#2082 – The God of Invitations – 27 Dec 2009

The Message

Luis Palau

Special Guest

Craig DeMartino

Special Music

O Come, All Ye Faithful
Medley- Hark the Herald/Blessed be the Name
Joy to the world
For Unto Us A Child is Born

Solo/ Anthem:
Azusa Pacific University Handbell Choir – Gloria, Carol of the Bells,  
Caroler’s Hoedown
Josh Lopez- O Come, All Ye Faithful

The Message

It’s good to be back. Good to be back at Crystal Cathedral this morning. I thank Dr. Schuller for inviting me and it’s good to see you this morning. I want to bring you a twenty-minute message. That’s hard for a Hispanic. You know it takes us twenty minutes to say hello and build connection with the audience and here I’ve got to do it all in twenty minutes.

But I heard a story in England about a new, a young fellow who had just been ordained in the Church of England and as soon as he got ordained they invited him to go speak at a youth convention and so he accepted on the spot. He was so excited. And then he began to think what have I done? I don’t know what to talk about. So he goes to his bishop and he says bishop, bishop what shall I talk about? What shall I talk about? And the bishop said talk about God and talk about twenty minutes. And that’s what I’m supposed to do today, okay? I’m going to talk about God and hopefully for no more than twenty minutes.

Now you know I want to read a passage for you from the Old Testament. Dr. Schuller read about the birth of Jesus Christ from Isaiah chapter nine. I want to read to you about God. I’ve entitled the message “Oh God of Invitations.” You know there are many people who are not sure whether God really wants them, whether they are worthy to approach God, whether God will even receive them because they know things about their past life. They know secret things that perhaps nobody in the world knows except them and God almighty. And they wonder will God accept me. Is God with open arms waiting for me or is He shunning me away because of what He knows about me?

Last summer my family and I every summer we are invited by a friend of ours to go to central Oregon in the western United States and they have a ranch and we stay there and we spend about ten days all the family, all the grandchildren, everybody. This summer one of my boys and I were driving actually from dumping some garbage and the phone rings, the cellular, and a woman friend of ours, she and her husband are business people in the western United States. And she called up and she was sobbing. And we said what’s happened? She said a partner with whom we’ve done business for twenty-five years and we’ve known him for all these years, we’ve worked together, we’ve succeeded, we’re going through a tough time right now like so many people are in the US and around the world. And she said this morning we heard yesterday he took his life. Now here’s a fellow who had made millions of dollars, drove a Ferrari, which is a very expensive car, always dressed with first class suits and always looked like a movie star, suntanned, his hair in place, he seemed like the picture of success. He had some problems in his personal family life, but when you met him, you thought this fellow is on top of the world. He absolutely has it all together, but in fact there was something going on in his life that even his partner of twenty-five years had no idea.

And then the wife, still sobbing said to us, you know what really broke our hearts is that after twenty-five years we’ve gone fishing with him, we’ve gone hunting, we vacationed, we’ve done business but we never really urged him to accept God’s invitation to surrender his life to Jesus Christ. We didn’t realize what turmoil was going on in his soul. We had no idea. He didn’t leave a note, he didn’t leave a message, he never wrote a letter, he just took his life and he was gone. And she couldn’t be consoled, this woman.

And you known you never know when you meet a person where they really are. You know we know how to put on a front, we know how to dress well and appear to be happy, and we may be happy on the outside and crying on the inside. And so this morning in these minutes that I have I want to talk to you about the God of invitations. God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who was born on that first Christmas morning through the blessed virgin Mary, by the work of God’s spirit. And the angels came down and they said “fear not I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all the people that today in the city of David a Savior has been born who is Christ the Lord.” We know those words, we know the Christmas songs; joy to the world the Lord has come. But there are millions of people who in spite of all that inside they are going through turmoil even to the point of taking your life. So I want to read to you in this passage of Isaiah just a few select verses and there are four things about God.

First, God is a God of invitation. And if you’re here today and you wonder, but will God take me? Does He know all about me? Yes, He will take you and He invites you.

Second, God is a God of justification. That’s a heavy word, but I’ll explain it. Because it’s important to understand if you are in a state of despair inside, that God is a good God and that God is a forgiving God and a loving God and He’s got it all together to help you be set right with Himself.

