Convocation Address to Incoming Students of Calvary University, August 24, 2016, by Dr. Christopher Cone –
Men and women of the incoming class, we are indeed privileged to welcome you to Calvary University. You are embarking on a journey that is not vague or undefined. Some of you know exactly why you are here, and are already driven to make the very most of the opportunity that God has placed before you. But perhaps some of you have uncertainty.
Maybe you aren’t sure of exactly what you will gain through your time at Calvary. Perhaps you aren’t yet certain of what might be next for you after Calvary. Perhaps you are engaging this college career without any grand ambitions or particular direction in mind. Whichever is the case, for both the certain and the uncertain, I would like to offer some words of encouragement and caution.
The mission of Calvary University is to prepare Christians to live and serve in the church and in the world according to a Biblical worldview. With that in mind, focus for a moment on Calvary’s seal. You will notice three things in the center: the Bible, some Greek text, and the global cross.
First, we are reminded that the Bible is our foundation for everything. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 2:6 that from the mouth of the Lord comes knowledge and understanding. Paul later reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Scriptures are God-breathed and are what we need in order to be adequate and equipped as He intends. It is through His word we get to know Him and are able to grow closer to Him.
Think of it this way. John 17:3 explains to us that the meaning of life itself – even of eternal life – is that we may know Him. And what better way is there to get to know Him than by learning what He has said? God’s word matters, and how we study it matters. But why we study it also matters.
I often ask students their reasons for studying the Bible, frequently the reply is “so that I can teach or serve others.” Here is a caution for all of us: if we are so focused on filling up our glass only so we can pour into others, then we have forgotten that we need water too.
The consequence of this oversight is that our own health will fail to the point we won’t even be able to lift the glass. Perhaps we won’t even care to try.
Let me put it another way. In Ezra 7:10 we learn of how Ezra, the priest and scribe, set priorities in life. He had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, to do it, and to teach it in all of Israel. Notice, he filled up his cup (through study), he drank it (applying what he had learned in his own life first), and then he filled the cups of others by teaching them the word of God.
Perhaps you have heard the words of the great aeronautical theologians who reliably proclaim this message: “If there is loss of cabin pressure an oxygen mask will fall from the compartment overhead. Place the mask on yourself first before helping children, the disabled, or persons requiring assistance.” Why such a self-focused approach in an emergency situation? Simply put, you are not much good to those in need of your help if you are lying unconscious in a heap on the floor. Don’t allow yourself to become spiritually unconscious.
As you study at Calvary University, the Bible is the centerpiece of that education. Remember to read and study it so that you can grow closer to your Lord, so that you can walk with Him. As you are walking with Him you will find He provides opportunity for you to share that with others. Even Paul told Timothy, in 1 Timothy 4:16, to guard himself first and then his teaching. Your relationship with God is the core of what God has given you. It is the very meaning of your life. Don’t miss that. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (Jam 4:8).
Don’t make the mistake of isolating your spiritual life from your academic life or your emotional, social, or intellectual life – there are no such distinctions in reality. You have died and your whole life is hidden with Christ in God – so keep seeking the things above. In everything we do, we should be glorifying Him, and everything we do should be done in His name.
Are you studying His word? He is there with you.
Are you learning about business? He is there with you.
Are you developing your theatrical skills? He is there with you.
Are you making a joyful noise in the Music Department? He is there with you.
Are you on the court or the field striving for your team? He is there with you.
Are you alone in your room wrestling with pain and heartache? He is there with you.
Are you at work meeting your financial obligations? He is there with you.
Are you forging relationships that will last a lifetime? He is there with you.
In case you missed it He loves you deeply, paid quite a price to have a relationship with you, and He is there with you. He will never leave or forsake you (Heb 13:5). Don’t let that love go unappreciated.
Remember Mary and Martha? Martha worked hard to serve the Lord. Mary was fellowshipping with Him. Jesus challenged Martha that she was worried and bothered about many things, but Mary was focused on what was necessary (Lk 10:38-42). Don’t let your zeal to serve or your zeal to prepare for ministry become a greater passion than the passion to simply abide with Him. Focus on Him and you will be able to run with endurance the race that is set before you (Heb 12:1-3).
I can assure you of this: if when you have finished your journey at Calvary you can say that you got to know Him better and you grew closer to Him, then the other things will have taken care of themselves. As He once said, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt 6:33). When you complete the course set before you at Calvary, you will have earned a degree that will help you excel in a vocation. But don’t view this as simply an academic endeavor. Embrace it with your whole heart, knowing that the design for knowledge is that what you learn has an impact on your life with Him and with others.
This is why the Bible is in the middle of Calvary’s seal. Notice also the Greek text in Calvary’s seal. It is a quote from 1 Timothy 1:5, “but the goal of our instruction is love…” The full passage reads, “but the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” Knowledge is not intended for its own sake. Knowledge without purpose results in pride, but love builds up (1 Cor 8:1). The instruction of the Scriptures is designed for you to love Him and to love others. If our learning and knowledge doesn’t result in love, then we are doing it wrong.
Finally, take note of the other image in Calvary’s seal – the global cross. You see it not only in Calvary’s seal but it is the focal point in Calvary’s logo as well. That cross reminds us to look beyond ourselves and remember that God has placed us in a world that is in dire need of Him. God’s design is that wherever we may be we should be representing Him – ready with the gospel of Christ and with the love and preparedness to make disciples.
Calvary has graduates in over sixty countries right now, some serving the Lord in professions and others in vocational ministry. Somewhere in this world, God intends for you to walk the path He has prepared beforehand (Eph 2:10). For now that path has you here at Calvary University. What will your story be? What will you remember most? Will your highlights be of things you did, or will they be centered on Who you did those things with?
Study. Learn. Grow. Never forget He is with you every step of your journey.