February 16, 2015:
Reflections from February’s Large Group
Monday night was an encouraging night based on humility and purpose. Perry, this month’s student presenter, challenged us to be humble in our pursuits and to pursue the truth of our faith. Our guest professor, JHU’s own water expert Dr. Bouwer, shared with us about purpose citing Pastor Rick Warren’s best seller, The Purpose Driven Life.
Perry began his portion by reminding us all of the difficulty of being humble in academia. Pride is all around whether it comes from the hard work one puts into his or her studies and research, the competitiveness of our programs, or the acknowledgement of our own intelligence. Humility is often sacrificed in academia, which is why Perry reminded us that this is an opportunity where the church can teach the academy.
One way that Perry mentioned academics can stay humble is by admiring the amount of knowledge there is to be known. As I summarized it, it seems like the more we know the more we know we don’t know. After all, jokingly, students must be the most ignorant ones because they are still in school. Had they already known everything, they wouldn’t need more education.
I’ve examined this in my own spiritual life. Although I grew up going to church I wasn’t saved by the grace of God until I was a teenager. Since then I was always in search of knowing this God who saved me. I studied my Bible in High School, went to a Christian college, and continued to learn more about Jesus in seminary. The more I learned about God the more I was humbled by what I had still yet to learn about Him. And the learning never ceased in an academic setting, but always and still is playing out in the application of this knowledge of who He is and who He wants me to become.
Then Perry reminded us of how we as Christians must be truth seekers, a Christian virtue according to J. P. Moreland. The church is often criticized for believing and not thinking. I am so glad to be spending time with Christian students at Hopkins because you all prove this criticism to be false. I find irony in that such a prestigious university as Hopkins gets its motto (Veritas vos liberabit) straight from the words of Jesus in John 8:32 “the truth will set you free.”
The mature believer understands that faith does not arise in a vacuum. For me, had I never learned of Jesus and the gospel I would have never placed my faith in the good news of Christ Jesus (Romans 10:17). In a discussion about Martin Luther King Jr. with one of my pastors last Sunday, he taught me how one of King’s biggest battles was ignorance in the church. This led to my pastor and me expressing our own frustrations with those who profess that all they need is faith and can leave all of the academic and theological stuff. Faith and reason are not exclusive and when it comes to Christianity the reality is that neither can operate without the other. This is why one of my favorite ministries is Ravi Zacharias International Ministries whose tagline is: “Helping the thinker believe. Helping the believer think.”
Dr. Bouwer’s presentation did not deviate from Perry’s shared thoughts. If we believe in God’s Word and learn from it, then we can conclude that we were created for purpose. Dr. Bouwer shared a small portion of his testimony by revealing that he was obedient to his father when told to pursue education. But for anyone, what we do does not always fulfill our purpose.
Dr. Bouwer also reminded us that what we get does not fulfill our purpose either. We live in a world of consumerism where we are often told and sometimes believe that life is all about me and what I can get. However, as Dr. Bouwer said, all of this ‘stuff’ including more technology over the years, while it has made us more comfortable, has never given us purpose.
The conclusion of Dr. Bouwer’s portion was revealing key components of purpose via Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Three of these purposes are 1) to worship God, 2) have relationships, and 3) to serve. Dr. Bouwer then told us that knowing our true purpose helps to alleviate stress, motivate us, and prepares us for eternity.
How true is that for you? Have you truly discovered your purpose to worship, fellowship, and serve? If you have, how does living this way compare to living previously?
I am glad that we can walk away from Monday’s discussion with some challenges. Challenges to think, believe, and live purposefully.
Adam Long is a candidate for InterVarsity staff and has been a part of JHU GCF since January 2014.