College Students – Read These 7 Books in 2019

Over the past two and a half years, I have spent and still spend a lot of time with Christian college students. So, from my own personal walk with Christ (throughout college and into my mid 20s) and from seeing many college students following Christ, I would recommend these 7 books for Christian college students to read throughout 2019.

The Seven

  1. The Bible (Lots of Pages)
    1. Most Christian college students have never read through the entire Bible. Now, I say that knowing that most professed Christians in general have probably never read through the Bible. . . . so do not frown on college students for this! With that said, Christians students should seek to read through the Bible this year. You can try a reading plan. You can try to read through it at your own pace. Just try to make your way through the Bible. You will be challenged, stretched, encouraged, and built up in the faith as you seek to do this. My first time doing this was when I was a senior in college. Convicted by the fact that I had never read through the entire Bible, I read it in three months (yes, to my shame, I skipped the genealogies)! Since then, I have consistently read the Bible every year. I am currently on my sixth time through the Bible and I am enjoying it more than I previously did the first five times because I am understanding it so much better. So, take up the Bible and read. Seek to be as acquainted with the Bible as you possibly can be!
  2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer (288 pages)
    1. Every college student is a theologian. Each college student has a particular belief about who God is. And, in all honesty, each student believes dogmatically about what he or she believes. Once you say something contrary to what they believe about Jesus, salvation, the Spirit, spiritual gifts, etc., then they will argue with you. So, each student is a passionate theologian. However, that does not mean that each person is a good theologian. Just because we have a belief about God that we are passionate about does not mean that it is right. Therefore, we need to seek to be good theologians. Knowing God will help you with this. J.I. Packer will teach you what it is like to think carefully about who God is and how He has revealed himself in the Bible.
  3. The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul (224 pages)
    1. Most students that I have talked to focus primarily on the death and resurrection of Christ. They focus on the cross, the blood, the death, and the resurrection. The problem with this is that it is not the whole story. The work of Christ in his life is just as important as the work of Christ in his death. Jesus being born in Bethlehem, being a descendent of David, being circumcised on the eight day, being baptized to fulfill all righteousness, etc., are all important to our salvation. Had Jesus not been blameless, he would have not been a sufficient sacrifice. Had he not been righteous, there would be no righteousness for us to be gifted with through faith in Jesus. Thus, the work of Christ in his life is of immense important. R.C. Sproul will show you this.
  4. The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (167 pages)
    1. So, whereas The Work of Christ will show you the importance of Christ’s earthly ministry, The Truth of the Cross will keen in on the significance of Christ’s work on the cross. And, let’s be honest, it would be of great value to become experts in all that happened on the cross. I mean what does it mean that the wrath of our just God was satisfied in the death of Christ? What does it mean that Christ made atonement for us? What does it mean that He was our substitute? What does it mean that he bore our sin in his body on the cross? What does it mean that he was made a curse for us? Sproul will show you the answers to these questions.
  5. Tactics by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. Evangelism is hard. It is hard to navigate conversations to specific points where we can proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. This is most certainly hard in a day where there is increasing hostility to a Christian worldview. . . .especially on college campuses. It is not abnormal for somebody to bombard you with things that they have heard from others (their highly educated liberal professors) once they hear you say that you are a Christian. How can the Bible be true if it is written by men? How can you believe abortion is wrong? How come you don’t think a woman has the right to choose how she uses her own body? Doesn’t it say that homosexuals ought to be stoned in the Bible? The Jesus of history is different from the Jesus of faith. The historical Jesus was just some Jew. The Jesus of faith is some mythological deity that early Christians made up. How can you fall for believing in this mythological deity? The questions abound! Gregory Koukl will give you a neat way to navigate these questions in a gentle way. He will help you turn these types of conversations into something that is very beneficial. Ultimately, he will help you to expose unbeliever’s faulty thinking, and to navigate these types of conversations to Jesus Christ and him crucified.
  6. The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. We, as Christians, do not believe in a myth. When we speak about the creation of the heavens and the earth, the depravity of man, the person of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, etc., we are talking about reality. This is what has really happened. Therefore, everything else that is contrary to the Christian faith is false. It simply isn’t reality. Gregory Koukl, throughout The Story of Reality, articulates how the Christian worldview makes the most sense. This will be of great help to a Christian college student.
  7. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney (352 Pages)
    1. Most college students do not know what it looks like to progressively grow in holiness. They have an understanding of believing in Christ and being saved, but they do not have an understanding of what it looks like to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Therefore, they don’t. This isn’t good. If we remain ignorant of this facet of the Christian life we will remain spiritual babes. This is why this book is so important. Donald Whitney will show us how God uses these ordinary disciplines (Bible reading, meditation, prayer, evangelism, etc.) to help Christians grow and conform into the image of Jesus.

