Before I moved out of my home and into my new college life, my parents wanted to be sure to prepare me for the challenges I would inevitably face. Primary among these concerns, they wanted to ascertain that challenges to my faith did not send me reeling into confusion, uncertainty, or even rebellion.
Rather than trying to load my mind with scriptures and rebuttals to the foreseeable arguments I might face, my parents just made sure to remind me of whom and what I could turn to (i.e. other Christians and the Word) when I faced these problems. They reminded me to be aware of the information I heard and to critically assess both my beliefs and those of others. They didn’t shelter me from the secular, but they demonstrated how to walk through it without belonging to it.
Even Paul was sure, in many of his letters to the early church, to alert the young believers to the dangers always present in the world:
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
Even in “Christian” America, we are vulnerable to attack. I attend a “Christian” university; however, my parents were very intentional in warning me of what I would realistically and truly face. They were right, and this has become more evident as I see others struggle to reconcile the name and founding of our university with the standards and policies it has in place. We are, instead, to prepare ourselves; we are to arm ourselves for battle. For nowhere does the Word of God deny that a battle wages around us.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Ephesians 4:14
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
I’ve only been out of the nest one year, so what I share on this topic is very limited and unenlightened, but nonetheless I am convinced that believers entering college, or the world at large, should go with open eyes, alert to the challenges and obstacles of walking in a darkened world.
We are called to be “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which [we] shine like stars in the universe as [we] hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2:15-16
What a calling!
I love conversation. I hate small talk. But discussion, the true exchange of ideas and opinions with others, is so refreshing. The depth of fellowship discussion may bring about is something all can agree is desirable and often needed within any relationship. I have loved the discussions of which I have partaken this past year. It is often in these conversations, frequently with my roommates, that I am most challenged to clearly argue, articulate, and support my ideas. It is also within these interactions (particularly those centered on topics and lessons from this or that class or lecture) that many scriptures are brought to mind.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:2
It seems to me that God’s will, and His word, is not necessarily comprehensible to the mind still rooted in the world. Therefore, how can we expect those not transformed by the grace of God to understand true wisdom and knowledge, of which He is the source? (This is not meant to refute education, however, but rather to merely remind that professors, doctorates, etc. are not ultimate or supreme sources of knowledge.)
Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. Isaiah 29:14
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? […] For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 1 Corinthians 1:20, 25
Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 (See also Job 5:13, Psalm 94:11)
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
We demolish arguments [or speculations] and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
The following two excerpts of scripture are perhaps my favorite to refer to:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8
Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. 1 Timothy 6:20
Gossip is clearly not the only practice of the tongue that is to be tamed. (More on that at another time.)
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1
So, we are to pay careful attention to both that which we have heard from God and to that which we hear from the world.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says… But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22, 25
We can only truly recognize, or “test and approve,” God’s “pleasing and perfect” will by studying His Word. How else can we identify those speculations that set themselves “up against the knowledge of God”?
Test everything. Hold on to the good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
May Paul’s prayer become our own:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10
Perhaps the next question addresses how exactly Christians are to combat attacks on their faith? For these are certain in a world in which our faith appears to be pure foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). We are to look to God, for this is faith. (More on this at a later time.) The most obvious plan of action is to look to His Word.
As the only offensive weapon illustrated by Paul’s Armor of God, the Word is our sword (Ephesians 6:17). We so frequently overlook and underestimate the sheer power and beauty of God’s Word, His physical, tangible, living gift to us. But oh, the joy I have found in it! Why there are days that I resist opening its pages is beyond me, for when I break this flesh-driven fast from spiritual nourishment, I find a feast awaiting me every time.
Okay I’m going to make this a little personal to try to convey a metaphor, one that I’m sure is not new to many. Have you ever received a love letter? (Or, in this day and age, it might be an e-mail, a text, a message.) I have. I have received what could be considered messages of “love,” really just expressions of one’s feelings. I would venture to say that I am not abnormal in my practice of reading and re-reading and re-reading these expressions. I want to know what that person feels! I want to remember exactly what that person said; I want to determine that person’s purpose in writing what was written, and I want to gauge the depth of said expressions. I want to holistically and comprehensively understand the information I have just received.
God’s Word is the purest, most beautiful love letter. If I am so concerned with knowing and remembering the words of another fallen, imperfect human, than wouldn’t it make sense that I would feel this same (or greater) urgency to know and remember the expressions of GOD’s own heart?
Memorizing scripture was a practice I never really felt was stressed in the Christian community by which I was surrounded until I joined my new church’s college group. My mentor and college minister have both adamantly stressed this practice’s importance, and so I am now advocating it as a strong defense and offense in the face of Satan’s “flaming arrows.”
Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. Proverbs 22:17-18
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4