"The God You Can Depend On"
James 1:17; Malachi 3:6...............Rev. Bruce Goettsche (5/28/2000)
Every trip I make to Chicago is an adventure. As I drive into the city I drive on roads I have driven hundreds of times in my life. But each time I travel them. . . they are different. Familiar buildings have been torn down, farmlands are transformed into industrial parks, and superstores appear to be cropping up all over. Change is all around us.
The same is true in people. Go to a class reunion and notice how everyone has changed. People may not grow up . . . but they do get older. The hair gets thinner, the midsection gets fuller, the memory loses it's sharpness and our health places limits on even the most carefree. We are changing all the time. We change our clothes, we change our minds, we change directions, we change jobs, we change cars, and we change moods in an instant. Since change is a part of our lives it is hard for us to grasp the truth that God does not change. Human beings have their good days and bad days. At times we might say that someone is "not quite themselves". But God never has a "bad day." This characteristic of God is called His immutability.
This word comes from the Latin mutare, meaning "to change." It forms the basis for the English words mutation and mutant. A mutant is a creature who has undergone an abnormal change in its appearance. But God is not a creature; he is the Creator. Thus he is immutable. He lives forever without mutation, alteration, variation, or fluctuation. He always remains the same. [Philip Ryken, DISCOVERING GOD p. 68]
In a world where consistency is a rare commodity, God is someone you can depend on. In a world where public opinion changes with the wind . . . God remains constant. Listen to a few of the verses that proclaim God's immutability:
In fact, the name that God gave to Moses, the name Yahweh (or Jehovah) means "I am". The point is simple: there was never a time when God was . . . or God will be. The way He is now is the way He has always been. He is perfect and complete. Nothing can be added to Him . . . because He lacks nothing.
OBJECTIONS TO GOD'S IMMUTABILITY
Doesn't Change Bring Freshness?
One of the comments that we hear often around here is that one of the things people like about our church is the fact that even though our worship is pretty constant, we keep changing things. People like the fact that we might add a skit, or sing a chorus accapella or skip a hymn or do something different. People tell us that change keeps things fresh.
So to some people, the idea that God does not change makes it sound like God is boring. They would point out that if the weather never changed things would be pretty dull, if we always sang the same songs it would get monotonous, if everyone always stayed the same life would loose some of its richness and fun. They reason that if God really doesn't change He would be boring too.
But we are comparing apples with oranges. Things get boring when they become uninteresting. But God is anything but boring. God is immutable but He is also unfathomable . . . in other words, it does not matter how well we get to know Him we will still not know Him fully. As we continue to know Him and enjoy Him life continues gets richer and more interesting. Walking with the Lord is an adventure unequaled in life. God is only boring if our relationship with Him becomes static.
Doesn't the Bible also imply that God Changes?
There is a new theology that began in Germany and is now fast taking hold in America. This new theology proclaims a new God who is "in process." Instead of being a God who is constant and consistent he is constantly changing. He is a god who takes risks, plays the odds, and does "the best He can." This god does not know what the future holds because it partly depends on us! This god is "open to possibilities". It seems downright ludicrous but many formerly "main line" teachers are embracing this teaching. [cf. Ryken p. 71,72]
This theology is anchored on the passages in the King James Bible where are told that God "repented". He declared that He was going to destroy Ninevah and then when they repented He "repented" and did not destroy them. Then there are the times when we read that God was sorry that He had made man in Genesis 6. And that he was sorry that He made Saul King. Does God change His mind? Did He make a mistake?
The issue becomes even more complicated when we read,
Numbers 23:19 is plain enough: “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent.”
1 Samuel 15:19, “The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent.”
So, how do we understand these passages that seem to contradict each other? Let me illustrate, suppose at the start of the year a teacher tells you that you will need at least a 70% grade to pass their class. You don't work as hard as you should and your grade average is 50% at mid-term. Your teacher tells your parents that you are not working up to your potential and you aren't trying. The teacher gives you a grade of "F". You proclaim that the teacher is mean and doesn't like you.
Your parents begin encouraging better study habits and you begin to do better in the class. The teacher affirms your effort and gives you a "C" at the end of the school year. The teacher now seems to be all smiles. The class is no longer horrible . . . it is one of your favorites. Here's the question: who really changed? The teacher acted as she said she would at the beginning. She was consistent. You were the one who changed. You received a different outcome but this was not due to a "shadow of turning" in the teacher, it was due to a change in you.
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. (Jeremiah 18:7-10)
God's purpose doesn't change . . . the people do. Since the people have changed God relates to them differently as He pursues His purpose in their lives. The Biblical testimony is unequivocable . . .The Lord does not change like men do. Our relationship with Him changes but it is due to a change in us . . . not in Him.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD'S IMMUTABILITY
Since God is Unchanging . . . Nothing that Matters has Changed
We yearn for something we can depend on. And in a world of constant change it feels like we are trying to hold on tight to a handful of sand. However, since God is immutable we know that the really important things have not and will not change.
We may move to a different location, we may take a different job, but wherever we are and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, Jesus Christ is same yesterday, today and forever. God's Word remains our standard of truth, God's Spirit remains as our guide. No matter where we are or what we are doing, the things that are truly foundational . . . the things we really must be able to depend on, have not changed at all.
