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
How can we keep from canceling Christ?
I do not think we will be challenged to cancel or deny the deity of Christ. As in the example of Peter on the night of Jesus’s trial. But I do think the time is coming soon when we will be coerced to celebrate and approve of the LGBT perversion. According to Romans chapter 1, this will be the issue that will become the point of the spear. The Bible is now considered hate speech in many circles.
So, to believers what is the big issue regarding “canceling Christ”?
I think we fail to “deny” ourselves. And, in that way we are canceling Christ. We are trying to cancel out the fact that He is the Lord.
Where do we believers tend to deny Christ every day?
I start with Matthew 6:33: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (NLT used in these thoughts). When we seek our own kingdom above the Kingdom of God we are denying or canceling Christ.
Also, Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow Me.’” I feel this is the hardest statement Jesus made. This is the hardest directive for us as believers to follow. We are to deny ourselves and our selfish desires and sacrifice those desires and follow the Lord. In not denying ourselves we “cancel” Christ.
Paul said we need to follow Christ in Romans 12:1, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.”
To not deny ourselves is to deny the claims of Christ—cancel Christ. To deny ourselves is the daily battle we face. This is a greater battle than any challenges coming from society. When we can die to self we will have no problem standing for Christ in the public square.
The New Testament is clear in regard to self-denial (and suffering). It is also often named self-control. As in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love… and self-control…”
We actually do not want self-control, we desire Spirit control. When we fail to yield to the Spirit in our lives and put our own desires first, we are canceling Christ.
Paul said, “I die daily.” We too should consider ourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). When we fail to die to self we are canceling Christ. Denying or canceling Christ is a matter of continual dying to self and our desires and being obedient to the Spirit.
How can we keep from canceling Christ?
We’ll be willing to die for Christ if we die to ourselves daily. So, we daily deny ourselves—cancel our sinful and selfish desires—and serve Christ. That’s how we position ourselves to never cancel Christ.
How is being hated by the world motivating?
“You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
Wow. What an encouraging word. Not!
You will be hated by a ton of people. But, if you can take it long enough, if you endure until you die… Well… Well, then you’ll be saved!
How is that good news? Isn’t it too late for good news at that point? How is this verse at all motivating?
Being hated by all and enduring that hatred makes no sense. At least, it makes no sense if you don’t believe in who Jesus is or what He says. If, however, you experience the truth of who He is you are positioned to endure the reality of what He says. You are positioned to practice sacrificial love as He did and so many of His followers have.
We who have seen Jesus’ blooded limbs outstretched for us on the tree are in a position to take a similar posture. We know “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (v. 24). We know the Lord of the universe took up His cross and we must too (v. 38).
We know singleminded devotion is not only required, it is right. It is in line with the grain of the universe. To be suffering for the Savior is to be in rebellion against a rebellious world. To be hated by the world is, in a sense, is to be Frodo and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia; it is to be on the right side. The dark side, with the contemptuous orcs, are wrong.
The world’s very fury is a sign of victory. As the world hated Him so must the world hate us. And as we are hated as He was, so we are His. And so share His victory. So, the more we look like the victims of this world, the more we are the victors.
Thus, it actually is good news that those who endure to the end will be saved. Because the reverse is also true: those who don’t endure, will not be saved. So, we don’t have to fear (v. 26). We do “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Instead, we “fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28).
If we know—truly know—who Jesus is, we will acknowledge. If we love Him, we will live for Him. If we delight in Him, we will die for Him. If we don’t, we won’t. But it’s important that we do. Jesus Himself says: “everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (v. 32–33).
Our endurance of hatred and a thousand hostilities is just what it means to be in the cosmic fight that we are in. No, it is not a fight we fight with fists and fury but with love. But a fight it still is. And it demands endurance. The endurance of Frodo and Sam on their mission to Mordor and the sometimes awkward encouragement of Leia and Luke.
So, endure. Fight to the finish. We’re in a real battle that is bigger than guns. There’s not always a happy ending. And there’s no reset. We’re in reality. And the stakes are high.
*Image by Gordon Johnson
- The language – even though we have learned one National language and one tribal language and function in a third area trade language and deal with 3 other tribal languages.
- The bugs – even though when people ask about the most dangerous animals we have, I reply – mosquitoes, ameba, thyroid, and other assorted microbes. The Lord has been very good to us and our kids, He has, I know, protected us from many things we were not aware of.
- The snakes – I saw more snakes growing up in Eastern Oklahoma. We see some big snakes on occasion. I have seen 20ft snakes and eaten them. I have been face to face with a king cobra.
- The rivers – we travel by river, not road. And in the beginning, made some unplanned swims in the river.
