Good evening, this is a big week for you all. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and administration I’m not primarily going to be talking to you but congratulations. This is your celebration too. You’ve done so much to get these seniors here, so much that people haven’t even seen and they’ve made it. Good work and thank you. Seniors congratulations to you and if you haven’t taken time to reflect on what the folks in here have done for you, you need to do that. All of those rides to school, to practices, to games, to tutoring, to make up tests. All those late trips to walmart for project supplies because you didn’t tell them until the night before. All of those times you forgot something and had to call them during school to bring something to you. All that and many more. Seniors, you wouldn’t have made it without their help, why don’t you take the time to tell them thank you this week.
Baccalaureate. How many of you knew what this event was before this week? I imagine some of you didn’t know until you got here, you’re kind of along for the ride or your parents made you come. I had to google the word again this week even though this is like my 15th one.
a religious service held at some educational institutions before commencement, containing a farewell sermon to the graduating class.
So I’m tasked with keeping 75 teenagers engaged in the bible that went to prom last night. What an opportunity! I was in your shoes 21 years ago except we did this at the school. I have no idea what the pastor said and the world was in a different place. I mean a new Star Wars movie had just come out and our president was mired in a sex scandal. Maybe it wasn’t that different of a world. I know most of you are doing the senior rounds right now and this is just where you ended up tonight. Since you’re here though I’m going to ask that you listen to me. I’ll say this with God there aren’t accidents. Before the foundation of the world He wanted you here tonight and knew you were going to be here. This might be the day He finally gets ahold of you. As I thought about the charge given me, a farewell sermon it hit me that this might be the last time some of you hear the word of God preached. You are getting to the point where you’re a grown up. You can make the decision to never enter a church. As I thought about that, i realized the stakes are high. Where you spend eternity might be on the line.
I don’t know what all to say to you guys, but I’ve had something on my mind for awhile. I’ve heard enough graduation speeches and baccalaureate sermons. They all tend to paint a picture of continued advancement. You hear a lot of motivational stuff. You can do anything if you set your mind to it. The only one that put limits on you is you. The only thing that limits you is your dreams. You can be anything you want to in life. I’m a sucker for that stuff, but I’ve lived long enough to call bull-crap on it. These speeches act like life is one conquest after another, one summit scaled after another. I want to tell you that I have fallen down the mountain more than I’ve climbed it. I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded. I’ve missed more than i’ve made. Life isn’t an upward track, it’s a lot more complicated than that. You will fail. You will fail a lot. The bible says that a righteous man falls 7 times but will rise again. Everybody falls, the key is getting back up. I don’t mean to insinuate that all of you won’t be successful. You guys have loads of potential. Some of you are smart, affable, athletic and hard working. You will have success. I’m not here to toot your horn tonight though, you’ll get plenty of that this week. I’m here to tell you the truth and you know what my fear is, it’s that some of you will climb that ladder and get all of the world’s accolades only to find out later in life that it was leaning against the wrong wall. My fear is you do arrive only to find out that it’s empty. I’m telling you tonight that God’s idea of the good life and the world’s idea are not the same.
Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter.”― Francis Chan
I want to give you a couple of bible verses tonight. The first one is found in John 10:10
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they have it more abundantly.
Just for context, Jesus spoke this and the thief is satan, the devil. The devil comes to steal and to kill and to destroy. The devil offers shortcuts, leads you down promising roads, only to leave you on the side of the road beaten, abandoned and full of shame. Sin works this way, we do things we know we shouldn’t thinking it will give us what we’re looking for only to find out it’s empty. Satan over-promises and under-delivers every time. Jesus says He came to bring to us abundant life. The good life. Think for a minute what the good life looks like to you. To some of you it no doubt means being rich, having a nice house and a nice car. Nothing wrong with any of that. Some of you have a simpler view of the good life. A wife or husband, enough money to pay the bills, a family, maybe some land to hunt. Nothing wrong with that either. I just think that Jesus had a different life in mind in John 10:10. I think the abundant life goes deeper than the surface. I don’t think the abundant life is about our situation or circumstances at all. I think it’s about righteousness, peace, joy and then a mission. The first 3 ideas come from a verse in Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
An abundant life is full of righteousness, peace, and joy.
A life that is characterized by righteousness ----the quality of being morally right or justifiable. Living life the right way makes a difference. Having high character matters. When you do the right thing you can usually sleep well. When you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember a lie. When you’re the same person in the dark as you are in the light it makes a difference. Feeling constant shame and guilt because of our sins has a way of destroying us. You can get ahead in your life by lying, cheating, and stealing, but in that case the good life won’t satisfy.
Here’s the problem with living a life characterized by righteousness though. We suck at it. We can’t get it right. The bible tells us no one is righteous, not one. This verse includes the righteousness of right living, but that’s not enough. Many think if their good deeds outweigh their bad then God will let them into heaven. God is so holy that if we fail in one point of the law then we’ve broken it all. This is why Jesus came. You can’t save yourselves. Jesus lived a perfect life in our place and died the death of a lawbreaker in our place and then conquered the grave for us so we might have eternal life. Your righteousness is filthy rags next to God. It won’t get you anywhere but hell, but God offers you the righteousness of His son if you would just believe and repent.
A life that is characterized by peace. Peace is elusive. Even when the world is as it should be our hearts are often cluttered with worries and anxieties. You see this abundant life has nothing to do with happens to us and has everything to do with what’s going on inside of us. If I asked you how your heart was tonight it might be the first time you ever thought about that. I think many people aren’t at peace when their head hits the pillow at night. Many are looking for peace at the bottom of a can or bottle, or in a pipe, or in a bed, or with money, or pills, or even family. We just want the noise of our mind and heart to shut off once in awhile.
See peace comes through Jesus too. First, through Jesus you have peace with God. When you have not accepted Jesus, you are an enemy of God. You are at war with Him. Jesus can reconcile you. Second, you have the peace of God. The bible describes a peace that transcends all understanding that guards your hearts in Christ Jesus. A peace that doesn’t make sense to anybody else, that stands guard over all the things that want to clutter your heart. That’s the kind of peace you can have tonight.
The third one mentioned here is joy. Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Most of you are happy when things are good and sad or mad when they’re not. God offers you something that is less volatile than that, less of a roller coaster. Something that’s deeper than what’s happening to you, something that’s about what’s happening in you. Everyone of you, everyone in here wants happiness.
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”
― Blaise Pascal
Here’s the deal though if you look for happiness in all the stuff you can accumulate, all of the money you can make, all of the places you will go, you’re going to be mistaken. God offers us something that is deeper than that. You see this evening if you desire the good life it’s not that you’re desires are wrong, it’s that they’re misplaced, The good life won’t be found outside of Christ.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Finally, the abundant life consists of a mission. God gives you the opportunity to spend your life on something bigger than you. They say the 2 most important days in a man’s or woman’s life is the day they’re born and the day they find out why. God created you for more than you realize. He created you for more than 70 more years, but 70000 more. Imagine your life as a 100 mile rope with the first 2 inches wrapped in electrical tape. The 2 inches is your life on earth and the rest is eternity. That’s the way it is although we spend an awful lot of time planning for the 2 inches and not eternity. We can’t see past our noses sometimes. I wish you all the success in the world, but know this you were created for more than that.
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
― John Wesley
You weren’t created to just live for yourself, you were created to be poured out for others. In that you will find joy and happiness. Abundant life is not about having stuff. It’s about having peace, having Joy, having God. Abundant life is not about having more success, but about having Jesus. Only he can save, satisfy, and give life because his is the Way and the Life. Seniors, tonight I’m asking you to not waste your life.