Beyond the Book Review: Not a Fan: An Open Invitation

I know it has been a few weeks, but I haven’t forgotten about our open study on Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.

For those who are new to my blog, we are currently discussing the book Not a Fan. As the title indicates, it is more than a book review but far from an official book study.

In Chapter 8, Kyle takes a long hard look at who Jesus wants as a follower.

Many, many non-believers and Christians alike seem to think that Jesus only wants the “good ones” or “perfect ones.” But the truth is, the invitation is open to anyone, and anyone means everyone.

Let me digress a moment.

John 3:16-For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

“There is a reason why that is the most often quoted verse of the Bible. In that one verse we read that God loves us, Jesus died for us, and that we can have eternal life through him. It it not unusual to go to a sporting event of some kind and see someone holding up a sign that says ‘John 3:16.’ But I’ve never seen someone hold up a sign that says ‘Luke 9:23.’ Quick say that one without looking. That may be a little tougher. But Luke 9:23 also records the words of Jesus. In fact, unlike John 3:16, Luke 9:23 is recorded in 3 of the 4 Gospels.” (p. 116)

Luke 9:23-3 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Oh, how I love those words right now. I know crazy right? But, no worries, I am not going there today. (Yes, I did hear that collective sigh of relief.)

Luke 9:23 will likely never win an award for most appealing advertisement for Christianity or be used in promotional literature for recruitment. But it is crucial to an accurate understanding of the Gospel.

John 3:16 emphasizes believing; Luke 9:23 emphasizes following.

Both are necessary; there is no believing without following and no following without believing. (p. 116)

“Jesus begins his call to follow him with these two words, If anyone….. Anyone is significant because it makes it clear whom he is inviting. He is inviting anyone. Anyone is an all-inclusive word. Anyone means everyone. Jesus does not begin with a list of pre-qualifications. His invitation to follow is addressed to Anyone. Many people don’t realize they have been invited to follow. They think, ‘Not after what I’ve done. He wouldn’t want me to follow him. I would never make the cut.’ They assume they are not qualified and as a result never take seriously what it means to follow Jesus. After all, what is the point in filling out an application if you know you won’t get approved?” (pp 116-117).

Anyone means everyone. Did you get that? I just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it.

We all have stains; we all have pasts. But nothing disqualifies us from following Jesus Christ. Don’t believe me? Well, take a look at the disciples. Talk about a bunch of messed up people. Wait, also look at Paul (you know the one who used to be Saul and persecuted all those Christians).

One of the disciples, Matthew was a tax collector. In Biblical times, that was about as low as one could go seeing as he stole money from his own people. The lowness of Matthew’s status equates to something like a child molester today. Think about, a child molester following Jesus! But it is possible. Jesus forgives. He is the King of Second Chances. Jesus will use anyone who follows him. Nothing you or anyone else has done prevents them from repenting and following Jesus Christ.

Imagine your reaction if you had overheard Jesus telling a child molester, “Follow Me, ” just as he did to Matthew.

When Jesus invited Matthew to follow, he was making it clear that this is an open invitation extended not solely to the religious elite, the morally upright, and those who have their lives together. But it is an open invitation to all of us who are hiding some stains.” (p. 122)

Kyle also points out that people mistakenly believe that the open invitation to follow Jesus has an asterisk beside it like many car commercials. You know the ones, “Anyone can buy a car here,” but at the bottom of the screen there is an asterisk followed by, “With Approved Credit.” There is no asterisk to Jesus’ open invitation to follow him. And CHURCHES NEED TO TAKE NOTICE! A lot of our church signs say “Anyone and Everyone Welcomed,” but we don’t really mean it. No, unfortunately, a lot of our churches mean that anyone who looks like us, seems to have their lives together, and look real pretty dressed up, are welcomed. If someone has gone through a divorce, has no money, or has a drug addiction, would they be welcomed at your church? Would they be welcomed to take communion?

People, we need to open our eyes and stop trying to determine who is allowed to come to Jesus and follow him.

“Who is allowed to follow Jesus? Anyone.

Sexual past? Anyone. Ex-con? Anyone. Recently divorced? Anyone. Republican? Democrat? Anyone. Alcoholic? Anyone. Pothead? Anyone. Addict? Anyone. Hypocrite? Anyone. (p. 125)

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you are struggling to believe you are worthy to follow Jesus or you’re struggling to accept that anyone can follow Jesus. But what I do know is that God is speaking to all of us today, no matter where we fall of the spectrum. He is calling us to not only accept the truth, but he wants us to start living the truth; start living like your worthy of falling; start accepting one another just as we are.

Have a blessed day!

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