Justification by Faith


by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

Back in February of this year I was teaching an Adult Sunday School class one Sunday morning when the weather was bad and my wife was sick. That day I had one of my regular couples in the class, another couple that rarely attended and one man who I hadn’t seen in about a year. The lesson was from Ray Pritchard’s He’s God and we’re not. Every lesson in that book is based in and through the Sovereignty of God. That Sunday everything was going fine until someone asked a question. Continue reading

Metamorphosis


The following piece is an excerpt from my book Walking the Walk by Faith. Enjoy and be blessed.

by Mike Ratliff

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

I’m not a huge movie buff, but I really like movies or stories where the main character starts out really messed up or not very nice, but as the story progresses he or she changes for the better. I don’t know why that gets my interest, but it does. Continue reading

On Faith and Coming to Christ, and the True Bread of Heaven


A sermon by Martin Luther

JOHN 6:44-55: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Continue reading

The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People part 17 – Sometimes it’s better to suffer than die and go to Heaven


By Mike Ratliff

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:21-26)

There are times when I see no logical reason for God to keep me alive. It is during these periods when I long to be in Heaven with Him. This existence in this evil place seems pointless at times. I see myself as so small and insignificant that it should not matter if I go missing one day. “Come on Lord, take me home!“, is my cry. Of course, I have a family which I love. My wife is not well most of the time and she needs me. So, it is after these things come to the fore of my mind that I am ashamed. I see then that my wish to depart is self-centered and selfish. Continue reading

Idolatry of the Heart


The following piece is an excerpt from my book Walking the Walk by Faith. I decided to post the chapter titled “Idolatry of the Heart” today because of some very uncomfortable blogosphere discussions I have been involved in over the last few weeks. There seems to be a great deal of confusion rooted in pride in many well-intentioned Christians who are passionately doing battle to defend their “beliefs” who end up after a many skirmishes feeling somewhat ashamed of themselves. They end up asking for forgiveness from the very people they have been battling. Of course that “shame” is coming from the conviction of the Holy Spirit into their consciences. When I wrote this chapter over a year and a half ago I was trying to explain the greatest obstacle Christians have in becoming Spirit-led. That obstacle is pride which builds idols in our hearts with the biggest most grand idol being Idolatry of the Heart. Continue reading

Stones in the Sand


by Mike Ratliff

I have come the conclusion that most believers walk through their days on planet Earth in a complete fog about the enormity of their salvation. As we have seen in the last few posts here, the price God paid for our salvation is beyond our understanding. They also are mostly oblivious concerning the depth of their sin. The very short passage of John 8:1-11 is a window for us to look through to see God’s willingness to forgive the sins of those who humble themselves in repentance before Jesus Christ their saviour. My friend, Jessica Taylor of Whispers in the Garden, has written a poem about this passage called Stones in the Sand. After you read it and thank God for forgiving you of your sins, stop by Whispers in the Garden and let Jessica know how her poem has blessed you.

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Grace and Discipleship


by Mike Ratliff

Right at the beginning of my “revival” or “restoration” or whatever it was in 2004, I discovered an author and preacher named John Piper. I was teaching an adult Sunday School class at the time and, for Christmas, our director gave me Piper’s book titled “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It took me a while to get into it, however, once I got comfortable with his style I discovered that he had something important to say and God was making that clear to my heart. In that book he talked about his own spiritual journey. When he was in college a popular book among his friends was “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietreich Bonhoeffer. A few months later, I was preparing for a trip to Seattle for some training. I wanted a book to read at the airport and while flying so part of my preparation was to buy Bonhoeffer’s book. I already knew, from Piper, that its theology was not exactly “pristine,” but I was eager to dig into one particular chapter, also recommended by Piper, titled “Grace and Discipleship.” In this chapter Bonhoeffer presented a contrast between something he called Cheap Grace with something else he called Costly Grace. Continue reading

Faith Changes People


by Mike Ratliff

Christianity is unique among all the other religions. It it the only one in which believers are justified by faith rather than by works. This faith is not simply a belief system. It is not anything that can be generated by the believers either. It is a supernatural gift by God to those whom He saves. This supernatural faith changes people dramatically and eternally. This devotion by Martin Luther gives us a wonderful insight into this miracle of salvation.

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Crucifixion and Ressurection


O LORD,

I marvel that thou shouldst become incarnate,

    be crucified, dead, and buried.

