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Summary: 13th in a series from Ephesians. The entire process of salvation is God’s gift - it is nothing we can earn.

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Last Sunday many of you may have seen the article titled “’Lord’ is fading at some churches” on the front page of the Arizona Daily Star. The article focuses on two practices that have become common in these churches – leaving the word “Lord” completely out of their liturgy and their services, and making all references to God “gender-neutral.” Let me read just a couple paragraphs from the article. I’m going to delete any references to the names of the churches or the people so that it won’t distract from the message they are conveying.

A lifelong [denomination], retired middle school teacher [name] calls the reduction of “Lord” usage she’s heard at the Come and See service “refreshing.” She also likes the references to a genderless God, because that’s how she’s always viewed the divine.

“I’m a great advocate of change, but not just for change’s sake,” said [name], 78. “A lot of people are turned off by traditional liturgy because it sounds like they have to literally believe these credal [sic] statements. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Faith is very personal.”

There is certainly a problem with removing the word “Lord” from the services. Our English translations use that word over 7,500 times and although I didn’t have time to check out every one of those references this week, my guess is that at least 7,000 of those uses of the word “Lord” refer to God the Father or to Jesus. And then there is this verse that needs to be dealt with:

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 (NIV)

That seems pretty clear to me. If you want to be saved, you need to confess Jesus as “Lord”, not as “love”, “soul”, or “light”, the words frequently used in place of “Lord” according to one of the pastors that was interviewed for the article.

And then there is this whole effort to make God gender-neutral. Now it is true that God is not a man. He is spirit. But in every single place that God is described as God the Father in the Bible it is unambiguous – the term is always masculine and means “Father”, not “mother” or even “parent.” There is a reason for that. When God is described as a Father, it helps our limited human minds to understand something about His nature.

If God wanted to describe Himself as a mother or a parent, he could have easily done that. In fact there are a few places where God describes Himself as being like a mother when He wants to convey that aspect of His nature.

But as important as those issues are, there is a deeper, more fundamental attitude that underlies these efforts. Let me read those two paragraphs once again and listen carefully to see if you can pick up on it.

A lifelong [denomination], retired middle school teacher [name] calls the reduction of “Lord” usage she’s heard at the Come and See service “refreshing.” She also likes the references to a genderless God, because that’s how she’s always viewed the divine.

“I’m a great advocate of change, but not just for change’s sake,” said [name], 78. “A lot of people are turned off by traditional liturgy because it sounds like they have to literally believe these credal [sic] statements. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Faith is very personal.”

Anyone care to venture a guess about what the root problem is here? [Wait for responses.] That’s right, the fundamental issue is that the people involved have imposed their own ideas and thoughts about what they want God to be like and how they want to worship Him.

I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised. If our culture today has an overall theme, it has to be “It’s all about me.” Most of you have probably seen people like this [show picture] walking around with a t-shirt that reads “It’s all about me”. Just a few weekends ago, the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff had an “All About Me Weekend”. There’s a book titled “All About Me” that promises to help you discover who you really are. And then there is this set of posters that you can order that pretty well summarize our culture today:

• I just don’t listen

• I know how you feel, I just don’t care

• Let’s focus on me

• It’s all about me. Deal with it.

Unfortunately, we’ve taken that theme and even applied it to our relationship with God. So in many cases, even in our churches it has become all about me and not about God. And so I get to pick which attributes of God that I’ll accept. In the Star article, one deacon commented, “the way our service reads, the theology is that God is love, period.” Well God certainly is love. But He is also holy, righteous and just. But since this particular church doesn’t wan to deal with those aspects of God’s character, they have made the conscious decision to just ignore those parts of the Bible.

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