Pursuing Jesus in College
How can you keep pursuing Jesus in college?
This summer I will be graduating from George Mason University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing. As I reflect on the past four years, I realize that as I entered college I was not sure what to expect, not prepared for how much harder college is than high school, and not sure how to pursue a relationship with Jesus while in college.
Life after high school is full of uncertainty and questions. What college do I go to? How am I going to pay for college? Do I even want to go to college? What am I going to eat? What should I major in? How am I going to make friends? Most importantly… how am I going to follow Jesus?
I can tell you from experience that college is full of opportunity, freedom, coffee, cramming for exams, ramen noodles, late nights, friends, temptations, people with different worldviews and backgrounds, and sadly hostility towards Christianity.
As you enter this next season of life, my encouragement to you is to pursue a relationship with Jesus by prioritizing a campus ministry, local church, and daily time alone with God. I hope you don’t see this as a to-do list but advice from someone who imperfectly pursued Jesus in college. I don’t say these things to overwhelm you, I say these things for your joy. I promise you that the most possible joy you can have in college is found in knowing Jesus and making Him known (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 6:33).
1. Prioritize a campus ministry.
Jonathan Pokluda says “if you want to change your life, change your playmates and your playground.” Life is all about where you go and who you go there with. Community is essential in college. A campus ministry is an excellent place to pursue friendships with people who will help you grow in your faith. While I was at George Mason, I was involved with a campus ministry called CRU. Their goal is to be a multiethnic community captivated by the Gospel, transformed by the Gospel and committed to taking the Gospel to GMU and the world. Through CRU at George Mason, I grew so much by being discipled by the staff, being a part of a small group, and being encouraged to serve. Life isn’t meant to be done alone, pursue Godly community.
2. Prioritize a local church.
Many college students go to church with their friends. While this isn’t a bad thing, I want to caution you that your friends may: 1) not go every week, 2) go to a different church every week, or 3) go to a bad church. Prioritize a local church that is word-centered and Christ-exalting.
Some evaluative questions: Is the Gospel preached? Is the worship music Christ-centered? Do they preach the Bible? Are there opportunities to serve? An excellent resource to use as you look for a good church is Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.
Why should you prioritize a local church? The Bible says to: Hebrews 10:24-25. Another three reasons to prioritize a local church are to weekly hear the Bible preached, have opportunities to be discipled, and opportunities to serve others.
3. Prioritize time alone with God.
We live in a culture that is driven by instant gratification. Slowing down and spending time with God isn’t always fun, easy, or enjoyable. But John Elmore puts it this way, “something doesn’t have to be amazing in order to be sustaining.” Nothing has helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus more than simply spending time with Him every day. By speaking to Him in prayer and hearing from Him through His word.
Dustin Benge said, “five minutes of prayer is worth more than an hour of scrolling through social media.” It is not that we don’t have the time to spend time alone with God, it’s that we don’t prioritize it. Sometimes we just need to cry out to God, confess that we haven’t prioritized spending time with Him, and ask that He would help us prioritize that. If you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus during college, prioritize spending time with Him daily.
In summary, my hope is that you seek to know Jesus and make Him known while at college. I encourage you to pursue Jesus by prioritizing a campus ministry, a local church, and daily time alone with God.
Photo by Avinash Murugappan
10 takeaways from Vivek H. Murthy’s book Together
Being connected in community is important. Murthy’s book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, concurs. Below are some quotes I appreciated from his book.
“The values that dominate modern culture… elevate the narrative of the rugged individualist and the pursuit of self-determination. They tell us that we alone shape our destiny. Could these values be contributing to the undertow of loneliness” (Vivek H. Murthy, Together, p. xxi).
“Social connection stands out as a largely unrecognized and underappreciated force for addressing many of the critical problems we’re dealing with, both as individuals and as a society. Overcoming loneliness and building a more connected future is an urgent mission that we can and must tackle together” (Murthy, Together, p. xxvi).
“People with strong social relationships are 50 percent less likely to die prematurely than people with weak social relationships… weak social connections can be a significant danger to our health” (p. 13).
“Few of us challenge our cultural norms, even when their influence leaves us feeling lonely and isolated” (p. 95).
“Building… bridges for connection may never have been more important than it is right now” (p. 96).
