By Marilyn Stewart
Rely on the certainty of God’s love to bring hope to a hurting world, Chuck Kelley challenged graduates at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s commencement May 14.
“His love will never loosen its grip on you,” the NOBTS president said. “Whatever you go through, remember the love of God always triumphs in the end.”
Acknowledging that the graduates may have turned down more lucrative career paths, Kelley called on them to remember what drew them to theological education and ministry in the first place — “the love of God.”
Consider the “unspeakable sacrifice” of Christ, Kelley said. While other religions have altars and sacrifices of incense, grain or even animals, only the Christian faith has “God Himself as the sacrifice,” he said.
The cross of Christ, the “centerpiece of the New Testament,” won salvation and eternal life for any person who seeks forgiveness, regardless of past sin and failure, Kelley said.
“That is good news,” he said. “God must love us because of what God did for us.”
But, Kelley asked, “Is it worth it? Is God’s love worth the path you have taken?”
Drawing an analogy of a young child who tumbles down the stairs, Kelley said a parent at that moment picks up and comforts the child rather than talking about the center of gravity and tipping points. Such an explanation may be true, but it is “useless,” Kelley said, noting that what’s important to a hurting child is the reassurance of the parent’s love.
“When you know that you are in the grip of an all-powerful God … a God who knows your name and loves you and demonstrated His love for you at great cost and sacrifice, it makes all the difference in the world,” he said.
Believers are never separated from God’s care, Kelley said, pointing to Romans 8:28.
“You may be attacked, but you will be delivered,” he said. “You may be wounded, but you will be healed. You may be persecuted, but you will not be forsaken. You may be alone, but you will not be abandoned. You may be knocked down, but you will never be knocked out.”
Because no life is ever beyond redemption, Kelley said believers must remember what God has done for them and be faithful to tell others that God’s love will change lives.
“This is who you are — bearers of hope,” Kelley said. “Spend the rest of your life, dear friends, remembering when you came to the foot of the cross and the love of God changed you.”
The 2016 NOBTS and Leavell College class included 241 graduates. NOBTS conferred 138 graduate degrees and certificates, including four doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees, four doctor of educational ministry degrees and 14 doctor of ministry degrees (D.Min.).
Among the D.Min. recipients was Andrew Anderson, a squadron chaplain with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division whose project drew from his military service, titled “Developing the Skill of Life Application Preaching for Soldier Spiritual Resilience at Warrior Chapel, Baghdad, Iraq.”
An additional 103 graduates received Leavell College degrees and certificates in a separate commencement May 13.
Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.