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FOR THIS WE STAND: (part 1)

Values Underlying 
Church of the Nazarene
College, University and Seminary
Faith Communities
 

Throughout the past few years I have been asking myself some fundamental questions about our Nazarene colleges, universities and seminaries globally: (1) What drives or motivates our schools as Christian institutions of higher education? (2) What characterizes us at our best and convicts us at our worst? (3) What shapes the lifestyle – the words, action, and behavior – of our campuses as faith communities?  (4) What is foundational to our conviction that God calls all believers to a life of holiness? (5) What are the values for which we stand?

The biblical mandate for the holy life, I affirmed, is summed up in the scriptural commands to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength, and thy neighbor as thyself” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31).
 
The one thing Spirit-filled Christians “will” to do is summarized in the holistic command and commitment to love God, respect others, and take responsibility for self with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
 
Do we always live by the values we affirm? Unfortunately, not always. But for the Spirit-filled Christian, increasingly these values, flowing from the foundational principles of the biblical mandate to live a holy life, will “mark” or characterize and challenge us.

I concluded, after much prayer and reflection, that the values affirmed and foundational to our Nazarene colleges, universities and seminaries (faculty, staff, and students) are grounded in the biblical mandate for believers to live the holy life, an imperative rooted in the rich Judeo-Christian tradition. Holiness is a way of life – a lifestyle. In reality, this means that as we mature in our relationship with Christ, we continue to grow in out understanding of the Christian faith, and increasingly reflect the mind of Christ in our walk with the Lord.

I will share my response to these questions in three separate blog posts over the coming weeks. Affirmations #1 is below. May the experiences of students at Church of the Nazarene colleges, universities and seminaries globally strengthen the Christian values they have begun to affirm. The greatest compliment a Nazarene institution can receive from a graduate of the school is that he or she is much stronger and more developed in mind, body, and spirit than when he or she enrolled at the school.

Affirmation #1, WE LOVE GOD. Therefore, we value and stand for…

1. A Worshiping Community
A Christian community is first and foremost a worshiping community of believers. Nothing more important ever happens on earth than the worship of God. Worship characterizes and identifies a faith community. It is the Christian’s primary privilege and duty. Praise to the Lord is expressed when the community gathers for chapel services, in private devotional moments in dormitory or apartment rooms, or in small group settings. Read Psalm 95:6-9. We believe that both private and corporate worship are utterly necessary.

In one sense, worship is the only task of the Christian. That is to say, everything the believer does is an expression of worship. The sacraments are essential. Community prayer is vital. Singing expresses our faith and devotion to God. Sermons are relevant, biblical, inspirational and instructive.
 
Nazarene colleges, universities and seminaries are first of all “called out communities of faith.” Regardless of the form, manner, setting, or time, worship for the followers of Jesus, is both first priority and magnificent obsession for our schools.

2. A Biblical Faith
Our faith is grounded in the Christ of scripture. Therefore, we take seriously the entire Bible, believing it to be the Word of God, the written revelation of our Heavenly Father. Nazarene institutions neither hesitate to affirm nor apologize for the emphasis on the scriptures or the requirement that students take courses to better understand God’s written revelation to His people.

The scriptures reveal to us the Living Word – Jesus Christ: His life, death, and resurrection; His relationship to the Father; and His relationship to us before our creation. They teach us to walk with Him daily and to anticipate life with Him eternally.
Our faith will not be shaped by embracing “false gods” or “world religions”; rather, we affirm with the scriptures that “there is only one God, and one mediator between God and man, the person, Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2:5).

3. A Christlike Lifestyle
A biblical faith will result in Christian action. “They will know that we are Christians by our love” echoes the old chorus. Followers of Jesus increasingly seek to live like Jesus. Christlikeness should increasingly characterize the lives of those who profess faith in Him.

