It’s that time of year when graduates from everywhere will take a moment to celebrate their accomplishments before beginning a new chapter in their lives. It’s such an exciting and sometimes scary time. Today, I want to look at three things Jesus wants us each of us to remember, whether you are just getting started in life or you’ve been at it awhile!
#1 YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE
This advice can apply to both the start of a new season in life and also our faith journey.
Paul consistently encouraged the early church to ask questions. It isn’t always easy or black and white, but when you make a commitment to start somewhere and begin a journey of faith, then you learn and grow as the years go by. Don’t be afraid of learning, questioning and growing. You don’t have to know everything to get started, you just have to start.
One of my favorite Billy Graham quotes, “When I was young, I was certain about a lot of things. I could tell you specifically about heaven, hell and life after death. As I’ve gotten older, I’m a lot less convinced of all the specifics, but I am more convinced than ever about God’s love and grace.”
It’s interesting as you grow, you begin to learn about God and you change, but this can’t happen until you finally make a commitment to begin. Even when you make this commitment, it is a lifetime of growing in faith that changes you!
#2 MAKE A COMMITMENT TO LOVE GOD
Jesus said, “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with your heart and mind and soul and strength.” At first, it sounds simple; accept that God loves you and then love him in return. The reality is, this is tough for many people! We understand God’s love for His children, but we struggle with feeling unworthy, we find it hard to believe that God loves us!
Do you truly know and believe that God loves you? When we focus on all of our mistakes; we wonder, how could God possibly love us when we’ve had so many failures? Then, we try to work this out by proving how good we are by comparing ourselves with others. This is especially true the younger we are! As teenagers, we are so worried about how we look, what kind of car we drive or our popularity. The sad thing is, many adults are still comparing with others, trying to prove we are worthy enough to be loved by God. Being a disciple of Jesus begins when you realize you don’t have to compare yourself with anyone else. God offers His love as we are and all God asks in return is that we love Him. Make the commitment to love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength.
#3 RELIGION OR FAITH
We can look back at the history of the church to see that there was a long list of “don’ts” that should be followed. We all remember learning these things as a kid. Often, we heard a message that was something like this, “If you’re going to be a Christian, there is a list of things you don’t do! Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t gamble, don’t dance. If you don’t do those things, then you’re supposed to be righteous or good. That’s not always the case! Many people have these things down, they don’t smoke, drink, dance, gamble or cuss, but they are as mean as can be! They are unkind and inconsiderate of others. One of the things I hope we’ve learned in the church, is that following this list of “don’ts” doesn’t make you good! We are moving past this “old-time religion” way of thinking, but sometimes it still surprises me to see how some people still view religion as a set of rules and “don’ts.”
Faith is about the “dos.” Jesus said, if you want to be my disciple, then love the Lord your God with your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Paul would say, “If I speak in the tongues of mean and angels, but I don’t have love, I am nothing.” Love covers all.