University provides a great opportunity to grow and develop. Not only does it give the opportunity to expand our mind and gain a degree which might be useful for getting a job, but also enables us to be independent with a safety net attached! At university you have to fend for yourself for 30 weeks a year, but the parents are only a phone call away, and are ready to rescue you if you get into trouble.
University is where you learn most about yourself, and is instrumental in the process of growing up. This is true for our Christian lives as well. No longer can we be carried along by our parents, or the church we have always attended, but must now find our own way – trust God ourselves with no strings attached. This change can be a great benefit and help us to grow as Christians.
University is also an opportunity to make lots of new friends, some who may end up being friends for life, and one who may end up being our companion for life!
Sadly for some University can be a time when more is lost than gained. Many who go to university professing faith in Christ come away living completely godless lives. Many take to university their virginity but waste it on some throw-away relationship.
The purpose of this paper is to give some practical pointers to young Christians going to university, so that they would be aware of the dangers, and make the most of the opportunities available. Underlying these guidelines is the assumption that those who know and love the Lord Jesus will desire to do what pleases Him. (1 Peter 4:1-6) Without such a change of heart these guidelines may seem to be cold and hard. We do not do “good works” to earn favour with God, but as a response to His grace towards us in Christ.
THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM AND LOT
In Genesis 13 we read that Abraham and his nephew Lot are struggling to live together because their herds and families are too large for the one location. They agree to part and go separate directions. The attitudes which each shows on this occasion and in other incidents in their lives give us much instruction on the attitudes we should have when seeking to live our lives for Christ on earth.
The Attitude of Abraham
The story of Abraham occupies many chapters of the book of Genesis, and in Hebrews 11, he receives the most comment of all the great heroes of the faith. In this passage we find the principles which governed his life. ( Hebrews 11:8-19 ).
1. He lived in the light of eternity. (v8-10) ‘He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.’ He had his mind firmly fixed upon the glory to come and he lived as one whose citizenship was in heaven. He was constantly aware of the temporal nature of his life and sought to be ready for the permanence of the one to come.
2. He trusted completely in God. (v11-12 ) Abraham knew who God was, he knew that God was faithful and would keep his word. God promised him that he would be the father of many nations and yet he had no children, but Abraham believed God would keep His Word. The result of Abraham’s faith is that it was ‘ credited to him as righteousness’ and he became the spiritual father of all who believe. Romans 4.
3. He lived as a stranger and an alien on earth. (v13-16) He recognised he was different and not a part of the world. He knew God had saved him and this caused him to live accordingly. He was a stranger – that is to say he was away from home – heaven. Matthew Henry says ‘ He expected little from the world. He cared not much to engage in it. He endeavoured to lay aside every weight, to gird up the loins of their minds to his way, to keep company and pace with his fellow-travellers, looking for difficulties, and bearing them, and longing to get home.’
4. He was not ashamed to belong to God. (v16) He could say with Paul ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation.’ Romans 1:16. He was willing to give testimony to the grace of God before men. He did not seek to hide his faith in God.
5. He was concerned to obey God whatever the cost. (v17-19) Even when God asked him to sacrifice his son he was willing to do it, despite the fact that God had promised to make Isaac the line of his many descendants. He was willing to put God first in everything. He was determined that God should be glorified in his life, and was willing that everything else be sacrificed for that end.
The attitude of Lot
We read in 2 Peter 2:7 that Lot was a saved man – but only just! He is an example of a worldly believer. The principles that governed his life can be summarised as follows:
1. He wanted the riches of this world. Gen 13:10-11. Lot made his decision on which way to go based purely on the material gain he perceived he would make. There was no concern to discern the Lord’s will, or see if there were other influences which may be harmful to him – like the wicked cities of Sodom & Gomorrah.
2. He was ashamed to be different. Gen 14:12. Before long we read that Lot has moved into the city, and is living amongst the wicked men.
3. He lingered. Gen 19:16. When the angel of the Lord came to destroy Sodom, he first urged Lot and his family to flee, but we read that Lot lingered, and had to be dragged away from the City. He was considering staying and being destroyed by the wrath of God.
