In his first ever message to new students as president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Mark Labberton encouraged students to give their whole selves to God and be transformed by the renewing of their minds.
His sermon at New Student Convocation, taken from Romans 12:1-2, invited students to do as the Apostle Paul implored the church in scripture, "offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship."
Labberton noted that sometimes seminary students will offer parts of themselves - the academic or student part of their lives - but he urged them to bring their whole selves, not to the school, but to God.
"Offer your life to God," he said. "Believe that as you offer your whole self to God that what this place can be--how it can encourage you, challenge you, strengthen you, help to redefine you, help to awaken you--that as all of that occurs it will happen, in part, because you have offered your whole self."
The new students, who represented men and women from countries all over the world such as Kenya, South, Korea, China, Argentina, Mexico, and Germany, were also encouraged to be open to how God will intersect their lives with the lives of others. If students are open and ready to grow in their understanding of the world, and of God, they can become new people, Labberton said. And in being open and presenting their whole selves to God, it is an act of worship.
"This is where theological education begins and ends-it's an act of worship. It's an offering in response to God." Labberton said. "Everything else that happens at Fuller should be set, in my mind, in the context of an offering of worship. How does this enable us to live a more fully human life, a more vigorous life in the presence of God, a greater and deeper compassion of life, a greater readiness to serve and respond and to give our lives in the name and for the cause of Jesus Christ in all dimensions? In every school at Fuller is a school that attempts to affirm how that can be lived out."
Labberton concluded his message with an exposition of the second verse of Romans 12, which says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." He told the students that this is a warning for the many times in which they can become distracted by the culture or their circumstances.
"God wants to transform us into people who share a vision of reality, a compassion, a justice, and a capacity to engage, which is a reflection of the heart of God," he said. He added that it is through the process of God renewing their minds that they will be able to do the deep profound work of ministry. He encouraged the students to rely on their professors and peers to also help renew them and positively affect their lives, noting that he had met many lifelong friends during his time at Fuller as an MDiv student.
The goal of seminary is not to just graduate quickly with little debt, he said. "The real goal is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable. That is God's love for the world…we're invited to be participants."
The convocation service ended with prayers from the deans of the schools of Theology, Psychology, and Intercultural Studies, and the singing of "Be Thou My Vision."
Students were dismissed to their respective schools for continuing welcome week events. The detailed schedule of events can be found at welcome.fuller.edu.