I ended my last post about the immutability of God by suggesting you ‘build your life on the Unchanging One.’ I’m thinking maybe that needs further illustration. Like… ‘how?’ How does one live beyond the reach of change? The bulk of that letter focused on what changes; this time I want to look more at the God who doesn’t.
When we say ‘God doesn’t change,’ we’re dealing with a quality that we know about because God has chosen to reveal it about Himself. This goes for everything else we know about God— we know what we know because He has revealed these things about Himself, these character traits, His attributes, in story after story over the course of recorded Scripture. These attributes include His holiness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His omnipresence, His omniscience, and on and on. God’s immutability, His ‘eternal permanence,’ is not only another of these revealed attributes, it is one that can be applied back onto other of His character traits as well. For instance, the fact that He is ‘Holy’ is an eternally permanent fact, that He is ‘good,’ an eternally permanent fact, that He is ‘faithful,’ also eternally permanent and not subject to change, and so on and so forth. Meditating (thinking deeply) about the eternally permanent quality of God’s character traits can produce a rich yield of spiritual insight and encouragement— especially as we begin to realize the implications and applications of His personality extended towards us.
I want to facilitate this kind of 'realization' by stretching out an example I brought up last week. I talked about Solomon, his fame, wisdom and riches, and I made the comment that “The work of his hands has decayed, his great empire has fragmented, and his vast wisdom has died with him.” I noted that, by the end of the book of 2 Kings, due to disobedience, we witness just about everything Solomon accomplished for God come to destruction. His great kingdom? Divided. His great wealth? Squandered and used to pay off foreign invaders. The great temple he spent years building for God? Stripped of its treasures and burned to the ground. More or less, the things Solomon did for God succumbed to the promised outcome of original sin, so that the story would end quite bleakly if it stopped there. But 2 Kings records something else as well…
Even while living out the consequences of this broken covenant centuries later, the ‘carrier’ of God’s promises regarding the line of King David experiences God’s provision. The very last paragraph of 2 Kings records how King Jehoiachin of Judah, royal descendant of David and symbolic representative for God’s people, even after living through a humiliating exile and decades of imprisonment in Babylon, suddenly finds himself remembered, preserved and honored in the presence of his captors. He's taken out of prison and allowed to eat at the king's table. He's 'spoken kindly to.' He's given financial security. He's permitted to live out the rest of his days with dignity. How? Why?-- Because God’s holy, good and faithful promises, originating in a holy, good and faithful God, remained unaffected by the sin-spawned decay of time as well as the sin-saturated unfaithfulness of His people. God is faithful, and His promises are not subject to change brought on by circumstances, the second law of thermodynamics or even human failure. The real story behind the Kings of Judah, the Old Testament and really, the entire Bible, is not what God’s people produced for God, but what God produces to sustain His people, and by extension, the integrity of His character.
Which is why, if the question is ‘what lasts?’ or, ‘how do we live a life beyond the reach of change,’ I believe the answer must revolve around receiving. The Christian life is more about receiving than it is about giving, because God always out-gives us! Yes, the Bible does tell us there are things we can do that please God and that will survive into eternity (1 Corinthians 3:11-13), but even these ‘gold, silver and precious stones’ are but a bi-product of something first received from God. Q: What lies beyond the reach of change? A: Who God is and what He is like, available to us and extended through us. If we stop defining our lives according to what we do or have done for God and instead begin defining our lives according to who He is and what He has done/promises to do in us, our restless hearts will finally find rest.
Before you come into agreement with the devil today and get down on yourself for what you have or haven’t done for God, remember that any ‘doing’ must first spring from ‘receiving;’ you can’t give what you haven’t received. What have you received from God that has allowed you to know Him? What have you received from God that has allowed you to follow Him? What have you received from God that made it possible for you to eat yesterday, sleep last night and smile this morning? Even as you spent time with Him in His Word recently, what was it you received from Him? Dear Christian brother and sister, you are like a tree; you must receive nourishment before you can produce fruit— and where you put down roots will effect what you produce…
5”Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
7"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17)
What is this ‘fruit’ that seems so unaffected by the ravages of change? It is the fruit produced in the man or woman that ‘builds their life’ and ‘puts down roots’ into the soil nourished by Living Water. What is this ‘fruit’ that seems so unaffected by the ravages of change? This 22”…fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5)
The most important question in your Christian life is not ‘what have I done for God,’ but ‘what have I received from God?’ Let that define you today and everyday, and you’ll find yourself supernaturally living beyond the reach of change.
Surrounded By Grace,