- The mountains – we are thankful for missionary pilots that fly us over the mountains.
- The heat – this is a much bigger issue and seems to be affecting us more as we go along. But we have fans that help.
What I’m talking about is something that is more basic than just physical comforts. It has to do with relationships and our reason for being in a 3rd world tropical environment. The most difficult thing has been that we are always strangers/foreigners. I am always too tall, and too white. I don’t always talk and think like the natives.
Gospel Motive Filter
How can we know if our motives are gospel-focused or not? In the below video I outline a way to filter out motivations that are not gospel-focused.
Living as Canceled Christians
It happened to the elect exiles to whom Peter wrote (here’s a brief overview). Our voice can vanish too. We are not immune. We can be canceled.
But are we ready? Can we stand in the storm or will our house be blown to smithereens? Will it crumble on the sand that it is laid or is it’s foundation deep and solid? Will our life vanish and wither? Where is our source of life?
Soon these questions will meet their answer. We will see the truth with our eyes. Soon we will see our faith—or lack thereof—with sight. Soon the gold, or dross, will be revealed. Soon we will see what our treasure truly is.
Yet, even the scorching brutality of heat can be a blessing of bounty and beauty when it’s sustained by the water of the Spirit. And from the sand, we can find a foundation when from the Word we mix our mortar and ever rely upon the unshifting rock of Christ. It’s when the wind blows that the flag is most clearly waved if it’s tightly tethered. Yes, we can stand and standout if we ever lean on the Savior and not the many would-be-saviors that can’t deliver.
So, will the steep decline of morality make us fall or will we cling tighter to our Master? Notice we must cling to our Messiah and not to morality itself. The law is a stone that crushes and upon which our feet slip. Christ is a sure and steady cornerstone.
If we as canceled Christians are going to make it and obtain the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9) and the inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for us” (1 Peter 1:4) then we must set our hope fully on the grace and abundant goodness that will be brought to us at the coming of Messiah Jesus (1 Peter 1:13). We must set our hope on and think often of heaven, and not obsess over making heaven here. Here there is no home, only longing. Only a damp, humid, and stinky tent. Our home is being prepared for us. We are campers.
So, let’s live as campers and let’s long for our true home and for the true bed in which we can finally really rest. We as canceled Christians can flourish if we live like the campers we are.
A reader of this post thought it was gobbledygook. Here’s my response.
“Hello, My Name is ______ and I am Transformed”
This post is from chapter 11, “Hello, My Name is _____ and I am
an Addict Transformed,” from my book, Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin.
The Bible does not deny that we were various things—addicts, homosexuals, hateful, prideful, pornographic masturbators—but that is what we were (past tense) (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-5). The emphasis in Scripture is on what we are and what we are called to be. The Christian does not say, “Hello, my name is _____ and I am an X Y or Z.” The Christian says I was dead, but now I am alive. The Christian says I am a struggling sinner, yet I am a saint. The Christians says, I am a new creation; I am transformed.
We must remember however that we are “simultaneously saint and sinner.” This is the biblical balance. We are holy in Christ and yet we are progressively becoming holy (see 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 10:14). I like how John Owen says it: We, who are freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it our business all our days to kill the indwelling power of sin.
Paul wrote a letter to a church located in Ephesus back in the day. The people there had many struggles. Many of them use to worship various false gods and perhaps were even involved in cult prostitution. But you know what Paul called them when he wrote to them? He called them “God’s beautiful creation,” “God’s masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10). He didn’t say, “Now church, make sure that you are constantly reminding yourselves that you were part of the occult. In fact, when you meet together say, ‘Hello, my name is ______ and I am an occultist.’” No! He said, “You are new! In Christ! Transformed!”
One of the problems in claiming the identity of “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “overeater” is that we deny that addiction is a habit that can be finally overcome. I am not saying it won’t be a struggle. I am not even saying that it will even finally be overcome in this life. Yet, the Bible teaches the freeing and empowering truth that in Christ we are currently a new creation. It says we are adopted children of God. We are even God’s beloved; His treasure.
Labeling may not seem like a big deal but it is. In hospitals, it is important for people to be labeled correctly. If someone has a gunshot wound on their leg, they should not be taken to a cardiologist and someone that has the flu, they should not be life-flighted. Labels are important for treatment. Labels are important for our own treatment. The treatment of ourselves. How we look at ourselves, talk to ourselves, think of ourselves.
Satan Disguises Himself
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Satan disguises himself.
That is a rather scary prospect.
