(I wrote this piece on May 19, 2009 the morning after my daughter graduated from High School.)
“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:16-18.
Graduation has begun all across academia. Many of our Universities have completed graduation exercises and High School commencements have begun. All students ‘were’ and now ‘have become’. This simply means that High School graduates are now given the opportunity to commence with Undergraduate studies, Undergraduates are now given the opportunity to begin Post-Graduate studies, and finally those who have completed all of those studies will now pursue those careers afforded them. All who have completed prescribed requirements “WERE” and now “ARE” doing something different. They have now ‘become’, to some degree, whatever it is they were seeking to ‘be’.
Paul addresses this a very similar concept in Romans chapter 16. The Apostle makes is very clear that those who have chosen to follow Christ will be ‘slaves to obedience’ to the Word of God.
One of my favorite Scriptures that references the thought of one being committed to obedience is John 8:31-32. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Jesus Christ makes it quite clear that everyone who chooses to follow Him will be committed to living life according to His teachings.
James writes that believers are to be obedient practitioners of the Word of God, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25.
Living according to God’s Word is what takes place in the life of the Believers as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the life of man. Paul states that one who becomes a Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ moves form being a slave to sin and moves toward being a slave to righteousness. “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
The key phrase being, ‘obedient from the heart to that form of teaching’, that coming from the Lord Jesus Christ. Far too many folks who would think that they are Christians, seem to believe that they will one day simply ‘graduate’ from this life into Heaven. Somehow attached to that word ‘graduate’ is the term ‘salvation’ and the two are far from being synonymous.
One who graduates does so after a tenure of studies and accomplishments. One enters Heaven in spite of a list of accomplishment. One enters Heaven because of the sacrifice of one man, Jesus Christ. There is no graduation as we might entertain the accomplishments pertaining to it.
When Jesus called those first Disciples to follow Him, his only criteria was to heed His call and to leave their nets. They believe Jesus, forsook their old way of living and committed to obeying the Christ. They became slaves to righteousness.
This call of God has not changed in intensity nor in gravity. We who chose to follow Him are no longer what we were, but became what we are…..a group of folks obedient to His teaching and calling on a daily walk toward Heaven.