NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“Can these bones live?” That is the question God asked of the Prophet Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones. According to New Orleans pastor Fred Luter, God is asking the same question of many Christians today. “Can these bones live?”
During the first meeting of the April 2-4 campus revival at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Luter said Christians often lose their vitality and become like the dry bones Ezekiel encountered in Ezekiel 37. The situation appeared hopeless.
“Here are individuals who once had life, here are individuals who once had vigor and vim and vitality,” he said of the bones in the valley. “But look at them now — dry, brittle, and spiritless.”
“If we are honest with ourselves, many of us can identify with these folk in our text,” Luter argued. “Because many of us are like dead men walking. We’ve lost our vim, we’ve lost our vigor, and we couldn’t find vitality if it slapped us in the face. We’re dry spiritually.
“If the question was asked of me, ‘Fred, can these bones live, can these bones be revived?'” he said.
“The answer would be ‘yes,’ but several things must happen first,” he answered, speaking from experience.
Initially tasked with resurrecting or burying the church he now serves, Luter is the pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans that has swelled from 65 to approximately 6,000 members during his fifteen-year tenure with the congregation. His commitment to God’s Word and his boldness in proclaiming the Bible has caught the attention of many with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Greater New Orleans Baptist Association and the Louisiana Baptist Convention has tapped him for leadership positions and in 2000, he served as a member of the committee that worked on the revision of the Baptist Faith and Message. In addition, Luter will serve as the Honorary Chair for the New Orleans division of the seminary’s New Horizons capital campaign.
At the 2001 Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Luter became the first African-American pastor to deliver the convention sermon. Not bad for a man who considers himself “a street preacher from the lower 9th Ward,” (one of the toughest areas in the city of New Orleans).
Using his characteristically energetic preaching style, Luter shared that despite all appearances, Ezekiel discovered that the situation in the valley was not hopeless. Neither is the situation hopeless for the spiritually dry today.
However, for the “dry bones” to live again, they must realize they are dry. He argued that each Christian should know whether they were right with God or not. For him, it was a matter of being honest with oneself.
“No one should have to tell you that you’re dry, no one should have to tell you that you’re lifeless, no one should have to tell you that your joy is gone,” he said. “Many of us, if we’re honest, are just going through the motions … we’re dry and brittle and lifeless. However, my friends, the first step to recovery is to realize your condition and admit your condition.”
Hearing the Word of God is necessary for the “dry bones” to live again. God instructed Ezekiel to preach to the dry bones and when he did, the bones came together and the people came to life. Luter said that the Word of God will revive those who are spiritually dry.
“Oh, dry bones! Hear the Word of God,” he exclaimed. “The Word of God gives life. The Word of God gives hope. The Word of God gives strength. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but God’s Word shall stand forever.”
Another key factor in revival that Luter pointed out is that the spiritually dry must respond to God’s Word to be renewed. Then he quoted a number of passages, which offered hope for the spiritually dry and encouraged the audience to apply God’s Word to their lives.
“Don’t just study [the Word of God], do it, don’t just read it, do it,” he urged. “You’ve got to walk it, you’ve got to talk it, you’ve got to live it. If you hear and respond to the Word of God, even dead, brittle, dry bones come to life.”
Just as the Spirit of God brought life to dry bones in Ezekiel 37, the spiritually dry must be filled with the Holy Spirit to be revived. Luter said those who are filled with the Spirit of God cannot help but be changed.
“Oh, preacher! Can these bones live?” he exclaimed. “Yes! Yes! Yes, they can live! God said we can live, so let’s live!”
Frequently during the week, Luter urged the audience to evaluate their spiritual condition and return to God. “If you aren’t as close to God now as you used to be, guess who moved?” he asked. “That’s why we need revival, so we can get back close to God and be the people He has called us to be.”
The exuberance and enthusiasm Luter exhibited in his four sermons during the campus revival was matched only by the ladies from his church who sang during the revival. Close to 100 members of the Franklin Avenue women’s choir blessed the seminary community with two songs during the last service, held on Thursday evening.
Michael Adler, minister of music and worship at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., served as the worship leader for the revival. He and his worship team provided a powerful rendition of the old African-American spiritual, “Dry Bones.”
Video-streaming of three of Luter’s NOBTS campus revival sermons may be viewed at www.nobts.edu/chapel. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: THESE BONES CAN LIVE! and REVIVAL MUSIC.