Why God’s immutability matters for you

Absolute_ImmutabilityImmutability is hard for us to understand. If you look around, you look at things that are changing. Whether it’s the change of location, or change of expression, or change of emotion, or change of mind, there are always changes going on. And not to mention the changes that are happening that we can’t control. You’re getting older. Voices are dropping. Some bodies are developing, others are declining. We are constantly changing. It’s like we’re on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Wind blowing. Swells come and go. Up and down. That is our world. The only thing that is constant is change.

But God does not change. He does not mutate. He is immutable. Everything that God was, God is. “As Thou has been, Thou forever will be.”

Here are some reasons why God’s immutability is good news for believers.

1. We can trust all his promises. Numbers 28:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”

God distinguishes himself from mankind in two ways here. First, he doesn’t lie. Men lie. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. But nothing God has ever said is false. He only, always speaks truth. And second, he doesn’t change his mind. Men do this all the time, but God never changes his mind. People change. But God never changes. People mispeak, God doesn’t. People change, God never has.

The only hope for a changing world is a changeless God. The only certainty in a storm-tossed world is an immovable anchor. The only security for an insecure world is a rock-solid, unchanging, unalterable God. Because God does not change, every promise he’s ever made is trustworthy and true. Take it to the bank.

2. We can actually know him. If God changed, then we couldn’t ever truly know him. The Bible would only be a single snap-shot of an ever changing being. We would know things he had done, things he had said, things he had purposed, but we could never know whether or not they had changed. We wouldn’t know him.

You’ve probably had the experience of reconnecting with an old friend only to find that they’re not the same person you knew all those years ago. “I hardly know him anymore,” we often say. Such things cannot be said of God. What was true about God a thousand years ago is true about God right now. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Was God powerful when he spoke the universe into being? Yes, and his voice this day is no less powerful, his Spirit these days is just as omnipotent. Was God wise when he crafted this globe, when he shaped the mountains and dug out the deeps for the sea? Yes. Was he wise in how he devised salvation, how he planned to redeem for himself a people? Yes, and this hour this wisdom has not atrophied one bit.

Was God attentive to the prayers of his people? Did he hear their prayers and answer their groanings? He did. And he does. And all the cries of all the prayers in all the world from all the ages has not wearied him for one second.

Was he patient? Then he is now. Infinitely patient. Long suffering. Steadfast. Immovable.

Was he ever gracious? Yes, and so he is now. Spurgeon said, “God’s strong love stands like a granite rock, unmoved by the hurricanes of our iniquity.”Rock_of_Gibraltar_1810

Anything God has ever said about himself has never been modified, edited, abridged, or altered. And so what A.W. Pink says is true: “He cannot change for the better for he is perfect; and being perfect, he cannot change for the worse.” And as such, we can know him.

3. We can understand how he relates to us right now. Sometimes we tend to think of God as sometimes gracious and sometimes angry and sometimes merciful and sometimes wrathful. It’s like we think he is emotional like us. Certainly, God does display features that we might identify as emotions in the Bible, but they do not exactly correlate to how we experience emotions.

Unlike me, unlike you, God is not susceptible to mood swings. He’s not groggy in the morning, apathetic at noon, and wired at night. He doesn’t get emotional like we do. He’s a constant, perfect embodiment of all his attributes all the time. He does not change.

And the reality is that God is, at all times, his unchangeable self. In his nature, he never changes. He always responds to sin with wrath; he always responds to repentance with grace.

A.W. Tozer says, “God never changes moods or cools off in his affections or loses enthusiasm. His attitude toward sin is now the same as it was when he drove out the sinful man from the eastward garden, and his attitude toward the sinner the same as when He stretched forth his hands and cried, ‘Come unto me, and ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'”

mood-swingSometimes when we are offended, we take a little time to settle down. Sometimes it takes time before we’re in a frame of mind where we can forgive our enemies. Not God. He is always extending his hands out to the sinner, and always opposing the pride in their folly. And the nano-second a person comes to him on his terms he accepts. It doesn’t take him time to “get over it.”

Believers ought to be very encouraged by this. Right now, God’s wrath is against your sin. But your sin has been detached from you and placed on Jesus. God’s grace is toward you, because you have Christ’s righteousness. This is the unchanging reality of the Christian: forever blessed, irrevocably accepted, unchangeably beloved.

