Commencement

Keith Crosby

"And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:17-20

This is the time of year for commencement ceremonies.  Young people are graduating from High School and College. Families are rejoicing.  Why?  Commencement isn’t an end, it’s a beginning.  It is the commencement of a new chapter, a wonderfully promising chapter, in the life of a young person.  Up above, Jesus makes reference to a commencement ceremony of sorts.

What’s going on in Matthew 28:18-20?  Jesus, having been crucified, dead, and buried has risen from the dead.  He’s appearing to His disciples to give them marching orders to follow until His Second Coming, until His return.  They are to make disciples (make learners) by telling people about the good news of Jesus Christ.  Our society calls this proselytizing.  We call it evangelizing---sharing good news (Go therefore and make disciples of all nations).

That good news is that Jesus stands ready to forgive us of our sins if we will accept His gift of forgiveness by trusting Him to save us.  Of course this requires a recognition and meaningful affirmation that we need forgiving and need a Savior, or a rescuer.  When we embrace Jesus in this way, we experience a second birth. We are all born physically. However, when we entrust ourselves to Jesus for salvation we experience a second birth, spiritual rebirth, and enter into the family of God.  We graduate from the devil’s family and are freed from sharing in the devil’s destiny and enter God’s family---a new and wonderful chapter in our lives.

With this new birth comes a commencement ceremony, we call this baptism (baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit).  Those who love Jesus seek to demonstrate that love by responding to His call to be baptized.  Baptism is sort of like a rite of initiation ceremony where we stand before others and publicly profess and demonstrate our loyal love for the Savior who rescued us.  Evangelism always leads to baptism for those who surrender to Christ.  This baptism is a public declaration of our joyful surrender as we participate in an initiation or commencement ceremony that pictures Christ’s death, burial and resurrection when we are figuratively buried with Christ in the waters of baptism as we go under and rise to walk in newness of life when we come up out of the water. This outwardly shows the world what has happened deep in our souls.  The water isn’t magic.  It doesn’t do anything for us but to serve as a prop to commemorate our salvation and new birth.  What next?

Next comes training (teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you).  Think about it.  When a child is born the parents are to coach and train him or her on how to live and function as part of the family and as an adult.  It’s the same in this passage.  We evangelize---share the good news.  We baptize---celebrate the redemption or rescue or salvation of someone who has trusted Christ in a life-changing and eternity-changing way.  Then we take those new Christians, those newly born again Christians and not unlike parents, thing of us as spiritual family we teach them about their new-found faith so that they can live a life for Jesus.  You might come from a tradition where you were taught a catechism.  You may have been catechized.  Well, that’s what this means (teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you) only much, much more.  You can learn more about this in our baptism classes, or our spiritual growth classes, on the church website, or by calling the office.

What’s this got to do with commencement?  Well, in this season of high school and college graduations and commencement ceremonies, it might be time to think of your own.  

If you’ve graduated from being a child of the devil to being a child of God, you need to contact the church about your own commencement ceremony.  If you love Jesus and have been born again, it’s time to get baptized.  Baptism is an act of worship.  It’s an act of love for Christ.  Maybe it’s time to demonstrate your loyal love for Jesus by being baptized.

Sunday night at 6pm in the Worship Center, we are having commencement ceremonies for 7 people.  They’ll each be giving a brief commencement address, too, as they bear witness to what God has done for them. Check it out.  Bring a friend.  Then afterward, come to the “commencement party” that follows (The Sunrise Summer Celebration complete with food, fun, games, attractions, and fireworks).  Bring the entire family.  Bring a friend.  Bring a person who does not know Jesus so that they might here the good news of Jesus Christ. This will be a commencement ceremony to remember (until you have one of your own).  Hope to see you there.

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