NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, 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. Four ceremonies were conducted to comply with New Orleans’ COVID guidelines.
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’s 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 in St. Gabriel, La.
Dew also awarded 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, Luther Sanson’s widow, as she accepted the diploma on her late husband’s behalf.
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 said. “The things we seek in prayer are the things we seek in life.”
He reminded graduates that while the unexpected will come in life and ministry, his prayer as they move forward was five-fold: that they would always live in awe of God; that they would seek His kingdom and not their own; that they would rely on God’s power and provision; that they would 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, Dew said caution should be noted.
“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, to build platforms and name recognition, Dew warned graduates to “ignore” the world and remember Matthew 6:33, seeking the kingdom of God. He reminded them that God’s kingdom is not of this world.
Dew said he prays that graduates would rely on God’s power and provision. He said talent, education, and abilities cannot sustain them in ministry.
“The power of your ministry is not in any of those things that you bring to the table,” he said. “The power of your ministry is in the power of the Spirit that indwells you and goes before you, with you, and behind you.”
Pointing to Matt. 6:12, he urged graduates to “keep a short account” with God and others, always remembering to keep a “posture of repentance” before God and to “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. Your protection is in Christ and Christ alone. Let this be your posture of heart.”