In the midst of chaos and confusion that just doesn’t seem to end, how do we stay strong in the faith? The answer, teaches Alistair Begg, is to steadily focus on the one who is unchanging. According to Hebrews 13:8, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This simple fact gives us confidence to face uncertainties about the future with the assurance that He will never leave us. Are you trusting in Him as your Savior, Shepherd, Friend?
The following message by Alistair begg is made available by Truth for life. For more information, visit us online at Truth for life dot org. And I invite you to turn with me to the Word of God to Some 102. 102nd, some which as as a heading do not hide your face from me. A prayer of one afflicted when he is faint, and pours out his complaint before the Lord Sam 102. And reading from verse one, hear my prayer, O Lord! Let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me. In the day of my distress, incline your ear to me, answer me speedily in the day, when I call for my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered. I forget to eat my bread because of my loud groaning. My bones cling to my flesh. I’m like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places. I lie awake. I am like a lonely sparrow on the house top all the day. My enemies taunt me. Those who deride me use my name for a curse, for I eat ashes like bread, and mingle tears with my drink because of your indignation and anger, for you have taken me up and thrown me down. My days are like an evening shadow. I wither away like grass. But you O Lord! Our enthrone forever. You are remembered throughout all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion. It is the time to favor her. The appointed time has come for your servants hold her stones dear, and have pity on her dust. Nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. For the Lord builds up Zion. He appears in his glory. He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer. Let this be recorded for a generation to come. So that the people yet to be created, may praise the Lord that he looked down from his holy height from heaven. The Lord looked at the earth to hear the groans of the prisoners to set free. Those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord, and in Jerusalem his praise. When people gather together and kingdoms to worship the Lord, he has broken my strength in mid course he has shortened my days. Oh, my God! I say, take me not away. In the midst of my days, you who’s years endure throughout all generations of old. You laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain. They will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe and they will pass away. But you are the same. And your years have no end. The Children of your servants shall dwell, secure. Their offspring shall be satisfied before you. Amen. Well, I invite you to turn to hebrews. Chapter 13. Where our text for this morning is to be found Hebrews Chapter 13 and will pause and ask for God’s help as we turn to the bible. So make the book live to me. Oh, Lord! Show me yourself within your word. Show me myself. And show me my savior. And make the book live to me for jesus sake. Amen. Well, our text this morning, Yeah, is probably the best known verse in the book of Hebrews and I haven’t checked. But I would not be at all surprised if this particular verse does not come in the top five of sermon topics for the first sunday of a new year. I would imagine that when people are gathering on the first sunday of a new year, as we do now, that there would be quite a number that would come to this particular verse, what you say. Is that it for you? Is that why you’re doing this? If you run out of ideas, why are you all of a sudden becoming so predictable? Well, I’m capable for all of that and more besides. But no, I have actually had this verse in my mind for two particular reasons. First of all, on account of a new series that is about to begin. And secondly, because of an old song that I’ve been unable to get out of my head, running through my thinking for a significant part of this last year. The new series is on the book of hebrews is going to be taught by my colleagues over the next 13 weeks, which is a peculiar challenge for them and a wonderful encouragement for us allowing us to fix our gaze quite unmistakably upon the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s the series. But the old song Is a song that actually was written back in 1973 by a fellow called Alan Price, who at that time was the keyboard player for the animals, think house of the rising sun, if you can’t do anything with that. And in that context, he wrote this very short song, it goes like this and I’m gonna sing it for you can relax. Everyone is facing changes, No one knows what’s going on and everybody changes places and still the world keeps moving on. Now love must always turn to sorrow and everyone must play the game because it’s here today and gone tomorrow. But the world goes on the same Fascinatingly. He said those words to the tune of what a friend we have in jesus, whether on account of his background growing up in the northeast of England in a church context or not, I do not know. And our verse for this morning, which is the 8th verse of hebrews 13 actually