You're heading out to college. Got your laptop? Check. Dorm room assignment? Check. Calculator? Check. Faith? Uhh… Maybe you're not so ready.

Your faith will be tested at college—whether faced with a professor's evolutionary agenda, a compromised Christian college's assault on God's Word, or the inevitable influence of rebellious or hypocritical students, let alone your own sinful flesh. Prepare yourself now by grounding yourself on the right authority, allegiance, and Ally, or else by semester's end you may be already gone.

Authority: Do I believe man's word or God's Word?

You may have grown up going to church, but that doesn't guarantee you will continue. As many polls and surveys have demonstrated, roughly two-thirds of young people who attend church eventually jump ship. As children, they grew up hearing Bible stories in Sunday school. Since they never learned to defend these "stories" as real accounts, many succumb to the first professor who scoffs at the "fairy tales" of the Garden of Eden and Noah's Ark. When faced with so much supposed evidence of billions of years and common ape-like ancestry, many students desert the faith they once claimed.

So how can you guard yourself from joining the majority who are already gone? A major issue is what authority you look to. You will either believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God to follow, or you will fall to the various, changing, fallible opinions of man.

You will likely hear many different opinions from people at college. Some may attempt to outright deny the Bible's account of creation by teaching that the universe sprang into existence by chance and that natural selection and mutations are the driving mechanisms of the supposed evolution of life. Others may seek to compromise with this worldly, anti-God idea by imposing uniformitarian ideas on Genesis, such as the day-age view, gap theory, progressive creation, theistic evolution, or the framework hypothesis.

Prepare yourself to reject these assaults on the authority of the Bible. Spend time studying the trustworthiness of the Bible as well as the biblical creationist position. Then, practice apologetics to give fool-proof answers.

You will be questioned. How will you respond when someone accuses you of being intolerant? How will you respond to pluralism when a student claims truth is relative and that all beliefs—such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, atheism, and new age spiritualism—are equal in value? How will you respond to the "facts" of evolution? You must know your authority (God's Word) and know it well.

Allegiance: Do I love the world or love the Lord?

Demas appeared to be a dedicated follower of Christ and a faithful companion of Paul. But the "epilogue" on his life seems to show his true allegiance. "Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me" (2 Timothy 4:10, ESV). If you desert the Lord because you love the world, you may never have had genuine faith in the first place (1 John 2:15–19).

Examine the evidence in your life of genuine faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

  • Is your life characterized by love and obedience (1 John 2:3–6, 9)?
  • If you disobey, does the Father discipline you as His child, and do you turn in repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 12:5–8)?
  • Do you have a desire for God's Word, not just hearing but doing what it says (1 Peter 2:1–3; James 1:22)?
  • Are you abiding in Jesus, bearing good fruit (John 15:1–10; Galatians 5:19–24; James 2:14–26)?

You may look like a Christian outwardly. Perhaps you wear a cross necklace or "Jesus Freak" T-shirt. You may be able to pull out your certificate of baptism or confirmation. You may have said the sinner's prayer. You may be involved in a Christian campus group, go on summer missions trips, and counter evolutionism in your science classes.

But do you pursue good grades, popularity, sports, money, gadgets, or movies more than God? Do you gossip or disobey your parents? Are you proud or ungrateful (2 Timothy 3:2–5)? Do you practice immorality, drunkenness, and “outbursts of wrath” (Galatians 5:19–21; Romans 1:18–2:6)?

If your life is characterized by an unrepentant practice of sins such as these, then you practice lawlessness (1 John 3:4–10; cf. Matthew 7:21–23). Although you may have the appearance of godliness, you deny the power God gives the true Christian to live a godly life (2 Timothy 3:5). Your works are evidence of whether you have saving faith. "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him" (Titus 1:16; see also James 2:17).

If you realize your faith is fake, repent of sin and turn in true faith to Jesus! You cannot save yourself—not by joining a Christian campus group, attending church, praying a prayer, being moral, doing good, or through any other means. Through faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, repentant sinners are saved from the penalty and power of sin. On the Cross, Jesus paid the sin debt in the believer's place. We know God accepted Christ's payment since He raised Jesus from the dead!

Only by faith in the perfect Lord Jesus, not good works, may you die to sin and then live unto good works. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8–10; see also 1 Peter 2:24).

Jesus clearly warned that those who follow Him must love Him so devotedly that all other loves—possessions, family, and life itself—will seem like hatred in comparison (Luke 14:25–33). Are you pursuing Christ?

Ally: Am I relying on the flesh or the Spirit?

Perhaps the authority and allegiance issues are settled for you. You trust God's Word and can effectively wield it in toppling falsehood. You love and desire to follow your Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. However, if you rely on your own abilities in facing college challenges, you will fall (Proverbs 16:18). You must rely on your all-powerful Ally—the Holy Spirit, who indwells the believer at salvation (Romans 8:1–17).

The Apostle Paul rebuked the Galatians for deserting God and falling to false doctrine that elevated the flesh. "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6–7, ESV).

Paul explained how to overcome the flesh. "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). Walking by the Spirit is submitting to His control and relying on His power as you obey God's Word.

So what does it look like to walk in the Spirit?

  • It looks like setting aside time in your busy college life to read your Bible and then letting it permeate your life as you trust and obey (John 16:13–14; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20; Colossians 3:16).
  • It looks like praying, whether during your devotion time, while walking to classes, before a big test, or with a fellow student (Ephesians 6:18).
  • It looks like battling the flesh (Romans 6; Colossians 3:5–9).
  • It looks like bearing the fruit of the Spirit instead of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–25).
  • It looks like faithfully attending and being involved at church, using your spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; Ephesians 2:22; Hebrews 10:25).
  • It looks like doing good works and witnessing (Acts 1:8; Galatians 6:9–10).
  • It looks, in short, like patterning your life after Jesus Christ (Romans 13:13–14; Colossians 2:6–7, 3:10; 1 John 2:6).

Of course, you can do these things with fleshly self-effort—just for show or a legalistic checklist. Rather, these things should flow from your life as you yield to and depend on your Ally.

So with your trust in the authority of the Bible, your allegiance to Christ, and your Ally of the Holy Spirit, you will avoid compromise and be ready to meet college challenges for the glory of God. "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

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