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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever
Text:Hebrews 13:8 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2010
Added:2012-08-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 121
Hymn 54:1-4
Hymn 54:5-8
Hymn 1
Hymn 83

Reading:  Hebrews 13
Text:  Hebrews 13:8
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

The calendars flip over again in a few hours.  But if you think about it, what is this really about?  Every 30 or 31 days we flip the calendar over from month to month and we don’t make a fuss about it.  We don’t stay up till past midnight and have a party.  But every twelfth time we do.  It’s not because it’s a biblical command or anything.  The passing of one year to another is simply an event on a calendar devised by human beings.  Yet we hold on to it at least partly because we want to think that things are going to be different in the new year.  Changes are going to be made, hopefully for the better.  We make resolutions.  We plan.  We hope. 

Tonight’s flipping of the calendar is about change.  Not only the change from one year to another, but changes in our lives.  There are changes that we can and will make, changes we hope to make.  But there are also changes that will happen that we have no control over.  We will just have to come to terms with them.    

As we come into a new year, it’s good that we do some reflecting together on what this means.  As I’ve mentioned a number of times in the last few weeks, it’s good for believers to be circumspect – to be thoughtful and reflective.  To meditate and carefully think about what’s going on in our lives.  With 2011 just a few hours away, we are faced with possible changes and inevitable changes.  But there are also solid truths that will be the same.  There is someone whose person and work never changes.  Though our lives may be in flux, he is a rock.  Our text for this evening leads us to a new year with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who remains the same yesterday, today and forever. 

More than one commentator has noted that Hebrews 13:8 is the most frequently preached-on verse in Hebrews.  That may be true, even though I’ve never heard any sermon on this text myself.  I do know that in the old Canadian Reformed Church building in Smithers, BC, there was a plaque with these words written on it at the front of the sanctuary.  We frequently had the opportunity then to reflect on these words and what they mean.  This sermon has been a few years in the making.      

Sinclair Ferguson, a Presbyterian pastor and writer, noted these are the words of Scripture most frequently taken out of context.  I’ve seen that done too.  Pentecostals will appeal to these words to support their belief that miracles and signs and wonders should still be expected today.  Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday.  He did miracles yesterday, he performed signs and wonders yesterday, therefore we should expect him to do the same today and tomorrow.  This is a classic example of the old saying, “A text without a context is a pretext.”    

On the whole the book of Hebrews is about the superiority of Christ.  The whole aim of the book is to get us to fix our eyes on our Saviour.  He is the only High Priest.  He has made the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins.  And now he lives to work on our behalf.  That’s the message of the book of Hebrews in a nut shell.  That’s the broad context, if you will.

The narrower context is found in verse 7.  The author of Hebrews is wrapping up.  As he does that, he leaves his readers with some things they need to do.  Verse 7, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”  “Remembering” means that these leaders were people from the past.  They “spoke the word of God” in days gone by.  The readers of Hebrews should think on who they were, what they said, and how they lived.  God was working through them, speaking through them. 

Yet these leaders were men.  They were mere human beings.  Their lives were but mist, here today and gone tomorrow.  For those of us who are on the older side, think of how the generation of ministers that you grew up with are all but gone.  Scholten, Kingma, Loopstra, Faber, Van Dooren, Roukema, Vanderwel, Selles, and the list goes on.  They were men, they were here, God used them to bring the Word, but now they are gone.  They’ve gone the way that all of us will have to go unless the Lord Jesus returns first.  When we look at our leaders and remember the way God used them, we’re reminded that there’s always change, always transiency.  The gospel message is always the same, but the one who brings it will vary.

That’s how the author of Hebrews comes to verse 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  In the face of all the turnover, there is one who never changes.  He is the same from generation to generation.  There is no shadow of turning with him. 

Hebrews only uses the words “Jesus Christ” three times.  One of those three times is here in our passage.  When the Spirit chooses to use “Jesus Christ” rather than just the personal name “Jesus” or just the title “Christ,” there is some significance attached to that. 

The name “Jesus” reminds us that the Son of God came to earth and took on our human flesh.  He emptied himself of his divine glory and majesty and entered our world, ministering among us.  He was tempted in every way just like we are, yet without sin.  When he hung on the cross, it was the name “Jesus” that hung over him.   

The official title “Christ” tells us that he is the Messiah, the anointed of Yahweh.  He has been anointed with the Spirit to be our prophet, priest and King.  The official title “Christ” speaks to us of his divinity, of the fact that he is God come in the flesh.  He is Immanuel, God with us.    

This personal name “Jesus” and this official title “Christ” inform us of how he is “the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Let’s begin with “yesterday.”  Hebrews teaches us that in the past Jesus Christ did two things that he continues to do today and will do into the future.  In Hebrews 5:7 we find that during the days of his life on earth, “he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears.”  Who was he praying for?  For believers.  We also learn from Hebrews 5 that he was perfectly obedient to God.  He was a diligent law-keeper.  These things were true of him in the past and they continue to be true of him in the present, and will be into the future forever. 

Today, in the present, Jesus Christ represents his people in heaven.  He represents you.  Today, as in the past, he intercedes for us and pleads our cause at the right hand of God.  Not only that, but he sympathizes with our weaknesses.  That sympathy perfects his intercession. 

In the future, we may continue to expect our Saviour to intercede for us.  Hebrews 7:24-25 says that because Jesus lives forever, “he as a permanent priesthood.  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  We believe that he will forever be our perfect priest. 

