Change is just a part of life. But it is definitely the case that as the years go by change is happening quicker than ever! And the changes we experience in church life are relatively minor compared to the huge changes in the world around. The world around us is very different from when most of us grew up As we face this ever changing world I am encouraged and sustained by the words of that old hymn.
ABIDE WITH ME, fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Change happens. Change is inevitable. And not all change is for the better. Some changes are very hard to cope with. Times of sickness. Times of grief and bereavement. Times of uncertainty when we don’t know the way forward or what lies ahead. Times of adventure and excitement and challenge. And here is what God’s Word the Bible says to us as we face times of change.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.
In a world which is changing ever more quickly, it is so reassuring to know we worship and God who will never change – who is always the same for us.
Heb 1:10 He also says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you
remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (quotes Psa 102:25-27)
Psa 90:2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change.
Here in Hebrews 13 our unchangeable God makes two wonderful promises to us.
5. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (quote Deut 31:6)
Hebrews quotes God’s words to the nation of Israel. God later spoke the very same promises to Joshua, “I will be with you, I will never leave you nor forsake you. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”
And believers through the centuries have claimed these promises for ourselves. However far we travel, however far from home we may be, even if we are prodigals lost in a foreign land, God will never give up on us. God will always be with us. And that promise carries wonderful implications.
6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Quote Psa 118:6-7)
Whatever the world throws at us, God is with us. God is our helper. We can trust in Him because God, the unchanging God, will NEVER let us down!
These Hebrews, Jewish Christians, were being pressured and tempted to abandon their faith in the face of all kinds of fierce persecution. The whole letter is written to encourage them to hang on in there! And these wonderful promises of God would always be even more precious for any Christians going through hard times for whatever reasons. Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever. He will NEVER leave or forsake us. He will ALWAYS be our helper in times of need.
God is unchanging. God is faithful. God is constant. God is always trustworthy, always reliable. But the letter to the Hebrews goes on to show us that God’s faithfulness to us challenges us to show that kind of faithfulness in different areas of our lives
Faithfulness In Brotherly Love (as we saw last week)
1 ¶ Keep on loving each other as brothers.
We should live the new commandment Jesus gave us – to love one another as He has loved us. We can show our brotherly love in simple ways like hospitality. A simple meal, a coffee together, a telephone call, just a little help in practical ways.
2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
And that brotherly love should not be restricted to helping folk who are easy to help – or those who will in some ways be able to repay our kindness.
3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.
God is faithful to us. He will never abandon us. He will always be our Helper. And that is the standard of Brotherly Love which God expects us to show to each other also.
Let’s just pause and reflect – how might God want you to show His kind of love and faithfulness in acts of brotherly love in the week ahead? Think of a few specific examples and ask God for his help to show HIS faithfulness in your life.
But then our unchanging and faithful God expects us to show faithfulness in other areas of life too.
Faithfulness In morality and sexuality.
4 Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Our God is unchanging, totally faithful. He always keeps his promises and never lets us down. And God has designed marriage between human beings as His perfect visual aid for His kind of divine love. So he expects husband and wife to keep their promises and never let each other down. Human marriage is a visual aid of the love between Christ and His bride the church. God’s love is the pattern and the standard for love in marriage. And sex is God’s wedding present – the ultimate expression of intimacy and love between a man and a woman. So when it comes to sexual relationships the commands of Scripture are very clear. Complete faithfulness within marriage. Complete celibacy outside marriage. This is God’s standard. This is how we live out God’s kind of love and faithfulness in our human relationships. The world around has long abandoned God’s standards for love and sexuality. The church has a duty to live out God’s commands.
Let’s just pause and reflect – how might God want you to show His kind of love and faithfulness in your relationships and your sexuality in the week ahead? Think of a few specific examples and ask God for his help to show HIS faithfulness in your life.
And then there are other areas where God expects us to show his kind of constancy – and here is one which might surprise us and even catch us out.
Faithfulness in money and possessions
5 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.”
William Barclay said this about money: “Money in itself is neither good nor bad; it is simply dangerous in that the love of it may become bad. With money a man can do much good; and with money he can do much evil. With money a man can selfishly serve his own desires; and with money he can generously answer to the cry of his neighbor’s need. With money a man can buy his way to the forbidden things and facilitate the path of wrongdoing; and with money he can make it easier for someone else to live as God meant him to live. Money brings power, and power is always a double- edged thing, for it is powerful to good and powerful to evil.”
Our God is a faithful unchanging God. We must learn to put our trust in God, not in our money. God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we must rely on God for our safety and security, not on our bank accounts or our savings and investments. We must rely on God for our happiness, not on our possessions.
Be content with what you have! We are not good at doing that. We live in a world which preaches that “enough is never enough!” The more we have the more we want. The world around, our friends and neighbours are driven by success. Somebody said,
“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.”
All around us the world pushes us to want more and more, the newest, the latest, the best. If only we could learn to be content with what we’ve got, because we’ve got God and that is more important than anything else! The real measure of our wealth is how much we’d be worth if we lost all our money and all our possessions..
Let’s just pause and reflect – how might God want you to show His kind of love and faithfulness in your dealings with money and possessions in the week ahead? Think of a few specific examples and ask God for his help to show HIS faithfulness in your life.
So we serve Jesus Christ who is the same, yesterday and forever. He calls us to show His kind of faithfulness in every area of our lives.
Faithfulness in brotherly love to one another
Faithfulness in morality and sexuality, marriage and relationships
Faithfulness in money and possessions
And if we are trusting the Lord in all these things, God is no man’s debtor.
6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
What wonderful promises of God. But now we come to a kind of P.S in this sermon. We have thought a little bit about what it means for our lives that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. I want to finish by reminding us of what that wonderful verse does NOT mean!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. God is unchanging. Always faithful. Always reliable. But many people have assumed over the centuries that because Jesus never changes, therefore the church of Jesus Christ will never change. The church will always be the same yesterday, today and forever. And that assumption is not just wrong – it is very dangerous.
Yes, century after century the church serves the same unchanging God. But the world we are sent to reach is changing. The pattern of our lives is continually changing. And so the church MUST change if it to be effective at reaching a changing world. . I had a thought a long while ago which still hasn’t turned into a full sermon, but I believe it to be true and important.
“The greatest challenge the church faces in this generation is to become the church of this generation and not remain the church of the last generation – or the last generation really will be the last generation!”
Some traditions and denominations emphasise continuity with the church in previous generations. They keep the same style of buildings. The same patterns of worship. The same music and prayers. This can be helpful to some believers. But it can also be a barrier to the mission to the unsaved in the 21st century. The church of Jesus Christ was never meant to be the same yesterday and today and forever.
Each generation of Christians faces the new and exciting adventure of discovering what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ for its new generation. How can we show the faithful unchanging God to a world which has changed almost beyond recognition from the world where our parents worshipped and proclaimed the gospel. We may be excited by some of these changes. Others may unsettle us and scare us. New forms of mission. New expressions of church and community in this “information age.” A daunting challenge. So it is SO encouraging to know that though the world certainly changes, and indeed the in some ways even the church will have to change too, Jesus Christ never changes. He will never leave us or forsake us. The Lord will always be our helper – we need never be afraid. Jesus Christ IS the same, yesterday, today and forever.
So now let’s spend a few more minutes in reflection on that wonderful promise!