In the world of technology, as many programs (or “apps”) move to server- or cloud-based designs, we have learned to refresh pages when we want to see the most recent information.
In a web browser, we click a button or press a key to see if the information has changed, or if the queue has opened to buy concert tickets. We pull down a list in a smartphone app to see if there is anything else in a news feed, or fresh updates from our friends. We click a button to see if we have any new email.
While there are sometimes important things for us to keep current on, much of the content that we keep refreshing is just noise. Marketing experts keep coming up with more content to throw our way, so that they can make money from conditioning and manipulating our behavior.
Some things don’t change, though. One evening, out of mindless habit, I actually swiped down on my smartphone screen, while it was showing a chapter in my Bible app. Despite my attempt to “refresh” the page, though, the Word of God didn’t change!
The author of Hebrews had a reminder for those who were being assaulted by non-Biblical ideas:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.
Hebrews 13:8-9 NLT
My smartphone experience described above (perhaps subconsciously thinking that the contents of the screen might change, or that I might not have the latest and greatest information) isn’t unique, though: from the Garden of Eden, to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, to messages spread over the Internet today, Satan and his cohorts have been trying to twist the Word of God, suggesting that “new” information or “new” interpretations are better. Evil forces whisper things to human beings (who often repeat and distribute them to others) that are poisoned by a “little” addition, a “minor” change, or an outright lie. The result isn’t just something that is “mostly true”, though: because it deviates from the perfect messages of God, the outcome of this tainted message is patently false, and is often dangerous or even deadly – not just to our bodies and minds, but to our very souls.
Many people have wanted to “adjust” God’s Word to suit their needs, whether to justify their actions, or to make themselves feel better about others. In a culture that values “tolerance” (which has often been re-defined as telling people that whatever they decide to do is OK, rather than loving others enough to help guide them out of a destructive path), it can be tempting to water down life-saving truth, just to get along with other people.
The word of God doesn’t change, though. We may try to refresh it, but we find that it was written correctly – just as God intended – in the first place. And, if my years on this earth have taught me anything, it’s that God is not only smarter than me, He is also much more concerned about my well-being than I am. (Like the loving parent that He is, I imagine Him sighing a lot as He watches me do stupid things, even when He has warned me not to.)
Yes, we should study the Bible regularly to find new insights, or to apply a timely passage to a new situation that we encounter. In addition, the Holy Spirit guides us (if we will let Him) towards specific decisions in circumstances that aren’t literally outlined in the Bible. And, I appreciate that there is a constant challenge to translate God’s Word accurately into ever-changing modern languages, and to understand His message correctly when we don’t speak the original languages in which it was written.
I don’t want us to stop studying the Bible or listening (with a cautious ear) to others who have read it thoroughly and listened to the Holy Spirit’s input. However, whenever we capture a thought in our minds that doesn’t align with God’s Word, or hear a message that contradicts clear messages in the Bible, this is clearly not from God, who is an unchanging source.
And, why would God change? He doesn’t need to tweak His message for the present age. His message is timeless and applicable to every people group and culture. Once the right time came for each portion of the Bible to be written down, He had it recorded for the rest of time, until He wraps things up and escorts the universe into eternity.
Whether the following warning from the book of Revelation was written about just a specific message revealed to John the Apostle, or whether it applies to all of God’s Word, it is a sober reminder of the importance of preserving the truth about what God has told us.
And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.
Revelation 22:18-19 NLT
God’s mercies are new every morning (see Lamentations 3:22-23), but His existing Word is not. Keep re-reading it for new insights and new opportunities for applying to your life, but don’t expect it to change!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.