We Belong to God

Pastor Aaron Visser

Romans 12:1-2: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

As Christians, one of the things we tend to say is that we are called to offer ourselves as "living sacrifices." We spend a lot of time and energy talking about what this means exactly and how we go about doing it. 

However, rarely do we talk about to whom we are supposed to do it.

I think we conclude, incorrectly, that to offer ourselves means to subject ourselves to the abuse and mistreatment from others. We take the concept "love thy neighbor" and turn it into "let thy neighbor do whatever they want to us." What happens is we end up offering ourselves as living sacrifices not to God, but to other people. And while we are called to love others as God loves them, they are not worthy of our sacrifice. That status belongs to God alone.

Now, you may ask, "But didn't Jesus offer himself to us when he died on the cross?" That is a common misconception. While Jesus died on behalf of humanity, it is not to us that he made his sacrifice. Rather, he says to God "Unto you I commit my my spirit." He gives his life to God, to satisfy God's wrath, not ours.

Too often, we sacrifice ourselves to satisfy the wrath of others. We are controlled by them through manipulation, fear, or misplaced pity. And when we do this, we end up actually impeding the Kingdom work that God desires to do in us because we are not living for him, but for the approval of others. 
So go ahead, love each other as God loves us. Treat each other with respect. Live a life that honors the Imago Dei (Image of God) in each of us. But don't sacrifice your life to one another. Sacrifice your life to God alone.

So What Is So Important About Easter?

By: Pastor Aaron Visser

You may notice that during this time of year, as the flowers start budding and the temperature gets warmer, something else starts happening as well. You begin to see a lot of invites, flyers, Facebook events, and mailers advertising Easter Sunday services at your local church. While it isn’t quite as obtrusive as political campaigns, it’s close. It seems like every church everywhere is trying to convince you to attend their service. And if you didn’t grow up in the Christian Church, or if you haven’t set foot in a one in a long time, it may lead you to ask,

“What the heck is the big deal about Easter?”

It’s great question. For Christians, Easter is definitely a big deal. In fact, I would say it is the biggest deal. You may be annoyed by all the promotions for Easter services, and you may even assume that it is just a ploy to get you into a building so they can hit you up for money. And while (unfortunately) that may occasionally happen, the reality is that most churches are truly just interested in YOU.

You see, Easter is the biggest deal because Easter is when everything changed for us humans. Let me tell you the story. Christians believe that God created the world, and in doing so, he created us. Some people might argue over how this was done (evolution, creationism, etc.), but really those arguments aren’t that important. What IS important is that God created us, whatever method he chose, and that he LOVES US.

I mean, he really loves us. It’s crazy how much he loves us.

Unfortunately, we don’t love him back so well. And at some point, we turned our back on him and started focusing on ourselves. We got selfish and started chasing after what we wanted, instead of what God wanted for us. Christians call this sin. Basically, sin is thinking we are the most important thing in the world. Others might call this pride.

In our sin, we forgot about God, and that is when everything started going downhill. Death, war, disease, betrayal, the Green Bay Packers, all of these are result of sin (Okay, maybe not the Packers, but as a Bears fan I am a bit biased).

I am going to guess that this makes sense to you. You probably look at the world today and realize that there is a lot more wrong with it than there is right. And it always seems to come down to the same reason: Human pride.

 i.e., Sin.

But here is the thing: Even though we may have forgotten about God, he never forgot about us. Remember when I said he really loves us? I meant it. He realized that our sin was keeping us from him and his love, so he decided to show us just how much he loved us in a way which no one could deny. He sent himself in human form to live and die for us. All of us. And God in human form is whom we call Jesus.

You know Jesus, right? That guy in the flowing white robes, blue sash, and perfect hair? I’m sure you have seen the pictures. Except, that isn’t really what Jesus looked like. In fact, he was a simple Middle Eastern carpenter. However, we was also the greatest teacher, prophet, and human the world has ever seen. He said some crazy, yet amazing things like love your neighbor, feed the hungry, care of the poor, turn the other cheek, and even love your enemy. He also did some amazing things, like feed the hungry, care of the poor, cure diseases, and even brought people back from the dead.

In fact, the things he said and did were so amazing, so counter-cultural, that it made some people really angry. These people, as a rule, were the ones in power during that time. What Jesus was saying was threating the status quo, which, for them, was working out pretty well, even though most others suffered because of it.

So they hatched a plan, falsely accused Jesus, and had him put to death. He died, hanging on a cross, beaten, bloodied, and naked. Not exactly a death befitting of the greatest human who ever lived.

For a minute, those status quo people thought they won.

But they were wrong.  You see, dying was a part of the plan all along for God! Three days later, Jesus arose of the dead, freeing himself, and everyone else, form the shackles of death and sin! When Jesus came out of that tomb, he showed the world that anyone who joins him is just as free, no matter who they are or what they have done.

This is what Easter is all about.

Being a Christian means that we get to live free. Truly free. For us, death is an empty threat, because God has promised us that we will live with him eternally, just like Jesus. And if death is an empty threat, that means we get to live freely here on earth and join God as he seeks to establish his Kingdom here and now. This is a Kingdom that isn’t ruled by earthly rules and values like pride and selfishness, but rather by things like love, joy, mercy, compassion, and peace! It is a world in which there are no more wars, famines, hatred, betrayal or anything else that we know deep down in our hearts is wrong.

And this Kingdom is not something we have to wait for, but is available to us today! Right now! All we have to do is follow Jesus. This is what all those churches with their flyers, Facebook invites, and mailers want to tell you about. They want you to know that Jesus Christ is has risen and that you can be free of all the shackles of sin and pride.

 A man named John, who knew Jesus, put it best when he wrote:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).”

So, if this is something that interests you, pay attention to that next flyer and considering joining the millions of people this Sunday as we celebrate the freedom we have in Christ. Whether you join Lauren and me at our church community, or any other near you, we encourage you to check it out. We promise that if you let it, the experience will be life changing!