“But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.’ … And after some days … [Felix] sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’ ”
“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe. Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’ ”
Acts 26:27, 28
Go away, until I am ready. You almost convinced me. Truth is, repentance does not happen according to our time table or our convenience or whim. Repentance is a response to an invitation extended by the Holy Spirit. It is an offer of His power to unite with our desire to change. If the invitation is accepted, the Holy Spirit performs a miraculous work in the life, changing the desires, inclinations, thoughts and actions.
But an invitation rejected leaves a person in darkness, “tossed to and fro and carried by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” Ephesians 4:14. Felix and Agrippa were given the invitation of the Holy Spirit, and both turned away and were forever lost.
“God now calls upon you to repent, to be zealous in the work. Your eternal happiness will be determined by the course you now pursue. Can you reject the invitations of mercy now offered? Can you choose your own way? Will you cherish pride and vanity, and lose your soul at last? The word of God plainly tells us that few will be saved, and that the greater number of those, even, who are called will prove themselves unworthy of everlasting life. They will have no part in heaven, but will have their portion with Satan, and experience the second death.” Testimonies, Vol. 2, 293, 294
“… ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, “Come, for all things are now ready.” But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.” And another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.” Still another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” ’ ” Luke 14:16–20
His friends, those of position and wealth, were not interested in accepting the gracious invitation of the master to participate in the “great supper” he had prepared for them. They chose instead to tend to their own business first. Excuse after excuse is given, until in anger, the master instructs his servant, “ ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind. … Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’ ” Verses 21, 23
And then he makes this terrible declaration, “ ‘For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ” Verse 24
“They had rejected the invitation, and none of them were to be invited again. In rejecting Christ, the Jews were hardening their hearts, and giving themselves into the power of Satan so that it would be impossible for them to accept His grace. So it is now. If the love of God is not appreciated and does not become an abiding principle to soften and subdue the soul, we are utterly lost. The Lord can give no greater manifestation of His love than He has given. If the love of Jesus does not subdue the heart, there are no means by which we can be reached.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 236, 237
We see the same illustration in Matthew 22:1–14 in the parable of the marriage of the king’s son. The marriage was arranged, the wedding feast prepared, the servants sent out with the invitation, but the Bible says that they were not willing to come. He extended the invitation again, but this, too, was rejected and even more, the king’s servants were beaten and killed. In his anger, he sent an army and destroyed those who had rejected this gracious invitation.
He then said, “ ‘Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding. So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’ ” Verses 9–14
This parable shows us that the invitation was given, but rejected by those who did not feel the need to accept it. These are the characteristics of the Laodicean church as found in Revelation 3:17, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked … .”
Consequently, the invitation is given to those who recognized the need to accept. However, this parable also shows that there is necessary preparation that must be done in order to be able to attend the wedding feast. The wedding garment represents Christ’s robe of righteousness (Matthew 22:12). We must choose daily to become more and more like Christ, and in giving up our “filthy rags,” we are to accept His pure, white robe.
“When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah.
“The guests at the marriage feast were inspected by the king. Only those were accepted who had obeyed his requirements and put on the wedding garment. So it is with the guests at the gospel feast. All must pass the scrutiny of the great King, and only those are received who have put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness.
“Righteousness is right doing, and it is by their deeds that all will be judged. Our characters are revealed by what we do. The works show whether the faith is genuine.
“It is not enough for us to believe that Jesus is not an impostor, and that the religion of the Bible is no cunningly devised fable. We may believe that the name of Jesus is the only name under heaven whereby man may be saved, and yet we may not through faith make Him our personal Saviour. It is not enough to believe the theory of truth. It is not enough to make a profession of faith in Christ and have our names registered on the church roll. ‘He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.’ ‘Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments.’ 1 John 3:24; 2:3. This is the genuine evidence of conversion. Whatever our profession, it amounts to nothing unless Christ is revealed in works of righteousness. …
“He who becomes a partaker of the divine nature will be in harmony with God’s great standard of righteousness, His holy law. This is the rule by which God measures the actions of men. This will be the test of character in the judgment.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 312–314
Friend, have you received the invitation of the Holy Spirit? What has been your response?
“I’m busy today, come again later.”
“I have other plans, let me get back to You.”
“It’s just not a good time for me. There are so many things I want to do or try. I’ll be ready later.”
Perhaps the saddest and one of the most well-known rejections is the story of Judas. He was a selfish, willful, young man with the greatest opportunity. In the physical presence of the Messiah, Judas was ministered to as any other disciple. Jesus’ heart of love yearned for Judas to accept the invitation to repent, but we know that this was not the outcome in Judas’ life.
“The disciples knew nothing of the purpose of Judas. Jesus alone could read his secret. Yet He did not expose him. Jesus hungered for his soul. … His heart was crying, How can I give thee up? The constraining power of that love was felt by Judas. When the Saviour’s hands were bathing those soiled feet, and wiping them with the towel, the heart of Judas thrilled through and through with the impulse then and there to confess his sin. But he would not humble himself. He hardened his heart against repentance; and the old impulses, for the moment put aside, again controlled him [Almost he accepted the invitation]. Judas was now offended at Christ’s act in washing the feet of His disciples. If Jesus could so humble Himself, he thought, He could not be Israel’s king. All hope of worldly honor in a temporal kingdom was destroyed. Judas was satisfied that there was nothing to be gained by following Christ. … He was possessed by a demon, and he resolved to complete the work he had agreed to do in betraying his Lord.
“Judas the betrayer was present at the sacramental service. He received from Jesus the emblems of His broken body and His spilled blood. He heard the words, ‘This do in remembrance of Me.’ And sitting there in the very presence of the Lamb of God, the betrayer brooded upon his own dark purposes, and cherished his sullen, revengeful thoughts.
“At the Passover supper Jesus proved His divinity by revealing the traitor’s purpose. He tenderly included Judas in the ministry to the disciples. But the last appeal of love was unheeded. Then the case of Judas was decided, and the feet that Jesus had washed went forth to the betrayer’s work.
“Until this step was taken, Judas had not passed beyond the possibility of repentance. But when he left the presence of his Lord and his fellow disciples, the final decision had been made. He had passed the boundary line.
“How many today are, like Judas, betraying their Lord?” Conflict and Courage, 319
The invitation given to Judas was rejected.
The invitations illustrated in both the parable of the wedding garment and great supper were offered first to the Jewish nation, but after repeated rejection, they were finally given to the Gentiles. These invitations are treated the same, the same excuses given to refuse the invitation in every age. I cannot follow Christ because it would interfere with my business interests or social relations. Following the commandments of God would put me out of harmony with my neighbors, friends, and relatives.
“They make light of the message, but the Master of the feast regards their flimsy excuses as contempt of His invitation of mercy. These apologies which men offer for refusing the invitation to the heavenly supper will appear again in their true character in the day of God. The rich feast of God’s grace has been provided at infinite cost, and an invitation to that feast confers special honor upon the human race. Those who accept the invitation are authorized and commissioned of God to extend it to every creature. … Shall we not accept the invitation to the gospel feast, feed upon Christ, and thus have everlasting life?” The Review and Herald, March 3, 1896
Sadly, it is possible, as Christians, to believe that we have accepted God’s invitation of grace, that we are doing all the right things, that we are His children, that only Jesus saves; but too often, while believing, we have failed to have the personal relationship with Him that will make us like Him in character, replacing our filthy rags with His robe of righteous eternal life.
What is your answer? Invitation accepted? [Emphasis supplied.]