I am sure that others would recommend a different seven books, but from what I have seen throughout my years in college and in college ministry, these seven books will be beneficial for college students. They are easy to read, pretty short, and address particular areas of thought that are largely neglected.

The Implications of a Judgment According to Works for the Christian

Getting Justification Right 

A sinner is saved by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. There will not be one individual that will be declared righteous through his obedience. Rather, individuals will only be declared righteous through faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. So, those who are in Christ through faith are justified, and those who are apart from Christ are condemned.

That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are a Christian, you will never hear the just judge of all the earth declare you to be guilty of sin and deserving of eternal punishment. That will not happen. Rather, you hear a silent declaration of “Justified!” from the judge of the earth now, and you will one day hear a public declaration of “Justified!” on judgment day. This is our hope and it is incredibly comforting! We are righteous in Christ Jesus. Praise God for this! We are rescued from the wrath of God in Christ Jesus. Glory be to God alone! We are adopted into the family of God in Christ Jesus. Honor be to the name of Jesus!

Justification Does Not Eradicate Evaluation

With that said, there also must be an understanding that those who have been justified (judicially declared righteous) through faith in Christ will be judged according to their works. This is thoroughly biblical. Just because we will not face condemnation on judgment day does not mean that we will escape evaluation. We will most certainly be evaluated. All of our actions, motives, thoughts, and words will be evaluated on judgment day. So, our works will be judged. And, according to Scripture, this doctrine is incredibly important for how we live life now. So, let’s look at some applications that arise from a judgment according to works.

Application of This Doctrine

A judgment according to works can be applied in many ways. Therefore, it will be helpful to see how this understanding of the role of works in the judgment of the righteous can be applied personally and within Christian ministry.

Personal Holiness

The first application that arises from a knowledge of a judgment according to works is personal holiness. All throughout the New Testament, the biblical writers refer to the day of judgment and then issue appeals for lives of holiness. For example, Peter, in speaking about the importance of being holy because God the Father is holy, says, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Pet. 1:17). Paul, in a similar line of thought, said that all Christians will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is for this reason that Paul says that Christians are to make it their aim to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9).

So, one day, we as individuals, will stand before Christ’s great tribunal and receive what is our due for both the good and the evil that we have done in our earthly bodies. There will be no partiality in Christ’s judgment. Christ will look into the inner recesses of our hearts and expose every motive, secret, intention, careless word, and action in accordance with his infinite wisdom. For the evil that we have done, Christ will withhold his commendation. For the good that we have done, Christ will give his commendation (1 Cor. 4:5). For the evil that we have done, we will not receive a reward. For the good that we have done, we will receive rewards.

This is, without a doubt, a major incentive to live a life of holiness for the Lord. Regarding this Phanton says, “No wise disciple can afford to neglect so great a mass of Scripture, or throw away so mighty an incentive to holiness. Our discovery of this truth at the Judgment Seat will be too late.” Phanton is right in his assertion. We, if we want to live lives of holiness for the Lord, will find all the incentive we need in a thorough contemplation of standing before the judgment seat of Christ on that Great Day.

This also must be applied in the ministry context that God has entrusted with us. Right now I do college ministry on college campuses throughout the triangle area. I am able to interact with numerous students throughout the week. Each of them will have to stand before Christ’s tribunal to give an account of their lives. I ought to labor with relentless zeal in order to do everything that I can so that they will stand holy and blameless before the Lord on that Great Day. It should be my aim to prepare them for judgment day. Thus, I should do everything I can to help them pursue personal holiness.

Labor For The Lord

Secondly, a judgment according to works should lead us to increasingly labor for the Lord. When we do something in faith, to the glory of God, and out of love for neighbor, it is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Rather than being in vain, it will lead to commendation and reward from my blessed Savior. This is a major incentive to gospel labor. It most certainly was for Paul, this truth led him to tell Christians in Corinth, “to be abounding in the works of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

And this idea of rewards should not make us feel uneasy. The Scriptures clearly use this truth to compel Christians to labor. Jesus, in Matthew 6, uses both rewards and loss of rewards, to compel his disciples to give to the needy, pray, and fast in a way that is honoring to the Lord (Mt. 6:1-18). He then goes on to tell his disciples to intentionally lay-up treasure in heaven with how they use their money (Mt. 6:19-24). Also, the parable of the talents teaches that those who are faithful in how they steward their God given gifts will receive rewards when Christ Jesus returns (Mt. 24:14-30).