We also can be confident that he will continue to be our perfect prophet, teaching us the will of God concerning our redemption.  He won’t leave us in the dark but will come to us through his Word and Spirit to teach us and lead us.

And, of course, we are sure that he will always be our faithful King.  As he was in the past and is in the present, we know that he will constantly rule over us and take care of us.  He has promised that he loves us and that he will guard us in our salvation.  We’re safe with him today and tomorrow and forever.  Believe this, brothers and sisters:  he’ll never change.

When we say that he will never change, we’re talking about his immutability.  Immutable means unchangeable.  The immutability or unchangeability of our Saviour is grounded in the fact that he is God.   Turn with me for a moment to Psalm 102:25-28 [read].  In Hebrews 1, these words are applied directly to our Saviour.  The “afflicted man” of Psalm 102 was ultimately writing about Jesus Christ.  Because he is God, he is immutable and unchangeable.  We can depend on him because he is divine.        

Loved ones, there are three things that follow from what we find in Hebrews 13:8.  The first is the constancy of our Redeemer.  In all his attributes, all his qualities and characteristics, our Lord Jesus is always the same.  He is always holy.  He is always gracious.  He is always truth.  He is always powerful.  He is always loving.  He always loves you.  Your circumstances may change, in fact it’s inevitable that they will, but he is always the same and he is that way for you.

The second thing that follows is that we can take encouragement from the picture of our Lord Jesus painted for us in the gospels.  The Holy Spirit portrays him as a compassionate, patient, and gracious Saviour.  That is the way he was, and it is the way he is, and the way he forever will be.  As we read and study the gospels for ourselves or as we hear them proclaimed to us, we can be sure that he is the same, yesterday and today and forever. 

But what about that claim of the Pentecostals?  Can we say that since Jesus did miracles in times past that we ought to expect him to do the same today?  The answer might surprise you.  The answer is “yes.”  But let me explain.  The miracles and signs that Jesus performed in his earthly ministry were not ends in themselves.  They were meant to point to bigger realities, bigger miracles.  And it is those miracles that continue today.  When Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, he was doing that to point to his power in opening the eyes of those who are spiritually blind.  When he raised the dead, he was doing that to point to his power in raising those who are dead in sin.  We believe in the ongoing reality of those miracles.  We believe that Jesus still opens the eyes of the blind and raises the dead.  He brings people out of darkness and into his wonderful light.  In article 12 of chapter 3-4 of the Canons of Dort we confess that this miracle is on the same order as creation and the resurrection.  When God regenerates sinners it is a delightful, marvelous, mysterious and inexpressible work.  God works in an amazing way.  In this regard, Jesus Christ is truly the same yesterday, today and forever. 

Those signs and miracles that he and the apostles after him did were meant to point to that great wonder of regeneration.  They were meant for a time, a time in which the canon of Scripture was not yet completed.  After the entire Bible was finished and all these things had been recorded, there was no longer any need for these signs and miracles.  Jesus still does miracles, but not in exactly the same way as he did in his earthly ministry or shortly afterwards through the apostles.  That’s not to limit his power or to say that he can’t do that today if he chooses to.  That’s only to say that it’s no longer his normal way of working.  We don’t live in the time of the apostles.  We have a completed Bible and that makes a world of difference.  In our day, Christ works through the regular means of his Word as it’s read, studied, and proclaimed.

That brings us to the third thing that follows.  It’s what we find in verse 9 about being carried away by strange teachings.  By fixing our eyes on the immutable Christ as he reveals himself in Scripture, we are immunized against the deadly viruses of false teaching.  As we focus on our Saviour and his Word, we have a stability in a world that’s constantly being tossed and turned by heresies and errors.  Being grounded in Christ (who is always the same) means that we’ll not get distracted and end up being derailed from the orthodox Christian faith.

Loved ones, it is so easy to develop a case of spiritual attention deficit disorder.  Left to ourselves, we can wander from fad to fad, from movement to movement.  Beware of fads and movements.  Be skeptical about the next big thing.  All those things have a way of coming and going.  Of ourselves, we are all liars and lighter than a breath.  The only way that we can even begin to overcome this is through Christ, and through constantly looking to him in faith.  He is the one who never changes, and as we are united to him, we change – to become more like him, to be better grounded and established in our faith and who we were created to be.  And at the end of it all, in the age to come, we will be as stable and established as he is. 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.”  In 2010, he was our Lord and Saviour.  He proved himself faithful again, through all the ups and downs we experienced.  As individuals, as families and as a church, we have seen the reliability of our good Redeemer.  We called out to him for his help and he answered us, showing us his love.  As the calendar turns to 2011, we know that he will be the same in the days, weeks and months ahead.  We can face this new year with hope and confidence.  Though the calendar changes, our Saviour never does.  May our gracious God give us all a blessed 2011.  AMEN.   

Prayer:

Good Saviour in heaven,

We thank you for the gospel as we face another new year.  We thank you for having always been our faithful prophet, priest and king.  We’re glad to know that you are the same yesterday, and today, and forever.  We thank you for your faithful intercession for us in the year gone by.  Thank you for your faithful teaching through your Word.  Thank you for ruling over us with your Word and Spirit.  Lord Jesus, help us with your Word and Spirit to continue fixing our eyes on you in this coming new year. 

O Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we pray for your indispensable blessing on us in 2011.  Please go with us in all the new year brings.  Please bless us as individuals, as families and as a church.  We pray that in 365 days we may again praise you for the mercies we’ve received.  Please keep us in our holy catholic faith by your almighty power.  We pray for the glory of your name in the church and in the world.                




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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