What do you believe to be true about God and the Bible? In Sunday’s message, Blake Holmes reminds us of three things that never change despite the world around us: The character of God, the Word of God, and the mission of God.
La Casa de Nuestro Padre (Bilingüe)
Church At Home
Citizens of Heaven
Love Your Neighbor
Three Things That Never Change
Making Room for Kids | Luke 18:15-17
Oh, But God
Oh, But God
Evening with the Elders
What do you believe to be true about God and the Bible? In Sunday’s message, Blake Holmes reminds of three things that never change despite the world around us: The character of God, the Word of God, and the mission of God.
My first bout with vertigo occurred in the middle of the night. I don't know if you've ever had vertigo before, but it's terrifying. There I am in the middle of the night, and I wake up, and the room is spinning. I mean, spinning like I am on that roller coaster ride from hell, and it will not stop. Cognitively, I'm aware I'm in my bed, I'm lying on my back, yet the room is whirling about me. I instantly feel nauseous. I reach out to my wife. I'm like, "Help me. You've got to help me." I have no idea what vertigo is. All I know is everything is spinning, and I just want it to stop.
I think this past year, for many of us, feels like a bout with vertigo. There is so much change that has happened in our lives that we are exhausted and dizzy from the changes occurring in our world and in our personal lives. Think about all we've been through together. Think about how much has changed. Where our kids went to school, how they went to school…it all changed. Where we ate…that changed. True confessions: how much I ate…that changed. Way too much. I gained all this weight. What happened? That's another message.
Who we spent time with changed. How we spent time with people changed. All of a sudden, we're introduced to this world of Zoom where we're meeting with people over computers, and when we're in person we're distanced and masked. How we traveled changed. We perhaps didn't get to travel.
What we watched on TV changed. Goodbye sports, which meant I hardly watched any TV. Even how we opened our packages changed. I kid you not. I remember looking at my neighbor across the street with rubber gloves on, mask, box cutters, cleaning her packages as she opened them. I was thinking, "Man, everything has changed."
If you didn't notice, we had a national election, and the whole state of Texas completely froze over. I mean, it feels like "What more could happen?" Then closer to home, for us as a Watermark family, last week we gathered and learned of more changes, as those on our leadership team have changed with Todd's and David's resignations.
I've been at Watermark for 19 years. I've had the privilege of being a part of this family, community of faith, for 19 years serving on this staff. I love this church. I love these people. I have been tremendously blessed. I know last week was heavy for all of us, and I just want you to know that I see you. We see you. We know many of you are sad and many of you are confused. I want to remind you, my Watermark friends who call this place home…
I want to encourage you to process everything you heard last week with your Community Groups, and where you need help or where you have questions, please remember there's a Community Group director who's a phone call or email away. You can just raise your hand and go, "Hey, I'm wrestling with…" or "Could you help me with…?" That's how we make a really big place feel a lot smaller: everyone is in a group, and every group is connected to somebody on staff who's a phone call away.
We have experienced a lot of change. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." This past year has certainly been a season, or a series of seasons, to remember or, depending on how you look at it, maybe to forget. It has been long. It has been hard. In a constantly changing world, I need to remind myself of what I know to be true. We're all longing for that sense of stability, that bedrock foundation, where the room will stop spinning and we can reorient ourselves and remind ourselves of what is true.
This morning, I don't so much want to instruct you but remind you of what is true by sharing with you three things that never change. We may live in a world that is upside down, ever-changing, but there are three things, gang, that never change: the character of God, the Word of God, and the mission of God. These three things never change.
The question is whether or not you're a biblical theologian and whether or not the decisions you're making are based in truth. We need to continually remind ourselves of who God is. You have heard what A.W. Tozer has said so many times. We've repeated it from this stage so many times, because it's so true. "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." We are all theologians.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, "Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me…' " The character of God never changes. Do you know who God is? Do you know him? Do you know him as he has revealed himself in Scripture?
