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!

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.

Are You Bitter and Angry?

Are You Bitter and Angry?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

You know there are a whole lot of people out there that are bitter and angry. Can a person like this truly be a Christian? I submit that Peter tells us that if a person is this way then they may not be a Christian! A bold statement I know, but stick with me on these thoughts.

 (1:22) Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, (23) having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, (24) because

          “All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
(25)But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

(2:1)Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, (2) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
-1 Peter 1:22–2:3 (NKJV)

In verse twenty-two through twenty-five Peter doesn’t just stop at what we call the Gospel message, but goes on to write about how we should respond in the Christian life. Too often we forget the Gospel is about an individual, Jesus, what He did and what our response should be in order to walk the Christian life. Peter starts out by saying that Christians should be obedient to the message that saved them (That message being the good news of the Gospel. i.e. the giving your heart and life over to Jesus by inviting Him into your heart). Now they are to carry that obedience over into life. They are supposed to allow God to help them clean their lives, and walk according to the truth. Far too often this doesn’t happen.

In this passage Peter admonishes us to purify our hearts. How does one go about doing this? Is it something we must work toward? No. You were not saved by works but out of an outpouring of God’s Spirit. We are to reflect the image of God in our actions. If we try to clean our lives up, we fail. We cannot clean our lives up any more than we can fly without the aid of technology. It is about as useless as flapping our wings and hoping that we will someday fly. So how do we reflect God’s image? We do this by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our actions and motives. This sounds easy, but isn’t. It requires the daily reading of God’s Word, attempting to apply it life and praying until something happens (P.U.S.H). I am not talking about “warm fuzzies” that run up and down your spine. I am talking about the evidence that your life is changing because you are displaying love to others, out of a pure heart. This is the only way we can reflect Jesus accurately in our lives.

Peter reminds us in verse twenty-five that this is the message that has been preached and we should yield to the Holy Spirit to have our lives changed. He does this by reminding us of how quickly we fade away. We are born, live, and die; just like the grass of the field.

Now in Chapter two verse one, Peter starts this with the word we translate “therefore” meaning that what he is about to say references all that came before the following statement. Peter is about to say something that is important. Peter says that we should lay some things aside. This phrase “lay aside” carries the idea of taking off clothing. Peter is saying we should lay aside deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking. He says that if we are a Christian, like a newborn baby, we should desire the good milk of God’s Word and grow from it in our spirituality and conduct. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who won’t. They want to hold on to those things because they revel in them. The problem is, are these kinds of people truly Christians? Peter questions them. He says if you have tasted the grace of God, should you be acting like this? In other words, if you are acting like this then are you truly a Christian? This is a question that each one of us must answer as we move along in life.

So what must we do today? First we need to do a true spiritual inventory. We must sit and examine our lives to make sure we are growing and reflecting the image of God. How do we do this? We need to first get away from all distractions and ask God to show us two things (1) Are we truly a Christian because of the evidences in our lives? If not we need to surrender to God (2) Are we truly walking in love, getting rid of all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking. If these things are present then you seriously need to ask yourself if you are a Christian. A bitter person has these things on their lips and in their mouth. If any one of these rules your life to the point that you are bitter, you need to seriously ask yourself if you are a Christian. How about you today? Will you surrender to God and get these things out? Or will you just do the same things you have always done, getting the same results. The choice is up to you.

Which Side Are You on?

Which Side Are You on?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

There is a problem in Christendom! Christians/Churches are (generally speaking) split right down the middle of emotionalism and intellectualism. What do I mean by this? Some are interested in what they can learn, others are interested in what they can feel, but both are just going through the motions.

 

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
-2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
– John 4:24 (NKJV)

In our first scripture we are told to be diligent in the study of God’s Word. Yes we should! We definitely need to study God’s Word and apply it! I am not saying we shouldn’t. I am saying that there are entire churches so devoted to Bible Study that is all most of them will do; they won’t witness, they won’t minister, they won’t show up for anything at the church except for Bible study.

When music is being played in service you have to ask them to stand. They won’t worship God through music. They constantly use the excuse that the Bible is our authority, SOLO SCRIPTURA is their mantra (Solo Scriptura basically means that the authority of the Bible trumps all other authority)! They are right about the Bible and its authority, but they neglect the other parts of Christianity. They have become similar to the Pharisees! They study the Word so diligently but neglect Justice and Love. As Christ said to the Pharisees, I say to them, “You should do one and not neglect the other.”

