Dr. Roberts's 10 tips for recent graduates

Posted by Patrick Henry College on 6/6/24 10:13 AM

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The following article is an adaption of the Baccalaureate address delivered by Dr. Matthew Roberts in May 2024. 

Let us consider the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Rome,

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” – Romans 11:33-12:2, 12:9-13.

We begin with Paul's doxology at the end of chapter eleven. Having laid out God's glorious providence in grafting the Gentiles by faith into the vine of Israel, Paul gives praise to the all-wise, incomprehensibly knowledgeable God.

Dear students, we set this glorious God before you, inviting and exhorting you to fix your mind, your heart, your whole being upon Him. He is the one for whom you are ultimately made, the one who created you, sustained you, calls you, and empowers you to do what you cannot do without him.

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Submit your feelings to the truth that God has revealed to you about His existence and beauty. Refuse to doubt in the dark what has been manifested to you in the light. Keep training your soul to see the invisible spiritual reality that we, in fact, occupy.

Do not be conformed to this world, exhorts Paul. God is about the business of fitting you for heaven, where the law is love, kindness, and unadulterated goodness. Yet He calls you to cooperate with this transformation.

Now let's consider some of the details of this good, pleasing, and perfect will in verses nine through eleven.

1. This will is one of genuine love

Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” Like God's love, ours is to be sincerely interested in the well-being of the beloved. God calls you to love, for this is His essence. It is the primary way in which we partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 2:4).

Putting your "yes" on the table

This is a commandment, first, to think upon the beloved in the right way, commensurate with 1 Corinthians 13, and secondly, to act accordingly.

Love seeks what is best for the beloved. Love is not firstly a feeling, though feelings often align with your acts of will. Love will sometimes require your resolute intention to seek the well-being of the beloved, even though you do not particularly like or delight in the beloved in his current condition. This is agape love, and it is the center of who God is and what He wills.

2. God's perfect will entails abhorring what is evil 

God hates sin. He despises it. Why? Because it fractures our relationship with Him and with each other. It mars the goodness of His glorious creation.

Guard yourself from the seduction of wealth, unrestrained pleasure, self-aggrandizing power, and vain recognition, all of which will swiftly lead you away from the Father. Should God provide such status and opportunity, submit these to His rule and purposes, and be ready to let these go the moment they require compromise and cooperation with evil. Always maintain your status as God's bondservant and steward, never the ultimate owner.

3. Cling to what is good

The mind is never empty when awake. It is our first and most important choice to choose what we think upon, to determine the contents of our mind.

We are to set our minds on that which is good, true, and beautiful, the eternal God and His perfect will. As we do, we will walk in the good works that God has planned in advance for us to do.

4. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love

In this truly unique PHC community, you have had years of opportunity to live in fellowship with other followers of Christ. For most of you, this won't continue to the same degree. PHC is truly a set-apart Christian community. Therefore, I exhort you to intentionally pursue a new Christian community beyond your time here.

Walking with the Most High God

You need the body of Christ if you are to flourish in His riches. Just as a physical appendage dies when disconnected from the rest of the body, so will your soul shrivel if you cut it off from regular connection to Christ's body.

5. Give preference to one another in honor

In this fellowship with the brethren, Paul enjoins us to, “Give preference to one another in honor.” Cultivate the practice of self-denial as you seek the honor of those around you. Remind yourself frequently that the work that you do is not for your honor or recognition but for God's.

Intentionally, publicly praise those around you. Extol their virtues and accomplishments often. Become disposed to be content not to be praised, but to let God exalt you at the proper time. Remember that God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

6. Don't lag behind in diligence; be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord

The ESV and NIV read, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Zeal is a Christian virtue. When He cleansed the temple, Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Psalm 69, “zeal for your house has consumed me.” Elsewhere, the Apostle tells us that Jesus “gave Himself for us that He might purify Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

As you resist to being conformed to the pattern of this world, resist the enlightenment denigration of passion and replace it with properly ordered, properly intense passion for God's glory, His kingdom, His will.

7. Rejoice in hope, persevere in tribulation

Understand that biblical hope is not wishful and uncertain, as though your future and glory was unknowable. Rather, Christian hope is a form of expectant knowledge of your destiny to reign with Christ in the age to come. Fix your mind on this destiny, and you will, by God's grace, persevere in tribulation.

You will no doubt face tribulation. But know that God intends to use all of it for good. God is absolutely for you, for you are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. You have everything you need in Christ to persevere.

Keep in mind the disproportion there exists between the glory that is to be revealed to you and your momentary and comparably light affliction that will one day be a distant and insignificant memory. As you set your mind on things above, your tribulations will shrink in significance.

8. Devote yourself to prayer

Set aside designated time to draw near to Him, worshiping Him, thanking Him, and bringing your petitions before Him.

I also encourage you to invite the Lord into every area of your life, praying spontaneously throughout the day as you go about your work. Consult Him not only on major decisions but minor ones too. He really is competent and willing to assist, and He is the expert on every worthy project you might undertake.

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Let your mind drift towards God. Let His glory distract you in the cracks of your day. The goal here is to train your being, body, soul, and spirit, to abide in Christ continuously, to reinforce your connection to Jesus the vine, gaining your nourishment, sustenance, and consequent fruitfulness from Him. In doing so, you are training for the fulfillment of your telos.

9. Contribute to the needs of the saints

Prioritize your local church in your giving. The church is, after all, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15).

We know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation, that it is the ultimate answer to all that ails our world, and thus we should invest in our churches with our time, talent, and treasure.

10. Practice hospitality

This involves being generous with your time, your home, your possessions. And don't let a perceived lack of these things stop you from being hospitable. Hospitality is first and foremost an attitude of the heart in which we make others feel welcome through expressions of generosity and thoughtfulness, and it is a primary means of evangelism as we make friends with the lost and invite them into our lives, that they might encounter Christ in us, the hope of glory.


All of these exhortations naturally require divine grace—assistance. None of these ways of life are meant to be done in autonomous human will and strength. All of them require that the Holy Spirit in you produce these fruits. Your work is to trust in Christ, to yield your life and respond to these commands, admitting and confessing your weakness along the way. Paul himself is our model, as he said to the church at Corinth, when I am weak, then I am strong.

These works in the way of life would be impossible if it if attempted in your own strength, but they are achievable when attempted in the strength that He will supply.

And now, graduates, take these exhortations and follow your Master to do His work. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Why PHC offers a classical liberal arts education

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 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.

 

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