The King Chooses Changes (Matthew Sermon 31 of 151)
August 18, 2002 | Andrew Davis
This morning we are looking at Matthew 9: 14-17 at the issue of change. Christy and I have relatives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and we love to go up there. It's a beautiful area; very rural, very attractive, farmland, it's a peaceful place. And if you go and drive around there any length of time you might chance upon a black buggy or two drawn by horses and driven by an interesting group of people called the Amish. The Amish are different than us in so many ways. They still speak the language of their ancestors; they wear clothing something like from the 17th century almost — wide-brim hats, straw hats, beards without mustaches, clothes without buttons. The women don't wear jewelry. They have no church buildings; they worship in their homes, and they've been doing that for generations. Now, what many of you may not know, is the ancestry of the Amish goes way back to the Reformation with the Anabaptists.
The Anabaptists were called by some, the Radical Reformation. The word radical means they'd sought to get back to the roots; they sought to get back to what Christianity really was. Not all the accretions that had come under the Roman Catholic system but rather the true New Testament faith, and so they held dear some doctrines that we as Baptist now hold dear. For example, regenerate church membership, the desire that everyone in that fellowship be truly born again, which they would testify to by baptism by immersion after a profession of faith in Christ. They believed in separation of church and state, and those early Anabaptists were passionate about missions and about evangelism. They were willing to suffer; they were willing to be persecuted. But somewhere from the genesis of that group to the Amish, something went awry. Something went amiss. They started to pull in and one can guess it was probably because of the suffering and persecution as they were abused by one group after another, by one government after another, and they fled to America and just wanted to be left alone; they started to pull inward. Many of them lost their zeal for evangelism and for missions, and they started to basically encrust their religion in a set piece kind of way that would be handed on from generation to generation to generation. They became traditionalists.
Change is a constant reality we have to face. Probably our generation and the generations that immediately preceded us have seen more change than any of the other generations that came before. After the industrial revolution took people off the farm and put them in the factory, one invention after another came just reeling in and changing the way everyone lived. Since then, we've also gone through the technological revolution, and things are changing even faster. Change is a fact of life, and we know as Christians that nothing that you can see with your eyes or interact with, with your senses in any way is permanent. Everything changes. Relationships change, churches change, nations and cities change. Durham has gone from being a rural community of tobacco farmers and tobacco factories to being the City of Medicine and a place in the Research Triangle Park, where there’s cutting edge of pharmaceutical research and other forms of electronic research.
There's been big changes in this area, and some of you who have lived here for longer than I have can testify to the fact that when you first lived in your homes there were dirt roads and now it's a major city area. Changes have happened and change is a fact of life, and it's very unsettling. And in times of changes, change just rolls in. We begin to wonder, "What can we hold on to? What's stable? What can we grab on to?" Some people do that by looking backward; they look back into memories, and those memories are comforting. All of us, for the most part, take photos of important parts of our lives, and we like to look at them. We like to remember the way that things were, and there's nothing wrong with that. Memory is a great gift of God. One of the things that we do in looking backward to memories is to have traditions, and traditions are good things. We use our traditions to give meaning to holidays and to life itself, and those are good things as well. I would like to stand up and say to you that tradition has an absolutely indispensable role in the advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Tradition versus Traditionalism
You might say, "What am I talking about?" In 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4, the Apostle Paul said, "For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." So he received something and transmitted it or passed it on. That is a tradition. But the problem comes when traditions become traditionalism and that's a very different matter. Traditionalism seeks stability in unchanging external forms that are not mentioned in the Bible. Unchanging externals that are not mentioned in the Bible rely on old methods because they've worked in the past, whether missionary or evangelistic traditionalism. Just doing it the way it used to be done because it worked back then. Jaroslav Pelikan said this, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living."
