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!

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What is the Core of Christian Belief?

What is the Core of Christian Belief?
By: Rev. Joseph R. Kramer

16 “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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

-John 3:16–18 (NIV84)

I recently received an email with a whole list of questions. I have been wondering how best to respond. The reason is that all of the questions are in the form of one question with multiple parts. So I will attempt to answer them simply and concisely, as each question that was proposed you could literally write a doctoral thesis about.

Someone has asked what are the core beliefs amongst Christians?

What we have to remember when answering these questions is that Christians believe in an objective truth, not a subjective one that has been accepted by many in our world today. I could spend a lot of time talking about this subject, but suffice it to say that the statement that truth is subjective is an objective claim and there the statement falls apart. The Bible, and all of life, is based on an objective reality. We must come to this understanding first before we can answer what Christians believe.

So how do you answer this question simply? It is very hard! We must remember that there are issues that Christians disagree about and ones that are essential to our faith. The core of Christianity is summed up in the following statement, taken from the Apostles Creed (I updated it in modern English and updated it to be more accurate).

 

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son the second in the Trinity (God become man), our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, The Universal Church established by Jesus Himself, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN.

While this is a bit different than the Apostle Creed, I believe it is very accurate. That being said, we must keep in mind that a creed (while helpful) is not scripture but a guide to what our faith means. All of this (which I have modified above) is the core belief of a true Christian.

So the question is not what do Christians believe that make them Christians, but what have you done about Christ. He is not some figure that cannot be known, but is living and wants to have a relationship with everyone. This can only happen as one yields control of their lives to Christ and accepts Him as their personal Lord and Savior. We must believe John 3:16 in order to be seen as a Christian.

Out of this belief and the change that is wrought by the Holy Spirit does one’s life begin to line up with right living before God (Sanctification).

A good thought to ponder is the following, As a Christian I am not perfect, but am being perfected. Someone once said, “I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.”

How about you today? Have you had a life changing experience that can only be explained by the life changing work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in your life? If not why not? We aren’t promised tomorrow. Would you cry out to God to receive you as a son? If so it is simple, it is not about the words you say, but the cry of your heart. You can say a prayer like this; “Jesus I know I am a sinner and I know my sin separates me from you. Come into my heart and be my master and savior. Thank you Jesus, Amen.” Or, you could just say “Jesus come into my life!” Again, it is not about the words, but your heart.

I hope this has answered the most important question in your life. That is, what have I done about Jesus Christ? What have you done? Have submitted? The Choice is yours today.

Christian, Are You Sure You’re Living From a Pure Heart?

Christian, Are You Sure You’re Living From a Pure Heart?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

(13) “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

(14) “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before others,that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
-Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)


This is one of the most familiar passages in all of scripture, but it speaks to our Christian lives and how we should behave. This passage comes right after the Beatitudes. This speaks to a behavior that flows out of a life that has been changed by Christ (at least that is what it should be). Jesus ends with these words.

In verse thirteen Jesus says that the believers are salt. Now salt was common in Israel; a commodity that was used for many purposes. Meat that was sacrificed was often rubbed down with salt. Easton’s Bible Dictionary has a wonderful explanation on salt. Here is a taste/exert  (pun intended) of what it says.

  • A “covenant of salt” (Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5) was a covenant of perpetual obligation. New-born children were rubbed with salt (Ezek. 16:4). Disciples are likened unto salt, with reference to its cleansing and preserving uses (Matt. 5:13).

Jesus says that a believer who has lost their integrity and witness due to their not living out what God has put in them through the Holy Spirit is useless to His kingdom. This is a warning that as Christians, if we are not living the Christian lifestyle, we can actually hurt the cause of Christ and our witness means nothing because we aren’t living what we “preach.” This ought to put some fear in us that we should be careful how we live before God and before people that we might win some to Christ.

In verses fourteen through sixteen He likens us to a lamp and a city on a hill. In this illustration Jesus is reiterating what He said about the salt, only this time He reminds us that we should not hide ourselves away from the world, but should be the light of this dark world. We should show people that there is a way that leads to life, even in the midst of despair and darkness in our lives. God loves us so much that He made a way, so we should live like there is a way and share with others the good news of what God has done in our lives; the sacrifice that was brought to us through Christ Jesus.

How about you today? Where are you? Are you glorifying God with the way you live? If you do an honest inventory and find out that you are not, maybe you never came to Him for a life change in the first place. Won’t you come to Him and let Him change you for the better and make a new creation out of you (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” -2 Cor. 5:17-NIV). All it takes is a pure heart surrendered to the Lord. It is not about the words that you say, but the intent of your heart. Just say something like “Jesus I need you, come into my life.” It is about a heart change. What will you do today? The Choice is yours.

Christian, You Will Suffer

Christian, You Will Suffer
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

(1) You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2) And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (3) Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (4) No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (5) Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. (6) The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. (7) Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
-2 Timothy 2:1-7 (NIV)

In this letter we find Paul speaking as unto a son. He even calls him his son. The reason is because Timothy was more loyal than any of his other companions. He never left him and was mentored by Paul. So Paul nearing the end of his journey has written to Timothy to uplift him and remind him of what he should and shouldn’t be doing in the Lord.

