Tune My Heart

Living and speaking for Jesus

Tag: church

Settling in

You’ve got to the end of freshers’ week – but now what? Here’s some advice for Christian students I’ve gleaned from various people over the years (with particular thanks to Dave Bish and Jim Walford).

Join a church

No one can make it alone as a Christian, and living as a student is no exception. You’ll probably be challenged about what you believe, whether in lectures or down the pub. There will be pressure to conform to a sinful culture; many Christians flirt with temptation rather than fleeing, and regret it later. You need people to support you and challenge you because they love and care for you. As a Christian you’re already part of God’s worldwide church, so make it a priority to join a local church community. Church will help you grow as a Christian, so find somewhere where as God’s Word is taught people grow to love Jesus more, love each other more and love the lost more.

Join the CU

Christian Unions are mission teams made up of students from different local churches, united around the gospel in order to better reach students with the good news of Jesus. In short, they exist to make Christ known on campus. Join your CU to get involved in student mission; to be better equipped to reach your friends with the gospel; and to be encouraged as you work as a team to bring others to know Jesus. Find out more on the UCCF website.

Join other societies/do other things!

God’s made a good world, with so many great things in it. Don’t do what I did in my first year and do so many Christian things you don’t have time to play football/sing in a choir/join the wine circle/get involved in student politics/act in a play/go to the pub with coursemates. Not only is it wrong to think such things are “less spiritual” (all of life is for God’s glory!), if you throw yourself into loads of Christian meetings to the exclusion of all else, you’ll find opportunities for mission few and far between. This is my biggest regret about my first year at university. Do something to get outside of the Christian bubble, even if it’s simply spending time with your flatmates!

Work hard, rest well

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re at university to study for a degree. This is a good thing to do! Your attitude to your work is a great witness to others, but more importantly God asks us to work as if working for him. My experience is that you actually enjoy your work more the more effort you put in; this is possibly my second biggest regret of my first year, as I didn’t get much out of it academically.

You also need rest, which may seem impossible during freshers’ week, but getting into good habits early on really does help. The temptation is to stay up late like everyone else, because you feel like you’ll miss out on making friendships, especially early on. God knows what you need though, and one of those things is sleep; you will not lose all your friends if you go to bed before them! (You may well find they’re waiting for someone else to suggest going to bed…) Naps are also useful, if you have been up late; caffeine less so.

Learn to love

Your flatmates might “borrow” your food, or not do the washing up, or wake you up after a late night out. Your lecturers might not be very good, or overly harsh, and can sometimes be ridiculed or hated by others. You might meet people in the CU with whom you disagree: on theology, on style of meeting, on whether Jesus would have joined the Conservative or Labour Party, on all sorts of things you hold dear. God hasn’t put you with these people and in these situations to annoy you: he’s given you an opportunity to learn to love people. This is important with non-Christians, but possibly even more so with Christians. If members of the CU don’t love each other, that’s not a good witness. If they do love each other, learning to put aside secondary issues because they agree on the core truths of the gospel, it’s a far better witness. Francis Schaeffer said:

Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father. (Francis Shaeffer, in Graham Beynon, God’s New Community (IVP), p92.)

Remember grace

You may have great intentions, but as a sinful human being you’re going to mess up. Don’t forget the gospel. Jesus died for you, and his perfect righteousness is enough to cover even the most spectacular failings. I was far from perfect at university, and needed daily reminders of God’s grace to me. (Also related: joining a church!) Living in close proximity with others, it’s reasonably sure they’ll get to see your sins and struggles – so take the opportunity to tell them of Jesus, who accepts sinners like you and them.

Summary

University is a great opportunity for so many things, but above all to grow to know and love Jesus more, and so love other people more, through living and speaking for him in your academic work, your time with friends, your CU involvement and in your church family. My prayer is that you’ll do just that!

It is sobering to consider that many of our churches – and let’s be honest, we ourselves are far more often the problem than the solution – foster a more domesticated brand of community than a gang. Real fellowship is elusive. Even among our brothers and sisters in Christ, we wear masks and hide sins and parade virtues and judge others. Many find the church to be the place where it is hardest, not easiest, to speak openly about personal struggles.

This is deeply ironic and tragic because in the Christian gospel we have the one resource that can unlock the heart and enable us to take off the masks. As long as we view the Christian church as a club for those who make the grade socially, we will be unwilling to speak freely of our shortcomings as believers. Only when the single prerequisite to inclusion in the church is joint agreement that there is no prerequisite will we let down our guard.

— Dane Ortlund, Defiant Grace, p85

Heavenly realities

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Christians are those who are united to Christ. This is true in the past, present and future.

Past -> Present -> Future

Past: “For you died”. Christians have died with Christ. In him, we have passed through the death we rightly deserve. Our sin has been dealt with once for all. “You have been raised”. Dead to ourselves, alive in Christ. New birth, new life.

Present: “Hidden with Christ”. When God looks at you, what does he see? His beloved child. “Seated at the right hand of God”. Christ is seated on the throne of the universe, and we’re there with him!

Future: “Will appear with him”. When Christ returns, we will be with him, and it will be glorious.

It’s no surprise that Paul calls us to “set [our] hearts and minds on things above”. These are amazing realities to be celebrated, rejoiced in, dwelt on, sung about. What joy to spend time warming our hearts with such wonderful truths!

However… we forget. We’re leaky. These things seep out of our minds as this world preaches an alternative message. “This life is all there is – so live for the moment. Do what feels good. Make the most of it.” This world seems so solid, its pleasures so tangible, and God begins to feel distant. “Heavenly realities? More like away with the fairies.”

