The Same Yesterday and Today and Forever

Hebrews 13:8

Change keeps on coming

I typed every term paper in college on a portable Smith Corona typewriter that I bought as a freshman. In a garage sale a few years ago I couldn’t hardly give it away (Oh look honey, one of those old keyboards they used to use before computers!) Now, we can’t send our kids off to college without a state-of-the-art laptop.

I come to some of your homes and see the family pictures on your walls – dad has on a pastel leisure suit and mom has a beehive hairdo. And now… well, you don’t.

My dad was born in 1907, before automobiles were on the streets of Indianapolis – they still rode horses and carriages. When he died in 1989 NASA was sending space shuttles into orbit every few months. Some of you have seen those kinds of social and technological changes take place in your lifetimes. It’s enough to take your breath away.

What do you do with change?

Some deny it:

Let me share an interesting story out of the 1870 Annual Indiana Conference of the Methodist Church. At one point in the proceedings, the president of the college where they were meeting said, “I think we’re living in a very exciting age.” The presiding Bishop asked him, “What do you see for the future?” The college president responded, “I believe we are coming into a time of great inventions. I believe, for example, that men will fly through the air like birds.” The Bishop said, “Why, that’s heresy! The Bible says that flight is reserved for the angels. We’ll have no more such talk here.” After the conference, the Bishop – Bishop Wright – went home to he wife and two small sons, Wilbur and Orville.

Some outright avoid it: think of the Amish who still shun electricity, automobiles and credit cards.

But there is something in every one of us that recognizes that in the midst of change, we need something of permanence we can anchor our lives in – something that isn’t affected by change.

Some try to find that stability in real estate – a house that is home, a place we can always come back to, familiar surroundings filled with pleasant memories. But a house can burn, a neighborhood can change, real estate can’t give permanence.

Some rely on family: a strong marriage, loving children, generations close at hand – always there for each other. But spouses die, children move, marriages struggle. Families, as wonderful as they are, can’t provide that kind of anchor.

It’s not in wealth. Lots of people pursue success and prosperity as their security from change. But money can’t buy security. How many fortunes are lost by a twitch in the stock market? How many jobs are lost in a corporate turnaround? If you’re looking for permanence in your job or your bank account or your portfolio, you’re building on the sand.

It’s not in health. We spend a lot of time and money monitoring our health, looking in the mirror, working out at the gym. And that’s all important. But if your security is based on eating healthy, looking young and staying strong, that can all be wiped away in one word from a doctor. Keeping a healthy body is important, but it’s not security.

Am I just being nostalgic and sentimental? Why worry about permanence in the first place? Since change is the only constant, just go with the flow and don’t worry about anchoring onto anything. Life is an adventure and just wake up to a new world every morning.

Except that… people without an anchor have a hard time learning to trust. People without roots tend to be short on the skills needed to build long-term, lasting relationships. People with no permanence in their lives can’t make commitments and persevere through difficult times.

And that’s exactly what these original recipients of this letter need. Their lives are filled with change. They have been ostracized from their families, stripped of their possessions, persecuted and beaten for their faith, forced into hiding – they need something / someone to anchor their lives to, so that they can weather the storms that threaten to shipwreck them.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews makes this central, foundational statement – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” It’s not just nice sounding oratory – it is crucial to our faith. We need to know that when everything else is tumbling down around us, Jesus Christ will always be there, a safe refuge in the storm.

He’s been leading us up to this:

Heb. 1:2-3 “…in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Heb. 6:19-20 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”

Heb. 7:27-28 “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

Heb. 10:12,14 “But when this priest (that is, Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

Illustration

Her car was stalled at the intersection, the hood was up, and she flagged him down to help. "I can't get it started," she said. "But if you jiggle the wire on the battery, I think it will work." He grabbed the wire on the positive battery cable and it came off in my hand. Definitely too loose. "The terminal needs to be tightened up," I told her. "I can fix it if you have some tools." "My husband says to just jiggle the wire," she replied. "It always works. Why don't you just try that?" He said, "Ma'am, if I jiggle the wire, you're going to need someone else to do it every time you shut the engine off. If you'll give me two minutes and a wrench, we can solve the problem and you can forget about it." Reluctantly, she fumbled under the front seat and then extended a crescent wrench through the window of the old car. In less than two minutes the wire was clamped firmly to the battery terminal, and the car started easily. And I thought how many times we try to get the "quick fix" from God. "I have this problem, Lord, and if You'll just jiggle the wire, things will be okay. I'm in a hurry, so let's just get me going again the quickest way possible." But God doesn't want to "jiggle the wire". He wants to take the time necessary to deal with my real problem and fix it.

What Jesus does isn’t a quick fix, a temporary solution. What Jesus accomplished at the cross never has to be repeated or improved. What he did was perfect and permanent. His sacrifice was once for all. The salvation he purchased with his blood is as effective today as it was on that Pentecost in Jerusalem when three thousand were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

And so, the lifestyle Jesus calls us to live is not faddish or cultural – it will never go the way of leisure suits and beehive hairdos. It isn’t superseded by changing cultural norms and values.

When Paul says, “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” – it’s as true today as it was the day he wrote it.

When James says, “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” – you can count in it, you can live by it.

When Peter tells us, “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” – he isn’t being theoretical, his counsel is based on timeless, absolute truth.

And when we come to the book of Hebrews in chapter 13 and we listen to these random exhortations:

Vs. 1 “Keep on loving each other as brothers”

Vs. 2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers”

Vs. 3 “Remember those in prison”

Vs. 4 “Marriage should be honored by all”

Vs. 5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content”

Vs. 7 “Remember your leaders… consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

Vs. 9 “Don’t be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings”

They really find their focus in vs. 8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” 

There is something more than cultural to these. There is a timelessness and permanence to their importance for our lives.

When we build our lives on Jesus Christ we are anchoring our lives in someone that will never be moved or changed.

If we live the way he calls us to live, we don’t have to worry about whether the standards and values change around us. Just because the world keeps redefining sin and lowering the bar, you can always live in obedience to God’s word and you will know that you are in his will.

If we anchor our lives in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter what storms and circumstances come into our lives, we can know that we will not be devastated or destroyed by them. When Jesus is our rock, we will be made stronger and our faith will grow deeper as its roots are forced to sink deep into the soil of his love.

If we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we are placing our lives in the hands of one who always cares. Everyone else may abandon you and forsake you and betray you, but Jesus will be faithful to every promise he has made to you. I never tire of hearing Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For every one of us who has ever felt like we’ve been blown away or blown apart or just hung out to dry by change, we have some good news. We have a rock to anchor to that will never change. His power is permanent, his love is for real, his promise is irrevocable.

The disciples were in the midst of a terrible storm on the sea of Galilee – they feared for their lives. Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping, seemingly unconcerned with their fate. They rush to the back of the boat – “Master don’t you care?” He stood and called out to the wind and the waves… and to the hearts of the disciples: “Be still.”

There was a song, sung a few years ago, by Scott Krippayne. He described the storms that come in our lives and the way God helps us through them, and the chorus kept coming back, “sometimes he calms the storm, other times he calms his child.”