By Frank Zenobia III
Living in West Michigan these last two years has changed my life in one unforeseeable way: sunsets. Yes, I know the sun sets everywhere. But; until we moved just a few miles from the Lake Michigan shore, I never realized how glorious sunsets could be. Better yet; they are free. Just jump in the car, drive to the lake, and watch the show. And no matter what night you choose, there is never a repeat. Sunsets are always new.
Sunsets are just one example of a natural world replete with change. Snowflakes fall at my house by the billions (sixty-five inches of snow fell last December), but no two snowflakes are alike. Sand dunes are continually re-sculpted by the wind’s scour. Every acre of forest and every parcel of turf have their own miniature ecosystem. And the weather; don’t get me started. All this change in just my backyard.
But wait. I would not want to leave the impression that these myriad changes are random. Each conforms to its own unyielding principles. Each sunset is different. But it sets always in the west; never the east, or the north. Each snowflake is unique. But each is a six-sided crystalline structure created when water vapor turns directly to ice.
Nature plays by the rules. At the largest scale, we watch the heavens dance with an otherworldly precision. Simple calculations can reveal the position of a star 100 years ago, 1,000 years from now, or tomorrow. “Can you hold back the movements of the stars? Are you able to restrain the Pleiades or Orion? Can you ensure the proper sequence of the seasons or guide the constellation of the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe and how God rules the earth?” (Job 38:31-33, NLT). And at the smallest level, atoms decay with such exactitude that we literally set our watches by them. Nature abounds with change, but that change is regulated by an uncompromising, intelligent creation.
That said, it is funny that men would believe that they could be exempted from change. Like the sunset or the snow, change affects us all. The Church’s real challenge is to integrate change in a manner that pleases Christ. When it comes to change: we would do well to remember these truths.
Change Is Inevitable
We may not like it, but we cannot prevent change. The sun is setting. This world is carnal and temporal, and it cannot endure. Like a clock it winds toward oblivion. (See 1 Corinthians 7:31.) This march breeds chaos. Man’s best efforts cannot prevent this. And if the system is broken, then what of the men who inhabit the system? It is true; you cannot stop progress, event that progress is leading men to hell.
The Church should not view this descent as a failure. Our mission has never been to save the world; but to save men from this world. (See Luke 19:10.) Our method must account for the ever-widening breach between lost men and a holy God. We must be willing to adapt ourselves to reach the lost; no matter how far removed they have become.
God Is Immutable
I know that change can be disconcerting, but there is good news. Our God never changes. (See Malachi 3:6.) Unlike us, He exists independently of this world’s structure. He can neither be influenced nor affected by it. The sun will rise in the west before He wavers. In Him we find our only constant.
And it is in His immutability that the church remains tethered.
Values erode. Lines are crossed, and moved, and crossed again. Ethics and morals are situational. And standards are forgotten and abandoned. But a church tied to God’s character will never be marginalized. “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed: but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed; saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (Isaiah 54:10). His character, His love and compassion and holiness and faithfulness, provides us with an anchor in exceedingly stormy seas.
The Church now functions in a world that has lost truth. Every opinion, every claim, and every world-view must be treated with equal legitimacy. Only those who express an eternal certainty are condemned, labeled judgmental, and unenlightened. But a church founded on God’s Word “shall not be moved.” (See Psalm 46:5.) “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever” (Luke 21:33, NLT). His Word, inspired and infallible, is an immovable foundation.
When did politics and social activism enter the Church’s purview? When did the means, our programs and techniques, become more important than our motive? A church united in Christ will never forget that He is, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Redemption has never relied upon corruptible things. His plan keeps our eyes fixed on the prize.
So the “times they are a-changin'”; but God does not. We must rely on His character, His truth, and His plan to unerringly chart our way.
Change Is God’s Method in Our Lives
I am convinced that we would have an easier time accepting change and implementing change, if we truly believed that change is allocated by God’s hand. Change is His method of stripping off the insulation and laying bare the wiring of our hearts. Faulty connections are our failure, not His. Change forces us to continually reevaluate our coupling to Christ.
When we live convinced of His constancy, how can the world’s shifting sand undermine us? We choose to believe: and that belief guides us. “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NLT). The unchanging God has our best interest at heart. He will never disappoint or fail us.
However, the veracity of this process does not prevent some men from fighting change.
Some try to arrest change’s advance. They are committed to yesterday; the good, old days. They believe that a worsening world indicates our best days are behind. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Abraham learned that a permanent address is a false security. Yes, dwelling in tents and relentlessly moving was an arduous process: but it kept Abraham from becoming too attached to the corruptible. His obedience to a life of change reminded him that he was not a citizen of this country. His address was, “A city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham fulfilled his destiny, and Jehovah was not ashamed to be called Abraham’s God.
Others take the opposite tack. They are convinced that change is irresistible, even to the eternal. They can no longer fathom a God who is not as frustrated and bewildered as they are or a God who is not as fragile and double-minded as they are. They find themselves adrift, un-tethered and listing. They have forsaken safe harbor.
Jesus was the ultimate revolutionary; but He refused to abandon the Word (How inconceivable; the Word abandoning His Word.) “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus knew that the future of His church depended upon their conviction in the divine. How sad that we must spend precious energy and time convincing some of that fact. “Dearly loved friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the truth of the Good News. God gave this unchanging truth once for all time to his holy people’ (Jude 1:3, NLT).
Changing Without Changing
Where does all this leave us? Which response is the right response to change?
I am convinced that the Church must … embrace change, stay connected to principle, and live the adventure.
Dare we hold back from the Master’s will? We can no longer resist change simply because something is convenient, traditional, controversial, or challenging. Mimicking the changed will never substitute for genuine change in my own life. Jesus change me!
Will we remain content to follow the crowd, even a religious one; or will we be led by the Spirit? His Church must be willing to follow wherever He leads. “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Stay Connected to Principle!
Can we make the wrong choice when we are bound to Him? When we are attached to the unchanging One is any dream too big? Is any concept too radical? Will the Church allow the doubter, the naysayer, and the skeptic to derail us from His vision, His truth, and His plan?
Will I fight against change simply because I have yet to comprehend it? (Oh that Jesus would open my eyes!) This Church must choose the right side; His side.
Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. And now I say unto you. Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:34-35, 38-39).
What wisdom! Gamaliel knew men could never damage God’s integrity. He believed God possessed the power to surprise. He counseled restraint and left room for men to turn “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Live the Adventure
Can we deny our destiny? We, the church, are to take the gospel to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). White fields; a great harvest of souls-await us. His promise is that His Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. Christ would do this through us. Will we allow the burden of change to countermand us?
The world is waiting for great things from this Church. We must not disappoint them. When change is combined with enduring principle in our lives; the product is vibrant, life-changing, and eternal. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). If we would see the amazing in this last day, we must allow the “Author of change” room to complete His masterwork in us.
The sun is setting, but think about it. When is the last time you heard someone complain about a sunset?
Article “Change Without Change” written by Frank Zenobia is taken from Forward Magazine the 2006 September/October edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”