What these people need is a little dose of the Holy Ghost (to borrow a cliché). They need to remember what it was like to have a passion for the indwelling presence of God in their lives! They need to let go and let God (to borrow yet another church cliché)! They need to be brought to their knees under the presence of God that makes them remember that God is powerful, loving, and personal. These people talk a talk about a personal God and remember fondly the presence of God from years gone by, but they need a fresh anointing (anointing, meaning the power and presence of God, it is a churchy word)! They need a fresh touch from God.

Now let us turn our attention to the churches that are all about feeling. These churches are exciting! There is a lot of feeling and passion in them. These people love Jesus and they are going to whoop and holler and let you know it! Their favorite verse tends to be our second verse. They say they are going to worship Him in SPIRIT! Yet they forget about the second part, TRUTH. One of the major problems with these churches is that they don’t want to hear about the history of the church, how we got the Bible, how theology is formed or any other thing. All they want to know is how God is going to bless THEM. These Christians also won’t show up for anything other than what they are going to feel. They aren’t against Bible study so much as they are really into experiencing God.

These people’s Christianity is often marked by drama and, to a lesser degree, selfishness. What these Christians need is more Bible and less emotions, less about them and more about Jesus! They need to learn what scripture tells them to do. They need to be about the Lord’s ministry and helping others.

So what is the result that both of these groups have in common? They both are weak on witnessing! They both believe they are doing things God’s way. The problem is that they are, for the most part, ineffective! You can tell by how many of these Christians/Churches are committed to telling other people about the good news of Jesus Christ! If Jesus is soooo good, why aren’t they sharing Him with others? The whooping and hollering crowd will point to their numbers, but those aren’t new Christians they are people from other churches. A lot of the time this crowd is just stealing sheep (another cliché, I know). The other crowd will point to their intellect and point to how many people they have taught, but how many are new converts (This is generally speaking, not every church ignores witnessing)?

Our God is a God of balance. Both of these types of Christians/Churches need to meet in the middle. We need both to truly serve God.  We need to remember the following passage of scripture. Some churches are so descent and in order, they order God out of the service and others are so wild, God wouldn’t join in anyway (yet another churchy cliché, I am on a role today)!

(26) How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (27) If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.( 28) But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. (29) Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. (30) But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. (31) For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. (32) And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. (33) For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
-1 Corinthians 14:26–33 (NKJV)

How about you today? Are you on one extreme or the other? Are you just going through the motions of either group, not being effective in your witness? Maybe you need to make it a matter of prayer. Maybe God wants you to be stable and well balanced. What do you think? I think this is one of those times when you need to sit down and do a true inventory of your spiritual life and make the changes that need to be made. The Choice is yours.

Man, You Are Ugly!

Man, You Are Ugly!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

In our lives as Christians we make lots of judgments about people, whether we know it or not. We should stop this behavior. Today we are exploring what the Bible says about Favoritism.

(2:1) My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (2) For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, (3) and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” (4) have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

(5) Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (6) But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? (7) Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

(8) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; (9) but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (10) For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
–James 2:1–10 (NKJV)

Today is all about clicks. It is about favoritism.  Favoritism seems to be a part of life and you see it wherever you go. The “haves” and the “have nots.” In business and in life we have come to expect it and have even come to accept the attitude. Unfortunately in our churches this shouldn’t be the case. Too many people in churches tend to play favorites.

James rails against this in our passage today. He says that this should NOT be the case. James uses two different people that couldn’t be more apart. He uses a rich man who dressed wonderfully in fine clothes (surely he will bring us a lot of money) and a beggar walks in as well. Now, the one with the better clothes (money) is given preferential treatment and the beggar is tolerated. James says in verse four that these Christians have become judges with evil thoughts! How to the point James is when he calls them out on this!

The interesting thing is that in verses five through seven James brings to their attention that the poor often live by faith more than the rich (they tend to trust in their money, not all rich folks but perhaps a majority?). He says they have dishonored the poor man!  Now during that time only the rich really dragged people into court. This still happens today, but more than likely the rich (i.e. money, popularity, clout) drag people before the court of public opinion. They can ruin your reputation in a heartbeat. I have seen this happen many times in our Christian circles and it shouldn’t be that way.

