"Riding the Wave of Change" part 4
Steady On
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 11, 2009



Memory Verse:

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

****************

We’re now on the backend of 2009… just 81 days left before the end of the year. And as Harvey pointed out to me recently, that also means there’s only 81 days left in this decade. It’s amazing how quickly time has flown by, isn’t it?

I mean, it seems like it’s only been two or three years since that whole Y2K thing. But it’s been almost 10 years, and in those 10 years there have been a lot of changes.
•    10 years ago, high-speed Internet was a luxury for the rich. Most people were on dial-up, if they even had Internet. Go back 15 years ago and I didn’t even know what the Internet was.
•    Widescreen HD TVs? Well, they were around, but I bet you didn’t have one. You probably couldn’t even afford to buy them ten years ago. Now that’s pretty much all you can buy.
•    How about the Concorde? The fastest way to cross the Atlantic. Not even flying today.
•    Ten years ago, Jean Chretien was in the second of his three terms as our Prime Minister.
•    Many of us have kids that didn’t even exist 10 years ago, or were still in diapers
•    10 years ago, 9-1-1 was just the number you dialed in case of emergency. Today, 9-1-1 or 9-11 refers to the worst terrorist attack ever in North America, which completely changed our feelings about security, our attitudes about the world we live in, and our outlook for the future.

There have been a lot of changes in the past ten years. And if you want to go even further, think about this: I was born in 1970, and in that year…

•    An average house cost about $23,000.
•    The average household made less than $10,000 per year.
•    A new car cost under $4000.
•    You could buy a dozen eggs for a quarter.
•    On T.V., The Partridge Family premiered, and I remember watching that show a few years later toward the end of its run.
•    In music, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel, “American Woman” by The Guess Who?, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” by B.J. Thomas, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, and “ABC” by the Jackson Five tore up the charts.
•    It’s also the year that American Top 40 with Casey Kasem debutted.
•    As for movies, “Love Story”, “Airport” and “M*A*S*H” were hits at the box office.
•    In the news, President Nixon sent troops into Cambodia.
•    And in technology, IBM introduced the first floppy disc.

Here, let’s take a look at these changes. See if you can name these celebrities…
[PowerPoint – Then and Now pictures]
•    George Clooney
•    Jennifer Aniston
•    Nicole Kidman
•    Pierce Brosnan
•    Leonardo DiCaprio
•    Brad Pitt
•    Janet Jackson
•    Johnny Depp
•    Keifer Sutherland
•    Gwen Stefani
•    Angelina Jolie
•    Justin Timberlake

People change, our world changes, and we change. A lot of things have changed, even in our lifetimes. There have been good changes, and there have been bad changes. But that’s the nature of our existence… things change. Our society progresses. Or sometimes it regresses, but it’s always changing.

About 500 BC, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus described our constantly changing world this way…

“You never step into the same river twice.”
~ Heraclitus

And one of my favourite authors, Leonard Sweet (who is a theologian and a futurist) talked about the constant change that happens in our world today, particularly in the world of business…

“What works today won’t work tomorrow. Of the Fortune 500 companies on the 1955 list, 70% are now out of business… One third of Fortune 500 companies are nowhere to be found seven years later… Or as a friend put it, ‘Every time I figure out: Where it’s at, they move it!’”
~ Leonard Sweet, Soul Tsunami

Change is part of our world; it’s part of our lives. It’s both necessary and unavoidable.

This morning we’re finishing up our message series called Riding the Wave of Change. And we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the changes that happen in our lives. The good changes, the bad changes. The expected changes, the unexpected changes. The welcome changes, the not-so-welcome changes.

But… not everything changes. That’s what I want to talk about this morning… what doesn’t change. And you can use your notes to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.


What Doesn’t Change:

1.    Though our world may change, God never changes

The God of love and compassion and forgiveness and justice that you read about in the Bible is the same God who exists today and is the same God who will exist tomorrow. He never changes… His character is eternal. He will never let you down, He will never go back on a promise, He will never mess up or falter, He is always faithful… His character is perfect in every way, and that will never change.