The sepulcher calls forth my adoring wonder,

    for it is empty and thou are risen;

    the four-fold gospel attests it,

    the living witnesses prove it,

    my heart’s experience knows it.

Give me to die with thee that I may rise to new life,

    for I wish to be as dead and buried

        to sin, to selfishness, to the world;

    that I might not hear the voice of the charmer,

        and might be delivered from his lusts.

O Lord, there is much ill about me – crucify it,

            much flesh within me – mortify it.

Purge me from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of approbation,

            the shame of being thought old-fashioined,

            the desire to be cultivated or modern.

Let me reckon my old life dead because of crucifixion,

    and never feed it as a living thing.

Grant me to stand with my dying Saviour,

        to be content to be rejected,

        to be willing to take up unpopular truths,

            and to hold fast despised teachings until death.

Help me to be resolute and Christ-contained.

Never let me wander from the path of obedience to thy will.

Strengthen me for the battles ahead.

Give me courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys.

Help me to be a holy, happy person,

    free from every wrong desire,

            from everything contrary to thy mind.

Grant me more and more of the resurrection life:

    may it rule me,

    may I walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.

From The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

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The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People part 16 – God’s Discipline has left Job Worn Out


by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:1-7)

Why does God discipline us? Is there a specific reason that rises to the top as the root cause of all of the other reasons we need God’s disciplining hand upon us? I read a piece by Martin Luther earlier today that stated that if God showed us how wicked we really are, we would die. We don’t like to hear that because we have another problem that is tied directly to our inner wickedness. It is pride. Our pride is what makes us resemble our enemy. His original sin was pride. He rebelled against God as he attempted to usurp God’s throne. Continue reading

Chinese Missionaries to Islam


The Great Commission is still in effect. The Church’s mandate from our Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples from all nations has never been rescinded. While western Churches have been the primary source of missionaries for the last 200+ years, the greatest barrier to it has been Islamic countries. The Islamic countries see Western Christianity as just another part of corrupt Western countries. However, God is above all of that. This post from Reformation Theology was a joy for me to read. Please pray that God will use the Chinese Church to complete the Great Commission in our lifetime.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

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Man a nothing


O LORD,

I am a shell full of dust,

    but animated with an invisible rational soul

    and made anew by an unseen power of grace;

Yet I am no rare object of valuable price,

    but one that has nothing and is nothing,

    although chosen of thee from eternity,

        given to Christ, and born again;

I am deeply convinced of the evil and misery of a sinful state,

    of the vanity of creatures,

    but also of the sufficiency of Christ.

When thou wouldst guide me I control myself,

When thou wouldst be sovereign I rule myself.

When thou wouldst take care of me I suffice myself.

When I should depend on thy providings I supply myself,

When I should submit to thy providence I follow my will,

When I should study, love, honour, trust thee, I serve myself;

I fault and correct thy laws to suit myself,

Instead of thee I look to man’s approbation,

    and am by nature an idolater.

Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to thee.

Convince me that I cannot be my own god, or make myself happy,

    nor my own Christ to restore my joy,

    nor my own Spirit to teach, guide, rule me.

Help me to see that grace does this by providential affliction,

    for when my credit is god thou dost cast me lower,

    when riches are my idol thou dost wing them away,

    when pleasure is my all thou dost turn it into bitterness.

Take away my roving eye, curious ear, greedy appetite, lustful heart;

Show me that none of these things

    can heal a wounded conscience,

    or support a tottering frame,

    or uphold a departing spirit.

Then take me to the cross and leave me there.

From The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

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God’s Training Methods


by Martin Luther

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. (Genesis 45:3)

The emotional climax to Joseph’s story was this sudden revelation to his brothers. They had thought Joseph was a horrible, terrifying tyrant because he had treated them like strangers and scared them to death. Even though he had left them many clues, they couldn’t imagine any kindness hidden under his hostile appearance. But then he came straight to the point. Without using an interpreter, he said, “I am Joseph!” Continue reading

Our Counselor


by Martin Luther

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. (John 14:16)

It’s correct to say that the Holy Spirit is our Counselor, because that’s what he does and is supposed to do. Right now, I don’t want to debate about his divine being or substance. Christ indicates here that the Spirit is a distinct person–the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. But in John 15, we also see that the Spirit is God–the Holy Spirit is one in essence with the Father and the Son. For now, it’s enough to learn that he is called a counselor for us. Continue reading