We cannot allow our theology to be determined by our circumstances, how we feel, or what this world teaches but by the revealed Word of God. Do you know God as he has revealed himself to you through his Word? The Bible is clear. It teaches that God's character never changes. The fancy way of saying this is he is immutable. Despite how much the world changes around you, despite the fact that your job may change, your family may change, your financial situation may change, your friends may come and go, God's character never changes.
Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Psalm 100:5: "For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." Lamentations 3:22: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end…" Emphasis on never. 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." I could go on and on and on.
The Westminster Catechism summarizes it like this: "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth." God's character never changes. A.W. Pink in his book The Attributes of God states this so well. I'm going to quote him at length.
"Herein is solid comfort. Human nature cannot be relied upon; but God can! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not. If He varied as we do; if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow; if He were controlled by caprice [or moodiness], who could confide in Him? But, all praise to His glorious name, He is ever the same. His purpose is fixed; His will is stable; His word is sure.
Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us. The permanence of God's character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises." Then he quotes Scripture. "'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you."
When I was in middle school… One of my most vivid early childhood memories was I was at a friend's house playing. The phone rang, and my friend looked at me after hanging up the phone, and he simply said, "Blake, you've got to go home." I could tell from the look in his eyes something was not right. "Just go home. Just go home." So I returned home as quickly as I could, only to find that my home had been completely destroyed. My home caught on fire, and what the flames didn't burn, water and smoke damage destroyed.
I don't know if you've ever walked through a home destroyed by fire before, but it's devastating. Everything you have is gone. As a little kid, this was a lot for me to take in. I remember distinctly walking into what I called the playroom where all of my games and toys were, everything I loved. Everything was gone. In an instant, my family was out of our house. What I wore changed. My neighborhood friends changed. Everything changed.
Where we lived changed, neighborhood restaurants changed, but one thing remained the same. Despite the fact that we moved into an apartment and I met new friends and adjusted to a new world, one thing remained the same, and that was the character of my dad, the strength of his character, his steadiness, his readiness, his love, his reassurance. It strengthened me. I was a scared kid, but I would come home from school and my dad was steady, unwavering, not changing.
Gang, in a world that is turned upside down, where it feels like things are changing around us all the time, do you know that God's character never changes? Do you know how to rest in the character of God? Rest in the character of God, because it's his character that never changes. How do you do that? I want to give you two very tangible, simple ways that I try to rest in God's character.
First, when I read his Word in the mornings, I ask myself before I walk away, "What did this text teach me about the character of God? What am I supposed to learn about who he is, his goodness, his faithfulness, his trustworthiness?" I have to be reminded of that. Then, secondly, when I pray, I always try to stop and remind myself who I'm praying to. Rather than just running to God with a laundry list of what I need, what I want, to stop and acknowledge that God is holy, he's faithful, he's good, he's all-knowing, he's providentially at work in my life, and I have the privilege of coming to him in prayer.
Then when it comes to social media… That's no help. Social media is like an accelerant on a dumpster fire. That's true. Right? People voice opinions as if they were there, as if they're absolute facts. Tribalism runs rampant. We run to the people we agree with, and we just retweet. Our communities are more divided now than I can remember, as one side demonizes the other. We currently live in this outrage culture. "I'm more outraged than you're outraged." "I'm more outraged than you're outraged." Everybody is a victim, and we're all outraged, and we yell at each other. That's just true.
Philosophically, the very concept of absolute truth has been rejected. We no longer speak in terms of the truth. We now speak in terms of my truth. The warning of the book of Judges is as true today as it was when it was written: "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Our world is no different. We have walked away, as a society, from the bedrock, the foundation of God's Word, his unwavering, unchanging truth. His Word remains the same despite an ever-changing, upside-down world.
Isaiah 40:8: "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." Psalm 33:11: "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations." Psalm 119:89: "Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." I could go on and on and on. The confidence we can have in the truth of God's Word… No matter the culture, cultural context, historical context, God's Word never changes.
