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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Unchanging Christ
Text:Hebrews 13:8 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-12-31
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 46:1,5                                                                                  

Hy 1

Reading – Hebrews 11:32-12:2; 13:1-25

Ps 90:1,2,8

Sermon – Hebrews 13:8

Hy 43:1,2,3,4,5,6

Hy 66:1,2,3

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


Loved ones in Christ, it’s a new year. Now, I’ve never noticed a big change when the clock strikes twelve and a new year begins. Things are pretty much the same as they were before. But we all know that changes are coming. That’s what marks so much of this life: a shifting and turning and developing. It’s not usually too dramatic or sudden—it just sort of creeps up on you.

The circumstances of your family might gradually change. Your work situation becomes different. There’s a shift in church life. There can also be serious changes in our health, our financial state, or the lives of those we love. We can’t predict any of these things, so we might have to completely revise our plans. What’s more, in this year the world will keep changing too. Governments will fall and be replaced. Economies might struggle. Nations will go to war against other nations, and disasters will befall certain cities and regions.

All this potential for change can be worrisome. It makes us anxious, fills us with a dread of unpleasant surprises, while we just crave a bit of stability and consistency! Entering a new year, we want to be assured of a few good things. So what’s something to depend on? What’s something that we can be sure of, and not worry it’s ever going to be lost?

Today we have God’s Word before us, a book which is full of steadfast promise. As the Scripture says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help” (Ps 46:1). The same Scriptures speak of our Saviour. And what do they say? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). He won’t change, but we can count on him today, like we did yesterday—and as we can forever!

Jesus Christ is the same:

  1. yesterday
  2. today
  3. and forever

 

1) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday: The letter we’re reading from was first written to the Hebrews, or more specifically, to a community of Christians who were of Jewish descent. And when we study this letter, we learn that these Hebrews had been believers for a while now, maybe a few decades already. Yet something was going wrong. They were getting lukewarm. They were growing tired. After accepting the promised Messiah, their zeal was fading.

This is why the author exhorts them, again and again. So that they do not fall away, these Christians must keep their faith strong and active. And not just with an Old Testament faith, the faith expressed in the old ceremonies and offerings. For they might well be tempted to slide back into the familiar ways of Judaism—but no, they must believe in Christ, the perfect fulfillment of the law, the final and ultimate sacrifice to God! So throughout this letter, even from the very first verses, the spotlight is shined on the Messiah. In the author’s words in chapter 12, “[Let us look] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (v 2).

For it’s this perfect Saviour, the author now says, who was the same “yesterday.” Immediately we want to ask the author a question: “When is yesterday?” By “yesterday,” does he simply mean the day before today?

No, the author is looking at the great span of eternity, he’s looking at time on the grandest scale. We know this because we see what balances out yesterday, what is on the other side of “today.” He doesn’t go on to say that Jesus Christ is the same “tomorrow.” Rather, He’s the same “forever.” The Spirit wants us to take the long view of who our Saviour was, and is, and will be.

And so, in all those years past, who exactly did Christ show himself to be? You can begin by thinking back to his ministry on earth, how Jesus conducted himself in around the year 30. Then He was a man clothed with gentleness, patience, kindness, and mercy. He was a man known for wisdom, a man of justice and integrity. Though his time on earth wasn’t very long, He made his mark. For this was the man sent to save the world!

And that’s what Jesus did. Just yesterday, it seems to the author of Hebrews, Jesus was hanging on the cross. Just yesterday, it seems, was the marvelous day when He rose from the grave. Just yesterday, He ascended into heavenly glory at his Father’s right hand.

But even before all that, who did Christ show himself to be? We don’t find him walking around in the Old Testament, but we know that He’s there. “These are the Scriptures that speak of me,” said our Lord about the Law and the Prophets and Psalms. On those pages, promise after promise pointed to his coming. Every one of those sacrifices and ceremonies anticipated what He would do when He came. And already long before He set a fleshly foot on earth, Christ was the reason God showed favour to his people—though his name wasn’t yet known, Jesus was the sure basis for God’s covenant of love with Israel.

Let’s go back further. Even before the Old Testament and before Genesis 1, who did Christ show himself to be? Think of name that is ascribed to him in Revelation: He’s the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. That takes us back to a time we can’t even imagine, a time not recorded in calendars or history books. Like Psalm 90:2 says of the LORD, “Before the mountains were born or [before] you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Even before time began, this Christ was exalted in power and dominion, in faithfulness and grace! These are the “yesterdays” of our Saviour—the infinite stretch of times past when Jesus was ever the same.

But so what? Should we simply be impressed that He’s very old? It’s more than that. There’s a clue in the verse right before: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (v 7). The author is here pointing very directly to the past. “Remember,” he says, “Think of your leaders, their faith, and their life.”

