Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, they compassions they fail not:
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
God Never Changes
So opens the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It declares a central truth about God that He is the unchanging One, and as such He is dependable. Hebrews 13:10 says, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Humans Are Always Changing
While humans are created in the image of God and reflect His likeness in many ways, God’s unchanging nature is a characteristic that we do not share. Benjamin Franklin once said, “two things always stay the same, death and taxes!” Aside from these points in jest, we change and our circumstances change. Nothing stays the same. Our bodies change as we grow. Our circumstances change as we journey through life. We are always changing. While the rate and amount of change may be something we can or cannot easily process, or sometimes is necessary for survival, to deny change itself is to deny reality.
Change is a Normal Part of a Believer’s Life
Not only do we change as humans, if we are a follower of Jesus, change is the name of the game. The Gospel message itself is the power to change. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to sanctify us, to transform us, to make us more like Jesus. Following Jesus then is one big process of change. If we are not changing or are resistant to healthy and appropriate change, and willing to follow our Lord in faith into the future, then something is amiss.
A Tale of Two Seas
The Jordan River bubbles up at the foot of Mt. Hermon in the north of Israel. Tens of thousands of gallons of water burst to the surface every day. These waters flow south into the Sea of Galilee and then on to the Dead Sea. These two seas are complete opposites. One is filled with fish and life. That is because water is always entering and exiting it, it is changing, it is alive and vibrant. The other only ever receives and never gives and as a result of that and evaporation by the sun, it salinity is so high that nothing can live in it. That is why it is called the Dead Sea. May these two seas be a reminder to us: change is needed if we want to thrive as Christians and an unwillingness to embrace the change of the Gospel can spell only certain death.
May the Lord’s grace enable us to change, for our good and His glory.
As we yield to and are filled by the Spirit in the Christian life (sanctification), each Christian is to progressively bear all of the fruit of the Spirit as a witness to the saving reality of our faith (are we who we really profess to be). Such fruit is not limited to the description found in Gal 5. Many other fruit can be found listed throughout the New Testament. James 3:17 is one such place. Speaking of the fruit that comes from the wisdom from above it lists:
Pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
I’d like to zero in on one fruit: open to reason, or the fruit of “reasoning”, or being reasonable.
There is a reason why the Bible speaks so much about good communication and that is because we are so bad at it. Most church conflicts are not about doctrine, or wrong doing, or even personality differences, they’re communication issues that usually arise from a wrong disposition, a want of sanctification. Immediately after James speaks of taming the tongue he shows what someone being transformed by the Spirit will look like in their communications: be open to reasoning.
The word here can mean well-persuaded, already inclined, already willing, easy to come to terms with because already willing, etc. It conveys the notion of someone willing to go to great lengths to come to terms with someone, foster understanding, get to the bottom of the situation, be level headed, committed to working something through, labouring to this great end. This is not being quick tempered, which short circuits the intellect, but restrained, mentally engaged and charitable. It is a clarity of the mind and a calmness of our affections. It is a rare quality today, to be patient, peaceable, and restrained, enough to work through a difficulty. It is a key Spiritual fruit that enables us to truly submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21).
So the next time you are presented with a difficult situation, in or outside of the Church, as a believer, would you pray that the Lord would enable you to be open to reason, for everyone’s good and His glory.
Someone recently told my wife how someone had said this to her. “I’ll see for coffee on Wednesday so long as something better doesn’t come along.” It warms your heart to know people value and are committed to you so much they’ll still keep their appointment with you so long as “something better” doesn’t come along!
Sadly, we are living in a “something better” culture, a culture wanting in commitment and a knowledge of those things that are truly excellent and valuable:
Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Jos 21:45; c.f. 1 Ki 8:56).
God in His very being keeps His promises and is true to His word.
Thankfully that means His promise of salvation and forgiveness to our “something better” culture is certain and true (and praise the Lord that this is the case otherwise our falsehoods would utterly condemn us, leaving us with no hope). But not only do the Lord’s promises in the Gospel mean He will forgive the repentant who come to Jesus in faith, He will also transform them. In Lev 19 He says, “Be holy as I am holy.” In the vein of this blog’s subject He could have equally said, “Be faithful and true as I am faithful and true.” By God’s Spirit He transforms and enables and calls us to be vastly different from the “something better” culture we live in. He calls us to be faithful and true and share in His likeness.
My prayer is that as Christians are transformed by the renewing of their mind through the Word and Spirit and become less like culture and more like Christ that the world will take notice when we keep our appointments, place value on commitments and people and the Lord, His worship and ways, and that He will be glorified through us as we offer something better.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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