Craig Groeschel - I'm Invited
Hey, it's awesome to have all of you with us today. What an honor to gather at 34 different locations around the nation to lift up the name of Jesus, to worship our Savior, to experience God's word. I wanna welcome you. This is an amazing time of the year. Right now we're launching new life groups. If you're not yet in a community, you may feel like something's missing in life. If you ever feel like something's missing it could be because something's missing.
I don't know how people battle the forces of darkness, day in day out without a community of others, standing together, lifting you up, encouraging you, praying for you. Our pastors will tell you how you can be a part of a community. You can give it a try for four weeks during the special series if you want and it could be a decision that really impacts your life in a positive way spiritually. Today, I'm always excited when we start a new message series. We're launching one called, "I'm In". I've got a question for you. Are you in? If you're in say, "I'm in". Are you in? I'm in!
We're gonna look at some themes today and I wanna give you a little behind the scenes on how I plan out message series for the year. What I like to do is I like to try to give you kind of what I'd call a balanced spiritual diet. So, each message series will have a different theme for a different purpose. For example, earlier in this year we looked at the high points of a book of the Bible. We looked at Nehemiah. Then we did something called "At The Movies" and that's designed to bring people that don't normally go to church.
Our last message series we talked about stress. We're applying God's word into a very felt need that we all battle with or many of us battle with. This message series is really more about identity. What I wanna do is help you understand the heart behind our church and to embrace four qualities that are true identities of who you are in Christ. They all begin with the letter I-N, I'm In, and I'll show you the big four themes today with some icons from the wall. The envelope means I'm invited.
And all of our churches would you say, "I'm invited". I'm invited. I'm invited into God's family. The diamond says I'm invaluable. Somebody say, "I'm invaluable". I'm invaluable. I'm invaluable to God's work. You all have a gift. Every gift is important. Everyone matters in the family of God. You're invaluable to th e work of God. The magnet says you're influential. Somebody say, "I'm influential". I'm influential. The good news is every single one of you, you have influence. If you're a follower of Christ, you were created by God to be the salt of the earth, the light of this world, you are to influence others for God's glory. And finally the last one is this theme, I'm invested. Somebody say, "I'm invested". I'm invested. I'm invested in the work of God.
Who are you in Christ? Let me give you some big themes. Say it aloud. Number one, what are we? I'm what? I am, Invited. Number two I am, Invaluable. I am what? I am influential Influential. And I am invested. Invested. Today I wanna talk to you about one of the core themes of the gospel and that is that you are invited into God's family. Now I don't know about you, but to me, one of the worst feelings is to feel left out or to feel uninvited. I don't know if you've ever been scrolling along on Instagram and you see all your really good friends somewhere else and you're not there. And suddenly there's a sinking feeling of, "Why wasn't I invited"?
I had an experience years ago where I actually saw someone else that was kind of uninvited and to me it was one of the most heartbreaking, ministry shaping moments of my life and I'll tell you about this because it impacted me in such a profound way. I was a young preacher, 23, maybe 24 years of age and I was invited to be a guest speaker at a small church on the south side of my community. They had two services. The first service had about 40 people. The next one was boom, you had about 50 people. I preached the first one and I thought it was going okay, but whenever I would tell something funny I noticed this one guy would look really, really angry. The funnier I got, the madder he looked.
When I got really funny, this mad vein would appear on his brow and I'd get funny and it would grow more, and more, and more, and more. Well after the service I was out greeting the people that were coming in the next service and the co-greeter with me happened to be mad vein guy. So I said, "Sir, were you upset in the service"? He goes, "No". Said, "Were you mad, angry"? Says, "No"! Said, "Why did you look so mad"? He said, "Because you were so funny". "What do you mean? I said, "Why didn't you just laugh"? He said, "Oh no, I had to fight against laugh because we never laugh in church".
