I did stupid things in college – and many of them. Classes were optional, studying wasn’t necessary, and my weeks generally revolved around the sport in season on the campus. God’s grace is real. I know it because I eventually received a college diploma.

A few nights ago I had around 30 college student summer staff in our home. I was asked to speak on the topic of advice I would give college students. The time with the staff was rich. As usual, I got off on many tangents – like sharing a video with them about how Steph and I got engaged. They listened, took notes, and asked questions. For many of them, it looked like they were drinking from a fire hydrant.

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There were many great men that took time to invest in me while I was in college. I was involved in various Bible studies, campus ministries, and discipleship groups. God did a great work in me through those years. But if I could go back in time, there are a few pieces of wisdom I would want to give a younger me.

Some of these are theological in nature. I included them because if I could have grasped the truth behind these points at a younger age, I would have experienced a freedom in Christ that I didn’t experience until much further after college.

So here they are – 5 points I wish someone would have told me when I was in college:

1. You’ve been made new. It’s one thing to know that God forgives you. It’s something totally different to realize just how far the grace of God goes. Consider Romans 5:19:

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

Or II Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

These verses have huge significance for the believer. They tell us as followers of Jesus, that we’ve been made new. We’ve been made righteous. We no longer need to hang our heads in shame that we are rotten sinners. Instead, we can by faith receive what the Scriptures call us – righteous.

As christians, we are new creations. It’s time to believe it, and act like it.

2. God is your Father. You are his son. He is pleased with you. God is not distant. He does not live in the cosmos. He did not create the earth and then retreat to Heaven, merely to watch us from a distance.

Instead, our God is our father. Better yet, we are his sons. Listen to Galatians 4:4:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

My kids know that I love them. And they know my love for them is not dependent of what they do, but on who they are. God is pleased with us because of who we are – his sons. We can’t earn extra credit, or somehow become less of a son because of our bad behavior. God is pleased with us, forever. This sonship is brought on because of our faith – and our faith alone.

3. God is on mission right now on this earth, and he is inviting you to join him. God doesn’t save us only to set us aside while the rest of the earth is doomed to hell. No, God chooses to use his people as the means by which everyone else can get in on the act.

This change in mindset frees us to keep our eyes open for those moments when God wants to use us as his grace-deliverers. Without this realization, we shuffle to and from church, with our eyes focused squarely on our own needs and how we can get them met.

4. Being a great husband (or wife) requires dying to self, and dying to self requires practice. Any married person would tell you that marriage his hard. Great marriages are marked by selflessness and sacrifice. But being selfless and sacrificing for the needs of someone else doesn’t begin at the altar. It takes years of practice, and there is no better time to start than in college.

Do your dishes for your roommates. Insist on pooling money together to buy groceries and prepares meals with others in mind. Buy a dog so that you have to take care of something else when you go out of town.

Be a great husband. Start practicing now.

5. Debt can become a heavy weight around your neck. Kill it quickly. When I graduated from college and got a job, I did what seemed normal; I bought a brand new truck. Before I knew it I had tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Debt is not sinful, but it is a heavy weight. I’ve seen people and organizations make key decisions in life because the money pressure is so intense.

My wife and I have counseled many people about how to steward the money God has provided them. It always goes something like this:

  • All money is God’s money.
  • God has lent you some.
  • Create a plan for how you will use it – together.
  • Live on less than what you make.
  • Save
  • Give
  • Live off the rest

How about you? What do you wish someone would have told you while you were in college?

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