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Remaining faithful to the call
June 06, 2005
By Jeff Robinson
Some 227 graduates, as well as their families and friends, packed Alumni Memorial Chapel May 13 for the 195th commencement of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The commencement address was delivered by Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. Photo by David Merrifield
Moses is an excellent example of humility and faith that teaches modern church leaders how to remain faithful to their calling, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said May 13 during his spring graduation address at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Preaching from Hebrews 11:23-29 at the school's 195th commencement, the seminary president told graduates that Moses is a great role model for ministry because he considered the eternal reward of suffering for Christ whom he had not seen to be greater than earthly pleasures. Such an eternal perspective must typify all ministers, he said.
Southern's graduating class included 227 students. During the ceremony, Bruce A. Ware, professor of Christian theology and senior associate dean of the School of Theology, received the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.
Mohler set forth four main lessons from the life and ministry of Moses that should characterize the service of ministers who lead congregations in the 21st century.
First, Mohler said Moses teaches ministers how to answer the call of God. Moses initially answered "here I am" to God's call, and despite showing reluctance later, remained faithful to that call. This is the proper answer for today's church leader, and times will come when the call of God is all the minister will have to urge him on, Mohler said.
"Moses is also an honest model of the kind of questions that come along with the call, the kind of hesitation that may be deeply rooted in our hearts as we wonder why God would call someone like ourselves," Mohler said. "But the call was central to Moses.
"But as Moses gains confidence, we know he first of all gains the confidence to stare down Pharaoh. How could he do that if he did not know he had been called? Moses had this assurance of [the] call when he led the children of Israel through dangers, toils and snares.
There will be times in your ministry when all you know is your call and the God who has called you and amazingly enough, that will be enough."
Second, Mohler said Moses shows ministers how to speak for God. Though Moses tells God he is "slow of speech and slow of tongue," by God's power he eventually speaks forth the oracles of God to the children of Israel, Mohler said.
While modern ministers are not instruments through which God speaks new revelation, they are to be the ones through whom God's Word, the Bible, speaks, Mohler said. They must faithfully preach and teach the Word, he said.
"We are called to speak and how dare we close our mouths?" Mohler said. "We have not been called to be silent.
We are called to speak on behalf of the one that said if we do not speak and if we do not confess Him, then the stones will speak.
We are to speak on behalf on God. We are to preach and proclaim and teach the Word of God. We are to open our mouths and out of our mouths should come the Word of God and that means God's Word."
Third, Mohler said Moses shows modern ministers how they are to love God's people. Mohler pointed out that the children of Israel were a "stiff-necked" people who were difficult to lead. All of God's people are difficult to lead, but the minister is called to love them through patient, persevering leadership, Mohler said.
"One of the great dangers is that the Christian minister will love the church in theory but not in flesh," he said. "One of the insidious temptations is to love a church of our imagination rather than the flesh-and-blood church of sinners saved by grace who can be stiff-necked, but who can turn around and show the love of God in the most unexpected ways.
"It [the difficulty of ministering to people] tests not only our leadership theory, but our confidence in the Word of God, for it is the Word of God that must do this thing, not we poor sinners. Our task is to declare, to preach and to teach the Word of God and trust that God will take His Word and do His work in His own time."
Fourth, Mohler said Moses demonstrates how ministers are to die in hope. Mohler urged graduates to ponder the inevitable reality that, should Christ tarry, they will eventually die. Moses did not die in despair but in hope and ministers must communicate this great eternal hope to their congregations, Mohler said.
"Like Moses, there are limits to our earthly leadership, there are boundaries to our own ministry," Mohler said. "... We had better order our ministries knowing we are going to die and we had better expect that our task is going to have limits that will helpfully remind us that only God can do this thing."
While Moses is a great role model, Mohler reminded graduates that the ministry is not ultimately about the central figure of the Old Testament but about the central figure of history, Jesus Christ. While Moses was a mediator, he merely prefigured the Great Mediator, Mohler said.
"Moses was a leader but Christ is a Savior," said Mohler, referring to Hebrews 3. "Moses was a prophet, but Jesus Christ is the great Prophet and Priest and King. Moses was a servant in the house but Jesus Christ is the Lord of the House, the Son of the Father whose house it is.
"It is so important we understand that when we look at Moses, after all, we are not the people of Moses. We are the people of Christ. But how thankful we must be that we have been given an example like Moses.
But in the end we understand it is all about Christ, for He is the Mediator who accomplished our salvation
and the One whose church we serve."