The effect of Lot’s attitude upon his life
Lot serves as an example to us. Through his worldly attitude he lost three things:
1. He lost his moral decency. He tried and failed to live like those around him, and yet still please God. He was influenced by the people of Sodom, and adopted their standards, falling so far as to be willing to give his daughters away to sexual indecency.
2. He lost his spiritual testimony. He jeopardised the spiritual health of his soul with compromise. He had no influence for the gospel amongst the unconverted. Instead he brought anxiety upon God’s people.
3. He lost his material possessions. He went to Sodom because of the material benefits and prospects, but lost them all.
The effect of Abraham’s attitude upon his life
Abraham is held up all through scripture as an example to us, and is known as the father of all those that believe. He was greatly blessed of God in every way.
‘Them that honour me, I will honour.’ 1 Samuel 2:30. If we are to please God, we should seek to live by the principles that Abraham lived by. We should not linger in the world as Lot did.
The most important thing is to go with the right attitude of mind and heart. These practical guidelines are provided as a pointer for those seeking to live a holy live at university. These are not “rules” that you must obey if you are to be a Christian.
a) Find a good evangelical church. Ask for advice before you leave from parents, church leaders etc. It is likely someone will know of a church and maybe even people who attend it who can make you welcome and provide you with some hospitality. Another good place to look is the Evangelical Times church holiday guide which lists churches in England, Wales, Scotland and a few in Northern Ireland. This is published in June of each year, and can now be found on the world wide web at: www.evangelical-times.org
These are the things you should look for in a church:
i) A Church is the people not the building, and all the people who constitute the membership of the church should be born again. Hebrews 8:11
ii) A Church which recognises the importance of preaching and teaching biblical doctrine. Acts 2:36, 2 Tim 3:16f
iii) A Church which is seeking to rule itself according to biblical principles and instructions. Titus 1:9, Revelation 3:1-3
iv) A Church which is not compromising itself by associating with those who do not teach Christ as the only way of being saved. Galatians 1:6-12.
v) A Church which engages in reverent and biblical worship which should include:
a) Teaching (Acts 2:42)
b) Scripture Reading (I Timothy 4:13)
c) Congregational Singing (Colossians 3:16, Matthew 26:30)
d) Prayer (Acts 4:23-31)
e) Giving (2 Corinthians 8+9; esp. 9:13)
f) The Lord’s Supper. (Acts 2:42)
vi) A Church which has members whose lives are characterised by the following:
a) Friendliness (Hebrews 13:1-2, 1 John 4:7-5:2)
b) Evangelism (2 Timothy 4:2, Romans 10:15)
c) Good works (Galatians 6:9-10)
d) Good order (Titus 1:5-2:15)
e) Joy in Christ (Romans 5:1-11)
b) Attend the church. Knowing about it and intending to go is not enough. It is a good idea to think ahead – plan to go the first Sunday you are there – even if that is the day you arrive. Work out how you will get there, how long it will take etc. Many churches will offer lifts if you give them a ring. Go to bed early enough on Saturday night so you can get up on Sunday morning! Remember there will be no parents to take you to church, you go entirely of your own will. The people around you will encourage you not to go, so you must be determined! Try and attend the midweek prayer meeting as well. Many churches will make a special effort to look after students and will provide hospitality and special welcomes – make the most of it!
c) Get involved. Try and do more than polish the pews each Sunday. You can feel a bit of a spiritual gypsy whilst being a student, but see if there are ways you could help out:
– Door to door (Maybe its time to learn)
– Children’s work
– Young people’s work
– Helping with Publicity
– City Centre outreach – coffee bars etc.
– Hospitality – if you have your own house, have some fresher students round or repay a few of those people from the church who gave you hospitality when you lived in hall.
d) Consider joining the church. Many churches offer associate membership where you can be a part of them, but still retain your membership back home. This gives you all the privileges of a church member including elders who will pray and care for you, locally in the town where you are.
