Motivational speaker and author Spencer Johnson wrote a book entitled, Who Moved My Cheese. It became a monster hit reaching number one bestseller status on various lists such as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, USA Today. The book was essentially a modern parable about change and how different people react in a positive or negative way in order to accommodate change in their lives. The idea of cheese and who moves it was the author's clever way of expressing the idea that what we desire in life (the cheese) and how we obtain it is constantly changing and unless we adapt we will die.
In a section called The Handwriting on the Wall, Dr. Johnson summarizes the seven key ideas in the book concerning change. The first idea is the base idea and then the other six ideas are various ways that people can successfully deal with the first idea.
- Change happens – That's the base, change happens, or as the author puts it "they keep moving my cheese around." This is reality number one, the fact that the source of your happiness, the basis or the object of your contentment is constantly changing. If you understand and accept this then you have taken the first and most important step in dealing with change. Now as I tried to explain in the preamble, once you have grasped key idea number one: change happens, you can now use the other six key ideas in your own personal experience with change.
- Anticipate change – Be ready for the cheese to move. Don't fret, don't worry or whine. Just be ready for it to happen because it always happens there's always change.
- Monitor change – Smell the cheese from time to time to see if it's still good sometimes change is needed and we just don't realize it. We're wondering what's going on what's happening why can't this have them and also and we realized oh I need to change this.
- Adapt to change quickly – The sooner you let go the old cheese the sooner you get the new cheese, don't waste all your energy and resources and goodwill fighting change get into it or get left behind.
- Change with change – Go where the cheese is, don't just acknowledge that there is a change you must also change yourself if you want to succeed.
- Enjoy the change – Savor the cheese, change can be good so enjoy the experience as much as you can.
- Repeat change – "Hey they moved the cheese again." Realize that the change experience is constant in life and you'll have to go through it many times because that's what life is about.
People spend many people spend the greatest part of their energy and ability resisting inevitable change that happens in everybody's life and what the author here was trying to get across was instead of spending all your time and energy resisting change, in other words resisting changes your default position how about considering change from time to time, cooperating with it and you know the keys that it gives here.
So this is the essence of this little book that has believe it or not less than a hundred pages and lots of pictures and 12-point type and at that time I remember was selling for twenty dollars that was a lot of cheese for Dr. Johnson, I'm going to tell you that 20 bucks for the little book and it was written you know it was a general idea just caught on mainly aimed at businesses and business people in the workforce things like that.
Our life is more than cheese.
If our lives were lived only here on this earth and we had to deal with the ever-shifting reality of this world with only our own wisdom or maybe the wisdom of Dr. Johnson, this little book would be very helpful. Actually it is helpful in the sense that it does remind us that in life things do change and we constantly have to adapt in order to deal successfully with this reality. One very important thing that the book fails to mention however is that not all things change, not everything changes. As a matter of fact in this changing world there are several unchanging realities and that's really what I want to focus on tonight.
Things That Don't Change
1. God does not change
The Bible says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The God of creation has always existed even before this changing world existed He existed. Not only has God always existed but He has always been the same without change. A couple of scriptures,
For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
- Malachi 3:6.
And then James says the following concerning this matter,
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.
- James 1:17
No change, you always know who you're dealing with when you're dealing with the Lord. This eternal changeless being created a changing world and in doing so made possible the expression of His own immutability. We know, we understand, we appreciate His unchanging nature because we live in a changing world. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to discern this primary quality that He has. That God is changeless is seen as we glimpse His eternal nature through the looking-glass of this passing world.
2. The Word of God never changes
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
- Isaiah 40:8
This unchanging feature of God's Word is seen in various context, for example the premise of God's Word does not change.The story that the Word tells is relevant to every generation from creation to the consummation of the ages, the content of Scriptures is the divine context for our lives and our history and our future, in other words the Word tells every generation it's essential life story without change. People who heard the gospel in the 17th century and in the 11th century and in the ninth century and in the first century were being addressed with a timeless message that didn't change. God's Word fit perfectly their life and circumstances whether they were Gentiles living in Thessalonica or Jews living in Jerusalem and 21 centuries later Americans living in Oklahoma City.
