Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More to know about the God who never changes

Who likes getting in a rut? As much as I move furniture, like new things, and often change my mind, I’d like some things to be changeless. I don’t want to see more grey hair and wrinkles when I look in the mirror. I don’t want the green grass to fade and turn brown, or the fall leaves to do the same. I’d like time to pass more slowly and children to remain wonderfully childlike. It would be nice also if prices didn’t go up and the stock market didn’t go down.

Yet change is the stuff of life. Christian teacher and author Howard Hendricks says, “Christians resist change more than anything else, yet change is our destiny.” He is correct. God is at work changing us into the image of His Son. The work goes slowly, but He has promised to finish what He started. We are changing and will be like Him.

What then about change? Is there nothing that stays the same? Even the sun grows dim and our world will wear out.

You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed . . . (Hebrews 1:10–12)
Yet at the end of this passage and many more like it, the Bible assures us of one thing: God remains the same. He never changes.
For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. (Lamentations 3:22)
Some say God does change, that He was once a wrathful and violent deity that destroyed His enemies as shown in the Old Testament. Then when Jesus came, He revealed what God is really like, meek and mild and full of love. Those who think this way need to think more about verses like these:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
The Lord Jesus Christ does reveal God to us. Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Yet the Christ who came as a babe and died on the cross for our sin is not the total revelation of God in the Person of His Son. First, His claim of being the “I am” affirms that He is the eternal one, God the Son. This means Jesus is also God in the Old Testament — when those wars were fought and His enemies destroyed. Also, several times He made pre-incarnation appearances as “the angel of the Lord.”

Then there is the Second Coming. When Jesus returns, that meek, mild image will give way to a revelation of God in judgment. He came first to save us, not judge us, yet Christians are warned that we must, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6). In wrath, and in Jesus Christ, God will judge the world. In the revelation given to John of the last days and the judgment of this earth, John sees this:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11–16)
When He came the first time, Jesus revealed grace and truth. He showed us the love of God and His desire that sinners be saved. But even then, He declared that the peace He offered would cause division (“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Luke 12:51) and those who refuse Him would face judgment and wrath later when He returned and God would “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Romans 2:16).

For some, the switch from meek and mild to a sharp sword and eyes like fire is unthinkable. Who does not prefer grace and mercy? Yet because God never changes, His attitude toward sin and rebellion remains. One day, those who persist in their rejection of Him will discover that the God revealed in Jesus Christ who died for our sin in the New Testament is the same God of the Old Testament who hates sin and will punish it forever.

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Lord, Your unchanging nature is an anchor for me. If You were whimsical and unpredictable, I would have nothing to cling to — for all things change. Yet You remain the same. I’m glad that You sent Jesus to show the world that You are willing to forgive sin. And I’m also glad that You will send Jesus again to judge sinners and reveal Your wrath against sin, for Your unchanging attitude toward sin gives me greater incentive to turn from it and obey You.

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