There is only one Path…

an essay by Joe Boudreault

   There is a God who created the universe and everything in it. It is a topic which has been on the mind of every person who ever lived, even atheists. This God has revealed himself to us in several ways and He has indicated that there is a purpose to our existence and a way for us to know that. It is not a very difficult thing, I would reason, for anybody to grasp the concept that if this is the supreme God of everything, the universal and singular deity of all that exists, then several other comfortable and safe assumptions can be made from that.

   For beginners, you can reason that a singular, supreme God would be above all other gods in every respect. It would then follow that if this God was superior and powerful enough, He would have no supernatural competition and therefore He would be the only one we are all answerable to and responsible before. He would be the provider of all things, the protector and guardian of everyone, and the sole giver of all revelations. These are just a few of the sensible conclusion you can make about God, if indeed you are interested in divine things. If not, you can go away and look at the confusing world of ants and elephants, of microbes and whales, and of men and women everywhere and still more men and women everywhere and you can adopt the notion, as many have, that it is all a cosmic fluke and we really don’t know a great deal to begin with.

   But to get to the meat of this matter: God exists and He alone is God (apologies to the Greek and Roman and Hindu pantheons). This belief in a single deity is called monotheism and it grips the vast majority of mankind, and for good reason. God created us in His image and likeness and that tells us that we are free-thinking entities who are aware of our place in the universe and that we are conscious of our mortality and of our frailties as well as of our strengths. God wants us to think about Him – He has planted that impulse in our minds and hearts – but we are all free to ignore the impulse and toss God aside and go our own way, and a great number of us do just that. Or we tend to mold God into a different image than the one we are suppose to have of Him, and we draft up various themes and doctrines concerning our supposed relationship with God. In many cases, God is divided up into many lesser deities because some of us cannot accept that one deity is powerful enough to do it all. It has been wisely quoted that amongst a million people there are a million gods. With over six billion people in the world, this is cause for considerable confusion indeed.

   There are not, of course, six billion religions in the world; perhaps only a few thousand and those can easily be grouped into a few hundred categories. But the existence of a variety of approaches to knowing God (or the gods, if you will) has been a headache in the plan of God for all of us to know Him in the same way and to worship and praise Him in unity and to be equal before Him as the creatures and servants He loves the most in all of creation – well, that presents a great problem. It is not a problem created by God but by mankind. These very different approaches toward God by mankind have been the main cause of all of the problems that have fallen upon man. I mean, all of the problems, from languages and cultures right on through to war and poverty and hatred and racism. The whole mess stems from the root cause of rebellion and rejection of the idea that God is approached only on His terms, and His terms are not different for different people. His purpose and desire for us all is singular and universal: to know Him as He really is and to come to him in unity and love. But men and women have a different purpose and that is to seek God (or the gods, or no gods) as they see fit.

   Now I would like to direct you toward the path that will lead you to the light of God. That path is the revelations which God gave to mankind, and those are collected together and known to the world at large as the Bible. It is a collection of books written over many centuries by prophets as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. That is what the Bible claims and since the very beginning it has never been disproved. How could it be proved false if it really is from God? Now there are many other religions who disown and discredit the Bible’s authenticity, partially or wholly, but to delve into that would be like tying to argue that platinum is a more beautiful and useful metal than gold, or that apples are better than oranges. But even that is a poor analogy, because truth has to be Truth, not some variety of alternate and ‘equally viable’ ideas. If it is from the supreme God, it is this and not that and you should not have to look any farther than His word on it.

   So God asks us to trust in His word as given to us in the Bible. If you can’t trust God, who can you trust? It should be apparent by now that I am speaking about spiritual truth here, not earthly truth or secular truths. Of course, God has revealed Himself in the world around us if you care to look closely enough. The marvels of nature and the harmony and balance of the universe are testimonies to a very intelligent Designer. When a skeptic says to me, “Prove to me that God exists!” I say, “Look around and prove to me that He doesn’t exist.” The whole of creation cries out for the praise of the handiwork of God. If you can look at the stars and tell me where they end, or at the passing of time and tell me where it began or will end, or at the strivings of the heart and mind and tell me where they spring from, or at the marvelous workings of the body and tell me why we age and why we also heal – consider all of these and explain it through happenstance or chance, as the unbelieving atheist does, and you will run into a dead end every time. The human heart yearns for eternity and the human mind cannot deny that there is far more order and empathy in the world than there is chaos or disarray.