There's a difference between tradition on one hand and traditionalism on the other, and that's the issue that Jesus is dealing with here in this question about wineskins. I think, rather than looking primarily backward, we need instead to look upward to our King, the King of the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus Christ. He's basically saying, "Watch me, follow me through all the changes. If I go left, go left. If I go right, you go right. If I stop, you stop. If I accelerate, you move. Follow me through all the changes." He is the King of the Kingdom of Heaven and he's leading us through change, but he's leading us in specific ways. I think in that way we find our stability, an unchanging King, an unchanging Word of God, but an advancing Kingdom of Heaven following him through all the changes. That's what I want to give you today, a sense of confidence that our king is leading us through all of these changes. The whole issue came about when John's disciples saw Jesus celebrating at Matthew's house. In the last sermon we talked about how Matthew the tax collector had given his life to Jesus Christ; he'd trusted in Christ. Jesus walked by and he said, "Follow me."
And Matthew left everything, got up and followed him. And so he became a Christian; he followed Jesus Christ. Then he decided to have a celebration, a feast, a party at his house, and invited all of these people to come and Jesus... The celebration, the feast was in Jesus' honor, he was his Lord, his Savior, and he wanted to give a celebration of feast in Jesus' honor. Many people came and they were categorized by the Pharisees standing on the outside as tax collectors and sinners. Who would want to eat with them? But Jesus did. We talked about that last time, how Jesus would seek to transform that situation and make it an opportunity to evangelize for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Change for the Disciples: The differing roles of John the Baptist and Jesus
John the Baptist's disciples are standing out there too, and they were puzzled. They were curious. In order to understand this, you have to understand John the Baptist and his ministry. A little bit of background is helpful here. John the Baptist preceded Jesus Christ by a little. He came, he was probably about six months older than Christ. The story of his birth is recorded in Luke 1, and Matthew 3:3 speaks of John the Baptist and said, "This was he of whom it was spoken through the prophet Isaiah, a voice of one calling in the desert, 'prepare the way for the Lord.'" John's coming had been prophesied by Isaiah, and he came to do this great work. John McArthur said that John the Baptist came for three reasons: Number one, to prepare the way. Number two, to proclaim the way. And number three, to get out of the way. Now, what do we mean by that?
First he came to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. Now how did he do that? He did it by setting an example by the way he lived. What kind of lifestyle did he have? He had a rough austere lifestyle, much like that of Elijah. He lived out in the desert; he had camel hair garment and he had a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He fasted and he prayed, and he preached out in the deserts. And he baptized. Now that was shocking by the way. Baptism was a ritual that only Gentiles had to go through, a kind of a ceremonial cleaning in order to become Jews. And in effect, John was saying, "You all need to be cleaned. All of you need to be washed; you all need to be cleansed. You're so far from the original faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You're so far from what you should have been; you're disobeying the Law of Moses." So he's baptizing anyone upon repentance for their sins; and so, he came to prepare the way. He also came to proclaim the way. How did he do that? By taking his finger and pointing at Jesus Christ, and saying, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." That was a key moment when Jesus came to where John was baptizing, and he pointed at him and he said, "I have seen and I testify that that man right there is the Son of God." He came to proclaim the way.
He also came to get out of the way, and what does that mean, "get out of the way"? What it means is that John the Baptist was a wildly popular preacher. Many people... Everyone came to hear him preach; everyone came to watch the baptisms. He was incredibly popular, and his disciples were immensely loyal to him. John had to get out of the way and let Jesus take center stage because it was not John's role to take what Jesus had come to have. And what is that? One day John's disciples heard that Jesus was baptizing and actually it wasn't Jesus himself who baptized but his disciples were, but more people were going to Jesus than were going to John, and John's disciples were jealous about that. Earlier, the next day after John had first pointed his finger and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," his disciples were there again with John, and John saw Jesus passing by and he said, "The Lamb of God." His disciples left John and followed Jesus. Isn't that what John wanted? He's saying, "Don't follow me anymore; follow him, follow Jesus." John's disciples didn't quite get the message, some of them, and they were distressed that Jesus was becoming popular, distressed that he was baptizing more people than John had been; very upset about it and they came to John ask him about it. "Rabbi," they said, "that man who is with you on the other side of the Jordan, the one you testified about. Well, he is baptizing and everyone is going to him." They're frustrated; they're not happy about this. To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." Oh, is that so true? You can only get what God gives you. "God hasn't given that to me. I had my role. A man can only receive what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said I am not the Christ, but I'm sent ahead of him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom; the friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase, and I must decrease." That means get out of the way. He said, "The bride isn't mine. That's the bridegroom right there, and the bride belongs to him. How wrong would it be for me on the bridegroom's wedding day to interpose myself and take the bride. The bride belongs to Jesus." Now, what is the bride? It's the disciples, the followers; it's the believers who are streaming to Christ and believing the bride is being put together. John is saying that the bridegroom is going to get married to the bride someday, and he’s glad to hear his voice. “I’m glad to stand, but he must become greater, I must become less.”
