January 1, 2006
BETTER THAN LUCK
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Starting a new year can be exciting, but it can also be scary. As the calendar changes, we’re reminded that time changes things. A few seconds is enough time for an accident or earthquake to shatter your life. A day or two is enough time for a stock market to plunge, a job to be lost, a hurricane, tsunami, or earthquake to bring ruin. A year is more than enough time for conflict to wreck a marriage or for cancer to end a life. Time changes things, and not all of the changes are happy.
Amid the changes, can you count on anything to stay the same?
You certainly can’t count on luck. If you believe in luck, you may think you’re having great luck one moment, only for it to turn into rotten luck the next moment. Take Woodrow and his wife Lois, for example. They were thrilled. The winning number for the lottery had just been announced, and that exact number was on their ticket. The grand prize was $12 million. Woodrow and Lois were jubilant—at least for a few hours. Then lottery officials found that there had been a proofreading error when the winning number was published. The ticket wasn’t worth $12 million after all; it was worth nothing. It had all been a mistake. The next day Woodrow died of a heart attack.
When you hear that true story, you may say, “What rotten luck!” But I think all luck is rotten. I think it’s disastrous to trust in luck. Every story where luck is the main theme will eventually have a sad ending. You may disagree and think luck is important. You may like lotteries or casinos or some other kind of gambling. You may use good luck charms or lucky numbers to improve your chances, and you may avoid certain things that might bring you bad luck. Then again, you may not believe in charms or omens, and you may think it’s dumb to throw money away on gambling. But you still might believe that life is just a series of random events. Life is a lottery, a matter of luck.
The trouble luck is that you can’t really trust it. You never know whether luck is going to be for you or against you. You can be praising your good luck one moment, only to find out the next moment that your luck has gone bad. If you’re like Woodrow, your faith in luck can give you $12 million dollars one day and then take it away and kill you the next day.
If I had to go through life depending on luck, it would drive me crazy. Here at the beginning of a new year, I couldn’t bear to think that everything that’s going to happen in 2006 is just a random jumble of chance events. I couldn’t handle the wondering and worrying. I couldn’t feel safe or secure. But I don’t believe in luck. I believe something better than luck. I believe in the unchanging faithfulness of God in Jesus Christ.
An Anchor for the Soul
The good news is that, amid so many changes, there is one unchanging reality you can always count on. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus never changes, and his faithfulness to those who believe in him never changes. “His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart (Psalm 91:4).
Have you ever had a rough ride in an airplane? Turbulence tosses the plane this way and that. An air pocket makes the plane drop suddenly, and your stomach shoots into your mouth. As you near your destination and come in for a landing, the plane shakes and sways in the wind. When it reaches the runway, the plane bounces a few times before screeching to a stop. After such a wild and bumpy ride, what a relief to be on firm ground! It feels great to have both feet standing on something solid.
So too, if you’ve been blown this way and that by turbulence and changing times, it feels great to have both feet standing firmly on the rock-solid reality of Christ. Faith in Jesus brings security and stability you can’t find anywhere else. Your health can change, your relationships can change, your finances can change, weather patterns can change, economies can change, technology can change, governments and national boundaries can change, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Changing times don’t change the Lord. All other things, even the very earth and sky, are changing. The Bible says earth and sky are like clothes that eventually wear out and must be changed. “But,” says the Bible of Jesus, “you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Hebrews 1:11-12).
The Bible says this in the first chapter of the book of Hebrews, and the eternal, unchanging character of Christ is emphasized throughout Hebrews. Around the middle of Hebrews, Scripture says of God’s promise in Christ, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). Finally, in the last chapter of Hebrews comes the grand declaration, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Are you anchored in Jesus? With each new year, with all the uncertainties and changes, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
A Person, not a Statue
If Christ is forever the same, does that mean he sits around doing nothing? No, Jesus is not a motionless, lifeless statue; he is a living, active Person. Jesus is changeless not in the sense that nothing ever happens with him but in the sense that, though he is always making fresh things happen, his identity and character do not change.
Jesus Christ always was, now is, and forever will be the Son of God, one with his Father and the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity. Nothing can change who Jesus is as God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. Long before the world was made and long after this world passes away, his divine identity is unchangeable (or as theologians put it, immutable). 2000 years ago, the Son of God took on a human nature and became a baby in a manger, but that did not affect his identity as God or change his divine nature in any way. Jesus Christ is the Son of God yesterday, today, and forever.
Ordinary people may change for better or worse. They may develop a different identity and personality than they once had. Relationships may change them. Success, wealth and power may change them. Illness, trouble, and loss may change them. You may know people who changed so much over time that they’re not the persons you once knew. Your spouse may not seem like the person you married years ago. Your children may be different from the kids you once knew. Friends and co-workers who were once very close may change personalities and grow apart. Christ doesn’t change like that. His personality is so splendid it can’t get any better and so strong it can’t be corrupted. Jesus Christ is completely perfect yesterday, today and forever.