These Hebrew Christians needed to recall those who first told them the gospel: those missionaries of the Mediterranean, the twelve apostles. These were the men who had seen Christ in the flesh, heard his words and witnessed his deeds. Going out, they boldly shared his message—they stayed true, even if it meant becoming martyrs. For some, that was “the outcome of their conduct” (v 7), dying for their Saviour!

Yet their faith wasn’t wasted. Their hope wasn’t disappointed. In them, Christ’s great worth was proven, again and again. That was one example for the struggling Hebrews to consider: think about your leaders, their faith in Jesus and their life in his service. By word and deed, they showed the unchanging glory of Christ.

Jesus is the same yesterday—these words also point us back to Hebrews 11. You’re familiar with this chapter, when the author surveys the broad sweep of Old Testament history and mentions many of the saints who lived by faith. And then the Spirit presses us to take an important lesson from the history books: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight” (12:1).

“Look at all the old saints,” he says: Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses—and all those other old witnesses for which we have no time to speak. Look at them, not to admire their personal strength of character, but to see how all these people trusted in the Lord. See how they believed, and how the Lord never let them down!

Whether in life or death, all these saints bore witness to one thing: the unchanging character of Christ. It was the Son of God who enabled them to live as they did, to be faithful, to persevere, to work, to believe—even in the most trying times.

It was actually Christ who strengthened Noah for building that ark, miles from any ocean. It was Christ who encouraged Abraham to leave for a land he’d never seen. It was Christ who enabled all those nameless believers to conquer kingdoms, to administer justice, to shut the mouths of lions, and to quench the fury of the flames. All of them are witnesses, witnesses to the glory of the Saviour! For even if Christ wasn’t with them in person, He was with them in Spirit and power. Through them He made great things happen, year after year.

“So look back on yesterday,” the author says, “to a thousand yesterdays, to yesterdays stretching all the way to the beginning of time. Yesterday, Christ was there. And marvel at how He was so good. So gracious. Compassionate. Almighty. And here’s the best part: Since that time, He hasn’t changed one bit! He is the same yesterday…”  

Beloved, this is good food for our faith, to look to the past and see the faithfulness of our Saviour. We don’t always do that, looking back. Many of us are very much oriented to today and tomorrow. Once goals are accomplished, things done, and places visited, we soon move on. We’ve got no time to sit back and reminisce: one year is already history, it’s time to get on with living the next one!

“But stop and turn around a minute. Remember your leaders and the outcome of their conduct,” the Spirit says. “And take a look at that great cloud of witnesses.” See how Christ has always taken care of his church, from the days of Adam and Eve, to the days of the apostles, even to today in Western Australia. See Christ’s faithfulness to your grandparents, and to your parents, and to your children. See how through each and every one of the struggles and heartaches and joys and blessings of yesterday, Jesus Christ was there, and He never changed.

Brothers and sisters, see in your life—whether it’s been long or short—see how Christ never released you from his loving grip. He’s always provided. Always strengthened. Always forgiven. Look back on your years—many or few—and see how not one of God’s promises in Christ has ever been broken or forgotten. Look at a thousand yesterdays—ten thousand yesterdays—and you’ll see the sure presence of the Saviour.

That gives us confidence for today, and for tomorrow too. For based on yesterday’s pattern, we know the future is going to be fine. Many things will change, but Christ will not. He is the same yesterday, and…

 

2) Jesus Christ is the same today: There’s a lot that Scripture says about wise Christian living. But I think one of the simplest yet most powerful lessons is our need to focus on today. No matter the baggage we carry from the past, today must be lived for Christ. No matter our anxieties for the future, today is a day to serve the LORD.

For what did Jesus teach in the Sermon on the Mount? “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34). He calls us to put aside all of tomorrow’s uncertainties, and to use the present time for seeking God’s Kingdom.

Another passage says, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24). God made December 31. He made January 1. He made every day, therefore He has power over every day, and has every day completely planned. That knowledge should free us to rejoice in every day that God allows!

What’s more, we should try not worry about what is yet to come, for “God’s compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lam 3:23). Just when you thought that God had run out of ways to help you, He shows that his blessings are always new. There will be endurance for today’s trials. There will be strength for today’s battles, wisdom for today’s problems. His mercies are new every morning. Which means we can focus our attention on living today! For today, Jesus Christ is our King.

We really need to hold on to that, the promise of Christ’s present care. For many people can easily acknowledge Jesus’ activity in the past. Sure, “yesterday” He walked this earth. “Yesterday,” Jesus suffered and died. But that’s ancient history. It all happened a world away in the Middle East, a place we only know from the news and maps. Where is this Jesus now, today?

Thankfully, the writer to the Hebrews has already explained this. Speaking of Christ’s work of atonement in chapter 10, he wrote, “This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (v 12). Where is Christ today? Good news: He’s in heaven, seated in glory and strength! He’s not in a place where He can hardly see us. He’s not in a position that makes it difficult to act. For today our Saviour is in heaven, with power and glory.

