A Graduation Charge for the Rest of Us
May 16, 2019 | by: Stephen Sprague | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This Sunday I had the opportunity to give a charge to our high school graduates of 2019 (Way to go guys/gals!). It’s the second time that I’ve had the privilege of giving such a charge during my time at Oak Hills. While I was grateful for the opportunity and I don’t regret anything that I said, if I had the chance to speak a little longer I probably would have spent a little more time looking at Paul's words from Philippians 1:21 and following; words for the Philippian church, words for our graduating seniors and words for the rest of us.
“…More necessary on your account.”
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians writes, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again” (Phil 1:21-26). The first verse, verse 21, is one of the very first passages of scripture that I committed to memory as a young Christian. This was in large part due to how epic it was. It is an expression of hope and of commitment in and to the Gospel that is summarized so powerfully and so simply. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this passage however is not necessarily Paul’s profound soundbite, but Paul’s motivation to live for Christ in this life – the fruitful ministry of the gospel in the lives of others. Paul recognized that how he lived his life had an impact on the lives of others. “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (Phil. 1:25).
Not a calling unique to Paul.
One of the things I love most about this passage is what comes next. Paul isn’t just writing about how devoted he is to the gospel for the sake of others. He’s really writing about the reality that our lives as Christians are meant to be lived for the glory of God AND for the building up of one another. It’s like the two greatest commandments – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart… And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Paul will go on in Philippians to write of the flipside of this love, this encouragement, this duty to build one another up in the faith – his own joy in the faith. He writes “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil 2:1-2). Just as Paul’s life as he was allowed to continue to live it, would contribute to the joy and faith of others, the life of the others in the church would contribute to Paul’s own joy and faith. We are likewise called to grow in faith, in holiness, in knowledge, in servitude – not for the sake of our own profit, but because it’s through our own growth that God is glorified and that others in the church grow as well!
A calling lived out.
Need motivation to be a part of the church? Consider this – your participation and membership in the church isn’t just for your own good. You are here at Oak Hills (or wherever the Lord has called you) for the good of others in the church as well. Sometimes the reorientation we need is to remember that we aren’t called to live this life alone. We need others, and others need us – no matter how old we are or where we are at in life. Thus, we need to be asking ourselves, wherever you are, are you connected to a local church and are you making the lives of the members there better? For most of you, at least those who are members at Oak Hills, the answer to that first part is a resounding yes. But for those who it isn’t a yes, or for those whom the answer to the second part of the question is a no, then you should follow that question with a probing – “why not?” What is stopping you from living like Christ for the sake of others in the church? Paul’s wisdom doesn’t end with the joy of others or his own joy – he gives some very practical advice for Christians in what the greatest motivation for this kind lifestyle is.
The mind of Christ.
It’s here that Paul gets a little preachy. I imagine him stepping away from the pulpit at this point with his voice getting louder and his pace faster and his smile bigger – “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:5-11). My challenge from this is that we need to remember that this life here on earth is not a life to be lived for our own gain. At least not from the world’s perspective. The business of life, of work, of school, of friendships and relationships, can all begin to take centerstage over finding a church home or regularly worshiping with and serving your local church. But, that’s not how we are called to live. To live is Christ. Christ suffered and died for others. For us. Why? So that we could be restored to him, SO that our joy could be complete in him! And now we are called to live in a like manner, for the short life that we have this side of heaven, so that we can contribute and bear witness to others’ progress and joy in the faith – which cannot occur apart from active involvement in a local church body.