The Drowning Sound of Fire Trucks; the Drowning Souls of Men
“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” – Acts 2:38 & 41
Think about the word “invitation.” What really is a gospel invitation? The answer is found in its name; it is an “invite.” If you were to receive an invitation in the mail to a particular gathering, it is inviting you to come and be a part of that particular event. And so it is with the gospel invitation. It is an invite for one to join themselves in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an invitation for a person to trust Christ as Savior, and submit to His Lordship. And, it is an invitation to a lost person to come and be a part of the family of God. As a shepherd of a local flock of believers, I will always extend a gospel invitation. And there will never come a time in my ministry when I feel that the gospel invitation has somehow become archaic. To the contrary; I will always feel that the gospel invitation is a necessary ingredient within a worship service.
D.L. Moody had an incident happen to him in his ministry that forever changed his viewpoint of the public gospel invitation. On Sunday night, October 8, 1871, while preaching in Chicago, Illinois, D.L. Moody asked his congregation to evaluate their relationships to Christ and return next week to make their decisions for Him. He did this instead of offering and extending a public gospel invitation. He simply wanted them to go home and think about where they stood with the Lord for a week and return the following Sunday. But that next Sunday never came because the crowd never re-gathered. While Ira Sankey was singing a closing song, a group of fire trucks rang out, for Chicago was on fire. The great Chicago fire forever changed the landscape of the city, along with the lives of the people dwelling within the city. After that terrible tragedy, where so many men, women, boys, and girls lost their lives, Moody made a promise to God, to himself, and to his congregations that never again would he end a gospel sermon in that way and that from that point forward until the day that he died, whenever he preached, he would extend a public gospel invitation.
The early church believed in a public Gospel invitation. In our passage above, we read how the Apostle Peter at Pentecost extended a gospel invitation after preaching a message out of the Old Testament book of Joel. Thousands were saved that day, and they made it public by following in believer’s baptism. On that day, the early church exemplified what a healthy church will do. A healthy church will always extend a gospel invitation. But sadly, many churches today have taken the invitation out of their worship services They have done so in an attempt to make their services more appealing and less confrontational. But there is a radical flaw within this approach; for the gospel message itself is confrontational and uncomfortable. Don’t misunderstand me; there are no salvific qualities within an invitation. Stepping out into a church aisle during an invitation does not save you. Shaking the pastor’s hand during an invitation does not seal the promise of eternal life. Only Jesus Christ can save you. The invitation simply is an opportunity for you to make your decision for Christ public. We must remember the importance of a “public” profession of faith. Luke 9:26 says, “ For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Make sure that you have accepted Christ’s personal invitation to you to trust Him as Lord and Savior.