Thirdly, God is a God of revelation. He loves to speak to you. A few minutes ago the young man, DeMartino was saying that you know that he wondered what plan God had for his life losing a leg so young with a young wife and now some children. But God loves to reveal Himself.

And then lastly, God is a God of transformation. So first invitation He calls you to Himself. Second, justification; He sets you right with Himself. Thirdly, revelation God loves to speak to your soul and to your heart in the inner person. And finally the affect of all that is transformation; change begins to take place. If only that young businessman, that business man that I told you about, if only he had heard the call and responded he would have never taken his life because God had a wonderful plan for his life; He missed out on it.

So let me read to you first about the God of invitation and please take it personally as though God is speaking to your heart. Listen to this: “Come, He says, all of you who are thirsty come to the waters. Come by and eat, come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend your money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy. Listen, listen to Me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest affair. Give ear,” listen hear it comes, “come to Me. Hear Me so that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” The God of invitations. Five times God says come, come, come, come. Why does He repeat it so often, because we are so stubborn. Because some of us feel guilty from whatever it may be and we feel yes God is calling, but He’s calling the good people, the flawless people, the religious people. No, no, no you notice He says come to Me all of you who are thirsty. Come to Me says the Lord. And this morning I want you to know that God is a God who is a good God. He is a loving God. He’s a forgiving God and He’s waiting for you with open arms. He says come, come to Me, come to Me.

You know we so often go to counselors and that’s fine. We often need them. You go to a psychiatrist and sometimes it’s inevitable they are the best. But you know we often run from person to person and God almighty who created us in our mother’s womb, as the prophet says, who knows us inside and out, who loves us with an everlasting love. We sometimes forget that God Himself says to you, “come to Me, come to Me. I will take care of whatever is afflicting you.

And you know coming is the simplest thing in the world. Even a child can understand come. I have two grand, well I have eleven grandchildren but the two youngest one is a boy, he’s three, he’s a menace. His name is Luke. We call him Lukey. And all you have to say to Luke is Luke come. And he gets his head down and he comes at you like a football player. And someday he will be one I’m sure for the University of Oregon. And he will be great however right now he’s a menace because he comes like a bomb at you, you know and he hits you like he’s playing football. But he knows what coming means. And then we have a little granddaughter that was adopted from Ethiopia by one of our boys and his wife. Sadie; she’s only one and she’s beginning to walk but basically she likes to crawl and we say Sadie, come, she comes like a rabbit on all fours, you know? And she comes at top speed. Both of them know what it means to come. It’s the simplest thing in the world. And the Lord God says to you this morning, especially if you are loaded down with turmoil or with guilt or whatever is burdening you. Remember what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 11: “Come to Me all of you who are tired and burdened down, depressed even. Come to Me and I will give you rest.” The Lord calls you to Himself.

On another occasion Jesus Christ said “come follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” In other words He’ll give you a grand purpose for your life, an eternal purpose. God wants you to come to Him and He will give you something that will be of eternal value. He will use you to touch other people, to bless other people, to draw them into the eternal kingdom of God. There’s nothing like it when human strategies fail, when the economy tanks, when your investments drop forty or fifty percent and you’re in despair, Christ says come to Me, come to Me. I will take away the burden. He says come to me; I’ll give you a grand purpose. I’ll make you fishers of men.

And then you know I was thinking the other day in John you remember it says that Jesus, on the last great day of the feast, stood up in the temple in Jerusalem and He cried out in a loud voice “if anyone is thirsty” he says “let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within.” And this He said about the Holy Spirit that those who believed in Him were going to receive streams of living water. I love that. And you know the Lord is saying to you today if you are thirsty come to Me. Drink of Me, believe in Me and it will be like a stream of living water flowing out of you to bless other people, too.