Talking about Jesus, who is God, the Bible says…

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

He never changes.

I was listening to a podcast this week by a guy named Ralph Moore, and on this particular podcast he was talking about the events that happened about 20 years ago that led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union. And he talked about how there were really three people who were instrumental in that happening: Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan. And if you want to add a fourth, Michael Gorbachev.

And one thing that was mentioned on the podcast is that in every speech that Ronald Reagan made, he always made a reference to God and often quoted from Scripture. In fact, Reagan was on national TV in the Soviet Union four times, and every time he referred to God. So even in the atheistic Soviet Union, Reagan had the opportunity to call for change by calling on the unchanging nature of God. He was able to basically tell the people, “There is a God, there is hope, there is a future…” The unchanging nature of God led to drastic change in our world.

The Bible actually talks about the unchanging nature of God in various passages, including this one from the Old Testament, where God Himself says…

Malachi 3:6 (NLT)
“I am the Lord, and I do not change.”

Now, for you and me, we want change. We want our world to change for the better and to progress, and we want to change and improve ourselves. Hopefully we are all better people than we were a year ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago. And we want that to be true going forward… We want to keep growing, growth always equals change. And so we’re always in flux… we change for the better or we change for the worse.

But for God… Well, He’s God. He’s already the ultimate. There’s no room for growth, and there’s no possibility for Him to fail. And so we can rely on His faithfulness, on his attributes of love and forgiveness and mercy and grace.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

As I was working through this message this week, I had all of these old hymns that kept coming to mind. If you grew up in church circles, then you would know these hymns. If not, then you’re probably not that familiar with them. They’re not necessarily hymns we sing here very often, but I’m going to read a few of them for you here this morning. The first one, talking about the faithful, unchanging nature of God, is this…

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!


2.    Though our methods may change, our message remains the same

Not too long ago here at Sunrise, we went through a book together called The Faith. This book, written by Chuck Colson, talked about the enduring message of the Christian faith… the message of Jesus Christ that has remained the same over the past 2000 years.

But he also discussed how our methods have changed during that time. The community of Christ-followers in the first century would look very different from the community of Christ-followers today. Hey, even if you just go back 20 or 30 years, things are very different now than they were then. In one article he wrote, Colson says this…


BREAKPOINT: AUGUST 26, 2008: UNITY IN DIVERSITY by CHUCK COLSON

“Imagine you are a time traveler, seeking to discover what Christianity is all about.

First, you drop in on Jerusalem in A.D. 37. You find that new Christians are hard to distinguish from a branch of Judaism. The main difference is that they identify the Jewish teaching about the Messiah, the Son of Man, with Jesus of Nazareth.

Next, you visit Christians at the time of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. These Christians are no longer Jewish but drawn from all over the Mediterranean world. They are familiar with the ancient Jewish Scriptures but give equal value to writings generated in their own community—the New Testament.

You then hop hundreds of years ahead to see the monks of seventh-century Ireland. They fast and pray, but have the same evangelical zeal as their forebearers.

You then drop in on one of the great English missionary societies of the late 1840s. These Christians are marked by social activism, working to improve societal conditions. But they feel the same burden to spread the Gospel—and they do, in the Far East and Africa.

Finally, you stop in Lagos, Nigeria, in the 1980s. White-robed Christians are dancing and chanting through the streets. They talk about the Holy Spirit and its power to inspire preaching, bring healing, and provide personal guidance.

Culturally, these five groups could hardly be more different. Yet they think of themselves as connected, and indeed, their thinking is remarkably similar. They believe that in Christ the world has been rescued from the power of evil and death. They believe in God's sovereignty over history; they make the same use of the same Scriptures and of the bread and the wine and the water.

You see, all five groups are part of the same legacy: The one Lord, one faith, one baptism they profess holds true for all. And their beliefs are unchanged over the centuries. …”



From the way we dress, to the music we sing, to the technology we use… our methods and styles of worshipping God changes over time. Our message remains the same, but our methods change with the times.

