What change is God waiting for you to make in your life?
As we watch and wait for what the future holds, we can be thankful that Jesus came into human life not to condemn us, but to save us. “Christ himself suffered on account of sins,” says Peter in his first letter. “He did this in order to bring you into the presence of God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Jesus was always willing to reach out to sinful people like ourselves, even after he died on the cross. “Christ was put to death as a human, but made alive by the Spirit. And it was by the Spirit that he went to preach to the spirits in prison” (verses 18-19). This is a difficult passage, because it raises questions about just exactly who these spirits were, and precisely where they were dwelling in prison. Peter says, “In the past, these spirits were disobedient — when God patiently waited during the time of Noah. Noah built an ark in which a few (that is, eight) lives were rescued through water” (verse 20).
God patiently waits, in both the time of Noah and today. God and Jesus are interested not only in helping good people like Noah and the members of his family who escaped in the ark. No, they are passionate about reaching sinful people — even the wicked people who perished in the flood. God waited patiently during the time of Noah for them to change their evil ways, and later Jesus preached to these spirits in prison. Clearly, God sent Jesus not to condemn, but to save.
Peter connects this divine desire to the water of baptism, which Christians understand to be a dying and rising with Christ. “Baptism,” says Peter, is like a rescue through water. “It saves you now — not because it removes dirt from your body but because it is the mark of a good conscience toward God. Your salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (verse 21). When we are baptized, our cleansing is spiritual, not physical. Our sins are washed away, we are raised to new life, and we are connected to the Body of Christ. Once baptized, we are joined to Jesus and his community of followers forever.
For years, FPC has kept water in its baptismal font, whether a baptism was scheduled or not. Members were welcome to stop and touch the water as they entered or left worship. They did this to remind themselves that they were baptized, loved and forgiven.
I really appreciate that my baptism carries the promise that I will always be forgiven, no matter how many sins I commit. I need to be reminded of this, because it is easy for me to lose hope when I stumble again and again and again. But when I remember that I am baptized, I realize that God is patient with me, always willing to pick me up, help me to change, and put me back on the right path.
Thank you, God, for being patient with me, and for offering me forgiveness through Jesus. Amen.