We’ve spent a lot of time lately talking about things that are not the center of the Christian faith, and about people and movements that make these things the center of the Christian faith. So today I thought it best to take a step back and talk about what is at the center of the Christian faith.
At the center of the Christian faith is an invitation: “Come to Me.”
Not an ideology.
Not a comprehensive worldview.
Not a philosophical system.
Not a systematic theology or point-by-point doctrinal statement.
Matthew puts it thus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
John puts it like this: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ ” (John 7:37-38)
Who is invited? “…All you who are weary and burdened”. “If anyone…” Jesus said. All are invited. All are addressed. All are included.
Why does this invitation matter? Because it came from a guy who predicted his own death and resurrection and then pulled it off. If anyone can do that, you go with whatever he says. And if what he says is “Come to me”, you come.
This is not an invitation into an ideology or a systematic theology. This is not an invitation to sign your name to a twenty-point doctrinal statement listing all the things you have to believe in order to be Christian. This is not an invitation to join the movement to secede from the Union if the Supreme Court approves gay marriage (sorry Baptists). This is not an invitation to the latest weight-loss scheme inspired by the book of Daniel (sorry Rick Warren). This is not an invitation to learn better money management principles (sorry Dave Ramsey) or strategies for resisting temptation. This is not an invitation to get your purity ring and join the purity movement. This is not an invitation to debate the finer points of total depravity or to join the fight for inerrancy or complementarianism.
This is an invitation from God, into the very heart of God. All that is asked of us is to come.
If you do not come…
If you insist upon conditions of your own…
If you come to something or someone else…
If you turn the invitation of God into a means to get God on board with your own agenda…
…then you are not answering the invitation.
As Christians, we are God’s ambassadors, authorized and tasked with extending this invitation to the entire world. There is nothing to add to this invitation. The fact that we get to make the invitation does not mean that we get to add on our own additional requirements or redefined meanings.
The Gospel has its demands, to be sure, but these must not be heard apart from “First we must come to God, by faith, through Jesus.”
There is no better, higher, more spiritual, victorious, or whatever you care to call it, Christian life apart from coming to God, by faith, through Jesus.
This coming to God, by faith, through Jesus, is not something you do once when you walk the aisle or raise your hand at the church service/crusade/youth camp event and then you’re done with it. Instead it is something you continue to do all your life.
There is no other invitation except the invitation from Jesus, to come to Jesus.
That is the center of the Christian faith.