I recently gave our 2013 graduating class five charges that will serve them well as they transition out of high school and into greater freedom. I have reproduced them here for you and for our seniors.
Cling to Godly Community
When you begin this next season of life, you will first find that friendships have changed. Some friends will head to distant states and towns. Some will stay close to home, but attend a different school. Some friends will immediately enter a vocation. Others, the military. Because of all these sudden shifts, you must be careful to attend to community. You must seek out good friendships. You must seek out people who will improve you, challenge you, and encourage you in the Lord. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” ((1 Corinthians 15:33, ESV)) Likewise, Proverbs records this truism: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” ((Proverbs 13:20)) Both statements are correct, and it’s that simple. The wrong crowd can wrong you. The right crowd can right you. You are not above your surroundings. So be careful to surround yourself with godly people. So find a bible study. Form an accountability group. Look for a mentor. And talk to your parents. You’ll find them remarkably intelligent the older you grow.
Cling to the Local Church
This may sound redundant, considering I’ve just charged you to cling to community. But community is not necessarily church, just as going to church does not mean you have community. So let me be crystal clear: Stay in church. You need the church and the church needs you. You need older and wiser saints to instruct you in the way you should go. In turn, the church needs your energy and passion. You need the diversity of the church that chips off your idiosyncrasies and forces you to grow in grace, and the church needs your ideas and insights into the coming ages of culture. You need to be nourished by the witness of baptism and the Lord’s supper. You need to hear the Bible preached with clarity, boldness, and authority. You need to sit under godly leadership who will admonish you and provide discipline. You need the church. So work with Young Life, but attend church too. Enjoy and learn from Crossroads or The Walk, but plant your feet somewhere. Serve in Cru, start a bible study, check out RUF, but please anchor your soul in a church. For it is over the church alone that Jesus declares, “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” ((Matthew 16:18)) To quote someone, “The church is Plan A. There is no plan B.”
Cling to the Book
By saying “the Book,” I mean to convey two things. First, cling to the word of God. It will be a lamp to light your path. It will inform you and form you. It will transform your mind. It will sharpen your understanding of vocation. It will heal your relationships. It will ready you for witness. It will encourage you on dark nights. It will provide direction when you stand lost. The Apostle Paul once said as much to a young Christian. He wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” ((2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)) Second, if I might be a little old fashioned, I mean cling to the actual, physical Bible, the book. If you hide your Bible on your phone, you will find it easy to hide your Bible. If you set a big study Bible on your desk, you’ve got some explaining to do. Allow the Book to mark your dorm, to sit in your study carrel, to laiden your bag for so it will likewise mark, sit in, and laiden your soul.
Cling to a Big Gospel
The Gospel is much bigger than you think. The Gospel says forgiveness is now available through Jesus. This is the gospel in its most basic form, and it is certainly good news enough, but its impact grows. Don’t stop with forgiveness. Remember also that God is inviting you into a new life and relationship with Him. He forgives you that you may one day walk in the garden again with Him. Do not be content with forgiveness. Seek relationship with Him. Furthermore, the gospel grows into the transformation of all things. The Gospel is not only the hope of your lustful heart, it is the hope of families torn apart by death. It is the hope of families divided by divorce. It is the hope of poverty. It is the hope of those who live and work with no meaning. The gospel transforms culture as we live out its impact and implications in our own lives. And finally, the gospel is the hope of a new heavens and a new earth when we will at last be fully human, perfectly human. We will be the sons and daughters of God as he first intended. And God himself will make His dwelling with humanity. Do not settle for fire insurance. Cling to a big gospel. Proclaim a big gospel. Live a big gospel. Those you encounter will need nothing less.
Cling to a Brilliant Jesus
Dallas Willard, a philosopher at the University of Southern California, reminds us Jesus would be more comfortable walking the hallways of academia than any of the greatest minds in human history. Willard writes, “[Jesus] is not just nice, he is brilliant. He is the smartest man who ever lived. He is now supervising the entire course of world history (Rev. 1:5) while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it (John 14:2). He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life.” ((Divine Conspiracy, chap. 3)) The Apostle Paul corroborates these claims. He says in Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ((Colossians 2:3)) Therefore, when you are confused, first assume the brilliance of Christ and not the genius of yourself or your teacher. If you or your professor find Christ difficult to understand, remember it is because of Christ’s brilliance, not his ignorance. Jesus knows physics, molecular biology, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, literature, organic chemistry, spirituality, and he knows the human heart. So do not doubt Jesus in college. Do not bashfully speak of the teacher. Rather, study Jesus and he will make you smart. Ponder him long, and mysteries will unfold.
So then, as you conclude your high school career, you will release and say goodbye to much of your life as you now know it. But never release these commitments. Never compromise these convictions. Never waver in your resolves. Never look elsewhere for salvation and solace. Cling to these means of grace God has provided you, and you will be called blessed.