The three invitations to Christ
By Billy Graham
Again and again in the Bible men and women are graciously invited to enter into personal fellowship with God. Someone has said that the Bible is a book of invitations from God to mankind, urging us to become His partners in redeeming the world.
The first invitation is an invitation to rest.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Since the early dawn of mankind’s history, when our Eden of bliss became a desert of discord, we have been creatures of restlessness. When we are bereft of the peace that comes from God through the saving grace of Christ, we become fish out of water.
Divorce, alcoholism and immorality are direct results of the restlessness of sin. This diabolical unrest has permeated our nation like a contagious disease and has become the underlying cause of domestic, community and social problems. The basic cause of our national immorality is this spiritual unrest in people’s lives today.
Christ could solve the problems of the many celebrities who have made headlines because of their marital difficulties. If the principals in a domestic brawl were to accept Christ, not only would their sins be forgiven, but Christ would help them solve their problems. A love that has apparently gone dead between husband and wife could be rekindled.
Psychologists, schooled in the intricate workings of the mind, are confessing that psychology is helpless to solve all of the mental and nervous disturbances of people today. Sociologists, trained in the interactions of society, are admitting that sociology cannot cope with the tremendous problems in human relationships.
Political leaders point out the moral ills of America, but none of them seem to have an answer to the desperate need for a new moral integrity that would reverse the moral plunge that Americans are taking. Many political leaders privately admit that they are unable to cope with the seriousness of the moral dilemma.
In my travels about the country I have sensed unrest in almost every phase of our modern-day living. This changeable, unsettled, roving, transient, sleepless and fidgety spirit is due primarily to the restlessness of the human heart and its separation from the Christ of tranquillity and peace. These insecure individuals could find spiritual peace and physical rest by surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ.
The Bible says, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20). “In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’” (Deuteronomy 28:67).
Every day I come in contact with mixed-up, paradoxical men and women: rich people who are held in the grip of insecurity; intellectual people who have lost their way; strong people who live in fear of weakness and defeat. I long to take every one of them by the hand and lead them into the presence of the Savior who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Why die of thirst when you stand upon the brink of a lake? Why starve to death when you are within arm’s length of the Living Bread? Why live in a hovel of spiritual misery when Christ has provided a mansion of divine peace? Hear and accept the divine invitation today: “Come unto me, and rest!”
But rest is not all that weary people need. Other invitations to happiness await the distressed who will dare to follow Christ.
A second invitation is to discipleship.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men’” (Mark 1:17). We are saved to serve; we are redeemed to reproduce spiritually; we are fished out of the miry clay so that we in turn may become fishers of men.
During our Crusades, thousands of young people have surrendered their lives to Christ for full-time Christian service. Young people want adventure and excitement; but they want more—they want something to believe in, a cause to give themselves to, a flag to follow. The only cause that is big enough is the cause of Jesus Christ; and its flag is the blood-stained body that was lifted on the cross of Calvary for the redemption of the world.
This invitation to discipleship is the most thrilling ever to come to mankind. Just imagine being a working partner with God in the redemption of the world! Jesus challenged, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12:26).
Christian discipleship gives us the privilege of being associated with Christ intimately. And the faithful discharging of the glorious responsibilities of true discipleship invokes the approval and favor of God Himself.
Would you like to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”? (Matthew 6:20). Then, Christian, take off your coat of pious indifference, roll up your sleeves of Christian fervor and go to work in the teeming vineyard of souls. Opportunities lie all around you. Your neighbors are without Christ, your children are unsaved, your colleagues are waiting to see Jesus in you. I challenge you in Christ’s name to become an effective, efficient fisher of men.
“I am interested,” you say, “but how may I be a disciple of Christ?” The answer must come from God’s Word itself. “If anyone desires to come after me,” said Jesus, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Before you can follow Jesus in discipleship, the selfish, sinful “self” must be crucified, so that Christ is pre-eminent in your heart and life.
Jesus also said, “If you abide in My word, then are you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31). Disciple literally means “a learner, a student, a follower.” Salvation may be instantaneous, but discipleship must be learned from the master teacher, Christ Himself. We must know the Word before we can teach the Word. So, the second requirement of discipleship is that we continue in the Word of God.
Also from the lips of Jesus we hear, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). If self is slain and the Spirit reigns, the fruits of discipleship are bound to be seen in our lives. A true disciple of Christ will bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23). People who contact us daily will take note that we have been with Jesus. We will radiate Christ. The secret of the Christian life is Christ in us, producing fruit.
The third invitation is to live in the realm of God.
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4). Personal salvation is not an occasional rendezvous with Deity; it is an actual dwelling with God. Christianity is not just an avocation; it is a lifelong, eternity-long vocation. David, thrilled with the knowledge that his life was in God, said in Psalm 91:1—“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
If you read and reread this beautiful psalm, you will discover that in Him we have a permanent abode and residence, and that all of the comfort, security and affection that the human heart craves is found in Him.
Modern psychiatrists say that one of the basic needs of mankind is security. In this psalm we are assured that in God we have the greatest of security: “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:10-11).
In my travels around the world to preach the Gospel, I have been surrounded by angry mobs. I have walked down dangerous jungle trails. I have been in storms on the sea. I have walked down streets where every eye was hostile. In the midst of a thousand dangers I have sensed the all-protecting presence of God Himself.
Another basic need is affection. Those who “abide in Him” are the objects of God’s affection and love. The Bible says, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name” (Psalm 91:14).
No greater demonstration of love has ever been witnessed by the world than God’s love manifested in His Son, Jesus Christ. The very center of the whole Gospel message is summed up in those divinely significant words: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
You cannot say that you are friendless when Christ has said, “No longer do I call you servants … but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). If you lament the fact that you have been bereft of affection and love in this life, I happily commend Christ. He loved you enough to lay down His life for you. Not only that, but by His atonement upon the cross He purchased the favor of God on your behalf, and now through Him you may be the recipient of the grace and love of God without measure.
Another basic need that will be fulfilled by our dwelling and abiding in God is the need to belong. In all three invitations that we have discussed, we find God through Christ inviting sinful men and women to be identified with Him in His great redemptive and creative work. No club of any kind in this world can compare with the knowledge of the fact that you belong to God and are identified with Him.
These three invitations are not mine. They are given by Jesus Himself. No man or woman has ever found complete rest apart from Christ. To the multitudes of distressed, troubled and weary He beckons, “Come unto me … and I will give you rest.”
Do you want to know rest, joy, peace, security and affection? Do you want to know what it means to belong? Surrender and commit your life and your heart to Christ. I guarantee that you can know peace with God, peace of soul, peace of mind and joy such as you have never experienced.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.