It’s graduation season! Tonight is my alma mater’s (high school) graduation. Every time this day rolls around, I always think thoughts like: Wow, has 13 years really gone by? I wonder what people are up to? Why wasn’t I invited to my 10 year reunion? Shouldn’t it be easy to find me online nowadays?? Am I still not cool enough??!
Ahem…my thoughts digress; certainly no unresolved issues here. Well, to all the graduates, here’s a little pep talk I gave to our high schoolers at our church’s grad night last week. I thought I would share it again since it applies not just to high schoolers and I also saw some of you sleeping.
Grad night is always a bittersweet time. It is of course a time of celebration as you look forward to your next chapter of life and we are excited to see how God is going to use you. But it is also sad for both your parents and the church to see you leave. Maybe some of the parents are happy about this, I don’t know.
But we are sad to see you go, and our prayer is that as you go, you will find success in your academic pursuits. But much more than that, our more fervent prayer is that you will continue to grow in your walk with Christ and hold strong to your faith despite the attacks of the evil one. And so as you prepare yourselves for college, I want to leave you with this encouragement from the Word. Turn to John 15.
Here is the secret of having a vibrant, healthy, and growing spiritual life, and it’s really not that big of a secret: remain in Christ. Jesus says in verse 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
You want to have success in your spiritual life? Remain in Christ. Notice it is a choice you have to intentionally make. It’s not an automatic thing. Now what does it mean to remain in Christ? We can talk about a lot of different things, and from this chapter we can talk about making sure we are taking in Scripture, or making sure we are spending time in prayer. I hope from your time at SBECC you have learned the importance of reading the Word and praying.
Here Jesus says He is the vine and you are a branch on that vine. Tonight, I want to remind you that there’s not just one branch on the vine. All believers are branches connected to the vine, and we are connected to one another through Christ. Jesus here paints a picture of the family of God, and this image illustrates the importance of remaining in this community of believers.
And in fact, our knowledge of the Bible is to be lived out in our relationships with one another. Jesus goes on in verse 9-12: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love…12my command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”
In the last decade of youth ministry we as the church leaders have had the joy of hearing from people who have gone off to college who are now graduated and doing well in their spiritual walk, being used by God in great ways like. But we have also experienced the sadness of hearing about people who have gone through our youth group who aren’t walking with God anymore.
Thinking over these experiences, we have noticed that those who are doing well spiritually over time are those who make fellowship with other believers a priority. Our spiritual life is not just a private matter. When we were saved, we are saved into this new family of God where we can grow, be encouraged, held accountable, and protected from the attacks of the evil one.
Most of you who are graduating have grown up in the church. You have come to church week in and week out and heard countless sermons. There will be a temptation to “take a break” from church when you enter college. No one will be there forcing to go to church anymore and there will be many more fun activities you can do Friday nights or on Sundays.
Wherever you end up for college, whether just a couple of hours away, or thousands of miles away, our prayer is that you will make finding a new church home a priority. This Christian life isn’t meant to be lived alone. Those who have a vibrant individual spiritual life have a vibrant spiritual community life. There will be plenty of new things to figure out when you get to college. Please figure out your spiritual home first.
Remain in Christ by remaining in the body of Christ. Surround yourselves with godly brothers and sisters who will continue to encourage you and keep you on the right path. Please know that wherever you end up, you will always have a home here at SBECC so please visit often. We will miss all of you very much.
To all the graduates, congratulations. Soon you’ll be wondering how 13 years have passed by and why you didn’t get invited to your high school reunion.