Archive for June, 2010

Graduate Sunday 2010

Posted: June 1, 2010 in Sermons

     During this service, we recognize and honor the graduates for their accomplishments.  They have achieved a milestone in life and are about to embark on a new leg of their life’s journey.  Before, they do that, I wanted to share a few things with them that I hope will be lasting and memorable and helpful.  I put a lot of thought into this sermon today, but I also was wondering what other people have said to students at this time in your life.  I came across some advice that was given to graduates at Montclair State University by the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher, Yogi Berra.  I thought it was good advice so I wanted to start by sharing it with you:

    -First, never give up, because it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
    -Second, when you come to a fork in the road, take it.
    -Third, don’t always follow the crowd. Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
    -Fourth, stay alert. You can observe a lot just by watching.
    -Finally, remember that whatever you do in your life, 90 percent of it is half mental.
            The best instruction isn’t going to come from a commencement address.  I don’t remember what was said at my high school or college commencement ceremony.  Honestly, I can’t even remember who spoke at those.  The best advice that anyone can give you is going to come from God’s word.  So let’s read from 1 Peter 5:5-11.
            Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, wrote this letter.  Let me remind you about who is writing this letter.  Peter is known for being a brash young disciple.  He was kind of wild.  You didn’t know what he was going to say but he was going to be the first to say something.  Peter was always the first one to go jumping out of the boat during the storm: “Sink or swim, I’m going after Jesus.”  He was the one to argue with Jesus about whether or not he was going to stand by him to the end.  He was also the one that pulled a sword on the people that was trying to arrest Jesus. 
            But now he is a little older.  He was most likely in his 60’s when he wrote this letter.  So, picture a person about Pastor Roger’s age that was wild when he was your age, but now he has been matured by life.  I’m sure this is the type of person that would give some good advice.  I like how he begins by addressing the elder in chapter 5.  He is now a teacher of the leaders of the church and he gives them instruction on how to lead.  But then he turns his attention to the younger people.  I don’t know if he was afraid of the leaders losing their life because of the persecution or if he just knew that the elders wouldn’t be around forever and the young people needed to be brought up into leadership.  It might be that he knew that younger members of the congregation are more likely to be headstrong and resistant to leadership.  Maybe Peter was this way and so he wanted them to avoid some of the mistakes that he made. 
He starts in verse 5 by saying “young men, in the same way, be submissive to those who are older.
1.  Take advice.
       This word “be submissive” was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.  It means “to obey.”
        Learn to take advice, especially from people that are older than you.  They have been through life and they know stuff that you don’t know.  If you’re like me then my first reaction to someone telling me something, especially advice, is usually, “oh, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”  Or, “I know better than they do.”  Or, “that might have worked for them, but I’m in a different situation.”
            You can learn a lot in life if you realize that you have a lot to learn.  Because once you think you’ve got it all figured out, you become prideful, and you stop learning and then you become ignorant.  I’ve heard people say that they are amazed at how smart their parents got once they left home and started a family of their own.
            (The second piece of advice from Peter, “clothe yourselves with humility towards one another.”)
2.  Be humble (towards other people).
          A. Sometimes clothing can tell you a lot about a person.  A uniform can tell you what kind of job a person has.  An athletic jersey can tell you what team you play for and what sport you play.  Your cap and gown tells everyone here that you are graduating.  No one comes up to you while you are wearing your cap and gown and asks you if you are graduating.  They know it.
         Peter was referring to a piece of clothing that would distinguish a person as a slave.  It was very distinctive and humbling to wear this piece of clothing because people could look and see where your social standing was in that society.
          Make it as obvious as the clothes you wear.  He says to be this way towards each other. 
Another use of this same Greek word is in Philippians 2, Paul calls this a Christ-like attitude.
          B. Peter then quotes Proverbs 3:34.  Know scripture.  Use scripture.  If you don’t where to start, then go to Proverbs and read one for each day of the month.
(Our next lesson comes in verse 6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.)
3.  Be humble (under God).
          This humbling means a total submission to what God wants.  We are to give ourselves completely to God.  It’s interesting because Peter uses the phrase “under God’s mighty hand” which reminds the readers of God’s saving work in bringing the Israelites out of slavery.  It’s helpful to remember what God has done in the past to remind you of his faithfulness.            
       “In due time” means “in God’s time.”  This is an issue of trust.  It’s not about our timing but about God’s timing.  All through high school, and especially in these last few weeks, I’m sure the graduates wanted to speed up time.  Let’s get it done and get out!  We want things done our way and we want them immediately.  However, sometimes God’s timing is different than our timing.