This has nothing to do with the message, I'm just telling you 'cause it helps me feel better. Don't give me mad vein please. That's no fun. If we're coming to the house of God, we might as well have some fun and everybody said, thank you. So that had nothing to do with it. So I'm greeting with mad vein guy and the receptionist comes running up and she said, "Pastor Greg, you better preach good in the next message"! Which implied that maybe I didn't in the first one. But she said, "You better preach good in the next message because we have a guest coming to church"! I said, "How do you know you have a guest coming to church"? And she said, "Because somebody just called and asked for directions. This never happens here. You better do good in the next message".
Well I saw the guest she was talking about. And the reason I know she was a guest is because this lady when she got out of her car, she didn't look like any of the other ladies there. All the ladies there were dressed, they were wearing very nice dresses. They were all carrying Bibles, big Bibles, like the size of a Honda Civic. They're coming in with their Bibles. This lady had no Bible. Her clothes were not nice, they were the opposite of nice. It looked like perhaps, she didn't have many outfits and she might of worn this one the night before. She looked scared to death.
Timid, her body language, you could tell as she was approaching and angry vein guy stepped in front of me, I never will forget this, and he looked at this woman and said, "Young lady, is that the best outfit you have"? He said, "We wear our best for God at this church". Well she did what you'd think she'd do, she turned away and dashed back to her car. I did everything I could to stop her. It was too late. She was too ashamed. She was too embarrassed. And she drove away feeling uninvited.
If you've ever felt ashamed, unworthy, unwanted, or uninvited, I want you to hear one of the greatest truths of the gospel about Jesus and that is this. Jesus invites the people others reject. That's good. Jesus invites those that religion despises, that others overlook, that those who feel like they're not good enough. You're invited to the family of God because Jesus invites the people others reject. Yes. What we're gonna do today is dive deep into a story in Luke's gospel. Luke chapter seven and I wanna give you the context of the gospel so you'll understand what is going on. It was about 2,000 years ago or so and Jesus was walking the face of the earth and Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh.
People didn't know "Should we believe him or is he a crazy man"? Certainly though, almost everyone would've thought, if Jesus was indeed God in the flesh, then certainly He would be in favor of the Pharisees because the Pharisees were the most outwardly pious, outwardly, visibly religious. They wore these flowing robes, they prayed long, eloquent prayers, they had these elaborate tassels and elaborate cleansing ceremonies, they were impressive spiritually and surely they would never, ever be around anyone impure, anyone unclean, they would always distance themselves from sinners. Surely, if Jesus were God, He would be for the Pharisees.
Well, one day, a Pharisee named Simon, decided to throw a party at his house. A party that a Pharisee would throw is very much different from a party today. For example, they wouldn't be roasting hotdogs, and they wouldn't be listening to the latest Jewish rap songs. It was very different than this. What they would do is they would gather with kind of the who's who of Pharisees and they would put on a display or a show, talking about weighty, important, and impressive things. It was kind of a public discussion where they would show off the wealth of their knowledge. They'd have this meal and the meal would take place in what was known as the outer room of the house.
The outer room was on the edge of the house and almost always would be surrounded by a porch. So they would meet and dine, recline, in this outer room talking about really important things and then they would leave the door to the porch open so the common people could come from the outside and listen to the Pharisees show off, talking about cultural trends, about politics, about theology, and such. Why did people come and listen? You have to understand, there was no internet, there's no wifi, there was no TV, there were no video games, there was no Fortnite, there was no Netflix. No one could sit around and binge watch the Housewives of Jerusalem or whatever like that. This was like free, first century entertainment.
What happened is Jesus got invited to this party and suddenly someone else came that was not invited. And when this person walked into the party, it was the most shocking thing these pious Pharisees had ever experienced and they hated every moment of it. Luke tells us this in Luke chapter seven, verse 37, he says, "A woman in that town who lived a sinful life" let me pause there for moment and tell you that's code language for the town prostitute. That's what that essentially means. "A woman there in town who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at a Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume".
