Today I want to a little time talking about one of the Wonderful Words of Life. If you understand these words, it will increase your ability to comprehend and understand the Bible. The word for today “change.” So, what does the Bible teach us about “change?”
First, it teaches us that God does not change, and this is in contrast to the created world, which is continually changing. In Hebrews 1: 10-12, we read:
10 And, “You, Lord, founded the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but thou will remain; they will all grow old like a garment, 12 like a mantle you will roll them up, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.”
So, God does not change, and the world does change. Therefore, God brings forth people who are adaptable to change, and he does this by guiding their change:
First, God established a people governed by the Letter of the Law, which he gave through Moses. This Law was both “universal,” in that it laid down universal requirements for Morality that most people, even people of other religions and no religion at all could agree on. 1) Honor your mother and your father 2) You shall not kill. 3) You shall not commit adultery. 4) You shall not steal. 5) You shall not bear false witness. This Law was also quite “peculiar” in that it required things of the People of God that were expected of no one else. Not only did this separate them from the nations, but it provided them a path of devotion and redemption. Though they could not see God, they knew God’s Law, and they could demonstrate their love for God by keeping that Law. Though they sometimes failed to keep the Law in all its points, the Law itself gave them a path of redemption, sacrifice. When a man sinned, he could present himself before a priest, and the priest could offer a sin offering, a sheep, an ox, a goat, and sprinkle the blood of that sacrifice on the man, indicating that “atonement had been made.” He had been redeemed. He and his God were in “at-one-ment” once more.
Second, God invaded the world in the person of the Eternal Word of God who was incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Christ. Thus, we read in John 1:14-18:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father… 16 And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
You know the rest of the story. Jesus went about preaching and teaching the kingdom of God, only to be rejected by the leaders and the majority of the people and handed over to the Romans. He was crucified, dead, and buried. But on the third day, God raised him from death, vindicating him, and “…designating (him) Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:4)
The author of the Hebrews says that Jesus represents a “change” in the priesthood and a “change” in the Law. As we read Hebrews 7:11-22, remember that priests were supposed to be from the tribe of Levi/Aaron, whereas Jesus, like David, was from the tribe of Judah. You might also remember that Melchizedek the king of Salem was a shadowy figure to whom Abraham himself paid a tithe after Melchizedek brought out “bread and wine.” (Genesis 14)
11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the Law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the Law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him, “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 18 On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God…. 22 This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant.
Jesus changed both the priesthood and the Law. Does this mean that God has changed? No, God’s intentions have remained the same, i.e. “the salvation of his people, and through them, the Salvation of the world.” What has changed is our perception of how God will accomplish this salvation. God remains the same, as does God’s Son, Jesus the Christ “(who is) the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). That is, God’s offer of salvation in and through Jesus stands. It was good for Paul and Silas, and it is good for you and me.
So, God remains the same, but the world changes, and so does our perception of God and what God is doing. Now, to borrow a phrase from the Coasters, “What about us?” Do we change? Yes, we do.
1st Corinthians 15:51-52 is one of many texts that promise that we will someday be changed to be like Jesus. Our weak, mortal bodies will become like his strong, immortal “resurrection” body.
51 Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
And in 2 Corinthians 3:18, we learn that, to some degree, the Change has already begun.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
This text promises that God is changing us from the inside, out. Someday, our bodies will catch-up, and the transformation will be complete. For now, it is important that we keep the eyes of our hearts and minds fixed upon Jesus and remain open to those changes he inspires in us. The Bible teaches that God changes our minds and hearts even before God changes our bodies to be like Christ’s glorious body. This change is sometimes painful. It sometimes brings us into conflict with ourselves. It sometimes puts up a barrier between us and those we care about. But often just the opposite is true. Perhaps some of us will even be like the old grouch who attended a Billy Graham rally and accepted the invitation to receive Christ. Several weeks after, his neighbor said to him, “You know, since you have become a Christian, you are different.” He responded, “I don’t know about that, but I do know that, since that night, no one else has been the same!”
Perhaps, more than ever, we need to remember that God has a plan. That plan may make the road before us rough or smooth—God’s ways are not our ways. “The Lord disciplines (chastens) those whom he loves.” (Hebrews 12:6) The important thing to remember is that though we do not know what the future holds, we do know the God holds the future.