Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever.
Life can be so confusing, and the Christian life can be even more mind boggling! Just when we think we have it figured out, God throws us a curve, and we wonder if we’ve understood anything at all. What happened? Did we miss what God was telling us to do? Was He too busy to pay attention? Did He change His mind?
God’s will and way have always included a fair share of mystery. (Beware of those who claim to know God’s perfect will for every detail of life- especially for your life!) in the list of heroes of faith, which we find in Hebrews 11, we see that many of them endured setbacks and confusion as they pursued God with their whole hearts.
In this life, we can see only the backside of the tapestry, and quite often we can’t figure out the image God is producing on the front side. In those times- and every person who genuinely wants to follow God experiences them from time to time- we have to go back to what we know is true about God. The writer of today’s verse reminds us that Jesus Christ never changes. His love, power, and authority existed in eternity past, and they will exist eons and eons into the future. They are real today, even if we don’t see them, feel them, or believe them.
Even when everything around us seems to be changing, we can trust that Christ’s heart, His purposes, and His love for us are still as strong as ever.
Great truths that are stumbling blocks to the natural man are nevertheless the very foundation upon which the confidence of the spiritual man is built.
Someone has said that the only constant is change. Life is filled with change from the moment we are born and change consistently continues until we die. There is no greater change than the one that occurs when we receive Christ as our Savior. From the moment He comes into our hearts, change begins to occur. No longer will we walk the same paths, no longer will our lives be filled with sinful ways, and no longer will we engage in our former lifestyles. The Bible uses some pretty radical words to describe the changes that come through salvation. “Born again,” Jesus said to Nicodemus. That was a difficult concept for Nicodemus to grasp and it is for us as well. How can we become someone new, like a baby just born, especially if we’re adults when we receive Christ? Yet we discover that Christ gives us a new nature, a new way of thinking and living, and a new desire for new things. We begin a journey of transformation.
Jeremiah is sent by God down to the potter’s house to see an illustration of what it means to be born again.
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will make you hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and saw that he was working at the wheel. But the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled by the potter’s hand; so he made it over, reworking it and making it into another pot that seemed good to him.
God takes us and remakes us. We’re the same clay but are formed into a different kind of vessel- the one that seems good to God. We may look the same on the outside but something dramatic and wonderful has taken place on the inside. As that change occurs, those around us will begin to notice that what is visible on the outside is changing. The only way we can truly change is when we allow the Holy Spirit to make the changes inside first. Only then will we become another vessel.
The second set of radical words used to describe the change salvation brings is “new creature.”
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”
2 Corinthians 5:17
What a powerful description of change. “New creature, reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit” describe the change that takes place when we are joined with Christ. Paul also uses the words, “grafted in” to imply that we are planted in Christ drawing our strength and nourishment from Him. We are no longer individuals walking the journey of life on our own. Now we are being carried and directed and led by Christ. We no longer make our own decisions, live our own way, or do our own things. Instead, our lives are wrapped up in Christ and we submit to all the changes He and the Holy Sprit brings about. And believe me, constant change is part of the equation. Paul describes another change when he says that “the old things have passed away.” In other words all we used to be is gone. Gone is our past, gone are our sins, and old habits. In other scriptures we read that we are to “put on Christ” by taking of the old garments of sinful living and dressing ourselves from God’s closet. Then Paul says that everything “becomes new.” No longer are we identified as sinners. No longer are we known by our old way. We aren’t just an improved version. We haven’t just been remodeled. We have been made new. We, like the clay in the potters hands have been made into something completely different that our old self.
The idea that we don’t need to change, the resistance that we have to change, or the fallacy that change won’t occur isn’t found in the teachings of the Bible. Indeed the very opposite. There are those who resist change by saying that who they are is because God created them that way but the Bible teaches that we are all born in sin, only an empty shell of what God designed us to be. Like the clay in the story of Jeremiah we are flawed and therefore we need a radical makeover. There are those who insist that if God isn’t forcing the change, it’s not necessary and besides they are perfectly content with who they are and how they live. So let me ask a question: when you read about Christ and learn about all He was and is, have you arrived at the place where you are exactly like Him in every way? Would you look at your self in the mirror of Christ and see His reflection and yours the same? Unless that’s the case, you need change. In the letter of 1 John we read the description of God’s future plan for His children:
“See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory].”
1 John 3:1-2
One day we will be “like Him” but only as we allow Him to impress upon this clay His image.
Every story in the Bible teaches us that change is inevitable and necessary. We read how God changed the purpose of the life of those who followed Him. For example, He took the life of Paul and changed it from being a church destroyer to being an incredible church builder. I think we can conclude that was a radical change.
So what about us? Do we find ourselves resisting change? I realize that we live in an environment of constant change, mostly which is out of our control and it’s easy to try to keep some sense of normalcy by holding on to the constants. How can we find stability in a constantly changing world? What about the changes that are occurring in the church? How do we cope with and accept that the way things used to be are changing? Change isn’t difficult when we are the ones instituting it but when it’s taking place without our making it, it’s scary. How do we know if the change is good and beneficial or whether it is eroding our faith? Let me share with us two things. First of all, the worst change is change for the sake of change. Many in our world, including the church want change because they’re bored with the old ways. That kind of desire for change is usually destructive. Sometimes the reality is that those who push for constant change really only want a change of power. Many revolutionaries don’t want true change. They just want to change who’s in power- themselves. Second of all, especially for the church, the person and teachings of Christ remain unchanged. We may change our worship style- the songs we sing or how we present the gospel and such but we dare not change the message or it’s content. If we become less formal in our dress we dare not become less reverent in our attitude toward God. No matter how many changes come about and they have and will, the constant fact that those without Christ are sinners who need a Savior, that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day, and “whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” must be preserved.
When we consider change or if we are experiencing uncomfortable change, let us consider that we have a strong, stable constant- Jesus Christ who was, is, and always be the same. Like a rock, we can anchor in Him and the tides of change will not cause us to drift away.
We can expect change, prepare for change, and allow change with great peace when we are anchored to the unchanging, all- powerful, all- knowing, and all-sufficient Christ.
Dr. John Thompson