We gather this morning to recognize and honor the students who have recently graduated from High School. This is a great honor that we pray will propel you into a successful and meaningful life. But what is a successful and meaningful life? Where you get your answers will have profound implications as to whether or not your life is ultimately successful and meaningful. This morning, let’s find out what the world is telling our young men and women and compare that to what God tells them.
The world passionately and persuasively tells young men and women (primarily through movies, the internet, and television) that there is no God. Since there is no Creator God, humans are simply a highly-evolved species (having a common ancestor with apes) that came into being for no discernible reason. Since there is no discernible reason for our existence, there is no objective morality to which we are all accountable. Morality (right and wrong), therefore, is subjective and defined by each individual person and/or culture. Since morality is personal, each person is free (to an extent) to define what they believe is right and wrong and morality is then based on maximizing pleasure.
Since morality is personal and subjective, success and meaning in life become rooted in pleasure. Therefore the world’s answer is that the primary purpose in life is to maximize personal pleasure because meaning is found in pleasure. A successful life is one that has enjoyed as much pleasure as possible. It is this life that is celebrated by the world. This type of thinking leads to abuse of sex, money, drugs, and/or alcohol because these are roads that lead to obtaining pleasure. There is no God, there is no judgment; therefore “Eat, drink, and be merry”; in other words pursue pleasure (just do your best to not infringe on someone else’s pursuit of pleasure).
To men, this thinking is behind the scheme: to “feel 18 again”, to see woman as objects (toys) for sexual pleasure, to forget about the responsibility of raising a family, and to accumulate all the toys your heart desires. To women, the world says that the most valuable resource you have is your beauty. Your beauty is your ticket to pleasure so therefore devote yourself to the pursuit and maintenance of beauty regardless of what it costs in terms of money and dignity.
First, God addresses the world. He says:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
God says that men and women are not a highly-evolved species but are His special creation who have been created in His Own image (Gen 1:26). Men and women were intentionally created by God to bring glory to God. The primary purpose of life is not to maximize personal pleasure but to serve the Creator. Pleasures are wonderful as long as they are first filtered through love for God and love for others (Luke 10:27).
A Call to Action
Fathers and Mothers, as your young adults grow up; they want to know what a successful and meaningful life looks like. Young men want to know what it means to be a man and what they should look for in a woman. Young women want to know what it means to be a woman and what they should look for in a man. This is good because God has placed within each young man and young woman a yearning to know what it means to be a man or a woman.
Therefore the call goes out to you from God to teach them and model for them Biblical manhood and womanhood. This is why the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). God knows that young men and young women need to be taught how to be a men and women. Deuteronomy 4:9 says. “Teach [God’s commands] to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 11:19 reiterates this and says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Ephesians 6:4 says to bring your children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
God has designed young men and women to seek out what it means to be a man or a woman and He has called fathers and mothers to be intentional about teaching them with the help of the local church.
But what happens if Dad and Mom are negligent in their responsibility? What happens if the church would rather entertain than train children? Usually what happens is that young men and women seek the answers from another source. In other words, if Dad and Mom are not telling them what it means to be a man or a woman, the world (according to 1 John 2:15-17) is more than willing to provide wrong answers.
What is a successful, meaningful life? It is remembering Ephesians 2:10: “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” A successful life is one that walks before God in faith and meaning comes from bringing glory to Him.