Welcome to this commencement service for RTS. Let me begin by reading the guiding statement of our purpose as a ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus:
The purpose of RTS is to serve the church in all branches of evangelical Christianity, especially the Presbyterian and Reformed family, by preparing its leaders, with a priority on pastors, and including missionaries, educators, counselors, and others through a program of theological education on the graduate level, based upon the authority of the inerrant Word of God, the sixty-six books of the Bible, and committed to the Reformed faith as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as accepted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America as its standard of doctrine at its first General Assembly in 1789. This program shall be characterized by biblical fidelity, confessional integrity, and academic excellence, and committed to the promotion of the spiritual growth of the students. The breadth of this ministry will include multiple campuses and extensions as led by the Lord.
That is what we do and why we do it! And this day is a day in which we put flesh on that vision. And we get to thank God for His faithfulness in the past and look to Him to provide for the future. We celebrate with these graduates how God is going to use them as they give all that they have learned to Him, in order to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
We are gathered to worship. Will you join me as we prepare for this service by dedicating our lives to Jesus Christ in prayer?
Let us come before Him humbly and reverently.
When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent word to ask if Jesus was the Christ or if he was mistaken. We read from Luke 7:
And when the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” (Luke 7.20).
In the midst of trying and difficult days in our own lives, we may ask, “Is this the One?” Even John the Baptist did. And Jesus answered and His answer is my report to you today:
And He answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” (Luke 7: 22, 23).
Jesus answered that despair in hard times, the Kingdom was here and going forward, in all of its power. And it is time to join Him for the march, not withdraw.
These are hard times that we are in: radical Islamic terrorism, global financial instability, and a continued moral decline in the West. Yet if you were to ask out of the dungeon of that reality, “Is the Church of Christ the One or is there another way?” Then, I am here to tell you that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is going forward in many ways, and it is most certainly going forward at Reformed Theological Seminary.
- The Kingdom of Jesus is going forward with more than fifty faculty, not only as pastor-scholars investing their lives and their study of God’s Word into another generation of pastors, teachers, counselors and other Kingdom workers, but also by bringing the Gospel themselves to the ends of the earth. RTS itself is a missions’ movement with a college of gifted preachers traversing Planet Earth each year preaching and teaching and fulfilling the Great Commission.
- The Kingdom of Jesus is going forward as we are bringing the deep study of God’s Word to millions upon millions through our unique relationship with Apple Computer! iTunes downloads are numbering in the hundreds of thousands each week. Through RTS Virtual, pastors in countries where we could not otherwise send missionaries or establish a seminary are hearing entire seminary courses and are thus growing themselves and then feeding their people the Word of God.
- The Kingdom of God is going forward in Jackson, Orlando, Charlotte, Atlanta, Washington DC, Memphis, and now at RTS Houston! Our newest campus in Houston has started classes and will begin to offer masters level education this fall, with the goal of a full-fledged master of divinity program. And how did we get there? A graduate told his father. His father told us, “I will pay for you to come, having seen what happened to my son!” As a result, our heart is to reach out in that metropolis and continue to reach out to the entire nation and world through campuses, partnerships like the ones we have in Indonesia and Brazil, with Mission to the World and with Ligonier Ministries, so that the Body of Christ is equipped for ever good work and so that, personally and through multi media, we will seek to obediently bring the “whatsoever I commanded” teaching of Jesus to the world in our generation.
Therefore, my report to you is that the Kingdom of God is here and it is advancing. In the midst of difficult days, you can tell those who are troubled about the Church that RTS is a sign that the Lord Jesus Christ is at work in our midst. He is here and nothing can stay the same.
And nothing speaks more visually or perhaps more powerfully to that truth than our graduates here this day.
“For you are our glory and our joy” (1 Thessalonians 2.20).
I charge you this day from God’s inerrant and infallible Word found in 1 John 1:1-3:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
As you go forth, bearing the teaching of Christ Jesus from these pastor-scholars here at RTS, and the experiences you have had of God’s faithfulness, and the joy of love among your own community, I charge you from this passage to do three things with this gift that so few Christians have the privilege to receive:
1. Proclaim Christ personally. The beloved disciple and his brethren had seen Jesus. Denying any heresy that He only seemed to have been God in the flesh, they lived Jesus personally before others. You too have encountered Him in your lives. He is the One who saved you, who called you, and who will be the One that others truly want. Don’t just repeat your theology that you learned here, give others the sacred teaching of the Word of God, but do so as one who has received it yourself. Never forget how Christ saved you and led you to follow Him. God uses that to touch others.
2. Preach Christ boldly. Without apology, in a wicked and corrupt generation, John declared the divinity of Jesus Christ to the world and called on others to do so as well. I charge you to preach Jesus boldly in this increasingly pluralistic, secular culture. He is the distinctive One that people need to hear. Lift Him up and He will draw others unto Himself.
3. Present Christ humbly. There is within this passage a note of humility. This Gospel is not owned by John, but this Gospel called John and others into a fellowship of believers, sinners saved by grace. And so you, too, must live Christ personally, preach Him boldly, but then minister Him humbly, with gratitude for what He has done for you, and with a broken heart for the lost and the needy.
Therefore, let all of your experience at RTS be used now to fulfill the Great Commission, personally, boldly and with humility, so that through Christ alive in you and you as His ambassador, the Gospel is unleashed to a desperately needy world, and souls are saved, and lives are transformed and the Kingdom comes.
These things I charge you, at this, your graduation from seminary, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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