“If you ask people today what they value most in life, most will point to family and friends. Yet the way we spend our days is often at odds with that value. Our twenty-first-century world demands that we focus on pursuits that seem to be in constant competition for our time, attention, energy, and commitment. Many of these pursuits are themselves competitions. We compete for jobs and status. We compete over possessions, money, and reputation. We strive to stay afloat and to get ahead. Meanwhile, the relationships we claim to prize often get neglected in the chase” (p. 98).
“Social media… fosters a culture of comparison where we are constantly measuring ourselves against other users’ bodies, wardrobes, cooking, houses, vacations, children, pets, hobbies, and thoughts about the world” (p. 112).
“Many factors play into… polarization, social disconnection is an important root cause” (p. 134).
“Even as we live with increasing diversity, it’s easier than ever to restrict our contact, both online and off, to people who resemble us in appearance, views, and interests. That makes it easy to dismiss people for their beliefs or affiliations when we don’t know them as human beings. The result is a spiral of disconnection that’s contributing to the unraveling of civil society today” (p. 134).
“When I think back on the patients I cared for in their dying days, the size of their bank accounts and their status in the eyes of society were never the yardsticks by which they measured a meaningful life. What they talked about were relationships. The ones that brought them great joy. The relationships they wish they’d been more present for. The ones that broke their hearts. In the final moments, when only the most meaningful strands of life remain, it’s the human connections that rise to the top” (p. 284).
*Photo by Robert Bye
United in a Time of Disunity
Christians are united and need to be united. This is especially important in this time of disunity as a country.
In Christ Jesus all—Jew and Gentle, rich and poor, black and white, republican and democrat, Clemson and Ohio State, Steelers and Browns, young and old—are one. That is what Scripture teaches. That is reality.
In Christ, we are one. That is what the Bible tells us. And that’s reality.
Paul highlights that in his letter to the Ephesians. The Ephesian church faced similar difficulties that we face. They lived in divisive days too.
Acts 19 talks about a riot in Ephesus and there may have been divisions when it came to sporting events too. Ephesus had the largest theater in Asia Minor with accommodation for up to 25.000 people. The theater housed sporting events. So, people probably fought about sports then too. Not sure, though, if gladiator games count…
Christians are united in Christ
Jesus’ Kingdom is not divided. Although Jesus’ Kingdom is made up of people from Sierra and Senegal, Armenia and America, China and Chad, Portugal and Pakistan, Mexico and Malaysia (and many many more). In Christ, we are all one. And so, “The Christian’s primary solidarity is not with those who pledge allegiance to a particular flag, but those who confess Jesus as the Lord, regardless of their nationality”
We may not always feel like we’re together or unified, we may not always want to be together, but the reality is that we are. We are united and one in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:4-7). Believers in Africa and America, Iraq and Iran, Canada and Cambodia, all have the one Spirit in them. Although we look and act and think differently, we all have this in common: We are temples of the living God. More significant than our culture and country is that God lives in us believers.
All Christians have one Spirit and all Christians have one Lord (Eph. 4:5). It reminds me of marching in the army. As we marched together, there was no distinction, in a whole company of 200 soldiers. No matter who you were or where you were from, there was no distinction… When our commander said, “left” we put our left foot down. When he said, “right” we put our right foot down.
We were a lot different, but we all had the same commander and so there was no distinction.
That’s the same for Christians. We all have “one Lord.” And we all march the same.
Christians are to be United
In Christ we are united and we are to be united (Eph. 4:1-3). Paul says, “keep the unity of the Spirit.” In fact, he says, “make every effort to keep the unity.”
Paul knows it will take effort. That’s why he says, “make every effort.” So, what is the motivation for making this effort? The good news of Jesus.
Our motivation is important because unity can be very difficult. Imagine the context and challenges for Paul’s audience: Jew, Gentile, slave, free, lawbreaker, law keeper all in the same church.
That’s actually a good thing though. And a beautiful thing. As Scot McKnight has said, “The church God wants is one brimming with difference.”
Imagine the context now… These are very divided and divisive times. The apparent reality is that Christians have a ton to divide over. But, the theological reality is that Christians are united and one in Christ.
People will know we are Christians by our love for one another. When we have both glaring differences and yet radiant unity we become a mosaic of Jesus’ transforming beauty.
What does it look like to “make every effort”? Paul tells us. Paul gives us five things that are necessary if we are going to be untied. John Stott rightly says that these are the “foundation stones of Christian unity. Where these are absent no external structure of unity can stand.” Those foundation stones are gentleness, patience, love effort, and humility which we’ll be concentrating on.
