날짜: 2018년 10월 21일
제목: 복음으로의 초대
올리브연합감리교회 김배선 목사
20181021 Sunday worship sermon
“Invitation to the Gospel”
John 1: 43-51
We sometimes encounter unexplainable things in life.
It is because there are limitations within our human language.
We become speechless when we cannot prove our innocence, or when we are extremely happy or joyful, we have no words that can truly describe our emotions and feelings.
Such is God’s love.
It is not proper explaining God’s love to those who haven’t experienced it.
God’s love should be shown through our life, rather than explained by words.
God’s love cannot be expressed in words nor persuaded.
Even when we tell a person “God really loves you,” we cannot assume the person will understand God’s love if he or she has not experienced it.
Such unexplainable mystery’s inhabits the Gospel.
God’s unexplainable love and His grace cannot be described by human languages, it must be experienced.
I would like to describe this experience of grace as an “Invitation to Gospel.”
Today’s text is the story about Jesus' invitation of Philip and Philip's invitation of Nathanael.
The scene where Jesus says to Philip, “follow me,” does not fit well to the circumstances of that time.
In ancient times, there were hardly any cases where a teacher asked disciples to follow him.
Disciples usually chose and followed their teachers voluntarily.
The meaning of “following” here should be seen as the same as “becoming disciples.”
Therefore, when Jesus here said to Philip “follow me,” Jesus called on Philip to be His disciple.
Jesus called on not only Philip, but also other disciples as well.
The words in the book of Matthew, “Follow me, I will make you fishers of men,” were also a direct calling from Jesus to the disciples.
From the very beginning, Jesus called on the disciples directly.
The disciples did not choose Jesus, rather Jesus chose his disciples.
Yes, this is the grace.
We thought that we chose Jesus, but in reality Jesus selected and called us from the very beginning.
After Jesus' calling of Philip, Philip met Nathanael.
And Philip invited Nathanael to meet Jesus.
However, the problem was that Nathanael could not find a reason to accept Philip’s invitation.
Nathanael asked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (Verse 46)
If we put this discussion between Philip and Nathanael in the language of a contemporary conversation, they would sound like the following:
“Hey Nathanael, I met this guy. He is really awesome. We’re going to meet him today. Let’s go and find this guy. He is called Jesus from Nazareth.”
“What? What Philip? What are you saying? How…Is there anyone who is good at anything from Nazareth?”
Then Philip hesitated.
He had a hard time trying to persuade Nathanael.
There was no way for him to explain who the person Jesus is.
So Philip said just one sentence.
“Come and see.”
“Come and see…” this is an invitation, an invitation to something that cannot be described in human language.
Philip couldn’t explain in words, the essence of which he couldn’t explain no matter how much he would try—regarding this, Philip just said, “Come and see.”
Brothers and sisters, Philip invited Nathanael.
He did not persuade him, nor did he argue with him to prove something good can come out of Nazareth.
He simply invited Nathanael to the person whom he couldn’t explain.
There is a Korean saying, “Seeing once is better than listening 100 times.”
No matter how many times you hear about something, it is better for you to see it once to clearly understand what it is.
Because he could not explain, the best he could do was to invite him.
He couldn’t debate, couldn’t persuade, nor explain it.
At the invitation, Nathanael came forward to Jesus with Philip.
Then Jesus said that He had seen Nathanael already before he came to meet Him.
Jesus said the following, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (Verse 47)
This means that before we come to Jesus, Jesus has seen us first.
We thought it was our decision, but after experiencing His grace, we come to learn that His decision was before our own.
We thought we met the Lord, but the Lord had come to see us.
We thought it was because of our ability, but His grace and His love were there first.
We have come here only to learn that He has known us already.
This is why Nathanael was surprised.
He couldn’t help being surprised at Jesus, who had seen him first and known his past already.
Therefore, moved by His grace and love, Nathanael confessed, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel.” (Verse 49)
Then Jesus foretold about things to come: he would see the heavens open and the angels of God would be ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
He would see for himself the glory of heaven.
Brothers and sisters, the invitation to the gospel is like this.
It is like seeing the heavens open, seeing with our own eyes the glory of heaven, and being invited to the place of glory that cannot be described in words.
Grace is like that.
I was not first, but He was first.
It was not my choice, but His.
Grace is not praises for the past, but being able to see the glory of the future.
Just because things unfolded in a way that we’d prefer does not mean grace.
That can be an obstacle rather than grace.
Grace is not what we can plan or set up.
Even when things go in the direction that I don’t want, it can be true grace.
Grace cannot be restricted to people or circumstances.
God’s grace is the gift that I, who is undeserving, will receive.
Seeing the glory of heaven is grace.
Falling deeply in such a love is grace.
Knowing that we are invited to this place of grace and the place of the gospel is true grace.
Some of you may flinch at the mention of mission work or spreading the gospel.
Some of you may feel withdrawn, saying, “How can I speak with someone that I do not know? How can I ask a stranger to come to the church?”
You are right.
It is not easy.
I am not saying you need to go to a stranger and spread the gospel.
If that is difficult, you can do it to the people you know well.
If one of your family members still does not believe in Jesus, you can invite them to the gospel.
You can invite your colleagues and friends.
Brothers and sisters, spreading the gospel is not about persuasion or argument.
