Christians, Holy?

sad lady
“When was the last time you felt you were holy, set apart and faithful?”

 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:”
~Ephesians 1:1 NKJV~

In verse one we find that Paul (formerly Saul) is laying out his testimony to the Ephesians. He is reminding them who he is and how he was called by God. This establishes his authority as an Apostle (Find out more in Acts 9).

He tells us he was called not by man or by anyone else other than the will of God. It is not by our will that we become ministers of God. God is the one who calls and prepares His people to do the work of ministry, whether that is vocational ministry or lay ministry (ministry coming from christians who are not called by God to vocational ministry).

Paul then uses the word that we translate as “saints.” There is much misunderstanding about what saints are in our culture today. Saints are not the people the Catholic Church calls saints. The word in Greek means the Holy ones, those set apart to God. That means all Christians. But some would say that they don’t feel holy or set apart. To make matters worse Paul also describes them as faithful. When was the last time you felt you were holy, set apart and faithful? If you are honest your answer should be in the negative category. But the key to this verse comes with the words “in Christ Jesus”.

Jesus is God made flesh. It is only in his taking of our sins upon himself (imputation) at the cross that we can be seen as holy (Penal Substitutionary Work).He paid your debt to that He did not owe, so that you may be seen as holy, set apart and faithful. A saint before God. Only in/through Jesus and his work are you seen this way. You can’t work to gain or keep your salvation. It is by Christ alone, in faith alone.

Through Jesus we can rejoice that we are His separated ones. This verse should not be taken negative, but joyous! We are saved and set free from sin and alive, set apart, holy and faithful due to the work of Jesus at the cross!

Get Rid of the “Churchy” Gimmicks and Get a Revelation of God
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

(8) The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

(9) He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

(10) He does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

(11) For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

(12) as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

(13) As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
-Psalm 103:8-13 (NIV)

(21) So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (22) For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; (23) but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. (24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (25) Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
-Romans 7:21-25 (NIV)

If we get a revelation of how much we have been forgiven then we can say with our whole being as Paul did, “Oh wretched man that I am.” But this revelation does not come to us on our own, but must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. This Christian life makes no sense to the unbeliever. This concept makes no sense until it is experienced by the individual. When a Christian draws closer, and closer to God and sees just how wretched they are, then they will lament as Paul did, “Oh Wretched man that I am!”

 

Christianity is not meant to be some set of rules and regulations, but a revelation that is lived out in our lives by the power of God. How do we manifest the life that has been deposited by God in our beings? We must draw close to God. (“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:8 – NIV). Drawing close to God is about a relationship (Again, this is a concept that unbelievers cannot understand until they experience it.). We draw near to Him by spending time with Him, through His word and prayer. For the person who has a relationship with God these are not static experiences, but experiences that the believer is changed. Through these experiences there is a sense of peace and drawing near to a Holy and loving God (Yet another thing that an unbeliever will not experience until they become a believer and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.) In our culture we just want to jump from one “mountain top experience” to another. These are great, but they do not produce change. Only through Study and prayer is one drawing near to God, and be changed thereby. Study and prayer is the only way to become like Him.

 

Through drawing near to God we begin to manifest His attributes in our lives, albeit dimly at first and then more brightly. We are like the moon reflecting the sun, we manifest God’s attributes, even at our best, very dimly. This is not done by sheer will, but by a relationship with a Holy, loving and powerful God.

 

Christianity is the only religion that does not depend on pure will to reach some kind of reward in the hereafter. This is the only religion in the world that says, “Come as you are and Let God do the changing of your life. He will forgive and cleanse you; not because of your will, but because He loves you.”

 

Now some people won’t even initially come to God because of the so-called “hypocrites in the church.” I like to say that just because the messenger is a mess, doesn’t mean the message is any less valid. The message is important. Now the messenger may have to do some “drawing near to God” to get their life cleaned up a bit, but the message is still valid.

 

When the church (universally speaking) gets a true sense of what God has done and draws near to Him and sees how wretched they are, only then will people come to Christ in droves. This simple message, amongst all the “Christian gimmicks,” has been lost in modern day Christianity. When we get back to just drawing near to God, then people’s lives (believers and unbelievers alike) will be changed forever.

