Let Us Reason Together Part 9 – God is Merciful to Us


By Mike Ratliff

Heth. The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words. I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! (Psalms 119:57-64)

God does not need us. God is holy; therefore, He is fully fulfilled in Himself. His holy attributes show us His perfection and infinite power. At the fall of man, found in Genesis 3, God would have been perfectly justified in wiping out Adam and Eve then starting over. However, He did not. Praise the Lord He did not! God was merciful to Man whom He loves. He still is. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 8 – God Sustains Us


by Mike Ratliff

Zayin. Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law. When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD. Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law. This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts. (Psalms 119:49-56)

The doctrinal extremists out there really get under my skin sometimes. It seems they cannot handle the fact that our sovereign, holy, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable and omniscient God wants to have a personal relationship with those He has saved by His grace. God is sovereign and yet He is gracious. He knows that left to our own abilities we could never come to salvation. He knows that, even if He declares us righteous, we need Him to extend His grace to us continually to sanctify our hearts and draw us to Him. He also reveals Himself to us, speaks to us, and sustains us through the sanctification process that matures us unto Christlikeness. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 7 – God Saves Us


by Mike Ratliff

Waw. Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. (Psalms 119:41-48)

The more I study doctrine and research the incredible variances of those held by theologians and denominations the more I realize there are really only two types. One type is focused solely on God’s Glory and is dynamically linked to His sovereignty. The other type (which includes all but God-focused Christianity) is Man based. This type either elevates man above or equal to God in responsibility and glory. The latter type will be those doctrines which “seem right” to most people. When the former are presented, they will cause those espousing their man-glorifying doctrines to be seized by apoplexy when they hear them. The type which is God focused is not politically correct. Why? Those who hold to the second type of doctrines have a false view of God and a false view of Man. Those who hold to the first type of doctrines have the view that God is sovereign and Man, without God’s grace, is completely dead in trespasses and sins. This view says Man is Totally Depraved in his natural state and can do nothing to gain salvation. The “man based” doctrines say Man does have the ability to seek God and can do so if he desires. The “God based” doctrines say God must extend His Grace to save Man from spiritual death. By now, I am sure you know which one I hold. Well you should as well. Why? Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 6 – God Teaches Us


by Mike Ratliff

He. Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (Psalms 119:33-40)

Being a Bible teacher for many years has been a wonderful blessing. One thing that really blesses my Soul is when I encounter disciples who have a deep hunger for the truth. Some I have taught just want to have their ears tickled or just to be part of the class. On the other hand, some have a deep and desperate hunger for God. He placed that within them. I do the best I can as God gives me grace, but I am a lousy teacher compared to God Himself. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 5 – God Regenerates Us


by Mike Ratliff

Daleth. My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes! Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame! I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! (Psalms 119:25-32)

We must understand that God draws us into maturity by His grace. Without God extending His grace to us, we could not be saved. We would not even seek Him. God calls those who are in Christ to grow unto Christ-likeness. That means we must grow in grace as God develops our character to resemble Jesus Christ’s character. The method God uses to mature one believer will be different than it will be for others. We are all unique and God has His own plans for each one of us according to His will. We do not choose any of it. God is in complete control of the whole process. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 4 – God’s Bountiful Grace


by Mike Ratliff

Gimel. Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments. Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalms 119:17-24)

I am convinced most believer’s concept of God’s grace is not as high as it should be. Sadly, most of us walk through this life with the attitude we somehow deserve salvation and blessings. We treat God as if He is the interloper with His commands to live Holy and obedient lives. Why? Our focus is on self. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 3 – Personal Holiness


by Mike Ratliff

Beth. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalms 119:9-16)

The concept that God would somehow be satisfied with those who call themselves Christians, but who live their lives totally apart from Him, seems very strange to me. The idea that the Lord is only after converts who say a quick sinner’s prayer, but never really change must really insult Him. Look at the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us on the cross. How could anyone really think He went through all that to accomplish only the possibility of salvation for all people or, even worse, automatically save all people including those who continue to live reprobate lives after hearing the gospel? Those who believe either of those are deluding themselves. Of course, their hearts are Soul-led and they are suffering from a severe case of hardheartedness. God’s values are not apparent to their hearts so they live the way they want. Many of them compartmentalize their lives to the point they give God those couple of hours on some Sunday mornings, but the rest of their time is theirs. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 2 – Walking in Truth


by Mike Ratliff

Aleph. Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! (Psalms 119:1-8)

