Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thoughts for Graduates...

I was humbled to be asked to preach at my daughter's Grade 8 graduation tonight. Here is the text from which I preached.


Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents, Grandparents, Graduates...

Thank you for the honour of opening the Word of God for you tonight!

I graduated from Grade 8 some 27 years ago. That about made my heart stop when I thought about it! It seems in many ways like just a few months ago...

I don’t remember everything of that day, but one thing in particular sticks out. A girl that I will call Stella.

I had known Stella for many years and Stella was... ugly.

Bad ugly. Make her mother weep ugly.

A repulsive personality and an unattractive appearance – Stella was ugly.

But that night of graduation – a transformation of epic proportions occurred! It what can only be described as a miracle, she showed up to our celebration as Stella the Beautiful!

I spent the whole night staring – not because I was attracted to her! Because I was absolutely stunned! How could this be? How could she have been so beautiful and hid it so well!?

It was as if she had been ashamed of her beauty.

Graduates – thankfully, none of you are ugly. But I want to speak to you tonight. In particular, I want to address those of you who are Christians. Those who have repented of their sin, put their faith in Christ alone and been born again.... saved! Those who give evidence of this relationship with God through Jesus Christ by a love for God and His Word, and his people.

You are about to make the transition to High School – Christian, public, private... and you will be faced with this question: Will I pull a Stella?

What do you mean? I mean too many teens that are Christians do all they can to hide it – just like Stella hid her beauty.

They put on the ugliness of sin because they are ashamed of the Gospel.

Here is what the great man of God Paul wrote about the Gospel:

Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The Devil has many tricks. One of them is to whisper in the ears of teenagers thoughts like this:

“First make some friends, then you can slip in the part about Jesus”

“You need to build relationships first. Stay quiet about your love for Christ until you earn respect.”

“Work on fitting in with everyone, don’t make any waves!”

I would suggest to you this is the exact opposite of how you ought to approach your High School days!

Jim Elliot, the missionary speared to death by Auca Indians in 1956 wrote a letter to his sister as she prepared to start High School. In that letter he urged her to boldly name Christ, to pray openly in front of others and to evangelize right from the start! Why? His reasoning went like this: Whatever standard you set at the start, is the standard you will keep to the end. Start low and it will be an uphill battle to live for Christ from then on. Start bold, and even your unbelieving friends will keep you to that standard!

Christian Graduates – Be Bold for Christ! Purpose in your heart tonight, to live this summer and all your days in High School and all the rest of your life for Jesus Christ!

Decide from the start to be resolute, determined – regardless of the kind of school the Lord takes you to.

You can be sure of this – our enemy will not be happy with you. The more you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus the more you will be persecuted. But if you love Jesus Christ, even though this sounds quite scary, the fact is, in your heart, you know you are willing to suffer for His Name. Even though we are terrified of failing – there is a spark there that says, “I want to follow Christ, even to the death!”

Jim Elliot was described by one of his friends as a man with his face to the wind! He looked for the opposition and took it face first! Stared trouble in the face! Will and I do that on windy days – face to the wind – because I want him to grow up to be a Christian man who doesn’t back down in opposition.

Let’s be frank – “being cool” is most often a code for “caving in to sinful desires.”

And “going with the flow” when deciphered means “being swept along by every wind and doctrine.”

How then are you going to leave this school and venture forth in faith and boldness?

Let me suggest two things:

1. Acknowledge your embarrassment. I don’t know if Stella had emotional problems or what? But apparently she never faced the fact that she was ashamed of her beauty.

There will be times you are ashamed of Christ (imagine!). Own it. Confess it! Repent of it! But take courage – even the great Timothy needed support:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began...” (2 Timothy)

2. Keep studying and thinking on and glorying in what Christ has done for you! Your boldness in the Gospel will be fed by your knowledge of the Gospel. That is why Paul says this:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

- the power of God

- for salvation

- to everyone

- the righteousness of God revealed

This man had no shame of Christ since he knew so well what Christ had done for him!

So study the Gospel. Ask the hard questions! Read your Bible! Listen to preaching! Stake your ground early for Christ at school, in clubs, choirs and congregations!

Ugly Stella? She wasn’t so ugly after all. She just took too long to let her beauty be seen.

You graduates. Set your heart on the Lord Jesus now and the attractiveness of His presence in your life will be evident to all.

But only if you belong to Him. You cannot fake the Christian faith – you can try. But if Jesus is not yours, then do what teenagers like you have been doing for 2000 years. Repent from your sinful ways and Rely on Jesus Christ alone to be your Saviour forever. You will be transformed like Stella – only into a new person on the inside, not the outside. A young man or woman set apart by God to love Him with all your heart all of your days. May He make it so!

To Him alone be the glory. Amen.