Top 10 Things Students Should Be Certain Of
When I was in high school, I walked away from the church. I walked away from Jesus, and I ignored all the biblical wisdom my parents and grandparents passed down to me. Just as I was walking away, I was walking into college. I was free from the restraints of my parent’s home and rules and free to explore life on my terms.
It almost destroyed me.
I had no doubt what my parents and grandparents believed about Jesus, but I had no idea where I stood on any of those beliefs. My uncertainty led to a dangerous curiosity. The compass I had to guide me was fixated squarely on myself. So I wandered in circles.
My motivation in entering youth ministry was to make sure that students were prepared to graduate, to face college, to know what the believed and why and to own those beliefs apart from parents or grandparents. So here is my list that I have compiled over the years—in no particular order—of what students ought to be certain of before we send them off to college.
This is a foundational topic. Students are inundated with postmodern ideology and relativism. Students should be able to articulate and identify the difference between objective and subjective truth, understand that truth is knowable, and that ideas like relativism are self-defeating arguments.
Origin for morality
Imagine I gave you an assignment to determine how tall you are using only your height to do so. Is that assignment even possible? And if so, would you be able to tell me with any degree of accuracy how tall you are? The easy answer is no. To measure something, you need a tool of measurement separate from the thing you are measuring. Otherwise, you have nothing to measure. The same holds true for morality. The origin of morality is the standard or tool of measurement that determines what is immoral and moral. If we were to use ourselves—or even humanity—then we have no morality.
The New Testament is just as, if not more, reliable than any other ancient document
When you were in high school, you probably learned about people like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Attila the Hun. And what you learned about these great historical figures you assumed was historical fact. After all, your history books ought to be correct. What most people don’t realize is that we have more information and historical reliability about the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus than any other recorded person or event in ancient history.
The best explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus resurrected
Let’s be honest. The idea of one person in history dying a horrible death, being buried, and then resurrecting three days later does seem a little far-fetched. But when we consider that the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, his burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and that three days later it was empty is regarded as historical fact among most scholars; it makes the hypothesis of resurrection so much more interesting. There are plenty of other explanations for the empty tomb, but once all the evidence is considered, the resurrection of Jesus still stands as the most plausible explanation.
Evil and suffering in the world are real, but help explain God's existence
We never want to discount or marginalize the evil and suffering some people may experience in this world. Which often makes it easy to blame God or remove him from the picture altogether. However, it is important to consider that evil points us to God. Think of this way: without God as the source or standard of what is good, then how to I know what evil is? The very fact that I think something is evil suggests that I understand that there is something good. Additionally, imagine the world full of evil and no God to serve as judge over that evil. Where is the justice?
Jesus is God
I can't even begin to tell you how many conversations I have had with people who believe that Jesus was a great moral teacher, a man closely connected to God, but not God. But when we take a quick look at Scripture we see that Jesus forgave sins, he accepted worship, and in John's gospel flat out claimed to be God. In fact, one of the reasons the Pharisees wanted him dead was because of such claims.
Science helps explain God’s existence and the world He created
Over the last fifty years or so, science has been deemed the archenemy of faith. Atheists claim that with enough scientific discoveries we could systematically eliminate the need for the divine. As a result, Christians have retreated into our corners, tails between our legs, reaffirming faith as the superior position. But this mentality simply cannot work. When you take a deeper look at scientific discovery, the rise of disciplines like microbiology and biochemistry, we see incredible design and intentionality in the world like never before—all the more giving evidence for God. The deeper the rabbit hole goes, the closer we get to God.
All people are created in the image of God and are loved unconditionally
Students are faced with so many more challenges than any of us old people. On a regular basis, students are wrestling with how to love their friends who engage in lifestyles that contradict biblical values and teaching. They are caught between two worlds with the church often getting left behind. Students need to be able to see others as Jesus does without ignoring sinful behavior and the church needs to serve as the model for how to love others unconditionally thereby building a bridge people to Christ, rather than driving a wedge between.
What faith is and what faith is not
Faith is being sure of what we hope and certain of what we do not see. This kind of certainty requires a degree of evidence. God does not expect us to walk through this life blind, simply hoping that at the end, heaven will be waiting. Faith is knowing and trusting that God will make good on his promise to make heaven and earth one, that Jesus will come back and set this world straight, all because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is the promise that physical death is not the end. Faith is knowing that because of what has happened in the past, God continues to be active in the present and future. We may not see it, but He has given us every reason to depend on it. This is our hope. This is faith.
Their doubts can serve as a driver to deeper faith
You may not realize it, but there are far too many students who are afraid to raise the big question, to express doubt or have temporary moments of weakness. They need to know that we all have our doubts and we all have questions. Some of them get answered, some don't. Some are easy, and some are incredibly difficult. Whatever the scenario, students need to have a space where they feel free to raise questions and doubt. They need to be able to discuss freely without fear.
What if you were going to build a house, but your builder showed up with only a hammer and a few nails? No materials, no plans, no foundation, nothing. It wouldn’t take you long to fire them and find someone much more qualified and prepared. So why are we sending students into the world unprepared? By addressing even just some of these issues, we are providing students to with the tools, the plans, and the materials necessary to be successful in the life God has called them do.
This list is only a start. What else would you add?
Executive Director of AwanaYMSteve currently serves as the Executive Director of AwanaYM. Previously, Steve spent over a decade teaching high school theology from Detroit to LA. Steve holds a Masters in Theology from Moody Theological Seminary and a Masters in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Steve speaks and writes on youth culture and apologetics. He resides in Chicago, IL with his wife and four children.
Follow Steve Kozak on Twitter: stevenmkozak
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