   If you seek God with all your heart and with all your mind (and everybody seeks God or at least a god) you can be sure that you will find Him, because that is just what He wants people to do he reveals Himself to those who diligently seek Him. This explains why there is no excuse before God for not knowing about Him: we all have the spirit-driven urge to seek the Truth above all truths, and God will not hold it back. The problem with all the other claims of mankind about the supposed revelations from God is that they do not hold up under scrutiny when they are used to explain our origins, our purpose here, the cause of our problems, and our ultimate destiny. Even more important, nothing outside of the revelations of the Bible can explain our standing with God, or lack of standing. The Bible, then, pretty much explains itself when you look closely at it and are willing to believe it.

   This being the case, what are the very fundamental things that the Bible tells us about ourselves and about God, and why are they the Truth and not just truths? That is another question that God is pleased to have us ask Him. He wants us to know. God is not a sort of Dictator Deity who forces things on us, but with mortality just around the corner for every one of us, we will seek something and we had better be sure that it is something to do with the one true God. Get it wrong now and you will mess up for eternity.

   First, we are all created equal, man and woman, regardless of race, color, region or time. Secondly, since we owe our entire existence to God, we owe it to Him to seek and understand our duty to Him. Third, we must understand that we are all fallible and guilty of going astray and leaving God out of our lives in some way. And since God is in eternity and we are in time, that is not a good way of going about anything. The free will that God has allowed us means that we are allowed to do as we please, and that is mostly what we do, to the point of forgetting about God altogether. Or to the further point of inventing another version in our minds of what omnipotence and godhood really is or how important or unimportant it all is. If you want to shirk that spiritual urge or impulse which I mentioned, you are free to shirk the rest of this essay, but if not, you are probably interested enough to stick with it and bear with me.

   So then, because our origin is with God, our total allegiance should also be with Him. There are ungodly people (those who have discarded the very idea of God) who will tell you that you have come about from a very lengthy process of change and advancement from a lowly one-celled entity to the incredibly complex creature that you now are. These are the evolutionists who preach a universe without a God. That is the hardest kind of universe to explain; in fact, it’s impossible to explain the universe aside from God. Don’t let the Darwinians fool you – they adhere to a theory, and it is just that, a theory, not a fact, and it isn’t even a very good theory at that. Nonetheless, that is another topic for another place. So then, back to the God behind it all, and what we should know about Him and the Truth.

   Having created us by special fiat, God wants the very best for us. But since He gave us a free will, we don’t choose His way all the time. We want to do things our own way. It is natural for a person to feel that he or she is master of his or her own fate and destiny, and he or she will have that destiny if that’s what is wanted. But what we want for ourselves is not by any measurement as good as what God has for us, so we should listen to Him. When we don’t, we go our own way and that’s when all our troubles start. I would think, in hindsight, that it is terribly foolish to want something, anything, for me that is different than what God wants for me. After all, he is God and He knows best, and what a great joy it must be to have what He wants, considering the fact that He loves me and wants the very best for me.

   Okay, so I go against God’s will in some way, and get into trouble. I can’t say that God didn’t warn me; He gave me free will which came with a conscious. Now my conscious bothers me; I have offended God and displeased Him and I have set myself on a path that is full of turmoil and heartache and stumbling. This willing disobedience is called sin. It is a deliberate choice to abdicate God out of my life. We all do this, every last one of us, and we know it. What to do? I had that touch, that promise of eternity in me, because of being made in His image. Now I’ve lost it; I am out of sorts with God, outside of His realm, His favor, His promised destiny. Can He forgive me for this discretion, this sin or sins? Indeed He will, if I will but ask Him to, which means pleading my guilt before Him, admitting my wrongdoing, and promising to listen and do it His way. This is every bit the same as the child asking the parent for forgiveness. It is granted and the relationship is restored. We recognize this process every time we forgive someone else whom we care a great deal about, and God cares a great deal about everybody. They are each made I his image and likeness and they are each so very precious to Him.

   It must be mentioned here that the character of God must be considered. He is absolute in every way. He is all-loving, all-merciful, all-knowing, all-just, and all powerful. In other words, He is all-perfect in every way. If he wasn’t these things – you guessed it – He wouldn’t be God. So the question arises: if God is so merciful and understanding, then why doesn’t He just accept us anyway, mistakes and weaknesses and all. Well, in a way He does, and in another way He can’t. A perfect God cannot tolerate the presence of sin or wickedness. I am glad that such is the case because I could not believe in a God who just swept my mistakes and willful disobedience under the rug and looked the other way. I want a perfect divine master if I want a master at all. So if God forgives me but can’t accept me as a fallible human, what is the problem? The problem is that sin has a price that must be paid. Any error, mistake, or misdeed has a price to be paid, a consequence or result which must be taken care of. This is very evident with our relationship with God – we desire a perfect union, don’t we, with the perfect God?

