NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, exhorted churches to use their spiritual gifts to glorify God in a June 11 sermon at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
Biblical values of focused worship, Gospel action, effective prayer and unconditional love are key in glorifying God in word and deed, McLaurin preached, standing on 1 Peter 4:10-11 as a text.
“I’m convinced and convicted today that we exist in order that we might bring glory to God,” McLaurin said, using the early church as referenced in Acts 2 as an example. “The testimony of the early church is these were they that turned the world upside down and right-side up. They were devoted to the apostles’ preaching and teaching. They were devoted to the fellowship. They were devoted to the breaking of bread, and then they were devoted to praying.”
Vibrant churches prioritize biblical values, McLaurin said.
“Brothers and sisters, we live in a culture that devalues values,” McLaurin said. “We live in a culture where anything goes and everything is acceptable. But Peter reminds us that we have godly standards that we are called to live by. You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people that you should show forth the praises of Him Who brought you out of the darkness.”
McLaurin preached before thousands gathered in worship at the pastorate of Fred Luter, who is the lone African American ever elected as SBC president, having served from 2012-2014. McLaurin is the first African American to lead an SBC entity in his role as interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. More than 100 SBC leaders and annual meeting attendees were recognized among worshipers.
The biblical truth, McLaurin said, is found only in the infallible, inerrant, inspired and authoritative Word of God.
“We are called to biblical values,” he said. “We are called to live differently before this dying world.”
McLaurin encouraged believers in their prayer lives, exhorting them to pray believing God for an answer, to pray expecting God to answer, to pray earnestly and to pray eagerly, supporting his encouragement with Mark 11:24 and Matthew 7:7-8.
“If prayer is not your foundation, your foundation will fall apart,” McLaurin said. “And if prayer is not your main business, you will soon be out of business. Brothers and sisters, we live in a time and in a generation where we need to pray more than ever before.
“Our pastors need prayer. Our churches need prayer. Our Southern Baptist family needs prayer. Our country needs prayer. Our world needs prayer,” he said. “Prayer always precedes great things of God. If we are going to see a public movement of God, there must be those private moments with God. Don’t expect God to move corporately if you’re not looking up at God privately.”
McLaurin encouraged Christians to operate within their God-given gifts, including the gifts of salvation, the Holy Spirit and a spiritual gift that makes us suited for particular ministry.
He also called them to exhibit sincere love, citing 1 Peter 4:8 and 1 Peter 1:22.
“He says above all, love each other deeply,” McLaurin said. “This phrase above all means we ought to put our priority and our premium on loving. There are some other things we need to do, but the priority in our lives should be on loving other people. Above all, love each other not with a surface love, but love each other deeply.”
Put love on display, living hospitably, McLaurin urged, citing 1 Peter 4:9.
“We’re called to be hospitable,” he said, “not just to those that are lovely, not just to those who are friendly or fun to be around, not just those who look like we look or deposit the way we deposit. But we’re called to open our arms and make everybody feel welcome.”
He referenced the criticism Jesus endured on earth because he ate with and spent time with sinners.
“We’re called, brothers and sisters, to offer hospitality to people regardless of their nationality, their age, their color or their social status,” McLaurin preached. “If they’re a friend of Jesus, they ought to be a friend of mine.”
Forgiveness is the proof of love, McLaurin said, referencing Peter.
“Love each other deeply. Why? Because love covers a multitude of sin,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, we’re called to have the type of love that is quick to forgive, the type of love that does not put everything under a microscope.”
McLaurin quoted an oft-repeated phrase of the late Adrian Rodgers, who served three terms as SBC president.
“Sin will take you further than you wanted to go, sin will keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and sin will cost you more than you wanted to pay,” McLaurin said. “But I’m so thankful, that according to Romans 5:8, that God demonstrated His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, He died for the ungodly.
“You were hopeless and you were helpless, but there’s nothing so good that you can do to cause God to love you any more. There’s nothing so bad you can do to cause God to love you any less. It’s just the unconditional love of Jesus.”