Mr. President & administration, members of the Board of Trustees, Distinguished Faculty, honored guests and most of all December, 2009 Graduates, I am deeply humbled and honored for the privilege of addressing you today. But, alas, I am faced with the dilemma of thousands who have gone before me: how to say something meaningful and relevant to graduates who, in their well-deserved excitement, are only slightly aware that my lips are moving. In the few moments allotted to me let me give it a shot.
For years I attended conferences where distinguished Christian leaders and role models would mention their “life verses” – that one verse from the Bible that is the theme for their whole life. For a long time I felt inadequate, as if a part of my Christian life were missing, as if I had missed out on one of the fruits of the Spirit or something because I had no life verse. So, I got me a life verse.
Prov. 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
Doesn’t that bless your heart? Actually, for one who lives as a pastor, that verse has amazing application. Substitute people for oxen and church for manger. “Where there are no people the church has no problems (or as we like to call it at my church, ox mess). But much is accomplished by the people.” The church is the people; without the people there is no church.
But back to my life verse. Actually, what I found is that one life verse just doesn’t work for me. Reality is that in the seasons of life, specific verses often change with the seasons. Today I share with you my current life verse:
Psa. 71:18 So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
I stand before you with my extremely premature gray hair to proclaim His might and His power to you, the generation after me. Here are my top ten reasons for proclaiming God’s might and power…minus five (due to time limitations). For purposes of the Twitter generation, which has given new meaning to the term textus receptus, I have 140’ed each of these, so that I may Tweet each one separately in the coming days. If I may, I’ll call this Twittering His Praise.
What I am proposing is, from this day forward, each of you will purpose in his or her heart to live your life for the glory, honor and praise of God. That you will seek Him first and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
HE IS WORTHY OF OUR PRAISE BECAUSE:
1. HE IS GOD.
If I were to mention nothing else, this is enough. As He said over and over to the in the prophet Isaiah: “I am the Lord , and there is no other, besides me there is no God.”
Lest there be any confusion of the God to whom I am referring, He is the God of the Bible, the one who can only be approached in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”
He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He gives life. He is in the heavens and does all that He pleases. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
2. HE IS HOLY.
Not because He has met some standard of holiness. He is the standard.
In times when the world’s view of God is skewed in so many directions from atheism to “good-buddy-ism,” a right view of Him in His perfect holiness is so desperately needed. The only reason any of us will not be wiped out when we stand before Him face to face, is because of what He has done for us in Christ Jesus, granting us His righteousness which, as Jude tells us, makes us able to stand.
The only possibility we have of entering into His eternal presence is by being perfectly holy ourselves. Since we have miserably and utterly failed because of sin, our only hope is to receive the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ as we place our faith and trust in Him.
3. (And this is intensely personal.) HE SAVED ME BY GRACE. WHEN I CAME 2 MYSELF, THE PRODIGAL IN THE FAR COUNTRY, LOST & DESTITUTE IN MY OWN SIN, HIS LOVE DREW ME 2 HIMSELF.
Like every other inhabitant of this planet, I have a condition called sin that robs me of the delight of an intimate relationship with my loving heavenly Father. But God demonstrated His love toward me, in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. “Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”
4. GIVING HIM THE PRAISE HE IS DUE MAKES US HAPPY.
Since 1647 the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” has given us the answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
But this type of wording is not reserved for the Catechist alone; it is also the language of Scripture.
Psa. 16:11 in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
5. HE IS FAITHFUL.
His mercies are new every morning. His steadfast love never stops. I stand before you today as one who recognizes, not only the eternal faithfulness of God, but also His faithfulness in my life from the beginning.
God chose for me to be born in Tupelo, Mississippi. If I could have chosen to be born there I would have (and not just because it’s the birthplace of Elvis Presley), but He chose it for me. Tupelo is the center of the universe. This has been scientifically proven as Congressman Pvt. John Allen so eloquently articulated to our nation’s House of Representatives in the late 19th century. When one stands on the corner in front of the TKE Drug Store in downtown Tupelo at noon, the sun is directly overhead; the horizon is equidistant in every direction. Alas, the center of the universe. But I digress.
God led me to Mississippi College another Baptist school like CBU. God led me to California in the mid-1970’s with dreams of becoming a movie star. Yes, folks, I went to Hollywood. People always want to know if I was in any movies. I know you are young but have you heard of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” or “The Sting” or “The Godfather?” Well, I wasn’t in any of those.
No, God changed the desires of my heart and led me away from Hollywood. And He has faithfully given me the grace to serve Him as a Pastor these past thirty-plus years. God led me to my beautiful wife, Janet, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. God eventually led us back to Southern California, to our wonderful church family in Beaumont where our five children were raised. God has abundantly, beyond all we could ask or think, provided for the needs of our family, including all five attending CBU, with three already graduated and at least some measure of hope for the other two to do the same.
Please hear me. As Joshua said to an often-stubborn collection of the tribes of Israel, newly arrived in the Promised Land, “choose you this day whom you will serve.” Will it be the gods of self, success, fame, wealth or other short-term pursuits? Or will you take the long look, the eternal look and serve the One True and Living God Who will never leave you nor forsake you.
Psa. 37:25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
Graduates, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. This is a new beginning for you. I pray you will live your life to the praise and glory of God. You can trust Him, He is faithful.