Dry. Distant. Disconnected. Just a few words to describe the spiritual life of a freshman in college. “A Bible student,” you may ask, “distant from God?” While actual distance from God is a lie for those in Christ, feelings of emotional and relational detachment have not been foreign to me early on at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. After remaining faithful in spite of years soaked in the sadnesses of losing a parent and being abandoned by those whom you were to trust most, surely I was ready to be immersed in a community of like-minded young people. However, the challenges that began on move-in day have been the hardest yet, simply because I refused to choose Jesus.
As a theologian and contrarian by nature, I’m often out-spoken on my inflammatory views of God, if for no other reason than to insight a heated argument, or “discussion” as I rationalize. In a school of dispensationalists, I’m the first to assert my views on Covenant Theology. While most of my classmates are cessationist in their pneumatology, I make a point to receive a prophetic word on why they’re wrong. And coming from a hometown that is largely unconcerned with the deeper doctrinal issues, God’s sovereignty in salvation is my loudest battlecry. However, the spiritual implications of being an ass for the sake of truth are anything but positive. Perhaps the blessings of Israel are spiritually fulfilled in the church today, but if I don’t have love, I’ll never experience them. Perhaps God stills speaks as He did in the early church, but if I don’t have love, I’ll never hear Him. Perhaps God is in charge of those whom He saves, but if I (ultimately) don’t have love, He surely didn’t choose me. Throwing around eight-sylable terms, including “Theology major” in your Instagram bio, and having Greek letters tattooed on your body sure do seem cool, but do I love Jesus? How does one who is deeply in love with the sovereignty of God over every area of life live in the tension of “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” while sill recognizing that “it is God who works in you” (Phil. 2:12-13)? Only focusing on the latter will result in the very adjectives used to describe the experience of many freshman Bible students: Dry. Distant. Disconnected. The solution?
Why does it hurt to type those words? Why do I cringe at the sound of the word “choose”? Am I afraid of taking from God the authority that is rightfully His, or am I merely afraid of being wrong about the theological point I’ve beaten people to death with? Whether or not Jesus is in charge of those who spend eternity with Him is not what I’m getting at. A daily choosing of Jesus, however, is the only way to sustain a life with Him. Completing your Biblically-based reading assignments for class is not enough. Showing up to chapel three times a week is not enough. Knowing in your head and tattooing on your wrist that God has chosen you is not enough. You will soon find yourself surrounded by people working towards a life of ministry, and you’re just trying to figure out whether or not you’re agnostic. I spent too long waiting on God to do everything for me under the excuse of “sovereignty” and “divine will.” In my brokenness and tears, begging the Lord to restore me to a spiritual mountain top with Him apart from any effort of my own, riding on the reputation of a Bible student, He clearly said to me the very words I hated to hear: “Choose Me.”
Every day is a choice to follow Jesus. The days I have been persistent in choosing to spend time with Him, choosing to read His Word, and choosing to talk to Him have been the best of the semester. And yet they have been contrary to the very way I know God saved me. If you believe God has preordained every action of your life, even the reading of my blog (Why else would you read it?), remember the responsibility you have to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. And if you’re one of those people with a “Jesus is my Copilot” bumpersticker, remember that it is God who works in you. Apart from any intention of my own, He has called me “son.” And yet everyday, in order to know Him better and grow in sanctification, He smirks and says “choose Me.”