May is the month of graduation ceremony for most of theological seminaries. While the seminaries’ commencement is taking place across the nation, seminarians from the Southern Baptist Convention, which is one of the largest church denominations in the U.S., spoke during the school’s spring graduation ceremony with an encouraging message for the future leaders of Christianity.
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler addressing the graduating class of 174 at the seminary’s 193rd commencement on May 14,preached from James 1 and encouraged the graduates to endlessly proclaim the Word but at the same time to clearly live out its demands.
“The Gospel is not submitted for our mere consideration but for our demonstration,” Mohler said. “We forget that at our peril and we also rob God of His glory.
“We live in an emotive age when many people judge the authenticity of their faith by how they feel. But if we give our primary consideration to feeling, eventually we will no longer even be able to feel.” Underscoring the importance of action, Mohler said, “The moment thought, instruction and knowledge is translated into action, there is not only a public demonstration of this truth, there is also the transformation of the human heart by the Holy Spirit as that truth is lived out and a declaration is made in flesh and in Spirit as well as in word.”
He emphasized leading people to live their lives following the Gospel and in order to do so, it is important that the ministers themselves become faithful doers of the Word.
“Our preaching is not a performance,” Mohler said. “Our acts of ministry are not submitted for public consideration as something that just might have a Gospel point.
“We are to center our ministries, ourselves, and all that we do in the teaching and the preaching of God’s Word, and in the demonstration [of it], motivating others likewise to be doers of the Word. We will know that our ministry is effective -- if we dare use that word -- if our congregations show what God’s Word is in their lives.”
He then challenged the graduates to raise people to become the true believers, those who seek to conform their lives.
“It is an awful thing to contemplate a congregation of people who think they are Christians who are deluding themselves,” he said. “This contrast between mere hearing of the Word and doing of the Word is something we need to confront and by which we need to be confronted again and again.”
He added, “We are going to find out who are the false hearers and who are the effectual doers. We must confront the church of God with this truth. We must arm Christians with this realization. We must challenge ourselves and others with the task and the litmus test of true faith, which is its demonstration. Your ministry will demonstrate Christ, Christianity and Christian truth or it will quickly fall and falter.”
On the same day, May 14, New Orleans Baptist Seminary had its graduation ceremony of the class of 119 master’s and doctoral graduates. At the ceremony, President Chuck Kelley challenged the graduates to plant their lives in the Word of God.
While he was speaking of his experience on the Nile River, he referred to Psalm 1: ‘... his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night, he will always bear fruit in his season, his leaf will never whither, and whatever he does will prosper for he is like that tree planted by the river of living waters,’ and said “That is truly what it means to be a minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. To take your life and plant it on the Word of God.”
Education is not what sets ministers apart from the rest of society, Kelley said.
“What you have to offer people that no one else can offer them is the truth of God’s Word,” he said. “The Bible reminds us that it is faith in Christ and Christ alone that truly brings salvation. We can never lose that message in this increasingly pluralistic environment.”
Kelley encouraged the graduates to plant their lives in the Word of God so that it may act as a ‘filter’ that helps people see the light of Jesus Christ more clearly and help them gain wisdom to separate right from wrong.
As Kelley pointed out the prominent Christian leaders such as the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther and George Whitfield, who changed the world with the message of the Gospel, he encouraged the graduates to make a difference in the world by standing on God’s Word.
“Dear precious graduates, that’s what you have with this Word. You have more than a degree you can hang with pride on your wall,” Kelley said. “You have something more than that; you have the opportunity to literally change the course of history by bringing the Word of God to bear on all the peoples of the world.”
“With this you can change the world,” Kelley said.