Many of us change as our experience, education and knowledge changes. As we learn things we never knew before, we gain many new beliefs, and we may also give up some beliefs we once held. Christ doesn’t change like that. In his divine nature, his knowledge never changes. The Lord has always known all things past, present and future. Nothing new can be added to what he already knows. Nothing can change the way he sees things or reshape his personality. He never gains a new belief or gives up an old belief. The Lord does not guess or theorize; he simply knows, and his knowledge doesn’t change. Long before he created the world, he already knew everything that would happen in the year 2006 and beyond. Things that happened millennia ago are as present to his mind as things that are happening right now. Nothing in the past can slip his mind. Nothing in the present can escape his notice. Nothing in the future can catch him by surprise. Jesus is all-knowing yesterday, today, and forever.
Again, the Lord’s unchanging nature is not that of an unmoving, unthinking statue but that of a Person whose character is so perfect it can’t be improved and whose knowledge is so complete it can’t be increased. Jesus is not just a statue to be admired but a Person to be trusted, loved, and obeyed. When Hebrews 13:7 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” it makes this declaration amid a flurry of instructions for living in a personal relationship with Jesus and in personal relationships with other people. In a changing world, you need to build your life on the unchanging Person of Christ. The Lord himself doesn’t change or improve, but your relationship to him can change and improve as you know him better, and your own character can change and improve to be more like his unchanging character. Let’s consider Jesus’ unchanging love, his unchanging purity, his unchanging faithfulness, and his unchanging truth.
First, consider Jesus’ unchanging love. The Bible says that God is love and that God showed his love by sending his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him (1 John 4:8-9). Even before Jesus came, God loved his people and moved Old Testament believers to sing that the Lord’s love “reaches to the heavens” (Psalm 36:5) and that “his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1). But only in the coming of Jesus did God show the full extent of his love. When Jesus welcomed and forgave some of the lowest people in society, he was called a friend of sinners. When Jesus wept for a friend who had died, people exclaimed, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36). Jesus told his friends, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” (John 15:9). In other words, Jesus loves his friends with the same unbounded, unending affection as God the Father has for Christ himself. The ultimate proof of Jesus’ love is the way he died for his friends, to pay the penalty for their sins and give them eternal life with him.
Still, the love Jesus showed during his time on earth might not help us much if Jesus’ love could change. If Jesus were the sort of person who likes you one day and turns against you the next, it wouldn’t help much to know how he loved in the past. If Jesus’ love could fade the way some lovey-dovey newlyweds lose their love after a few years and get divorced, then we might fear that in the new year, the Lord won’t love as he once did.
But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so his love is unchanging. It’s as great as it has ever been. The Christ who today reigns on the throne of heaven is the same Christ who sat and shared meals with the worst of sinners. He loves as much today with the crown of glory on his head as he did when he wore a crown of thorns on his head. Jesus’ situation has changed from 2000 years ago, but his love has not changed. Our world has changed in the past 2000 years, but Jesus’ love has not changed. If you’ve been embraced by Jesus’ love and have trusted his blood to pay for your sins, then you can be sure that he will never stop loving you and that absolutely nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
Once you have that solid assurance, you can start loving others as Christ has loved you. In Hebrews 13 the Bible says, “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering” (Hebrews 13:1-3). In other words, love those who are close to you, love those who are new or strange to you, and love those who are hated by others. Without Christ your love even for people close to you can fade, but with Christ your love even for strangers and prisoners can grow. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask for the Spirit of Christ to give you a love for others as passionate and permanent as his love for you. Jesus’ love is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Next, consider Jesus’ purity. As God, Jesus has forever been holy and pure, without even a hint of sin; as a man, Jesus faced the same temptations we face, yet he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). During Jesus’ earthly life, he always obeyed the holy will of the heavenly Father. This perfect obedience of Christ is what the Lord credits to all who trust him, so that they have the right to be called children of God and inherit eternal life.
The purity of Jesus wouldn’t mean much if he could somehow change and become impure or if God’s standard of purity could change. If Jesus could turn against his Father or lie or become foul-mouthed or dirty-minded, then his previous purity would be worthless. Or if God decided to change his standards and revise his holy commandments, then Jesus’ obedience to those commandments would become worthless.
But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so his purity is unchanging. The Christ who came to do the will of his Father is still as devoted to his Father’s will as ever. And the will of the Father is the same as it was when he revealed the Ten Commandments long ago.
Psychology Today magazine ran a feature article on spirituality with pop star Madonna on the cover. The article portrayed spirituality not in terms of the unchanging Christ but in terms of whatever moves a person deeply. This varies from person to person and from age to age. Madonna happens to like a particular brand of mystical meditation which, she says, suits the modern world better than Christianity does.
