In Matthew 5:8 it says that “Blessed are the poor in heart, for they shall see God.” Visio Dei is Latin for seeing God. The framework of Visio Dei is established on these two great commandments:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
Ever attend church and have the feeling that you can’t relate to anyone? Our desire is to see honest relationships & transparency in the church. We hope that organic spiritual growth will develop as people in our surrounding neighborhoods become involved in establishing the foundation.
WHAT THE GOSPEL SAYS ABOUT US
WE HAVE FALLEN SHORT OF GOD’S STANDARD
The Gospel teaches that mankind, apart from God, is completely sinful. God had given his commands (do not lie, do not steal, honor your father and mother, etc.) and we all broke them. There is no such thing as a person who has perfectly obeyed God’s commands. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
That means that we are all lawbreakers. None of us can claim any measure of perfection. In fact, if our worst enemies could see us for who we really are they would dislike us even more. We have all violated the commands of God. Therefore we are cut off from God and are deserving of his eternal punishment. The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23
This is serious and frightening. God is a perfect judge. No judge would be considered good if he let criminals go without punishment. Neither could a good God allow us to go without paying for our wrongs.
Deep down, we all know this is true. We know we have fallen short of perfection and that there will be consequences. Our conscience is there to tell us that we have sinned and we greatly need to be cleansed.
WE CAN’T FIX THE SITUATION
People try any number of solutions to cleanse or deny their conscience. Some choose to ignore the nagging demands of their conscience by numbing themselves with the temporary thrills life can offer.
Some try religion to make themselves feel better about who they are on the inside. Jesus criticized these religious hypocrites by saying, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25
All of our attempted fixes come up short. In sober moments those who are chasing meaningless thrills realize how empty they are. The religious folks realize how phony they are. They are all still lacking a real solution.
The fact is, we are so broken and dead inside that we can’t solve this one on our own. No good works or efforts to turn our lives around produce deep change and the cleansing of a conscience. The Bible says, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
No amount of time that elapses can take away the guilt that we have for the wrongs we have done that have gone unpunished. The penalty must be paid eventually.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION? THE GOSPEL!
God is the only perfect Judge and He will make sure every sin is paid for. However he also loves His people and does not want to see them perish. So the Gospel is the solution! God became a man, Jesus Christ. He lived the only perfect life ever lived. Around age 30, he started publicly teaching. Three years later, he died on a cross to take the punishment from God on our behalf. To prove that his death had power and that it was the infinite sacrifice necessary to pay our debt, he rose three days later!
The Bible, which is God’s word to us, says, God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Belief is more than acknowledging him in our heads. It is a deep repentance, turning from our sin, and hanging our lives on Jesus. To use a poker analogy, it is moving all in” and betting it all on Him. If we never have this repentance, it proves that our faith was not real. also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:17-18
When we do trust in Him like that, we are cleansed. But the story doesn’t end there
LIVING OUR BELIEFS
We believe that, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” 2 Corinthians 5:17. When Jesus does forgive us and save us, he makes us new. He creates in us a new hunger for closeness with him, and a new desire to keep our consciences clean on a daily basis.
The fundamental truths of the Gospel are what shape all of our life. If we believe the Gospel message, it makes us:
Joyful Because our ultimate problem was solved and we have a God who has proven that he is for us! He is working all things together for our good, even when we can’t make sense of it all (Romans 8:28).
Humble We can’t think highly of ourselves for being righteous. Believing in the Gospel dissolves our self-righteousness and any judgmental attitudes toward those who have not yet been saved. It crushes any idea that we are better than other Christians who have different philosophies or methods than we have. Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Worshipful We express our joy in God in songs, prayer and in our daily living for him. We engage in activities that will increase our faith, like reading and studying the Bible, gathering for meals together, listening to Bible teaching, confessing sins to one another, (the list could go on forever).
Loving Because the cross shows the extent of God’s mercy toward us, we can extend a similar mercy to others by caring deeply for one another. On the cross, Jesus modeled love. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Blessings to others Because we have a God who has proven his desire to bless us, we give to our community, to one another, and to our church. We give, not because we are forced, not because we are manipulated, not because of false promises of wealth and prosperity, but because it is our joy. Jesus told his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8
LIVING OUR BELIEFS TOGETHER
Christians have an innate desire to meet with others who love God and have devoted themselves to following Jesus. The message of Jesus’ death for us shapes how we meet together:
Jesus-ruled Because we believe Jesus is alive and active, we believe that he rules the church. We make our decisions based on what the Bible says.
