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Be servants like the Savior, Akin tells graduates during commencement
July 19, 2004
By Bryan Cribb
Boyce graduate Mark Schweitzer and Chad Brand, associate professor of Christian theology at Boyce. Photo by Andy Rawls
Graduates of Boyce College are called first and foremost to be servants just like their Savior Jesus Christ, Daniel Akin said during the spring 2004 commencement at Southern Seminary’s undergraduate institution May 14.
Some 95 graduates walked the stage during the graduation ceremony — a record class and “a sign of God’s wonderful blessing,” said Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and the former senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at Southern. Akin had a personal tie to the commencement. His son, Jonathan, received his degree during the ceremony.
Though true servanthood is a difficult calling and one at which Christians often fail, it is the only path to spiritual greatness, Akin said.
“When it comes to following Jesus, I think we have to admit that there are a number of us who would fall in the category of being a slow learner,” said Akin. “In particular, many of us struggle to grasp the truth that servanthood is the way of spiritual greatness, that the cross must always come before the crown and that to be like the Savior we must be a servant.”
Preaching from Mark 10:32-45, Akin detailed four truths about servanthood as detailed by Jesus to His disciples — truths that Christians must in turn consider as they seek to follow Christ.
First, Christians must consider the cost of being a servant.
In the passage in Mark, Jesus is described as setting His face with firm purpose to go to His death in Jerusalem. His disciples wondered at His resolve, and they could not fathom His impending fate.
Like Jesus, Christians also should be prepared to endure misunderstanding from others, Akin said. In fact, he said that some graduates may have already experienced such looks of disbelief coming from friends and family as they pursued their calls to ministry.
“They [other people] cannot really fathom why you, with all your gifts and all your abilities, have sold out everything for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Akin said.
Along with the cost of misunderstanding comes a very specific and costly mission from God, Akin said. In the passage, Jesus gives the most specific description of His passion in book of Mark. He was to be mocked, scourged and killed; yet, He pursued the Father’s will willingly.
“Jesus Christ understood that God sovereignly and providentially had laid out the road that He would walk and the plan that He would accomplish,” Akin said. “Dear students, it is no different for you. God has sovereignly and providentially laid out for each one of you a particular path, a particular plan, a particular place of service down to the last detail and yes, even to the last breath that you will ever breathe.
“God is that intimately involved in the plan that He has for you, yet you must consider the cost of being a servant. It is going to invite misunderstanding and it is also going to involve a very definite and specific mission.”
Second, graduates must also consider the challenge of being a servant.
“Being a servant doesn’t come easy, especially for those of us that have been trained to lead,” Akin said.
Those who would follow Christ will fight against a human inclination that scorns selfless service. James and John in the passage illustrate this tendency. In the wake of Christ’s passion prediction, the two disciples pridefully ask to be seated in seats of power in the Kingdom.
“Their request reveals how totally out to lunch they were,” Akin said. “... It almost seems that they have not heard a word that Jesus has just said.”
Jesus responds by asking if the two disciples are ready to experience the same fate that awaited Him. Undaunted, they express willingness to follow Jesus’ path. Jesus prophesies that they indeed will follow His path of suffering.
“James and John revealed that they still didn’t understand that the pathway to glory is always the pathway of suffering, and that before a crown there must be a cross, and that Jesus calls us not to be lords [but] Jesus calls us to be servants,” Akin said.
Third, Christians must consider the conflict caused by being a servant, specifically the conflict between Jesus’ servant-minded worldview and the power-hungry worldview of the world.
In the passage, the other 10 disciples bristle at the seat-stealing presumption of James and John. Jesus recognizes this quarrel as a teachable moment — a way to help them understand that God’s ways and priorities are not man’s, Akin said.
While the world seeks to be served, Christians must reject this. Christians must turn the world’s priorities and pride on their head, Akin said.
“In the world, the more important you are, the more people serve you,” he said. “Jesus says, ‘It is not so in My world, for you see in My world, the more important you are, the more people you serve.’ ... A person who adopts the mind of Christ begins to esteem others better than himself,” Akin added.
Fourth, Christians must consider Christ in order to be a servant.
“Why should you adopt a mindset that is so radically different than that of the world? The simple answer is, ‘Because that’s what our Savior did,’” Akin said.
How did Jesus serve us? By giving His life as a ransom for many, Akin said, citing Mark 10:45. Christians must have the same attitude of service.
“Can I save others from their sin? No, but I can serve,” Akin said. “Perhaps it will even be that for some of you that service will involve the laying down of your own life. ... I have no idea what the future is for any one of you. But I will say this with all of my heart. It is my prayer that you love the Lord Jesus so much and you are so passionate about His calling He laid upon your life that even if you knew in advance that the place He was sending you would cost you your life, you would still go because you believe as I do that He’s worth it.”