Article May 22, 2017

4 keys for the graduate

Christians view parenting as a really big deal. We invest almost two decades teaching our children to love God, to know his Word and to walk in his ways. Parents guide, model, inspire and correct.

Your parents may have done a good job, but it’s also likely they missed the mark along the way. But graduation day is not about what your parents did or did not do. Graduation day announces that it is now your turn. No more delay. This is the day you step forward. But you may have noticed the hand-off from one generation to the next does not always go so well. After Joshua, the great leader of Israel, died, the next generation walked away from God:

“The Lord raised up judges, who saved them from the power of their marauders, but they did not listen to their judges. Instead, they prostituted themselves with other gods, bowing down to them. They quickly turned from the way of their fathers, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands. They did not do as their fathers did.” Judges 2:16-17

This new generation “quickly turned from the way of their fathers.” Their parents had walked in the way of the Lord, but the kids did not. It doesn’t have to be that way for you. Many Christians are wringing their hands and worried about the future, but this is no time to run and hide. This is no time to lose heart. Your generation has the opportunity to show and tell the gospel with a clarity we have not seen since the Protestant Reformation.

I don’t want to over-speak at this point, but I do not want to under-challenge you either. Instead I want to offer you four keys for your future. These four keys may or may not be new to you, but if you will use them, God will open new opportunities for you to live on mission with him that you never thought possible.

Key 1: Anthropology

I know, you thought school was out, but anthropology is the news of the day. Technically, anthropology is the study of humanity. It helps us answer the question of what it means to be human. What is male and female? How are humans different than animals? It seems the influence of humanistic, evolutionary philosophy has trickled down into every part of our lives. As a result, we often don’t know how to think about the differences between men and women, or the foundation and purpose of marriage, or roles and responsibilities of a husband and wife, or the value of children.

While we may be familiar with a Christian culture in our home, too often, we don’t have a well-formed biblical worldview when it comes to the basic question: “What is a human?”

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” Gen.1:27-28

We are not little gods, but as human beings, we were created in the image and likeness of God. That simply means we were created to represent God. Unlike any other created being, humans were created to reflect the glory of God. The image of God stamped on our hearts gives us a distinctive dignity and an eternal purpose.

Contrary to popular opinion, God did indeed created us male and female so that we could complement one another and complete one another in marriage for his glory. While the pervasiveness of sin confuses us and tempts us to distort our understanding of sex, marriage and gender, God created us male and female. Marriage, sexual orientation and gender are not subjective notions of our psychology; they are objective realities of our biology. In other words, we are not what we think or say we are. We are what God created us to be. And that is not a consolation prize. It is God’s greatest good for us to live, breath, marry and procreate for his glory.

Key 2: Authority

Whenever things go bad for a generation, we can always look back and find the moment when that generation rejected authority. That’s how sin entered the world from the start. The serpent tempted Eve by saying, “Did God really say . . . ” (Gen. 3:1). After the death of Joshua, it is said the people of Israel turned away from the commands of the Lord (Judges 2:17). Then at the end of Judges we read:

We like our independence, so we tend pick and choose the authorities we prefer.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” Judges 21:25

Just as a reminder, it never goes well to do just whatever we want to do.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Prov. 14:12

We like our independence, so we tend pick and choose the authorities we prefer. We see ourselves as the ultimate authority over our authorities. And while not all human authorities always deserve our allegiance, our divine authority does.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16

The Bible is not chicken soup for our soul. It’s not simply good advice. It’s not inspirational art for our coffee mug, bathroom painting or our tattoo. The Bible is the revelation of God that invites us to know him by placing our trust in his Son Jesus as the Lord of our life. So when we read that the Bible is inspired by God, that doesn’t mean it’s just inspiring. It means that is it God-breathed. It is God’s eternal, authoritative Word to us.

The result is that our posture toward God’s Word is one of humility. It means we adjust our life to God’s Word rather than expecting God’s Word to adjust to our life. It means we interpret our experiences through the lenses of God’s Word rather than interpreting the Bible through the lenses of our experiences. It means that rebuking and correction from God’s Word are normal parts of our life as we learn to follow Jesus and make him known. So graduation day is not Independence Day. It’s submission day—the day we yield our lives to the Word of God that we may walk in his ways.

Key 3: Community

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen. 1:27a). From the very beginning, we see the triune Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit functioning in community together. The relationship of the Godhead is a mystery we’ll only fully understand in heaven. Nevertheless, it’s a model for how we function in community with others.

When God called Abraham, he called him to build a people. After the Exodus, God’s people lived in smaller tribes, then later in territories and cities. And when the Holy Spirit birthed the church in Acts 2, he launched a church planting movement from Jerusalem and throughout the known world. Believers would gather in communities of faith called local churches to worship God, grow in the Word, serve one another and share the gospel.

Despite a world that’s more connected through technology than ever before, we frequently live isolated lives. What’s more, family is an extremely confusing thing for most people. Many of us don’t even come from a two-parent family anymore. So we really don’t know how to relate to people, build friendships, have meaningful conversations or serve one another. We live on an relational island. Solomon had this to say about that,

“One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment.” Prov. 18:1

Isolation is not only selfish, it’s dangerous. We usually don’t accomplish anything meaningful that we accomplish alone. We were made for community. Some people are critics of texting. I’m not one of those people. Some of the best conversations I have with my wife are through texting, while in the same room together. But there are some things that words alone cannot do. Sometimes people just need a friend with skin on, a helping hand and to see love in action.

So the local church is not just a group of friends who enjoy music together. It’s a gospel community built on the person of Jesus Christ. The church is not an event we attend with cool activities and inspirational teaching. It’s a people to whom we belong in order to live out the mission and declare the message of Jesus Christ. The church is God’s “plan A” for making Jesus known in all the world. There’s no “plan B.” That means as individual followers of Jesus, one key to fulfilling God’s purpose for us is to build biblical community in a local church.

Key 4: Calling

As you graduate, the primary question is not what career you will pursue. The question is not who you will marry, if you will marry, where you will live or how much money you will make. The big question is not what you will do with your life. The biggest question is: What will you do with Jesus? This is not a cliché. This isn’t a guilt trip. This is a question of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in this generation. The question of what you will do with Jesus and how you will live on mission with him is a question of calling.

We often think that we’re here to pursue our own pleasure. “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life!” is the advice we often hear. And I want you and my kids to do what they love. But what we love is discovered in the God who first loved us. God created us. He loves us. And he sent his Son Jesus to redeem us from sin and give us new life.

King Solomon, who achieved amazing wealth and influence, finally came to the place where he understood that meaning and significance in life is rooted in the glory of God. Everything else is emptiness. Instead, it’s the glory of God that defines our calling in life.

So our vocation, our family, our hobbies, our location, our friendships and our faith are not separate compartments competing against each other. Instead, we offer the whole of our life to announce the glory of God and beauty of the gospel to the people around us.

The finish

We aren’t in a hurry for you to grow up, but that’s out of our hands. Graduation is the day we say, “It’s your turn, because this is your time.” This is your moment. Whatever your parents or friends or church have done, you are now responsible. I’m praying and believing that as you turn the keys of anthropology, authority, community and calling, God will unleash a Jesus movement in this generation that will turn the world upside down.

This article originally appeared here.

ERLC2018