579) “To Bring You to God” (part two)

     

     (…continued)  I Peter 3:18 says, “Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  To bring you to God, it says, and that brings to mind all the things that have been done over the centuries by the many different nations and peoples and cultures and religions on earth in order to get to God.  The knowledge of God is in every person, says the Bible, but not everyone knows how to get to God.  So all sorts of things have been done in order to reach God; even terrible things like human sacrifice.  Our own Holy Writings (in the Old Testament) contain page after page of elaborate rules and rituals and instructions on the proper way to do animal sacrifices, all in an attempt to get to God, and, all commanded by God at that time.  But here in one simple verse in I Peter God’s perfect plan of salvation is made clear:  “Christ died for sins, once and for all, to bring you to God.”  One thing is clear says Romans chapter one, everyone, everywhere, deep down in their heart knows they need God, and the way to God, says Peter and the rest of the New Testament, is through Christ.

     At the most basic level, there are two reasons that people look to God.  First of all, it is obvious that we are limited in our power, and so we look to God for power and control.  This may be power to influence the weather, to win battles, or to heal diseases.  But most of all, religions look to God for power over death.  Death is the universal enemy, and it is for an answer to the problem of death that people have always looked to some sort of God.  And the second reason that people have looked for God is because it is obvious that there is something wrong in this life.  Things are not right in this world, people always are hurting each other, there are always disagreements and fighting; and everyone knows it should not be this way.  And so people have always looked to God to make it right– by sacrificing something or someone to appease the gods, by purifying themselves from sin and wrongdoing, or by prayers or rituals or priests.  Somehow, the attempt is made to get God to set things right again.  You will find these basic religious impulses in all the great religions of the world, and you’ll find them in the world’s most remote places, whether it be the deepest and darkest jungles of Africa or South America, or the isolated Hawaiian islands.

     The impulses and desires behind all of these religious beliefs are true and good and a part of what it means to be human.  When Christ died on the cross it was to meet all of those needs, of everyone, everywhere.  Now, all need to hear about this salvation in Christ Jesus.  That is why Jesus sent the disciples into all the world, so that all may know the truth about God, and have their hope in Him.  Christ came with a message of forgiveness to speak to the need in everyone for things to be made new and right again, and Christ rose from the dead with the promise that we too might rise from the dead.  Thus, God speaks to that most basic need of everyone, everywhere.  We all need God, and God is just not whatever we imagine in our minds god might be.  The true and only God is the God that revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ; and in Christ, all may come to God.  Once again, as the Bible in I Peter says, “Christ died for sins, once and for all, to bring you to God.”

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2 Corinthians 5:19a  —  God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…

Ephesians 2:13…17  —  Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ…  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

1 Peter 3:18  —  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

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O God of all the nations of the earth, remember the multitudes who, though created in thine image, they have not known thee, nor the dying of thy Son their Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that by the prayers and labors of thy holy church they may be delivered from all superstition and unbelief and brought to worship thee; through him who thou hast sent to be the resurrection and the life to all men, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Francis Xavier, Missionary to India, Japan, and Borneo (1506-1552)