God's Word it never changes and it has the ability to explain man's condition in every context in any time until the end of the world. Another unchanging feature of God's Word is the fact that the power of God's Word it doesn't change either. The Word never loses its power to establish moral norms. We're reading epistles for example that teaches how we should conduct ourselves in the church and as Christians and what is the right way to act and what is the wrong way to act and so on and so forth we're reading that today it has the power to form our character and to direct our lives, and yet people a thousand years ago were reading the exact same words that had exactly the same powerful effect on their lives. What book what notes what author can claim the same other than the Lord who has given us His word? The content of the scriptures is the divine context as I said for our lives the word tells every generation its life story and tells every generation what the future will be for them according to God's unchanging Word, it has the power to do this in every generation.
The words of men come and go the words of men rise and fall in their ability to move people and to move nations; how many people remember Mao Zedong you remember about Mao Zedong the leader of China the revolution in China brought the communist ideology to China, how many people remember Mao Zedong's little red book? Every citizen had to have a little red book it was actually a little red book one of the members of the church in Montreal who was from China brought me one and gave it to me that I could see it was in Chinese obviously I couldn't read it but he was telling me that everybody carried one of these books with them and what it included were the sayings of Mao, how one should conduct themselves what life was about so everybody had that book notice I said how many people have heard of Mao Zedong, not everybody raised their hand, then I asked how many people have heard of Mao Zedong's little red book and even less people raised their hand. And Mao, it wasn't like he was alive five hundred years ago I was just in the twentieth century and yet we've many forgotten his name don't know who he is look much less the little red book. Where is he today he's gone where is his little red book it's a souvenir it doesn't guide anybody's life anymore. But God's Word has never lost a fraction of its power to do what it claims to do and that is to regenerate man's everlasting soul. So the Word has not changed in its premise it hasn't changed in its power and neither has it changed it's everlasting promise.
3. The promise of God's Word never changes
Adam and Eve believed the promise contained in God's Word to them and they lived to hope beyond mankind's greatest sin. Noah believed the promise contained in God's Word and survived the global flood. Abraham believed the promise contained in God's Word and had a son at the age of 100. The Jews believed and they eventually lived in the land of milk and honey. The Apostles believed and saw a risen Lord. The world believes and receives unconditional forgiveness and the indwelling of God's Spirit. The Word does not change in its promise that those who believe it will receive the blessings that it offers, and so God's Word is unchanging in its premise its power and its promise; people change society changes ideas change but God's Word never changes, isn't that wonderful to note to understand to grasp when you're reading God's Word you're reading something that just will not change. The beauty of that is that when you learn something in God's Word when you receive it and believe it what you have just learned will not change.
When I grew up as a Catholic boy in the Catholic Church we would get encyclicals the Pope would write encyclicals and it would filter down to the local congregation and they would tell us what's happening and what's not happening and I remember one of my aunts her favorite Saint was St. Philomena that was her saint, boy she was saints like eh you still haven't your own team you know she had St. Philomena that was her saint, there was even a church St. Philomena Church used to go to and she would buy a calendar St. Philomena's calendar she was a saint and her day I forget what it was but you know her day where you honored her some time in May or something St. Philomena she had holy pictures St. Philomena the whole thing. Well then one day we got the news that St. Philomena was not a saint anymore, they had to make room for new saints you know and St. Philomena she was out and the St. Philomena Church was now St. John's Church or something and I remember my aunt was so up so how can they do that my whole life I've been praying to St. Philomena she's gone she's out. How did she how could she deal with a change like that why did it change like that? It changed like that because it was a man-made thing human beings made that up and human beings changed it. Isn't it wonderful when you read just the Bible and believe what's in the Bible what you have learned as true remains true today tomorrow forever what you know is true is true.