When I talk about the Bible, I'm really curious, though… I wish I could sit down with each of you over coffee and ask you, "Hey, what do you believe about the Bible?" Like, what do you really believe? Not what you think you're supposed to tell me. I mean at a conviction level, what do you believe? Many of you have been taught or many of you believe "The Bible is applicable in everything regarding our faith but not reliable in terms of history or what it might suggest about science. Throw all that away."
Or some of you have been taught, "Oh, the Bible contradicts itself" or "It's just a book full of fables. It's there to cheer you up, to motivate you, to help you get through the day." What do you believe about Scripture at a conviction level? Have you tested it to know whether or not it's true? Do you know it claims to be the very inspired Word of God?
There are some quotes that are so good I go, "Man, I wish I wrote that." I found in the Gideons Bible, on the front cover of a Bible in my hotel one time, a little excerpt about what the Bible is, and I want to read it to you. Ask yourself, "Do I believe that? When asked, 'What is the Bible? What do I believe about the Bible?' would I be able to say this?" Listen to what it says.
"The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter.
Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given to you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents."
That is so good. What do you believe about the Word of God? Do you believe that? Do you believe God's Word never changes, that it's inspired by God and applicable to your everyday life? Several years ago, I was running a series of half-marathons, and I thought, "This is the year. This is going to be my year. I'm going to step up. I'm going to run a whole marathon. Forget the half. I'm doing the grand enchilada, the whole thing, baby."
I needed a little help. I had heard about Team in Training, which is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's charitable branch of which you can run and raise money for a good cause, and they will coach you from the couch to the finish line. I said, "Sign me up. I need that." So, I find myself in this hotel in a big sterile banquet room. Everybody is wearing purple. There are balloons, and there's a catalog of different events.
I'm looking at all of the marathons. There are cycling events. There are other things. My wife's attention is turned to the triathlons. I said to her, "Let's do this marathon," and I simply circled it in the brochure, pointed it out. I saw her. She just goes like this. Then she circles a triathlon, to which I just wrote… We're trying not to be a nuisance to the people who are talking up front, so I just took my pen and wrote, "I can't swim." It's like, "I'm not doing that." Her response? "You will learn." That is the woman God gave me.
My wife grew up swimming. She has great form, and somehow she glides. It's beautiful. She goes through the water on top. For whatever reason, when I swim, it looks like I'm fighting the water, and I sink. But I started with her encouragement in a pool, clean water, straight lines, can see everything, and a coach helping me. Could I get from one side to the other? Sure. But this is a mile in Lake Michigan! One mile in Lake Michigan, and I can't swim a mile in Lake Michigan. There are no lines at the bottom of Lake Michigan, and there are hundreds of people I'm going to be swimming with.
So, here comes race day. I've trained. I've done all I can. They say, "Good news! You're part of a record attendance. We've never had more people doing an Olympic distance triathlon than today." I'm thinking, "Oh no! That's just more people who are going to kill me in the swim." My coach says to me, "Hey, Blake, probably two things are going to happen to you. You're going to go off in this wave. There are going to be all of these people who are swimming, and then the really good swimmers are going to come up to you and tap you on the foot. Just move to the side."
Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. Some good swimmers came up. They tapped me, and I just moved to the side. They went right by me. Then he says to me, "Oh, and, Blake, by the way, there are some people… Well, they're not really good sports, and they might grab your foot and try to swim over you." I thought, "Oh no. That ain't happening to me." He goes, "You just kick them as hard as you can."
Sure enough, I'm in the water. I'm swimming. Just like he said. Tap, tap. I move over. The guy goes right by me. I'm thinking, "Hey, that's pretty good. At least the guy didn't grab me." No longer than 10 seconds later, I feel this guy grab my ankle, grab my knee like that, and I kicked that guy as hard as I could. If that was you, please forgive me, but I thought you were going to kill me. Truly. Here's what I learned about open water swimming. This is why I tell this whole story.
