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“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

THE GOSPEL ALWAYS HAS AN INVITATION ATTACHED TO IT. Jesus’ invitation is, “Come to me.” In His day, however, some came to Jesus seeking things other than what He offered, some came for wrong motives, and some were simply unwilling to accept Jesus’ conditions and commandments. In our day, people still “come to Jesus” for a wide range of reasons. So let’s ask this: in the New Testament, who were those who came to Jesus and were received by Him? If we expect Jesus’ welcome, how should we come?

Seeking the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus could not have been clearer about the purpose of His mission. His blood would be “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). God is certainly the Giver of many gifts, but the forgiveness of sins (and consequently the hope of heaven) is the only blessing promised to all who are in Christ and only to those in Christ. If we come looking for “loaves and fishes,” we will hear Jesus say, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27).

Committing ourselves to Jesus’ lordship. If treason is the problem, fixing it surely requires that we lay down our rebellion and return to God as our rightful King. Doesn’t that make sense? If we’re not ready to quit saying My will be done and start saying Thy will be done, we’re not ready for what Jesus offers. As a Christian, Paul went so far as to say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is life’s greatest commitment.

But as I’ve said, the gospel is always framed as an invitation. God doesn’t force us to accept His forgiveness — He invites us to do so. Yes, a most serious commitment is required in order to receive His gift, and yes, if we refuse the gospel, we won’t escape the justice of God’s penalty for our sins. But may we never forget what we have lost and what God wants to give back to us. In Christ, our Father is offering to give us nothing less than Himself. Forever.

“In commanding us to glorify him, God is inviting us to enjoy him” (C. S. Lewis).

Gary Henry — +

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