This is the time of year when we see many people complete their education at various levels. Many are graduating from High School, Tech colleges, or University. It's a time for awards, ceremonies, and speeches as we applaud those who have persevered in their studies in order to achieve their educational goals. It is truly an honor to be a graduate at any level, and an honor that is deserved and should be respected.
For example. A few weeks ago Lise and I attended Nadja's graduation at McGill University where she received her Master's degree in psychology. I'm not aware of any others from our congregation who have also graduated but if you have I salute you for your achievement and encourage you to work just as hard to graduate from the school of Christian life as you did from your regular schools.
Graduating with Honor Before God
In the same way that you leave your old schools or colleges behind to go on to a new job or new life. One day you will graduate from this physical life to inhabit a new dimension called heaven, and undertake a new role as one who will reign with Christ at the right hand of God. And just as in school, in order to graduate with this honor there are several requirements you must have first:
1. You Must Honor Your Parents
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
- Ephesians 6:1-13
Notice here that it doesn't say, "love your parents, or agree with your parents." For those who are still children, dependent on your parents, the Bible says you must obey your parents. So long as what they ask of you isn't wrong, you must obey them. You can't honor them without obeying them. To disobey them is to disobey God and that is a serious sin and God promises to punish those who disobey Him.
Note that the passage says that if children obey, He personally will bless them. Sometimes when things are not going well in your 9 or 14-year-old life and you're down in the dumps, you should check and make sure how well you're obeying your parents, it does make a difference.
Now for those who are old enough to be independent or are already married and gone, does this command have any effect on you? Yes! Again, notice that it says all should honor parents. No matter how old you are, they are still your parents. It doesn't say agree, do everything they say (if you're an adult the "obedience" part doesn't apply). Doesn't say to love. It's easy to honor parents we love, we agree with, we see, who have not hurt or disappointed us – but how do we honor those who don't fit that category?
Whether we love them or not; agree with them or not; believe what they believe or not – we can still honor them in several ways:
- We can acknowledge that they exist, they gave us life, they did what they could.
- We can live in such a way that our lives reflect honor upon them (people will honor them because of what they see in us).
- We can love them to the degree they will allow us to love them.
- We can pray for them and their needs.
We cannot live honorably without honoring our parents in some way, to dishonor them is to dishonor ourselves and God's Word for it tells us we must do this.
2. Honor Yourselves
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
- I Corinthians 6:18-20
The popular thinking today is that your body is your own and you can do whatever you want with it:
- I can pierce it, draw pictures of evil creatures on it.
- I can pour alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs into it.
- I can use it for sexual pleasure with anyone I choose.
- I can kill a baby with it if I want to.
- I can even destroy it if I'm tired of living.
But the truth of the matter that Paul explains is that the body that your spirit inhabits was given to you by God and both your spirit and your body belong to God, not you. You use it, He owns it. You have the freedom to disobey Him concerning its use, but not without consequences. Always ask yourselves if what you're about to do will honor or dishonor your body.
Remember, you cannot obtain the new "glorified" body, that will enable you to live with God in heaven forever unless you honor the body that God gave you to live with here on earth.
3. Honor Your Lord
Everyone, therefore, who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
- Matthew 10:32-33
The more education you receive, the greater the opportunities the world will provide. A better standard of living is usually the reward for making an effort in school. This is fine so long as "a better standard of living" is not the standard by which you live your life. When Jesus spoke of "confessing" His name, He didn't just mean the confession of faith one makes before baptism. He meant that one's life, one's pursuits, one's standards would be a reflection, a confession of His name. Getting rich is okay, getting ahead is okay (lots of successful, educated people in the Bible – Solomon, Isaiah, Paul, Lydia). But when getting rich and getting ahead is what you're about; what others see when they look at you then what you're confessing is your standard of living, not Christ.
Honoring Christ requires faithfulness to His preaching (the Bible); faithfulness to His people (the Church); faithfulness to His promise (if we remain faithful to Him to the end, we will be saved). Honor your Lord with your education by putting your talents to work for Him – not just for yourselves.
On college diplomas, they have a way of honoring those students who have graduated with high cumulative GPAs. There is a small golden stamp that will say in Latin one of 3 things:
- Cum laude = Honor – 3.0-3.4 GPA
- Magna cum laude = Great Honor – 3.5-3.7 GPA
- Summa cum laude = Greatest Honor – 3.8-4.0 GPA
Those who graduate before God with honor also have a stamp (sceau), but the stamp is on their foreheads and it has two names the name of the Father and of the Son (Revelation 14:1). And that stamp is worn only by those who have confessed the name of the Son Jesus Christ before the Father and have been baptized for the forgiveness of sin in order to receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
In this way they have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and receive the stamp that marks them as ones who have graduated with honor before God.
As I close out the lesson this morning I ask: Do you have this stamp, no school can give it, it is received by faithful obedience to the gospel.
Whether you are young or old, graduate, or a High School dropout, you can graduate with honor before God today and guarantee an eternal future for yourself in heaven. Graduate today by coming forward:
- For repentance and baptism
- For restoration
- For prayer or identification