Biblical The Gospel says that, on our own, we can’t know God. He had to come to us to make Himself known. So we avoid teaching our own opinions and ideas, but rather we teach straight from the Bible so we can be confident that we’re hearing God’s word, not man’s opinions and hang-ups.
Committed We encourage those who attend our church to commit to be members. This helps us to be accountable to one another. It also helps our pastors know who they are responsible to pray for and care for.
Passionate Because we believe in a wonderful God who is active in our lives and has saved us, we try to react to Him appropriately. We want our worship and teaching to be passionate and authentic.
Missional There will always be people who come among who have not yet trusted in Jesus. Because we believe that He is the answer for them, we teach in a way that connects to our community, and we live in a way that brings people to Jesus. We also expect that many who have not yet trusted Jesus will never come to church, so we expect that our members will spend a great deal of time outside the church walls” loving and humbly speaking the message of Jesus to unbelievers.
Encouraging We know that Jesus is better and more satisfying than any sin. But sin can be deceptive and seductive. So we try to encourage one another to realign our eyes on Jesus and not become hardened by our sin. You’ll hear reminders to turn from sin and trust Jesus all the time at Visio Dei.
Casual Dressing up, for some, makes our meetings feel more like a ritual and a religion than a family. So we don’t require people to dress up as we meet together, though we wouldn’t tell you not to.
BRINGING THE ANSWER TO THE WORLD
Church Planting We believe that Jesus is the solution, and that He brings this message through his people. So we desire to strategically plant his people all over the region to become more churches that are Gospel-centered. We desire to put churches all over our region who are on Jesus’ mission.
Serving We believe in going out to the people in our towns and communities and laying down our lives for them as we teach them about Jesus. We will serve our towns in every way imaginable, in an effort to demonstrate the love of Christ so our words about him will make sense.
Mission We have been called by Jesus to take the message of his cross to the whole world. So we support church-planting in our country as well as foreign cultures.
Leadership In order to keep our church on mission, we have Pastors (or elders) who lead us. They are to be men with a love for God, good character, and who are able to hold on to and teach the truths of the Bible. Their primary role is to devote themselves to prayer and the bringing of God’s word to people (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 6:2). There are also deacons, men and women who serve the church in specific ways and free the pastors up to do their work.
A SIMPLE APPROACH
There are many good things Christians should be doing to impact the world around us. These can include forming programs to meet needs in a community (like helping the homeless), interest groups (like outdoor adventurers), sports teams, etc. There are businesses that could be started by Christians to meet needs, employ people in a rough economy, and set an example for how business should be done. There are thousands of needs that Christians could meet in a community.
Our hope is that our church members will meet many of those needs. However, if all of those needs are met as part of our weekly programs, we will quickly become bogged down. Our leadership will be spread too thin, nothing will be done well, and families will suffer as faithful people try to serve in as many ways as possible. Already busy lives will become cluttered and unfruitful.
So we will not be a program-heavy church. In fact, you might see that we have less on the calendar than most churches. We will stick to doing a few things well, while encouraging Christians to dream big ways to serve their communities and change the culture without church leadership and resources being drained.
So what will we encourage people to do on a regular basis? 3 things:
Attend Our Sunday morning services will be a time of worship, togetherness, meeting up to keep us from losing touch, and hearing from God’s word. Regular attendance at services will help keep you connected and focused on God. But services will not be enough.
Connect God has commanded people to love one another, pray for one another, know one another, encourage one another, and serve one another. These things can’t always happen in a meaningful way at a Sunday service. So we will encourage all of our members to be connected to a community group that meets regularly to fulfill these needs.
Serve We will encourage all of our people to find some way that they can be a blessing to the community, and to use the friendships formed there to tell people about Jesus. This could mean raking leaves for people on a weekend and inviting them to church. It could mean joining the PTA and helping the schools. It could mean volunteering at a community organization. It could mean starting a weight-lifting club for teens that meets at the YMCA. It may mean involvement in a new church plant. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might!” Ecclesiastes 9:10
We want our members to be everywhere in the region, doing good for people, and offering the life of Jesus to those they encounter along the way.
When John finished writing his Gospel, he said, Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25
Our prayer is that when we have pursued Jesus for decades, we’ll be able to look back and say the same thing about Jesus’ work in and through our churches. We want to tell the stories of how our lives and the lives of many others were shaped and transformed by the Gospel. We hope to one day be able to say, Now there are also many other things that Jesus did at Visio Dei and in Indian Land. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.