Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, shared with the 254 graduate candidates and their families gathered for graduation May 12 a question that keeps him up at night.
Dew said graduation is a celebration but it is also one final moment for him as president to instruct and encourage them. He then cautioned graduates not to allow the things of the world to “consume” them and keep them from fulfilling God’s call on their lives.
“I fear, I tremble, I stay awake sometimes at night fearing that the brand of Christianity and the form it has taken in our lives looks less and less like the New Testament descriptions of what Jesus had to say about being a follower … I simply must press on you one more time to remember who you are and what God has called you to do,” Dew said.
Drawing from Matthew 16: 13-26, Dew explained that Matthew uses Peter’s confession in verse 16 to make clear who Jesus is and in verses 17-19 turns to promises of blessings for believers. Dew’s fear, he explained, is that “this is where our Christianity stops.”
Dew urged listeners to see the “pivot” the gospel writer makes in verse 21. Matthew turns from blessings to suffering as Jesus looks to Jerusalem and his coming death, a statement the disciples did not expect. Dew cautioned graduates that friends and family members may not understand God’s calling on their lives.
“It’s important to realize, number one, what your calling is, nevertheless,” Dew said. “In God’s economy, in God’s kingdom, there is gain in the loss, there is life in the death.”
As an aside, Dew commented on Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in verse 23. “Remember that you don’t get to dictate the terms to God about how he’s supposed to work,” Dew said. “He is master. He is Lord. And you are servant … He’s up to things that you and I simply cannot comprehend and therefore, it is often not going to go the way you and I think it’s supposed to.”
Believers can depend on God’s infinite power, wisdom and “perfect” love as they follow Him, Dew said, then pointed to different promises in verse 25: those who hold to life will lose it; those who lose life for Christ’s sake will find it.
“You are called with me … and with all that have gone before you, to lay your life down,” Dew concluded. “Matthew has shown us who He is. [Matthew] shows us what He has done for us. And he reminds us of the calling our Lord Jesus placed on our lives.
“I pray and I hope and I trust, as I press on you this last time, that you will be wise enough and trusting our Father enough to lose your lives for Christ, and therein find it.”In separate graduate and undergraduate ceremonies, NOBTS conferred 22 doctoral degrees, including seven Ph.D.s, one doctor of musical arts, 13 D.Min. and one D.Ed.Min. degrees, and 137 master degrees and graduate certificates. Leavell College graduates received 95 diplomas and certificates.