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!

Don’t be MEAN!

Don’t be MEAN!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Christians are supposed to kind hearted and tender toward one another. When someone has done wrong to us we are not supposed to repay them in kind. No, we are supposed to be above that kind of behavior. The Apostle Peter in our passage reminds us of how we are to treat one another, not as the world treats people but as God would have you to treat each other. How? Seeking forgiveness when we are wrong and pursuing peace amongst ourselves (believers).

 

(8) Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (10) For

“He who would love life

And see good days,

Let him refrain his tongue from evil,

And his lips from speaking deceit.

(11) Let him turn away from evil and do good;

Let him seek peace and pursue it.

(12) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

And His ears are open to their prayers;

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
-1 Peter 3:8-12 (NKJV)

 

In verse eight Peter is tying up everything he has said before (see previous) about submitting to authority. He is bringing his thoughts to a close on the subject of submission so he starts by saying ‘finally’ (depending on your translation, some say ‘in conclusion’ or ‘to sum up’).

He is addressing the whole Christian community. He gives them some commands on how they should behave toward one another. He tells them to be of one mind. This does not mean that they will not disagree on certain things that are not central to the Christian faith (i.e. peripheral issues). That will happen, but how should we treat one another? He says to have compassion and love toward one another and be tenderhearted toward each other. Too often when people disagree they tend to be evil toward one another, God tells us to not behave that way and to act the opposite way.

In verse nine Peter continues this sentiment with reminding them that while they are suffering persecution they should not repay evil with evil, but endure it as Christ endured suffering on our behalf. We are told that Christians are called to behave differently than the world behaves. Even in the midst of trials Christians must continue to behave as Jesus did, in love. We know that at the end of this present time that there is inheritance that awaits us in Christ, in heaven.

Verses ten through twelve is actually a quote from Psalm thirty-four. In this quotation there are three specific behaviors we are told to practice. (1) We must keep ourselves from speaking any kind of evil, which includes lying and gossiping. (2) We must run away from practicing and being a part of anything evil. (3) We must be peacemakers, in Christ. This does not mean peace at any cost, we cannot compromise our Christian faith and witness; but it means to keep ourselves from pointless and fruitless actions and activities that will only enrage and inflame passions that need not be stirred.  Also in these verses there are three reasons as to why a believer should keep the previous three commands. (1) The Lord takes a notice of our actions and is pleased when we honor Him. (2) The Lord hears the Christian and is intimately interested in us. (3) The Lord is against those who are wicked and is our protector.  Just remember that the last three things are conditional on the first three things. Keep in mind that chapter two verse twenty says that is not commendable to receive punishment for some evil that we have committed (been a part of), but only if we are punished unjustly. Therefore, the promises of the last three only apply to those who are practicing the first three.

How are you today? Have you repaid someone who has been evil to you, with evil? Have you not been living out of a pure heart and tenderness toward those whom you call brothers and sisters? Then you should repent and attempt to make things right. I know I can hear it now, “But Brother Joe you don’t know what they did to me!” Listen I have been around church people for over twenty five years and have been in the ministry, in some kind of way, for ten years. I know how “Christians” can be. I know the church is the only army that shoots its’ wounded (pardon the old analogy that has been in churches for years).  You know what I also know? That God has called us to act and react better. He has called us to make amends where we can and forgive in our hearts. Won’t you do that today? Won’t you do the three things that Peter says and receive the three blessings that God gives? Remember that bitterness can grow and it will turn into a cancer that will harm your soul! The Choice is yours today. Let God work in you anew.

Don’t Let Your Past Dictate Your Future!

Don’t Let Your Past Dictate Your Future!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Far too often people don’t own up to their own actions about a given situation. Far too often they let people and happenings from their past dictate their future! Will you be one of those? Or will you move on with YOUR LIFE.

 

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
– 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NKJV)

You know Christians often complain about the circumstances they find themselves in and we have all been guilty of it at some point. The problem is that with this culture we forget that it is not the circumstances that brought us here but how we respond in them as to how we will be judged by God.