2. Quiet Time
If we are to remain close to God we must make time to read our Bibles and pray. University life often lacks routine, and therefore it can be difficult to find a regular slot for a QT. We need to be disciplined, and find a time that suits us when we can regularly have a QT. At university you do not have the Christian home to carry you along – you must have your own relationship with God. Be careful about wasting time. Try and learn good habits that will last you a lifetime.
3. Friends & Relationships
a) Try and build strong friendships with like minded Christians. Seek to have times of fellowship together, including prayer.
b) Expect to meet all sorts of “Christians.” This can be very beneficial and very harmful. It is good to not only know what we believe, but why we believe it, and there is no better way than when we meet people with alternative views. We must be careful that we are not misled by others who claim to be Christians. Others may be living more like Lot than Abraham. We should work out our own standards of morality based on God’s word and Christ’s example and not professing Christians with a strong personality.
c) Be careful about “best” / “close” friendships with non- Christians, as we can easily find them leading us astray. We must always put Christ first, even if this means distancing ourselves from friends.
d) Relationships just happen at university. It is wise to be wary of regular callers of the opposite sex. It is a good idea to leave your door open a fraction when visitors of the opposite sex call. Watch out for sharks! Girls should be considerate to men in the clothes they wear, and lads should be careful what they look at! Nail your colours to the mast from day one, and live consistently! God has designed sex for inside marriage only.
4. Night Life
There are lots of new things at university. You will be living in close proximity to bars with cheap alcohol and lots of peer pressure. During the university year there will be many social events such as hall balls, mega discos, night clubs and lots of casual drinking.
a) Think carefully what is appropriate for you to do as a Christian, both for your own temptation and also as a witness to others.
b) Alcohol – consider not drinking at all
c) Examine carefully your motives for going to a place or an event. Many Christians claim they go to witness, but loud music and lots of alcohol do not put people in the frame of mind to consider the things of eternity. Many of the things that go on in these places are extremely sinful, and we should consider if it is appropriate for us as children of God to be there. Let us have the attitude of Abraham and not Lot.
d) Saturday night – remember church is the next day. Try and do things which will make us ready and prepared to worship God, not distract us and make too tired to concentrate.
5. Christian Union.
Most universities have a Christian Union. These are provided so Christian students can have fellowship with each other and encourage each other in the job of witnessing to fellow students. By their very nature, C.U.’s have to be broad in their outlook, as they are trying to cater for “Christians” from all sorts of backgrounds – Anglican, Charismatic, Baptist and very occasionally Reformed! You can learn things from being in a C.U. but they can also be very dangerous – a few guidelines:
a) Always make the church your spiritual home and not the C.U. The C.U. is a broad organisation run by immature students like you (and me!), and does not have a broad range of people (age and background) attending.
b) Never substitute C.U. for church – including the midweek meeting. Be church focused for everything including your evangelism – i.e. take friends to church if you can, and only to C.U. if you know the speaker.
c) If you go to C.U., go with a certain amount of scepticism. Reserve your judgement and then you won’t get caught out. Make a stand for truth, but remember to focus on the big issues. (i.e. key doctrines which are essential to the faith, rather than secondary ‘pet’ issues which you may personally hold dear.)
d) Think carefully before you get to heavily involved, as C.U.’s by their nature have to be broad – if you don’t agree with that, don’t get involved, or ultimately you will believe in abolishing your own organisation!
e) Think carefully what the purpose of a C.U. is, and its place in scripture.
6. The big wide world
University is a little world all of its own, which you will be in for a few years, but then you have to come back out into the real world.
a) Keep in touch with family, friends and the church back home. They still care about you, pray for you. Write and ring – why not try and get your parents to give you a phone card for at least calling them!
b) Make friends with people in the church who are not students.
In all these we must look to God for help, strength and wisdom, that we might bring glory to His name. We must make a stand from day one, as it is very difficult to pull back later on. We should take great comfort from God’s promises – that he will be with us always, and He desires the best for us.
27 September 2000