Friday, June 08, 2012

Three Things I Pray - 2012 West Branch Area High School Baccalaureate

“Three Things I Pray” - Pastor Matt Mitchell
West Branch Area High School Baccalaureate
Colossians 1:3-20
June 7, 2012

Let me join those who will tell you “congratulations” this weekend. It is a great milestone for you. A great achievement, and it’s right for you to celebrate your accomplishment.


It’s a joy to be the speaker for your Baccalaureate service.

And I want to structure my message tonight around the prayer of a church leader from the 13th century named Richard of Chichester.

For everyone who has been in or the seen the musical Godspell, this will be a very familiar prayer.

I was really happy to get to be the baccalaureate speaker the year that our drama club did Godspell; thank you, Cast, for singing for us tonight!

The last song tonight, Day by Day, is where this prayer has been made famous.

Here’s the prayer to God:

May I see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.
“Three Things I Pray”

Lord, that I would see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.

What a great prayer!

Amen to that request.

Let’s think about it biblically for a little bit.


“Lord, may I see thee more clearly.”

May I have a vision of Who you truly are.

Do you ever wonder what God is really like?

Who God really is?

Is this your prayer, “God, I want to see you more clearly.” ?

Well, the Bible says to look no further than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

And from the passage that Donavan read, verse 15.

“[Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God.”

God is invisible, but Jesus Christ has made Him visible.

“[Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God.”

“To see thee more clearly,” means to see and to study Jesus Christ.

I meet a lot of people who believe in “God” but aren’t sure what to do with Jesus.

They are sure that there is a God, a Creator, but they aren’t sure what they think about Jesus.

But Jesus is the whole point.  If you are a Christian.

God doesn’t just want “Godlians.” He wants Christians.

Those who know God through Jesus Christ.

Listen again to what Colossians 1 says about Jesus.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [He has the rights of the firstborn, which in ancient near eastern culture were supreme.] For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”


What a statement!

That’s who Jesus is.

Jesus Christ is Creator of All.

Everything that exists was created by Jesus.  In Jesus, all things were created.

Just stop and let that blow your mind for a second!  

“things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,”

Wind.  That’s invisible.  Wood?  That’s visible.

Metal? Stars!  Hot.  Cold.  Wet.  Moist.  Fire.  Nuclear Fission.  Atomic Particles.  Brain Cells.  Mountains.  Weather.  Blood Vessels.  Continents.  Snow.  Mice.  Microbes.  Blue Whales.  Tomatoes.  Eggs.  Galaxies.  Moons.  Meteors.  Tidal Waves.  Northern Lights.  Dirt.  Milk.  The Big Dipper.  Softness.  Scratchiness.  Lukewarmness.  Humanity.  Grasshoppers.  Gender.  Sexuality.  Light Waves.  E=MC2.  Gorillas.  Giraffes.  Deserts.  Palm Trees.  Mexican Jumping Beans.  Caves.  Windstorms.  Ponds.  Fresh Air.  Falling Leaves.  Corn Cobs. The Milky Way.  Combustion.  Eyelashes.  Uranium.  The Smell of Skunks.  The Color Purple.  The Fabric of Reality. 

All of those things, [and everything else!] were created by and in Christ Jesus!

And more than just the creator of all things, He’s the goal.

“By him and FOR HIM[!]” the Bible says.

All of creation exists for Jesus Christ.  He is the goal of all creation.

Those science classes you took here at West Branch told you all about the nature.

And it’s amazing!

And the Bible says that everything in nature exists for Christ.

He is the center of reality.  Everything is moving towards Him.  All of history and all of nature and all of creation is moving inexorably towards Christ.

It says in Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things.”  And that means that He both existed forever in eternity past and that He has the rights of the firstborn before all things.  He rules creation.

Wind and waves obey Him.  Snow flakes do His bidding, and tornadoes do His bidding.

Acts of God are acts of Christ!

“He is before all things.”

Creator of All
Goal of All
Ruler of All
and Sustainer of All.

It says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Don’t just accept that. Let it bubble in your brain until you feel the power of that statement marinating in your mind.

“In Christ all things hold together.”

That means that without Jesus atoms would fall apart left and right.  Wet would become un-wet.  Stars would burst apart at the seams.  Our planet would be scattered to the four winds.  Our minds would not be able to think.  Nothing would cohere.  Nothing would hold together. Nothing would exist!  Everything would fly apart except for Jesus Christ’s sustaining will!

If the world continues for one second, then Jesus Christ is willing it so.

Christ!  Not just some impersonal creator force we call God.

