Identity: Who We Are As Believers
The heart of the New Testament’s teaching about the Christian life could be summarized, “Live out who you are in Christ.” Paul writes, “Walk worthy” of your calling (Eph. 4:1). Several scriptural themes identify who we are in Christ.
When God created Adam and Eve, He emphasized what distinguished them from the rest of creation: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Scripture explains much about what it means to be made in God’s image and what God expects of His image-bearers. It encompasses every way in which people reflect the attributes of God and thus bring Him glory.
However, something has gone terribly wrong. Far from reflecting God’s image, fallen people live in rebellion against their Creator. They exalt their own wills and do the will of God’s archenemy, Satan (Eph. 2:1–2).
Redeemed Sinners in Christ
Genesis 3 tells of man’s fall and its devastating consequences. But in verse 15 God graciously promises a reversal. Through the “seed of the woman” He will defeat Satan and restore man to his original glory (Ps. 8:5).
The rest of the Bible unfolds this Gospel or “good news.” Jesus Christ is the ultimate Seed through whom God accomplishes His redemptive work. By repentant faith in Christ, people are delivered from sin and its results (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8–9). Christ alone provides the way to be forgiven and restored to God (John 14:6).
The Gospel addresses every aspect of our fallen condition, including the central issue of our justification, or our legal standing before God.
As our Substitute, Jesus kept God’s law that we failed to obey (Gal. 4:4–5). On the cross He suffered the penalty of God’s wrath for our violations (1 Pet. 3:18). By resurrecting Jesus, God declared that He was fully satisfied with Jesus’ work (Rom. 4:24–25). God can justly forgive sinners who rely upon that work, declaring them to be righteous and eternally accepted in His presence (Rom. 3:21–26; 8:1). Through faith we are united with Christ, and God credits us with Christ’s perfect and changeless righteousness. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:31–39).
Justification is one of our greatest joys as believers because it guarantees us God’s favor. Whatever we do for the Lord should be motivated not by guilt but by gratitude and love (2 Cor. 5:14–15).
Sanctification is the ongoing work of God through the Holy Spirit in progressively conforming a believer’s mindset and choices to accurately mirror his position and identity in Christ (Rom. 6:1–14). Justification and sanctification are both components of the Gospel, but there are important differences between them.
Justification is a once-for-all declaration, but sanctification is a process (2 Pet. 3:18). The new birth gives us spiritual life, yet that life has to be nurtured and developed (1 Pet. 1:22–2:3). Although sin does not characterize the life of a child of God (1 John 3:4–10), the Scriptures affirm that we will contend with temptation from within ourselves as long as we remain on the earth (Col. 3:5–8). Through the work and advocacy of Christ, God promises forgiveness of sin to any child of His who confesses (1 John 1:9), although the sin does not alter our justified legal standing before God (Romans 8:1–4).
Justification is entirely an act of God, but sanctification involves our active participation. Paul writes, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). God has given us all the resources we need for the development of Christlikeness (2 Pet. 1:3–7).
The Holy Spirit sanctifies us by producing in us qualities of godliness as we yield to His working (Gal. 5:16ff.; Eph. 5:18ff.). He delivers us from sin’s dominance over our hearts and decisions. He purifies us so that we become zealous for good works (Titus 2:11–14). And He increasingly transforms us into His own image so that we can accomplish the purpose for which He created us (2 Cor. 3:18). To accomplish His work of sanctification, God uses His Word (2 Tim. 3:16–17; Col. 3:16), prayer (Phil. 4:6–7) and the ministry of other believers in our lives (Eph. 4:15–16; 1 Cor. 12:4–7).
Redeemed Sinners in Community
All New Testament believers form a Body that unites different people into God’s family (Eph. 2:11–22). Christians should not live in isolation. God calls believers to live in community with each other, to share the joys and struggles involved in pursuing Christlikeness (Heb. 10:24–25). He uses fellow believers to minister grace to us (Eph. 4:29).
Submitted to God’s Inspired Word
Our shared authority is the Bible, God’s inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:14–17; 2 Pet. 1:19–21). When everyone does what is right in his own eyes, sin and disunity reign (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Because God inspired the Bible, it contains no errors and can be trusted to provide infallible guidance (John 10:35). This truth is the foundation of BJU’s first “core value”—love for and faithfulness to God and His Word.
The inspiration of Scripture is more than a doctrine to be affirmed. It demands that we submit ourselves to the Bible’s instruction (Ps. 119:4), including its prescriptions for living together in a Christian community.
Developing Biblical Discernment
God’s authoritative Word is entirely sufficient for Christian faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16–17). In many areas Scripture gives clear imperatives. In other situations where Scripture does not directly give specific commands, believers must use Spirit-guided discernment to make wise choices based on biblical principles. Therefore, it is essential for believers to develop biblical discernment.
Biblical discernment operates on two levels. Sometimes it requires choosing between good and evil (Heb. 5:14). But more often it requires choosing between what is acceptable and what is best, or what is to Jesus’ greatest advantage in particular situations (1 Cor. 10:23; Phil. 1:9–11).
As a skill for living, discernment must be developed (Heb. 5:14). Progress occurs through regular study of Scripture, a deepening control by the Holy Spirit, keener biblical insight into human nature, and life experiences. Younger believers also develop discernment as they follow the examples of mature believers (2 Tim. 3:10).
