Spring 2012 Chapel - January 11th

Chapel Address
January 11, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Spring Semester! If you are joining us as a new student this semester, either as a transfer student or as someone beginning their college experience, would you please stand so we can greet you? Welcome!

Many of you will recall that a number of you had tried in vain to get me to participate in that right of passage called No Shave November. Though I declined, I did agree to grow a beard over the holidays, thus, DecemBeard was born. Here is a record of thirty days of growth.

[DECEMBEARD Time Lapse]

You may also remember that I said I would grow this beard on one condition, that each student would contribute $1 the first chapel of the semester. I would then match dollar for dollar what the students contribute, and then I would apply those funds to help out a student with significant need. Well, today is that day. At the end of this chapel we'll have donation buckets available on your way out. We'll collect those contributions, you'll witness the shaving of the beard, and I get to give my wife a smooth-lip kiss.

Consequently, I'm going to ask you to switch gears with me a couple of times this morning, for though I want to have a little fun losing this beard, I also want to share a powerful and important passage of scripture with you and make some observations that I hope are fitting for life and the beginning of the semester.

First, hear the Word of the Lord:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance
In the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has given us everything necessary for life and godliness,
Through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

Thus He has given us, through these things, His precious and very great promises,

So that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your

Faith with goodness,
And goodness with knowledge,
And knowledge with self-control,
And self-control with endurance,
And endurance with godliness,
And godliness with mutual affection,
And mutual affection with love.

For if these things are yours and increasing among you,
They keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful
In the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind,
And is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.

For in this way entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you. II Peter 1: 2-11

Aren't those great words? They are words around which to understand and order the life we each have to live. Hold on to those words.

The College Experience

Now, let's consider for a moment the four-year opportunity you have here: society and your family has granted you a privilege, the opportunity to set aside normal responsibility and come away, seek, learn, explore, focus, master.

We call it, the college experience.

It is filled with possibility and potential; it can open new vistas and provide vocational pathways. But it can be easily cheapened and neglected as well. So I encourage you, I charge you, this day, make the most of this wonderful privilege you have worked for and been granted; learn the rhythm of "becoming" that is a part of the cycle of knowing, being, doing.

College is a wonderful experience, often the means to great ends; but there is more to life, another dimension to life, a dimension that all of humanity has the potential to participate in, it is, the Christian experience.

The Christian Experience

Just as the college experience presents us with a body of knowledge to explore, learn and master, the way of Christ presents us with "knowledge of how things are". In fact, we are the beneficiaries of generations of people who in their own way sought to accept and order their lives, their cultures and societies upon the claims of Christ, utilizing this knowledge as knowledge of reality. (Willard, Knowing)

Yet unlike head knowledge, knowledge in the Christian experience comes from more than merely knowing about God, but actually knowing God in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is central to all of us here at NNU, for we seek to organize the college experience in relationship with the Christian experience.

The NNU Experience

At NNU we follow after God and God's ways. We do so with a body of knowledge that comes to us from scripture, from generations of tradition that have benefited from the sound reason of Christian believers, and now this knowledge has been confirmed through our own corporate and personal experience with Jesus Christ.

At NNU, we have come to understand the fundamental questions in life. Here I cite the work of Dallas Willard who so well identifies four basic life questions:

  1. What is real?
  2. Who is well off?
  3. Who is a really good person?
  4. How do you become a really good person?

Those sound like good college questions don't they? Maybe they've shown up in several of your classes. We believe the answers to these questions aren't multiple choice, they're fixed, inscribed by God in the created order of humankind. Consider the answers:

  1. What is real? God and His Kingdom.
  2. Who is well off? Anyone who is alive in the Kingdom of God.
  3. Who is a really good person? Anyone who is pervaded with love.
  4. How do you become a really good person? Place your confidence in Jesus Christ, become His student/apprentice/disciple in Kingdom living.

Knowledge of these questions and these answers come to us from the Christian tradition. Inspired scripture informs us how life is ordered and how it is to be lived well; let's look again at the passage from II Peter 1: 2-11.

May grace and peace be yours in abundance 
In the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has given us everything necessary for life and godliness,
Through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

Thus He has given us, through these things, His precious and very great promises,

So that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your

Faith with goodness,
And goodness with knowledge,
And knowledge with self-control,
And self-control with endurance,
And endurance with godliness,
And godliness with mutual affection,
And mutual affection with love.

For if these things are yours and increasing among you,
They keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful
In the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind,
And is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.

For in this way entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you. II Peter 1: 2-11

OK, I said I was going to ask you to switch gears this chapel, so it's time to cut off this beard.

The Beard, A Metaphor

Before I crank up the clippers, what if we use the cutting off of this beard as a metaphor? (Now, to anyone who has had, currently has, or ever will choose to have facial hair, no offense is intended to you.) What if we pretend this beard represents the old man, the world's corrupt ways, i.e., the presence and effect of sin?

[shave beard with clippers]

My does that feel good. Is it too cheesy a metaphor to associate that feeling with the sense of being clean, forgiven, of being a new person? Do you remember what that experience felt like in your own life? I'm forgiven; I'm clean?

Come Participate in the Divine Nature

Here's the point I want to make; some of us think that coming to Jesus and asking for and receiving forgiveness from our sins is it. That's all there is. I'm cleaned up, therefore, I'm done (I won't have to shave ever again). If you think that, you have much to learn from this passage. Jesus not only wants to cleanse us of our sins, He wants to transform us from the inside out to become new creatures.