   To put this in a more human perspective, think of an offense you might have committed against someone dear to you or close to you. It has caused a pain or hurt or rupture in that relationship, and it may very well be physical as well as it may be emotional or intellectual. It might be a verbal insult, a slap in the face, a kick to the groin, even a murder. In order to restore the relationship you once had (if that is indeed your desire) it is evident that you must ask for forgiveness first. This is akin to repentance, a process of turning around and going the other way from sin (that is, back) to restore the relationship. When the forgiveness id offered, you should remember that the price for it is the affect of the original transgression on the person who was offended or sinned against. The sting of the slap, the pain of the insult or kick, the death of the victim (etc) is still there. But the two parties have restored their original relationship. This actually happens amongst us mere humans. To have it happen with God is similar but to a greater degree and depth. Offending God puts us out of relationship with Him, and that was a perfect relationship, the only kind He wants with us. Nothing second-hand with God, remember. Ultimately, God desires us to be in eternity with Him, in perfect union and understanding. A sin, any sin, destroys that relationship. God cannot abide the very least of sin. If I slap God in the face I am not His friend. If I ask for forgiveness, He will grant it and be my friend again. Believe me, He will know how genuine I am.

   Now the price to be paid for sin is death, and the reward for forgiveness is a resurrection. The death which the Bible refers to is spiritual death, which is prefigured by physical death. Spiritual death is in fact a complete separation from God. This sounds a bit harsh until you consider the following: God is perfect and we are not, yet we long to be. We must be perfect in order to be with God in His place. I think that is fair. I don’t really want inferior, untrustworthy people in my place. Remember that friend you slapped in the face? He restored your relationship but he had to salve his face, he had to absorb the hurt. And so it is that God has to pay the price to make us his perfect friends. I would not expect a perfect God to want anything less in His heaven than perfect friends, and I suppose that if He really is all-merciful and all-loving etc, He will have a way to accomplish that for those of us who are willing to trust in Him and believe in Him.

   And that brings us to the real part about the path to the Truth. Since the Bible obviously deals with these crucial relationships, it also deals with the way in which God has worked our plan for being restored to Him when we have gone astray. It deals with it in terms of both danger and security, being cursed and being blessed, in being cast away from God’s goodness and in being safe in His arms. The Bible talks about salvation and eternal life. God has declared that our sin will alienate us from Him and that only repentance will allow us to be brought back. Again, this only fair, for it constitutes perfect divine justice. If we are out of sorts with God, we are under condemnation of eternal punishment and are unsafe. If we are restored, we are under the pledge of eternal reward and are safe. That is what is meant by the term ‘to be saved’. It is to be made safe from God’s wrath. So what is the price for our salvation if the wages of our sins is death? Someone must pay the wages if we are to avoid the consequence of the sins. Someone must pay our death penalty for us. If the sin is against God, then God must bear the wages Himself if He is to save us from ourselves. And that is just what happened. If we deserve separation from God (spiritual death) because of our sins, the only way to be saved from His wrath against our sins is to have the full price paid for them. That is where Jesus comes into the picture.

   In the prophecies of the Old Testament there are clear promises by God to offer us a replacement for ourselves in the paying of our sins. This is a messiah or Christ (anointed one of God) to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. After all, God had said that He would “be our God, and we would be His people, and He would dwell among us.” The prophet Isaiah, for example, said that God would send a redeemer, one who would identify with us and sympathize with us and ultimately pay for our salvation. This redeemer was the promised person of Jesus Christ, who would fulfill all prophecies about redemption and would be the ransom offered to God for freedom from the penalty of our sins. Isaiah said he would be called Immanuel, which means ‘God with us”. Now that is certainly an interesting term for the prophet to use. For God to be with us and dwell among us, He would have to take on the form of a man. This is a concept which is difficult for some to grasp, because God is God and not a man. But Jesus explained it by saying that “with man it is impossible (to save himself) but with God all things are possible.” Christian theologians refer to this coming of God in the form of a man as the incarnation. It is the real meaning of the name Immanuel.