What my coach taught me through that whole training and helped me with on that day was "When you swim in open water, you've got to learn how to sight. It's stroke, stroke, stroke, sight. What that means is as you're swimming, every other stroke, as you come up over your right arm, your eyes go up and you look forward on a fixed position. Find the fixed position that never moves and continue to reorient yourself to the fixed position. Do that over and over and over again, and you won't veer off course."
Gang, in our world, it sometimes feels like people are going over our backs. It feels like the water is choppy. We don't see clean lanes in a nice clean pool, because we're swimming in dark waters. But God's Word is our fixed position, and we remind ourselves of what it says. We take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, as Paul says, and we swim by trusting in the Word of God. Like the sons of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), who understood the times, so we must be students of our day.
The question "What does the Bible have to say about that?" must continually run through our minds. That must be the filter by which we view the world around us. In his excellent book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman brilliantly summarizes the seismic shift in people's worldview today. I don't often do this, but I highly recommend you read it. Fair warning: it's 400 pages. It's a slog to get through, but it is incredibly insightful.
How in the world are we to explain the seismic shift in society in people's way of thinking, that it's even plausible today to say, "I am a man trapped in a woman's body" or "I am a woman trapped in a man's body"? How is that even plausible, where our grandfathers couldn't even understand a concept like that? Yet today, it's completely accepted.
He explains how the ideas of Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx have all washed ashore in our society today. He shows us how most people today…your neighbors, my neighbors, many of you filling our churches, coming in…now believe we're simply a product of time plus chance plus matter. That's completely antithetical to a biblical worldview. You are made in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth.
Today, most people believe there's no absolute or objective truth to which we are accountable. Meaning is discovered from within, not by God's character, and your true self, your identity, is best discovered through sexual experimentation according to whatever gives you the most pleasure. That's just common knowledge on college campuses today.
To challenge someone's view on sexuality is to attack their identity, their dignity, and to commit violence against them; therefore, the need for safe zones. Have you ever heard of those? Safe zones exist on college campuses. Now the majority of opinions of yesterday, what you may believe about the Word of God… Those opinions and the institutions and structures that represent them must be overthrown. The family, the church, schools that were built on historic Christian faith have to be overthrown.
We have to understand, friends, how to answer the most basic worldview questions, what the Bible says about who we are, what the problem is, what the solution is, and where we are headed. We have to have a grip on this. It's God's Word that must reorient our thinking in a world that's constantly changing. We must contend for the faith, Jude says. "…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." We must know God's Word. It is unchanging. It is trustworthy.
Companies fail. Enron used to be a sure bet. Gone. Toys "R" Us? Man, that was leverage for my kids. "We'll go this afternoon to Toys "R" Us. There are toys on every aisle." Parents, I don't know what you're doing today. Toys "R" Us? Gone. Now we're all, as men, at a distinct disadvantage. Do you know why? Blockbuster, what you used to do on Friday night…gone. Where you went to go see your friends Friday night, pick out a movie… That was date night, and you bought oversized, outpriced popcorn. All of these things have come and gone.
But the mission of God remains the same: to make his glory known throughout all of creation. The mission of God remains the same: for him to be glorified through the redemption of his creation. The whole Bible is all one story regarding the mission of God. Mission didn't start in Matthew 28, friends. The metanarrative, the whole story of Scripture, is evidence of God's mission…creation, fall, redemption, restoration. God is providentially at work, working through history.
In his book The Mission of God Christopher Wright says this: "The whole Bible renders to us the story of God's mission through God's people in their engagement with God's world for the whole of God's creation." The mission of God was most clearly revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. As he said in Luke 19, "For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost." God has always been on mission.
Ephesians 1 even says he knew you before the foundations of the world. He knew your name. Read it. Before the foundation of the world, he had you in mind. Read it. God's mission, his purpose, is to bring you back into right relationship with himself, because he loves you. His mission never changes. Our mission, friends, doesn't center around a man. It doesn't center around whoever stands behind this pulpit. Our mission as a church centers around the person of Jesus Christ. Period. Always has, always will.