So imagine this. The Pharisees are sitting in the outer room, they are waxing eloquently, talking about the ontological arguments of nematology, impressing everybody there and suddenly a call girl walks into the party. And every Pharisee gasps. They're besides themselves. "This isn't right! She wasn't invited! She's unclean! She's impure! She's a sinner! She's one of those people! We don't hang around those people! She's unworthy! She was not invited"!
I want you to pause for a moment if you can and try to get into the mind of this young, hurting woman and imagine what would it have been like to be her? I'm going to be creative in thinking about her situation. I can't prove any of this, but with all of my heart what I believe is this. What I believe is although she did make some wrong decisions, unquestionably, I would bet my life on the fact that she never dreamed of growing up to be a prostitute. I can guarantee that.
There's never a time she's got her 11-year-old girlfriends over, having a slumber party, they're playing truth or dare, light as a feather, whatever they did back then you know, and they're, "What do you wanna be when you grow up"? And one of the girls goes, "I wanna work at Mary Kay". And "I wanna be in real estate". And "I wanna be a doctor". And "I wanna be a YouTube star". And she said, "I wanna be hooker". "I want my own pimp. I can have a pimp one day I know I can". She never said that I promise you. Right. She never said that.
So if that's not what she wanted, how did she end up there? This was not a profitable career as it could be in some big cities today, it was a shameful, dark, degrading thing. I have some ideas. I don't know if any of these are true, but what could have led her into that lifestyle? Well maybe she had a very distant and uninvolved dad that didn't protect her from the wrong influences and so maybe early on she made some bad decisions and those things spiraled, got in the wrong crowd, and that led her in a bad direction. Or maybe worse than that, her dad wasn't uninvolved, but her dad was abusive. Maybe her dad had a very twisted mind and took advantage of his daughter sexually early in life and maybe she just got confused and felt this deep sense of shame and even guilt even though it wasn't her fault and because of that she never really became secure in her identity and she ended up looking for love in the wrong ways.
Maybe, I'm just thinking out loud, maybe both of her parents got killed some how or died early, they often did. And maybe she was 15 years of age and had a younger brother and sister and maybe she couldn't make enough money in other way and one day maybe her little sister, her baby sister was crying, "I'm so hungry, I'm so hungry, I'm so hungry". And she found a way to make money that she hated and despised every single day, but when she started she couldn't stop and maybe she felt trapped. Maybe something like this happened. She dated the wrong guy. He was older and he pressured her. "Come on. Come on, hey, if you love me, come on. If you don't, I'm not gonna be with you". And so maybe he took her out parking on a deserted road on the back of a donkey.
I'm making this up, I don't know. Whatever they did. And then he said, "You need to do it now". And she said, "No, I don't want to". And he said, "Then I'm gonna break up with you". And so she gave in. And he got her pregnant and then he skipped town and he left her alone. And that day you couldn't just give your baby away for adoption, you couldn't get help from the government, you were shamed, you were despised, you weren't welcome at synagogues, you weren't employable. Maybe she felt like "The only way I can support my baby since I can't get a job anywhere else, is to do something that I hate every day of my life".
I don't know for sure. What I do know is that she never wanted that lifestyle. Right. What I do know is that everywhere she went, every day, men used her and abused her. And women would have glared on hatefully, scorning her every step of the way. What I do know, is she would've felt unloved. She would've felt very ashamed and she never, ever would've felt invited to anywhere safe and anywhere that mattered. What I do know is she might feel like a lot of us feel. Not good enough. Guilty for where we've been. Wondering how we ended up where we are today. "I never thought I'd be" whatever. Divorced. Filed bankruptcy. Not in contact with one of my children. "I never thought I'd be here today".
She felt uninvited. What does she do? This woman walks into the Pharisees party, dashes straight over to Jesus, and falls to her knees in a posture of worship. Then she breaks open a jar of perfume and pours it on Jesus' feet. Why was this so significant? I can't tell you how significant this was. For two reasons. Number one, because this was her most valuable possession. Meaning, we learned in scripture that perfume is actually very rare, almost no one could afford it, the value of it would've been about a year's worth of her salary. That was her nest egg. That was her savings. Not only was it valuable financially, but it was in many ways a symbol of her future because perfume was kind of like your business card or your advertisement because normal women couldn't afford to wear perfume. And so if you were wearing perfume and a guy's like, "Oh, she's available". It was a form of saying, "Hey, I am one who is selling my body".