Some of John's disciples missed the boat. They were lingering, they were loyal to John, they did not follow. They did not go after Jesus at that point, they stayed with what they knew. They knew John and they knew he was a man of God, so they did not follow Christ. There are some disciples in Acts 19, who only knew the baptism of John; they'd never heard of Jesus, like Apollos in Acts 18. He'd heard faithful teaching about Jesus, but didn't know actually about what had happened after John. These disciples, though, knew very well about Jesus, but they were, I think, beginning to be repulsed away from Jesus. And the problem is this issue of fasting. Look again at Verse 14. "Then John's disciples came and asked him, ‘How is it that we, John's disciples, and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?'" John led a strict ascetic life. He fasted regularly. He just got enough nourishment to keep him going; he wasn't there to eat, that wasn't his purpose. He was called specifically in that way. His father Zechariah had been told that he must not take any alcoholic beverage from the day he was born which was a Nazarite vow. John's disciples followed his strict regimen of fasting and asceticism, perhaps even living in the desert though we don't know for sure. But Jesus' calling was different; he was called to do different things than John. Certainly Jesus fasted. As a matter of fact, I think, Jesus' fasting was even more intense than that of John the Baptist. Forty days out in the desert without eating or drinking with direct assaults from Satan himself. Now, that's a fast. But Jesus also feasted, didn't he? He was feasting here; he was celebrating. He was eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, and John's disciples stood outside and said, "We don't get it. Are you really a man of God? This is not what we understand a man of God would do." I think that they may have even affected John himself. John is in prison waiting to die, and he sends his own disciples later on in Matthew 11: 3 and asks Jesus, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" So John himself begins to waver because he doesn't really know and understand how Jesus' calling is different from his. John's disciples come with deep doubts and with a strong loyalty to the way of life learned from John. Jesus gives them a message, a message from the King, and it is "It is time to change. It's time to leave John, and it's time to come over to the bridegroom." Look what he says in Verse 15, “Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, then they will fast.’” Do you see how Jesus borrows John's language? He uses John's phraseology. “I am the bridegroom, these are my friends. This is a time of celebration; it's not a time for fasting. It's a time for celebration because Matthew has left his tax booth and he's following me; it's a time to celebrate.” Someday Matthew and all the disciples would fast; they would mourn when the bridegroom is taken away from them. What does this refer to? Well, at least it refers to his death. Jesus gathered his disciples together in John 16 and says, "I'm going away, and where I am going you cannot follow." He's referring to his death on the cross. "You can't follow me there, and I'm going to be separated from you. Strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. And in that day, you will mourn." He said, "You will mourn and grieve while the world rejoices, but then you will rejoice and no one will be able to take away your joy." That must refer to the resurrection. At the least the bridegroom is going to be taken away from them by his death, but I think it actually refers also to his ascension into Heaven.
Jesus was with them during those days eating and drinking; he was carrying on an ongoing ministry. But the time would come when that would be finished, and then they would have to face a world that needed conversion; they'd have to face the devil whose kingdom they were trying to take over. They would have to face their own fleshly lust and temptations, and in those days many, many times they would need to fast and they would need to mourn. Notice in the text the connection between fasting and mourning. Fasting is really a form of mourning. It's a form of grieving, I think, primarily over sin. James, in James 4:8-9 commands mourning for sin. He says, "Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom." There's a time for that, and I think fasting is a way of showing seriousness in the issue of sanctification. Perhaps you've been convicted of sin, and you need to turn away for a time from food and drink and give yourself in seriousness to prayer. But sometimes it's also just a way of clarifying your calling, where you fast and pray and seek the Lord's will. Anyway, Jesus said the time for that is not now. Now is a time of celebration.
