This post is taken from the booklet An Invitation, Not a Challenge, by Everett Wilson, brother of Jim Wilson.

An Invitation, Not a Challenge

The gospel comes as a gift, not as a bill for payment.C. H. Spurgeon told a parable about that: A minister called on a poor woman in order to bring her a gift of money. He knocked and knocked, decided no one was home, and went on his way. Later he saw the woman at church and told her how he had called and not found her at home. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “When was that?” When he told her, she said, “Was that you? I was in the house but I didn’t come to the door because I thought it was the man coming for the rent, and I didn’t have it to give him!”

Ministers, youth leaders, and Sunday School teachers all know what that is like. Week by week we come offering the gift of the gospel, the gift of eternal life, but many do not listen because they’re afraid we have come to take rather than to give. In their minds we’ve come to collect the rent, not to help pay it!

The gospel comes as an invitation, not as a challenge.In The Lord of the Rings, there’s a scene in which the wizard Gandalf and his companions come upon a sealed door in the side of a mountain. They must enter this door to continue on their quest. But there is no door handle of any kind just a sign in a strange language. Gandalf translates the sign as saying, “Speak friend and enter.” Fine, but they don’t know the password! So the wizard tries to blast it open with his magic spells, none of which open the door. So he sits down for a moment and ponders. Then a light comes into his eye. He laughs, stands up, walks to the door and says one simple word. The door opens. Since the word is in a language the others do not know, they ask how he figured out the password. “I didn’t have to figure out anything,” he answered. “I mistranslated the sign. It’s not a challenge to keep enemies out but an invitation for friends to enter. It says “Say ‘friend’ and enter.” All we had to do was identify ourselves as friends.”

The good news of the Bible is as simple and straightforward as these two stories illustrate. It is neither a demand for payment that must be paid, nor a riddle to be solved, nor a challenge to be met. Instead, it is a gift to be received and an invitation to be answered. Paul’s says it Romans 3 about as plain as can be:

Eternal Life is a Gift from God. There is Nothing we Can Do to Earn It. We Have Nothing to Brag About when we Receive it.

To be continued on Wednesday.