WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke during chapel services at two seminaries recently, exhorting students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to remember their purpose and urging those at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary not to let Satan steal their joy.
Page spoke from Luke 13, the parable of the fig tree, at Southeastern’s Jan. 30 spring convocation, challenging students to live a life of fruitfulness rather than usefulness.
Also referring to the passage as a “parable of power,” Page said that like the fig tree in Luke, many churches and Christians are not fruitful and are guilty of the sin of neglect and inaction. He noted that the fig tree was planted on purpose and did not grow by chance.
“[The fig tree] was there for a reason,” Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., said. “Do you believe you are an accident of nature, or do you believe God has put you where you are for a reason? God has a plan for you.”
His second application was that the tree was planted for the sole purpose of producing fruit, not to look good or to provide shade.
“We are planted so that God will be able to use us for His glory to do that which He has called us to do. We are here to serve Him,” Page said.
The tree was planted in a vineyard where it was surrounded by sustenance and nurture, and Page compared the setting of Southeastern to the rich, fertile vineyard in Luke 13.
“You, as a student, have been placed in a position of peculiar privilege. God has blessed you with resources beyond what you could ever imagine,” Page said.
One of the strongest condemnations in the parables in Scripture is that of Christians who have become useless, the convention leader said.
“I believe with all my heart you will serve churches and you will find people who become useless. Many of us move from that uselessness to even worse, where we cumber the Kingdom of God,” Page said.
“If we do not seek, as God’s servants, a biblically based but relative methodology to take and apply it to our culture, we will see churches die away to nothing. We must seek a biblically-based relevance or else we will become the useless, worthless hindrance that was the fig tree,” he added.
The judgment for the fig tree was for it to be cut down, and that is the judgment for churches that become useless and cumbersome, Page said.
“Aren’t we glad that [Jesus] has not exercised His judgment as we deserve it?” Page said. “The time is urgent, and we must move quickly to be fruit-bearers. We must move from barrenness to fruitfulness.”
At New Orleans Seminary Jan. 24, Page told a chapel audience that underestimating the enemy leads to tragic results in the life of a Christian, but following Christ brings abundant life.
“To underestimate the enemy is to bring great and tragic consequences upon our lives and upon those with whom we are connected,” Page said during his first time speaking at the seminary. “To underestimate the enemy is to experience defeat on multiple levels.
“I am convinced that the ‘evil one’ has won far too many victories in our day,” he said. “I see it across our world. As a pastor I see it in individual lives. As a pastor I see families falling apart, one after another.”
With John 10:10 as his text, Page identified Satan as the enemy of Christians. According to the passage, the evil one comes to steal, kill and destroy.
Page said he spends a lot of time trying to help people who are hurting and ready to lay down in defeat. The evil one, he said, is destroying churches across the country and abroad by deepening divides and stealing unity among believers.
In his travels around New Orleans, Page said he encountered a pervasive depression. The circumstances surrounding the recovery from Hurricane Katrina leave people wondering if things will ever get better, and Satan has stolen their joy.
“Has the [evil one] stolen your joy?” Page asked. “He has stolen so many good things. For some people, he has stolen the purity of their testimony. No longer can they stand up and say ‘I’m right before God’ because they know they are not living righteous lives.”
Page said that the evil one wants to steal everything good that God gives His children, and believers must never underestimate the enemy.
“I want you to see in the later part of that verse the work of our Savior,” Page said. “God has two great desires. Jesus said, ‘I have come for a reason.’ He came to bring life and bring it more abundantly.
“Jesus is the prophetically-predicted, virgin-born, pure-living, vicariously-dying, bodily-resurrected, gloriously-ascended, presently-interceding, soon-to-return Son of God,” Page declared. “That’s who He is. Don’t let anyone else confuse you about that. He is the sinless Son of God.”
The message of abundant life is the message Christians must tell in New Orleans and throughout the world, the SBC president said. And though the evil one is at work, Jesus is overcoming that work with abundant life.
“We will not surrender a generation or more to that which the evil one wants to do, and that’s to steal, kill and destroy their hearts, their lives, their souls, their futures, their dreams,” Page said, challenging students to be innovative and relevant within the bounds of biblical orthodoxy while seeking new ways to share the Gospel.
“Teach us how to win a new generation,” he said.