challenges the sentiment of the words that I’ve just quoted. There is a plaintiff element to them. There is almost a cynical element to them. There’s a sense in which we are trapped as it were in the endless cycle of being born and living and dying and going on and nobody really knows. And here in the eighth verse of Hebrews chapter 13 we have the antidote to that kind of thinking, jesus christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. That’s our text and my hope is that this study provides something of an appetizer setting us all up for the real meal that is about to follow the same yesterday, today and forever. The writer to the Hebrews has begun his letter by saying in the times past, God spoke in various ways, but now in these days he has spoken to us by his son B. C. And O Dominy. And yet in the context of the unfolding of his letter, we have these three tenses and this will become apparent in the course of these studies. I’m sure We will discover for example, in Chapter nine, that the writer says he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself in the past yesterday. He now appears for us in God’s presence today and he will appear a second time to wrap things up yesterday today and forever. Now. This particular verse, as I say, such a familiar verse comes in the context of the closing chapter, the 13th chapter, which is a very interesting chapter and in many ways it almost looks like an addendum to everything else that has preceded it. In fact, the fellow, the gentleman, the professor, the doctor who taught me new testament all these years ago in his commentary on Hebrews refers to the 13th chapter of Hebrews as a series of apparently disconnected exhortations and other incidental teaching. I’m going to leave you to consider that, but you will notice even a cursory glance at it, you will see that it is almost as though he has said there are a number of things that I want to mention to you before I pronounce the benediction and then he goes through a number of things. He talks about money, talks about marriage, he talks about sex, he talks about all kinds of things and it is in the course of that, That he then says what we have in verse eight. Now it is not my purpose or my prerogative to delve deeply into the letter. That is for others to do. In fact, I want to say nothing further about its wider context, but we do need to recognize that our verse that is verse eight comes between verse seven and verse nine And verse seven provides an encouragement and verse nine provides a warning. The encouragement in verse seven. If your eyes are upon it is to remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God, consider the outcome of the way of life or in the King James version, consider their end, consider how it finished and imitate their life. Now what I take it is because he’s going to go on down in verse 17 to come back to leaders again. The leaders that are still around. I take it that he’s referring to those who have moved on and what he’s saying is you should remember them. They live on in your memory. And of course they do. It made me think this week about some who used to be with us, who were leaders in our church that God has taken to himself. We remember them. We remember them. We remember the good end to their life, but they are no longer available for us to approach them. They are no longer a source of help. They can no longer provide support. Remember your leaders that’s verse seven and then the warning in verse nine do not do not be led away by divers and strange teachings for it’s good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods presumably in the context. They were saying these external things matter far more than they really do. And so he’s saying it is grace that ought to ground you in these exhortations. Not a form of external ism, but make sure that you don’t allow yourselves to be swept off. Course that’s what he’s saying. So remember your leaders and don’t get swept Of course the answer to the departure of the leaders who are no longer available to help and to the danger of drifting is verse eight namely a steady focus on the one who is always available. Who is always the same, who is unchanging from year to year. Now, the writer has actually already established this at the very beginning of his letter. You said, well you said you wouldn’t mention it. Well, okay, so I didn’t tell the truth, but Hebrews chapter one. The reason I read psalm 102 is because the writer is quoting psalm 102 In Hebrews Chapter one, You Lord laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning. They will perish you remain alright. So in other words, he’s already established this fact, he now puts it very straightforwardly and very simply You are the same. He says in Chapter one and your years have no end that is applied. You will notice it is true of Almighty God the father and it is true of the Lord, jesus christ. That’s why in the opening chapter, you have that great expression of these things. So here we have it, jesus christ the same yesterday, today and forever. Let’s just go through each of these and that will be our study for this morning. First of all, Yesterday, in other words, in what the writer refers to as in the days of his flesh, You can see that in Chapter five and in