And what did she do with that? In one glorious, single act, she simultaneously extravagantly worshiped Jesus, and was symbolically repenting of her old lifestyle, saying, "I'll give away my most valuable possession and that which represents my future. It's the best I have at this moment. I'm offering it all to Jesus". Yes. She worshiped Him in that moment, crying in repentance. Verse 38 says, "As she stood behind Jesus at his feet weeping," she couldn't stop her crying, "she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair and kissed them and poured perfume on them". She couldn't stop the emotion and she was just crying. Then she wipes his feet with her hair.
Now I need to pause for a moment and tell the significance of this. First of all, my bride is with me and love her hair. Like I really do. She says, "Do you like it this way"? "Yes". "Do you like it that way"? "Yes". I love it when it's in a ponytail, something about that. I love it when it's down. I love it when it's curly. When we met it was permed. Bring back the perm. I loved it was permed. I love it every single way. I love her, everything about her, who she is. I love her, I love her. I gotta be honest, anytime she takes her hair and flips it, oh, that makes me feel close to God and to her. I lu, do that again. I love that. And that's considered appropriate and fun and attractive today.
In the day of Jesus that would've been considered completely inappropriate because a Jewish woman would never, never unbind her hair in public. She is overcome with emotion just worshiping Jesus and she doesn't have a towel and she realized "Oh my gosh I just cried over His feet," and so she takes her hair down and just uses her hair to wipe His feet because she just can't contain her love and her adoration and her worship for the son of God. Verse 39, the Pharisees were besides themselves, "When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus," that's Simon, when Simon the Pharisee, "saw this," I want you to watch, "he said to himself".
Notice he didn't say it out loud but he thought this in his mind, "he said to himself, 'If this man of Jesus were a prophet, He would know who's touching Him and what kind of woman she is, that she's a sinner.'" In other words Simon thinks the fact that Jesus is letting this prostitute touch Him, proves He's not the son of God and He's not a prophet. Then Jesus goes a little bit cocky and He basically responds, oh yeah, I just read your mind. That's what he does. And He says watch this.
Jesus speaks to him and says this, "Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman Simon? I came into your house and you didn't give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Simon, you didn't give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. Simon, you didn't put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. Therefore Simon, I tell you, yes she's a sinner her many sins have been forgiven as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.' Then Jesus looks at this hurting woman and says, 'Your sins are forgiven.'"
You are whole, you are new. You are white as snow. Here's a question I'd like to try to answer. Why did this woman risk so much to be at the feet of Jesus? Think about this. Why? Why does she apparently rush across town when she heard Jesus was at this party? Why does she walk past men who might have propositioned her or even mocked her? Why would she have gone through the porch where the common people were, who would have whispered, "There she is stay away from here, don't ever go near her children, she's one of those people".
Why would she have gone into the house of a Pharisee who wouldn't of even walked on the same side of the street of her sinful nature? Why would she have ignored every other person in the room and gone straight to the feet of Jesus? I can't completely answer that question because the text doesn't tell us, but I can tell you what I absolutely and completely believe. What I believe is she must have some how, somewhere, experienced His unconditional love and indescribable grace. She certainly must have seen a miracle or heard Him teach or sensed His divine nature. Yes. In fact, let me tell you what I think happened. I think because Jesus was now in her town, I think she probably heard Him preach. My guess is, it was probably that day because of the urgency of her nature to break into the party where she knew that Jesus was. If it was that day, what message did she hear?
