The Immutable God


This is lesson 3 in the series "The Attributes of God."
 

The Immutable God

James 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

The shadows from sun shift; but the sun does not appear to change.

Contemplation

 

To say that God is immutable:

·         He cannot vary

·         Cannot change

·         Cannot decrease

·         Cannot increase

·         He is all that He will ever be, all that He ever was

Job 34:14-16

    14"If He should determine to do so,
         If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
    15All flesh would perish together,
         And man would return to dust.
    16"But if you have understanding, hear this;
         Listen to the sound of my words.

We are like dust, easily blow away and gone forever.

God, on the other hand, is immovable.

Even if the entire universe should rebel against God, it would be like a canoe attacking a battleship.

What really lasts?

 

Sin and time wear us down. By the end of the day we are tired. After decades we find ourselves with less energy, our illnesses last longer, and our bodies betray us more easily.

So what is permanent? Look up at the sky. There are stars and galaxies. The universe is enormous. It is estimated that there are 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 300 sextillion stars in the universe. Yet God says that even the universe is like an old sweater that is fraying at the elbows and with buttons falling off. Even if God does not come back for a very long time and after tens of billions of years the universe shutters to an end, God will still be there unchanged. He will not be even the slightest different than when the universe began.

Psalm 102:25-27

    25"Of old You founded the earth,
         And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
    26"Even they will perish, but You endure;
         And all of them will wear out like a garment;
         Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
    27"But You are the same,
         And Your years will not come to an end.

Nothing can change God

 

God cannot be influenced to change either from without or from within.

God cannot be influenced from without because it is not merely that He stands far and above everyone else in power and might but that He alone has power and might. We have only what He has given to us. There is no great cosmic battle between good and evil, between God and the Devil. The Devil only has being because God allows him to. Should God so choose, in an instant the Devil would completely cease to exist.

God cannot change from within because there is no facet of His being that is in anyway in conflict with another part of His being. As infinite and complex as God is everything within Him functions perfectly together.

This is in contrast to ourselves. We have self-doubts and misgivings. Our spirit strives with our flesh waging war within our members (Romans 7:23). We sin and repent. We grow and regress. God has none of this.

God is not like the ancient mythologies where occasionally the gods had to rush back home to take care of some crisis. And because God does not have to worry about Himself He is able to focus all of His attention on us. That is why He is able to boldly promise in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Because God does not need to hold back any resources for Himself He is able to apply all of them to us and knowing that the purpose which He has for our lives is one of perfection should give us an enormous sense of honor.

God’s immutability is our survival

 

Malachi 3:6, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Since God is perfect in all ways, if He changed in any way it would have to be for the worse. So how would He change? Would He become less patient? Less forgiving? Less merciful? Choose any one of those and it could easily mean our destruction. We survive not because we are good or desire to, but only because God is good. Since all that God is, is involved in the matter of people, then any change in God would have to be to our detriment.

It is true that:

·         God is self-sufficient and so does not need us.

·         God can immediately take anyone’s life and still be righteous.

·         We are sinners and God is perfectly holy.

However, it is also immutably true that:

·         God is rich in mercy.

·         God loves us with a great love.

·         Although God does not need us, nonetheless, He greatly delights in us. We are not without a friend in Heaven.

 

Because God does not change then neither do His eternal purposes

 

Hebrews 6:17-18

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,

 18so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”

We will not die and find ourselves annihilated or find, as Christians, that we are in Hell.

Every future promise of God is secure and every current promise of God is secure.

Truth is forever

 

Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Truth is never dependent on our understanding or acceptance of it. It is as true if we believe it and as true if we doubt it.

If I do something truly terrible and think that God can never forgive me that does not make it suddenly true that I, indeed, cannot be forgiven. God’s promise remains true and if I come to my senses someday then I can still claim God’s promise of complete forgiveness. His promise of cleansing me from all unrighteousness remained available through all of my doubts. It was always right there for the taking even if I closed my eyes.

Truth does not have to be experienced to be true. I am saved even if I do not feel like I am. I am still a child of God even when I am a jerk.

A while ago I had a little extra cash so I put it into an envelope and hid it in a book. Then, with my memory being more gauzy than photographic, I forgot about it. A year later my wife asked me about the money. My response was, “What money? I didn’t hide any money.” It was a few months after that when looking through my books that I found the envelope with the money in it. I had mixed feelings from “Hey, I have more money than I thought I had” to “My memory is not what it used to be.”

Even though I forgot about it, that money was always in the same place and was always available. All I had to do was take it. The promises of God are much the same. They are always available. We may forget about them, ignore them, and doubt them. But when we humbly come back to them then we shall find that they are just as efficacious and just as much a blessing.  The problem is not that God’s promises disappear but that we forget about them or do not believe them. When we want to leave the confusion of the world, God is ready to be our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1). When we are guilty, God’s cleansing and forgiveness is standing by to wash us (1 John 1:9). We may forget God, but God never forgets us and when we return to God’s promises we will likewise proclaim, “Hey, I have more blessings than I thought I had.”

Jesus Christ is immutable

 

The Bible says that Jesus Christ was born as a baby and that He “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). And Philippians 2:6-7 reads, “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Yet Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Is this a contradiction?