So, the idea of heavenly rewards compelling us to holy zeal and fervor in going about the work of the Lord is seen in the Scripture. This leads Wayne Grudem to say, “It would be morally and spiritually beneficial for us to have a greater consciousness of this clear New Testament teaching on degrees of heavenly reward.” Grudem is right. We would do well to contemplate eternal rewards often. This will lead us to zealously labor for Christ’s sake. We should be willing to spend and be spent for Christ’s kingdom knowing that nothing we do is in vain.

Also, this idea of rewards should impact the ministry we have been given. It should impact me personally as I labor on college campuses. Each of these students that I am shepherding has the opportunity to labor for the Lord, thus, storing up treasures in heaven. I ought to do everything in my power to keep them from wasting their lives by compelling them to lay up treasures in heaven by doing bold acts of service for Christ’s sake. So, I should be helping them and encouraging them to store up heavenly rewards from a most benevolent God who is eager to bestow them.

Increasing Humility

Thirdly, a judgment according to works should also lead us to have ever increasing humility. Often times, we have haughty views of ourselves. We simply seem to regard ourselves, as well as our ministry, with greater significance than we ought to. The reality of judgment day should keep us from this.

I say this because this was Paul’s mentality. Paul knew that he was gifted by God to be a steward of the mysteries of the gospel for the sake of the church. However, when it came to examining his faithfulness as a steward, he was not concerned with the judgment of men. He says, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by any human court” (1 Cor. 4:3). Paul then goes even further saying that he does not even trust his own judgment of his ministry, even though, as far as he could tell, he had not been unfaithful (1 Cor. 4:3-4).

The reason for this is because he knew judgment day was coming. Therefore, rather than leaning on his own judgment or the judgment of men, he says, “Therefore, I do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5).

Thus, judgment day led Paul to refrain from judging his own faithfulness. Rather, he humbly labored for the Lord waiting for judgment day to shed light on his ministry. The same truth mentioned above also led George Whitefield, after laboring for the Lord in an incomprehensibly glorious way, to leave his tomb stone with the words, “Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover.” So, the understanding of judgment day should keep us personally humble in our gospel labor as we patiently wait for that great day to reveal the genuineness of our work.

No Sinful Judging

Fourthly, a judgment according to works should keep us from sinfully casting judgment on weaker Christians. It should also keep us from causing a weaker brother in Christ to sin in how we use our Christian freedom (Rom. 14:5-23). Each Christian is going to have to give an account of their lives to Christ. Therefore, the last thing we should want is to have to give an account to Christ for how we caused a weaker Christian, for whom He died, to sin against him by how we used our Christian freedom (Rom. 14:15).

This Should Permeate Our Teachings

Lastly, a judgment according to work should be within our teachings, our discipleship relationships, and in how we raise our kids. We should not just teach justification, and we should not just teach a judgment according to works. Rather, they should both be taught. Justification by faith alone in Christ alone and a judgment according to works are both clearly in the Bible. Therefore, both of them ought to be taught. To emphasize justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the detriment of judgment according to works produces lawlessness. People will simply live however they want to live all the while claiming Christ as Savior. We see this all throughout the Bible Belt! Also, to emphasize judgment according to works to the detriment of justification by faith alone in Christ alone produces legalism. This also is seen all throughout the Bible Belt! So, we must emphasize both. To emphasize both will produce an affectionate reverence to Christ whereby we yield ourselves in obedience to the will of God. Therefore, this teaching ought to permeate our thoughts, teachings, sermons, discipleship relationships, child rearing, etc.

 

Don’t Neglect the Church as the Spring Semester Gets Hectic!

I have not been in college ministry a very long time (almost 3 years), but I have been in it long enough to know that church attendance begins to dissipate as students begin to inch closer and closer towards the end of the spring semester. (Just as a side note….I do not think this is a problem just for college students. We, by nature, start strong and finish poorly).

My desire in this blog post is to convince you of five reasons why you should maintain faithfully attending church as you see summer on the horizon.