Well, Luke doesn't tell us directly, but earlier in this very same chapter, Luke does tell us that on that day, the disciples of John the Baptist came to question Jesus. Matthew's gospel tells us the parallel version of that very same story and talks about the day when John the Baptist's disciples came to question Jesus. And on that very day, which would have been the day that she came to the party of the house of the Pharisees, Jesus gave a message. What was His message? I will summarize it, then I'll show you the message. The summary of the message that Jesus gave that day, that perhaps this woman heard on the back of a crowd because she was too ashamed to get up close, the summary of the message that Jesus gave on that day was this, you are invited to God's family. You are invited, you are welcome, you can come just as you are. Yes.
The message this woman would've heard if she was there in the crowd on that day she broke into the house of the Pharisee, this is the exact message she would've heard the son of God proclaim. Jesus said this on that day, "Come to me," you're invited. Who's invited? Who's welcome? Jesus said, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest". Can you feel his love? Yes.
"Come to me," those who are wrecked and overcome with guilt.
"Come to me," those who are burdened by shame.
"Come to me," those who are tired of trying and never living up to their own standards much less living up anywhere near to God's standards.
"Come to me," those who've been rejected again and again by people.
"Come to me," those who religion turned away.
"Come to me," those of you who didn't who have the right clothes to wear to the right church because someone who didn't represent truly the love of God told you that you weren't invited or that you're weren't welcome.
"Come to me," when you feel like you've got nothing left.
"Come to me," when you've lost all hope. Yes.
"Come to me," when everything in you feels desperate and doesn't know if you can go on.
Jesus says you,"Come to me when you're weary, when you're overwhelmed, and I will give you a heavenly rest". Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls". Jesus said you're still invited. You're welcome in God's family. My father sent me to tell you He loves you. You're invited. You're invited. I want you to notice a few things about this story. This is really important that we understand this.
I want you to notice that pointing out this woman's sins, didn't lead her out of a lifestyle of sin. That's right, yep. Did you see that? Judging her lifestyle didn't change her lifestyle. Right. Shaming her for what she did, didn't set her free from her painful past. Right. What was it that changed her? An invitation. Yes. To know the son of God. To experience His grace, His goodness, His love and His freedom. Because you have to understand this, Jesus didn't come for the healthy, Jesus came for the sick. Jesus did not come for the self-proclaimed righteous, Jesus came for hurting and broken and repentant sinners. And Jesus said you're invited come as you are, come now, come quickly, come and know My grace. It doesn't matter who you are.
Listen to me if you've ever felt unwanted and maybe you feel like you failed, you doubted God or you questioned God or maybe you feel like you've been hurt by God, you're still invited. Right. If you've let God down, if you've tried and failed, and tried and failed again, you're still invited "Come to me" if you feel ashamed "Come to me" if you feel unworthy. "Come to me" with your doubts. "Come to me" with your addictions. "Come to me" with your hangups. "Come to me" with your baggage. "Come to me" with your past. "Come to me" with those things that other people don't like and judge, just "Come to me" Jesus says. "Come to me and I will give you rest. Come to me".
I told you about that lady that was turned away from church because of her clothes. I made a decision in that moment on that day that if I ever had the chance to lead a church, when it comes to the dress code, it'd be simple, please do. Yeah! Put something on. Listen to me. Come in as you are, where you are, come in with every kind of hang up, doubt, insecurity, those things that hold you back, you just come to Jesus as you are. We're all equal at the foot of the cross. You come to Jesus, you come to Jesus. You're still invited. You're still invited. You're still invited. You're still invited. There's still room, there's still room. Come to Jesus, come now, come quickly.
And listen to me, when you come, don't come alone. Yes! Don't come alone. When you come to Him, you invite others to know His grace, His goodness, to experience the mercy from heaven. Don't come alone. Don't ever come alone. Come to Jesus. But invite others to know Him as you do. Jesus told another story. This one was in Luke's gospel, Luke 14. Jesus said there was a guy throwing a wedding banquet, a reception, a party, and Jesus said the guy invited a bunch of people to come, "Come to the party". But everybody had their excuses. "Well we just got married. Well we just bought a house". Or, "We just can't go". In our world today it would be, "Well I'm just so busy. I'm just so tired". "Well we got the big game this weekend, the big game. Rah, rah, rah, the big game this weekend". "The state fair's in town. State fair, oh, state fair, where you get fried butter and fried Twinkies and vomit on the Zipper".