verse seven, he says in the days of his flesh, this is how jesus was Now, as you know, I have depended all of my life on him, Writers and songwriters who have helped to encapsulate for me. Often, big truths pressed down into a very simple context so that my capacity to absorb it is is I’m capable of absorbing it. And not least of all in those who wrote hymns for Children, one of the great benefits of being brought up in a context where you sing as a child and where you learn as a child is that it never leaves you. And so I found myself inevitably going to my childhood when I thought about yesterday and a lady who wrote a wonderful him, which begins, I think when I read that sweet story of old, how Jesus was here amongst men, how he called little Children as lambs to his fold. I should like to have been with him there, I don’t know about you, but it still draws me jesus moving amongst the people in the days of his flesh, jesus being identified in the crowd, jesus silencing his disciples who are saying could you please get rid of these Children? They’re causing a dreadful hullabaloo. And jesus saying, no, no, no, no, we’re not going to do that. Let them come to me. I wonder what he would have been like. Well, the fact is, we know and how do we know? Well, because he has given to us the record of what he was Matthew mark luke and john provide for us an insight into jesus as it were yesterday Last Sunday. If you can remember last Sunday we consider Jesus as a 12 year old boy But look very quickly zooms on from there. Fast forward, immediately what 18 years. And Jesus is introduced to us in the synagogue where he grew up in Nazareth. And when he is there as you will find it when you read look forward at your own leisure when he’s there, he’s reading from the scroll of the Prophet. Remember in the past, God spoke of all by the prophets. But in these last days he has spoken to us in his son and jesus, the son takes up the scroll of Isaiah and he reads the section which says he sent me to preach good news to the poor and to set the captives free and to grant sight to those who were blind. And the people listen to this. They were familiar with the prophet, but what they were not ready for is what he then went on to say today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Well then we would expect that if that is the case we would read on in the gospel records and find jesus doing exactly that what setting captives free granting sight to the blind transforming people’s lives. And of course that’s exactly what we do find, we see him touching the untouchables. The lepers had to stay a long way away. Nobody touched them, Jesus did we see him putting his finger on the man’s greatest need. The man who couldn’t walk. And he thought if he only had his legs that would fix everything, the way some people are here today, they’re saying if only I got a degree, that would fix everything, I’ve only got to raise, that would fix everything. If only that. If only that. If only that. And jesus says, no, let me tell you what the real need is. The real need is that you need salvation. He puts his finger on his on his life. He hangs with an unlikely crowd of people. He ticks off the religious authorities by going to the wrong parties during the year. One of my friends actually sent me a piece, I sort of New Year’s resolution and I had made a note of it and I want to share it with you. It’s vaguely humorous. He says, this year, I want to be more like jesus. Number one, hanging out with sinners. Number two, upset religious people. Number three. Be kind, loving and merciful! Number four, take naps on boats. Number five tell stories that made people think there was a certain man Who had two sons And the younger one said to his father, Father, and the people said, I wonder what this is about. You see, Jesus learned as we said last sunday by looking up, Jesus learned as he walked through harvest fields? That’s why Jesus said the things that he said, he said, consider this. The person who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a man who built his house on a solid foundation. But the person who hears my words and doesn’t put them into practice is like a man who built his house with no foundation at all and the whole thing collapsed. Well, how difficult is that? To understand? One is a foundation, that it remains, one is no foundation and it collapses. Jesus has stories that are clear. His purpose is unmistakable. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, he said to the religious authorities who were annoyed with him because he was hanging out at Matthew’s house, I didn’t come to start a religious club, he said I came to call sinners and also I am gentle and lowly in heart and those who come to me will find rest for their souls. No, we we don’t need to be in any doubt at all about what Jesus was like yesterday, secondly, what about today? Because the real question is is he still like that? Is he still like that? I mean one of the things that you might do at the end of the year, I’m very wary of doing this is particularly with my wife, I’ve heard people doing it in marriage, I’m not sure that it’s a recipe for for success, but you’re supposed to say, I think on the closing day of the year, you know, are there things about me that you would