How do you think the Apostles in the early martyrs were able to go to their deaths unwilling to change what they believed and confessed in order to save their own lives? Can't we understand the motivation that they had, go ahead beat me kill me even how can I deny what I know is true, and you killing me is not going to make it untrue that's the power of God's Word, to give us power.
4. Jesus Christ doesn't change
You read books that were written a hundred years ago 300 years ago about Jesus, devotional literature written about Jesus hundreds of years ago and you can relate immediately to what he said he's talking about somebody that you know, you're reading it you're saying that's exactly how Jesus is yes I understand that about Jesus I've also discovered that about Him, wait a minute you're three hundred years apart talking about the same person. How does that work? Jesus doesn't change.
In speaking of His timelessness and the timeless nature that He has the Hebrew writer says of the Lord Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever, not only is Christ unchanging He is also eternal and omnipresent, for this reason:
- He was the reason and force for creation – Colossians 1:16
- He was with the Jews to sustain them in the desert – I Corinthians 10:4
- He died on the cross – John 19
- He appeared to the Apostles after His resurrection – Acts 1:3-4
- He is with all Christians through the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:38
- He will be with all Christians and judge sinners and disbelievers and disobedient at the end of the world – Matthew 25; II Corinthians 4.
- He will rule at the right hand of God for all eternity – Matthew 19:28; II Timothy 2:12
How can one person do all these things? How can one person be at all these things? How can the same person exist in all of these different dimensions in the past physical world in the future spiritual? How can the same person do that? He is unchanging, why? Because He is eternal that's why. And so Jesus does not change in person in position or in power.
As I said societies change, the creation changes, we change but He never changes When we say that He's the anchor of our souls, He's always at the same place isn't He? Many times I say to you in classes I remind you and encourage you to listen to the voice inside your head or your heart that speaks to you and I encourage you always ask yourself who's talking to you? If the one inside is criticizing you and telling you that you're unworthy and no good ask yourself is that Jesus talking to you? If the voice inside says come come you who are burdened and heavy-laden come I will give you rest, that's not the devil talking and He speaks to all of us in the same way.
People say to me yeah I had that experience I know exactly what you're saying. Why? Because the same Lord that speaks to me through His word and through His Spirit speaks to you and in His wisdom has given us concrete word in our language so we can make sure that it is He who is talking to us through His word. He's easy to find, He's easy to recognize in every generation in every situation because He is always the same the same the same Lord the same Christ the same person. So in our lives as citizens of this world the cheese does get moved and we do have to accommodate ourselves to never-ending change until we die but in our lives as citizens of the kingdom of God however we can take comfort in the fact that there is a constant a permanence a stable set of realities because the source of our happiness and peace is always the same, nobody is going to move it and here's why we can have confidence in this, confidence in what I call our immovable cheese that's where the title comes from. We have confidence because as I mentioned God never changes, the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament is the same God of the 21st century. We can depend on Him.
Now that cuts both ways, you know that God you read in the Old Testament who says if you disobey me you know the earth will swallow you up and and eat you and you will die, that's the same God that we are praying to, the God that is offended because someone offers worship to him in an improper manner and they die instantly yeah that's the same God that we have today. The God who spoke to His people with fire and noise and the earth trembling, that's the same God that we pray to today it's not like hey God He's mellowed out the 20th century come on you know we got to let things slide, it's ok me and God we're buddies He doesn't care you doesn't care how I dress it doesn't care what I say you know we're good we're tight you know, no no no no, He's a holy God holy God the God they were afraid to even go forward they said to Moses you talk to Him don't let Him come near us yeah that God that's our God. Yes we can depend on Him and yes He never changes but let's make sure we understand exactly who He is, a holy God demanding that we be a holy people, in our speech in our conduct in our dress in our attention yeah that God.