Pharisees and Traditionalism
We also have mentioned the Pharisees; now that's a different matter than John's disciples. Look again at verse 14. "Then John's disciples came and asked him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?'" The Pharisees were the quintessential examples of religious traditionalists. They were constantly importing new man-made things and establishing them as God's law and God's way; that's traditionalism. Because of this bent they had imported many fasts throughout the year. There's only one fast mentioned in the law of Moses, and that's connected with the day of atonement, but the Pharisees were getting to the point where they were fasting twice a week. In Luke 16, the Pharisee stands and prays and thanks God and he says, "I thank you that I'm not like other men. I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all of my possessions." That's how the Pharisee prayed and fasted. We know from Matthew, Chapter 6, that when they fasted, they would disfigure their faces and get all dirty and look horrible, so that everyone would know they were fasting. And Jesus said, "I tell you the truth. They have received their reward in full. I don't recognize that kind of fast." But they were traditionalists, they had imported these fasts. The Word of God said nothing about them. It was something the Pharisees wanted people to do. This is just one of the many traditions that the Pharisees made equal to God's law. Mark Chapter 7: 3-9 says, “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial religious washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions such as the washing of cups, and pitchers, and kettles. So the Pharisees and teachers of law asked Jesus, 'Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating their food with unclean hands?' And Jesus replied, 'Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites. As it is written, these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain. Their teaching are but rules taught by men.'"
That's traditionalism, folks. Mark 7:8, Jesus says, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." That is traditionalism. Where you put something man-made in the place of the Word of God. He said to them, "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions." Well, along with traditionalism comes religious authoritarianism. What do we mean by that? They were in charge, and if you didn't follow their traditions, you were out; you were rejected. They wanted you to dance to their tune. Jesus spoke of that in Matthew 11, when he said, "To what can I compare the children of this generation? They're like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others. 'We played the flute for you and you didn't dance. We sang a dirge and you didn't mourn.’” Now, if you don't understand, when we play the flute, you need to dance, that's happy time. And when we do the dirge and the fasting you need to mourn, that's fasting time.'"
Jesus didn't have anything to do with any of that; he did not follow their ways. Note the hypocrisy by the way. John the Baptist did almost nothing but fast and they said he had a demon. Jesus came feasting and they said, "He's a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners." Why? Because neither John nor Jesus fit into their traditionalism box. They weren't doing it their way. Christ was totally independent from all of that. He did most of his healings on the Sabbath. Why? One might say, to tick them off. I would say, to put it positively, he did it on the Sabbath, so that he could provoke change, so that he could teach them about what the Sabbath is for. Man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man. It's a different approach, and he would teach on that after healing on the Sabbath. He didn't do those ceremonial washings because the Scripture said nothing about them, and here he would not join them in their man-made fast.
There are modern traditionalists too, aren't there? I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church. Every week we celebrate the Mass, and I still don't understand all of the rituals connected with the Mass. When you first walk in, you're supposed to dip your fingers in a bowl of holy water and you're supposed to cross yourself. At certain parts of the service you do a different kind of sign of the cross. I was an altar boy and was trained to ring bells and do other things at certain times. I didn't understand what it was all for, but we were told, "You don't need to really understand, just do what you're supposed to do in the way you're supposed to do it." This was a set piece thing, so that anywhere in the world, any country in the world you went to, that's what you would observe. The languages would be different since Vatican II; it used to be just Latin. The languages were different, but the Mass was the same everywhere. It's traditionalism because the word of God doesn't mention any of these things, and yet they've been elevated up to the level of the Word of God. But Southern Baptists have their traditions too, don't they? Over 150 years ago, there was a man named Charles Finney who was a powerful revivalist preacher. Everywhere he would go, people would flock to listen to him preach, and he invented something new called the "Anxious Bench.” H’d put it right in the front and anyone who was concerned about their soul after his preaching would come forward. Have you heard that phrase before? They would come forward and as they're sitting on the "Anxious Bench", people would go over and counsel with them. Never been done before. It was part of Finney's new measures. Does that sound vaguely familiar? Have you seen anything like that in any Baptist church you've ever been to? At the end of the sermon, you have the invitation. I'm not saying it's bad, I don't think ceremonial washing is bad, either, but when you elevate it up to the level of the Word of God, it can become traditionalism. So that you say, "Without the coming forward, no one can be saved." Is that true, without the coming forward no one can be saved? I know this, without faith no one can be saved. Abraham didn't come forward, he came out of a tent, looked up at the stars, and saw and believed. Now, “coming forward” some people say is a way of publicly demonstrating your faith. As Baptists we believe water baptism is a way of publicly declaring to the world that we are believers in Jesus Christ; be careful of traditionalism.