Listen to me, you can be set free from the fair in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You can be delivered today and set free. "Come to me" and they all say, "We can't, we don't have time. We're just not interested". So you know what Jesus said. Here's what Jesus said. He said listen, if they're not interested, you go out and you compel them to come. Right. You describe this party. You describe My love. You help them see what My kingdom, My family offers.
And then let me tell you what He said, He said, "Compel the blind, the lame, and the crippled to come". If all those that everyone expects to be at my party don't care about the party, you invite the blind, the lame, and the crippled. Why does this matter? Because in the day when Jesus lived, if you were blind, or lame, or crippled, everyone just assumed you did something really, really bad to deserve that and Jesus is saying, those that everyone else rejects are still invited to My family. You compel the blind, you compel the lame, you compel the crippled, you compel those that everyone else despises, overlooks, or rejects. You compel them to come into My kingdom.
Feel His love. Sense His grace. Let it draw you. There's still room. Yes. There's still room. Doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter how unworthy you feel, you are invited Yeah, Amen. to the family of God. At all of our churches let's pray today. Holy Spirit would you draw people. Invite us into Your family today.
At all of our churches as you reflect in prayer today, I wonder how many of you would say that "I'm a faithful follower of Christ, but there might be one person in my life that I really love that isn't". Or maybe a lot of people. It could be your husband, it could be a child, it could be your dad, your mom. It could be someone that you work with. Someone you went to school with. Someone that you do life with that's not a follower of Christ and you would want to pray that they would experience His grace today. Would you lift up your hands right now if you have someone in your life like that. In all of our churches, there are more of you than that. Come on. Have some faith today, have some faith today and say, "I'm believing for these people".
God we pray today that You would inspired us as your family, to so fall in love with Your kingdom and Your party that we just compel people. Show them what life and life abundantly is like God that You would draw people by the power of Your spirit. And I know that there may be those who will go and bring someone back to another service this weekend or invite them to church online to hear Your invitation, or God just make us a living letter, a living invitation showing the grace, the beauty, the love, the transforming power of Your risen son Jesus. We pray God for those that we know and love that don't yet know You. God we won't judge their lifestyle, we will lead them to You and let You heal, forgive sin and make us new oh God. We all need Your grace. Use us God to compel them to come in and experience Your party, Your family, Your love.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, some of you may sense, "This is what I need. I felt unworthy when it comes to God. I feel guilty about what I've done". You're invited. Who is Jesus? He is the son of God, He was sinless and perfect in every way. He became the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. He died on the cross in our place and our God raised Him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, anyone who calls on the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus.
Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus would be saved, forgiven, transformed. It doesn't matter what you've done. Doesn't matter how dark your life is. Doesn't matter where you've been. Doesn't matter those secrets that nobody else knows. When you come to Him, He hears your prayers. He forgives your sins. He's calling you today. You are invited to the family of God at all of our churches. Those who say, "I need His grace, I need His mercy. Today as He invites I accept the invitation. I turn from my old life, I turn toward Him. I give my life to Him". That's your prayer at all of our churches. "I need His grace. I give my life to Him".
That's your prayer. Lift your hands high now all over the place right now, lift 'em up and say, "Yes". That's my prayer right back here and over here as well, others of you right back up here in this section. Lift up your hands and say, "Yes Jesus". Those of you up here praise God for you. Others today, I need His grace, I need His grace. Starts online, you click right below me and as we take a moment in the presence of God, it would mean so much to me and all of our churches, if you would just stand to your feet together in honor of those today choosing Jesus, responding to His invitation. We're all gonna pray together, nobody prays alone. Would you just pray aloud, pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Change my heart. Accept me now. Jesus make me new. Fill me with your spirit, so I could know you and walk with you and serve you and compel others to know you. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Because of Jesus now you have mine. In Jesus name I pray.