How about you today Christian? When was the last time you drew near to God and began to reflect His “Resplendent Glory”? If it has been a while then take this time to get on your knees (spiritually, showing humility) and ask God to forgive you and cleanse you so that you can reflect His light to a lost and dying world. The Choice is yours.

What Does a Wise Person Look Like?

What Does a Wise Person Look Like?

By: Rev. Joseph R. Kramer

15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

-James 3:15ff (NIV)

19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

-1 Corinthians 1:19ff (NIV)

The scriptures are replete with words of wisdom and talking about wisdom. However, I just want to focus on these two passages. First lets us get a definition of wisdom.

What does wisdom look like in action?wise 1

  1. having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement.
  2.  (wise to) informal aware of, especially so as to know how to act.

■ verb (wise up) informal become alert or aware.[1]

When we think of a wise man what is the first image that comes to your mind? For most people it is an image of some old monk with a long white beard sitting in a lotus position giving out words of wisdom that will change people’s lives. This image is WRONG.

We must remember that there are really two kinds of wisdom that the Bible speaks about. The first is “Worldly Wisdom” (i.e. wisdom not given by God) and the second is “Godly Wisdom.”

Worldly Wisdom

We do have to recognize that worldly wisdom is of some value. Time and experience is a teacher. However, we must recognize that worldly wisdom is often wrong. Why? Because God has set into motion principles in His word that run contrary to worldly wisdom. The New Bible Dictionary says, “Worldly wisdom is based on intuition and experience without revelation, and thus has severe limitations.[2]” Proverbs 14:12(NIV84) puts it this way; “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Godly Wisdom

What is Godly Wisdom? James gives us a definition of “Godly Wisdom” in James3:17 (NIV84) “17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

James gives us some characteristics of what wisdom in action looks like. He says it is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, has good fruit, impartial and sincere. Notice that all of the actions listed are not aggressive. But they show love and mercy.

Warren Wiersbe puts wisdom like this.

The wise person uses gentleness and persuasion with patience; he or she does not threaten or accuse. “Easy to be intreated” (v. 17) suggests a willingness to yield, or to be reasonable. Wise people are full of mercy, not quick to judge or condemn; their lives are full of good fruits. There is no wavering (“partiality,” 1:6 and 2:4); though they are willing to yield, they are not willing to compromise with the truth. Finally, true wisdom will not allow for hypocrisy; the truth is spoken and is backed with a true motive.[3]Conclusion

With this in mind we must remember how we respond to situations and circumstances is up to us. Will we respond out of God’s wisdom or out of worldly wisdom? When you are about to respond to a situation do you do it with the characteristics that James shows us here?

When responding to any situation or circumstance we know that we can seek God and He will give us wisdom. How does He do this? He does this through the Bible. If we don’t study the scripture, bathed in prayer, how in the world do we think we will respond properly? How about you today? Are you purposefully seeking God about situations and circumstances or are you trying to handle problems in your own strength. The choice is yours.

 

 

[1] Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[2] Hubbard, D. A. (1996). Wisdom. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman, Ed.) (3rd ed.) (1244). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (729). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Sometimes, Christians Need to Be Quiet!

Sometimes, Christians Need to Be Quiet!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

So it has been a long time since I wrote anything. Mainly because life has been very demanding over the past couple of months. My wife’s dad died, I got a new job (YEAH!), and I started volunteering to do some Sunday School Directing (God is really moving amongst our 35+ teachers!).

So here we are. I don’t have a lot to write today, just some thoughts about churches in general.

3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

-James 3:1-12 (NIV)

 

Now this is specifically talking to people who teach/preach God’s word. However, we can all receive some direction here. As I think about everything that goes on in churches, I wonder how much time our leaders spend putting out fires? By fires I mean gossip and “wrong words.” These are the kind of words that should never, ever be spoken. However, our church leaders spend a ton of time, that should be doing God’s work, trying to make church members get along with one another, trying to “hold the boat together.”

In the first century this terminology about fire (verse 6) would have been widely known and understood. You see these people had braziers (fires) in their homes for cooking, warming, and light. Now if they were to open a window and a breeze came in, it could be a very bad thing indeed. The fire from a small spark could spread and burn the home, and everything in it, down. This could happen due to the fact that most things were made of flammable materials (i.e. Wood). The problem with a fire during this time is that it was almost impossible to stop in that day, and could easily spread and hurt people, as well as damage property.