Humility: Essential to Unity
Ephesians 4:2 says “Be completely humble.” Stott correctly said, “Humility is essential to unity. Pride lurks behind all discord.” I know that’s been true in my own life.
How can we have humility? Well, for one, we as Christians know we’re not all that. We know we sin. We know we get it wrong sometimes. We all stumble many ways. That should humble us.
And amazingly, the only sinless one, Jesus, the Son of God, the one that never did anything wrong, He humbled Himself. He humbled Himself to the point of death. Even the death of a cross (Phil. 2).
So, we as Christians must practice humility too. That’s part of what it means to “make every effort to maintain unity.” That’s what we’re called to do. Spare no expense. Do what it takes.
Winston Churchill during WWII made things happen. He would sometimes stamp his commands in red with the words “Action this Day.” And that’s what he expected. He expected that command to be done. He expected his people to make every effort, and I literally mean every effort to make sure it what done on that day.
I think Paul is saying something similar to us. I think he’s giving us a stamp in red ink that says: “Action this Day.” He’s saying do it. It’s that important. “Make every effort to keep the unity.”
Being united is part of what it means to walk in a worthy way; “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). And that is supernatural. That’s part of what it means to be a city on a hill and a light in the darkness.
It’s abundantly clear that union with Christ implies union with others. The reality is that we are together built into a dwelling of God (Eph. 2:22). We are united and one whether we like it or not. If a person names and follows Jesus, we belong together even if we don’t always like that truth.
It’s also important for us to remember that we get grace from God vertically, but we also get much-needed grace from God horizontally from other people. Even when we don’t always like or agree with them.
Brothers and sisters, we have fellowship with each other and with God through our Lord Jesus! Rejoice in that good news. Division is dead. We are united. So, let’s live together in purposeful unity. It will not be easy, but Jesus’ blood was spilled to welcome us into union with Him and each other. Let’s not disregard Jesus’ great sacrifice for us.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give us the same attitude toward each other that Christ Jesus has towards us. Encourage one another, be like-minded, live in peace, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate, and humble. And the God of love and peace will be with us. So that with one mind and one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lastly, accept one another, just as Christ accepted us, for the glory of God.
Jesus prayed that we would be one and He gave us one mission. So let’s work together to accomplish that mission.
“Be kind to one another”
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).
There is a right way and a wrong way to live. That is not popular to say but it is the undiluted truth. The right way is in accord with “the way [we] learned Christ” (Eph. 4:20). The wrong way to live involves “hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18), callousness (Eph. 4:19), and corruption through deceitful desires (Eph. 4:22).
So, there are certain things we should not do. There is a wrong way to live and act. It is damaging and even devilish (James 3:15).
Therefore, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” We should not be resentful. Sinful anger should have no place in our lives. Foolish arguments should never be heard to come from our mouths. We should never speak wrong of others. How can we try to tarnish a person made in God’s image (James 3:9)?! Lastly, how can we have ill-will for someone when God the Son paid the ultimate price for us?! How can we not be transformed by our heavenly Father’s sacrificial love so that we extend grace and love even to our enemies?!
Be Eager to Maintain Unity
“Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2).
I quoted this verse to my daughter today and she looked at me with a confused look and said, “What does that mean?”
That’s always a good question. I explained to her that in the Church we are all one big family and so we need to stay together and get along. We need to make sure that even when we’re mad and hurt by each other we work at still forgiving each other.
It is very necessary that we read this verse and heed its exhortation. It will inevitably be a verse we have to apply in our own lives. So, as my daughter asked, “what does it mean?” And I would add, “how do we do it?” and “what motivation are we given to obey?”
What does this verse mean?
It says to be “eager”? That means to want to do or have something very much. What do you do when you want something really bad? You pursue it. You work to get it. Even if there are obstacles you keep at it. That needs to be us. We need to be zealous in our pursuit of unity.
Notice also that we are to want to “maintain” the unity. Unity is not just important at one point in one situation. We should desire and work towards maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace at all times and through all situations.
Q&A: Many churches adopt confessions, why then do leaders and laypersons often stray from orthodoxy? What lessons can we learn from this?
Q. Many churches adopt confessions, why then do leaders and laypersons often stray from orthodoxy? What lessons can we learn from this?
A. Confessions are good and have biblical precedent. Humans, however, are fallen and as 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” People are lovers of self rather than lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:2-4). That is why there are problems with heterodoxy and heresy, even where there are solid confessions in place. Confessions may not keep false teaching from emerging but it is helpful to have them in place to quench the spread (like gangrene) of unhealthy teaching.
