So, you’ve invested yourself in years of study. You’ve listened to more lectures and completed more assignments than you care to (or can) remember. You’ve become accustomed to hearing and using words like thesis and antithesis, and have read your share of books not merely for enjoyment but to grasp (or guess at) the author’s true meaning. You’ve studied for and taken test after test and received grades for your performance. You’ve navigated your way through the social rapids of your campus, with all their ups and downs and loopty loops. To all this we say, “Congratulations,” and “Well done!”
While the words themselves may not adequately communicate the full awe and respect others feel for your accomplishments, you standing at a new threshold is intrinsically significant. Threshold events give us opportunities to reflect on what we are leaving behind and to set ourselves toward what lies ahead. A well written chapter in a book accomplishes in a reader both a desire not to leave it and at the same time a hunger to discover what the next chapter will bring.
To be in a relationship with Jesus is to enter a life full of thresholds, full of graduation days. Three key verses in the New Testament underscore the matriculating nature of our life in Christ:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you … (Galatians 4:19)
The words of matriculation—conformed (Gk. summorphos), transformed (Gk. metamorphoo), formed (Gk. morphoo)—collectively communicate change, growth, and maturation such that we are fully and wonderfully and wholly different than what we were in our pre-Christian state. The grammar insists that we understand this work to be primarily the work of Another, the work of the Spirit, a work albeit in which we are also full participants.
Much like how the majority of high school, college, and post graduate students study, our growing in Christ is accomplished primarily in community. The art and work of teaching, discipling, training, and encouraging—common tools of the Spirit—assume relationships. When we invite someone to church, it’s not just an invitation to an event. We entreat them to join us at the threshold in order to reflect on what God has been doing in our lives and to set our face to join God in what he will do in the days to come. When we grow in prayer or stewardship or faith sharing, we look for others who might benefit from the transformation God has accomplished in us. When we sense some internal struggle or deficit of maturity in ourselves, we look for others who might tutor us into deeper faith and more faithful practice.
While many will find themselves satisfied with a high school diploma or a college or post graduate degree, in Christ our learning and transformation isn’t complete until God fully forms us into the very image of Jesus. Until then, our task is to keep walking through one successive threshold after another, all through the grace of God!