Please select an issue from the list on the right, to view the articles which have been uploaded to the website.

Issue 32

The Divine Invitation

The Divine Invitation - by Martin Tunnicliffe

This article was first published in the May edition of Solihull Parish Magazine and is reproduced by permission.


One of the stock phrases of evangelical preachers is the call to those listening to “invite Jesus into your life.” I am not at all sure that this is correct. Is it not back to front? Authentic conversion happens when you hear the call of God, perhaps the voice of Jesus, inviting you to enter into His life, not the other way round. You hear the voice, an inner conviction if you like, and you respond to that. So the direction of spiritual travel is God-wards, not self-wards.             


Inviting Jesus into your life sounds alright, and possibly it may be alright up to a point. However, when I invite somebody into my house, I have a strong natural tendency to expect them more or less to conform to the way I do things. The guest who starts to tell me what’s wrong with my home and suggest ways in which I could improve the way I live is, I fear, not likely to be invited again.


A Christian is a person who has, one way or another, heard and accepted the Divine Invitation to enter into the life of Jesus. You only have to glance at the New Testament to realise that this implies change and challenge as well as assurance and joy. Another influential evangelist of a different kind was Holman Hunt. He was not a preacher at all, but an artist. You are probably familiar with his famous painting The Light of the World. The original hangs in Keble College Oxford. Wikipedia tells us: “The painting gave rise to much popular devotion in the late Victorian period and inspired several musical works, including Arthur Sullivan's 1873 oratorio The Light of the World. Engraved reproductions were widely hung in nurseries, schools and church buildings.”


In spite of that, I reckon that Hunt’s picture is making the same mistake, implying the necessity of inviting Jesus in through the door.   In his interpretation, the artist quotes Revelation 3.20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". He then went on to say: "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject. The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing the obstinately shut mind". As a piece of art it doesn’t really appeal to me, and I remember that when I first saw it as a child I had the mischievous thought that if I opened our front door at home and saw that figure on the doorstep, no way would I invite him in!   That is rather beside the point, but it is worth noting that the picture and its explanation are not true to the biblical text which reads in full:


Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me. He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


So the opening of the door to Jesus is immediately followed by the awesome Divine Invitation to enter heaven. And significantly the next chapter starts by repeating it:

And after these things I saw, and behold, a door was opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard . . . saying “Come up hither . . .”