James 1:16-18

Change from the Unchangeable God,

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The One Who Does Not Change, Gives Birth (Change From the Unchangeable God)  6/26/16  James 1:16-18  Lake Murray Presbyterian Dr. Ben Sloan

God is the father of heavenly lights, and he does not change like shifting shadows.  These are astronomical terms.  What it is saying is that God is as constant as the North Star.  If you lose your way- remember where the sun comes up- that is east; where the sun sets- that is west.  At night you can see the north star- that is north- it is constant.  Once as a boy I was lost at night- before cell phones.  I knew little about the night sky- but I knew that the north star (the brightest star found in the Little Dipper) points the way- and it helped me find my way back.  If you are wandering in your life.  If you are fading in your love for life and for God- remember the One whose love and purpose never fades.  That is what James is saying.  James gives a contrast- God is constant and yet He gives birth to us.  He is constant in His being but changes in His actions. I. HE IS NEVER CHANGING. I met a young man who said that life changes so fast that there is no room for God.  He quoted Heraclitus that said in 500 B.C. that a man “could not step into the same river twice.”  One of his disciples took this a logical step further (Cratylus)  no one even steps into the same river at all. Change is so pervasive that there is no river at all.  In our day of very fast change, it is easy to worship change without seeing the essence of things do not change- including God.   While the river changes, there is still the river.  While creation changes, there is still the Creator. There are some obvious and valid problems with thinking that God is continually changing.     Our scripture clearly affirms that the God it is talking about is faithful, constant and immutable.  Let me read some of these to you: Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man that he should lie nor the son of man that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?” The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations (Ps. 33:11).  But you remain the same and your years will never end (Psalm 102:27).  “I the Lord do  not change so you, O descendants of Jacob are not destroyed” (Mal. 3:6).  Hebrews 6:17,18 says it is impossible for God to lie so God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised so he confirmed it with an oath.  God’s promises and God’s person are constant and reliable.  God is not static- He is ever acting- but acting in consistency with his constant and faithful being.  Great is His faithfulness!    In James 1:6 it speaks of a doubting- double-minded man.  This compares to a constant, dependable- single minded God.  God is not distracted, doubting, but focused with a firm and steady reliable purpose of good and love.       It is because of His faithfulness that we can know His promises are true.  When God says He loves us- He doesn’t change His mind—even when we do not deserve it—even when we ignore Him.  It is because of His constancy that we know that we can trust Him, and that He is full of integrity and honesty even if we are not.  The Greek gods changed with the rain and the amount of worship they received.  It is because of His covenant with us that we can know we are His and heaven will not be snatched away from us because God changes God’s mind.  Today we are over- fascinated with change and progress and under fascinated with the consistent integrity and grace of God.  The world changes- our lives change- but also there is a finality to sin to change and to progress.       God is ever consistent but He is not static.  God is ever new but He is not wishy-washy.  Perhaps the best illustration is us.  No matter how much we think we change- we have the same DNA.  We may change our name- but like it or not- we cannot change who we really are- our soul.  We will react to what is around us- but we will always be the same soul that was born and that will return to the God who made us.  As James says, God does not change like shifting shadows so that you cannot know Him or love Him or trust Him.  II. THE NEWNESS OF GOD- James speaks of the consistent faithfulness of God without losing the action of God.  God’s action is infinitely new springing from his consistent being.  God is ever new yet never surprised, never shocked by our evil or by our good.  God is the definition of creativity.  Our creativity is limited to what He has given us- including our ability to think and be  creative.  Our ability to make beautiful art and music are dependent on the colors, the eye, the nerves, and the stuff God has given us.   But this dependency on God does not mean that we cannot change or that we should not be creative or that God does not want us to improve.        God is immutable but He is never boring.  Sin can easily get boring.  We can be bored with ourselves.  But God is ever new.  If we are bored with God it is like being bored with love. If you are bored with perfection then that means perhaps you are excited about failing and deteriorating or dying.  In God is perfect love, perfect life, perfect kindness, perfect integrity.  There is no room for improvement or deterioration- which is what change really is.   Yet, the Bible speaks of singing to God a new song.  It speaks of being new creatures and it speaks of a new birth- but it is all in relationship with the same God.         God’s desire is that we believe in change.  Specifically believe in God’s ability to change our situation, to change our lives, to change the way we think and behave.  Change should never be worshiped.  The Process should not be put in the place of the One who begins and oversees the process of life.  It is a negative thing- and almost anti-God to think that people cannot change and that there is no hope for them.  While there is life- there is hope.       James tells us that God is the Father of lights- shadows come and go- but the light is constant.  