Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 January 3, 2016
“Our Constant Christ in Changing Times”
Text: Hebrews 13:8
Last week we changed our calendars once again—and it seems that only six weeks have passed since we last changed them. Last week, perhaps like you, I found myself thinking about change—and about how things change. I thought about how much things change. Some of you can remember well listening to your AM radio station in your car while driving—when such was a luxury. Music in the car moved over the years from AM radio, to FM radio, to eight-track cartridges, to cassette tapes, to compact discs, to satellite radio—and each change came more quickly than the one before it. Consider also how you obtain your news. We moved over the years from the newspaper to radio to newsreel to television to Internet—and these changes, once again, occurred with increasingly rapidity over time.
How things change, as we see, leads us to think about how fast things change. This leads me (and probably only me) to think about calculus—arguably the gateway course to higher mathematics. The first branch of calculus most students study, differential calculus, concerns itself fundamentally with rates of change. In certain mathematical models and calculations, the rate of change is slow—but in others, the rate of change is exponentially quick. That exponentially quick rate of change describes contemporary American life almost to a T. Who would have thought, in our lifetimes, we would see some of what we have seen in technology, in media, and in culture generally? True, we must come to grips with change in our lives and in our world, but we must also embrace Him Who never changes. Let us hear profound truth concerning Him in this welcome sentence from God’s Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Some have said, “The only thing constant in this world is change.” This statement seems true when we look at much in our culture, yet God, in His Word, demonstrates this claim to be incorrect. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever—and the Holy Spirit, Scripture’s ultimate Author, states this for us in memorable fashion. Let’s unpack these ways in which Jesus is ever the same.
First, Jesus is the same yesterday—that is, in past times. Jesus is the same from eternal yesterday; He always has been. Jesus was present and active at creation, as we read in the first chapters of John, Hebrews, and Colossians (not to mention the implication of Genesis 1:26-27). The pre-incarnate Christ appeared several times in the Old Testament record—chiefly as the Angel of the Eternal God or the Angel of the LORD. The full light of day dawns in the New Testament, where we see Jesus’ public ministry and atoning work most explicitly—a ministry and work culminating in His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Jesus ever was, to be sure, but this is not all—as we now see.
Jesus Christ is the same today; in short, He is. Today Jesus rules from Heaven above. Recall Abraham Kuyper’s statement, which we noted last week: There is not one square inch in all of creation where Jesus does not cry, “Mine!” As part of His righteous rule, He intercedes for us—and ever lives to do it (Hebrews 7:25). Just think of it—Jesus prays His perfect will to the Father on our behalf in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not only this, but Jesus awaits the cue from His Father to come again—and this, in the well-crafted words of the EPC’s Essentials, to consummate history and God’s eternal plan.
Jesus Christ is also the same forever. He evermore shall be. He shall remain after He vanquishes evil finally at the end of this order. He shall remain as He is and ever was when He ushers in the new age: the new heavens and the new earth, which the Apostle John describes by the Spirit’s leading in Revelation 21. Moreover, He shall reign forever and ever. There is no end to His existence, and there is no end to His reign. Consequently, there is no end to our eternal bliss for us who are in Christ Jesus.
We have, no doubt, a changeless Christ to love, adore, enjoy, and serve—and on this Lord’s Day, of all days, we can do just this with exuberance. We also have a changeless Christ to offer to an ever (and increasingly rapidly)-changing world. For most of us, the world in which we grew to maturity is not today’s world. Things are different: both in our world and in the visible Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, we must adapt our worship of (and witness unto) our constant Christ to be intelligible to a world now very different from the world of our youth. Note carefully here that we neither change Christ, nor the message concerning Him, nor fundamental truth about Him. We do, like missionaries often do, present timeless truth—and Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—in ways intelligible to the receiver culture.
The call to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in our time—yea, to much of the wider American church—is to be a missional church. That is, we think and act like missionaries on the field—for, let us face it—America in 2016 is itself a mission field. One way we do this is by relating to folk in the wider culture. The Deep South (and, I presume, the Southern Appalachian Mountains) has a wonderful phrase that extends welcome and hospitality: “Y’all come.” As much as I like to extend and to receive that phrase—and all it conveys—this simply will not work by and large as a means of extending Christ’s Church. We must go to them, and we cannot wait for them to come to us.
Once we go to them, we must hear them. We must hear their likes and dislikes. We must hear their hurts and struggles. We must hear even their questions and objections to God, His Word, His things, and His people. If we would gain a hearing for the hope we profess, we first must hear. Let us hear, let us love, and let us declare with lips and life the hope that burns brightly within us.
By all means, let us at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church be missional, and, consequently, let us be flexible in ministry activity. Let us be something else as well—something else logically prior to our missional ministry. Let us be steadfastly grounded on our constant Christ in changing times. Let us be, as the Spirit urges us through Paul, steadfast, immovable, abounding in every good work, and seeing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). May our three-in-one God bless you with sure footing upon Him Who alone is constant in rapidly changing times.