Well everyone, another week and another blog are upon us and what better way to start off the month of October than with something special? You're going to get a break from my rambling on and on about deep, spiritual heart issues and mind-boggling, detailed information. Instead, you're going to get to sit back and enjoy the testimony of one of CoMission's alumni members. In fact, this special individual was one of the very first people I met when I transferred to USFSP as a junior five years ago.
Jennifer Nesslar (now Jennifer Bauer) had just graduated from USFSP earlier that year (2015) and she and our director, Ryan Carver just happened to be in the right place at the right time on move-in day that fall when I was just starting a new adventure in my life. Needless to say, the Lord threw open a door that would lead me to where I am today. But this blog is not about my story. Maybe for a later time. Right now, I hope you find encouragement in Jennifer's story about how CoMission impacted her life.
When I arrived at USF St. Petersburg in 2012, I felt like I’d landed on another planet -- even though I was only 30 minutes away from my hometown.
As a freshman, I was devoted to my faith in Jesus. I had a whole community of Christians cheering me on back home. Yet I felt unable to make sense of the school I’d chosen for my college education.
I had expected to find a number of people on campus who shared my faith, but in my first semester I struggled to make friends at all, let alone friends with similar beliefs. Most of my professors were kind and caring, but I had a few uncomfortable experiences in my classes. I began to wonder “what if people are against me and my faith?” I worried that there wasn’t a place for me as a Christian at USFSP.
As I prepared for my final exams that semester, I began to research what it would look like for me to transfer away. But one day, one of my classmates approached me. “Hey, I know you’re a Christian,” she said. “Have you ever heard of CoMission?”
I’d seen signs for CoMission around campus, but I never realized what it was. At my new friend’s invitation, I soon found out. It was an on-campus gathering of people who were coming together to consider the claims of Jesus.
The thought of transferring to a new school was still on the forefront of my mind, but I immediately felt welcomed and loved by the people I encountered in CoMission. As I spent time with them, I began to look at my professors and peers more graciously.
CoMission challenged me to consider what I believed and learn how to explain it to others. I didn’t need to see my professors and classmates as combatants, but rather as people who could come alongside of me in conversation as we considered who Jesus was and if he was really worth following.
I realized that most everyone I encountered had heard the term “Christian,” but that didn’t mean they knew what I believed.
So what did I believe?
What I Believed (And Still Believe Today!)
Following Christ revolves around one central message -- and it’s extremely good news.
I find it’s most helpful to sum it up in four points.
Creation (Genesis 1-2) - God created the world, and He made it so good. Everything was perfect. There was no sickness or suffering. That also meant that everyone’s relationship with God was perfect.
Fall (Genesis 3) - The people God created lived in perfect harmony with God, but they began believing that if they went their own way, life would be better. They rebelled, or sinned, against God. Their perfect relationship with God was broken. They got what they wanted -- life their own way. But it wasn’t anything like they had hoped. Pain, suffering, sadness, death -- all the things we now hate -- entered the world. This sin has plagued the world, and our own hearts, ever since.
Redemption (Romans 5:6-8) - God wasn’t standing by helplessly. He had a perfect plan to bring His people back into relationship with Him. He sent His son, Jesus, to earth. He lived a perfect life, but many people hated Him. They crucified him on a cross. Although this seemed terrible, this was in fact all part of God’s plan to redeem the world. When He died, He took on the punishment we deserved for our rebellion against God. But then He rose from the dead! He defeated our sin. Here’s the good news - anyone who trusts in Jesus’s sacrifice has a restored relationship with God.
Restoration (Romans 5:9-11) - People who follow Jesus no longer have to fear death or punishment from God, because in life and after death they will be with God forever. But following Jesus is so much more than what happens after we die! From the moment we follow Him, God begins to restore our hearts. Seeing Him as in control of our lives, rather than our own desires, changes everything about us. And even as God as molding our own hearts, He is making all things new in our world. And we get to join him in His mission to restore the world, until He returns and makes everything right again. We get to share this message with others!
What I Learned
When I was on campus at USFSP, it became my joy to help others understand what I meant when I said the word “Christian.” I certainly didn’t do it perfectly, and I still struggled at times. But when I graduated, I was glad that my diploma came from USFSP.
I also graduated with so many wonderful friends cheering me on.
I had a better understanding of what the good news of Jesus meant for my own life. It wasn’t something that was only relevant to me when I chose to follow Christ. It’s something I still need to be reminded of everyday. Sometimes I feel like I need to earn God’s favor all over again, and I remind myself that Jesus already won that for me.