SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
As Thou Hast Been Thou Forever Will Be
Print This Sermon
Sunday, July 13, 2008 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1188
Pastor Don Horban

The theologians and technicians call it God's immutability. In the last teaching we saw God is eternal. But He's much more than that. He's not just eternal in terms of duration of existence, He’s consistent in terms of nature and being. In other words, not only does He exist forever, He is always, eternally the same in nature.

This is not true of us. Time doesn’t just age us. It changes us in so many ways. Our bodies lose strength. Our minds grow dull. Our senses diminish. So not only are we not eternal, but the time we are given affects constant change in our lives. Children are immature. Teenagers are frequently impulsive. We've all seen, at least occasionally, an even tempered man or woman turn rigid and grumpy in old age.

In our short lives we say things and live to regret saying them. We frequently have to "eat our words." Healthy people get sick. Young people get old. Foolish people can become wise. Wise people can become senile. Rich become poor. And on it goes. The circle of life only sounds beautiful in the song. The circle is actually a very painful experience.

Again, this endless condition of human flux is a divinely given marker - a proof that we are not God. Here’s another way in which the difference between the creature and the Creator is indelibly stamped. In mankind change is inevitable. In God it is impossible.

This changing state in man has always been a great source of frustration.
A.W.Tozer says, "Neither the creature is fixed nor his world, but he and it are in constant flux. Each one appears for a little while to laugh and weep, to work and play, and then to go to make room for those who shall follow him in the never-ending cycle."

It's against this background of man's changeability that God's unchangeableness (His immutability)shines so beautifully. Some verses are almost too big for us to properly handle. To study them intently is like trying examining at the end of your nose without a mirror - you're familiar with it, but it makes you dizzy to stare at it too long:

Psalm 102:25-28 - “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. [26] They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, [27] but you are the same, and your years have no end. [28] The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.”

Take special note of verse 27 - “....but you are the same, and your years have no end.”This verse announces two concepts, not one. The second - “....and your years have no end,” proclaims God’s endless, eternal existence. We’ve already studied this. The first, “....but you are the same,” signals God’s unchangeability. He is always the same.

But even here, we must tread carefully. There are many theologians - “open theists,” they are often called - who don’t celebrate God’s unchangeability. They fear we are making God too statue- like, incapable of genuine love or passion.

But this is not the unchangeability of God as portrayed in the Scriptures. God isn’t unchanging as a stone is unchanging. He is unchanging in a beautiful way, not a static way. He is constantly faithful, constantly holy, constantly loving, constantly wrathful against sin, and constantly dependable. In short, He is constantly Himself - constantly self-consistent. It is in this sense, not a static sense, that God is, with great poetic accuracy, pictured as a rock in the Scriptures. One of my very favorite such references is Deuteronomy 32:3-4 - “For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! [4] "The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”

In fact, a great indication of the health of your spiritual appetite is the sense of wonder and joy that fills your heart as you ponder this truth. If this tires you, all is not well in the basement of your soul. You see, down through the centuries, the hearts of devout saints have always taken refuge in the unchangeable nature of God:

Henry F. Lyte in his classic hymn "Abide With Me" wrote - "Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day, Earth's joys grow dim; its glories fade away. Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me."

Thomas O. Chisholm in "Great is Thy Faithfulness" - "Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be."

What deep words! What are these men praying in these familiar words? They are saying they have found the cure for the great sickness of fleeting stability in mankind. They are saying they've found a rock, an anchor, a resting place - word it any way you like - they are saying this is something about God that needs to be entered into and meditated upon.

How we benefit from the unchangeable nature of God? Consider these few thoughts:

1) BECAUSE THE REACH OF GOD’S GRACE IS CREATED BY HIS UNCHANGING REVELATION IN JESUS CHRIST, RATHER THAN THE REWARD OF OUR MERIT, THERE IS HIGH AND SOLID HOPE FOR SALVATION FOR EVERYONE

Hebrews 7:25 - “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

“Save to the uttermost....” I’m in that group. If the hinges of God’s mercy are to be pushed open from my side of the gate I have no grounds of hope, let alone assurance. But if it’s God’s nature - His nature that will outlast the rise and fall of a thousand Mount Everests - if it’s that strong nature of God to extend saving grace to the “uttermost” I can face eternity with confidence. This is why we sing, "His blood can make the foulest clean." It’s God’s unchanging nature upon which this statement stands.

Let me make this point as strongly as possible. Let no one, in the church or out of the church, whatever accusation is leveled against you, whatever gossip you hear, however cruel or unforgiving Christian people can sometimes be - let no one ever doubt for a moment that if you come honestly in thorough, Scriptural repentance - if you turn completely from your sin and solidly rely on Christ in faith - let no one hinder you from expecting new life, new hope, and new beginning in Christ Jesus. We stand on this, not because our “Statement of Faith” says so. We are dealing with the nature of God here. He is still the great Sanctifier of the dirty, the broken and the lost. He is unchangeable in this.

One final thought here: one of the deadliest forms of forgetfulness of this truth of the unchangeability of God manifests itself when people replace the solid unchanging grace of God with their own frustration over their spiritual ups and downs. Remember, while it is good to feel remorse for your sin, it is bad to shrink God’s unchanging nature down to the size of your spiritual efforts. There are all sorts of people in the church who need to re-believe, all over again, in the incredible power of redemption, not because of the power of positive thinking or some kind of psychological manipulation of human emotion, but because of the eternally unbending nature of the Being who is God.

