As a church, we've summarized our core beliefs and purpose into one phrase, beginning with the words LOVE GOD.
It's important to realize that "we love because he [God] first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Our love for each other and for God is a response to His love for us. Throughout Scripture, which is God's word to humanity (click here to see why we can trust the Bible), we can see the truth of God's love for His creation, which includes all people. At this point, you may be asking yourself one of these questions -
Click any of the links above to get specific answers to each question (more seeking and reading may be necessary, as they are complex topics), but suffice it to say that we can see the best evidence for God's love for His created people in that He sent Jesus, His only Son, to earth to be born as a human, live a perfect life without ever doing a single thing wrong (no, not even once), heal people of sickness, give blind men their sight, and perform many other wonders, only to be rewarded by being executed in one of the most brutal ways imaginable by the people He was healing and saving. This God allowed because He loved us, and was willing to pay the ultimate price of death to mend the broken relationship between humans and Himself. It was a terrible price to pay, but one that had to be paid (click here to see why Jesus had to die). God paid this price because He loved us, His creation, that much.
Therefore, we respond to God's love for us by loving Him in return. We worship God as Lord of our lives, which means treasuring Him above all other people and things (Philippians 3:7-10) repenting of (turning away from) our sin and anything that keeps us from God (Acts 2:38), singing and praising Him (Psalm 108:1-4), taking care of the poor (Matthew 25:31-40), showing compassion towards orphans and widows and the lonely (James 1:27), even loving and praying for those who hate us (Luke 6:27-36). In short, we love because He first loved us.
LIVE AS A FAMILY
Depending on what your home life was like growing up, or what it's like currently, the second part of our mission statement, LIVE AS A FAMILY, may or may not seem like a good thing.
The truth is, the more time you've spent with family the more you realize how messy things can get.
You fight. You get competitive. Jealousy happens. Anger happens, and can turn into bitterness. These are things common to many families.
At Visalia Naz, we acknowledge that close relationships can be hard to manage. It takes hard work not to run away from someone you're not getting along with! That's why when the desire to throw in the towel and give up on a difficult relationship comes, we remember the fact that God never gave up on us.
Paul, a Roman citizen who became a Jesus follower after being dramatically changed when he met Jesus for the first time, reminded his fellow Romans that "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, [Jesus] Christ died for us."
In other words we, God's people, have sinned, or rebelled, against our Creator. We do this every time we love other things more than God, whether it's our cars, our televisions, our money, our popularity, our families, or ourselves. The way Paul put it was "people worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). If we can be honest with ourselves, we can see that this is true. We have loved and chased after the good things God has made (food, drink, sex, etc.) in place of God himself. But God didn't quit on us! Instead He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for us (click here to see why Jesus had to die in our place), so that our relationship to Him could be repaired. He did this because He loved us.
So you see, even when we ran away from God, He didn't give up on us. Jesus proved His love for us by dying for us. And that's what gives us the courage and strength to press on into difficult relationships, loving others the way God has loved us. We don't do it perfectly, but we commit to following Jesus, by loving Him and loving each other like family, no matter how much we may want to give up.
While Jesus was alive here on earth He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” ( John 13:34-35).
GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES
The Naz wants me to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES. Does that mean I have to go to China?
We take this idea that Christians are expected to "go and make disciples" from a passage of the Bible called The Great Commission:
"Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).
At this point in time, Jesus had lived on earth, healed many people of diseases and sicknesses in miraculous ways, claimed that he was God, been crucified, buried, and had raised from the dead (click here if you doubt this is true).
So, if this is all true, that He himself was (and is) God and had he been raised from the dead, then we must pay attention to his words.
But, one may ask, was this command to "make disciples" for people today or just for those he was talking to on the mountain?
Read the passage above carefully. If those he was speaking to really did make disciples by teaching others to observe all that Jesus had commanded, wouldn't that include teaching others to make disciples? In other words, if Jesus said "make disciples" and then "teach others to do what I've told you to do", wouldn't you conclude that they were expected to teach others to make disciples? Of course, we see evidence that this is true over and over again throughout the Book of Acts in the Bible, where Jesus' disciples do exactly this by spreading the truth of Jesus' death and resurrection to all people, whereupon many people turn and do the same, as well as the Book of Romans, where Paul calls people to preach and teach the good news throughout the world (Romans 10:14-17).
So the question then is how. How do Christians make disciples?
Mark Denver of The Gospel Coalition articulated it well when he wrote that Christians must be ready to teach, correct, model, and love others with the words and message of Jesus. Essentially, making disciples means making followers. Followers do as the leader does, so followers of Jesus will do as Jesus did. Make sense? So to make disciples of Jesus, we must do as Jesus did and help others do the same.
Jesus talked about money (Matthew 6:19-21, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 16:13), heaven (Luke 23:39-43) hell (Luke 16:19-31, Mark 9:43), loving enemies (Matthew 5:43-46), and more, and ultimately died on the cross for our sake (2 Corinthians 5:15). We must read our Bibles not only so that we can understand what he taught and live like he did but so that we can help others to likewise. Living in love with Jesus, who He was and what He taught, is what humans were made for!
Jesus said "The thief's purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that [people] would have life, and have it to the fullest" (John 10:10). That's a message that must be shared with the world as we go and make disciples of Jesus Christ.