“The only proof of life after death is life before death.” -Erwin McManus
My father attended his first Cornerstone Easter play in 1998. Up ‘til that point, he was a self-professed Darwinian. The only thing my dad loved more than the scientific method was punching holes in religion anytime the subject came up at the house.
Needless to say, I was surprised when I saw him go back to church the weekend after Easter. After month straight, I’d had enough and mockingly called him out on his hypocrisy. “So, you’re going to church now?” Without missing a beat, he shut things down, “I like the music. The band is really good.” He had no intention of getting into a discussion at that moment, knowing that his words wouldn’t make much impact. His actions would have to prove what he was starting to believe.
As the months passed, I saw a metamorphosis in my father. His stern demeanor gave way to a warmth I hadn’t seen since I was a little boy. I remember seeing him show my mother more affection and patience than normal. Icy times of silence turned into humorous conversations filled with encouraging words from him. My curiosity was awakened and his consistency fueled my desire to explore what he was experiencing.
It just so happened that I was about to step into my own existential crisis. I’ve shared it before, but being told I was failing high school, discovering my girlfriend was cheating on me, and losing my friends made me very open to help. Having said that, if it were not for the real life changes I witnessed in my father, I wouldn’t have turned towards church. I was too cynical. But I couldn’t deny the impact my dad’s faith (though not overtly stated) was having on his life.
I still remember my first visit to Cornerstone. Pastor Terry spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” I don’t remember the sermon. I just remember the following words he shared, “if you are here and you want a second chance at life, Jesus wants to give you that chance. All you have to do is invite Him in and He will give you a new life.”
Those words echoed within me.
About four days later, I prayed and asked Jesus to give me that new life. I didn’t know if He was real or not, I didn’t know if God existed or not, I only felt that if it were true, then I would experience a new internal strength.
Well, my life didn’t change over night, I wasn’t visited by an angel, I didn’t hear a thundering voice from Heaven. I only sensed something very faint within me—small enough to be missed. It was the impression of being loved.
That impression grew into a voice that continues to speak life into my soul. A voice that restores me when I fail, keeps me moving forward when I’m afraid, and strengthens me when I feel weak. It is the voice that speaks courage into my heart. It is the Spirit of Jesus within me.
The Gospel doesn’t simply give us an invitation into Heaven or life eternal after we die. Jesus died on the cross and rose again so we could stop existing and start living.
“Man fully alive is the glory of God.” -Irenaeus