In verses eight through ten, James reiterates that if we show partiality to people we commit sin before God, because we aren’t showing love.

But most of you are saying that this doesn’t happen today. Really, are you sure? I would disagree. If someone walks into a traditional church without a suit or tie, then they get upset at that person! I have seen people talked bad about because they don’t have money, or because they used to be a drug addict or whatever the case may be. The argument usually goes, “I don’t want to be near _________ because _____ and they used to do ________. I know they say they are a Christians, but you know…” This is still the sin of showing favoritism folks. They aren’t a part of the click. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?”

How about you today? Is there a Christian brother or sister that you have judged? Then you need to do two things. (1) Apologize to God and (2) start getting to know that brother or sister. Maybe all they need is love and they will grow out of your mentoring them in Christ?  Maybe you just need to get rid of that pride and love of money/power/clout in your heart and start loving God and the people around you? What do you think?

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Most Christians Are in Essence an Atheist

Most Christians Are in Essence an Atheist

By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Many people run from place to place, and job-to-job going through the motions of life without having a purpose or a will to guide them. Christians are supposed to be fortunate enough to not worry about that. But this is not the case. Too many people that call themselves Christians don’t know enough about the Bible to apply any of its principles. This is a sad state of affairs! How defeating it is to say that you believe in God, but don’t know anything about God! This kind of individual is in essence an atheist (at least in their actions)! Why would I say that? Because they have no idea what they believe and have no idea how to make choices biblically, so their choices are dependent on the world’s ideas.

 

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
-James 4:6-10

 

Let us break this down. Verse six says God resists the proud but gives grace to the Humble. Those walking in humility are those who willingly submit to God in a pure heart, one who understands they are nothing without God. The proud are those that insist on doing things the way that seems best to them, those that don’t care about what God’s principles are about, much less try to make choices by them.

Verse seven is a command to submit to God. If we are doing things our own way we can’t hope to stand against the Devil’s ways, which lead to death (remember sin is fun for a season but it always ends in destruction). We are either doing nothing, or doing what the devil wants. Either way the devil is happy. Satan became proud and wanted to do things his own way. He made a choice to ignore what God had said, and you know what? This is exactly what you are doing when you ignore God’s Word and don’t know anything about it! To make right choices we need to know what God’s Word actually says.

Now in verse eight we are told that we should have fellowship with God through Scripture reading, study, application and prayer. This is the only way we can know what the principles in God’s Word are. The problem is that when most Christians do learn some principles they tend to not apply them because it would require CHANGES! Most so-called Christians don’t want change, even though it will improve their lives in the long run, because it might hurt, they may have to give something up! But James pulls no punches, he says to basically stop living contrary, make the changes, deal with the fallout, and be blessed by God in the long run!

Notice also in verse eight he calls Christians that won’t make the changes double-minded. The scripture says that a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways and should not think that he receives anything from God. A person who does not have their thoughts and motives pure will not receive what they ask for because they will do something selfish with what they have gotten and will mess their lives up even worse.

Verses nine and ten show us that we tend to become so busy about life that we forget, as did those whom James was writing to, to examine ourselves, how we think, act, and live, before God. Later in this book it is talked about the man who looked in the mirror and who saw what he looked like and went away and forgot what he saw, never fixing the problems that he saw. This is a sad individual for sure; someone who will look into God’s Word and not make the necessary changes. He lives just as the world does. He has no effect for Christianity and sits in a pew and makes no changes in his life. This person is an affront to God! Perhaps he shouldn’t come to church? Wow!! Why would I say that? Because these people are one of the ones giving Christianity a bad name, or worse no name.

The Bible speaks over and over about judging ourselves so that no one would have a need to judge us. In Hebrews 12:5-6 (NKJV) “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” If we do not correct our lives confess our sins, then what are you hear for? Why aren’t you doing what God asked you? The Bible says that if we don’t judge ourselves as Christians, God will judge us. When He does, it is tremendously much harder than it would have been had we repented and sought Him to change us, that is if we are truly Christians.

How about you? Will you make the Choices it takes to be who you say you are? Or will you just continue in your fake Christianity where you are out only for yourself and don’t truly care about anyone else. Where you give Christianity a bad name and turn people away from God instead of toward God. The Choice is yours, which will you make?