James uses this understanding to communicate to us what the untamable tongue can do to a body of believers. How many times have we seen splits from churches over someone who can’t keep their mouth shut? This is an insult to God. We are to tame our tongues and make sure we are doing God’s work and not our own.

How about you today? Are you guilty of this? If so, then it is time to repent! Do you know someone guilty of this? Maybe they don’t even know they are doing it, let them know (in love!) so that they can be restored to a proper fellowship with God and their fellow believers. The choice is yours.

Christians Can Be Awful to Those Who Don’t “Fit In”: The Church at Ephesus

Christians Can Be Awful to Those Who Don’t “Fit In”
The Church at Ephesus
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Bowl Picture

(1) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. (2) “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (3) I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. (4) But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (6) Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (7) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
-Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV)

I thought that we might start looking at the churches in the book of Revelation to see how they would relate to us in our day. I am thinking of doing one church per article and doing a small series of them.

When we come to verse one it says “to the angel of the church in Ephesus…”. The original word used here is Angelos, which is used throughout the rest of the book in relation to supernatural angelic beings, not human pastors or human messengers. If we are to be true to the context of the book it must be interpreted to mean angels. it says He walks amongst the golden lampstands. These are representative of the churches in the cities to which John is writing.

Now Ephesus was a large metropolitan city. It was a wealthy city of trade and was a place that had many religious movements and great temples to multiple false gods. We must keep this in mind as we read what John is writing.

God commends them in verse two for their works and patience, their endurance in hard times and their weighing of evil people, false religions, and false prophets in their midst. He continues His commending in verse three by saying they are patiently holding up Christ’s name and have not grown weary in their diligence to test doctrine and their love of the Truth.

However, we now come to verse four where there is a grievance against this church. They have lost their first love. Some have interpreted this to mean they lost their love for Christ. While I can’t be dogmatic about this, I would respectfully disagree. To me it seems they still loved Christ, because of the way they defended the truth, but they may have lost their love for the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ, so I submit to you that they may have lost their love for one another. They may be like some of the churches today who have gossip in them, who have cliques in them; they may have started to divide amongst themselves.

How many churches are dogmatic about their doctrine? Who cling to the truth, who love God and His Word? These churches tend to be quite good on their teaching, but the churches are marked with DRAMA. There is so much contention, gossip and vying for power that people get hurt and the body of Christ suffers. In this kind of situation the “little people,” the people of the church get hurt.

In verse five it talks about what the people of Ephesus need do in order to get right before God. He says they need to repent, to stop being the way they are and to do what is right. The judgment on them is that if they do not, they will be removed; meaning the church will not survive.

In verse six he talks about a group named the Nicolaitans. Most scholars believe that this goes back to one of the original deacons. This deacon was named Nicholas. According to tradition, Nicholas left sound doctrine and started teaching that Christians can do whatever they want because of the Grace that has been bestowed on believers. He encouraged people to sin in many ways, but primarily sexually, stating that God’s grace will cover it. When it comes to this kind of teaching the Apostles rebuked it, especially Paul when he wrote the following in Romans chapter six verses one through four (ESV).

(6) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (3) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Ephesus was one of the churches that hated this teaching. Unfortunately many Christians were led astray by this teaching. Which is why, so i think, it is condemned by name in this book.

Verse seven is one of those verses that can be interpreted in many different ways. That being said, I do not believe that it has anything to do with one’s salvation. Remember that this is talking about the entire church in the city of Ephesus. It is talking about this church surviving and thriving for God. This verse says that they must overcome their shortcomings in order to please God and thereby doing they will prosper before a Holy God. God would bless them, but if they did not overcome, then God would dissolve the church in that city.

Now how does this apply to you and I personally? Let me ask you a question, when it comes to gossip, cliques and causing people who “are not the right kind of people” to leave the church what part in that do you play? Many churches have their doctrine right, but they have no love, even if they say they do, and the end up doing more harm than good. Many churches (Christians) like this just have a mean spirit in them toward people “who don’t fit in.” This is not right and God does not like it. What will you do? Will you repent? Will you continue in this despicable behavior? The choice is yours.

