A Simple Gospel Invitation to Give Your Life to Jesus

There are so many ways to word an invitation to people to become Christians…

  • Repent and believe…
  • Admit, believe, confess…
  • Invite Jesus into your life…
  • Ask Jesus to be your Savior…
  • Give your life to Jesus…
  • Believe and receive…
  • Commit your life to Jesus…
  • Ask Jesus into your heart… (which can mean so many things)

I’m from an area of Kentucky where some fringe Baptist groups put up billboards that say things like, “You don’t accept Christ. Christ accepts you.” And of course, that clears things right up, right? 

I recently wrote about Scot McKnight’s book, The King Jesus Gospel, in which McKnight offers a ton of clarity about what the “gospel” really is. It isn’t a plan of salvation or a Reformation-era articulation of the doctrine of justification by faith. The gospel is, according to McKnight (and I wholeheartedly agree), 

It’s to the saving Story of Israel now lived out by Jesus, who lived, died, was buried, was raised, and was exalted to God’s right hand, and who is now roaring out the message that someday the kingdom will come in all its glorious fury.

This explanation really leaves us with a big question, though. When we’ve presented the gospel, what’s next? What kind of invitation do we give? To what kind of commitment to we call our listeners? I loved this follow-up piece on McKnight’s blog offering a pretty thorough answer…

What do you say, then, when you are calling people to … here the words matter but I don’t want to parse them at this point … decision? The Sinner’s Prayer is neither here nor there; it’s not the point; it can be the right thing for the right person but it can (too) easily become a magical potion for some evangelists and for some responders. We need to begin at the core of what the proper response to the gospel is:

1. Remember, gospeling is not fundamentally about pleading, persuading, pleasing, or getting folks to decide. Gospeling is to announce something about Jesus. The rhetorical bundle of revivalism, which I have sketched in The King Jesus Gospel, is not the gospel of Jesus or the apostles, and it is bundle of rhetoric designed to persuade and plead and to precipitate decisions. This bundle has convinced many that the bundle is the gospel. It’s not. The revised edition of The King Jesus Gospel has a chapter on how this bundle developed and who is responsible for it.

2. The gospel itself awakens, through the power of God’s Spirit, folks to respond. Don’t forget this: our calling is to witness and declare; God’s Advocate, the Spirit, awakens and draws people to God. God’s Spirit is at work in all and for all.

3. The appropriate gospel message about Jesus is a message that generates this question: Who is Jesus? The proper response then is to repent, to believe, and to be baptized. Confession, yes, of course — inchoately or not — but all of these can be wrapped up into the notion of surrender. I make no apologies for these terms repent, believe, baptize — they are rugged, pervasive terms in the apostolic writings, the source of Christian theology.

4. What we are to do is point people to Jesus in his dimensions, and each dimension summons to a different dimension of the response of surrender to Jesus: we ask them to look to him, to love him, to live before and under and through and by and in him, to call them to give themselves to Jesus and to what he calls us to do. God’s Spirit is at work; God’s Spirit works repentance and faith and leads to baptism. When we get ahead of the Spirit, we run the risk of aborting new birth.

5. What do I say? “Give yourself to Jesus!”

Via Scot’s blog, Jesus Creed.

And there you have it. Our role is to represent our saving King, to tell his story and allow the Holy Spirit to produce life in those who hear. Yes, we ought to let people know that they can, should, and must respond. But our emphasis doesn’t have to be on getting anyone to say certain words. Rather, we’re inviting people to come with us as we follow the King. 


  1. Tell the saving story of Jesus.
  2. Trust the Spirit to bless his gospel and to quicken the dead to life.
  3. Invite people to give themselves to Jesus.

I’m a Pastor who preaches almost every week, and every single time, I do these three things. It’s not enough to ask people to behave differently. We must call them to believe in Jesus and become his followers. So make the gospel clear in every single sermon. 

Have you, in light of who Jesus is, given your life to him?

The “Gospel” Is More Than You’ve Probably Ever Imagined

King Jesus GospelIn modern evangelicalism, we have several versions of the gospel with which people are familiar.

  • The doctrine of justification by grace through faith, which, may describe the theological ramifications of the gospel, but isn’t actually the gospel.
  • The “plan of salvation” including four spiritual laws, or five steps to peace with God, the Romans Road, or some other presentation and decision-centric idea.
  • The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which is really close. It’s a huge part of the gospel, but not the whole thing.

The problem with all of these is that they can all be shared with little connection whatsoever to creation, to the Old Testament, and to the church. They can be shared without most of the story and without any kind of actual relationship between the presenter and the audience.