Listen to the key segments of this passage once again, and listen to how Jesus provides for us, equips us, to live the life He intends for us to live. Or as my colleague Dr. George Lyons says, "Jesus gives those who respond to his continuing call everything necessary for them to live godly lives." (Lyons)

His Provision, His Divine Power

His divine power has given us everything necessary for life and godliness, 

God has shown up in the person of Jesus Christ and He has arrived with power, divine power. Don't say, "I can't do this", He knows that, He's come to give us His power in order to do His will.

His Provision, Everything Necessary

His divine power has given us everything necessary for life and godliness,

God has always had a plan, and now in the fullness of time, Jesus has come and his divine power has given you and me what we need for life; furthermore, He's given us the capacity to live a godly life as we walk in His presence and power as His children.

His Provision, His Promises

Thus He has given us, through these things, His precious and very great promises,

Throughout the scriptures there are scores of promises that provide us with the knowledge and understanding of how God intends for us to live this good and godly life. These promises are intended to provide us with the knowledge of God necessary to walk in the way, the truth and the life.

His Provision, Escape the World's Corruption

So that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world

One of the important things these promises do, is provide us an awareness of the corruption that abounds in this fallen world. As we live in the stream of God's divine power we can be aware of and resist the world's corruption, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

His Provision, Participants of the Divine Nature

become participants of the divine nature.

What an irresistible invitation, come partake of me, participate in the divine nature (those words should echo every time we take communion). He's provided, we must participate.

It's a funny thing, the capacity to grow a beard. It wants to grow back. If you don't tend to it, it returns.

It's like this passage of scripture. In it, we read not only of God's provision, but also the call to us to be active participants in the process of becoming His disciples. By God's design we are given the privilege of learning to live in the flow of the divine nature. In so doing, we are to exert "the positive discipline" necessary to truly become participants in the divine nature.

Peter identifies a set of virtues, a hierarchy of practices, that we are to pursue, that enable us to live the good and godly life set out for us.

Pay attention to the process of maturation necessary to become what He intends for us to be.

[shave with razor]

Our Participation, Faith

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your

Faith with goodness,


It begins with faith. Affirming that what Jesus says is true. I have come to know Him through my relationship with Him. My knowledge of Him and my faith in Him assure each other.

Our Participation, Goodness

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support

Faith with goodness,


From there I must choose to live a good life, to make moral excellence the goal of my life. To pursue goodness is to seek to live a constructive life in the service of both God and others.

Our Participation, Knowledge

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support

goodness with knowledge,


My quest for goodness is aided by the knowledge of God I acquire through personal intimacy with Jesus, with Him I learn from Him. I am equipped by my personal knowledge of Him.

Our Participation, Self-Control

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support

knowledge with self-control,


Unlike the world, I learn, through my knowledge of God, that I am not a slave to my appetites. They serve me, I don't serve them. Thus, I exercise self-control, learning to guard and govern my thoughts, words and deed, thereby escaping the corruption this is in the world because of lust.

Our Participation, Endurance

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support

self-control with endurance,


Over time, because of the knowledge and self-control I possess I don't give up on myself or on God. I hang in there. Feelings don't defeat me, circumstances don't derail me. I don't quit. I persevere. I endure.

Our Participation, Godliness

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support

endurance with godliness,


As I endure I begin to notice changes, from the inside out. Some people call this piety. Others call it the holy life. It is learning to live life in right relationship with God and others.

Our Participation, Mutual Affection

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support

godliness with mutual affection,


This sense of godliness manifests itself amongst fellow Christians. This translation calls it mutual affection, other translations use the term brotherly love, philia, is the Greek word. In essence it's the privilege of Christian friendship, two travelers journeying together toward the same goal, Jesus and His Kingdom.

Our Participation, Love

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support

mutual affection with love.


Lastly, as I walk with God and learn to draw upon Him, I come to the point where I find myself caring for, in fact seeking the good of people I don't even know, people who may or may not know God. This is love, the highest expression of Christian character. Far from being merely forgiven, if we follow the pathway of transformation, we find ourselves seeking the best interests of even the undeserving. Who does that sound like? That's right, the one who made me clean in the first place. Jesus. The one who has continued to shape and purify me as I've walked with Him. The one who invites me to participate in the divine nature.

Words of Encouragement, Warning & Shaving

Peter, like Jesus, wants us to succeed, so he offers words of encouragement as well as words of warning. He knows that we are not forgiven, saved, "end of story"; rather, we are in the process of being saved.

You see to follow God is to engage in a life-long journey of transformation. It requires a unique commitment to do the things we are incapable of doing by ourselves, only to discover that by participating in the divine nature, God's indwelling presence, we are being transformed from the inside out.

As cheesy as the beard metaphor has been, it has value in this respect. If I don't shave it will come back, if I don't shave the next day it will continue to grow and grow. So it is with God and without God. Attention and inattention compound. Am I making every effort to support my faith?

So I ask you, what do you intend to do with yourself this day, this week, this month, this semester?

Do you wish to seek entry into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Then you must commit to learn to live life in this way. If you don't you are at the very least short-sighted, which will lead to blindness and eventual disregard for God's saving work in your life.

You have been given a great privilege. Don't neglect it.

Learn the lesson and heed the call of Christ and the admonition of Peter, Grow. Grow in Christ. Moment by moment. Day by Day. Learn to participate in the divine nature.

How? With those with whom you share mutual affection.

Across the campus there are Life groups. Abide groups. Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Join. May this indeed be a season of transformation for you in class and in Christ.

As you go, I want to thank you for joining me in helping someone in need, it's a good and godly thing we do, tinged with mutual affection and love.

And I hope that you know that most of all you are loved. Now go learn something, of your calling and your God.