Jamie Dew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College president, charged Spring 2021 graduates to look to the Lord’s Prayer not only as a model for prayer but as a model for a life committed to Christ.
Graduation services returned to the seminary’s Leavell Chapel for the first time since December 2019. However, four ceremonies were needed to comply with New Orleans’ continued COVID guidelines for social distancing.
Believers and non-believers alike are familiar with the Lord’s prayer, Dew began, adding that the Matthew 6 passage is so familiar its meaning can be easily overlooked. Dew pointed to its significance for how believers must live.
“Jesus taught us, his disciples, to pray this way, then it logically follows that if He teaches us to pray this way, it would also be the case that we should live this way,” Dew explained. “The things we seek in prayer are the things we seek in life.”
Dew reminded graduates that the unexpected will come in life and ministry, but that his prayer for them as they move forward was five-fold: that they would always live in awe of God; seek His kingdom and not their own; rely on God’s power and provision; repent, keeping their “account” before God and man “short”; and that God would keep them from evil.
While the Lord’s prayer begins with the “affection, familiarity, and tenderness” of the child-father relationship, caution should be noted, Dew explained.
“One of the dangers … if we’re not careful and if not diligent in the way we approach these things, that you and I will slip into the disposition of being a ‘professional’ Christian,” Dew said. “We are so familiar with God that we lose our awe of God.”
Dew reminded listeners that God is holy and distinct from humans. Drawing from Proverbs 1:7, Dew cautioned listeners to enter God’s presence “with a sense of fear and trembling.”
“Never lose your sense of awe, and even your sense of fear, about who God is,” Dew said. “Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 forbids this. Remember who God is.”
While the world encourages people to promote themselves, build platforms and name recognition for themselves, Dew warned graduates to “ignore” the world and remember Matthew 6:33 and that God’s kingdom is not of this world.
Thirdly, Dew said he prays that graduates would rely on God’s power and provision. Talent, education, and abilities cannot sustain them in ministry, Dew said.
“The power of your ministry is not in any of those things that you bring to the table, the power of your ministry is in the power of the Spirit that indwells you and goes before you, with you, and behind you,” Dew said.
Dew pointed to verse 12 and urged graduates to “keep a short account” with God, and others, always remembering to keep a “posture of repentance” before God and “run to Christ” when they sin.
Lastly, Dew said he prays that God would keep them from evil, reminding them that being in ministry and holding a theological degree does not make them less vulnerable to Satan’s attacks but instead more vulnerable.
“You need to understand that you are being hunted,” Dew said. “Every single day, you are being hunted by an enemy far more clever than us, an enemy that is patient, an enemy that is willing to study you, find your soft spot, custom build a trap specifically for you, and who will wait you out.”
“If you are not sober and vigilant, if you are not humble before the Lord you’re in trouble,” Dew continued. “Your protection is in Christ and Christ alone. Let this be your posture of heart.”
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 170 master’s degrees and 26 doctoral degrees, including seven Ph.D. graduates, 18 D.Min. graduates, and one D.Ed.Min. graduate. Sixty-nine M.Div. degrees, 24 with specializations, were conferred.
Leavell College granted 65 bachelor degrees, including the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry degrees to 26 Louisiana State Penitentiary inmates at Angola, La., and six at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, St. Gabriel.
At the end, Dew came down from the graduation platform to award the M.Div. degree posthumously to Luther Sanson, 71, who passed away during the spring semester. As the audience stood in Sanson’s honor, Dew embraced Dr. Trudy Sanson, wife, as she accepted the diploma on her late husband’s behalf.