In The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight takes us back – way back – to grasp a more complete version of the gospel. It all started when God made the first humans to be his image-bearers in the earth. Those humans sinned and God raised up Israel from among the earth’s peoples to usher in the Messiah and deliverer. The gospel, as the early church understood it, is how God restores us as his image-bearers in the world through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the promised King whose story ultimately resolved the story of Israel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book…

Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples. Those two words — decision and disciples — are behind this entire book. Evangelism that focuses on decisions short circuits and — yes, the word is appropriate — aborts the design of the gospel, while evangelism that aims at disciples slows down to offer the full gospel of Jesus and the apostles

If the gospel isn’t about transformation, it isn’t the gospel of the Bible.

The idea of King and a kingdom are connected to the original creation. God wanted the Eikons, Adam and Eve, to rule in this world. They failed, so God sent his Son to rule. As its King and Messiah and Lord, the Son commissions the Church to bear witness to the world of the redemption in Jesus Christ, the true King, and to embody the kingdom as the people of God.

I’m convinced there’s a fundamental misperception at work in the motivational ploys. Namely, not only have we reduced the robust view of salvation to these four or five points; we are also asking the Plan of Salvation to do something it was never intended to do. The Plan of Salvation, to put this crudely, isn’t discipleship or justice or obedience. The Plan of Salvation leads to one thing and to one thing only: salvation. Justification leads to a declaration by God that we are in the right, that we are in the people of God; it doesn’t lead inexorably to a life of justice or goodness or loving-kindness. If it did, all Christians would be more just and more filled with goodness and drenched in love.

The Plan of Salvation and the Method of Persuasion have been given so much weight they are crushing and have crushed the Story of Israel and the Story of Jesus.

One reason why so many Christians today don’t know the Old Testament is because their “gospel” doesn’t even need it!

The authentic apostolic gospel, the gospel Paul received and passed on and the one the Corinthians received, concerns these events in the life of Jesus: that Christ died, that Christ was buried, that Christ was raised, and that Christ appeared. The gospel is the story of the crucial events in the life of Jesus Christ. Instead of “four spiritual laws,” which for many holds up our salvation culture, the earliest gospel concerned four “events” or “chapters” in the life of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died (1) with us (identification), (2) instead of us (representation and substitution), and (3) for us (incorporation into the life of God).

Not only is Jesus Messiah, but Jesus over and over in the New Testament is the one true Eikon of God. What the apostles were telling us is that the assignment God gave Adam, the assignment transferred to Abraham, Israel, and Moses, and then to David has now been transferred to and perfectly fulfilled by Jesus.

Whether we look to the words of Jesus in the Jesus Creed of loving God and loving others, or to the words of Jesus in calling us to follow him, or in the words of the apostle Paul to let the Spirit of God loose in our lives to produce the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, the gospel story will not leave us alone. As our God is a sending God, so we are a sent people. As our God is an other-directed God, so we are to be other-directed. The gospel propels us into mission, into the holistic mission of loving God, loving self, loving others, and loving the world.

There’s our gospel: it’s the saving Story of Israel now lived out by Jesus, who lived, died, was buried, was raised, and was exalted to God’s right hand, and who is now roaring out the message that someday the kingdom will come in all its glorious fury.

McKnight’s writings have been challenging my thinking for some time now, since I first heard him preach at Saddleback Church during our annual Apologetics Weekend. I often find myself wondering if we haven’t somehow overcomplicated the gospel and bogged it down in all kinds of attachments that wouldn’t even have been familiar to the earliest Christians. The King Jesus Gospel confirms this. We’ve drifted from loving the story of the gospel to loving only the saving effects of the gospel.

Read this book to understand the scope of the gospel narrative, and to fall in love with the King all over again!

The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
By Scot McKnight / Zondervan

Is the gospel you’ve been told the one Jesus taught? In this provocative study, McKnight opens up the Scriptures to reveal that much of what the church claims as good news is not what Jesus preached. Discover the difference between a salvation and a gospel culture, how to put Jesus’ teaching into practice, and more. 184 pages, hardcover from Zondervan.

Sermon Video: How to Lay Down Your Burdens

Are you overcommitted? Overworked? Overstressed? Jesus was one of the busiest, hardest working people in history, but somehow managed to find the perfect rhythm of spending time alone, time with his closest friends, and time serving people. And guess what? He invites you to know him, follow him, and do life the way he did even in the chaos of our current culture.

Here’s the short outline…

BIG TRUTH: Jesus invites us to lay down the burden of performing to please him and others and live instead by a grace-based relationship with himself.

Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”


1. Jesus offers an open invitation to the worn out and the burned out.

2. Jesus wants us to get to know him personally.

3. Jesus calls us to live in the unforced rhythms of grace.

4. Jesus can be trusted as you surrender your whole life to him.

Invincibility: Life or Death… I’m Good

Paul went from persecuting the church to being a persecuted apostle of the church. After his arrest in Jerusalem, during his first imprisonment, he wrote a letter to the Philippians in which he boldly declared this short but profound line…

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:21)

In other words… “If I live, I get to be all about Christ. If I die, I get to be with Christ, so either way, I’m good.” Here’s the thought that hit me – Paul was pretty much invincible at this point. Kill him and he’s with Jesus. Let him live and he’ll just live for Jesus. You can’t really hurt Paul.

I can think of plenty of things that could hurt me. Take away all my money, my time, or worse yet, take away my family and I’d be hurting. But I’d only hurt temporarily, or physically, or emotionally. Eternally? I’m good. We’re good. I won’t take money home with me and my family will meet me there.

Let me ask you an extremely important question… if someone took your life, would they be hurting you? If they let you live, would that cause pain for you too? Or are you firmly grounded and settled in an eternally secure relationship with Jesus?

As far as eternity is concerned, I’m invincible. Seems like I’ve always wanted that special power!

Meekness is the Leverage of Leadership

In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.

If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.

The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.

Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?

Who Is Jesus? The Head of the Church, Pre-eminent In All Things

My favorite term referring to my role as a Pastor is the word undershepherd. I’ve been assigned the task of leading and feeding a flock, a local body of believers. And while I seek to lead with vision, with integrity, and with faith, I readily recognize that I am not the head of Grace Hills Church. That’s Jesus’ job. So I shepherd the flock, but I do so under the direction of King Jesus, the Chief Shepherd.

Paul reminded the Colossian believers that “Christ is also head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” (Colossians 1:18 NLT) It should be noted that Paul wasn’t claiming Jesus was the first person to rise from the dead. That had occurred several times in history, even under Jesus’ own quickening power. The Apostle was simply making it clear that Jesus is first in priority, in authority, and in importance.

When I speak of the “church,” I am not referring to an abstract, invisible, universal, and completely unorganizable collection of all believers everywhere. Instead, I refer to the church with the understanding that it’s usage in the New Testament is almost exclusively in reference to a local church or to the local church as an institution. This is why we Baptists have no bishops, cardinals, or Popes or any other kind of denominational hierarchy. Each local church stands on its own feet, autonomous and independent under Jesus, but also recognizing our mutual interdependence and need to cooperate in unity with other churches to fulfill the Great Commission.

And to be honest, my favorite aspect of this great truth is that at the end of the day, Grace Hills is His church, not mine. We fulfill His mission. We follow His example and initiative. We seek His will at every moment of decision. We obey and teach His Word. When things go right with the church, He gets the credit. And if things happen that are painful and hard to endure, it’s His church and He feels the greatest weight of the suffering.

As a Pastor, I’m committed to leading Grace Hills forward in faith, out in mission, and onward in the purposes of God. But I do so in service to the King and under His authority and direction at all times. And someday, I’ll stand before Him and give an account for everything I’ve taught, counseled, and decided on His behalf. That’s a thought that scares me and comforts me at the same time. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that we see Him as first, pre-eminent, authoritative, and the ultimate Head over all things.

Think about it. Is He your Head? Is He first in your life? Are you willing to recognize the absolute authority of the risen Savior and King, Jesus Christ? He rose from the dead in victory, in power, and with the promise that He will in fact rule over all things, and He will rule with truth, justice, and grace.

Who Is Jesus? He’s the Visible Image of the Invisible God

One repetitive theme of Jesus’ teaching to His closest disciples regarded His oneness with the Father. He once said to them, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Then Phillip brilliantly asked, “Jesus, can you show us the Father?” Uh… “If… you’ve seen ME… you’ve seen the Father…” (That last part was my interpretation of what Jesus might have been thinking – you can read it in John 14.)

We still struggle with this concept today in religious circles. Major religions that try to identify as Christian present a Jesus who is a whole lot like the Father, somewhat close to the Father, but not exactly one with the Father. Paul addressed the teachings of these factions in his letter to the Colossians when he said, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” (1:15)

So here is the basic truth. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Each of these three are distinct personalities occupying distinctly different roles within the Trinity, but each one is as fully God as the other, and there is only one God. The Son is the one member of this Trinity who became visible when He was born to Mary in Bethlehem. From that moment on, He is the one and only snapshot we need to physically, visibly represent God. His humanity never diminishes His deity.

When we get to heaven someday, we’ll see God in Jesus. If you want to know what God’s character is like, read about Jesus. And if you want to know the Father, there is only one Way, and His name is Jesus.