Sunday, December 24, 2023

Life’s Changes

By Ronald Bartanen
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
    There is no “variableness, neither shadow of turning” with God.  The God of Genesis 1:1 is the God of Revelation 22:20.   He does not contradict Himself.  Because He is unchangeable, He is dependable.  We can trust Him to be true to His word.  We can lean upon His promises when everything in life seems to be failing us.  The writer of the lyrics of the song  “Abide with Me,” when facing death, wrote, “Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.  Change and decay in all around I see.  O Thou that changest not, abide with me.”
    All that is in the world, however, has been in constant change.  God once repeatedly said of His creation, “It is good.”  But then sin entered into the world, and it has never been the same.  History is the record of change.  Empires, once powerful, have passed away.  Rulers come and go.  Our president won the election on the promise of “change.”   There is no segment of life that is unchangeable.
    Change is evident in us all—for the better or for the worse.  Life is full of changes from birth to death.  Whether we like it or not, we change physically.  If you don’t think you have changed much, find a 10-year-old photo of yourself, and then look into the mirror.  The church changes.  We must always seek to better reflect Christ as individuals and as the church, which would be a blessing, but we must guard against an adverse change to mirror the world rather than Christ.  Of course this is not to say all changes must be avoided.  While we are blessed with an unchangeable gospel, the means of making the message of Christ more accessible has become accepted.  For instance, while there is much on TV or the Internet that promotes evil, we do well to not surrender these media to the devil, laying claim to them for Christ’s sake.  As individuals and congregations, we do well to follow Paul’s advice in Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
    God does not change.  While we, with all of creation, are subject to change, we serve an unchangeable God.  He reminded Israel in the Old Testament, “I am the LORD:  I do not change—therefore, you sons of Jacob are not consumed.”   Other ancient nations and empires have vanished, God has, for His name’s sake, protected Israel from the likes of Hitler, who desired to rid the world of Jews, even while they are largely still rejecting Christ.  That is the same God who blesses us in Christ.  Unlike us, God does not ever “get up on the wrong side of the bed.”  He is not subject to change of mood or change of mind.  Nor is His Son.  The old saying, “Like father, like son,” is especially true regarding Christ, who is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
    God’s word does not change.  To “keep one’s word” seems difficult for us, God has no problem with His word.  A politician’s words may come back to haunt him if he’s elected.  Campaign promises are easily made, and easily forgotten.  They’re often made to get elected.  But God is not campaigning for our votes.  God’s words and deeds are timeless.  The moral principles of the Old Testament are unchanged in the New.   “Judeo-Christian values” (Biblical) are increasingly pushed away by the world.  Man wants to make himself god.  He removed God’s Ten Commandments from court-and-school halls and decided he doesn’t want to be that strict.  It laid the path to abortion rights, gay rights, etc., and we can be sure there will be more to come.
    The Gospel is unchanged after almost 2000 years.  It is the one gospel our Savior and Lord instructed us to promote until He returns, instructing His disciples just before He departed to be enthroned in Heaven, “All authority is given me in Heaven and on earth.  Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20).  It is to be unchanged because of its source— “not according to man,” but “through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12)   Paul also made it clear that no other “gospel” could displace it (Galatians 1:6-9).

    The means of accepting the Good News of Jesus dying for our sins, being buried and then raised from the dead was, in NEW Testament times, to be both believed and obeyed.  Upon a turning away from sin, believers of the Gospel confessed their faith, in Christ as Paul explained in Romans 6:1-7, and then adding in vs. 17-18, “though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered, and having been set free from sin and became slaves of righteousness.”  God’s plan remains unchanged.  There could be no greater change in a person’s life than this!  

- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. After the passing of his beloved wife, Doris, Ron has relocated from Illinois to Florida where he is near family. He may be contacted at:


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