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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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.

Is the Church Really Necessary?

Is the Church Really Necessary?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Not only is this a good question, but one that at this juncture must be asked! The church (universally speaking) has a ton of faults and failures. We must ask, is the church what God really wants? You may say the church has a lot of excesses. I will concede that point (see previous articles which talk about some of the problems with the church)! That being said, is it really necessary to God’s plans? Find out in today’s article.

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion

A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,

And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,

“The stone which the builders rejected

Has become the chief cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling

And a rock of offense.”

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:4–10 (NKJV)

 

 

This section of scripture is all about being a living building. The mindset of the Jew was on the temple where they would worship God, but God was done with temple in Jerusalem. God was and is building something new. He is building a people who will be the temple. Not only are we (individually) His temple, but the group of people (the Church) is the place of His dwelling. The place where is presence and glory dwells. No longer is it in buildings built by men, but men have become the place where His glory will now dwell.

In verse four it states that Jesus, the chief cornerstone, has been rejected by man. Indeed He was rejected by man, primarily the Jews at this time and subsequently by many today.  The Jews continued to reject Jesus and hardened their hearts toward God. The continued rejection of Jesus today causes spiritual blindness amongst those that are rejecting Him. The rejection today is not just among Jews, but among many people from many nationalities.

Peter then makes the contrast between those that have rejected Jesus and the people he is writing. He is writing to Christians and states that they have not rejected Christ and therefore their hearts are open to God and are a part of the Spiritual temple that is being built.

Now in verse five Peter talks about this spiritual house that is being built.  He is talking about the Church. The Bible uses many metaphors to describe the church. Among them are a body, a family, and a city. Continuing his metaphor of a temple, Peter relates the church to each of us by saying that we are a holy priesthood, solely dedicated to God.  The job of a priest is to stand between God and needy individuals. This is what a priesthood was designed by God to do in the Old Testament. While it is true that we have no need for someone to go to God for us, this metaphor was not used for this meaning. This metaphor means that Christians are supposed to stand between God and the unsaved in the world and bring them to God. That is the intent of the metaphor as it is used in this passage.

Now in verse six there is a quote from Isaiah chapter twenty-eight verse sixteen. Notice that Jesus is called a cornerstone. Without going into too much detail, a cornerstone is the primary stone of a building. This stone must be laid as perfect as possible so that as things are built on top of it the building stays sturdy and does not collapse. Jesus is our perfect and Holy Cornerstone. This verse also says that the individual who believes in Christ will not be put to shame. Notice that this is an open invitation to everyone, not to the Jews only but to everyone.

In verses seven and eight it says that to the Christians (those that have accepted Him) He is precious to them, but to the ones who rejected Him he has become a stumbling block to their faith. This was undoubtedly a reference to the Jews of Peter’s day because of what they had done to Jesus. To come to Christ they had to admit that their action is what lead to His crucifixion and because of that many continued to reject Him. At the end of verse eight Peter writes that they, the Jews, were disobedient to the Word, but they were also appointed to the word. What does this mean? It means that the Jews were given the promise of the Messiah (Christ) and were to be the ones that He was coming to bless, but having the Holy Word (Old Testament Scriptures) they still rejected Him! How ironic that the ones that were the keepers of the Word of God, would end up rejecting Him!

With verses nine and ten Peter ties his thoughts together. In verse nine, Peter is moving on from those that rejected Christ and he does this with one phrase, “but you.” He says that Christians are chosen people. They are called to do ministry and are called to be the informers of God’s Word and proclaim the good news of Christ.  In verse ten we find that Christians were not always God’s people, but they are now His people through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken many people from all nations who had no affiliation with each other and builds a spiritual church on the earth to proclaim who He is and what He has done for the world. These people will be His witnesses throughout the world. It is because of this marvelous transcendent organization that people will be brought to salvation and cleansing so that they can be put right with a Holy God.

So in this text we have seen that the church is not only necessary but the primary way in which God has decided that the world should come to know about His marvelous plan, even with all if its’ faults and failures. So the question is what are you doing right now in your church? Are you one who is causing some of these failures? Or are you one who is going to co-labor with Christ to try to spread the good news of what God has done for us? The choice is yours.

Did Jesus Really Know?

Did Jesus Really Know?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

The following question came in a little bit ago and I just haven’t had the time to go over it. This is one of those questions that many people have suppositions about (Their own ideas that are based in fact, but can’t be dogmatic about it).

 

Did Christ foreknow the weight of the sin of the world on his shoulders at the time He prayed in Gethsemane just before He was crucified? By that I mean the sin of mankind from the creation of man and including all future mankind.

 

39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. 40 When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
-Luke 22:39–44 (NKJV)

Gethsemane literally means “oil press.” In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was pressed and overburdened due to the weight of what faced Him. We find that Jesus did what He often did; He withdrew to be by Himself and His Father. When he knelt down because of his foreknowledge of what was coming, in His flesh He wished and prayed to God asking for this to be taken away from Him, but said He would not do His will, but God’s. An angel came and strengthened Him for what was coming and Jesus was in agony over this and He prayed for quite some time to follow. His sweat even became blood.