God’s Judgment Starts with You

God’s Judgment Starts with You
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
-Hebrews 12:4-12 (NIV)

This is an interesting line of text. I do not want to spend too much time on this as it pretty much is self explanatory, but when I read this I ask myself, “How does God do discipline?”

Verse seven is a key. It says through hardship. How is a diamond formed? Through pressure and hardship. This is how God forms us. We get into situations where God can use them to mold us into the diamond that we are supposed to be, not just some lump of coal.

However, we must be careful. What do you mean? What I mean is that if we don’t submit to His working in our lives then He will do one of two things with us. (1) He will “shelve” us or, (2) if we don’t submit and actually stay in sin, He may take us out of the world. Why? Because He has no more use for us here due to our stubborn and hard hearts.

Where do I get this understanding? This comes from Hebrews Chapter six itself (verses four through twelve specifically), which reads (NIV).

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened,who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

I previously wrote about this portion of scripture in my book “Hebrews and You: A beginner’s Guide to the Book of Hebrews.” The following is an excerpt:

Here we find Christians who have hardened their hearts against God. Yes, a born again saved individual can harden their heart toward God. This text speaks of reward not salvation. A Christian can harden so much they will not repent of their disobedience toward God and at the final judgment they will make it into heaven, but with little to no rewards. This hardness will be burned out of them at judgment, but they will be saved as by fire. The writer then says that he is convinced of better things for these believers, but leaves them with a warning to not become sluggish in their relationship and work toward Christ.

Something that should be noted about verse 6 is that many people have claimed this speaks of salvation, but many scholars (most notably M.R. DeHaan) believe that this particular verse is alluding to what has been dubbed “the sin that leads to death.” The writer of Hebrews will cover this in more depth [later]…

So the question is asked, “What do I do with this information?” Simple, we are human we make mistakes. Our job is to submit to God and judge ourselves so that there is no need for His judgment to come upon us. However, we are human and we don’t always follow that advice, so when God’s chastening does happen we must try to submit to it and let God make us into the individual that He would have us be in order that we may be of use to Him in the future. My prayer is that the talents that God has given us don’t take us, where our character is not ready to go. What will you do today? Will you submit to God? Or will you “buck” against Him? The Choice is yours.

Christians Must Straighten Up

14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words;  it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” -2 Timothy 2:14-19 (NIV 1984)

First let me apologize for not having anything at all  up for a while. Work has been very hectic. The good news is that many people still visit the archives! Which is great. Today will not be a long teaching or something that is too hard to grasp. Just some things that I have noticed.

People love to quote verse fifteen saying they are studying God’s Word faithfully! However, they forget the concept of context. They forget that verse fourteen which says to avoid quarreling words, i.e. Starting arguments. Arguing with people is never a Christian thing to engage in. All it does is ruin your witness to others. Unfortunately, too many in Christendom engage is this detestable behavior.

Verse fifteen in context means to stay away from the previous things (and what is listed in the following verses), live the Christian life and study God’s Word.

Verses sixteen and seventeen tells Christians to stay away from Gossip and those who indulge in it. It says their teachings will spread like gangrene and just like a leg that is infected and must be cut off, so must these people from our lives. They will lead Christians to ruin and “DRAMA.”

Verse eighteen targets a specific teaching that some believed the resurrection has already happened (which it hasn’t). This was a heretical teaching that was spreading amongst early Christians.

Verse nineteen tells us what real Christ Followers will look like. They are truly God’s children and they will turn away from wickedness. They will not engage in “DRAMA,” gossip, Godless talk and the like. They will turn away from these things to follow Christ and His teachings.

Too many “Christians” are in churches spreading gossip, false teaching, and evil throughout it and the only recourse is for us to cut these people out of our lives, like we would an infected limb on our bodies that has been infected by gangrene; because if we don’t do this, we will end up dying spiritually and falling into their trap.

How about you today? Have you fallen into this trap? If so it is time to repent, and your repentance must be as public as your sin was. If it is gossip it is time to stand up before people and repent. If it is evil teaching or talk, you must do the same. Will you have the spiritual fortitude to do so? The choice is yours.