I heard of another Baptist church that had a revival. The Holy Spirit was poured out in a mighty, in a powerful way. People came to faith in Christ, families were reunited, sins were confessed, people were weeping. It was a powerful time of outpouring of the Spirit, and the hymn they were singing during that time was, "Spirit of God Descend upon my Heart." The next week, they thought it might be good to sing that same hymn again. And the week after that, they sang it again, and again and again and again, month after month, year after year, decade after decade until some courageous pastor said, "It's time to choose a different hymn to close the worship service." Now what's going on there? It's holding on to something, some external form that God chose to use one day and say, "This must be elevated to equality with the Word of God." This is a problem.
Jesus addressed this in Verses 16 and 17. "No one sews a patch of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment. For the patch will pull away from the garment making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wine skins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the wine skins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wine skins, and both are preserved." He's illustrating his principle in two different ways, and it's very, very important that you see the difference between the patch and the wine skin. I've thought a lot about this, and it's only recently that I've come to understand it. The patch is a piece of un-shrunk cloth. What does it mean? It's never gotten wet before. What happens to that patch when it gets washed the first time? It's going to contract. However, the coat around it has already done that; it only does it once. And so it's set in its shape, set in its way, one could say. The patch is there and it needs to move, but the garment is not going anywhere. As the patch contracts, the tear is worse; it's worse than it was at the beginning. And what about wine skins? The Jews kept their wine in the skins of goats or calves, and they would put them into these skins and they'd block them off. The wine would be allowed to ferment and as the fermentation process went on, gases were given out, and as a result, the wine skin would need to expand like a balloon. If the wine skin could not expand, if it was old, if it was hard, if it was brittle or dry, it couldn't move, but that gas kept building up. In the end, the gas would win. Actually, they both lose because once that skin is ruptured, it pours out on the ground, the wine skin is ruined, everything's lost.
Why am I talking about these details? I think you need to understand the essence of discipleship is followship. If Jesus says, "Contract," then contract. If Jesus says, "Expand," then expand. He's the king. He's in charge. He rules over change. The issue is that the Kingdom of Heaven involves change, sometimes in, sometimes out, who gets to decide? Jesus does. He's the king. He rules. He's in charge. And so, if you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, you need to follow. He's walking by the sea and he sees some fishermen says, "Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." In Matthew 8:22, Jesus said to one man, "Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead." He said to Matthew at the tax booth, "Follow me," and Matthew got up and followed him. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." What does “follow me” mean? Where I go, you go. When I stop, you stop, when I go, you go.
The old garment cannot follow inward. It is set in place and so it's ripped. The old wine skin cannot expand outward; it is set in place, and so it's ruptured. The basic principle then is that the Kingdom of Heaven is all about change; it is about transforming a lost and rebellious world. The status quo is the Devil's; the advancement is God's. The Kingdom of Heaven is advancing. Satan always wants us comfortable with the way it is. We need to be willing to advance, to march. Now, I want to clarify something about this principle. Liberals, those that reject the authority of the Word of God would say "Amen" to this, that Jesus is a radical wanting to change all kinds of things. They like that idea, but what they neglect is that Jesus would say, "Yes, but there are some things that never change, never." For example, the character of God never changes. He can't improve, and he can't get worse. "I, the Lord, do not change," Malachi 3. James 1:17, says, "The Father of the heavenly lights does not change like shifting shadows." God never changes. Secondly, God's eternal Word never changes. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words," [plural,] "My words will never pass away."
