Everything changes. Nations rise and fall. Seasons come and go. Bank accounts ebb and flow. People change too. Children grow and mature. Politicians switch their views. Spouses break their vows. Pastors deny a faith once proclaimed. Our world and everything in it is constantly changing. Even you are not the same person you were just years ago. But God does not change. God cannot change. Theologians define this attribute as immutability, and this doctrine is good news for the church today.
Pastor, if you’re looking for advice on how to apply the doctrine of God in your preaching, James proves a reliable guide. The doctrine of God is practical for Christians today. In just a few short verses, James applies immutability as a warning for tempted Christians and a comfort for doubting Christians.
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:16–17).
A Warning for Tempted Christians
After yielding to temptation, some Christians turn and point their finger at God. After the first sin, the first man shifted blame to God. We have all continued in this pattern. James reminds us that the true source of temptation comes from within, not from God (James 1:13–15). Our own sinful desires lure and entice us, then sin leads to death. With the consequences grave, Christians need to be reminded of God’s impeccable perfection in temptation. God cannot sin, nor does he tempt us to sin. God is unable to be tempted by sin–what good news!
But what if God could change? What if God were like us?
Each of us knows stories of professing Christians who seemed strong in their faith, only to walk away from Christ. Many of us know friends and family who sat in church next to us–or even taught us the Bible–who no longer profess Christ. Like Paul, you probably have friends “in love with this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). Like James, you’ve seen friends “lured and enticed” by sinful desires.
But even faithful Christians fail us, and we fail them too. Godly parents break promises and distance creeps into close friendships. We need the doctrine of God’s immutability.
There is one we can count on to be the same yesterday, today, and forever–Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:8). Jesus is our assurance that all God’s promises will one day come true. God will never tempt you to sin–not today, or tomorrow, or ten years from now. God will never change.
A Comfort for Doubting Christians
James transitions from warning Christians not to blame their temptations on God, to comforting Christians with a pastoral application of God’s immutability. Does God’s immutability matter for Christians today? Is the doctrine of God practical? Preacher, follow the lead of James.
While God is not the source of your temptation, he is the source of every good gift. Food and fun, rest and recreation, laughter and love, friends and family, marriage and movies, singleness and sports–each of these are gifts from our heavenly Father. And because God is good, he only gives good gifts. God is never-changing in his goodness in giving.
Do you know anyone else who only and always gives good gifts? Even the best earthly gifts fade away. Even the best moments are but vanishing mist. But God’s greatest gift to his people is eternal – himself. When Christians are suffering persecution, they need this reminder – God has not changed. He has not abandoned them. He remains the same Father who only and exclusively gives good gifts to his children. He is the Father who sent us his only Son to die on the cross in our place, for our sins. Every good gift is from our never-changing God.
The Privilege of Preaching Immutability
People are in dire need of practical sermons that deal with everyday life. The doctrine of God is practical and applicable to every aspect of life! And as pastors, we have the privilege to point our sheep to the Shepherd who never changes, this too is a gift from God. In the midst of temptation, wandering sheep need the doctrine of God’s immutability. As doubts and fears assail, doubting sheep need a rock. And there is none in all the earth like our God–he never changes.