In verse one Paul says to be strong in the grace that is in Jesus the Christ (Christ meaning the anointed one; the Greek version of the Hebrew word Messiah. The one all mankind has been waiting for.). The word that is used in this verse for grace means that God has bestowed on believers unmerited favor. However, in this verse the context here adds something a little more to the concept. The concept is that God bestows on believer the ability to walk the Christian life. It is because of God’s unmerited favor that He bestows on us power to walk the Christian life. Paul is telling Timothy to be strong in the favor that God has given him and walk the Christian life in Jesus’ empowerment to do so, not out of his own power but that which is bestowed by God. All believers are given this grace and it is up to us to allow God’s grace to work in our lives that we may be a strong witness to the world and live the overcoming life that is found in Jesus Christ.

In verse two Paul is reminding Timothy about his teachings (which we have in the New Testament) and the lifestyle that Paul has lived. He says to teach these things to reliable people, those who will not pervert the teachings of God but will transmit them reliably to others. Take notice that Paul says to give it to people who are qualified to teach. Why? Because someone who is unqualified will pervert the Gospel, make a mess of the teaching and will transmit error to others. We see this happening a lot today in Christendom. Too many people think they can teach when in fact they have not been taught. It is up to individuals to learn the truth and to be taught God’s Word in order to transmit it reliably to others. These people who transmit error tend to think they have some direct pipeline to God; as such they stand on their own. We do not stand alone, but we stand on the backs of those who have come before us, the backs of men like Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and A.W. Tozer (just to name a few of them). These men were touched by God’s Word and though they are not perfect they have profound insight into His Word.

In verse three Paul asks that Timothy would join with him in suffering. Often many Christians will desert their Christian posting due to suffering. Why? Because who wants to suffer! But Jesus bore the ultimate in suffering, who are we to think we should escape it? No my friends God has called us to be witnesses in the midst of suffering, not run from it but stand up under it through His grace.

In verses four through seven Paul tells Timothy some very important, albeit quick, points for the Christian life. He compares the Christian life to that of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. Paul does not go into great detail but tells Timothy to reflect on these things and he can pull out the truths of Paul’s illustrations. While we could spend A LOT of time looking through these I will simply pull out some quick things for this article. (1) The soldier doesn’t get sidetracked by the cares of everyday life, but carries out his duty. So must the Christian be like him. (2) The athlete does not circumvent the rules in order to win. The Christian must not seek a shortcut in order to win people to Christ. A Christian must not water God’s Word down and make it “seeker sensitive.” The Christian does not live by the motto, “It doesn’t matter how you play the game so long as you win.” The Christian is worried about his attitudes and behaviors before a dead world in order that some might accept Christ and walking in Life. (3) Just as the hard working farmer takes the first cut of the crops, so shall a Christian who works hard receive the spiritual blessings from God. A Christian who is busy about God’s work is always being blessed and touched by God’s hand in their life.

In verse seven Paul tells Timothy to Reflect on these things. So I tell you to reflect on these things. Are you running from what God has called you to do? Are you being sidetracked? Are trying to get the victors crown without submitting to God and living according to His Word? Are you working hard in doing whatever God has called you to do? These are all questions only you know the answer. Some will have to repent; others will have to commit to Christ more deeply. Where are you today? Will you do what God asks? The choice is yours.

Christian, Thou Art Decaying!

Christian, Thou Art Decaying!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Today, instead of a sermon I wanted to talk a little bit about how Christianity has NOT been a good steward of what God has given. If we want a culture that honors God, then we need to honor God in Christianity.

 

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
-Proverbs 24:3-4

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
-Proverbs 3:27-28

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
-1 Corinthians 4:2

 

On this Memorial Day weekend I don’t want to spend a tremendous time talking about stewardship, but I do want to give you a nugget of truth.

This country was founded on freedom to worship God! I don’t care what people say, that is the truth. Because we decided to found this country on Biblical principles God has blessed it tremendously! Unfortunately not everyone agreed and they began to change this country in a way that kicked God out of every area of life! So this mighty institution called the Church said to itself that this will pass and they did nothing! When prayer was ripped out of schools, and the Ten Commandments were ripped out of culture and the Church did NOTHING!

So now when we look at our culture we see one of decadence and decay. We no longer see God at the center of anything. You know what the sad part is? It is not the Church just did nothing about it, no they did something worse. The Church has decided to adopt the values of the world! What, you may be asking? Yes the Church has! Christians today don’t worship God in Spirit and IN TRUTH. Christians today can’t tell you about the Second Book of Hezekiah! Wait did I just write Hezekiah? Yes I did! I wonder how many of the “Christians” reading this didn’t even know that there is no Second Book of Hezekiah! I made it up. Why did I just do that? Hopefully to draw some people to the fact that the Bible amongst Christians isn’t that well-loved anymore! No Christians are too busy adopting the culture rather than studying God’s Word.

What other things have I seen that show that Christianity is falling away from God? Well, when a pastor says he is divorcing his wife because God told him to do that and take a new wife and he doesn’t lose his entire congregation and isn’t shamed out of ministry, something is wrong! When a Christian can visit a strip club on Saturday and get drunk and walk into church and teach Sunday school, something is wrong! When young people can live together without being married and still “serve” in church functions, something is wrong! When church splits happen and no one thinks they are wrong (read 1 Timothy chapter 1), something is wrong! When a minister can do as they please, and often does what is in their best interest rather than others, and no one call them out on it, something is wrong! Yes, something in Christianity stinks!

How did Christianity get here? Because the church stopped clinging to God and started to be “sensitive to the seeker.” Folks this ought not to be! Just do what the Bible says and forget the culture! Be a good steward of God’s Word and be a good steward of the things He blessed you with and you will see a change in Christianity and a change in the culture as a result.

What will you do today? The choice is yours.