May 29, 1991
Summer school at Bible College means cramming one full 3-credit semester into two weeks. Classes are four hours a day with mid-term and final exam on the two Fridays. How long students retain the information is debatable but it is nice to concentrate on one subject at a time and have all afternoon to think about what was taught in the morning.
Sandra took one of the same courses I did. She sat in on all the instructional sessions, learned the same information and took part in every class discussion. However, Sandra didn’t plan to bother with the assignments and was unconcerned about the exams. She was auditing the course rather than taking it for credit.
There are some similarities in taking courses at college and living the Christian life. For example, the Bible tells us to be instructed concerning what we are to believe and know how we should put it into practice. It says: “Love your neighbor as yourself” and also: “Let us not love with words, or tongue; but in actions and in truth.”
In other words, love others: don’t just sit around and talk about loving or restrict love to a feeling but do things that show others they are loved. James 2:15-17 is more explicit: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Jesus was just as stern as James. He said, “Not every one that calls me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Jesus, like James, was not saying our good deeds earn a place in heaven but that genuine, living faith will be accompanied by action. Real believers put their money where their mouth is, that is, they KNOW what they believe and DO the assignments.
Another way Christian living is like taking a college course is that we need to be prepared for examinations. Some of these tests come up without warning in the form of trials, something like a “spot quiz” some teachers like to use. I Peter 1:7 says these trials come so our faith may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed; they are “faith exams” and we pass them by continuing to trust God in the trial.
God also uses exams to see if we will obey Him. Deuteronomy 8 tells how He led the Israelites forty years in the wilderness, to humble them and to test them, to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep His commandments, or not. Trust can be passive reliance but more often it is expressed in active obedience.
Of course there are final exams. Christian or not, God will examine every life to see if there has been any deeds resulting from faith in Christ. Those who don’t pass this test must face His wrath. Those who do pass it have already been granted eternal life.
Christians have one more exam. It concerns the sorting out of all they have done in their life. Actions of eternal value are rewarded and those with no eternal value are burned. That prospect of that exam clearly shows that believers cannot audit the Christian life!
Sandra wasn’t too far into the class when she decided to hand in assignments. She didn’t write the exams but expressed how sorry she was to have made that decision. She found herself wishing she had taken the course for credit so she could prove she really knew the material she had been taught. May all of us who sit under the teaching of Jesus Christ have the same desire!