Commencement  Address to NCU graduation in 2016

Allow me to share some empowering spiritual TRUTHS with you today.. Grab your ball pens, your notebooks and take good notes from this empowering lesson for all that would hear.  Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Ephesians Chapter 2 and verses 8-11.  *Auditory Reading

Beloved Northwestern graduates, you have fought the good fight and emerged victorious. You have obeyed God’s call on your life and studied to show yourself approved, as workmen and women, that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.. But, let none misunderstand that it is Grace that has brought us safe thus far and it is Grace that will lead us home. Let’s take a moment to review God’s miracle of Grace.

Grace is the power of God that draws us to believe, including some who may have had a total disregard for God, to encounter and relate with the reality of God in a personal relationship. A misconception normally accepted is that we find God, while in reality God was not in need of being found, for He was never lost, or missing in the first place.

Mankind was lost, and it is God’s work of Grace which allows for some to be drawn to believe. In fact, it is the result of God’s Grace, that any are drawn to believe. (John 6:44). We cannot allow ourselves to entertain the thought that it was through our own strength, merit, or right, that we have obtained salvation. The fact is that our salvation is a result of a free gift, given to those that are enabled to believe through the manifestation of the free gift of faith, by grace.  *See Eph. 2:8-10. This is Grace!

The atoning act of our Lord, shedding His sinless blood on the cross at Calvary and rising from the dead in victory over the grave, boggles the mind of man, and especially His resurrection induces man to ridicule it outside of God’s revelatory knowledge given to believers by Grace through His Holy Spirit. The fact is that natural man sees the sacrifice of Jesus as total nonsense. He or she sees it as an act that is totally outside of human reasoning, an illogical act to the eyes of natural men.

But it is God’s Grace that allows us to penetrate into grasping and appreciating the revelation of the Love of God towards humanity, and provides us the faith to accept and believe that which is regarded by the world as the foolishness of the Gospel (I Corinthians 1:18). Through this act, God has confounded the earthly wisdom of the “wise”, who are shielded, by the sin nature, from understanding the simple, saving sacrifice aspect of the unfathomable Gospel (Romans 1:22).

We do not come to Christ through our intellect, righteousness, or through any form of human intellectual ascent. In reality, it is we who are drawn by Him. It is He that causes us to believe by His gift by Grace through Faith, a FREE gift, unearned.. (Ephesians 2:8-10). We cannot glory in our own salvation as if it was our work which caused it. It is unmerited favor from God alone! In reality, our acknowledgment should be in eternal appreciation for what He has done for us. “We owed a debt we could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe”. There is only one worthy, Only one who deserves all of the glory, and one to whom all honor, glory and praise is due, and His name is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Amen?

His atoning sacrifice has made us righteous through our being washed and cleansed by His sinless blood. Yet our righteousness is just a reflection of His righteousness. It is His righteousness that has been bestowed upon us through His perfect sacrifice. It is His righteousness that is legally imputed to us (purchased by blood, a blood covenant) which allows us to legally stand on His authority. As former slaves to the sin of this world, it was His perfect blood sacrifice that paid the price for our redemption. We were literally purchased off of the slave market of sin by the Lord of Glory who died on the cross for our sins, shedding His perfect, sinless blood on our behalf. He then arose from the dead giving us the gift of eternal life, proving that death could not hold Him and therefore cannot hold us in the grave. We give you Glory Lord for your awesome, loving Grace!

Jesus conquered hell, death and the grave for all believers. Through this act, He has made us heirs in the family of God. As joint heirs with Christ Jesus He has made His Father our “Abba” (personal) “Daddy” Father, and has given to us the authority that is rightfully administered through our royal relationship within His Kingdom. God the Father, represented in Scripture as our “Abba”, or personal daddy, sees us as His children, and this results in our sharing an eternal, personal  relationship with God the Father, and our Brother; the Lord, Jesus Christ. With the work of redemption completed, Jesus stated to the Father and the world, “It is finished”. It is a completed work! Then He sat down at the right hand of the Father. Our heavenly Father gave His beloved Son; Jesus, full authority and placed all things in subjection at His feet. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus in bodily form as He is the image of the invisible God.

Now I have said all of that, just to say this; we as born again believers, by Grace through Faith, possess the legal right to claim such authority, positionally, in Christ. Therefore, we as blood bought, chosen members of the royal family of God, united with God, as one by the same Holy Spirit, are now enabled to pray or command in the authority of Jesus name by faith and it shall be done. We now have that authority and privilege as children of the Father and brothers and sisters of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We exchange our vestments for that of Royalty. We walk transformed by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, who counsels us and guides us. And we are provided, through His Grace, ministering angels that are alert and obedient to our commands for protection and guidance through the authority that is given to us in His Holy Name, which again, means in His authority. That is GRACE! Oh.. what great privilege has been bestowed upon us as His children as joint heirs with Christ our Lord and brother.

It is because of this awesome Grace and favor that we should continually seek to grow to be Christ like. This is what is represented by the fruit of the Spirit, it simply means Christ likeness. The more we become empty of ourselves, the more we can be filled with Him. We are under obligation to continually search out His will for our lives, and then we should seek to operate at the center of His Will. His thoughts should become our thoughts, and His ways, our ways.

So, again I congratulate you on your educational fulfillment expressed through your graduation from Northwestern Christian University. You have each been commissioned by the Lord and prepared through Bible centered education to go out and to seek and save the lost as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have been called, you have been prepared, you have been empowered, and you have been sanctified, or set apart for Holy work. If the risen Christ be for you NOTHING can stand against you.

For my God is able to make all Grace abound to you, that you always having all sufficiency in everything shall abound unto every good work..

I pray that this short message has shed further light on God’s miraculous Grace for each of you. Unto whom much is given, much shall be required. May the Lord bless you as you serve by Grace in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior forever.  Life without end,   Amen.

In Christ Jesus,

Howard M. Sarkela Th.D., Ph.D., D.D.

Founder and Presiding Bishop

The Worldwide Church of Jesus Christ