Evil, darkness, shadow are fleeting.  You cannot reflect a shadow because it is nothing really.  But you can reflect and refract light.  The shadow calls us because we think it is large and exciting- but it is nothing.  The light calls us out of the shadow into hope.  It’s call is constant to us whether we run in the darkness or walk in the darkness- whether we are sad in the darkness or happy in the darkness- the light shines like a lighthouse.   You perhaps remember the story of the ship in the fog before there were GPS.  The ship looked like it was heading right toward another ship.  It radioed for the other ship to veer course because it did not turn easily.  The answer back was that the ship must veer course.  The captain of the ship was angry and said, “I am a United States destroyer 170 meters long and 9200 tons turn course.”  The answer was “I am a lighthouse on the coast.  Veer course.”  God is a dependable, steady guide.  A light to steer us away from harm and into the harbor of His love.    God makes all things new.  This is how He describes Himself- “Behold I make all things new.”  He does this on a regular basis- when a baby is born; when a couple falls in love and pledge their faithfulness to each other; when a new day starts; when a storm comes and washes away all the dust and pollen; when the snow falls and covers over all the dirt;  When God chose the nation Israel – making a covenant with them- that was a new thing. When God became a man- that was a new thing.  When Jesus died on the cross that was a new thing.  When He rose from the dead- everything changed.  But God’s purpose, his motivations, His promises did not change.  As Jesus said, He did not come to break the law but to fulfill it.  II. THE NEW BIRTH- James speaks of a good and perfect gift, and speaks of God not changing, and then he adds that he chose to give us birth through the word of truth.  How is God’s giving us birth relating to God’s gift and God’s constancy?  James knew that one of the greatest gifts of god to us- the perfect gift that will not be taken away- is this new birth.  We are born means that the changeless God changes us.  He changes us so much,  transforming us so that we are like new creations- like being born again.       What He means is that when we get faith it is not just a degree of improvement- a little bit of coping- but a radical transformation.   Calvin describes it as putting on glasses.  Everything was fuzzy before- blurred lines- dizzying direction.  But when we put the glasses of faith on everything becomes clear- the scripture, our purpose, our hope, the love and grace of God.  Did you know that 1 out of 12 people are colorblind?  A colorblind person can see 10- 100,000 colors whereas the average person can see over a million colors.  Ogden Smith was a young boy who was color blind.  His grandmother noticed it first when she tried to show him her red roses and he couldn’t see them.  But last January he tried on some special endochrome glasses.  For the first time he could find the blueberries in among the blueberry bushes.  He could see the different colors in the fall leaves, and the shades in the different types of grass.  Being born again means you look at life differently.  You can see God.  You can see God’s hand.  You can see answered prayers.  You can appreciate things you couldn’t appreciate before- but they just existed.       The world doesn’t need an adjustment.  We don’t need an adjustment.  We need a radical difference: a reset- a re-load. We don’t need an aspirin- we need surgery.  We are arrogant and proud.  We think we are better than we are.  On our own we fail miserably.  We are locked out from God.  It is like He is far from us without really giving ourselves to Him.  We need the ability to be born all over- to try again- to reload- to start over- to really wipe the slate clean but also have the strength, memory, and power to make the right decision and go in the right direction.   John Piper talked about being born again is like Jesus calling Lazarus out of the grave.  Jesus calls and wakes him up with his voice- “Lazarus come out”- this is the Word of truth James talks of- and then he responds and comes.  For some of you- Jesus is calling your name today.  He is calling you to believe- to leave the sin and death behind and come to His voice- walk away from the grave and be born again. You cannot change what is going on around you if you cannot change what is going on within you.  Let God change you and make you the person you were meant to be.  IV. THE FIRSTFRUITS OF ALL HE CREATED- The first fruits were the fruits that had been anticipated for so long.   They were the tastiest and most precious.  We are a prized possession of God.  We are precious to Him.  The New Living Translation translates this verse as: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”    We are called to not just be born again- but to bear fruit for Him.   There are two kinds of fruit- the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of reproduction.  We do not simply exist to be saved.  We exist to glorify and enjoy God.  God wants us to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, joy, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.      The second kind of fruit is the fruit of reproduction.  If Christ means anything to you, then look to reproduce your faith.  Fruit is how a tree reproduces itself.  The firstfruits are called to bring forth other fruit.  The faith was not supposed to die with the first Christians.  We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.         God desires that we not be aimlessly living our lives.  He clearly wants us to change- to be transformed as a part of His changing the world.  What will you give your life to?  Do not give it to politics, or to an ideology, or to a church politics.  Give it to God.  He does not change like the political wind, or the popularity of the masses.  Give yourself to the One who created the North Star, the Father of the Heavenly Lights- He wants to be your Father too- and wishes you to be born as His child.