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Patterson to grads: follow Christ anywhere

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — After walking across the stage and receiving their degrees, alumni of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are expected to be like Philip the apostle by bringing others to Jesus, President Paige Patterson told 183 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral graduates May 8.

“You are commissioned today to spend the rest of your life finding other people that need to know about the Lord Jesus Christ,” Patterson said, preaching from John 1:43-51, the passage in which Philip follows Jesus then invites Nathaniel to do the same. “… There is nothing else as important as finding everybody you can and bringing them to Jesus.”

Successful ministers of God, Patterson said, should, at the end of their lives, be able to say, “I have followed Jesus into the most difficult places in life. I have followed Him when there was no appreciation of my ministry. I have followed Him, when necessary, into the most brutal places on earth to share a living Christ with a dying community. Wherever it is that our Lord has bidden me, I have followed Him.”

The greatest test of life, Patterson said, is whether a person follows Jesus. He said Christians must follow even when they do not understand why God is leading them in a particular direction.

“Don’t take issue with the Lord of glory,” Patterson said. “If you have called Him ‘Lord,’ if He is your master, then you don’t ask, you don’t remonstrate with Him, you don’t argue with Him; you simply say, ‘Lord, you lead, and I will follow.'”

Immediately after Jesus called Philip to follow Him, Philip told Nathaniel he had found the Messiah, a pattern Patterson said is instructive for believers today. Telling others about Jesus is “the next thing you want to do” after being saved, Patterson said.

Noting how Nathaniel doubted Philip’s testimony, Patterson said Philip demonstrated wisdom in his response by simply saying, “Come and see,” rather than debating whether Jesus was the Messiah.

“That’s your answer [to every argument],” Patterson said. “You need to say to every person you can find, ‘Come and see that this is a man who can change your life. Whatever you’ve done, whatever failures are present in your life, come and see that this is a man who takes you where you are, forgives your sin, makes you over again, presents you a new life and reconciles you to God. Come and see.’ That is your message to a lost world.”

At the conclusion of his sermon, Patterson asked how many of the graduating students understood their assignment and, with God’s help, were willing to commit themselves to it. All the students raised their hands, expressing their desire to follow Jesus and bring as many “Nathaniels” to Him as they can.

Among those students was Joshua Clayton, who graduated from the College at Southwestern with a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies. Clayton, who plans to pursue his master of divinity and doctor of philosophy at Southwestern, hopes someday to be a church planter who involves himself in the community through teaching. He says Southwestern is challenging him toward that end.

“I call it ‘challenging’ because it’s an environment that, in the classrooms and in churches and in your spiritual walk, you’re surrounded by people who will push you,” Clayton said. “And that’s been awesome for me to be around, because it shows me where I want to be in a lot of areas in my life, and it also convicts me in the areas that I just never wanted to deal with. So that’s been very helpful, because I have brothers and sisters that are around who are encouraging and loving in this challenging environment.”

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  • Alex Sibley