The love that brought him down to earth is a love that continues today, strong as ever. Because Christ is in heaven on our behalf. Sitting at God’s right hand, He still has the human body He once lay down to save us, and you can see the wounds He once suffered for our sins. Christ is and He remains the reason the Father will forgive. He is and He remains the reason that the Father will hear our humble prayers and answer.

And Christ himself is busy offering prayers for his loved ones. As it says back in Hebrews 7, “[Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (v 25). “He lives to intercede.” In other words, that is Christ’s daily task: caring for his people—doing so in strength, doing so with prayer.

Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for you today. He will pray for you tomorrow. He will pray for you each and every day of the year. He’ll be unchanging in his commitment to bring your needs before his Father and your Father!

Let this transform how you live in the present. We can look at today, and at all the todays that are yet to come, and have courage. Today doesn’t have to be a day of worry. Today doesn’t have to be a day of frustration, or a day of sorrow. For even when these things come, we know that our Saviour is on his throne, unchanging in love.

So we say that today is a gift, given for our good and God’s glory. He has given each day to us, so that we might enjoy his grace. Here then, is our calling for today and every day: Christ, having redeemed us, also renews us by his Spirit, and makes us “heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him” (Q&A 1).

Our Lord said don’t worry about all kinds of things about tomorrow. He said don’t worry, “but seek first God’s kingdom.” No matter what else is going on, this is what’s right in front of you, today: the cause of God’s Kingdom, your calling to build the church, to delight in God, to be a part of the Lord’s purpose on earth!

Where’s the place that God has put you today? Where’s the place you’ll occupy for so much of this year? You might be a student. A mother. A father. An office bearer, a friend, a business owner, an employee, a church member. A wife. A husband. You might be strong or weak. Old or young. But each of us has a daily task in God’s Kingdom. Unless our Lord returns, this year will be a year of 365/366 “todays,” hundreds of days of new opportunities to serve and to enjoy your faithful Saviour.

 

3) Jesus Christ is the same forever: With this last word “forever,” we broaden our vision. Forgetting what is behind, looking beyond what is present, and turning to the great horizon that is the future! Trouble is, “forever” is a long time. And it’s hard to imagine the future. Just to think of two weeks from now can be frightening for someone—to think of two years from now can be downright overwhelming.

For when we think of the future, we might think of everything that we still have to do yet, our responsibilities and duties. Maybe we think of getting old, becoming sick, dying. We think of our children, and of where this country is going. And we just can’t get a handle on all this, so to think of “forever” seems pointless.

But God wants us look ahead. Look ahead, not to be frightened, but to be assured. Look ahead, not overwhelmed with fear, but filled with hope. Because the Saviour whom we’ve known in the past, and the Saviour who is with us today—this Jesus Christ will be our faithful Saviour in the future, and for all times. As tomorrows become todays and then become yesterdays, Jesus Christ will be the same—and the same forever.

For whatever happens, we have his steadfast promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v 5). That’s a wonderful verse, especially because it’s so forward-looking. It peers out at the great distance still before us, looks at the uncertainty of countless tomorrows. And yet it assures us that all will be well. Because of Christ, God will not withdraw his care. We’re his children, so his promise is sure: Forever He’ll be with us, never will He forsake us! Beloved, this gives us conviction: “We may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’” (v 6). The Lord is our helper, unchanging, constant, and certain!

So while so much else in this world and in our lives drifts along and changes, this same letter says that we have in Christ “an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast” (6:19). Like a heavy iron anchor holding a ship safely in its position in the harbour, our hope in God is secure, through every storm and tide. A ship’s anchor goes down to the seabed, but our anchor goes up into the heavens, even to Christ.

And it’s when we’re safely anchored in him that we can keep going! Listen to how the author encourages these Christians—these believers, remember, who were getting tired, who were even thinking of turning back. He exhorts them: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1).

We keep running, because in Christ we know where the journey’s going: “Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (13:14). This world and everything in it will soon pass away. Its idols will crumble. Its glories will fade. Its wealth and privilege—all forgotten. So also will this world’s sorrows and pains, temptations and anxieties and struggles—none of these things will last! So we do not seek a passing city, but the one that is to come.

And on that day when the holy city descends from the sky, won’t it be good to know that our Saviour will yet be the same? If we have believed in him, and have faithfully done his will, there will be nothing at all to fear.

For on that day He’ll be the same as He was from before the beginning—full of power and glory. On that day He’ll be the same as He was during his ministry, and then during his suffering on the cross—He’ll be full of compassion and love. On that final day, He’ll be the same as He was during all our years here on earth—full of mercy and truth. Just as Christ has been our faithful Saviour, so Christ will be, forever and ever!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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