Students Denying Themselves to Follow Jesus

We are grateful for the 150 students and staff from Western New England who attended the Fall Retreat last weekend! InterVarsity New England's Regional Director, Chris Nichols, gave powerful talks summarizing what Christianity is about and what it means to really acknowledge Jesus as Lord and not simply our companion; to take up our cross and deny ourselves to follow Him.

...And [Jesus] said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. ~ Mark 8:34-35

On Friday night, Chris preached on the Great Commission (Matthew 28) to summarize the core of Christianity and urged students to think about what Jesus is saying when he declares that all authority in heaven and on earth is given to him. On Saturday morning, as we spent time studying Mark 8:13-38 together, students continued reflecting on the reality of seeing but not perceiving, hearing but not understanding - that we can easily gloss over Jesus' words and not let our lives be an active response to what he is saying, therefore essentially being like the blind man in not seeing Jesus for who he is, but instead a smaller Jesus to fit our desires and expectations.

Later on at night, Chris preached on Romans 12:1-2 and led students to think about themselves as clay who are inevitably shaped by hands they actively choose to mold them. His call was for students to completely surrender themselves to God, the master potter whose hands are the only ones to bring true and ultimate transformation.

That night, he gave three invitations:
(1) The invitation to step out in faith to follow Jesus for the first time;
(2) The invitation for those who have always seen Jesus as a companion to finally acknowledge Him as Lord;
(3) The invitation for those who have been actively resisting Jesus in an area of their lives to wholly surrender their whole lives to Him.

As staff debriefed with students at the end of the retreat, we learned that many of them wrestled and confronted with a much bigger view of Jesus' authority and Lordship than they ever had before. At least five students students made first-time decisions to surrender their lives to follow Jesus, at least 20 students committed to let Jesus be their Lord and not simply their companion, and at least 40 students allowed Jesus into areas of their lives that they have kept Him out of - academics, dating relationships, friendships, etc. Others have a greater understanding of proclaiming the gospel as well as the need to have their lives reflect the words of Jesus. A number of seeking students came and, while not entirely ready to surrender to Jesus, are now seeing the reality of God's Kingdom and are committing to learning more about Jesus for themselves.

A few quotes from the retreat:

“God is teaching me to be more accepting and to consider having faith and to be accepting of Him within myself” - Non-Christian student who was invited by a friend

”God is teaching me that he will care for my relationships and make them stronger and deeper if I will let him into that part of my life. I need to start and pursue conversations about faith with my teammates. When they ask what I did this weekend, I need to tell them more than they wanted to know and see what happens.” - InterVarsity student leader

”My next step back on campus is to invite others to church and to talk to my friends and teammates about the reason why I am a Christian and why I make this a priority. I also need to continue to work on making my faith a constant priority.” - InterVarsity student who became a Christian after a ServeUP New Orleans spring break trip she came on.

”I experienced God mostly in the time of silence and in worship.” - Seeking student

”Students who went to Fall Retreat definitely have more passion and more clarity in vision to reach the campus than those who didn’t go.” - InterVarsity Staff

Praise God for His work this weekend in bringing students into greater submission to His Lordship, a concept that is the exact opposite of the what the campus culture in New England preaches.

Please pray for students to continue to look intently and fix their gaze on Jesus so that they can see Him clearly and understand what it means to really follow Jesus by denying themselves for the sake of Him and His gospel - even to the point of giving up everything in this life.

Pray that God will continue the good work He has started in them this weekend and that they will walk in full confidence of His presence in and with them  

Pray especially for the five new followers of Jesus: *Julie, *Meredith, *Alice, *Lauren, and *Jordan.  

Pray especially for Lauren whose family is quite opposed to this decision to follow Jesus that she has made.

By, Liz Joyal, Divisional Director | SW New England