2) BECAUSE GOD NEVER CHANGES WE CAN HAVE CONFIDENCE IN PRAYER

As kids, we used to try to find the best times to ask our parents for things. Immediately after you bring home a report card with a string of D's is not the best time to ask for an increase in allowance or an extension on your curfew.

We all learn, from our earliest years, that the people we engage relationally always vary in terms of approachability. One of the difficulties in maintaining relationships in this fallen world is no one always gets exactly the same response from the same people.

But what if you could? What if there was Someone unchanging to whom you could go? What if you never had to drain emotional energy trying to anticipate the kind of reaction you were going to get? There is. And we call the approach to Him prayer. You need never wonder, in coming to the Father, whether you will find Him in a receptive mood, or whether He's open or closed, awake or asleep.

Hebrews 13:8 - “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Today, at this very moment, God feels towards His creatures, toward the needy, the sick, the fallen and the confused, the wicked and the wayward, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son into this world to die for mankind.

3) BECAUSE GOD NEVER CHANGES THERE IS SECURITY IN LIFE FOR THOSE WHO HOPE IN HIM

James 1:17 - “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Again, the Biblical author works out the practical benefit of the unchangeability of God, “....the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” He says those who honor the Father, who heed His word, who receive His salvation and glorify Him first of all in their lives will always be objects of His loving care and gracious provision.

Hear it all over again. James says that will never change! God is unalterably committed - it is an unchanging part of who He is - to care for those who honor Him.

We need to rethink all that this means in today's world. This means we are safe to seek His Kingdom first. We can risk greatly and wildly for Christ because it is Father God’s unchanging guarantee to supply for the kinds of things others, who have no such promise, must scramble after in their own dissipating strength.

How many Christians, who perhaps have walked with Jesus for years, still haven’t fully learned they don't have to go to bed at night worrying about the housing market? That they needn't fear the rise and fall of interest rates? That their Heavenly Father can feed and care for them regardless of the depths of a recession? This is wonderful, practical truth.

I certainly don't mean to be trite. And I'm not belittling the prayer request for food or employment. In fact, quite the exact opposite, pray with confidence about those things because God cares for His children. Every once in a while, when your all alone at night and afraid for your future, imagine this little scene in heaven. Picture God off in a corner just sort of talking to Himself - "I know I promised to supply all his needs, but I just hadn't banked on this situation. Boy, I hadn't planned on this at all! I just don't think I can cope!" And then kind of smile, commit your life to the Lord who can create a universe out of nothing, and go to sleep.

4) BECAUSE GOD NEVER CHANGES THERE IS TERROR IN SIN AND REBELLION

Exodus 34:6-7 - “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, [7] keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."

Don’t be confused about God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children....” This isn’t about God punishing innocent children for their grandparent’s sin. The text is merely pointing out the obvious truth that if your kids learn careless patterns of disobedience from you, don’t think God will not punish them just because they wouldn’t have been disobedient were it not for the example you set. You see, God has an unchangeable intolerance toward sin. The Bible says He cannot bear to "look on iniquity." That means there is zero chance He will ever compromise with wrong doing. He will not alter His standards. His holiness is fixed and unchanging.

Read the book of Malachi. It’s in the context of the people’s slackness in the areas of divorcing their partners, their love of material goods and the spending of all their wealth on themselves, giving only pitiful left-overs to God’s work, their devotion to the convenience of false gods, and their slackness to participate faithfully in worship - it’s in the middle of all this God utters those famous words - “I change not!” This is still a revelation of His love. He calls the people to remember - remember before it’s too late - that He doesn’t get used to their sinful inclinations and ideas just because they have grown accustomed to them.

5) BECAUSE GOD IS UNCHANGING YOU CAN TRUST IN HIS WORD

Isaiah 40:6-8 - “A voice says, "Cry!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. [7] The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. [8] The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

The prophet asks the important question - “What shall I cry?” What is the message? What needs to be shouted from the rooftops? “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field....” Then comes the rest of the message. “Cry this out - shout it - ‘....the word of our God will stand forever.’” There is only one way out of this maze of fads. You need to stand firmly on the Word of our God. Everything else will fail you. Everything else - including yourselves - will simply fade away.

Psalm 119:89 - “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”

We live in a world where people frequently "go back" on their word. They change from honest to dishonest. Sometimes people are mistaken in what they have said. They didn’t have all the facts, so their words weren’t reliable. Other times we mean well in what we promise, but we simply bite off more than we can chew. We make well intentioned promises but don't have the power or the ability to do all we have said.

God's Word is unchangeably true because He suffers from none of these limitations. That’s why David says God's Word is settled in heaven. It is out of reach of this world of corruption and change. Don't measure everything by the events of the world you see around you. God's Word comes from a different realm entirely. He can be trusted when everything here is turmoil. There's a stability in God's Word that will outlast the imperfections of this age and this world. Set your attention and affections there.

Do you read your Bible everyday? Do you breathe the air of an eternal realm? Do you practice what God says? Do you love what He says to love? Hate what He says to hate? Avoid what He says to avoid? We benefit eternally by God just being Who He is. And because He never changes He's the surest place to invest your eternal hope and confidence.

"Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me"