(The next piece of instruction that we have is in verse 7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”)
4.  Give your cares to God.
       -Not just give, though, but “cast” which means “to throw.”  “Anxiety” comes from the word meaning to pull in different directions.  This helps explain anxiousness or worry.  Don’t you feel this way whenever you are worrying about something?  People that worry feel pulled in multiple directions at the same time.
        -It’s not an accident that this instruction follows the command to be humble before God.  This verse reads, “Be humble, cast your cares on him.”  Worry is a form of pride.  I say this because when you worry, you are holding onto your concerns instead of giving them to God.  Don’t hold onto these things.  Give them to God.  Throw them to God because he cares about you.
(Our 5th instruction to us is in verse 8: Be self-controlled and alert.)
5.  Be self-controlled and alert.
         This is translated in other versions of the Bible as “Be sober-minded”.  In fact, this must have been a theme that Peter was trying to get across because he says it 3 times in this book.  The phrase literally means to stay calm.  Don’t get worked up.  Keep a level head.  Stay relaxed.  Don’t get flustered.  Life will have its ups and downs. 
   On the flip side, though….      Be watchful.  Pay attention.
      -Don’t get lulled into complacency.  Stay active in your life and in your faith.  It’s going to take work when you are on your own, but put forth the effort to continue in your faith.
      Stay calm, cool, and collected; but do not be too calm that you aren’t paying attention.  
(Because you have an enemy….continuing on in verse 8 it says “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”)
6. Resist the devil.
            Peter says he is like a lion that is prowling around looking for someone to devour. 
       When we talk about the devil, we instantly have these images that pop into our mind.  Most of the time the character in question has horns, a pitchfork, a pointy tail, and is wearing an Ohio State University shirt.   However, this image isn’t Biblical.  In fact, he is described as being a beautiful creature.  One of his names is The Morning Star.  He is also an imposter and a deceiver and the father of lies.  So I think we need to be careful when speaking about him. 
      In particular, I think there are two extremes that we need to avoid:
            1. The first extreme is when we see the devil behind every bush and around every turn.  In this instance, we are quick to place the blame for anything gone wrong as being an attack from the devil.  In reality, this might not be the case.  For instance, I play basketball regularly and some days my knees hurt.  This is probably not an attack from Satan, but most likely a sign that I’m getting older.   
             We need to remember that the Bible says that spiritual problems, or attacks, don’t just come from Satan but also from this sinful, fallen world and the desires of our flesh.
      2. The second extreme to avoid is thinking that the devil doesn’t exist or that He isn’t real.  Sometimes, we can forget that spiritual warfare is real.  The Bible is clear that a battle is happening in the unseen world.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Clearly, there are powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil that we cannot see.
The answer is to be on the look out.  Be watchful, be ready.  James 4 reminds us to submit ourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.  When Jesus was attacked, he used Scripture to turn back the attacks of the devil.  We need to learn God’s word.   We need to know God’s word and make it part of our life.  A professor once gave advice to us graduates that we need to “massage God’s word into our life.”  I really like that image of hiding God’s word in our heart because it gives you the picture of making it part of your life instead of forcing or cramming it.  To massage God’s word into your life you have to mediate on it and think about it.  This is where your spiritual strength will come from.
(The final piece of advice he gives is in verse 9 also: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
7. Stand firm in your faith.
            A. Get your feet set.  Don’t be caught off guard.  You will need to stand firm.  Paul reminds his readers in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God.  “So that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  I want you to be able to resist the Devil’s temptations and the influences of this world.  Don’t fall back.  I want you to succeed.  We want you to succeed.  Remember…
            B. You are not alone. 
                Peter tells his listeners that there are people through the world that are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  In his day, people wouldn’t have known what was going in another region.  They didn’t have the type of communication that we have today.  It’s hard to do, but try to imagine life without cell phones or facebook.  How would we know what is going on?  These Christians didn’t know what was happening to other people and so their suffering was compounded by a sense of isolation. 
                 Even in today’s society with every form of communication at our fingertips, we can still feel isolated and alone.  Would you agree?  If you haven’t yet, there will be times when it seems like no one knows what you’re going through and you feel like the only person in the world.
Remember that you are not alone.
Remember God’s instruction for you and for all of us here:
             1. Humble yourself before God and give your cares to Him.
            2. Resist the devil with God’s Word.
            3. Stand firm in the knowledge that we are behind you. 
The gift that I have given you today says, “I am for you.”  We are for you.  Your parents are for you.  Most importantly, God is for you.
Remember that God is in control.  I want to leave you with the promise in verse 10.  It says that God will restore you, he will strengthen you, and he will make you firm, and steadfast by the power of God.  Amen.