Eternal God, Unchanging
This week’s eNewsletter feature story
is written by Jim Teague,
FPCE Communications Coordinator.
Dear Friends –
My wife and I have two sons who are now in their 20s. Our oldest looks more like his mother while the youngest favors me in countenance and build. Their personalities are very different; one is much more of a loner while the other is energized by gatherings and social interaction.
The two of them have a few common interests. Both really enjoy video games and do a fair bit of reading, but even in these areas they have vastly different tastes. They both like pizza, though the older would prefer a plain pie with a thin crust while the other loves stuffed crust and pepperoni.
Each of them has a medical condition which impacts their studies at college, but these, too, are not the same from one to the other.
By God’s grace and the effective ministry of the body of Christ, both are following Jesus. Yet, even in this, they are very different in how they approach their spiritual disciplines and life in the church. It is not that one is doing it “the right way” and the other somehow off target. One simply seems more inclined (for the time being, at least) to express his faith through a pattern of regular structure and committed attendance, while the other’s tendency is to take each day as it comes with a more flexible approach to which disciplines he has the time or energy for (this one also happens to be the more emotionally expressive in worship, while his brother is usually more reserved in his singing and praying).
When I have them “trapped” in the car with me during our rides to or from their college campuses, I get to have conversations with them about how God is working in their lives and how they are responding. I take great joy in knowing both love God deeply, even though each expresses it very differently.
During a recent ride home alone, I found myself wondering if God has a different standard for each of them based upon their unique differences. I pictured each of them standing before the Lord ready to face his judgement, with their choices being weighed out on immense scales against the weight of God’s opinion of them. Almost as quickly as the thought came, I was reminded of the numerous times throughout scripture God tells his people of his unchanging nature.
One such example is Psalm 102:25-27:
Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you endure;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You change them like clothing, and they pass away;
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
There are a host of other verses echoing the consistency of who God is: Numbers 23:19, Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 6:17, and Hebrews 13:8, to name a few. Ultimately, what this means is that God has one standard for all: perfection. If he set the bar any lower (even if it were still unreachable), we might see him as unjust or—worse yet—cruel (teasing us with a target just out of reach).
But God sets the standard so high that we can’t possibly fool ourselves into thinking we might be able to achieve it on our own. Instead he gave us the fulfillment of the measure in Jesus and invites us to put all our hope in him and what he accomplished through his death on the cross and resurrection.
This is good news (great news, actually)!
Instead of seeking to live never-good-enough lives of righteousness defined by unknowable standards that differ depending on their life circumstances, personalities, or personal preferences, they are free to accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus, and reflect that choice through persevering in lives devoted to discovering God’s purposes for them.
I have a few men and women in my life who help keep me accountable in both living a righteous life and walking in the grace God has given me. We talk a lot about the dynamic tension between the two sides, noting that it often seems easier (though unwise) to either live with a legalistic mentality which says “I must never slip up in any way whatsoever”, or walk in a “cheap grace” point of view where it’s all been paid for at the cross of Christ and has no meaning.
To say I struggle to find that balance is an understatement. I spend way too much time in my own head and have to remind myself constantly that a) God is committed to his purposed (not mine), and b) they will be accomplished (it’s not a maybe that I have to be worrying about).
I still fret about my sons’ futures and lay awake some nights praying they are getting to know Jesus personally and not just information about him. I am working at being less fearful about what will happen to them and becoming, instead, more excited about how God will work his unknowable (to me, at least) purposes in their lives and the lives of those they interact with at college.
This Sunday, Senior Pastor Rev. Raymond Hylton will begin a four-week series of teachings called “Marking Time.” Through a collection of Gospel stories, he will help us look at the importance of investing our time wisely on the things of God’s kingdom.
Join us at 10 a.m. Sunday for our worship service, where we will glorify and learn more about our amazing, wonderful God and his unchanging ways.
FPCE Communications Coordinator