I hope that I’ll never forget a phone call I received several years ago on a Saturday morning.
“Fil, this is Eric’s mom. Can you tell me what happened to him? He’s not the same person!”
“I’m not certain I know what you’re referring to,” I replied.
“Ever since he came home from that camp, Eric’s been a different person. He’s so happy and pleasant to be around. Whatever happened, his dad and I are utterly amazed and we want to thank you.”
Eric was a typical high school junior. Most weekends he went out with his buddies, carousing. His grades were not a priority, his future was not something that concerned him, and he was a pain for his parents to endure. He was headed for a certain fall when he went to a Young Life camp with a bunch of his friends and me the summer before his senior year.
During that week at camp a “resurrection moment” occurred. Eric’s heart was seized by the power of a great affection when he recognized that Jesus loves him beyond his wildest dreams. Eric was astonished when he realized that nothing he ever did would cause Jesus to love him more. Equally amazing was the discovery that nothing he ever did would result in Jesus loving him less. Eric returned home believing that the love of Jesus is the most prevailing and magnificent force in the world: stronger than every rejection, every failure, every tragedy, every worry, and every hurt.
I’m convinced that until a resurrection moment occurs, until the unlimited, unbridled, and unrelenting love of God takes root in our life, until God’s reckless pursuit of us captures our imagination, until our head knowledge of God settles into our heart through pure grace, nothing really changes.
The love of God; that irrepressible force that resurrected Jesus from death and rolled back the stone that sealed his tomb, setting him free, is unlike any other love. And it’s not based on anything we do. If it was, and that “anything” somehow gave way, then wouldn’t His love disintegrate as well? Yet that’s the furthest thing from what could possibly happen. Nothing is stronger or deeper than His love. As 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love.”
This is the gospel truth: you are loved, perfectly, unconditionally, and fully! And don’t miss this fact: God not only loves the world; He loves you. Profoundly. He unconditionally accepts you. Jesus tells you to make yourself at home in His love, and that the only reason you will ever be able to love Him will be because He loved you first. When your feet are firmly planted in the ground of this truth and are bathed in His extravagant love, experiencing its breadth and length and height and depth, your life will change. A resurrection moment will occur and all your devotion to Him will flow out of this endless source!
The apostle John wrote this powerful declaration toward the end of his life: “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us” (I John 4:16). Possibly the most consequential question we’ll ever have to answer is this: can we declare this truth with absolute conviction? These words turn an abstract proposition into a personal relationship; they are the heart and soul of the Christian faith, and the fundamental decision of your life.
Being a Christian isn’t the result of a moral choice or belief in lofty ideals. It’s the aftermath of a resurrection moment that launches us into an ongoing encounter with a person—Jesus—who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Do you believe God and believe in the love He says He has for you? If you do, your life will be brilliantly marked by resurrection moments that echo the truth that Jesus is alive. He is alive indeed!
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How has God’s love resulted in a resurrection moment for you?
Where do you need God’s love in your life, right this moment, to become so deeply true and pervasive that it raises something in you from the dead?
Fil Anderson is Executive Director of Journey Resources, based in Greensboro, North Carolina. He’s a frequent speaker at conferences, offers individual spiritual direction, and directs retreats and workshops around the country. He's the author of two books, Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers and Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God.