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.
Matt Wells, Media Assistant
So you’re graduating. Congrats!
What are you going to do now? Do you have a job? Are you going to get your masters? Are you getting married?
Maybe you’ve heard those questions far too much lately. But people just want to know what’s next for you. “Yeah, so do I,” you may think to yourself.
Some people just have their whole lives planned out. Their first word as a baby was, “Mama,” and their second word was the job they wanted to be when they grew up. And they never strayed from that dream. Nothing could get in their way, not even college – look, they’re walking off that stage with a diploma that confirms their dream and a job offer waiting in the field of their dreams. They have a five-year-plan, a ten-year-plan, and a thousand-year-plan.
Maybe you don’t have a dream like that. Maybe you came into college with incredible dreams but some not-so-incredible grades made those dreams fade. Or a bad tryout, a bad breakup, or a bad decision broke down your bold ambitions.
It’s okay. For those of you who will have a diploma but not dreams or desires or direction, let me offer some Scriptural principles to help:
1. You already have a life mission. It’s called the Great Commission. Looking for a life’s direction? Looking for a cause to live for? Look no further than Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus calls all His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Not what you were looking for? Well there is no greater cause, no higher aim to strive for in life. No one else’s dreams will be loftier than yours – but there will be many who will join this mission with you (they’re called the church).
2. You already have your life ambition. What more amazing ambition could you have than to see people reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5)? No one could accuse the Apostle Paul of not being driven. He wrote in Romans 15:20: “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel…” That ambition for him was specifically to preach the Gospel to Gentiles in places Christ had not been named. And you can have a similar niche – how has God specifically wired you? What sort of people are you equipped to reach that no one else could reach?
3. All you have to do is pick a “side-job.” Just as the Great Commission gives us our life mission, so the Great Mandate gives us one way to accomplish that mission. You’ve probably heard it called the Creation Mandate – it’s found in Genesis 1:28, where God tells the man He created, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it…” This is a call to take the created order, all that God has made, and transform it for man’s use and ultimately God’s glory. God has just created man in His own image, and that includes His amazing sense of creativity. Now man can image his God by being creative himself in how he fashions God’s raw materials for man’s use. And once Christ came and gave us the Great Commission, we now have a goal with this mandate – “subdue” creation, not just for our use, but so that people hear the Gospel in all nations!
What are your skills? What was your major? What do you enjoy doing (so much so that you would do it for free)? Now, brainstorming time – how can you use that skill to get the Gospel out? How can you use
your job as an accountant to proclaim Christ? How can you use your creativity as a painter, as a movie-maker, as a musician to make others see Jesus? I could think of thousands of ways. So can you. Write them down – dream!
There – now you have a life mission and ambition. It’s time to “reach beyond yourself” and use your skills and passion and ambition and dreams (broken or unbroken) to accomplish what God has placed you on this planet to accomplish.
All for His glory.
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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.