One lesson we learn from the prevalence of unhealthy belief and teaching is the importance of qualified leaders. It is vital that pastors/elders be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) and correct opponents of the truth (2 Tim. 2:25). We also see the important place of church discipline. The church is set apart as the light of the world and the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) if the truth is not proclaimed and protected by the church how dark will the darkness be?!
The second lesson is that churches must work hard to be watchful and stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13). If someone is contradicting orthodox teaching and causing division then they should be removed from the church community (1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 3:10). The church is to be the set apart people of God (Eph. 1:4; 5:27). Thus, Paul writes “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
We’re all limping and crawling towards the finish line
I’m learning as Christians that we’re all fellow sufferers. We’re all limping and crawling towards the finish line. We all have scars. They’re different but we all have them. I have them, you have them, and no matter what we do our kids will have them. We live in a broken world and we’re sadly broken.
Temptations are plenty, victory feels sparse, and sufferings abound.
We need to walk hand in hand. We need to carry each other’s burdens as it says in Galatians. Who am I to look down on you with your burden and brokenness?! Who am I not to extend a hand of grace when I have stumbled so often and took others?!
Jesus was tempted too, though thankfully He was forever without sin. And Jesus was limping too. In fact, someone had to carry His burden for Him. Someone carried His burden up to the point of His crucifixion. And yet He bore the ultimate burden their.
Jesus is brokenness incarnate. He broke. He wept and wailed. And in His agony sweated great drops of blood.
He broke for us. And He breaks alongside of us. He suffered for us. He suffers with us. He intercedes for us.
He who knows no bounds. He who is beauty, took on woe. He who deserves nothing but highest and infinite praise was broken to the depths. He was sorrowful unto death.
Jesus the Lord, Master, and Creator of all, suffered. How can we, His servants, expect anything less?
Father, by Your Spirit, grant that we may suffer and walk (or limp) well and honor Your Son Messiah Jesus. And haste the day when we shall see You face to face where sorrows shall be no more! And Father, help us Your children to walk this weary life hand in hand, fellow pilgrims on the way to the land of peace and plenty. We trust and we wait as we walk heavenward. Help us we ask in Christ. Amen.
10 Hospitality Quotes
1. “Engaging in radically ordinary hospitality means we provide the time necessary to build strong relationships with people who think differently than we do as well as build strong relationships from within the family of God” (Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, 13).
2. “The truly hospitable aren’t embarrassed to keep friendships with people who are different… They know that there is a difference between acceptance and approval, and they courageously accept and respect people who think differently from them. They don’t worry that others will misinterpret their friendship. Jesus dined with sinners, but he didn’t sin with sinners. Jesus lived in the world, but he didn’t live like the world” (Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, 13).
3. “A cold, unwelcoming church contradicts the gospel message” (Alexander Strauch, Leading with Love, 100).
4. “If you are looking for ways to evangelize, opening your home is one of the best methods of reaching unbelievers” (Alexander Strauch, Leading with Love, 102).
5. “Some theologians go so far as to state that the growth in the earliest churches was wholly dependent on the meals and hospitality of the believers” (Verlon Fosner, Dinner Church, 24).
6. “Jesus does not have us here to straighten out our dinner guests’ thoughts and realign their lives, and it’s good thing, because their challenges are quite impossible at times. What Jesus needs most from us is for us to be their friends” (Verlon Fosner, Dinner Church: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread, 73).
7. “A lot of our language presents and reinforces the idea that church is an event… we talk about ‘going to church’ more often then we talk about ‘being’ the church” (Krish Kandiah, “Church As Family,” 68).
8. “Look at any church website and what is advertised worship services for us to enjoy, sermons for us to listen to, use provision for our children, and perhaps a small group that can provide for other needs. We post pictures of our smart buildings, of our edgy youth work, and of well designed sermon series; we invest time and money and brilliant branding and hip visual identity. This all serves to reinforce the idea that our churches exist primarily as events for consumer Christians to attend” (Krish Kandiah, “Church As Family,” 68).
9. “God’s guest list includes a disconcerting number of poor and broken people, those who appear to bring little to any gathering except their need” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room, 16).
10. “Although we often think of hospitality as a tame and pleasant practice, Christian hospitality has always had a subversive countercultural dimension” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room, 61).
“We welcome others into our home, but generally those who don’t even need it. Our hospitality is only lateral and transactional. We host peers in a system that expects reciprocity, not one that displays free grace” (Elliot Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).