If God’s identity changes with the times, then standards of goodness can also change with the times. It’s not surprising, then, that the issue of Psychology Today which favored an evolving spirituality over the unchanging Christ would, a few pages later, carry an article about the benefits of sadomasochism. Sadomasochism—being turned on erotically by inflicting pain on others or having them inflict pain on you—used to be listed as a disorder by the American Psychological Association, but in 1980 the Association removed sadomasochism from the list of disorders, considering it okay. Something similar happened earlier with regard to homosexual behavior: the American Psychological Association once considered it a disorder but removed it from the list in 1973 and declared it normal. Lately, some in the psychology profession have hinted at lifting yet another taboo. Maybe, an article suggested, adults molesting children isn’t always so bad, after all.
Well, psychologists may keep changing their idea of what’s good and bad, but no matter how much they change, God’s standard of purity doesn’t change. God prohibits child molesting, sadomasochism, and homosexual activity. Indeed, God prohibits all sexual activity outside of life-long heterosexual marriage, including premarital sex, “living together,” and adulterous affairs. You may think psychologists have gone too far in the things they approve of, but you might still think it’s okay to have sex with someone you’re dating or to move in and sleep with someone without a lifelong commitment.
But what makes you think so? Do you think God’s standard of sexuality has changed? Do you think the Bible’s teaching about marriage no longer applies in the year 2006? Think again! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and the very chapter of the Bible says this also declares, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).
God will judge! If you don’t want the unchanging purity of Christ credited to your account, and if you reject God’s standard of purity and won’t seek to obey it, then the Lord will judge you. Even in this life he might make life miserable for you, and if you still don’t repent, he will punish you in hell forever. Jesus warned that the fire of hell never goes out and that the agony of the wicked never ends. Jesus never changes, his purity never changes, and his solemn warning never changes. Jesus doesn’t lie. He doesn’t make empty threats. He doesn’t change his mind about punishing those who reject him (1 Samuel 15:29). Talking about hell may not be very popular, but hell is real. The unchanging word of the unchanging Christ says so.
The Lord calls us to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). We can’t change him to match our impurity; instead, we must have him change us to match his purity. Jesus’ purity is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Another thing to consider about Jesus is his unchanging faithfulness. If Jesus’ followers could depend on Jesus on some occasions but not others, how could we ever be confident? If Christ could get sleepy or sick like we do, or if he could crash like our computers can, or if he simply decided not to help out up at certain times, then we could never be confident amid life’s uncertainties.
But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so his faithfulness is unchanging. “The Lord is the everlasting God,” says the Bible. “He will not grow tired or weary… He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:28-29). Trusting his faithfulness and being content with his care is the way to be free from fear and greed. In the words of Hebrews 13, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (13:5-6).
As you enter this new year, depend on Jesus’ faithfulness to give you happiness and security which money can’t buy, which human technology can’t achieve, and which human attacks can’t destroy. Focusing only on finances is a formula for fear, but focusing on Jesus’ faithfulness is the key to comfort. Human finances can change suddenly, but Jesus’ faithfulness never changes. Human technology can solve some problems, but it can also cause other problems. Our inventions can fail at the worst possible moment, and even when they work, our inventions can’t meet our deepest needs for love, forgiveness, holiness, and eternal life with God. Human help can’t replace Jesus’ faithfulness, and human attacks can’t defeat Christ’s faithfulness to his people. Jesus’ faithfulness is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
A final thing to consider here is Christ’s unchanging truth. We’ve already seen that his purity and standards don’t change, and we must realize that this applies to all of his truth. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Nothing is more foolish than to think that new times and changing trends mean that Jesus’ words are no longer relevant or that the truth isn’t what it used to be. When people deny that God created the world, or deny that Jesus is God or that he rose from the dead, or deny that the Lord knows and controls the future, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Even if all people on earth rejected Jesus and followed their own beliefs, it would not change the truth of Christ. In that case, says the Bible, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so his truth is unchanging. Christ gave his truth to his prophets and apostles, and his truth hasn’t changed. As you enter a new year, don’t fall for people who claim to have new, up-to-date religious ideas. Instead, build your life on the unchanging gospel revealed in Jesus, recorded in Scripture, and repeated by faithful Christian leaders from generation to generation. Hebrews 13 urges, “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:7-9).
Time changes many things, but time does not change Jesus Christ. He is far better than luck or than anything else you might count on. So put your confidence in Jesus. Embrace his unchanging love and seek to imitate it. Treasure his unchanging purity and start to reflect it. Trust his unchanging faithfulness and rest content in his care. Believe his unchanging truth and tell it to others. Then, whatever lies ahead, you can face the future fearlessly and joyfully.
Lord Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever, changeless through every year and all eternity, walk with us into the new year you have given us. Hold us in your everlasting arms and make us yours forever. Amen.
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.