Of course not. He emptied Himself of His glory, of His privilege, of His right to, as God, do whatever He pleased.

God raises us up

 

Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
         And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”

God does come down to our level to have a relationship with us but raises us up to His level.

Because God cannot change He, therefore, changed us.

When we are saved we are not just made more righteous than we were; we now have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We now fully meet all of God’s demands of perfection and holiness.

2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Our salvation is secure not because it rests in our loyalty and character since those things change like a paper bag blowing in the wind. Our salvation is secure because it rests in the fact that God does not change and we are in God through Jesus Christ.

What does God’s immutability mean to us?

We can trust God

 

James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” We can easily agree that any good thing that we receive is from God. God is good and He gives good gifts. But notice how this verse ends: “with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” We can paraphrase this verse as, “God gives us good things and only good things and God never changes.” He will never give us anything that is not for our ultimate good. This means that we can trust God. He will not suddenly decide to toy with us. He will not grow weary of our stupid and foolish ways and decide to crush or abandon us. God will never renege on any of His promises.

When what the Bible clearly says we should do is opposed by what our culture is telling us then we should, without question or hesitation, obey what God says in the Bible. Maybe we will not get that promotion as quickly or we will not marry as soon as we had hoped or we will never hear those accolades that we so desire but ultimately our blessings will be much more abundant and our satisfaction for doing what is right will be deep into our bones. It is God who blesses and God who curses. We will never regret trusting God and His word.

Even in what we may perceive as failure may be a great success in God’s eyes. Many times we set out to accomplish something but it fails and then we are quick to question God, “Why didn’t You help me out? Where were You when it all came crashing down?” God is not in the business of making us successful in all aspects of life but rather to be successful in godliness and sometimes those two goals may be at odds. Through failure we learn perseverance, hope, proven character, and to trust in God. All of the great people in the Bible had spectacular failures that they rebounded from to eventually rise even higher. Failure does not mean that God is against us or that we are hopeless and inept. That failure may be exactly what God wants so that, in the end, we may not have a great accomplishment but we have become a better person. Our success must be measured by righteousness and not by power, fame, or money.

Resist Temptation

 

The verses immediately preceding James 1:17 address temptation. God never tempts us to sin. Temptation is the work of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. This is important because we know that since temptation is never from God we can readily apply 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” No matter how intense the pressure to sin, God will always, without fail, give us an opportunity to escape from it. This will never change. It also means that if we do sin then it was because we chose the sin rather than the escape. No one can ever force us to sin because no one is greater than any of God’s promises.

Confidence in His desires for our life

 

Do you struggle with thinking that God might suddenly turn on you and fill your life with garbage? That He will suddenly stop loving you or caring about you? Then immerse yourself in the truth that God will never change, not even in the subtle way that a shadow may shift. The intensity of His desire to give us the abundant life that He promises in John 10:10 does not vary from person to person. Its manifestation may differ but never the passion of His desire to bless. The fullness of joy and pleasures forever in Psalm 16:11 are not capriciously here today and gone tomorrow. God did not love you when you got saved only to leave you when you sin or in a trial. Because God does not change neither does His tremendous affection and desires for us ever change. Circumstances may seem to dictate otherwise, but we can be assured that behind them God is still the rock and fortress that He always has been and always will be.

We can become more godly

 

If God kept changing then for us to develop godly character would be like trying to build a house when the plans keep changing or trying to score a goal when the net or goal post constantly moves. But because God is always the same we have a fixed goal that we can aim at.

One example is that we can become more faithful because we are confident of what God’s faithfulness is like. Moses made great mistakes and yet because God was faithful to him Moses eventually became the leader and representative of God to a nation. Peter likewise made many mistakes and yet because God was faithful to him Peter ultimately became a great man of God and a foundation of the early church. In these two people we can see this same faithfulness of God across thousands of years. This should not only motivate us but also give us great confidence knowing that as we work on being faithful God will give us the grace necessary.

Any example of God’s character is like driving towards a mountain. It is steady and certain. We will not blink and it is suddenly different. What God was in the Bible God is today.

Discussion Questions

 

1)      In addition to the ones discussed about, what are some other assurances that God’s immutability means to us?

2)      Why would an unchanging God do things differently because of prayer?

3)      If God does not change then why does He appear to be different in the Old Testament than in the New Testament?

4)      How does God’s immutability make us feel more secure as a Christian?

5)      If God does not change then how come sometimes I feel more like He loves me and other times I feel more like He is mad at me?

6)      If God is always the same then why do so many religions have such different views of God?

7)      If God loves us so much then why does He not change? In a marriage, the husband and wife will change to better themselves for the sake of the other person?

Situation

 

Max has been a fairly steady Christian for a number of years. He has had his ups and downs but has always managed to work through them. For the last several months he has been overwhelmed with a very difficult trial and his faith has wavered. He often says, “God doesn’t love me” even though many of those times he says it in a mildly joking manner. He skips church every once in a while and when he does go he seems uninterested in the singing and sermon. You have been one of his close friends over the years. How can you encourage Max and is there anything regarding God’s immutability that might be especially helpful?

 


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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: bob@disciplescorner.com