So the Lord calls you today and He says come, come and actually get to know God. There’s no better time then this time when there’s turmoil around the world, when all of us are asking basic questions, return to God your creator. Surrender your life to Him and get to know what it is to be filled with God’s spirit. You know it says in the bible that when you receive Christ you become a temple of the living God. And it says that we are temples of God and that the spirit of God lives in us. We’re not alone in the world when we know the Savior. We’re not alone when He lives in us. We are His children and we can walk with Him and face the problems of life. The second thing He says here is that God is a God not only of invitation, calling you to Himself but what is He trying to do when you respond? He is a God of justification.

Let me read it to you. It says: “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake His way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and He will have mercy on him. And turn to our God for He will freely pardon. Justification, that’s a legal term and you know basically the teaching of scripture is that God is the lawmaker all the moral law and the laws of nature were created by God our creator. He’s also the judge but He’s also a just God and a righteous judge. He’s also a God of mercy. So basically, what it means is this: when you respond to the call of God and surrender your life to His son Jesus Christ, then what happens is God takes care of the problem of guilt, the problem of memories, the problem of condemnation that we condemn ourselves because of our failures.

And God dealt with that on the cross of Jesus Christ and that’s why when He was hanging on the cross you remember that He cried out “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.” And then He also cried out, do you remember? He had a thief on his right and a thief hanging on another cross on His left and He was in the middle and He cried out “my God, my God why have You forsaken Me?” It was a rhetorical question. He knew why He was alone on the cross. He was taking our place. He was taking our guilt on Himself so that God could declare us forgiven justified.

One of the most popular definitions of what it means to be justified is this: that when you have Christ in your heart God looks at you just as if you’d never sinned because you are so forgiven through the work of the cross of Jesus Christ that in God’s eyes, now it’s as though you had never sinned. You are so forgiven and so cleansed.

My father died as a very young man. He was only thirty-four and I was a ten-year-old boy, but his favorite promise from God’s holy word was this: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ. So if you’ve given your life to Christ then you should know and you should rest at peace. I am forgiven but I am also justified and God the Father looks at me as though I have never sinned because of His son Jesus Christ. Thirdly, God, once He calls you and you respond, He justifies you, He forgives you then He begins to reveal Himself to you and listen to this. Very brief, listen to this: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways declares the Lord for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” And then He goes on to say: “So is My word that goes out from My mouth, says the Lord. It will not return to Me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Dear friends, one of the most amazing things about surrendering to Jesus Christ is that God personally begins to reveal Himself to you. And I like to emphasize men when I come to this point. It seems like women have a more tender mind to think about God and get close to God. But for you men who here, young men, middle aged, older men God wants to reveal Himself to you. The young man who just spoke to us who lost a limb and wondered what God’s purpose was for him. There is a passage in the book of Psalms that I just absolutely am entranced by. It says “the Lord confides in those who fear Him.” He makes His covenant known to them. The Lord confides in those who fear Him. God delights to reveal Himself. What’s your purpose to your life? Why are the things that are happening in your life actually happening? Is there a purpose? But we have to give God time. Spend time with Him, listen to His voice by reading His Holy Word, the Bible, listening to His voice and God will speak to you.

One day commenting on this passage my pastor said these words, he said: God has no favorites but He does have intimates. It’s a very profound thought. God has no favorites. Anybody can come to Him no matter what the background, but He does have intimates and the intimates are those of us who’ve given time, who spend time in His presence, who listen to Him so that He can reveal Himself to us. And then of course the result of all that you’re coming to the living Christ who rose from the dead and is alive today, you are accepting the forgiveness and justification of God. You are listening to His voice so that He can reveal Himself to you, the result is transformation.

So the God of invitation becomes the God of justification. Then He begins to give you His revelation and the result is transformation. I hope you won’t forget that. And I also pray that you will come to Him if you’ve never come and say Lord Jesus Christ on this season of the year at this particular time I need You, I want You, I come to You, I repent, I receive, I surrender, please take over in my life.

So let’s bow our heads before God shall we? Oh God my Father, You are a good God. You’re a forgiving God, You’re the God of invitations and right now Lord Jesus Christ I accept Your invitation. I open the door of my heart. I surrender to You Lord Jesus Christ. Set me right with Yourself. Take over in my life. Reveal Yourself to me, oh God, so that You can use me to touch other people, to reach out to other people and to draw them into Your kingdom and I thank You in Christ’s name, Amen.

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