We, as a church, are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Church, please, if you think church is a time of the week or a building at 7540 LBJ Freeway, you have a wrong view of church. Church is the people of God, empowered by his Spirit, who have been redeemed to be his people, to live on mission, to know him, to reflect his glory. We're part of something much bigger than ourselves, and it never is centered around one man but the person of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 says:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent."
We just had the Church Leaders Conference. Fifteen hundred church leaders from all over the world came in here. We weren't trying to sell them on the Watermark way. I told them from this stage… I stood up here and went, "Hey, listen. We're not trying to share with you tips and tricks. We don't want you to be married to a man. We don't want you to be married to a method. We're not about tips and tricks." I reminded them and read to them 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 where Paul says:
"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."
It was a conference where church leaders got together, and we reminded them of the unstoppable mission of God, the unwavering character of God, the unwavering Word of God, and they have everything they need. God's mission is unstoppable. That's exactly what Jesus says in Matthew, chapter 16. Jesus says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [this confession of faith, your belief in me, Peter,] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The mission of God is unstoppable.
We reminded them of what they knew to be true. We encouraged them. The greatest moment of that whole conference was when 1,500 people walked out those doors to a staff who applauded and cheered them and reminded them that their mission, the purpose for which they're pouring out their lives, is worth it. It was moving, as grown men and women literally were wiping away tears from their eyes, to encourage them. And I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you that the mission of God never changes.
If you know Jesus Christ, if you have been redeemed, if you have accepted his gift of grace, if you've trusted in him, what he has done for you, his death, burial, and resurrection, no longer relying on your own works but receiving that gift of what he has done for you and the fact that he rose again and offers us life today… If you know him, he invites you to live on mission and to give your life to something much bigger than just worldly pursuits and things that are going to fade away, to give yourself to the things that are unwavering and unchanging: the character of God, the Word of God, and the mission of God.
I have a friend who, when I was at Baylor acting like a fool, running around, was at Texas Tech, and he enlisted in the Marines. That was the furthest thing from my mind, the furthest thing in the world. He felt a sense of calling and purpose and mission, and he enlisted. After he served our country, he went into the marketplace for a little while and went, "You know what? It's just not for me." So then he became a police officer.
That particular department requires you to not only be a police officer but a fireman and a paramedic, and now he's all three. Every day, he wakes up with a sense of purpose and mission and calling: to serve, to care for people, protect property, protect lives. I just wondered as I was preparing this message…Do I wake up ready to answer the call? Do I wake up every day with that sense of purpose and mission? "Here I am, Lord. Whatever alarm bell goes off, send me. Let me be your man."
How many of you today live with that sense of purpose, recognizing that you're God's ambassador? You're God's man. You're his woman. He set you apart to be salt and light. His character never changes. His Word is sure. It's reliable. You can rest in his character, you can trust in his Word, and then you live on mission. If all of us lived with that sense of purpose, we would change this crazy world. We would. But we have to be bold. We have to remind ourselves of what is true. We have to encourage each other. We have to be his ambassadors. Let's pray.
Father in heaven, I thank you for the fact that you are good. You're always good. Despite the ever-changing circumstances of our world, the craziness we see all around us, you remain on your throne, and you are good. You are holy. You are just. You are righteous. You're unchanging. Father, thank you for your Word that is trustworthy, that is never changing, that regardless of what country we're in, time period in which we live, culture in which we live, your Word is our guide. It is our compass. It is trustworthy.
Father, may your Spirit give us insight to see, that we would take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Lord, would you awaken us to the mission you call us on? Would we not just walk around minds numb and hearts cold to the mission and purposes you have for us day to day. May we live on mission. May we wake up with that sense of purpose, that no matter where we work, no matter what we're doing, Lord, you invite us into something much bigger than ourselves. Father, we thank you for your kindness, your grace, and these three things that never change, amen.