Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
This Christmas everyone in my family received a $50 Walmart gift card from my grandfather. That card opened up a world of possibilities for my 10-year-old cousin. On the way out the door, my uncle gave explicit instructions that we are to spend it “judiciously.” This semester you have a limited amount of time. Your possibilities are nearly endless. My challenge to you is to spend your time judiciously this semester by being a faithful church participant.
Why get involved at church this semester?
Because Jesus Died for the Church.
This summer I had the privilege of preaching through the book of Ephesians at church. Through my study, the Word was reinforcing and strengthening my view of the role of the church in the believer’s life. Growing up in a home with both parents in full-time ministry, it was never a question of, “Are we going to church tonight?” I understood that if the doors were open, we would be inside, khakis, collared shirt, and all. The question I had to work through after four years at BJU was, “Why?” Why do we go to church on Wednesday nights and Sunday nights or even at all?
Over the past couple of years I have come to my conclusions, but Ephesians 2:16 helped me to give proper Biblical support. [He] might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. The church was established through the cross of Christ. In other words, one reason Jesus died was to launch the church. That is the whole idea behind Ephesians 2. God took the people who were once enemies with his people and through the death of Jesus brought them into a new union where enemies would become brothers and sisters. It’s a beautiful picture, but it also has tremendous implications for the believer.
If the blood of Jesus Christ is what established the church, then the church is precious to Him. And if the church is both his possession and precious to Him, then how Christ expects us to be a part of the church is incredibly important. At this point, I don’t think anyone would disagree with what I’ve said, but let’s move it a step further.
Christ died for you to be a part of the church, not so you could get a degree, have a nice job, start a family, have lots of friends, or vacation on a tropical island once a year. Is there anything wrong with any of those? NO! Most people reading this article should have some of those goals. However, none of those are my top priority, and they shouldn’t be yours either. Because the church was instituted through the death of Christ, we must give our lives for the health of the church.
Because our Spiritual Maturity Depends on it.
Flip over to Ephesians 4 and you find that not only are we motivated to love the church because of the sacrifice of Christ, but our spiritual maturity is dependent on church involvement. Paul’s encouragement to us is that we need the leadership that comes through the church to keep us from being tossed around by errant doctrine and philosophy (4:14). College is a time when many students turn away from the biblical truths they grew up hearing, reading, and singing. Could it be that there is a correlation between college students turning from their Bible and the plummeting church attendance from American college students?
There is a danger of living in a bubble. No, not the BJU bubble, but rather the college student bubble. In reality, most students at BJU live in a dorm of college-age students, go to class with college-age students, eat with college-age students, work primarily with college-age students, hang out with college-age students and philosophies with college-age students. College is a unique phase of life, but in its uniqueness, the church is the God-ordained institution to guide you with intergenerational relationships. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but you need the older men and women in your church to guide you into maturity in Christ (4:12-13).
How should I get involved this semester?
The first step to getting involved this semester is to be there! Your presence in a church building can have a tremendous impact. However, don’t stop at your required two services per week. Last semester one of the men at my church in Hendersonville, NC prayed something I will never forget. “Lord, I thank you for these young men that drive all the way up from Greenville to pray with us every week. It’s convicting to think that a lot of us don’t even want to drive across town to be here.” I was blown away at the positive impact we had by merely showing up.
Did you know you are a hero just because you are in college? All it takes is for you to kneel down next to a toddler and take an interest in them for that toddler to feel like the coolest kid in the world. It’s not just kids either. Get to know some of the older men and ladies. A 5-minute conversation before you run off to lunch can make their day. Invest in the life of a teenager. You may be able to connect with them and be the godly influence that answers the prayers of their parents.
Engage your brain!
Every week we should walk into church thinking, “How can I serve this body of Christ today?” You can do this in your own God-gifted ways, but be looking for opportunities. Too many students walk in just before the start of the service, plop down in the back, endure the singing and preaching, and scurry out the back to resume their lives. You have the tremendous potential not only to serve your church but also to enjoy it! This summer we had some very rainy Sundays. Instead of complaining about it, we gathered some teen guys and started what we call our “umbrella ministry.” Engage your mind in looking for opportunities to serve. Small efforts can make a lasting impact.
