A Word to Graduates, 2012
I want to talk about authority. What you believe makes you who you are. Example: If you believe that the world exists to serve your needs, you will become a greedy, opportunistic, self serving ego-maniac. If you believe that it is important to help people in need, you will become a more generous and caring person.
But whatever you believe, you believe on the authority of someone else. Example: If you believe that because you’ve trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are going to heaven when you die, you believe that because Jesus said it.
If you believe that two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule makes water, chances are you believe that because your chemistry teacher told you so.
Graduation from high school is a one of life’s passages. It usually means that you are leaving the shelter of home and the certainty of Mom and Dad and striking out on your own to pursue your own career or further education. I think graduation represents a change in your life because it is a natural changing point for what and who has authority over you in your life.
C.S. Lewis, a famous Christian writer of the last century said this: “Don't be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you've been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I haven't seen it myself. I couldn't prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority -because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.”
So, who has authority in your life?
We are defined by who has authority over us - whom we give authority over us. Because we believe what they tell us.
Hopefully, right now, your parents and your family have authority in your life. You are now stepping out into a new stage in life and there is a high probability you will put much of what they taught you to the test. In some things you will choose to accept their authority and continue to live according to what they taught you. In other areas, you will choose to test whether or not what they taught you has authority in your life or not. In the end, you will own what your parents worked so hard to teach you or not.
Who will be the new sources of authority in life beyond high school? There are many. Make wise choices in whom you grant authority in your life. Here’s a brief list:
1. Roommates/peers. You are about to enter experiences in which you will make friends that last a lifetime. The college years tend to be like that. The friends you make now might well be the friends you keep for the rest of your life. So choose wisely. Don’t try to impress other people. True friends are impressed with who you are already and don’t want you to be something else. Don’t try to fit in, just be yourself. True friends will find you where you are. For some strange reason I find it also true that some of the friends you meet your first year you will try to get rid of your second year. I’m not sure why that is, but true friends will make that “first year cut” so to speak.
2. Girl/boy friends. You may very well meet your future husband or wife in college. There does tend to be a lot of pairing up in college. So stay pure. Don’t date anyone you haven’t gotten to know as a friend first. Ask yourself before you date, “Would I consider spending the rest of my life with this person?” If not, don’t date that person. It only causes misunderstandings and hurt feelings down the road. It is always better to be alone than to be together with the wrong person. Don't commit to a relationship with someone before you answer the authority question in your life (who will have authority in my life?). It’s unfair to your husband or wife to be under one person’s authority one day and another’s the next. Be sure the person you’re committing to has also resolved that authority question as well, and that together, you are submitting to the same authority. Otherwise, you’ll have issues down the road.
3. Mentors. College years provide the opportunity to meet significant people who can help to shape you as a person and possibly open doors for your in your future. It is a real gift to have someone who is older and wiser and who is interested in helping you as you struggle with the authority question and find out who you truly are and what you truly believe. Always be looking for a mentor. Get more than one if you can. However, if you can't find one, become one for someone else one day. The world is suffering from a lack of people willing to invest in other people for their good.
4. Professors. Your college professors will have an incredible amount of influence over you. Some of them will seek to indoctrinate you. They will try to make you disciples of themselves or Keynes or Hayek (if you study economics, for instance), liberal or conservative. You will go through a period of time over the next several years where you try on many different hats and try out many philosophies. Guard your heart. So many of the things that are so important during this time of growth and testing during college will turn out not to be so important later on.
5. Jesus. Some of you will have classes in the religion department at your schools. Be very careful of what they tell you about what you believe. Professors are usually given a lot of authority by their students. But when it comes to faith, many professors misuse that authority in order to destroy what you’ve been taught in church. They do this by going after the Bible. They try to discredit it. They treat it as if it were just another piece of literature, like a book by Dicken’s, and not as God’s holy word. One favorite technique to try to make the Bible unscientific. We tend to give scientists more authority than anyone else. The Bible doesn’t ask you to disbelieve science. But frequently science is used to make you disbelieve the Bible. Some professors will teach you that apostle Paul was uninformed about modern research into the nature of human sexual activity. But remember, God has been around since before any of his critics and He will be around long after they have passed. When presented with a choice between human reason and God’s will, choose God’s will. It has survived. Religion professors tend to be very intelligent. But most of them lack any experience. What your pastors have taught you comes from seeing God’s word in action in the lives of real people every day. The professors will tell you that people don’t get miraculously healed and that people can’t change. I can tell you that people are healed and changed every day by the word of God. Because Jesus is alive. He is risen. And the world has never been the same since Easter.
Jesus says, “Follow me.” So now he’s leading you into another great adventure as you go off to college with him. You're leaving home and have all sorts of choices now. In the end, his authority trumps all the other authorities that will lay claim on your life. The Bible tells us all other authorities will be brought under his authority. Remember what Jesus says at the end of Matthew? He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...” My prayer is that Jesus will always be the final authority in your life and that you will involve him in every decision you make.
Here are five things I’d encourage you to do as you move on to college:
1. Learn history. I don’t believe there are any new ideas. Throughout history we have asked all the questions and considered a variety of different answers. These times we live in are not so different from other times that people who have gone before us have lived in . As a race, we have faced similar problems before and great minds have provided answers. Find those answers. Consider the struggles of past generations as you seek your answers for the future.
2. Find a young, vibrant, Bible believing church that loves and accepts students like you and attend regularly. Don't go to a denominational campus ministry. Why? Because you come from a rather young, vibrant, Bible believing church and you need to continue being nurtured in the way you have been brought up. Denominations are dying because they no longer teach what they profess to believe. They have exchanged the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ for a lie and there is no life in most of them. As a believer, you are meant to be part of a church. Seek your friendships and your relationships there among people who share your beliefs.
3. Seek out quality. Keep the best forever. Seek out the best people to be your friends. Not the most popular or richest, but the one’s that have the best character, the greatest loyalty, and who hold themselves and you as their friend, to the highest standards. Seek out the best ideas, the best thoughts, the soundest theories. Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
- Pray and ask God to reveal to you what you’re good at, what gifts he’s given you, and then ask him to let you go on to use those gifts and to do those things that He made you to do for his glory. In other words, ask him to help you find out what you were made to do and do it with all your might to the glory of God. The people who achieve joy in this life do so because they are doing what God made them to do. You don't have to be a pastor to serve God. Rather, serve God in all that you do.
5. Read your Bible and pray every day.
Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