“I the Lord do not change,” says God on the pages of the prophet Malachi.
Many want God to change. In fact, they demand that God change.
The old saying goes: When the word of God is preached, a person is either converted or he gets angry. We see it on the pages of the Gospels. When Jesus spoke, He inspired either the deepest devotion or the hottest anger from those who listened.
Many in the modern church think they can change this. They are embarrassed by what Paul called “the offense of the cross.” The virus of the so-called “Church Growth Movement” has infected people across denominational lines – in pulpits, classrooms and conferences.
The assumption is that people are not turning to God in record numbers because we are not packaging the product properly. So surveys are taken of backslidden baby-boomers and younger, church-shopping gen-Xers and millennials to find out why they no longer have an appetite for the Bread of Life.
The surveys usually whine about traditional worship, lack of day care, not enough entertainment. Sometimes people are honest enough to get the dead fish out onto the table. The word of God makes them uncomfortable. The commandments of God are too confining. Folks want to do their own thing and the preacher refuses to rewrite the Bible or negotiate with sin. Or they can’t get past all those hypocrites in the church long enough to talk to God about their own sins. Or they are so fine with the way they are that they need no Savior.
Maybe the prophet Elijah should have struck a compromise with Ahab and Jezebel, started a therapy group for uptight souls who just couldn’t cozy up to the alternate lifestyle of Baal worship. Maybe John the Baptist could have kept his head if he had been less judgmental about that sordid affair Herod was having with his brother’s wife. If only Stephen hadn’t told the Jewish leaders that they were stiff-necked and resisting the Holy Spirit – maybe he wouldn’t have died under a storm of stones. Should Jesus have used kinder and gentler words to win friends and influence people?
No church worthy of the name Christian will dare to change the raw reality of two rules. Rule number one: When the word of God is preached – both law and gospel – some will be converted and some will become angry, that is, some will believe and some will not.
Rule number two: Honest Christians and their pastors cannot change rule number one – no matter how many marketing strategies they use. The changeless, eternal God makes it clear to Moses at the burning bush: “I am who I am.” Christ Himself says it on the pages of John’s Gospel: “I AM!” We may take great comfort in this. The Savior who was there for us when we were young will be there for us when we are old. His words and promises can be counted on – yesterday, today, and forever. “O Thou who changest not, abide with me!”