We have confidence because God's Word never change. The story it tells remains the same the power it has never waivers the promises it makes are ever sure we can depend on it but we also have to remember to learn it preach it as it is and make sure that we pass it on to the next generation complete without changing without eliminating or adding that's our responsibility. And of course God's Christ never changes, He is and will forever be the Son of God and Savior of our souls we can depend on the Lord the same Lord that the martyrs in the first century gave up their lives in order to confess we need to be ready to give up our lives in the same way. He is worthy for us to give up our lives in order to maintain our good confession of faith. We haven't been asked to do this in a dramatic way of course but we could we could.
And so after hearing about these two realities the two realities being one: things in the world change constantly and two: things in the kingdom of God always remain the same. After reviewing these two realities what conclusions should we come to what should these things mean for us? Well knowing these two things means that first of all we must learn to separate these two, you see just because your world changes from time to time doesn't mean that God is changing or His power has diminished or His promises are no longer available, don't confuse the changing world with the unchanging God. Some people think that because their lives have changed for the worse that God has somehow lost His power or backed out His promises, they don't realize that a change in life especially a difficult one is usually a call for us to sustain an unchanging faith.
How else does God tests our faith? With gifts with presents with good times? No no He examines our faith through difficult changes a change of health a change of economic level a change of ability a change in family. Through our changes God is whispering to us do you still believe that I'm here do you still believe that I am with you do you still believe that I can deliver you? As a matter of fact turmoil caused by change is best dealt with an unshakable faith in what is truly constant truly steady and unmovable. Perhaps in the context of this lesson we could say that one way God tests our faith is to move our cheese around from time to time. Finally knowing these realities about the nature of the world and the kingdom should mean that we must be ready and are ready for the final change. All of our changes are simply conditioning us to realize accept and prepare for the final change and that is of course death itself. It's amazing that everything in the physical world points to this sobering reality but so many people refuse to deal with it let alone prepare for it.
And when I say prepare I don't mean buying a burial plot and planning your funeral and getting a will ready I mean of course do that but that's simply a plan for the disposal of your body not a preparation for death. People think oh I'm ready for death you know I've got the plot I got the headstone I got the power of attorney health proxy, you're not ready for death you're just ready for burial disposal because that's all those things do they help in the disposal. Preparing for death requires us to decide where we will live after we die that's prepare for death. Will we live with and commune with God in His eternal and spiritual kingdom of life is that where we plan on living after we die? Or will we live in darkness plagued by regret and tortured with the absent of the Spirit eternally? Regardless of where your earthly cheese / happiness is or was or will be regardless of how well you've learned to adapt to the changes in this world, all of us need to take comfort in the fact that the unchanging God makes an unchanging promise to you in His unchanging Word guaranteed by His unchanging Son and this is that you are to believe in Christ confess His name repent of your sins and are baptized today, you too can become unchanging in life unchanging in spirit in time and joy and love in Christ all unchanging. And the way to prepare for that is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago.
We could be transported back to the first century we would not understand the language we would not understand the social customs the food would be very very strange for us and what we would drink we would become lately lost I mean we'd recognize human beings but other than that we wouldn't be able to communicate you know we would be completely lost except if we were at church, if we were at a church service 2,000 years ago we might not understand the language but we would know exactly what was going on. And if someone came forward after the teacher or preacher had spoken what we thought was the gospel we would know exactly what was going on as they went to the baptismal font or the river or whatever we know exactly what's going on, we wouldn't understand the words but we'd know exactly what what was happening, why?
Because the way to prepare for death 2,000 years ago has remained the same for 2,000 years, we prepare for death in exactly the same way: we bury the old body of sin in the waters of baptism we resurrect a new spirit a new life a regenerated soul ready now for death ready now to live in an unchanging place because we finally have become unchanging. And so if you desire to live in this future unchanging place and have not yet prepared for that in the way that I have described to you even tonight this humble and small setting of an evening service if the Lord is calling you to do what Christians or believers have done for thousands of years if this is the night you are to respond then we encourage you to do that now.