It is an invitation.
Jesus whom I met, the grace of the cross that is given to me, God’s love that I experienced cannot be explained with human language.
That is why it is an invitation, not an explanation or persuasion.
I am not saying that we should first go to the people whom we do not know.
First, go to the people you know.
When a person is invited but the invitee does not see such grace and love in the life of the inviter, that invitation is not a true invitation.
How would you say to your children who asks you, “What is good if you go to the church?”
If there are reasons such as, “Well, if you go to the church, there is Sunday school, a delicious lunch, and a good message from the pastor…” it is a persuasion.
If the children say, “what is good if you go to the church? Mom goes to the church but she is no different,” there is no need to argue.
If someone says that there is no difference whether we go to the church or not, we should just listen to this as a voice of God, and repent so that we can truly reside in the gospel.
As we can see from Philip’s invitation towards Nathanael, we should be humble so we can have such invitation in our lives.
And invite again once more.
“Come and see God’s grace. God really loves you.”
Brothers and sisters, the Lord invites us to this gospel.
The Lord invites all of us to this gospel that is indescribable in human language.
I said to invite first the people you know, but we may have a problem before this invitation.
Many times, we forget where the invitation leads to.
It is not to the church.
It is first to the Christ.
It is not a blessing.
It is an invitation to a repentance that tears up your heart, this should come first.
It is not the merit of our life of faith, but it is God’s grace
If we do not dwell in the place where we are supposed to be in the invitation place, inviting others would be like a blind person leading the way.
Therefore, we need to examine whether we truly reside in the gospel.
The gospel has no relevance to our circumstances.
Wherever we are and regardless of our circumstances, the gospel itself gives us joy and freedom.
Even though I am sick now, or something that I hope for is not going well, the gospel is not changing.
In other words, regardless of our circumstances, God's love and grace towards us never changes.
It has been like that in the past and the present and it will be in the future as well.
In Romans 8: 38~39, Paul says,
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 38~39)
Yes, this is God's love.
Instead of listening with our ear or knowing it by our brain, it is about experiencing God's love through our life.
This is the mystery of faith and grace that is unexplainable in our language.
You may have heard the confessions of those who really experienced God's grace.
I believe many of you here probably have this confession, "O God, why do you love me so much like this? Why do you give me such grace that I do not deserve?"
If you think about God's grace, all we can say is "why?"
The author in Psalm chapter 8 confesses the following:
"What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?"
This confession is the greatest expression that verbalized the grace that we do not deserve.
Why does God love us?
This question is like a question asked by a young child to his mother.
To a mother, a child is like her own body, right?
It is the same to God.
God is willing to give everything to us.
God does not love us because of some reason, or because we serve God well; rather, our very existence is God’s joy and love.
It is about whether we truly know this.
It is about whether I truly reside in this gospel.
It is about whether I am immersed in this gospel, which is God’s confession of love towards us.
Then we can invite the others.
We can invite the others to come to where we are, to this gospel that never changes.
We can invite the others to stay in this gospel that we reside in.
Brothers and sisters, “Come and see” means to come and see for yourself because there is something that cannot be explained in our languages.
To Nathanael who retorted by asking what good can come from Nazareth, Philip said “come and see”.
To the churches of our time, people ask “What good can come from the church?”
But we should invite them to “come and see.”
I once heard that there is a Korean church in California that has an evangelical event called “Come & See” every year.
Instead of simply having an event, all church members start by praying for chosen family members or friends who have not yet accepted the gospel.
For a few months, they show they care by praying for the person, having meals together, and helping with difficult tasks, perhaps even giving a gift.
And when the time comes for the event, the church members invite the people whom they have been devoting.
The invitee, knowing all along the purpose of the devotion, feels compelled to come to the church for once as a gratitude to the attention he or she received for few months.
The church then sincerely welcomes and serves them.
It takes a tremendous effort in faith and God’s grace for an unbelieving family member or friends to come to the church and experience God’s grace through the church members.
And, moved by their love, many will start coming to the church, reluctantly at first, but eventually to accept the gospel.
Do you think that it is impossible for our church?
Do you think it does not apply to the circumstances of our church?
Do you think that it may be possible in California or in a large church or may have been possible in the past, but not here, not now?
No, we cannot say that, we who experienced the gospel, God’s indescribable love and grace, because gospel is not only for us.
If I really live in the gospel, I cannot enjoy the tremendous truth of the gospel by myself alone.
Because the unchanging God’s love is not only for me but also equally for those who do not yet believe.
Are your children, your parents, husband or wife not coming to the church?
Have your close friends not accepted the Lord yet?
You cannot force them to come to the Lord by persuasion or by argument.
No, you should not.
Just serve them more.
Just love them more.
Give them more of the love that you received from God, more of God’s grace that you are experiencing.
Show them through your life that God loves them also.
That is the “Come & See” invitation to the gospel.
I want you to pick someone.
And then include them in all of your prayers.
Pray to God that they know that God’s grace and love are already on them.
We cannot explain in our human language.
We cannot win over logically.
We cannot win by debating.
Gospel is not an explanation, not a debate.
Gospel is an experience and gospel is an invitation.
Let us practice the invitation to gospel.
We live for gospel, die for gospel, and exist for gospel. Amen.