It is the eternal Word of God and it never changes. God's Gospel message never changes. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 1:8, "Even if we or an angel from Heaven should preach a Gospel, other than the one you believed let him be eternally condemned." The Gospel message must not be changed. The unchanging doctrines of Christianity must never be changed; nor will they ever change. However, it is the external trappings, not mentioned in Scripture, that change all the time. And Jesus says, "Follow me, as I navigate through those changes." How are we going to apply this principle? Well, first of all, let's realize how Jesus applied it to the first century Jewish nation. To John's disciples, what is he saying? "The time for following John is over. Soon John will be dead. Follow me, I'm the bridegroom. Leave that ministry behind. The time has come to follow the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.” What would he say to the Pharisees? "Follow me and leave behind your man-made traditions, your traditionalism. Follow me. I'm the Messiah. I'm the king." Even more significantly though, what does he say to the whole Jewish nation? "The Old Covenant is over; it's finished. When I give my blood, the sacrificial system will end, and so, the time has come for a new covenant in my blood. Follow me."
What does he say to individuals today? Basically, the status quo belongs to the Devil. You must be changed in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You can't stay the way you are and be saved. It says in Matthew 18:3, "Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven." He said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again." He's going to take the wine of the Holy Spirit and he's going to pour it into a new one. So, you also must be made new. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.” You must be regenerated; you must be born again. Secondly, you must be sanctified; you must grow step-by-step, following Jesus. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "We are being changed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory."
You know what's the key to that? The key to that is how you listen to the Word of God. How you read it, how you hear it preached and taught, how you respond at that key moment. Do you have a stiff neck? Remember He spoke of the Jews as being stiff necked. What does that mean? Unyielded. They won't move, set in their ways. Or are you rather yielded to the Spirit? Do you say basically, "Teach me what I need to know from the Spirit, and I will follow you." Finally, there's coming a great change for you individually, it's called glorification. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a flash, in a twinkling of the eye at the last trumpet. “For the trumpet will sound, the dead in Christ will be raised and we be changed.” There will be a transformation because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. You've got to be transformed by the power of the resurrection.
Well, that's individually. What about to churches today, is he's speaking a word of change to churches? Absolutely. First of all, if a church is healthy, it's going to be constantly growing. And if it's going to be constantly growing, it’s going to be constantly confronting issues of change, all the time. Therefore, we have to have a constant assessment. We have to keep constantly weighing the changes against the unchanging Word of God. We must keep bringing it back again to the touchstone of Scripture. Is this matter covered in Scripture or not? If not, then it's a matter of discussion about strategy, mission strategy, worship styles, other things. But if, however, the matter is covered in Scripture then it's unchanging, and so, we need to be Bereans, constantly re-assessing our ministry, constantly taking it back. And why? Because there's constant truths, aren't there? We just told you what they were. The unchanging nature of God, the unchanging nature of his Word, the unchanging Gospel, and even some methods are unchanging. Preaching is permanent, folks because it's covered in the Word. It's through the faithfulness of proclamation that people come to faith in Christ. I want to tell you again that tradition is essential to the advance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Speaking a word to you parents, if you have young children in your home, you must pass on the tradition of your living faith to them; you must share with them day after day. It is primarily your responsibility to evangelize your children. Sunday School has a role, the church has a role, the pastor has a role, but it is your primary responsibility to lead your children to Christ, pass on your faith to your children. Psalm 78 said, "He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn, would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, and would keep his commands." Generation after generation, like a relay race. You receive this faith, you cherish it, you walk with it, and you pass it on to your children, yes, but also to your disciples. I hope you have some. Lead some people to Christ and then share the Gospel with them, transform them, work with them. What does Jesus say in Matthew 28? "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I've commanded you." That's tradition.
But please, watch out for traditionalism, where external trappings become elevated to the level of the Word of God. The Book of Revelation is a book of new things, isn't it? If you're a child of God, you're going to be given a new name. How will my friends know me? I won't know what to call myself. It's written on a white stone and it'll be given to you, a new name. You'll be singing a new song, you'll be dwelling in the new Jerusalem, and you'll be surrounded by the new heavens and the new earth, because God the one who's seated on his throne says, "Behold, I'm making everything new." Let's follow Jesus Christ, our King, through all the changes he has in mind for you individually, for this church, until you finally see him face-to-face.