Too often Christians want to be liked so much (by their peers/other Christians) that they compromise and play the political games of their circle of influence. A lot of them end up being puppets for whoever the “alpha-dog” is in the group. They are too scared to stand up for what they know is right, honest, and true, even though the Bible tells them to focus on those things. Why are they scared? Because they are afraid they will lose what little influence they currently have within the group (Note: By group I mean any group or click. It could even be where you work, if they claim to be a Christian place of employment)! The sad part is that this is the mentality and actions of the unbeliever, the un-churched! This is transplanted in a place where love should reign supreme, Christianity.

Now there is a catch with this! Some people think they are standing for truth when they aren’t. They don’t follow scripture, because they don’t know scripture! A Christian should stand for what is explicitly written as right and wrong in the Word of God, not fringe/peripheral issues. A Christian should call a spade a spade from God’s Word. If there is no repentance and the politics get played, let the chips fall where they may. Remember to stand up means that a lot of times you are going to get bitten by the “alpha-dog.” When that happens you are supposed to trust in God and no one else.

Look at Elijah. He did wonderful acts for God and called down fire from heaven! But where did he end up? He found himself in a cave all by himself. Why? Because he was running for his life, and when God protected him did he thank God? No! He whined and complained about being in that cave and that he was the only one left in Israel who truly worships God! So God reminds him of all that He has brought Elijah through and tells him there are seven thousand people in Israel who have not abandoned God. Far too often Christians who have been wronged by God’s “people” end up blaming God, even though they stood up for what is right. You know what? God has not forgotten you Christian He is right there and if you listen He will tell you that you need to get busy serving Him no matter what situation you find yourself. Remember God is bigger than you circumstances.

God knows where you have been and where you are going. Just let Him work all things out for you. Also remember to take responsibility for your own actions in any given situation, because more than likely you have some blame in the situation as well. God cares more about how you act than about how you were acted against.

How about you today? Are you blaming someone else entirely for some kind of situation in your life? Then stop and REPENT! Are you looking up and whining about a situation to God? Then stop and REPENT! It is time to move on in God and get your hands to the plow and start working for Him again! Will you be dragged down and turned bitter against someone? Or will you REPENT of your actions before a loving God and let Him deal with the past, while you move on with what God has for you? The Choice is yours.

Why is There Evil?

Why is There Evil?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This is an interesting topic that comes up time and again, so let us ponder it today. Evil is something that most people haven’t really defined. Oh we will say something is evil and have an example of evil, but to truly define it? No we really don’t try to define evil in the general sense, much less the Biblical sense.

After consulting a few Biblical Dictionaries (Naves, NBD, Harper’s etc.) I would like to put forth a simple and succinct definition, which is as follows.

Evil is simply rebellion against God and His authority.

You see the Hebrew word that we get evil from has a root meaning of “to spoil.” Which means that evil is something good that has spoiled. The Bible speaks of two kinds of evil, moral and natural. The one precedes the other. Moral evil first came into being when Adam entered into the world and sinned, so because of sin entering into the world the whole of creation is now marred by sin. Romans 3:23 tells that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s standard which is perfection, this why He made a way through Jesus Christ to come to Him to begin the process of repair. We must remember that the cross of Christ is not the end, but the beginning, this world, and our bodies, are still marred by sin. Our hope, however, is in the resurrection that is promised to come later. So without spending too much time here let us continue on our topic.

Without Adam breaking the moral law we would never know evil and have no concept of it whatsoever. Now it is all around us and we are even born into sin. This is known as original sin, we carry sin in us because of our ancestors’ actions so long ago. The question then becomes, “What is a Christian supposed to do about evil? What is our response?”