like to change? Dear dear, sweet wife, you know, and I’m not up for that. I really am not because I can’t stay, I won’t live long enough to get through the entire list. I don’t say that with any sense. I’m not entirely cavalier on that. I mean, it’s it’s a it’s a dreadful thing. You know, it’s you know, what what do you like on a monday? And and the the same on a Wednesday. How are you on Fridays? What were you like when you were 17 now that you’re 48. Were you funny then? Were you sad then? Were you morose then? What do you like now, chances are that there are all kinds of ebbs and flows, but not in jesus, not in jesus, he’s the same. And what we learn from yesterday applies to today because he is the same. Now, obviously we could affirm that on multiple fronts. But let me just say two things again that you will find these will unfold in our studies. I’m I’m absolutely confident. First of all, we know that he is able to save completely. He is able to save completely because he always lives to intercede for us as we come to God in prayer. So when we read the gospels and we see him yesterday, reaching into the lives of people and transforming them and we come to that today, we not only look back to yesterday, but we discover that today he is the same. He appears in the presence of God on behalf of his Children. That’s why we sing before the throne of God above. I have a strong and perfectly. He is the one who is able today to save completely all those who draw near to God through him, through him that he is the door that he is the gate, that he is the shepherd of the sheep. There are others who came before him who are thieves and robbers again from the gospel records, but I am the door, he says, he who enters in through me will be saved and he will go in and out and he will find pasture. So he is able to save completely. And also he is able to sympathize with us entirely. This is Chapter four. You can find it there, he’s able to sympathize with our weaknesses. This again flows from last sunday, doesn’t it? Because we said, quoting the Westminster confession that when the fullness of time had come, jesus took upon himself man’s nature. And I hope you remember this phrase with all its essential properties and common frailties. Yet without sin. In other words, the Lord jesus christ became part of what he created. He who is the creator of the universe, becomes part of that created order that he is today, a flesh and blood reality is not a phantom, He’s not a concept. He is a reality. And I’m going to quote my favorite carol for the last time, this christmas, but probably not the last time ever, at least, I hope not. But it’s absolutely a proposed jesus is our childhood’s pattern day by deer like us. He grew, he was little weak and helpless tears and smiles like us. He knew so he shared with in our gladness and he feel it for our sadness. How can God feel for your sadness? How can God sharing your gladness unless God steps down into time? Unless God takes upon himself in the form of the second person of the trinity, all that is represented in humanity, yet without sin, thereby enabling him to do what he did. So, as you read on through the letter, as we’ll discover that he offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. He offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. If it were no other place, then we see him in the garden of Gethsemane, don’t we, that he sweat as it were great strength, great drops of blood. And in many ways what that is doing is authenticating the react that the fact that we face these things that we are fearful that we cry, that we wonder that we hope that we long he’s the same. He’s the same. Today, you come back to my Children’s him. It goes on. I wish that is hands had been placed on my head and that his arm had been thrown around me. I used to think about this when I was laying in my bed. I used to think about this and I used to think about and all his jewels, precious jewels, the there’s something, something jules. It’s that little song. Here’s the thing. I wonder. I wonder how you become one of those. I wish that his hand had been placed on my head and his arm had been thrown around me just like that. Like yesterday. Then she goes on, she says to the Children for whom she’s writing yet still to his footstool In prayer. I may go and ask for a share in his life. There you have it. What is prayer? A long list of things? No, it’s like cozying in. It’s like saying, jesus, all that I discovered about you yesterday is true and relevant today. I may not have your hand on my head physically. I do not have your arm around me, but I have your word and I have your promises. And I want to be a bit like that lady who said, if I could just touch the hem of his garment and jesus says, Who touched me, speller said, What do you mean? Who touched you? Have you seen the crowd? How did he know? How does he know you? How does he know you’re weeping heart. How does he know your longings? How does he know? Because he is the same today as he was yesterday? I should ask you before we come to tomorrow and all our tomorrows to our forever. I should ask you as we enter this New year, are you trusting him in this way? Do you know jesus in this way as a savior, as a shepherd, as a friend? You know, I cannot escape my