4. Because of God’s unchanging-ness, man’s ability to change is a gift. For fallen man, the prospect of real change taking place is a immeasurable blessing. The unbelievers don’t see it that way. For the unbeliever, change is a frightening idea. It signifies decay and loss. Change is the harbinger of death. Change is a monster, terrorizing every poor soul that has nothing immutable to hold on to.

But for the redeemed, change is a gift.

  • Our spiritual lives began with a change, when God changed our hearts and gave us faith to believe the gospel.
  • Our spiritual lives continue in change, as God’s Holy Spirit continually works in us to make us more like Jesus.
  • Our spiritual lives will end in change, when Jesus Christ gives us new, glorified bodies in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Because of God’s immutability, we need not fear change. The hurricanes of this world need not frighten us; our live is hidden in the unchanging Creator. He is working in all things to change us each day. And he does. The unchanging God uses all change to change his children into the likeness of their changeless Savior.

5. We can feel the weight of eternity. The promises of God to save the repentance and the punish the sinner are immutable, written-in-stone, promises that will bear throughout eternity.

Those who do not believe will suffer immutable wrath. Unchanging anger. Immovable judgment. Unending torment. Be as good as you want, be as upright as you please, be as honest as you will, the weight of this threat stands toward all who do not give up trying to save themselves and trust Jesus Christ. Those who do not know Jesus savingly will have no second chances, there will be no do-overs, there will be no opportunity to set things right, there will be no fixing what went wrong. The gavel will sound and the judge will issue the immutable sentence: damned.

Believers ought to feel this weight and live with a marked urgency to help people see and believe in Jesus Christ, the only Savior.

But those who come to Jesus in repentance and faith will receive unchanging, immovable, granite-like salvation that will last them throughout all the ages of eternity. The oceans of his love will be dumped on them, he will delight in showing them kindness forever, he will not grow weary of them, he will not get bored of them, he will never get tired of them. Out of the infinite, unchanging riches of his grace he will lavish his generosity toward them.

God’s immutability guarantees this hope for the believer. God will not grow tired of heaven, wipe us out and start over. God will not change his mind. He never has.

Immutability is a very practical doctrine. And when we import man-like attributes into God, immutability is one of the first things to go.  God becomes less like a rock of refuge and more like a sea of uncertainty. We are as secure as what we trust in, and there’s nothing more secure than an immutable God.

 

 

Reasons why you should believe in God

Sir John Maddox, speaking about Big Bang theories:

“The view of the origin of the Universe is thoroughly unsatisfactory.”

 

Robert Jastrow:

“The essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.” Further on, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

 

Richard Swineburn:

Why believe that there is a God at all? My answer is that to suppose that there is a God explains why there is a world at all…and so much else. In fact, the hypothesis of the existence of God makes sense of the whole of our experience, and it does better than any other explanation which can be put forward, and that is the grounds for believing it to be true.

 

Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA)

An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”

 

Sir Frederick Hoyle

The chance that higher life forms arose by evolutionary processes is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Beoing 747 from the materials therein.

 

The Associated Press on Antony Flew:

“A British philosopher who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than 50 years has changed his mind. Antony Flew, 81, [of Oxford University] said scientific evidence has now convinced him that a super-intelligence is the only explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature…If his newfound belief upsets people, Flew said, “that’s too bad”—but he’s always been determined to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

These quotes are taken from Nathan Busenitz’s book called Reasons We Believe: 50 Lines of Evidence that Confirm the Christian Faith.

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Some books I’ve been in lately

The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon

I’m currently listening to The Art of Neighboring on my kindle. Good, practical help for being a better neighbor. In the very least it has inspired me to be more intentional about loving my neighbor. I see this book as a prolonged application of the command to love your neighbor. The authors have been promoting the idea that we should take Jesus’ command literally; that the neighbors in the houses next to us should be primary recipients of our love. I like it, and though I think there are some statements that should require a bit more nuance, I think the message deserves a hearing.

The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament, Eugene Merrill, Mark Rooker, and Michael Grisanti.

