Last week in Directions, I wrote about the welcome mat — God’s invitation to everyone. The title of this week’s article is, When the Welcome Mat Comes to Life. I suppose you could say it is Welcome Mat, Part 2. Some of you may remember a movie that came out a decade ago that was entitled, A Night at the Museum. No doubt many of you saw it because the movie made a half-billion dollars. For those of you who may have missed it (me being one of them), it was about a security guard who was in charge of overseeing the museum at night and, of course, what happened was that the creatures — dinosaurs and such — came to life and the story goes on from there.
I want to suggest to you that what God tells us in Revelation 22:17 is that He has a welcome mat that comes to life. The welcome mat we are to present is much more than just putting some signs out in front of the church or having some special mats at the doors. It involves the welcome mat literally coming to life. Listen to Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
There are those who say that we don’t need to say, “Come,” to people but what we need to do is listen to Jesus saying, “Go.” There’s some great truth in that, but there’s also the invitation of God not just to attend church. He invites the world to come and experience the new life that is only found in His Son, Jesus Christ, so here at the end of the Bible God does say to everyone: Come, come, come. There is hope. There is life. There is joy. Come!
Look back over the verse and you will see five different aspects of what God has put in place inviting people to come to Christ. Just walk through the verse and you will see them: the Spirit, the bride, the one who hears, the one who is thirsty, and whosever will. Five different aspects of God’s involvement in inviting people to Christ is contained in the verse. In this article, I want you to just walk with me through those five things and see the application that God Himself would bring to your own life and maybe to your own church family in how we are to be involved in the great invitation from heaven.
n One is the Spirit is at work. No doubt this refers to the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, the unseen but ever-present operative hand and heart of God at work in people’s lives. Now whether you see it or not or understand it or not, God is at work. The Spirit of God is always present. He is there applying the Word of God to a person’s life in ways that no preacher would ever be capable of doing. He is convicting, convincing, and calling, in ways that you and I may not ever see but most of us have experienced and we know it to be the truth. The Spirit of God is real and when it comes to people coming to know Christ, He is the active agent of God bringing conviction and drawing men to the love of God in Christ Jesus. You don’t have to see it, but God is present and at work. You can write that down, for it is a certainty. Truth is, the Spirit of God was at work in them before they ever came to a church meeting or a preaching service. The Spirit is doing His part, but where it gets interesting for you and me is the second aspect of the invitation.
n The bride says, “Come.” Put these two together. The Spirit says, “Come.” He may be unseen and invisible to our eyes, but He’s at work. Then God says there is a visible and clear part of the invitation and encouragement that is found in the bride, which is the church itself. The bride of Christ is the living, visible presence of Christ touching lives openly in the invitation. You are involved in this aspect of reaching the world for Christ because we become the living welcome mat. It is the smiling face. It is the warm handshake. It is the interested conversation that as people come to church they are treated with respect and care and openness and genuine love.
Have you ever gone to church and been with the body of Christ and nobody spoke to you? Have you ever gone to church and became aware of the fact that people were glancing at you and then making their way around you? That is not the bride being what the bride is supposed to be, or doing what the bride is supposed to do. The bride is the unified body of Christ, the collective body of believers involved in the entire process of God bringing someone to His Son, Jesus.
I remember a couple who joined our church and after they had been there a little while someone asked them what it was about the church that appealed to them and brought them to put their life and service to Christ there and join the church. You would think that they would probably say something like the music, or the care for the children, or the sermon — you know, the stuff that we think about as so big and important (and it is). What this couple said was, “We came because of Mr. Eddie’s smile.” Mr. Eddie’s smile? Yep. Mr. Eddie was a wonderful layman in our church who was at the front door, the main door where everybody, especially visitors, came in. He was not a preacher nor a Sunday school teacher and couldn’t sing a lick, but you could not get through that door into the sanctuary without his warm, appealing, encouraging, confrontational smile. He just wrapped you up in love. We all are the bride of Christ.
n The third aspect of this welcome is centered in, “let him that heareth.” While I believe this is someone who is the body of Christ, this is the person who has heard. I believe that what the Scripture is telling us is that someone who heareth is someone who has heard the Word of God regarding the Good News of Jesus dying for our sins, and who has experienced forgiveness and regeneration because of Him. If you’ve heard the Word and God has worked in your heart, you become a part of welcoming someone else as you have been welcomed.
n The fourth piece is anyone who is thirsty. What I find fascinating about this is that it may even point to people who are thirsty being people who are longing to know Jesus. In other words, a lost person may be involved in bringing people to Jesus. You say, “How can that be?” Through my years as a pastor, it was not unusual for a parent to contact me or just ask that I come and visit with their children and come and talk to them about accepting Christ, only to find out maybe a mom or a dad or both of them had never met the Lord. Here they are realizing that their children need to have a relationship with the Lord — the same Lord to Whom they had never committed their life — and they were thirsty also. Sometimes it appears lost people encourage friends or family to come to Christ more than some Christians.
n The last piece of the living welcome mat is whosoever. Whosoever is not just anybody but everybody! “Whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” God doesn’t focus on the exclusions. He closes out His book spotlighting the inclusions. Whosoever will. It may be people that you don’t invite or welcome or care about those things, but He does and who He welcomes, we must welcome. Whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely. Allow God to make you into a living welcome mat.
Final installment of a two-part series. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.