Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last Saturday we posted Chapter 30: Love Like Jesus–Die Like Jesus. Love Like Jesus is due to be published later this year.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
How A Man Came Down From Mount St. Helens and was “Resurrected”
It was March of 1980. Mount St. Helens was showing signs of an imminent eruption. My friend and fellow firefighter Greg Folsom was curious about the volcanic activity. His jeep wasn’t running at the time, so he borrowed his father’s car and drove to the volcano in Washington. For months before the big eruption, there were earthquakes and steam venting from the North face of the mountain. USGS scientists felt it was too dangerous for the general public and convinced the local authorities to close the area. So when Greg arrived, a Skamania County Sheriff was there to greet him. He was denied entry into the park. But Greg knew the area. And the perimeter is so large it was impossible for law enforcement to cover it all. It wasn’t long before Greg found a way in. He parked and hiked to the timberline where he spent the night. During his time on the mountain he could feel the earthquakes and hear the mountain making popping noises. But he managed to survive.
However the next day, toward the end of his hike back down, as he approached his vehicle, he saw two law enforcement officers at his car. They let him know they weren’t happy with him for entering the park, but they didn’t arrest him. So Greg headed back to Oregon with just one stop to make on his way. He wanted to visit his grandmother in nearby Vancouver, Washington before continuing home.
When he arrived at his grandmother’s, he was surprised to find that she was anything but welcoming. She wouldn’t speak to him. She didn’t even want to look at him. She was startled and frightened. Greg asked her what the problem was but she ignored his inquiries. After about 40 minutes, she finally told him that he wasn’t alive, that he was a spirit. It wasn’t until much later Greg learned why his grandmother thought he was a ghost. The Skamania County Sheriff had reported his vehicle the day before his return. They contacted the owner, his father, and told him Greg had died in a mudslide caused by the volcano. For about one day, Greg’s family believed he was dead.
It took some time for Greg to convince his grandmother he was wasn’t a ghost, but living flesh and blood. To his grandmother and the rest of his family — he was resurrected.
After Jesus was resurrected, his disciples were also slow to believe he was living flesh and blood. The women who saw Jesus alive at his grave told them, but they didn’t believe. Then Cleopas and his friend who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus told the disciples he was alive. But they still wouldn’t believe. Finally, Jesus himself showed up in their midst, and they were startled and frightened, and they thought they saw a ghost. (Luke 24:1-35)
But Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:36-49)
This is the last chapter in a book about the different ways Jesus loved people, and how you can love like Jesus. But without connection to the resurrected Christ, your attempts to follow the wisdom in this book will fail. This book was written with the death of your former life in mind. And this book was written with your resurrection in mind too. The resurrection of yourself, to a new life, even as Jesus was resurrected.
In his book Imitating God in Christ, Jason B. Hood writes,
Believers normally think of resurrection as a hope for life beyond the grave. But resurrection life is not just relevant after death. Because believers are already united to and raised with the resurrected Messiah, they are participating in a new reality that radically changes their life before death even as it will one day change their life after death.
(Ephesians 2:6, Colossians 2:12)1
The only thing is, to experience what Hood is talking about, you have to connect with your resurrected savior. I’ve observed that a lot of people are like the weeds that grow in and among a fruit-bearing bush. They might look like they’re part of the bush. They might go to church. They might own a bible. They might profess to be Christian. But they’re not really connected with Jesus. I don’t know why they do things that make them look like they’re a part of the bush. Maybe they do those things because their wife wants them to, or to be with their friends, or because of cultural inertia. But it doesn’t matter if they do those things. What matters is the connection. Any plant entwined with the fruit-bearing vine that isn’t connected won’t bear fruit. Ultimately, those plants that aren’t connected will be tossed away and burned. Because you’re reading this book, I’m guessing you don’t fall into this category. (John 15:6)
The other group of people I’ve observed are Christians who are barely connected with their resurrected Savior. They’re like branches partially broken off, just hanging on by the skin. They’re believers but they don’t have a strong connection. They’re alive but not really flourishing. In my own life I’ve discovered what makes a difference is a strong connection to Jesus. I need to connect with Jesus in an intimate way to bear fruit. If I want to love like Jesus loved, I have to abide in the vine. I think that’s how it is for all of us. (John 15:1-5)
Nothing in this book about loving like Jesus will work without a strong connection with the living resurrected Christ.
So if you find yourself in that barely connected to the resurrected Savior category, repent.
Repent is a word that simply means to change direction. So change direction. Stop trying to live life apart from Him. Stop trying to hide from your God, turn around and seek to connect with Him in the most intimate and profound way possible. Do that and fruit will flow from your life.
Do that and His love will flow from your life.
Your connection with Christ is by far the most important part you play in your effort to love like Jesus.
In Jesus name.
“. . . apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jason B. Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing A Biblical Pattern, IVP Academic, 2013