April 16, 2008

He never changes

As a young girl, I recall pulling the petals off a flower to determine if “he loves me” or “he loves me not” — as if this would answer that unknown question and settle my heart concerning it.

Later, when I became a Christian I went through similar uncertainties. Did God love me? Or was I unloved? The question became forever settled when I realized that He’d proven His love for me at the Cross and I didn’t need to ask the question ever again.

“But what if He changed His mind . . . ?” my spiritual enemy whispered. What if the nature and character of Jesus changed? The Holy Spirit answered this with Hebrews 13:8. It says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” His love for me will not change because He does not change.

I read this verse again this morning and this time noticed the context. Verses 7-9a say, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace. . . .”

Odd, why was this verse placed between two verses that talk about sound doctrine and its outcome, and false doctrine that does not profit anyone?

One idea popped to mind and one commentary suggested the same thing. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday before He came into the world, and today where He is in heaven. He is the same yesterday in the time of my predecessors, and the same today in the life of the church. So there is no change in Him or what He teaches. The doctrine of the Bible is the same now as was taught then. It does not vary because He is not variable. Verse 8 is the transition between how following Him works out in a person’s life and why Christians need to watch out for “various and strange” doctrines or any teaching that is not founded on grace (verse 9b).

Jesus Christ is the object of our faith. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) and no one can come to the Father except through Him. That truth does not change because Jesus does not change. It doesn’t matter that false teachers claim they are the only religious organization with the truth, or that you must belong to their group and follow their teaching. Instead Jesus said, “I am the Way” and He did not add on any denomination name and certainly not the name of any sect or heresy that claims they are the way.

An important reality is that following Jesus produces life change, as verse 7 suggests. If a Christian leader is living for Jesus, his life is worth following because he is demonstrating true spirituality and godliness out of a heart established by grace.

The Bible is filled with descriptions of what grace does in the human heart, making examples for people to follow. Grace is primary. Some call it God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Others say it is God’ unconditional care and kindness. My favorite definition is an old one based on the meaning of the Greek word for grace and the way it is used in Scripture: grace is a revelation by God of Jesus Christ to the human heart that changes us to be like Him.

This definition fits with these verses in Hebrews. The leader whose heart is established by grace has been transformed inside and out. He lives in an exemplary manner. As he follows Jesus, the life of Christ within him makes those changes permanent in his character.

In contrast, those who follow strange doctrines almost always wind up using some sort of “do it yourself kit” and depend on their own efforts for change. Grace is abandoned in favor of “you must do this . . . to be saved” even though the unchanging Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus didn’t say that we get to God by doing good deeds, giving money to the church, attending church, belonging to this or that religious group, or any other way or method. Jesus is the Way and because He doesn’t change, that Way (and His great love for me) will never change either.

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