The serpent of old (Rev. 20:2), the great dragon (Rev. 12:9), the one who goes around like a lion just waiting to destroy (1 Pet. 5:8), disguises himself. And his disguise is not what we would expect.
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He cloaks himself in radiant dress in order that he may deceive. He once took the form of a serpent (Gen. 3:1). If a snake came up to you and talked and tempted you today you’d probably see right through it. You’d probably run.
What does baptism mean?
In Scripture, we see that believers are called to be baptized (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16) but what does baptism mean? First, let’s consider the etymology; where the word came from and what it means. The English word “baptize” comes from the Greek word baptizo. Many believe that this word is correctly translated as “immerse” or “dip.” That is, in part, why we practice baptism by immersion. Also, submersion under water and raising out of it best pictures what baptism represents. What does baptism represent? Let’s look at Romans 6:3-8:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
Baptism is a proclamation of the believers union with Christ, in His death and resurrection. When the believer goes under the water it shows that in Christ they have died to sin. When they raise out of the water it shows they have been resurrected to a new pure (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11) life in Christ. Baptism is an outward sign of an inner reality. Baptism pictures many things.
- Death with Christ, death to sin
- Union with Christ
- Identification with the body of Christ, the church
- Proclamation of the work of the Trinity (“In the Name of…” cf. Matt. 28:19)
- Purification, the washing away of sins
- It looks forward to the resurrection, new creation, and going through the waters of judgment and being raised to new life justified
Should I be baptized?
Like many areas of baptism, there has not been uniform understanding on who should be baptized. We believe, however, that a clear case can be made biblically and historically for believer’s baptism. “Believer’s baptism” means only those who believe in Jesus and repent of their sins should be baptized (i.e. credobaptism instead of paedobaptism).
We see no scriptural support leading us to believe that non-believers were baptized. On the other hand, we have clear scriptural support to baptize believers. Peter preaches in Acts chapter two and says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… So those who received his word were baptized” (38, 41 see also 8:12-13).
Elliot Clark, Evangelism as Exiles
I really appreciated Elliot Clark’s book Evangelism as Exiles. Here are some of the things that stood out to me:
“Picture an evangelist. For many of us, our minds immediately scroll to the image of someone like Billy Graham—a man, maybe dressed in a suit and tie, speaking to a large audience and leading many to Christ. As such, we tend to envision evangelism as an activity—more commonly a large event—that requires some measure of power and influence. In communicating the gospel, one must have a voice, a platform, and ideally a willing audience. It’s also why, to this day, we think the most effective spokespeople for Christianity are celebrities, high-profile athletes, or other people of significance. If they speak for Jesus, the masses will listen. But this isn’t how it has always been. Not throughout history and certainly not in much of the world today” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).
Elliot Clark gives six essential qualities of a Christian exile on mission:
“With the help of God’s Spirit, such believers will be simultaneously (1) hope-filled yet (2) fearful. They will be (3) humble and respectful, yet speak the gospel with (4) authority. They will live (5) a holy life, separate from the world, yet be incredibly (6) welcoming and loving in it. While these three pairs of characteristics appear at first glance to be contradictory, they are in fact complementary and necessary for our evangelism as exiles” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).
“From the perspective of 1 Peter, the antidote to a silencing shame is the hope of glory, the hope that earthly isolation and humiliation are only temporary. God, who made the world and everything in it, will one day include us in his kingdom and exalt us with the King, giving us both honor and also a home. We desperately need this future hope if we want the courage to do evangelism as exiles” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).
Here is a long string of quotes I found instructive:
“over the last decades, in our efforts at evangelism and church growth in the West, the characteristic most glaringly absent has been this: the fear of God… “Knowing the fear of the Lord, ” [Paul] explained, “we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11)… The consistent testimony of the New Testament is that if we have the appropriate fear for them and of God, we’ll preach the gospel. We’ll speak out and not be ashamed… our problem in evangelism is fearing others too much” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).
“In a world teeming with reasons to be terrified, the only rightful recipient of our fear, according to Peter, is God… Fear of him, along with a fear of coming judgment, is a compelling motivation to open our mouths with the gospel. But we do not open our mouths with hate-filled bigotry, with arrogant condescension, or with brimstone on our breath. According to Peter, we fear God and honor everyone else” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).
“According to Peter, we’re to honor everyone. Take a moment and turn that thought over in your mind. You’re called to show honor to every single person. Not just the people who deserve it. Not just those who earn our respect. Not just the ones who treat us agreeably. Not just the politicians we vote for or the immigrants who are legal. Not just the customers who pay their bills or the employees who do their work. Not just the neighborly neighbors. Not just kind pagans or honest Muslims. Not just the helpful wife or the good father” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).