   It should be understood, then, that Jesus is God in the flesh. There are many clear references in the New Testament to this fact. “I and the father are one”. “I come from my father and I must go back to my father”. The apostle Paul wrote “He is the image of the invisible God” and “In him the godhead dwelt fully.” I like the description given by one wise old man who said, “A chicken begets a chicken, a man begets a man, so God begets God…”

   Now it can be more easily understood why Jesus was able to say that he would offer himself a ransom for many. Or how he said he would endure a death by crucifixion in order to bring us out of our own deaths into a resurrected life. Being deity itself clothed in human flesh, Jesus was perfect in every way and not deserving of death in any way. Yet he surrendered himself up to death in order to pay a price for sins that would be an infinite price. As his life was of infinite value, so was the redeeming value of his death. And so it was that one day outside the walls of Jerusalem this savior went to pay the ultimate price for us all.

   If you are tripped up here by the old argument that “God cannot die”, as some are, then remember that Jesus said that anything was possible with God, and that Jesus represented God in his full perfection (as we would understand it) in the form of a man, so his death represented both the physical picture of what sin is and the penalty for it all. I cannot think of a more perfect and conclusive way for God to demonstrate it. The Bible says that “God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” This atonement is in perfect accordance with perfect God redeeming fallen sinners back to His perfect relationship. And because Christ could not be left in the grave, he was resurrected in the greatest miracle of all, having both his life restored and our promise of eternal life guaranteed in him.

   The application for everyone here is that in believing that we are all sinners through our own fault, we can be redeemed back to God by simply accepting our lost condition before a holy God, repenting of it, and asking for divine forgiveness. It is always granted and it is never lost again. There is no other redemption offered by God.

   Now there are a large number of different ways and means by which mankind has tried to get good with God aside from the person and sacrifice of Jesus. It has been the entire history of man that is filled with religions and cults and systems of bloodletting and sacrificing in other ways. None of them are effective because none of them are acceptable with God. Mind you, there are many good things in many other religions. I will not argue the point that such-and-such a religion has no merits and should be discarded entirely. But in all of the systems of worship and redemption, none but the Christian doctrine of salvation in Christ truly works, because none but the Christian way of receiving Jesus can make atonement to God for sin. It has been said that religion is man reaching up for God, and that Christianity is God reaching down to man. Man can never reach high enough, but surely God has stooped low enough for our sakes.

   This Christian salvation is all in the pattern of a great gift. Salvation is free to anyone who seeks, finds, repents, and asks for it. And because God has put it in the heart of everyone to seek after Him until they find Him, there is no excuse for not doing so. Furthermore, because a gift is of no value if it is not accepted as a gift and acknowledged as such, the unfortunate soul who refuses to accept it is condemned already, even though the price has been paid and the offer has been made. You cannot bypass the cross of Calvary because you cannot go around Christ and run to God with your own price, which more than likely is the ‘good works’ of your life. Your works and deeds may be of value and certainly they may please God in the earthly sense, but not in the eternal, heavenly sense.

   There is a day of accountability coming for each one of us. We will stand before a holy God and will be asked, as it were, why we should not be cast out of His sight for our sinfulness. If you dare say that you are not really a sinner, God will hold you up as a liar. If you say you have done pretty well and should be welcome, God will say that your good works are really just filth to Him, so out with you. And if you were to say that you are guilty but can He just let you in out of sheer mercy, He will say that the price is still to be paid. But if you say that you are guilty but that you have asked Jesus to pay your price in full because you hated your sins and loved God and repented of it all, then God will say, come forth and stay with Me. Because Jesus said “I am the way, the Truth and the life; nobody comes to the Father except through me.” Nobody.

   If the path to Truth leads in other directions, then truth is merely relative to the situation and flexible to the circumstances of the time. But God is absolute and unchanging for all time, and so is His truth. The remarkable thing about the Bible is that is addresses all of the human condition and it prefigured all of the problems and anticipated all of the questions. It has been upheld by all of the scholars who have delved into it and it has proven all of the sciences and been proven by them. It has never been successfully challenged by other systems and it still stands the test of time. It does so because it is God’s word. Heaven above and hell below will be populated by those who walk either the narrow path to Christ or the wider path to Satan. There are many other things that this marvelous book offers from the very mouth of God himself. But the greatest of them all is the person of Jesus, to whom the knees of the entire world will one day bend in supplication.

   The next time you hear about an evangelist or writer talking about “getting saved” or “turning your life over to Jesus” or “listening to the good news”, you might want to pay closer attention. There are many strands and brands of the Bible out there, but the book itself has not changed. It applies today because God controls all of history, not just some obscure past. History, after all, is His Story.