I hope that you have already joined an Epic Group or that you’re in the process of narrowing it down. There are so many amazing options and I want to tell you about one we’ve never done before. It’s called Rooted and it’s a 10-week discipleship course for anyone who is looking to grow in their faith. Not only will you enjoy the significant discussions in this study, but there are weekly & even daily practices that go with it.
Have you ever received an invitation that felt so special and caused you to say, “I can’t believe they invited me to this.”? Maybe it was that cool person in your middle school who invited you to attend their birthday party. Now, maybe you got invited because everyone else said, “no”, but you don’t care how you got invited…you’re just so happy you received an invitation. Or maybe it was at work. The CEO invited you into a meeting and wanted to know your ideas and dreams for making the company stronger.
It was Valentine’s Day of 2021, still very much in COVID season here. Let’s be honest – the only invitations any of us were receiving during that season were invitations to join a Zoom meeting and that got old fast. But on Valentine’s Day, my wife Shauna and I received an invitation to attend a very special gathering for a very special organization on a very special island called Maui. It was one of those invitations you respond to immediately before they realize they invited the wrong person.
There is something so significant about being invited by someone you value so highly, especially when it involves doing something that is so meaningful to you.
When Jesus showed up to his original disciples and when he shows up to us and utters these two loaded words, “Follow me!”, that’s the language of invitation. He invites us to know what he knows, to do what he does, and to go where he goes.
Matthew 4:19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
“The cross is for both coming and going.” Shauna Pilgreen, Translating Jesus
We come to Jesus. He sends us to others. But we don’t go to others by ourselves.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
When Jesus invites us to play a part in what He’s doing in someone else’s life, He’s inviting us into an adventure that’s beyond what most of us can imagine. This is what I want to talk about today in a message I’m calling, “The Power of an Invitation”. We’re in week 2 of a series called Translating Jesus. This is the title of Shauna’s latest book and if you didn’t receive one last week, make sure you get yours today.
Acts 8:26-38 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else? Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
God speaks to us. But are we listening? What if Philip would have been preoccupied, self-absorbed, or distracted? I wonder how often I’ve missed hearing God speak to me because I was consumed with everything else. And I also wonder if we miss out on God speaking to us because we don’t believe he would do such a thing.
“I believe the single most important thing I have to do is to encourage people to believe that God will speak to them and that they can come to understand and recognize his voice.” Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness
God speaks through Scripture. He speaks through prayer. He speaks through circumstances, other people, and dreams. And of course, He speaks through his Holy Spirit. A prayer that we’ve been praying over the last couple years at Epic is this one, “Come, Holy Spirit.” It’s a simple invitation for the Spirit of God to come more into our lives, our worship gatherings, and any other spaces we inhabit.
“You don’t have to tell the Holy Spirit when or where or how to come, but you should extend an invitation.” Mark Batterson, Whisper
God speaks to us and God also sends us.
John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
God sent Philip south to the desert road. Why? To show Philip how beautiful this area was so he could consider getting a timeshare there? No. He sent him there because God had also sent this Ethiopian eunuch there.
Why do you think God has called you to San Francisco or wherever you call home?
To enjoy its beauty? I hope you do.
So you could have your job? Probably has something to do with that reason.
So your kids could have certain experiences? Sure. But we can all know this:
We have not been sent where we have been sent only for ourselves.
What we see in this story is a pattern for how God often works. When God sends us somewhere, the destination tends to get more specific the further we go. The first movement in God sending Philip involves sending him to a place. Philip begins to head in that direction. ON HIS WAY he met someone. The Spirit told Philip to “go to that chariot and stay near it.” Here are some questions we can ask God that will move us from the general to the specific.
Where are you sending me?
“The Holy Spirit takes you places you can’t believe.” Shauna Pilgreen, Translating Jesus
Who is the specific person you want me to invite into your story?
One of the big ideas in Shauna’s book, Translating Jesus, is to look for open doors. How do you know if and when the door is open? Philip runs up to this chariot and hears this man reading from the book of Isaiah. That’s a pretty obvious open door, wouldn’t you say?
We pray for open doors AND we pay attention as we look for open doors. It’s obvious to Philip that the Ethiopian eunuch is seeking God in some way. God is up to so much more than we realize, but will we be able to see it? I think praying and paying attention will position us to see so much more than we’re seeing right now.
“If the door is open, talk to them about Jesus…If the door is closed, talk to Jesus about them.” Shauna Pilgreen, Translating Jesus
The next move in this scene is Philip asking this man a great question – “Do you understand what you are reading?”
You don’t have to know everything to help others know Jesus, but you do have to know Jesus. And Jesus is revealed in Scripture.
“For Christians to translate Jesus, we must know Scripture.” Shauna Pilgreen, Translating Jesus
Do you have a consistent practice of engaging with Scripture?
Philip gives us the template for how we share about Jesus with anyone.
Acts 8:35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
We want to draw the line from where someone is to where Jesus is. It won’t always be this easy; sometimes it will be more difficult. It won’t always be this quick; sometimes it will take weeks, months, years, or decades.
Just this past week I decided to take my conversation with a familiar barista to another level. I told him what I do for a living. He let me know he went to church camp as a teenager. He told me he works on Sundays, but would like to come when he’s free. Knowing he was somewhat familiar with church and was open to coming, I brought him an invite card this past Tuesday.
The Power of an Invitation is seen all throughout this encounter:
The Spirit of God invites Philip to join Him on the desert road.
The Ethiopian eunuch invites Philip to sit with him and explain Scripture to him.
Philip invites the Ethiopian to hear the good news about Jesus.
The Ethiopian eunuch invites Jesus to be his Lord and Savior.
Are you listening and paying attention to how God is leading you?
Are you coming to Jesus and going where he sends you?
Are you helping others start where they are and journey to where Jesus is?
Responses: Different possibilities for each of us, but all around the theme of invitation:
-Some of you: Jesus is inviting you to put your faith in him and be baptized, just like this Ethiopian eunuch did…just like the 5 people who are getting baptized at Epic today.
-Some of you: Jesus is inviting you to create space and time to hear what He’s saying to you
-Some of you: Jesus is asking you to invite a specific person to Sunday at Epic, Alpha, reading Bible together, or something else.