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Advice to Graduates

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Of Sunscreen and Church Structure

Acts 8:1-4; 14-17

 

Advice to Graduates

Mary Schmich is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.  She wrote an article for her column which she describes as “the commencement address she would give if she were asked to give one.” 

She said: Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.  I will dispense this advice now.

·         Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

·         Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

·         Do one thing every day that scares you.

·         Sing.

·         Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

·         Floss.

·         Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

·         Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

·         Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

·         Stretch.

·         Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

·         Get plenty of calcium.

·         Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

·         Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

·         Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

·         Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

·         Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

·         Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

·         Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

·         Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old, and when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

·         Respect your elders.

·         Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either one might run out.

·         Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it's worth. But trust me on the sunscreen. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by advice. 

True in Christian life/true in churches

In Acts 8, it was a confusing times for the church. 

And yet fortunately they kept a clear eye

We have the beginning of a great challenge to the church. 

Persecution arose—but that is not the challenge of which I am speaking.

The first Christian martyr, Stephen, has just been put to death, and Saul, who later after his conversion would become the apostle Paul was there consenting to Stephen’s death. 

READ 8:1-8; 14-17. 

One preliminary point about this passage:  The church became the missionaries and the apostles stayed in Jerusalem.   Up to this point, Christianity had been centered around Jerusalem.  But now, the church was forced out of Jerusalem due to persecution.  The only ones who stayed behind were the eleven apostles. Why they stayed, we’re not sure.  Perhaps the government wanted to keep an eye on them and forbid them to leave…we don’t know.

But the point is that we have it different from that.  We think that the church just sits at home and the leaders are the ones who go out and evangelize.  But in the church, here, the church became the missionaries and the apostles stayed home. 

But this event began a struggle in the church.  Because as the church spread, the question began:

What does it mean to be Christian?  What does it mean to be the church?

Before the presumption—you had to be Jewish

Acts 8 -Samaritans were only half-Jewish

Acts 10 -non-Jews came into the church.   That really created trauma in the church.

Now three times it says that the HS came on a group & they spoke in tongues:  on the day of Pentecost, when the HS came on these Samaritans and in Acts 10, when the HS came on Gentiles.  God was giving his rubber stamp of approval. 

It forced the church of the NT to get down to brass tacks…what are the essentials of being a believer? Can it be one who is not a pure-bred Jew?  Can it be one who has not been circumcised?  Can it be one who doesn’t keep all the formal laws of the OT?  Can it be one who doesn’t even KNOW the formal laws of the OT? 

Baptism was a sign, but here in Acts 8, it is not the ultimate sign.  These had been baptized, but were not yet believers. 

At the core, what is a church—a place where the HS lives & bears fruit

At the core, what is a Christian—a place where the HS lives and bears fruit. 

Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It is a struggle that comes down to today.

Why are we looking at Acts?

Let me share a little bit of philosophy of the movement of churches of which we are a part.

I don’t do this much, because I think it is much more important to preach Christ than to preach one church groups distinctives.

Review slides on TCC Philosophy-Difference between Reformation & Restoration.

CONCLUSION

30 years ago next Sunday, what was perhaps one of the most famous commencement addresses in American history was given. June 8, 1978 a speech was given at graduation at Harvard University.   It was given by an ex-prisoner, a man who is one of the twentieth century's most enduring heroes.

The speaker, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, had endured years of imprisonment in the Soviet Gulags and lived to write about it.  In 1970, his writings earned the Nobel Prize for Literature.  In response, the Soviet government exiled him and in 1974 he came here, to find refuge in America.  Many in the audience that day no doubt assumed he would speak about the freedoms he now enjoyed, or the honor of speaking at Harvard.  Surely he would express his gratitude to them.

But the Russian prophet had more solemn business in mind: His concern was the spiritual decline of the West.  In his speech, he wondered why "The Western world has lost its civil courage" -- a decline most noticeable among the intellectual elites.  He said that Western leaders based their policies on "weakness" and "cowardice," and the evidence was their belief that "We cannot apply moral criteria to politics."

Instead of congratulating the Ivy Leaguers, he warned about "destructive and irresponsible freedom" and "the abyss of human decadence."  He deplored the "misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror."

The audience grew restive when Solzhenitsyn identified America's real problem as spiritual sickness.  And its root cause was our most prized possession -- our self-centeredness.  We suffer from the delusion, he said, that we are "the center of everything that exists."  We think we are not accountable to "any higher force...."

"Is it true," he asked, "that man is above everything?  Is there no Superior Spirit above him?"  Founded by Puritans in 1636, Harvard once knew the answers to those questions.  We are not the result of some biochemical accident.  We didn't create ourselves.  But we mouth the words, "one nation, under God" and leave God out of it altogether.

That day the audience at Harvard booed Alexander Solzhenitsyn for what he had to say.  But what he said had much more to do with life than what is said at most graduation services. 

What our world needs now, more than brilliance and flash are men and women and churches that simply demonstrate what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. 

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