Just a few weeks ago our region hosted a retreat for our student leaders that centered around the title above. Every January we try to engender vision and ownership within our student leaders to help mobilize and equip them to share the gospel heading into the Spring Semester. We enjoyed hearing from a guest speaker on Friday night, Stephen Lutz, who has authored a couple of different books on reaching college students. Then, Saturday I had the privilege of sharing for two sessions. Let me try to briefly summarize how we motivated our students.
Many of us, when sharing our testimony, speak about a moment that occurred when we first believed in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. We'll often refer to that moment as the time in which we "were saved." The interesting thing about salvation, however, is that it is not merely a one time event but also an ongoing process. There are many passages that explain this (i.e. 1 Cor 1:18; 1 Cor 15:2; 2 Cor 2:15).
Read Paul's words in an often quoted passage from 1 Timothy 1:16-17,
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Paul, after 20+ years of ministry, tells Timothy that he understands himself to be a sinner. He doesn't say that hewas, but that "I am the foremost of sinners." What does this understanding create within Paul? He understands that the mercy that has been extended to him serves as a billboard ("an example") for all those around him. Jesus is displaying his patience toward Paul so that others might come to faith in him.
I think that when we are aware of the present-day patience God is displaying toward us we become incredible conduits of grace toward others. Was Paul more Christ-like after 20+ years of walking with the Lord? Most certainly. However, he still was keenly aware of his sinfulness. This awareness created humility in Paul as well as a palpable encounter with God's grace and patience that he was willing to share at any given moment with those who weren't trusting in Christ.
I think that the most profound testimonies are those that explain how God is currently saving you. I'm not sure about you, but it doesn't take but an hour to pass after I've woken up for the day and I have a number of sins I am able to confess. When I am aware of this and able to communicate it to those who aren't trusting in Christ I think it makes Jesus that much more real to them. My life, this side of heaven, is not as clean and tidy as I'd like it to be.
I need Jesus and his grace today; at this very moment. It may be that confession that softens someone else's heart toward the gospel, and that softening may just be how they are saved.
Campus Outreach Minneapolis
St. Cloud Area Director