curse. I I freely admit it. But as I was sitting pondering this in the middle of the week, A song came to my mind by a Scandinavian lady from like the 60s. Her name was Evie and she sang a bunch of songs and I don’t know if she’s where she is now. But one of those, one of those songs was ah what what kind of friend is there on a clear day and leaves at the first sign of rain? Not this kind of friend she is saying about jesus and then in another of them she says, are are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows? Are you tired of spinning round and round, wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life And at the feet of jesus, lay them down. So you see the reason that you wouldn’t do that, The reason that you’re afraid to do that is because somehow another you’ve decided that the loss will be so great. But let me tell you this. Do you not think that he will give you greater in place of the things that you set down? I wonder have you tasted that the Lord is good today and then finally, forever, forever. What a transformation this brings about, doesn’t it? I was listening this morning to the BBC, which is not always wise first thing in the morning, but I was and there was a program I was listening to about how if we would stop eating meat and go with soy milk and do a number of other things, none of which I’ve actually committed to doing. Um then it would be possible for us to to create a context where uh you know, we could all live forever. And and I said, wow. So that’s interesting um forever. Who’s in charge of forever. He who is the same yesterday and today and forever. It’s quite interesting that in the context in which he gives this word of assurance. He actually says, keep your life free from love of money. Keep your life free from love of money. There’s a number of ways to love money. One is to love it because you’ve got a lot of it and you want to hold onto it. And the other way to love it is because you desperately want it and you don’t have any of it. So whether the love affair is with it or without it. The writer says, let me tell you what the answer to that is, the contented nous which comes from knowing that he provides for us. So that we can confidently say, the Lord is my helper. I won’t fear what can man do to me? Because he has said, I will never leave you. We can confidently say I will not fear. He said, I won’t leave you. We say I won’t fear no, no. He said, I will never leave you. And we said, well, I’m not really feeling that very much. No, no, no, no. He said, I will never leave here. We said, I will not fear. The declaration is volitional. Before. It is emotional, emotional. Everything will change. Everything will change the heavens and the earth will pass away. Yet you will remain. Yeah, you will remain always in other words. Don’t be alarmed. We’ve got it under control. That’s why we read from Psalm 102. That’s why the writer begins in that way, you laid the foundations of the Earth. They will perish you remain. They will wear out like a garment. Here’s another thing you can do at the end of the year? Get rid of old stuff. Get rid of it. I mean, I mean, how many jackets do you need? And and are you planning on keeping them forever? Have you seen some of the lapels on those jackets? Gentlemen, they should never be seen again. Never again. And we could go through a whole host of things. That’s how God is going to treat the present universe. That’s what it actually says. He rolls him up like an old bathrobe, something that you got for your Christmas in 1943. You’re not still wearing that at least. I hope you’re not. No, you can, you can gladly roll that up in dispense with it. That’s what he says. That’s what he’s going to do. Now. You see how that challenges the song with which we began. Everyone is facing changes and no one knows what’s going on. First line, true. Second line falls. Everyone is facing changes, But there is one who knows what’s going on. He who laid the foundations of the earth, he who appeared to suffer in the sinner’s place he bore, who bore the wrath that I deserve as a sinner, he who leads the company and praise he who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Who else can fulfill that that category. The forever category. As a boy in bible class on sunday afternoons, one of the songs that we were taught to sing goes yesterday today forever, Jesus is the same. All may change, but jesus never glory to his name. Glory to his name. Glory to his name all may change, but jesus, never glory to his name. The hymn writers will help us one. There is above all others well deserves the name of friend, his his love beyond the brothers, costly free and knows no end. They who wants his kindness proof, find it ever lasting love. Mhm. Father, thank you that in jesus we discover that all of your fullness is found and that we are complete in him. We pray that on this first sunday of a new year that these simple and yet elemental facts may undergird whatever we’re facing personally or in our family’s uncertainties about our future and so on. Please help us. To this end, we ask in jesus name. Amen. This message was brought to you from truth for life where the learning is for living, learn more about truth. For life with Alistair begg visit us online at truth for life dot org.