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Welcome to Indiana University! Whether you are a freshman this year or a grizzled old senior, I hope you’re excited to be back in Bloomington and back at IU. There are many good reasons to attend college, and there are many good reasons to come to Indiana University. But before classes begin, you should ask yourself an important question: why are you here?

They say that the time and money necessary to attend college is an investment in your future. You’re young and you lack experience and knowledge, but you’re full of hope and possibilities. Whether or not college is actually a good investment is a question worth tackling, but I’ll leave it for another time. My question now is this: what is that future you seek? What’s the goal? Where are you headed?

Nearly 90% of the undergraduate students at IU last spring were between 18 and 24 years old. It’s very rare for an 18 year old arriving to college as a freshman to be thinking much past the next four years. Many students get caught up with the mythological American “college life” of parties and sex and basketball games and live strictly for the pleasure to be had in the next five minutes.

But you must think beyond that. This should be obvious, but is not: living for pleasure will destroy your body and your soul. Don’t do that. But beyond that basic point, college should not be the high point of your life. Where are you headed after college?

The way to answer that question is to start at the end, and work your way backwards. You want the American dream? Then with the right degree and the right connections, four or five years at IU could be the ticket to a white collar job with four weeks of vacation and a six-digit salary. And then, after putting in 30-40 years of work, you might be able to retire and travel the world.

Is that all you’re after? If so, you’re not thinking far enough ahead.

When we’re young, we have a hard time imaging the distant future. Whether we think about it consciously or not, we act as if we will live forever. But if we are wise, we will wake up to the fact that after all the thrills and pleasures and wonders of this life, there is a surprise at the end of it all.

You, and everyone you know, will die one day. Few people will remember you when you’ve been dead for fifty years; no one will remember you after one hundred years. And yet, if the Lord tarries, the planet will continue to spin and everyone else will go on with their lives without you.

To make the most of college, you have to think about where you’re headed. To make the most of life, you must think carefully about your death.

What is death?

Is it simply the end, like most of the atheists and naturalists believe? Like a sick punch line at the end of an extended joke? Or is it part of an endless cycle of death and rebirth, as the Hindus believe? Or… something else?

The Bible teaches that death is not our final end. Our church’s catechism for children puts it this way, referencing God’s creation of Adam and Eve:

Q. What did God give Adam and Eve besides bodies?
A. He gave them souls that would never die.

Q. Do you have a soul as well as a body?
A. Yes, I have a soul that will never die.

The Bible puts it this way in the book of Hebrews:

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

So here’s my basic question for you again: if your time at IU is an investment in your future, what is the future you seek? Where are you headed?

It’s good to think about things like which major you should pick or who you should ask out on a date. You should consider those questions because you should be preparing for the next five, ten and fifty years of your life.

But you must prepare for that time when you will stand before the judge of all things, Jesus Christ. Jesus himself, when he was talking to one of the religious leaders of his day, put it like this:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Do you want to see the kingdom of God? Are you making investments to that end?

We will be at Culture Fest and Faith Fest next week, and we’d love to meet you! Come say hi!