One of the most significant benefits of being an engaged church member is that you will learn. Certainly, you will learn from the preaching and teaching, but the more significant impact may be the knowledge and insight you gain about the Church and your spiritual condition. If you are here studying to go into ministry, the best training ground is the local church you attend. Your classes will fill you with a lot of knowledge, doctrine, and helpful instruction, but the church is where you will see this in action. Even if you are not planning to be a pastor or a pastor’s wife, the church habits you establish now will likely continue after graduation. Use your college years to learn how you fit in God’s plan for His Church.
I wanted to end with this. I’m sure it’s not original to me, but I tell my teen leaders this all the time, “Saying yes to one thing means saying no to others.” What does that mean for church participation? Saying yes to being at church for you might mean that you don’t get to participate in something on campus you would like to. It might mean you have to give up other hobbies to make some space for the homework you normally would complete during that time. Saying “Yes!” to being social is going to cost you your comfortability at some point. Getting to know people that you have little natural connection with is uncomfortable, but in the church, it is worth it!
So, in a semester with limited time and seemingly unlimited opportunities, how will you choose to invest yours? Don’t just survive another semester. Enjoy it and make it count for Christ by prioritizing church participation.
Mrs. Sherry Miller, Adjunct Professor at BJU
Not long ago I was reading about the demon possessed man in Mark 5. The description I read reminded me of many of the women I work with. They are not demon possessed in quite the same way, yet they struggle with demons nonetheless. As the man in Mark 5 lived among the tombs—the physically dead, most of the women I work with have lived almost exclusively among the spiritually dead. As the Gadarene was often bound with shackles and chains, the women I work with live with shackles and chains of a different sort. They desperately want to be free, but they are helpless to free themselves. I work with women in addiction.
For the past ten years as I have listened to their dreadful stories, I have come to realize that if I had grown up like many of them, I would have made the same bad decisions. While my home showed me Jesus and functional living, their homes were full of such spiritual darkness and dysfunction that it set them on a trajectory of destructive choices. Some of the women I work with have been trafficked, others have prostituted themselves, many are felons, and some are currently incarcerated. Their drug use is a desperate attempt to get relief from the emotional pain in which they live. But the drug-induced relief is a temporary fix that leads them ever deeper into their abyss. They need Jesus. Only Jesus can give them the long-lasting relief they crave.
It took the power of the glorious gospel to set the man in Mark five free from his demons. And it takes the gospel to set these women free from their demons as well. Over the past ten years as I have shared the message of hope and deliverance with the women I meet, I have seen countless lives radically transformed. As their lives are transformed, they become law abiding citizens, they find jobs to support themselves, and many of them have had their families restored. Their new life in Christ is what they have longed for their whole lives—yet never knew it could exist.
One day as I was teaching in a substance abuse rehab, one of the ladies in the class said, “Sherry, the first 3 to 4 weeks you taught this class I thought you were high.” I was flabbergasted! Me—high? She then explained that in the drug culture in which she grew up, most people are discouraged, depressed and defeated. The only time they feel happy is when they are on a drug-induced happy. But she was finally starting to understand that Christians have a Jesus-enabled happy—not a drug-induced one. She said to me, “Sherry, I had no idea a world like this existed!” Tragically, there are millions more in our world who, like Amy, have no idea a world like ours exists.
Amy has been clean, sober and passionately walking the Christ-life for two years now. She told me recently that she wakes up every day absolutely euphoric because of the freedom she feels in Christ. She is no longer enslaved to frantically finding the next fix just to survive the darkness in which she once lived. Through the power of the glorious gospel, she has been delivered from the darkness of her past and now lives in the glorious light of God’s kingdom. That is indeed something to be euphoric about!
Another friend, Jane, is a ten-time felon. She spent nearly twenty years in addiction and promiscuous living. But God had great plans for Jane. He providentially orchestrated her “sentence” in a Christian substance abuse rehab. There she heard the life transforming message of the gospel and became a daughter of the High King! Jane has been clean, sober, and passionately walking the Christ-life for three years now. She has been granted custody of her three children and is now happily married. Her husband, also a transformed addict, is serving Jesus in full-time Christian ministry.
Jane recently wrote in a Facebook post, “It's a beautiful morning! As I sit on my porch this morning drinking my coffee, I am THANKFUL! I remember BELIEVING that my life would forever be hopeless and that I would be a lost cause or dead by now. What a dreadful place that was! Today I am hopeful for the future, ALIVE and FREE. My life is not perfect...but it is! I have Jesus! And He loves me! He knows the wickedness in my heart and HE LOVES ME UNCONDITIONALLY! No matter what happens in my life nothing is as bad as not knowing Jesus. Without Him, and His love and sacrifice for me, I would not be able to smile today. I never want to forget that pit I was in, or my life before Jesus rescued me. It keeps me grounded and thankful.”
Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” When I initially meet my friends, they are beaten down, defeated and destitute of hope. They so badly need the good news of Jesus and His power to transform lives. Those who repent of their sins and accept Christ as their Savior become totally different people—they become new creatures in Christ. As they begin to grow spiritually, everything about them changes. They are often stunned to find a life they knew nothing about. A life of transformation and freedom. A life of boldness because God has taken them out of the miry clay and set their feet on a rock.
A wise theologian once said, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pro 13:20). There are so many in our world who desperately need a child of the High King to come alongside them, to share the glorious message of the gospel with them—to walk life with them.
It is amazing that God chooses to work through His people to break the chains of darkness and transfer the lost and hurting into His marvelous light!
Matthew Bohin, Seminary Student
We often look at successful people and wonder how they’ve achieved their notoriety, influence, or wealth. We devour their blogs, books, and articles to get a glimpse into their “secret” of success.
In the Christian world, Paul was arguably the greatest Apostle. Paul authored at least thirteen books of the New Testament, established many churches, journeyed throughout Asia and Europe as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and even encountered the risen Christ. Yet, these accolades paled in comparison to his main desire: to know Christ and to be like him.
Paul describes the one driving principle of his life this way: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8, 13-14). Here, Paul states that all his accomplishments, both the spiritual accolades he once possessed in Judaism along with his accomplishments in service for Christ, weren’t of the same value as knowing and being like Christ. To Paul, knowing Christ held “surpassing worth.” Having a deep, close, and personal walk with Jesus, even after he had seen the risen Christ, was of utmost importance to Paul. Moreover, he saw Christlikeness as a “prize” to be obtained. The phrase, “upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” refers to a believer’s glorification. However, Paul knew that while on earth, he was daily to strive to be like Christ.
Paul therefore viewed knowing God as having the utmost worth, while being like Christ as a prize to be cherished.
Making Paul’s Desire Our Own
How then did Paul come to this mindset? What value did Paul see in knowing Christ and being like him? He understood three essential truths about knowing God and being like him.
But This Takes Work…
Like any relationship, knowing God takes work. I’ve been married about five months. For those of you who don’t know yet, marriage takes work. Yes, marriage is wonderful, but the blessings of marriage don’t come without putting in effort.
Likewise, we want to think that a relationship with God comes easily. We would love to think that God just instantly makes us know him. Think with me again about marriage, however. If, while we were dating, my wife put in time, effort, and energy into our relationship, yet I didn’t make an effort to take her on dates, call her when we were separated, or buy her gifts, she would eventually stop pouring into the relationship. Now, this illustration does break down eventually. Theologically speaking God does pursue believers even when we don’t naturally desire him. However, Scripture is clear that God reveals himself to those who diligently seek him (Deuteronomy 4:29, Hebrews 11:6).
Does your Bible smell like the gym? Does it smell of hard work or sweat? Is it soiled with tears, highlights, or crinkles due to the use it’s received? Knowing God takes work.
… And a Soft Heart
At the same time, knowing God also demands a soft heart. God reveals himself not only to those who diligently seek him, but to those who come submitted to him. In James 4:6, James exhorts us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Earlier in the same book, he states that God indeed does give wisdom liberally, but only to those who are of a mind totally committed to him (James 1:5-8).
God pours himself out to those who diligently pursue him and approach him with a humble, submissive spirit.
Let’s Get Practical
By now I hope you’ve all come to understand that knowing God is the reason why we’re saved. God has called us into a relationship with him. This relationship then drives us to become more like Christ. Even as Christians we don’t naturally have a relationship with God or a Christlike disposition. As stated above, it takes work along with a soft heart. I would like to provide for you some practical ways of putting in the hard work of pursuing God through Scripture.
Just like any job you undertake, you need the right tools for Bible study. These include having the right resources, the right plan, and the right questions.
A Final Reminder
I hope these brief words of wisdom have helped to create in you a desire to be in Scripture this new year. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention one thing. In all of our Bible study, we are dependent upon the Spirit for help. None of us naturally understands the things of God. Without the guidance of the Spirit, all of our efforts to know God would be in vain (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
This year, pursue God with everything you have. He wants to be known, and he is waiting to reveal himself to you.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.