Jesus is remembered as one whose primary orientation was toward giving, not getting. In this He is our prototype. Read again the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 to catch a glimpse of the way Jesus intends for us to live. Jesus concludes, “But seek first his (God’s) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Our attitudes regarding the sacredness of life (even of the unborn), the stewardship of our possessions, the perils of homosexuality, and the beauty of sex within the marriage bond are shaped by the teaching of Jesus.

His attitudes must increasingly become our attitudes – He loved, served, taught, confronted, and forgave. His actions must increasingly become our actions – He “came to do the will of His Heavenly Father.” And Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

4. A Holiness Ethic
A Christian “wholly” committed to loving God will follow a trail not traveled by non-Christians. Decisions will be made that flow from biblical convictions. The integration of faith and life becomes increasingly important to the maturing Christian.

Some things are done, others are not done; some words are spoken, others are not spoken; some actions are taken, others not, because of who we are as devoted followers of Jesus, because of what we stand for, because of scriptural commands we affirm, and because of prohibitions in scripture we avoid. The holiness ethic is both individual and social.

We oppose child abuse and molestation, alcohol, the use of tobacco, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs, pornography, and the low level of moral values exalted by television and the movie industry. We embrace the Lord’s requirement in Micah 6:8 to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” This ethic springs from a pure heart of love for God, and our neighbors, compelling us to go and make disciples of others who will do the same.
 
The basis for decision-making for the believer wholly committed to following Jesus will be radically different from the one whose faith is culturally or parentally passed on.

5. A Global Mission
“Brown, red, yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight” goes the chorus we often sing as children. And it is true. The world – the whole world – is the arena of God’s love and concern.

To experience people of other cultures, individuals who differ from us in color, race, culture, and language, confronts us with the narrowness of our own cultural blinders. To affirm that God loves “them” as He does us is to broaden our vision of God’s love and concern beyond “our” city, state, region, or country.

Individuals in the poorest of countries and farthest from us geographically are loved by God and in need of the gospel of forgiveness and grace.  A “global mission” passion reflects itself in the driving forces of reconciliation and social justice. It compels us to communicate to the lost, broken and suffering people, where ever they are found, of the loving, reconciling, healing, sustaining and redemptive love of God in Christ. This transforming mission of Christlike disciples gives intense focus to our activities, behavior, thoughts, and action.

Christian musician Steven Green reminds us in song that
“To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission,
The spring from which our service overflows,
Across the street and around the land, the mission’s still the same,
Proclaim and live the truth in Jesus’ name.”

6. A Creation Vision
The scriptures affirm that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (Psalms 24:1). We are challenged and commanded in scripture to take care of God’s creation.

In the past few years enormous changes have taken place in our thinking about environmental issues. We are increasingly aware of and concerned about conservation and protection. The Christian stewardship of creation begins with the affirmation that God has “loaned” the earth to us, and it is our responsibility to protect it for ourselves as well as for future generations.

Environmental protection may sound like a bureaucratic agency, but for the Christian it should be very personal. Projects and programs that assist us in becoming better stewards of our earth’s resources are being developed and carried out at many of our Nazarene colleges, universities and seminaries.
 
Recycling, waste management, energy conservation, and the protection of our natural resources may enable you to operate your home or business more effectively, but they are also efforts of the Christian to increasingly become better stewards of God’s creation.

7. A Spirit-Empowered Devotion
To live with a focused mission demands that we set aside quality time each day to spend alone with God. The devotional life must be nurtured each day through prayer, scripture, words of Christian hymns, silence, and solitude.
 
Most of us need another individual to whom we can be accountable to insure that these sacred moments are not squeezed out by other “good” things. Nazarene students use the hymnal, the written prayers of others, the Bible, or a spiritual journal to focus attention daily on the “God who was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” Talk to God as you talk to your closest friend.

His very Spirit within us prompts and enables our Nazarene campus communities to quiet our hearts before God each day – in dorm rooms, in chapel, in some corner, perhaps with others, or alone with God. Students are challenged to make time to nurture daily your growing relationship with God.

To be continued

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