Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 21, No. 8. 2nd July, 1958
E.U. — Mission 1958
Two weeks ago the Evangelical Union was running a Mission in this University. What was the purpose of it? Why did E.U. go to the bother of arranging meetings, services and a speaker? It was because E.U. has something to say to the University. If we look briefly at what was said during the talks that Dean Bretton gave, the purpose of the Mission will become clear.
The theme of the Mission as displayed around Varsity was "The Key to Life." This implies that most people can live a better life than they are doing right now—that they can live, not just exist. The purpose of the Mission was to point the way to this better life, or, to change the metaphor, to indicate the key required to open the door of life.
Dean Bretton started off by saying that man is in a hole which he can't get out of. There is no doubt about the hole—one need only read the cable-page of our newspapers to see the words, "Lebanon, Cyprus, Algeria", to be reminded of the political turmoil and unrest in the world.
But it is not only nations but individuals also (and basically), who are in a mess. The sum total of misery even in our own land is surely an indication that all is not well. At some time or other every person feels guilty, knows he has done some action which he or she should not have done. This feeling brings a general unease and dissatisfaction in every phase of life.
Naturally our parentage and early upbringing have a tremendous effect on what we are like now, and it would be foolish to discount the importance of these influences. But we must avoid the danger of passing the buck, of taking the easy way out. However much our parents may have influenced us, we are now thinking beings making decisions for ourselves and fully responsible for our actions. Man has been "captain of his soul" and proud of it, for a long time but it doesn't seem to have got him very far.
From "Where are we–" Dean Bretton moved on to "What we can be" and he used the metaphor of the prison to describe the state of man. When we look at ourselves we see how imprisoned we are by social conventions, habits and our evil actions which the Bible calls sin. No one can escape having to face this problem at some time or other, in some form or other, but some are so used to their "prison" that they are too scared to try a better life.
Thus man is in a mess in a prison from which he cannot escape by his own efforts, but God offers him the Key, leaving man the choice of accepting or rejecting it.
Up to this point we have talked in vague terms about accepting or rejecting the Key, but now we come to the real crux of the matter, that is, becoming a Christian.
What is a Christian? There is a wide, wierd and wonderful assortment of ideas on this matter and they are well represented at a University. But this is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact.
If one studies the Scriptures one comes to the conclusion that the basis of being a Christian is believing in Jesus Christ and trusting Him. But few people are willing to trust God, while they are quite happy about trusting plumbers and electricians in their spheres. They enjoy arguing about God in the abstract but don't want to trust Him as a person.
There is much confusion in this matter. The Christian ought to pray, go to church, and live a good life, but praying, going to church and leading a good life do not in themselves make a Christian.
Dean Bretton summarised the process of becoming a Christian into four main steps. First a man must recognise his sin and his need for help from outside himself. Then he must recognise what Christ has done for him, in dying in his place. Third, he must trust and receive Jesus Christ as Saviour, Lord and God. Fourthly, he must be sure of his salvation. If he is doubtful, he probably is not a Christian.
To put it in a simple way, the A B C of Christianity is to Admit, Believe, Come. Dean Bretton used this latter summary at St. Paul's on the Sunday night, where there were several hundred students among a congregation of over 650.
There are various problems raised by what has been said above.
"How can I be served by the death of a man nearly 2000 years ago?" It was God who died and he is not bound by time as we are. The sacrifice on the cross was made once and for all time.
"Why did Christ have to die? Could not God just let us off?" Even in our civil law a crime must be punished and there is no letting off. Much more in God's law, there is a price to pay for crimes against God, and justice demands the price so Christ paid it for us. The cross was God's way of redeeming man and winning him back to God. The final decision rests with us, to accept or reject Him. If we accept Him we can lead a better and more satisfying life. If we reject Him we take on ourselves the responsibility of our actions and must be prepared to pay the penalty ourselves.
That was the purpose of the Mission—to make known the facts of man's condition and God's answer to the problem and to give you a chance to become a disciple of Christ.
E.U. is not a crowd of rather eccentric Bible-bangers. It is a group of students who have tried Christianity, found that it works in their lives, and wish to let others know how to live this fuller, more satisfying life.