Since God is unchanging . . . His Character is Consistent
Every manager of a ball team would like to have someone who is consistent every time they go on the field. It would be great to know that your pitcher is going to pitch a certain way every time they are called on. But that doesn't happen. Children would love to know that every time they wanted to talk to their parents, their parent was going to be attentive. Unfortunately, one time the parent is willing to drop everything and listen and the next time, they are too preoccupied to really listen. We don't know anyone who's character is always the same. At one moment we can be attentive, sensitive and generous and a moment later we can be distracted, hurtful and self-absorbed. You can be joking with a person at one moment and have them take offense in the next.
God is not like that. God's character never changes. He never is "less than" who He is. He never improves because there is no improvement possible . . . He is already perfect. God is always wise, always sovereign, always good, always just, always holy, always merciful, and always gracious. Whatever God is, he always is. There are no "sometimes" attributes of God. All of his attributes are "always" attributes. He always is what he is.
Practically this means
We will never come to God and find Him having a "bad day".
Since God is unchanging . . .His promises are sure.
Even though we are given straightforward commands to be people who "let their yes be yes and their no be no" we are not always true to our word. We promise to be someplace at a certain time and we don't get there. We promise to check in on someone and never get "around to it". We promise to get a job done but don't do it. We promise to pray for another, but we forget. We promise to "love, honor, and cherish, till death us do part" and sometimes we don't do that. We promise to "tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth" and sometimes shade the truth or leave important elements out.
God is not like that. When God makes a promise it is sure.
As you read through the Bible, look for the universal promises. Claim them as your own because God is true to His Word. What He promises He will do. He never reneges and never forgets. He is true to His Word.
Since God is unchanging . . . His love for you will never diminish
One of the fears that some people have when they get married is that the love in their relationship will some day diminish. One day they are going to wake up and love will be gone. Perhaps our physical features will change, or we will become ill and incapacitated, or perhaps we are afraid that we are just going to become boring. Whatever the fear, it is real. We've seen it happen to others.
We know what it is like to be the favorite of someone one moment and then be in the dog house the next moment. We have seen families fracture over relatively insignificant things. We know that love often ebbs and flows. But this kind of thing will never happen with God. He is consistent. You can depend on God's love. Do you remember the great declaration of the apostle Paul,
Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:35-39 NLT]
Some of you are desperate to hear this word. You have made foolish choices and bad things happened. Perhaps you have trouble praying because you are ashamed and embarrassed by what you have done. You don't see how God could love you after all you have done. But God knew us perfectly when He decided to love us before we were even born. He knew our nature. He knew about our rebellious heart. He knows what we have done. He knows how we have rebelled against Him. He knows that we go for days without even giving Him a thought. He knows this but He has chosen to love us anyhow.
Jesus came into the world to declare God's love and to provide a way for us to be forgiven. He went to the cross in our place, for our sin. And He did it because of His love for us. The Bible tells us that God's arms are open, not closed. He is not glaring at us . . . He is inviting us. He calls us to come clean about our wrongdoing and to receive His forgiveness. God desires to make us new from the inside out.
When we receive Him, we can be sure that His love will never waver. He might not like some of the things we do. He may have to discipline us. He may have to knock off the rough edges. But He will be doing so out of love.
You may feel that no one loves you. You may feel that no one understands. You may feel that you have nothing to offer the world. But you are wrong. God made you. He made you unique and special. He fashioned you in love. He knows your potential. He sees what you can be. And He would like nothing better than to be able to love you, and change you, and use you for His honor and glory.
Since God is unchanging . . . there is no sense waiting around for a better deal
There are those who really feel that when all is said and done . . . God will grade on a curve. Others think that God will give us another chance after death. Still others will believe that God will grant eternal life to everyone . . . regardless of what they believe.
This thinking is foolishness. God has graciously provided a way of salvation. There will not be other ways. The person who spurns God's invitation and persists until death will live forever facing His wrath. The person who waits to make their commitment to Christ, believing there will always be time . . . will be lost forever if something unexpected should happen to them. There is no other way of salvation. To know what God wants and to not turn to Him is to place yourself in a position of eternal peril.
Are you waiting until God decides to save you on your terms? Are you waiting until you find that offer of salvation that says you can ignore God's ways and still go to Heaven? If you are, you are wasting your time and you are in danger of losing the opportunity to know His life and His joy.
May I urge you to stop hiding and to turn to the one who loves you? Stop rationalizing your sin and admit it before the God of life. Take this opportunity to surrender to the God who seeks to lead you to life. You can do that right now. You don't have to change first. You don't have to learn certain information. You don't have to walk an aisle, raise your hand, or recite a particular prayer. But what you do need to do is to admit your need and profess and depend on His provision for your need. Maybe you'd say something like this:
Lord Jesus, I come to you today and admit that I've ignored you, run from you, and played games with you. Today I admit my rebellion. I ask that you forgive me through Christ. I know that Jesus died for me and that He can make me clean and new. I ask you to place your Spirit in me and that you help me as I seek to live with you and in you from this day forward. Thank you for the love which I do not, and cannot deserve . . . and will never forget. Amen.
Every one of God's attributes drives us to the point of commitment. We are reminded that our God is a great God. I hope you have seen that the immutability of God is more than an academic statistic. God's unchanging character is a truth that brings comfort, strength, stability, and a new sense of wonder. Look at our first four attributes:
No matter where you are in the journey or what you are currently going through . . . our Lord can help you. He is the one who can make you new. He is the one who will stand with you through any situation. He is the one you can trust. And He is the one you have been looking for and dreaming of. His arms are open. Draw close so He can wrap you in His love. There is no better place in the world to be.