KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Christianity is about as nourishing as pre-chewed sawdust,” declared Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Philip Roberts during his Aug. 21 convocation address at the first chapel of the new academic year.
Referring to the Great Awakening, Roberts noted that some ministers had resisted the movement. Roberts then warned of an even greater danger to God’s kingdom: “the danger of being unconverted while in the ministry.”
“The threat and calamity that such an awful state poses, not just for the general populace, but for the one who is seemingly called of God and perhaps is ready to embark on the adventures of theological education, or is even now in the midst of it, is indeed horrible and awful,” Roberts said.
He then posed the question, “Are you saved and are you sure?”
Roberts said he was less concerned with offending someone who was present than that someone present “might learn all of the fine points of ministry and miss the most important point. And that is that the Christian life is involved with knowing Jesus Christ personally and walking with him on a daily basis.”
Roberts said his concern was heightened by recent statistics indicating that less than half of the reported 16 million Southern Baptists attend church on Sunday morning. “If half of our convention cared enough about the holy Lamb of God to get out of bed and show up for church on Sunday morning, there would not be enough room in our churches to contain them. In fact, most of our members are what we might call seventh-day horizontalists.”
Quoting the research of George Barna, Roberts noted, “Only 43 percent of those who call themselves Baptists agree with the proposition that a person is saved by grace, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not by works. Of those who call themselves Baptists, 66 percent do not believe in a personal devil. But more important than surveys and reports are the words of Jesus Christ himself recorded in Matthew 7:21-23. Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven and many will say they have done great works, but Jesus will say that he never knew them.”
Roberts reminded his audience that the Bible calls for the believer to examine his or her faith. He cited 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 as but two examples. “Jesus makes a statement, indeed a prophecy, that a day will come when many — did you get that — will come to him and say, ‘Lord, Lord.’ And he says that they will come with a tally of what they had done in his name. But they will be disappointed.”
Those ones in Matthew 7 who called Jesus “Lord” had made a proper confession in at least two ways, Roberts said. After quoting Romans 10:9-10, Roberts noted the importance of acknowledging Jesus as Lord. “There are always three elements of a saving confession. And on two counts this crowd was correct.” He described the audible confession as also being an acknowledged or public confession. “It was made before men,” he said, “but if that is as far as your confession goes, it is not far enough.”
“Not only did they make a great confession, they had executed a glorious conduct,” Roberts continued. “They could drum up statistics as to how God had used their ministry. When Jesus said that he did not know them, they responded in protest and pointed out that they had prophesied in his name, cast out demons in his name and done many wonders in his name. It seems they were busy about preaching,” Roberts said. “Is it possible that one can preach from this inerrant Book and miss its message?”
As an answer to his question, Roberts related how after a revival service a retired minister came to him and asked the same question. “There on our knees in the pastor’s study that night, the retired minister gave his heart to Jesus Christ.”
Roberts also noted that it is possible for one to exercise great gifts and still not know Christ as Savior. He offered Judas as a prime example, noting that he was probably among the 70 who went out and cast out demons in the name of Jesus. “And, according to the Bible, the priests of Egypt did miracles. Jesus warned that a day would come when false prophets and false christs would arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect,” Roberts said.
“Why say all of this? Because possibly there is someone out there saying to themselves, ‘I have taught or I teach Sunday school. I taught Bible school. I have been on a mission trip. I am licensed to preach. I am ordained. I am going to school here.’ And yet, could it be possible that you do not have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ?”
Roberts added, “Let me say to you today that the most dangerous cult in America is not located in Salt Lake City or Brooklyn, N.Y., or Clearwater, Fla. Rather, the most dangerous false religious movement in America today is organized, social, cultural, traditional Christianity that emphasizes all the good things about the faith but misses the point. And that point is that we must know and own Jesus Christ as our own personal Lord and Savior. Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Christianity is about as nourishing as pre-chewed sawdust.”
Reflecting on the day of judgment, Roberts observed, “What a sad conclusion, what a horrific conclusion, that here they were expecting to hear, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant,’ and hear instead, ‘Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.'”
Questioning how this could happen, Roberts asked, “How can half of our people not care enough to worship the Lamb of God on Sunday morning? It has to do with the third element of a saving confession. The missing ingredient to a biblical confession, in addition to it being audible and acknowledged, is that it must be authentic.”
Roberts noted it is possible to make an inauthentic confession when someone is encouraged to just join the church by his parents, his teacher or his pastor instead of being encouraged to accept Christ. Walking the aisle and getting baptized is not authentic salvation, he said. “Salvation is the result of faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Confession should be the result of the convicting power and work of the Holy Spirit. And that conviction is that I am a great sinner and Jesus is the great Savior. Confession is authentic when it is induced by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.”
After extending an opportunity for “anyone and everyone who was unsure of his or her salvation” to come forward, Roberts closed the invitation. “I have to say that I am glad that this was one invitation I have given to which no one responded.”
Roberts was introduced by Radu Gheorghita, Midwestern’s visiting scholar-in-residence who, as a teenager in Romania, was ministered to by Roberts. Gheorghita described Roberts as “a very considerate man, one who can assess needs often neglected by others and respond to them.” He added, “I am sure this will be the quality which will soon be evident to all who are at Midwestern.”
Gheorghita noted that Roberts had modeled the cost of discipleship, relating that doctrinal convictions had hindered Roberts from receiving an advanced degree from a university that found Roberts research and beliefs too evangelical for its approval. “You will find that Phil is obedient to God’s call regardless of how awkward or unwise that response might look to man.”
He further described Roberts as “a great Calvinist on his knees and a great Arminian on his feet,” calling “his balanced life a reflection of his inner convictions.” He added, “This is a man for whom you need two theological systems to do him justice. I have enjoyed knowing Phil over the years and look forward to working with him again and watching the impact that his gifts and abilities will have on the life of Christ’s body here at Midwestern.”
Before delivering his convocation address, Roberts introduced new staff and faculty at Midwestern, including Malcolm B. Yarnell III, vice president of academic affairs; W. Michael Wilson, vice president of institutional advancement; Alan Branch, vice president of student development; and Gary A. Grunick as the new business manager. New faculty members include Tom Johnston, instructor of evangelism, and Gheorghita who, in addition to a teaching portfolio, will be writing New Testament studies and Greek grammars in the Romanian language.
Roberts, the fourth president of Midwestern Seminary, began serving in February of this year, leaving his previous position with the North American Mission Board where he was vice president of the Strategic Cities Strategies Group. He has been actively involved in promoting and teaching evangelism for more than 20 years and has served as an international pastor of churches in Germany, England and Belgium. He coauthored “Mormonism Unmasked” and “The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism” and was a contributor to the books “Missiology and Baptist Theologians” and “Missiology.” In addition, Roberts is the author of “Continuity and Change: London Calvinistic Baptists and the Evangelical Revival, 1760-1820.”
(BP) file photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PHIL ROBERTS.