About a year ago I had a discussion at work with a co-worker about the upcoming publication of Walking the Walk by Faith and the contract I just received from my publisher for Possessing the Treasure. This co-worker has always been supportive of my writing because she is an avid reader. However, she is also a non-believer even though she does not see things that way. She believes salvation is universal because God loves everyone too much to send anyone to hell. She believes my stance on my Puritan doctrines is silly. I tried to explain the attributes of God to her and our part in walking this walk and she laughed as she left my cubicle and went back to hers. Those of us who are Spirit-led know better…don’t we? Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 1 – Introduction


by Mike Ratliff

If we learn nothing else, let us make sure we understand the vital link the Word of God has to our personal holiness. That link, of course, will be effective only to the level we live in it and by it. If we neglect feeding from it on our own by relying on teachers, preachers, or writers to spoon feed us then we drastically limit our spiritual nourishment we should be getting. Good Bible teachers will lead their hearers to dig for themselves from the treasure of God’s Word. When I rediscovered my Puritan roots, I started reading those great old writers. Their teachings did that very thing. The great Reformation and Puritan theologians stand head and shoulder above their modern and post-modern brethren. 

My own personal revival has been completely God directed and empowered by His grace. Last summer I began researching to write about deeper devotional and growth techniques to facilitate our deep walk with our Lord. This was to be the basis for my third book. However, as I did that research I kept finding myself reading things by John Owen, John Bunyan and other Puritan writers. These studies lead me to study Reformation Theology. As God changed my heart about Reformed Theology, I became convinced that the missing piece the Western Church is lacking is adherence to the doctrines of grace. The fact this is missing in the majority of our churches means the poor sheep in them are spiritually malnourished so they remain self-focused and self-directed. They are not maturing in grace because God’s glory is an afterthought to them. This is a direct indictment against the shepherds of the flock. These shepherds feed their sheep a counterfeit gospel that is man-focused instead of God glorifying. The emphasis is on church growth at the expense of personal holiness and God-centered worship. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 16 – Conclusion


by Mike Ratliff

Jesus’ command for His disciples to “judge not,” has caused much confusion. Some twist His words to say believers should never judge anyone at any time. However, as we have seen, our Lord was speaking of hypocrisy. In this study, I have endeavored to present a case for the only realistic cure for hypocrisy, which is humility. Christlikeness is unattainable for anyone who is not humble. The journey each believer takes in becoming humble is unique to him or her. However, each will consist of God-designed tests and trials whose purpose is to strengthen faith, destroy pride, and cultivate humility. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 15 – Letting the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly


by Mike Ratliff

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.(Colossians 3:12-17)

Before I became a Christian, I was a Christian in name only. In other words, I was a religious Christian instead of a genuine Christian. I went to Church. I tried to be good. I was supremely unsuccessful at both being good, and being a good Christian. I thought that someday I would start to like church and get good at it. I simply thought that good Christians tired harder than the rest of us. Then God saved me. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 14 – Being a Living Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:1-3)

All of the things we have looked at so far in this study about doing all for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 13 – Behaving like a Christian


by Mike Ratliff

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)

When I began working on this book, I was intent on presenting to all who read this the facts about the tremendous damage hypocritical judging does within the body of Christ as well as to those who practice it. However, the more I studied and wrote the more I became convinced that Christians judging others is a symptom of something much more dreadful. Just as bitterness and resentment have their roots in pride, judging hypocritically has its roots in spiritual immaturity. The spiritually immature believer’s biggest problem is a lack of humility. The believer’s level of Christlikeness is directly related to how successful he or she is in uprooting pride while cultivating humility in the heart. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 12 – Loving your Enemies


by Mike Ratliff

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48)

I remember the first time I read the passage I placed at the beginning of this chapter. I simply could not believe that it was possible for anyone to love one’s enemies or pray for them. I read in the Gospels that Jesus did those things, but He is God. How could any mortal person ever do this? At the time of that reading, I was not a regenerate believer. I was definitely in the process of being called, but God’s effectual call had not touched my heart yet. I still had the idea that one had to be able to do Christian things in order to become a Christian. I had to learn and believe the right things and do the right things so that I could possibly “grow into” a good Christian. Continue reading