Well first we find that the Bible addresses evil a great deal. The Bible says to not do anything that would cause another person to stumble. It says to not repay good with evil, not to repay evil with evil, and says to stay away from evil. This is a tall order! But indeed how do we do this? The answer is simple, LOVE. LOVE! Yes LOVE. It sounds so simple, but often times it is so hard to accomplish. Do You know what the dirty little secret is? IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO DO!

I know, I made another inflammatory statement! But follow me here. It is impossible for anyone to truly love someone because they are sinful. This makes for an interesting circle of events doesn’t it? You can’t stop evil without love and you can’t love because of evil! So what do you do? Nothing! God has already done it for you! Yes He has! How?

You see there are three different words we translate into love in the English language. (1) The first is eros. This is a fleshly sensual kind of love. I love you because of how you make me feel. Enough said on this one… (2) The second is Philos. This is a kind of brotherly love. One that says I love you because you love me. (3) The third, and highest, is AGAPE. This kind of love is unconditional. I love you regardless of what you say, do, or think of me. I love you period. Many a paper/book has been written about love, but I think we now understand the basics, so let us move forward.

God says He loves AGAPE. As roman 5:8 tells us, while we were still far from Him, He loved us enough to put a stop to the cycle of evil (rebellion) in our lives. He came down and took your punishment on the cross, a punishment that you and I dissevered, in order to stop the cycle of evil for all time. He then rose on the third day to show us that there is hope and only by surrendering our lives to Christ and trusting Him for our salvation can we truly be made right with God.

Only because of what God did can evil be broken. So only by coming to Him can we stop the cycle of evil in our lives. The question is why do you still dole out evil to others in your life? You say to me, “I Don’t!” Really? You truly have not done this since you came to Christ? I think you better ask God to show you an instance in which you have doled out evil, and trust me He will. You want to stop evil in the world, first stop it in your actions. Then one by one, Christian by Christian, not only will our churches start to fill up again we will see the world improve as well. Until you start asking God to help you stop the evil in your life and start drawing near to Him, then you won’t see the results of evil diminish in your life. The choice is yours. Will you truly draw near to God on a daily basis or will you just go on doing your own thing?

Did Jesus Descend into Hell?

Did Jesus Descend into Hell?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This question came in via e-mail and is a very common and appropriate question to ask.

This is a question that has haunted theologians throughout New Testament History. I have heard many people teach/preach on this subject (based on 1 Peter 3:19). Some see it as allegorical, others literal, and still others a combination of the two. So I will attempt to answer this question from a comprehensive stand point looking at the Jewish concept of Hades.

The Jewish mindset

I had a Professor once explain it the following way, which is one of the oldest explanations. This is also the way the M.R. DeHaan (a prominent theologian) has explained it in his book “Studies on Revelation” One thing to remember is that the early Christians were all Jews and their mindset was used when writing and speaking of Hades. You see what the KJV translates as hell in 1 Peter 3:19 is Hades, Which to the Jew was the place of abode for the dead. In this place there is Paradise and the placed of the damned (what we refer to as Hell).

Paradise and Hell
Paradise and Hell occupy, for lack of better accuracy in wording, a side of Hades. Paradise would be on one side and Hell on the other side (See the parable of Lazarus and the rich man).

Paradise only existed during the time before Christ. Here you will find where all the Old Testament Saints are kept. Jesus (Ephesians 4:8) leads them to heaven after his crucifixion.

Now when we look at Hell (the other side of Hades) the folks that are in the “holding chamber” (what we refer to as hell) are still waiting for the Great White Throne of Judgment, where once they are judged will be cast into the lake of fire where they will burn for all eternity. This is known as the “final Hell” or “second death”

The “final Hell” (second death as the Bible refers to it) will be the resting place of the damned for all eternity. We don’t know when it was created, only that it was created.

Conclusion

So where did Jesus go during those three days? He descended into Hades, specifically into Paradise. He said to the thief that he would be in paradise on that day of death on the cross (Luke 23:43). Then Jesus leads all that were in paradise to heaven (Ephesians 4:7-10).