I just finished The World and the Word by Merrill, Rooker, and Grisanti for my seminary Old Testament Introduction class. Scholarly and conservative, a blend that is rare these days. Not sure the book will appeal to most people, but it does a good job of dealing with critical issues in such a way that bolsters my confidence in inerrancy. For that, I like it.

Stunning Sentences, Bruce Ross-Larson

Also just finished reading Stunning Sentences, which basically describes different techniques that go into writing a good sentence. Probably many better books on the subject out there, but I got this one for a buck at the used book store. So there.

Keeping the Heart: How to Maintain Your Love for God, John Flavel

I’ve been in the middle of Keeping the Heart by puritan John Flavel for a while now. I’ve liked it; especially the version I’ve linked to, which has the original text with modern headings and subtitles. Makes it more readable and less threatening.

 

 

A few thoughts on World Vision

If you have no idea what this is about, click here: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages

A few thoughts:

First, it’s absurd to think that a ministry can defer theology to the church. As soon as you begin talking about ministry or mission, take off your sandals you’re on theological holy ground. Those are weighty theological concepts that cannot be defined otherwise. As soon as one asks the point of the mission, only a theological answer will do.

Second, it’s also absurd to say that the adjustment in policy makes no affirmation of the same-sex lifestyle. Of course it does. It’s a public declaration that unrepentant homosexuality is not a disqualification for Christian service. Paul would have said it’s a disqualification for the kingdom of God. Stearns doesn’t even make it a disqualification for his ministry, and make no mistake, his statement is a theological one.

Third, it’s a gospel issue. Minimizing sin minimizes the cross. World Vision has just made the world a darker place, where more unrepentant “Christians” will be affirmed though they remain enemies of God. Wherever the call for repentance is ignored under a guise of love and acceptance, the gospel is weakened. When World Vision okays the homosexual lifestyle, they sling mud on the cross, denying it’s ability to save, transform, redeem, and reconcile.

 

Christocentric hermeneutic?

This is a big deal these days.

“We’re not to come to the text with a Christo-centric hermeneutic, where Christ is seen as the main point of every text in the Bible–that often bulldozes the meaning of the text– but a Christo-telic approach, where Christ is seen as the end and completion to which every text points.”

Dr. Michael Grisanti

 

Self-seeking rebellion dressed up like lavish generosity

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Acts 5:1-2 “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only part of if and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

How easy it is to cloak our sin in religious veneer!

Here are two people aggressively self-promoting, vying for prominence, seeking to exalt themselves, unwittingly attempting to deceive God and steal his glory. And what does it look like? Two married congregants selling their property and giving money to the church.

O how careful we must be not to pursue religious achievement for human applause! It’s frightening to remember that our self-seeking rebellion can be dressed up like lavish generosity.

It’s no wonder that “great fear came upon the whole church” (vs. 11).

Book Look: “Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Church”

Let me start off by saying I haven’t read this entire book. I’ve only X-rayed it. I’ve read a few entries to get a feel for it.

So this is not a normal book review. But, holding it in my hands and flipping through the pages I have an understanding of what it is, and I’ll evaluate it on that basis.

This is one of those book that has 366 short entries, one for every day of the year. Each chapter is an excerpt from one of the early church fathers. Looking through the pages you see some of the historical greats: John Chrysostom, Irenaeus, Ambrose, Ignatius, Tertullian, Augustine, Athanasius, etc. There are others included who weren’t exactly the stalwarts of orthodoxy (if my memory of church history serves me rightly): Origen, Leo the Great, and Cyprian. Besides those, there are several names I’ve never heard and certain entries that are anonymous.

I like this idea. In fact, any idea that gets the Christian to reflect on the fact that the faith he now professes is something of a family heirloom that has been handed down throughout the centuries; something that has been a matter of war and bloodshed; something that has been passionately disputed, argued, critiqued, and meticulously articulated–anything that reminds us of the long line of faithfulness is a win. Many modern believers don’t think of the faith that way. But they would be better off if they did.

I’m not sure how popular this book will be, but the fact that it got published (by Zondervan, at that) is a good sign. James Stuart Bell did some good work in making it happen and I think the church at large will be better off when it comes to learn about its heritage.

Want a year to soak biblical doctrine with the early church fathers– the ones who agonized over the “sound words” to preserve and protect the truth? Think about getting this book and using it to deepen your appreciation of the Christian tradition.