by Lauren Crane
WAKE FOREST, NC (December 12, 2008) – Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and its undergraduate school, The College at Southeastern, held their graduation ceremonies on Friday, December 12 in Binkley Chapel on Southeastern’s campus.
The ceremony was held at 10 a.m. One hundred and twenty-seven graduates received their master’s or doctoral degrees, and twenty-six graduated with associate or bachelor’s degrees. The graduates come from 19 states and six foreign countries.
The charge to the graduates was given by Dr. James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Using the admonitions given to Timothy by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4, Merritt challenged the graduates to live according to three principles.
“As you leave this place of learning, fulfill your calling. Paul told Timothy three simple words that radically changed my life: ‘Preach the word,’” Merritt said. “Timothy was being reminded of the sacred calling God had given him to preach the word.”
Merritt said the diplomas the graduates would soon hold were more than proof of the academic knowledge they had obtained; the diplomas were proof of God’s call on their lives.
“As you enter into the front lines of ministry, there are going to be a lot of Monday mornings when you hang by the thread of your calling. I want you to make sure your calling is sure. Be secure in your calling,” Merritt said.
In those “front lines of ministry,” Merritt said it is vitally important to maintain one’s convictions. “There are going to be times when things are good and times when things are tough. Be prepared in season and out of season.”
Paul teaches Timothy in the passage to use Scripture to rebuke, for reproof and to exhort with great patience and instruction.
“You’ll be challenged, cajoled, counseled to compromise convictions in the name of politics, political correctness,” Merritt said. The cost of compromising those convictions is enormous. “This book says certain things are right, certain things are wrong. God has called you to maintain those convictions.”
Quoting William Penn, Merritt said, “Right is right even if everybody is against. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is for it.”
Finally, Merritt said that in all of their subsequent actions outside of the halls of the seminary, the goal is to magnify Christ.
“Paul finished up with this simple urging: Do the work of an evangelist. ‘Fulfill your ministry.’ The work of an evangelist is to share the gospel. Why would he wrap up with a message about winning people to Christ?” Merritt asked.
“There is no ministry that magnifies Christ like the gospel. Some of you will be pastors, some will be missionaries, some will be staff members – Nobody gets a free pass on sharing the gospel. The greatest lesson I have ever learned is this: Nothing keeps your heart hot for God and your soul on fire like sharing the Gospel and bringing people to God.”
“With three decades of ministry behind of me, there is one thing I am more sure of today: There is no one like Jesus. Nobody. He is alpha and omega, beginning and end. He is the best, one and only, king of kings and Lord of Lords,” Merritt said. “You must decrease, he must increase.”
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The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.