Christians Can Be Awful to Those Who Don’t “Fit In”
The Church at Ephesus
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
(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
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.
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.
TOO Many Christians are Shallow in Their Beliefs
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority….
-2 Peter 2:1-10
Peter has just completed talking about the prophets in chapter one. He points out that there were false prophets back then as well. He is warning his readers that there are and will be false teachers in the church (universal). These individuals will, and have, introduced heresies into the church. His readers must be careful of these teachers.
In verse two Peter tells us the sad outcome for those Christians/people who follow these teachers. That is, people will be lead away by false teaching. But why? Because they do not actually study the Scriptures and are not rooted in its’ teaching, no they think they are alright, but they deceive themselves and thereby follow corrupt teachers who are deceiving others. By doing this they give the church (universal) a “black eye.”
False teaching often is mixed with truth. Many people then (and today) think they can pick out the truth from error, but such thinking is in itself error. Being around subtle false teaching spoils the whole teaching because it changes the meaning of what is written (i.e. improper application to an individuals life). False teaching very rarely starts outside of the Christian church. No, it usually originates within a fellowship and then evolves into blatant heresy; by the time anyone notices the false teacher usually has a following, and thereby splits the fellowship and creating their own based on heresy (a good example is false sects that call themselves Christians).
In verse three Peter tells us their character. He says they are greedy. In our Americanized culture we associate greed with financial greed, but this is not always the case. Greed can be more than for money. Many false teachers seek sexual pleasures, places of honor, money, and many other things. The point here is that these people are very self-centered and self-focused. The outcome, according to Peter, is that false teachers will exploit you. They will use you until there is nothing left (i.e. you are burned out). Peter has already pronounced false teacher’s judgment. He states that though they may seem to be getting away with their false teaching, in reality God’s judgment is hanging over their heads. When this judgment is metered out to them (either in this life or the life hereafter) we may be assured that it will happen.
Verses four through ten are Peter using examples from scripture to prove his point. Christians who have read the Old Testament will recognize these events. To the first-century Christian, who was mostly Jewish at the time of this writing, would definitely have understood these analogies as they were familiar with the Torah (Old Testament writings).
The angels that Peter speaks of in verse four are fallen angels. There is a passage in the Old Testament where angels left their abode in heaven and had “relations” with women (c.f. Genesis 6). Now there is a debate, albeit small, in the “church-world” about who these angels are. However, most Biblical evidence would seem to point to these angels who had “relations” with women.
Now Peter continues his thoughts on the judgment of some of the Old Testament history. He brings up the destruction of the world and Noah’s family being the only survivors (c.f. Gen 6); Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed and brought down (c.f. Gen 19:24-28).
In verse nine he concludes his final thoughts on God upholding the righteous and eventual punishment on the wicked. In verse ten he tells us that this kind of judgment is especially true for false teachers. This is because these teachers follow their corrupt and sinful nature, though they hide it in self-righteousness and piety, and despise the authority of God and those God has placed above them (i.e. The Apostles).
How about you today? Do you know enough of God’s Scripture to know if something is false? The Bible says we are supposed to study the scriptures diligently. It isn’t addressed to just clergy, but to everyone. Will you come and allow God to deepen your walk today? or will you stay in the shallow end of the pool and possibly be deceived and hurt due to false teachers? The choice is yours.
A while ago I did an article about different Bible software. I skipped one that used to be, in my opinion, “not so great.” I have re-examined this software and have changed my mind.
OLIVE TREE BIBLE STUDY SOFTWARE
My last experience with this company was back in the PALM OS days (for those of us that remember). Since that time they have definitely made great strides.
Their apps are available for MAC/Windows/iPad/iPhone/Android
They have sync ability between devices and backups of your books. You can tag and have annotations in your material, Search features and highlighting.
From Their Website
Helping over 2 million people connect with God
“Olive Tree BibleReader is my default mobile Bible. I use it for devotions every day, usually from my iPad… The split window lets me keep a Greek and Hebrew window open as I read, and the pop-up lexicons fill in the gaps in my memory. The copy-and-paste features let me copy and paste easily to Twitter if I want to create a tweet out of something moving from my devotions.”
“Never before has the Bible been so easily accessible. Go there over and over again through the day. It is the voice of God.”
“I’ve just been in a warm cafe looking out over the Mediterranean, reading BibleReader 5. Actually, marveling more than reading.”
“While there, I emailed friends saying that the world had just changed. Bible-study-wise, there was the world before BibleReader 5 and the world after BibleReader 5. This software is the stuff we dream of, on a phone, in my pocket.”
“I have appreciated OliveTree daily as I read my devotions in the thru the Bible in a year program. I have used it for the McCheyne reading program and the simple thru the bible program. I also use it when I am sitting in church taking notes listening to a Bible Study. Being able to add notes through the Bible having the Bible commentaries right along side the Bible is great for study.”
“Using BibleReader 5 with iPad for sermon prep has allowed me to spend far less time tied to my PC, and more time with my family. Thank you. 9 years using @OliveTreeBible and its always improving. Now w/ BR5 and iPad, its my primary Bible software.”
A Video Review on Olive Tree Bible Software
This was not done by me, but give a good feel for the app on iPad. The Android version is very similar, just with an Android style.
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[a] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
-2 Peter 1: 12 – 21