To Behold the Glory of Christ

Christ says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14). Now, it is apparent that Christ is speaking about his crucifixion within this verse. However, what is important to understand is that he is not merely talking about the actual event of his crucifixion. Not many people were looking at Christ’s actual crucifixion and receiving eternal life. Thus, Christ’s statement must go beyond that! It must go beyond the event of his actual crucifixion to something that is happening even today, for today, people are still looking to Christ crucified and receiving eternal life.  

And I would argue that Christ is speaking about the ministry of the word of God. It is the preaching and teaching ministry of the word that is revealing Christ crucified. Paul tells the Galatians, who did not see the actual crucifixion of Christ, “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? It was before your very eyes that Jesus was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1). Also, he tells Titus that the eternal life that is in Christ Jesus was manifested through the preaching of the word (Titus 1:2-3).

There is a revealing of Christ crucified through the faithful teaching and preaching of the word. This is one reason why faithfully and consistently sitting under the word of God is so important. Week in and week out, you are beholding Christ. This serves to strengthen your faith. And, if you want to prove this through a litmus test, simply go ask somebody that has neglected attending church for a while how their faith is holding up. And if they say it is good, then stay around them long enough to see the falsity of their statement be manifested.

To Hear the Word of the Lord

Preaching, if it is done faithfully and in accordance with the biblical text, carries great authority. As the preacher draws out the meaning of the text, he is drawing out the very word of God (1 Thess. 2:13). Thus, to sit under faithful preaching is to sit under the word of the Lord. This is something that every Christian needs to consistently hear. This is the Christian’s food and drink. This is what is going to nourish and strengthen them in their walk with Christ. So, to consistently attend church presents you with the opportunity to consistently hear what the God of heaven and earth has said and is saying through His written Word. However, to neglect church is to willingly separate yourself from hearing the word of the Lord. 

To Bear Other’s Burdens

Much of the Christian life is lived out glorifying God by sacrificially bearing the burdens of others. We do this out of love for God and love for neighbor. This is how we actually fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). We are to be a people that see other brothers and sisters in Christ bearing burdens that are so heavy that they cannot bear themselves-such as financial burdens, health burdens, burdens brought about by other’s sins, burdens brought about by our own sin-and then gladly die to ourselves, and place some of their burdens upon our own shoulders for the glory of God and the sake of Christ. This type of burden bearing is nearly impossible when you forsake the local church.

Satan’s Assault is Continuous

Satan is a thief that comes to steal, kill, deceive, accuse, and destroy. He is relentless in his opposition to both God and man. As soon as Adam and Eve were in the garden, Satan is on the scene with his wicked weapons in hand. As soon as Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain, he rears his ugly head. As soon as Israel began to multiply in Egypt, he was present in the wicked Pharaoh. As soon as Christ Jesus was born of a virgin, he was there as a dragon ready to devour Him! He is driven by pride, greed, envy, jealousy, selfish ambition, and hatred. His desire is to utterly destroy you. He wants your physical life and your spiritual life, and he will not rest until he has them!

Church is like an embassy in a foreign land for a citizen of the kingdom of God. When we are faithfully engaging in the life of the church, we are safe from the ancient enemy of our souls! To put it in a little perspective, when Paul tells the Corinthians to exercise church discipline on a brother who has lapsed into heinous sin, he tells them to expel the brother from the church, and to hand him over to Satan! So, to be separated from the local church is to be handed over to Satan. Thus, when you willfully neglect church, you are, in a since, allowing yourself to roam in Satan’s evil lair. Why in the world would anybody want to do that?

You Reap What You Sow

The Bible consistently teaches that you will reap what you sow. So, in an agricultural since, if you sow wheat then you will reap wheat. But the Scripture takes this beyond the simple agricultural meaning to a spiritual meaning. Paul says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8). Proverbs says, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity” (Proverbs 22:8). This is a general principle that rears its head constantly throughout the Bible and we can be certain that it rears its head today as well. 

To sow to the Spirit will lead to eternal life, but to sow to the flesh will lead to eternal death. To sow to the Spirit will lead to a harvest of righteousness, but to sow to the flesh will lead to a harvest of unrighteousness. When you willfully forsake assembling with other Christians due to idleness, sluggishness, laziness, unrepentant sin, etc., then you are sowing to the flesh. And before long, if the general principle proves true, you will reap unrighteousness and ungodliness. 

To Conclude

So those are five brief reasons why you should persevere in attending church as your spring semester begins to get hectic, you see summer on the horizon, and you are absolutely worn out. With that said, persevere!