Submitted to Institutional Authority
God’s written authority, the Bible, teaches that He also exercises authority through several kinds of human leadership. The primary biblical authority structures are the family (Eph. 5:22–23; Deut. 6:7–9), government (Rom. 13:1–7) and church (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7, 17). But the Bible also allows for human authority structures that support those three.
BJU supports the discipleship efforts of Bible-believing churches and Christian families in part through providing a structured environment that promotes biblical Christian living. The University does not replace parents’ authority, but we aim to support their goals for students through policies that promote continued spiritual growth and protect students from harm.
Imperatives: How We Live As Believers
We are created in God’s image, designed to reflect His glory, defective because of sin, but redeemed by God’s grace through the work of Christ. As believers, we are to reflect His image and reflect our identity in Christ by the way we live. And to reflect that identity, we must hear and do God’s words (James 1:22–25). So at BJU we commit ourselves to faithfully practice what Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:19). The foundational imperatives we emphasize are as follows:
Love God wholeheartedly
Reflecting Christ starts with love for Him—a personal relationship with and a wholehearted commitment to Him in response to the Gospel (Rom. 12:1; Deut. 6:5; 2 Cor. 5:14–15). This love motivates everything we do. Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to a single-minded devotion to God and a heartfelt obedience to divine expectations.
Love your neighbor as yourself
Reflecting Christ continues with love for others. Scripture commands us to esteem others as more significant than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by showing sacrificial consideration for the well-being of those around them regardless of appearance, age, ethnicity, gender, ability or spiritual maturity.
Be holy, for God is holy
Reflecting Christ also means displaying God’s distinctive character in grateful response to Christ’s costly redemption (1 Pet. 1:15–19). We have been set apart to exhibit God’s glory as God’s people by God’s grace. Holiness entails separation from the godless “world” system (1 John 2:15–17; Ezra 6:21) by discerning where one’s culture reflects evil values. Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God, not by “fitting in” comfortably with the world but by being transformed by the Gospel. By living holy, separated lives, we publicly proclaim that only He is worth loving and following.
Renew your mind
Reflecting Christ calls for transformed thinking. Instead of conforming to the spirit of the age, a redeemed sinner renews his mind by meditating on God’s words (Ps. 1:2; Rom. 12:2). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by seeking spiritual illumination (1 Cor. 2:12) and developing a Christian outlook on all of life.
Reflecting Christ hinges on active participation in a local assembly of believers. God has specifically designed the church as a place for us to serve others and be ministered to by them (Eph. 4:11–16). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by worshiping with a local assembly and by exercising their gifts to help other believers mature (Rom. 12:3ff.; 1 Cor. 12:1ff.).
Make disciples of Jesus Christ
Reflecting Christ involves fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20)—ministering to a person’s greatest need by telling him the good news of a Savior in the power of the Spirit (Mark 10:21; Acts 1:8). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to embrace God’s call to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Submit to authority
Reflecting Christ entails walking in humility and choosing to submit to others (1 Pet. 5:5). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey the God-given authorities in their lives (Heb. 13:7, 17).
Reflecting Christ encompasses wisely using the time, talents and material possessions God has entrusted to each believer. Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to considering their property, money, time and talents as gifts from God and using them—and those of others—to the glory of God (Prov. 3:9).
Speak truthfully and graciously
Reflecting Christ requires sound speech. Speaking the truth in love is not optional for believers (James 5:12). Believers also communicate in ways that build up instead of tear down, including wholesome language that avoids profanity and euphemisms (Eph. 4:29; 5:4). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by speaking truthfully and graciously.
Reflecting Christ demands Spirit-empowered moderation and discipline (Gal. 5:23). No pursuit is more worthwhile than conditioning oneself for eternity (1 Cor. 9:24–27; 1 Tim. 4:7–8). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by submitting their impulses (e.g., anger) and fleshly habits (e.g., laziness) to the renewing influence of God’s Spirit.
Reflecting Christ means focusing on internal beauty that pleases God rather than external fashions that allure people (1 Tim. 2:9–10; 1 Pet. 3:3–4). Modesty is a powerful way for believers to glorify God in a culture filled with sensuality and seduction. Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by displaying in appearance and conduct a heart devoted to Christ.
Abstain from lust and immorality
Reflecting Christ also entails pursuing moral purity. In calling us to purity, God forbids viewing sexuality as a means of exploiting others (1 Thess. 4:1–8). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by respecting His design for sex, celebrating it only within the marriage relationship between one man and one woman for a lifetime. Since what we do springs from how we think (Mark 7:20–23), this commitment means controlling what one allows himself to view and read (Matt. 5:27–30) and petitioning God’s Spirit to purify one’s thoughts, motives and actions.
Run with endurance
Reflecting Christ necessitates persevering through trial and temptation rather than living on yesterday’s victories (James 5:11) or floundering in yesterday’s failures (1 Jn. 1:9). How we finish is more important than how we began. Christ persevered to the end in accomplishing our salvation and calls us to endure by looking to Him (Heb. 12:1–2). Therefore, students at BJU commit themselves to obey God by bearing up under responsibilities and burdens in the power of God’s Spirit with the hope of eternity (Rom. 5:3–5).