력으로 한 것은 여러분의 믿음이 사람의 지혜에 의존하지 않고 하나님의 능력에 의존하도록 하기 위해서였습니다.”
The power of this message to change people is the power of the Holy Spirit.
God powerfully uses this simple yet incredibly profound message. He radically changes the lives of everyone from Satanists to religious people, from broken families and drug addicts to those deceived by cults.
The correct response to this powerful message is to obey Jesus.
Let’s turn to Matthew 11:28–30.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
“수고하고 무거운 짐 진 사람들아, 다 나에게 오너라. 내가 너희를 쉬게 하겠다. 나는 마음이 온유하고 겸손하다. 내 멍에를 메고 내게 배워라. 그러면 너희 영혼이 쉼을 얻을 것이다. 내 멍에는 메기 쉽고 내 짐은 가볍다.”
A person becomes a disciple by coming to Jesus. By taking Jesus’ yoke upon them. And by learning from Jesus.
The lost son could not return to his father’s house until he left behind his wild living and departed from the distant country.
This is conversion or repentance. We cannot stay where we are and become disciples.
Our job as disciples is to show and tell people how to get there from where they are.
We have to guide them to come to Jesus. We also have to teach them to believe and repent. These two things are essentially opposite sides of the same coin.
When we repent we let go. When we believe we pick up. Again, it is not about thinking something is wrong and feeling sorry. We have to put down, throw away the wrong things in our lives. Our hands will then be empty to pick up what is good, in this case the light yoke that Jesus holds out to us.
A liar who is caught may feel sorry and vow to become a better liar so they don’t get caught next time. That is not repentance. Repentance is to stop lying. And to start telling the truth.
Judas Iscariot felt sad that he had betrayed Jesus, but he didn’t repent.
Jesus told Paul (Acts 26:18), “I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.”
“내가 네 백성과 이방인들에게서 너를 구출하여 그들에게로 보내겠다. 이제 너는 그들의 눈을 뜨게 하여 어두움에서 빛으로, 사탄의 세력에서 하나님에게로 돌아오게 하고 나를 믿어 죄에서 용서받고 성도들이 받는 하늘 나라의 축복을 받게 하라.”
Anyone who still lives in the darkness hasn’t turned to the light. They haven’t repented and believed.
We are disciples. We have the light in us. Our task is to make disciples, and an important part of that is inviting them to come to Jesus and leave behind the darkness.
Please take this task seriously. Don’t try to win people with clever words, but speak the truth plainly, let the power of God work in them, and invite them to come and meet the Jesus you follow.
God bless you.