Unlike the cartoon, Jesus never needs to change. But like the cartoon, too often that is me. But to say that Jesus never changes can be both comforting and disconcerting. Comforting because you need Jesus to remain faithful to his promises; disconcerting because you feel that he let you down and you want him to step it up and do a little better this year. However you feel about Jesus’s character, scripture teaches that he is trustworthy, and that he does not improve as time goes by. Notice the context of that famous verse:
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them” (Hebrews 13:7-9).
What surrounds the affirmation of Jesus’s consistency is faithful teaching of God’s Word by pastors who shepherd the flock with a faith that is worth imitating, and the heart’s wayward leaning into various teachings, appetites of the flesh, that draw you away from Christ. Jesus cannot be re-packaged into a new mold to accommodate your new desires. If you are resolved this year to become a wealthier person, and you think that Jesus died to make you wealthier just because a Sunday morning preacher on TV said so, think again. The book of Hebrews shows Christians getting poorer and poorer by the minute for following Christ and they are commended for their faith and encouraged to keep it up because it’s going to get worse, not better (10:32-39, chapter 11, and 13:3).
But if you are resolved this year to trust Christ even more than you did last year, because you found him faithful and true to his promises to never leave you nor forsake you (13:5-6), then you will not be wasting your time and effort. Go for it! – “It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace . . . and not by _____________.”
1. What would you put on that empty line that too often was your source of strength last year? Foods. Sports. More Money. Revenge/Justice. A Healthy Body. Marriage. Pregnancy. What was it that was more of a refuge for your heart than Jesus? For some of the Hebrews, they were mixing Jesus into their dietary rules and rituals to feel good about their walk with the Lord and their lives, abstaining from one kind of food and indulging in another. But “comfort food” does not comfort/benefit the heart. It only makes you gain more weight and then leaves you feeling guilty for indulging, or prideful for abstaining. This year, press forward to make Jesus more and more your place of strength and not food.
2. Surround yourself with a pastor(s), and other believers, whose lives have a consistency in God’s Word. Watch them, listen to them . . . then imitate their walk of faith as much as it applies to your life. And keep in mind, someone is watching you too.
3. Jesus promises that if you take comfort in the fact that he will be the same for you this coming year, you will not be disappointed. The sermon to the Hebrews is about a pilgrimage to “the city whose builder and maker is God.” It is about a life of faith that perseveres to the end, strengthened in the heart by a High Priest, Jesus, that will preserve the heart’s loyalty to Christ until the day comes that you are “made perfect” in the presence of Christ (11:40). Jesus is as reliable as the day is long. And some days in 2014 are going to be very long. Jesus will stay with you at your side every second of the way. Don’t quit. Look to Jesus – the founder and perfecter of your faith. You’re almost there. You’re almost home. Compared to eternity, this whole year is just a few more strides around the bend and you’ll cross the finish line, having given your all. By grace, you can do this!