So did Jesus truly foreknow what was ahead of Him? I think the answer to that is yes. I think He knew. You see we must remember the two natures of Christ. He is 100% God and 100% man. Being God and coming to earth as a man He chose not to have access to some of His knowledge for that short time. This is a hard concept for us to understand. Why? Because we aren’t God! Some people may disagree with me on this matter, others not. The Church is quite divided over this subject.

The reason I believe He knew is because of His sweat becoming as blood and the fact that an angel came to strengthen Him for what lied ahead of Him. The sacrifice Christ made is important because the flesh had to be crucified for our sin, but no mere man could do this job because man is inherently sinful! So Christ came from heaven to be that Sacrifice. When He speaks from the cross “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me,” he speaks as a man who has just received the entire sin of man on His shoulders! He speaks as one who has never been separate from God, now he is completely separated (in his flesh, because his nature is God and cannot be separated from being God). When it was all over His sacrifice was complete and his mission was fulfilled.

The question you have to ask yourself is can you believe the sacrifice that Christ had made? Many men and women have written on that subject and have all come short on explaining the power of what happened! So there is no way in one short post that we can explore all of this today. The purpose was to answer my thought on the question and to spur you on for further study.

The question is do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and savior? Can you believe that because of your sin, Christ came to earth to deal with it and take it upon Him and on the third day rose again to proclaim victory over death, Hell, and the grave? If not then I challenge you to do some research on the subject. If you would like some resources, feel free to contact me. If you can believe it, why not get on your hands and knees and ask God to come into your life? It is real easy; it is not the words you say, but the intent of your heart. You could simply scream HELP! JESUS COME INTO ME AND MY LIFE! Doing that would make it a done deal! The Choice is yours!

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.

I AM a Christian! I AM Just as Selfish as the Next Person!

I AM a Christian! I AM Just as Selfish as the Next Person!
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
– (1Ki 11:1-8 ESV)

Solomon was the wisest king that ever reigned in Israel’s history. However, he married foreign wives which were forbidden by God. Does this make God a racist? Absolutely not! It was God’s decree so that idolatry (the worship of false objects) wouldn’t take over people’s lives and turn their hearts from God. You see Israel was never to bow down to anything other than God. Because Solomon allowed worship of false gods in the kingdom, Israel from this time forward was caught in the grip of worshiping of false idols. Some people will probably ask, “What is wrong with that?” Have you ever seen what some of these religions require of their followers? Take a look at just one of these idols.

Milcom/Molech was a god that Israel loved to worship. This god is throughout the Old Testament and is considered one of the most evil of them all. You see this false god required that you sacrifice your children on an altar. But not just any blood sacrifice, no this ‘worship’ entailed heating a bronze statue to tremendous temperatures. When the pre-heating was complete, it was up to the parents to place their little ones in the idols loving hands and watch as their child writhed in pain and was literally cooked to death, slowly. The thought amongst these people was that if they sacrificed to these kinds gods they would get what they wanted.

Today many people would say that they would never do these detestable things! Really? You know you are probably right. We just sacrifice at the altar of our jobs, volunteer hours, and other things, while our children are being raised by television and music. No, we are more civilized we sacrifice our time with our families and allow our marriages to fall apart which only hurts the family unit more. Because of this God’s will is not being done in our lives, and worse, our children’s lives.

But why have we done this? It all boils down to selfishness. We have become selfish, self-centered and self-deceived. People will do anything they can to get ahead of the rest of the pack, putting their wants first and everyone/everything else last. Today our “Christianity” is paralyzed in the face of one simple question, “Why would I want to be a Christian when you do all that I do, except I don’t have the drama?” This is a sad state of affairs for Christianity. Christians are walking in selfishness and self-centeredness. We may not kill people anymore physically but we cause just as much damage by derailing them from God and destroying each other spiritually and mentally because of our idols (anything we put before God). Yes even today, because of putting things before God, we can travel a road which takes us down the wrong path and do things we never thought we would do. Do you think the Secretary to a church starts out by saying they are going to embezzle funds? No! Do you think the pastor, deacon, board member etc. starts out looking to cheat on their spouse? No! But little by little as they begin to put things in their lives ahead of their relationship with God, they travel down a road which leads to destruction.

The sad part is that when a person first comes to Christ they are genuinely loving and genuine toward other people, but as Christians begin to put idols up in their lives they become selfish, self-centered and self-deceived! Do you know what the problem is with being self-deceived? It is that you don’t recognize you are in self-deception until someone points it out, and then you don’t believe them! Only the Holy Spirit can truly point this out to anyone. Will you ask Him to point it out to you? Or does that just make you too uncomfortable? Perhaps you won’t, because you like your lack of true conviction and the true power of the cross in your life.

If you are a Christian today then perhaps you need to ask God to show you that you are setting up Idols in your life and ask Him to show you where you are walking in self-deception. Only when Christians begin to ask God to reveal to them these problem areas can “Christianity” become the Christianity of the Bible again and not just some political group of organizations that are self-serving and self-seeking. No, we need Christians to be Christians again. To have a heart that hurts when people hurt and seek to help people when they need help. Christians need to be a people after God’s own heart, a people that are not always on the lookout to get what is best for them. Will you be that person? Will you draw near to God and let Him truly show you your idols? Will you love the unlovable again? The choice is yours, which will you make?