 

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?

God Doesn’t Care About YOU!

God Doesn’t Care About YOU!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 

This is a provocative title to say the least, but follow me in this thought.  When I use the word “YOU” I mean the “I” syndrome, where everything is about YOU. God doesn’t care about YOUR ego, YOUR pride, YOUR perception in front of others. All God wants is for you to be honest before Him, yourself, and others. The subject of honesty is one that we seem to talk about a lot as Christians but can fall short. Honesty is very important to God, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter much today. While there are a lot of passages that talk about this, I want to highlight just a few of them in this article.

Open your hearts to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one.
– 2 Corinthians 7:2 (NKJV)

 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume.
– Leviticus 19:35 (NKJV)

Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. -Hebrews 13:18 (NKJV)

Honesty in Our Words

The first scripture is Paul writing to the people at Corinth, he says that he has “wronged no one,” hasn’t corrupted anyone and has cheated no one. This is a bold statement in today’s Christianity. Too many Christians are not acting in accordance with the morality of the Bible. They tell half-truths, lie, and cheat people, but they won’t go and rob a bank. No, they act more subtly than that.

I have an example from my own life. Do you know how many ministers will go into a business (barber, mechanic etc.) and demand a discount? Or say something like, “What is the Pastor Price on that?” When I was in seminary I used to see these “seasoned” ministers do this all the time, and not to other Christian business men they knew, to people who wouldn’t darken a door of a church. You know what? The business owners would usually say, out of earshot of the minister, “That is exactly why I won’t go to church, they are all money grubbing.”

This is an example from my personal experience, but what about you? Take a minute and ask yourself, “Where in my life is my morality just a little off?” Now ask God to forgive you and guide you into honest living. This brings us to honesty in our deeds (actions).


Honesty in Our Deeds

The second scripture we are looking into talks about honesty in business and how a person should not cheat someone. What first comes to our minds is “big business” but every day we have different things that goes on in our lives that can be considered “deals” and we think nothing of trying to extort an unfair price. What I find interesting is that there are a lot of “Christians” out there who will cheat someone in business! This individual would say that stealing is wrong, but will deal dishonestly with others.

Here is a question that should make you stop and think a minute. How many times have you told someone a “white-lie?” There is no such thing as a “white-lie.” A lie is a lie, nothing more and nothing less. We must deal honestly with each other, not as the immoral deal with people; we must deal with people in honesty and fairness.


Conclusion

Our last scripture comes from Hebrews and starts out by saying “Pray for us.” Why pray? Well the writer states that they have a good conscience and that they desire to continue the trend of being open and honest with people. The writer is asking for prayer so that they don’t fall into the traps of pride, ego, and perception. They don’t want everything to be about themselves! This unfortunately is where too many “Christians” find themselves!

Do you know what people desire more than anything else? I mean they desire this one thing more than Biblically accurate sermons/teaching. They desire it more than great praise and worship! The desire it more than flash and a good feeling running up their legs! HONESTY! They want true openness and honesty from Christians in churches today. They want people to be genuine and they want people to genuinely care about them! The sad thing is that there are so many in churches today that don’t care about others; they just care about what they can get out of the church. This ugly situation can be changed, and starts with just one individual. So the question for you is where are you? Are you self-absorbed? Or are you walking in Honesty in your words and your deeds? Maybe, if you find yourself in this situation, you should ask God to forgive you and ask God to give you a true heart that isn’t self-absorbed, but is more concerned with others. The choice is yours. What is the Holy Spirit putting in your heart?

If, however, you find yourself in the situation where you say to yourself that you aren’t being dishonest, I would ask you to pray to God to show you where you might be faltering in your honesty. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you and I know He will show you. A lot of the time people won’t truly seek God and just go on. This attitude is a detriment to Christianity. It keeps the same old rut going. We need change in our churches and the only way we will get it is by being honest! Will you join me in asking God to show you where you are being less than truthful? The choice is yours.