Once again I would like to say congratulations to class of 2017. I know it has been a long journey for those graduating from high school and College. I must confess, I was not the ideal student in school. My days in school was filled with moments of rebellion and trouble making. My brother quickly learned of the rebellious reputation of his older brother. He signed up for shop class, the teacher was calling out the roll, got to my brother's name, looks up and sees the family resemblance. Teacher asks him, “are you related to Larry Stephens? My brother said, “yes, he's my brother.” I want to tell you, that teacher looked right at him and said,” I have had one Stephens in my class and I’ll not have another.” He kicked him out. I can tell you a thing or two about the Grace of God. I can think of the apostle Paul when he said in 1Ti 1:12 I thank the Messiah Jesus, our Lord, who gives me strength, that he has considered me faithful and has appointed me to his service. 1Ti 1:13 In the past I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man. But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in my unbelief, 1Ti 1:14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed toward me, along with the faith and love that are in the Messiah Jesus. 1Ti 1:15 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance: To this world Messiah came, sinful people to reclaim. I am the worst of them. 1Ti 1:16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the worst sinner, the Messiah Jesus might demonstrate all of his patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life.
I learned fast that graduating from high school, although it was difficult at times, was the easiest part of this thing called life.
I want to challenge the class of 2017 and I want you to bear with me as I do so. I do not think we as Christians need to walk out of any worship setting without being challenged by God’s word. If one leaves a worship setting and they have not been challenged, then one must wonder if they have been to worship. One must ask, has the Word been adequately and rightly divided if I walk away feeling adequate in myself? Today demands much more than some twinkle toe sermon that dances around sin and depravity, what we need is more meat and potatoes preaching and teaching. Do you think when you guys get in the dorms that a fruity little sermonette will do in feeding your soul? No, we need the truth. It cannot always be Prim and proper, sometimes our toes must be stepped on in some regard at every worship service.
I want to offer some advice to you guys today that I believe would be effective both in college and in a new-found workplace. We must think of everything in our life through the lens of scripture. And when we do not line ourselves up with God’s word, we often find that life becomes way more complex and more of a struggle than it needs to be. So, the end of the sermon today I want to offer a few words of guidance on the college level and then also for those entering a newfound workplace.
If we would call the life of the Apostle Paul up to this moment, we know that his life was one of ups and downs much like all our lives. In chapter 18 of John’s gospel, we see on display, some of Peter’s actions. We saw how he was very fast to pull out a sword and to striking a soldier, we saw how he was in the presence of Jesus at his first hearing and how he denied the Lord Jesus and denied him comfortably. There is much that can be said about Peter’s denial and how everyone of us in some way can relate to Peter. In other words, Peter can teach us a lesson about our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ or the lack thereof. How does this offers a word for us? How this offers a word for us today, is it allows us to answer the question “do we deny Jesus and if so how often?” Do we live a life that revolves around daily denying Jesus? And if this is the case, then does that in imply that we are not really Christ-followers at all?
College graduates high school graduates how you display Christ to the world is so vitally important. They’ll be moments in your college life when you will be pressed, or your beliefs will be pressed. They’ll be times when your professors will stretch your faith. They will doubt your faith, they might even be times when you will be called out in front of the class as being a Christian. And yes, that does happen more often than what we would like to admit to.
For those entering the work force, there will be times when your faith in Jesus will be challenged. There will be those moments when you are offered a shortcut and to take it would be sin.
- Do not get to comfortable in this world: It is very easy to fall into hanging with the wrong crowd. Sometimes, the occasions call for us to rub elbows and minister to the down and out, the sinner. In fact, evangelism is contingent on the gospel of Jesus rubbing elbows amoungst sinners. There is no getting around this fact. You are not good enough, no matter how noble you might think you are, to get around the fact that Jesus called us to go into the world. That being said, this does not mean we recline and get comfortable around sin. Let’s look at Peter, Joh 18:25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. Some people asked him, "You aren't one of his disciples, too, are you?" He denied it by saying, "I am not!" John summarizes the other gospel accounts by saying “some people,” inquired of Peter if indeed he was a disciple. Peter had denied Him once before Jesus was brought to the high priest Annas. Have you ever had someone cut you off in traffic, and they knew they were wrong, totally their fault, and they avoid eye contact? Likewise, Peter is symbolically putting his head in the sound, he doing like some of the liberal media and covering their ears and saying. There is an occasion in the gospel of Matthew, Mat_26:73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." Your Galilean accent gives you away. They obviously recognized him as one of Jesus’ disciples.
I begin to think about the implications of Peter’s standing with Jesus over the whole scope of Peter’s ministry. Peter had some ups and downs, there is no doubt about that, but there Lord Jesus obviously restored Peter. Peter became a might preacher for Jesus. I begin to think about this accent thing, and about the actions of Peter and what gave him a way as a follower. I want people to associate me with Jesus by how they see me live my life, and how I proclaim Jesus, just like Peter’s accent gave him away. When you get out in the world as students of workers, will people see enough Jesus in you to say, “you are one of His aren’t you?” This works two ways though. For when you proclaim to be a follower and act otherwise, the world notices it as well. Church, the reason many don’t come against your faith and beliefs is because we haven’t put it on display enough. People, put Christ on display, put the gospel out and in front of your lives, and employ the Holy Spirit to enable you to live it out. The flip side of people seeing enough Jesus in you to identify you as a disciple, the same objective to works o shame you as well. The world is watching and waiting for you to shame Jesus. It is no secret, it is nothing to hide, if you live for Jesus long enough, you will shame Him in some way, but we have an advocate that we identify with that will cleanse us and bring us back into a vibrate relationship with Him if we will just cling and call to Him. Look at how identity in Jesus works in reverse, Joh 18:26 Then one of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, "I saw you in the garden with Jesus, didn't I?" Didn’t you walk with Jesus who was supposed to be a peace maker and yet back there you tried to cut off a man’s ear? Joh 18:27 Peter again denied it, and immediately a rooster crowed.
Here is Peter, denying the Lord Jesus, the very same Son of God that was part of creating universe. Apart for God almighty and His involvement in our lives, we would be like Peter, denial and all. When you are pressed because of your association with Jesus, will you deny Him or stand faith. If we were to fast forward a few days from this arrest scene. We see a vastly different Peter. We read about the apostle Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preaching in power and boldness. Act 2:40 Using many different expressions, Peter continued to testify and to plead with them, saying, "Be saved from this corrupt generation!" Act 2:41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized. That day about 3,000 people were added to their number.