With all these lies ringing in our ears, we need others to help us lift our sights to see what is real. Those of deep, strong faith to give courage to the struggling. Preachers who present Christ again, that our hearts might be captured afresh. Soaking ourselves in Scripture, individually and corporately. The world is constantly fighting for our attention; let’s help each other fight back.

So Paul writes later in Colossians:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

The word of Christ: the good news of Jesus. His death and resurrection, and our union with him.

Dwelling richly: always going deeper. Taking truths to heart, not filing them away. Longing to know more of Jesus.

Teach and admonish: lovingly speaking good news to each other, letting God’s word convict, correct and encourage.

Singing: both expressing and exciting our emotions of gratitude through singing Scriptural certainties to each other and to the Lord.

Tomorrow, as millions gather across the globe with brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s point each other to these heavenly realities. We died with him. We were raised with him. We will appear with him. Glory!

Family

She didn’t even know my name.

I was visiting a church and was browsing the bookstall after the meeting had ended. Having found what I wanted to buy, I realised I had no cash or cheque book on me. A woman overhead me say so.

“Let me buy it for you.”

I protested. I didn’t know this woman. The book cost fifty dollars. I started: “That’s very kind of you, but I couldn’t possibly—” when she cut me off.

“Are you a Christian?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

Immediately she said: “So can’t a sister buy a book for her brother?” As she said this, she got out her cheque book and reached for a pen.

We had just met. I was a white British man in my mid-twenties; she was a middle-aged African American woman. Yet she instantly offered to buy me a fifty dollar book, because in Christ, I was her brother.

Sister, you will likely never read this; but one day, when we meet again, I will thank you for showing me so clearly what Jesus meant when he said: “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another”.

Originally posted on February 29th, 2012. Cross-posted to Call to Family.

What to do as a Christian fresher

Across the country, new students are settling into life in halls and houses. Based on the advice of many people over the years, here’s my advice for Christian students.

Join a church

No one can make it alone as a Christian, and living as a student is no exception. You’ll probably be challenged about what you believe, whether in lectures or down the pub. There will be pressure to conform to a sinful culture; many Christians flirt with temptation rather than fleeing, and regret it later. You need people to support you and challenge you because they love and care for you. As a Christian you’re already part of God’s worldwide church, so make it a priority to join a local church community. Church will help you grow as a Christian, so find somewhere where as God’s Word is taught people grow to love Jesus more, love each other more and love the lost more.

Join the CU

Christian Unions are mission teams made up of students from different local churches, united around the gospel in order to better reach students with the good news of Jesus. In short, they exist to make Christ known on campus. Join your CU to get involved in student mission; to be better equipped to reach your friends with the gospel; and to be encouraged as you work as a team to bring others to know Jesus. Find out more on the UCCF website.

Join other societies/do other things!

God’s made a good world, with so many great things in it. Don’t do what I did in my first year and do so many Christian things you don’t have time to play football/sing in a choir/join the wine circle/get involved in student politics/act in a play/go to the pub with coursemates. Not only is it wrong to think such things are “less spiritual” (all of life is for God’s glory!), if you throw yourself into loads of Christian meetings to the exclusion of all else, you’ll find opportunities for mission few and far between. This is my biggest regret about my first year at university. Do something to get outside of the Christian bubble, even if it’s simply spending time with your flatmates!

Work hard, rest well

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re at university to study for a degree. This is a good thing to do! Your attitude to your work is a great witness to others, but more importantly God asks us to work as if working for him. My experience is that you actually enjoy your work more the more effort you put in; this is possibly my second biggest regret of my first year, as I didn’t get much out of it academically.

You also need rest, which may seem impossible during freshers’ week, but getting into good habits early on really does help. The temptation is to stay up late like everyone else, because you feel like you’ll miss out on making friendships, especially early on. God knows what you need though, and one of those things is sleep; you will not lose all your friends if you go to bed before them! (You may well find they’re waiting for someone else to suggest going to bed…) Naps are also useful, if you have been up late; caffeine less so.

Learn to love

Your flatmates might “borrow” your food, or not do the washing up, or wake you up after a late night out. Your lecturers might not be very good, or overly harsh, and can sometimes be ridiculed or hated by others. You might meet people in the CU with whom you disagree: on theology, on style of meeting, on whether Jesus would have joined the Conservative or Labour Party, on all sorts of things you hold dear. God hasn’t put you with these people and in these situations to annoy you: he’s given you an opportunity to learn to love people. This is important with non-Christians, but possibly even more so with Christians. If members of the CU don’t love each other, that’s not a good witness. If they do love each other, learning to put aside secondary issues because they agree on the core truths of the gospel, it’s a far better witness. Francis Schaeffer said:

Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father. (Francis Shaeffer, in Graham Beynon, God’s New Community (IVP), p92.)

Remember grace

You may have great intentions, but as a sinful human being you’re going to mess up. Don’t forget the gospel. Jesus died for you, and his perfect righteousness is enough to cover even the most spectacular failings. I was far from perfect at university, and needed daily reminders of God’s grace to me. (Also related: joining a church!) Living in close proximity with others, it’s reasonably sure they’ll get to see your sins and struggles – so take the opportunity to tell them of Jesus, who accepts sinners like you and them.

Summary

University is a great opportunity for so many things, but above all to grow to know and love Jesus more, and so love other people more, through living and speaking for him in your academic work, your time with friends, your CU involvement and in your church family. My prayer is that you’ll do just that!

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