Luter: What did it take to change you?

SBC president expounds on the power of the gospel to save.

IRVING—Fred Luter brought Sunday morning fire to his Monday night sermon at the Empower Evangelism Conference on March 4, waxing forcefully about the gospel’s power to save.

“When Ann Landers and Dear Abby run out of advice, the Word of God will still be standing. When the palm reader runs out of palms, the Word of God will still be standing … When Jerry Jones runs out of football coaches, the Word of God will still be standing,” shouted Luter, the Southern Baptist Convention president, preaching from Paul’s declaration in Romans 1:16-17 that he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel.

Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, briefly mentioned his role as SBC president and asked for continued prayer. “I want to honor you well. I want to honor my church well, but most of all I want to honor God well.” He is the first African American president in the history of the SBC, founded in 1845 in a split with northern Baptists over slavery.

Luter said Romans 1:16-17—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’”—shows the transforming power of the gospel to save all kinds of people through faith.

The believer’s mandate is to share it with a lost world, especially one living in what appears to be the last days before Christ’s return.

“You don’t have to be Bible scholar to know we are living in the last days and perilous times,” said Luter, noting senseless violence, rampant abuse, marriage and family breakdown, disrespect for authority and sexual immorality. Despite the culture thinking these things are the inevitable norm, “I’ve come all the way from New Orleans to tell you that nothing could be right if it’s biblically wrong.”

Mindful of the world’s sins and woes, Luter asked his audience, “What did it take to change you in your BC days?” before Christ.
“What did it take to change your life? … Somewhere along the line you heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Noting the Bible’s teaching that Jesus Christ is the same “yesterday, today and forever,” then “if he can do it in Paul’s life, in your life … why can’t the same gospel do the same thing in the same way in the days we’re living in.”

“In other words, if the gospel changed you, why can’t the gospel change those knuckleheads out there?” Luter exclaimed.
Four things about the gospel are clear in the passage, he said.

First, the gospel is personal because it is directed at individual hearts. “Sometimes it seems that sermon is meant just for you,” Luter said of the convicting power of the message.

At Franklin Avenue, Luter said he encourages his people to let the worship be personal. Remember, “it’s me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

Also, the gospel is powerful; it is the “the only thing that can penetrate years of sin and save a lost soul.”

For the drug addict, the homosexual, the gangbanger, the “hoochie mama,” the rebellious teenager, “no matter what they’ve done, the gospel can save their lives,” said Luter, explaining that he ministers “in the ‘hood.”

“The gospel is powerful because it can set you free!”

The gospel is also practical because it is powerful to save the Jew and the Greek.

“No matter your race, your background, whether you’re from uptown, downtown, your town, my town … they can receive the gospel.”
Skin color doesn’t matter to God either, Luter said. “The only color God is concerned about is the color red, because of the blood.
Nothing but the blood of Jesus … What can wash me white as snow? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

Furthermore, the gospel is persistent, saving people from “faith to faith.”

God’s Word is critical if the nation would be transformed, he said. When everything else has failed, the Word of God will stand.

There are some things in the culture for which he is ashamed, he said, noting abortion, government infighting, petty differences among church members, “the number of preachers who don’t practice what they preach,” some of the filth teenagers and others are watching daily.

But, “There is something I’m not ashamed of—the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation!” Luter shouted in closing his message.

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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