And so when we pray, “To see thee more clearly,” we are praying to see Jesus Christ.

Give us clearer picture of who Jesus is.

And not just to see Him, but to love him.

That’s the second request in that song.


“Lord, help me to love you more dearly.”

Our church family has purchased a little gift for each of the grads, and for anyone else that really wants one.

It’s a little book by John Piper called, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.

And it’s little meditations on what the Bible says about Who Jesus really is.

To see Jesus.

But even more, to savor Him. To be satisfied in Him.

To love Him.

“Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.”

Grads, as you process out tonight, there will be folks from our church handing you one of these books.

And if anyone else wants one, we’ve got a bunch, and they are gifts for you.

[We ran out of books, but you can download the book here.]

It’s not enough to pray, Day by Day let me see you more clearly.

We also need to love Him more dearly.

But we have to understand that we can only love Jesus because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.”

That’s what Paul is saying in that passage Donavan read for us when he says:

“[We give] thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

“We love because he first loved us.”

God demonstrates His own love for us in this while we were still His enemies, Christ died for us.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for all of the sins of His people.

And for all who turn from their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and in His death for them, He promises forgiveness and eternal life.

To pray, Day by Day, there must be a first day of trusting in Jesus.

Have you come to trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Your king and your rescuer?

I understand if you haven’t. I don’t assume that everyone has.

If you would like to know more about that, then read that book we’re giving you or talk with a leader at your church.

Or if you don’t have a church, I’d be glad to talk with you.

We love because Jesus first loved us.

And when we come to understand that love then we can respond with love back towards Him.

Lord, help me to love thee more dearly, day by day.


“Lord, I pray that I would follow you more nearly.”

If we love Him more dearly, we will follow Him more nearly.

Jesus said, if you love me, you will do what I command.

I think that this is where most people want to bail.

It sounds great to see God.
It sounds great to love God.

But to obey Him?  What if He asks for something I don’t want to do?

But in following Jesus there is true freedom.

That’s why our passage for tonight says that Paul prays for the Colossian believers this way:

v.9 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

Lord, help me to follow you more nearly.

I took my pre-teen daughter to see the West Branch Drama presentation of Godspell this March.

And we had a terrific time.

I’ve seen many productions of Godspell over the years, but this was probably the best.

So much talent in our school!

What struck me the hardest this time in watching it was what a compelling person Jesus is.

How different He is from everyone else in the world.

And how Jesus wants His followers, His disciples to live differently than the rest of the world.

Graduates, live differently than the rest of the world.

Make it your prayer to become like Jesus and live a radically different life.

Not a self-righteous, holier-than-thou life.

But a life that makes a difference.
A life that lives for the Kingdom of God.
A life of love.
A life of sacrifice.
A life of pointing people towards Jesus and His kingdom to come.
A life that lives by kingdom values, not worldly ones.

When I traveled with the circus...

Yes, you heard me right.

When I was just a little older than you, I ran away and joined the circus one Summer.

I was a juggler and bit of a clown.

And I was a follower of Jesus Christ.

When I joined the circus, I decided to not talk about Jesus until someone asked me about him.

It only took one week.

The circus was pretty grueling. We traveled with Uhaul, a 15 seat passenger bus and a Ford LTD with over 500,000 miles on it.

And every day, at least once a day, we set the whole thing up and did our show, took the whole thing down and went to the next place.

That was a pretty grueling schedule.

And prayed every day, not always with these words, but this sort of thing:

“Day by Day, Dear Lord three things I pray:

To See Thee More Clearly
To Love Thee More Dearly
To Follow Thee More Nearly, Day by Day.”

And I determined that whenever anyone asked me to do something, I would pretend that Jesus Christ had asked me to do it.

If Jesus asked you to unload the circus truck, would you do it?

You bet you would. And fast.

So, I just did every time I was asked.

And it only took about a week for my mates ask me, “Okay. What’s different about you? Why are you different?  What’s the deal with you?”

And I got to tell them about Jesus.

Graduates, live differently than the rest of the world.

Follow Jesus more nearly.  Wherever He places you in life.

You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary to do this.

This is for every believer in Jesus.

Follow Jesus more nearly.

Make this your prayer and then be the answer to your prayer.

Three things I pray:

See Thee More Clearly
Love Thee More Dearly
Follow Thee More Nearly
It’s not enough to just sing or even to pray those words.

You have to mean it.

And you have to do through Jesus Christ.

Because it’s all about Him.

[The WB Drama Club performed this song at the end.]