Our way of reaching out to our community changes as well. There was a book I read in college… it was part of a class being taught by an old retired pastor… and this book talked about doing door-to-door evangelism, always going in teams of two, and whenever you came to a house with children, one of you was supposed to take the kids into another room and watch them while the other presented the message about Jesus.

Well, that may have worked 50 years ago, but if someone came to my door and wanted to take my kids into a separate room… sorry, not happening.

Look, a lot of things have changed. And they’ll change again. The way we experience and express our faith is fluid… it changes. But what doesn’t change is the message. The message we proclaim today is the same message the first century Christ-followers proclaimed and will be the message we will proclaim until the end of time… that Jesus Christ, who is God, came in the flesh, died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sinfulness and mine, that He rose from the dead to offer us forgiveness and hope and eternal life, and someday He will return to take His people to be with Him forever.

That is the message. But the context into which that message is proclaimed and therefore the method in which it is delivered changes with the times.

Isaiah 43:16-19 (NLT)
I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.
“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?”

That’s from the Old Testament, and in the New Testament Jesus also talked about the changes to our methods… to the way we serve and worship Him…

Luke 5:37-38 (NLT)
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins.”

In other words, the old ways won’t work in a new world. But while our methods may change, the message must remain the same.


3.    Though our world may fall apart, our hope in God is secure

A few weeks ago, we talked about the storms of life… the disappointments and the tragedies that we all experience in life. And no one enjoys going through a storm. But in the midst of those storms, our hope in God is our anchor.

Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Now, we have talked about this recently. And we’re all familiar with how wrong things can go in life. We’ve all had our plans fail, our dreams fall through, our worlds fall apart… so I don’t think I need to spend a whole lot of time describing that.

But what I do want to reinforce to you this morning, is that…
Even when you feel all alone, God is with you.
Even when you’re staring at defeat, He is there to lift you up.
Even when your trust has been betrayed, He has your back.
Even when you’re brokenhearted, He is there to embrace you and bring healing to your life.
Even when your plans fall through and your dreams are destroyed, He is there to help you pick up the pieces.
Even when you feel forsaken by everyone else, He is faithful.

Several years ago, when I felt like my life was falling apart, my hope in God is what got me through. And I drew strength and hope from Psalm 46, which has been my favourite Psalm ever since…

Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT)
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

Even when the world seems to be falling apart around you, you can rest secure in God and in who He is. You can place your hope in Him. He will be your refuge and your strength, right there to help you in times of trouble.

There’s another old hymn that we actually do a variation of here at Sunrise, and it says…

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Isn’t it such a great thing to know that whatever life throws our way, God is faithful? He is our anchor, He is our rock.


4.    Though our friends may fail us, God’s promises are assured

There’s perhaps nothing worse in life than to have a friend or someone you love betray you. It hurts when someone you trust breaks their promise or goes back on their vows. That’s a traumatic event each and every time it happens.

But that’s part of the risk of having friends and caring for people and trusting them. Sometimes they let us down. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they do betray us.

But God isn’t like that. God is always faithful. He never goes back on a promise. He’s always as good as His Word.

Isaiah 40:7-8 (NLT)
The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Ready for one more hymn? See if you recognize this one…

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of God.

I was telling someone this week about the church I used to work at over in Nova Scotia. When they went through their building project a few years ago, before they laid the flooring in the main auditorium, people were invited to come in and write their favourite promises from the Bible on the bare concrete. That way, they would always be standing on the promises of God.

I think that’s pretty a powerful symbolism. We really can stand on the promises of God, trusting that He will come through on every word He has spoken, and He will never let us down.

Numbers 23:19 (NLT)
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?


Our world is ever changing, but God is forever constant. His Word is enduring, His promises are true, and His character, His love, His mercy, His power, His nature is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


What does it mean for you today to know that God is always faithful?

 

 

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