by Mike Ratliff
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” (Zechariah 3:1-4 ESV)
The neo-evangelists in our day push their evangelical emphasis to the forefront where it has become the golden calf in their churches. Instead of obeying our Lord to make disciples they seek to multiply their numbers through easy believism. They use shame tactics to get their flocks to bring their friends and relatives to church so they can hear that Jesus wants to come into their lives so they can live abundantly here and now.
It is a golden calf because it is the primary focus at the cost of discipleship. Being an idol, it cannot deliver on its promises though. Whereas, we learn in the Bible that those who abide in Christ and His word and obey Him in all things will have an abundant life. This abundant life is spiritual not material. It is the byproduct of becoming more and more Christlike as God molds and shapes His people as they surrender to the Lordship of Christ more and more in every part of their lives. On the other hand, the golden calf’s version of the Gospel is incomplete and skewed towards “decisions for Christ” instead of giving people the good news that even though they are filthy in God’s sight because of their sin, there is peace available between God and men through the Son who paid the price for their sin.
by Mike Ratliff
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. (Psalms 139:1-4 ESV)
Our God is beyond our understanding. Thankfully, He has revealed Himself to us, to a degree, in His Word. Those who claim to serve Him, but treat His Word as if it was not important, or refuse to submit to the truths therein are fools. That has always puzzled me about those who take a sliver of God’s Word, misinterpret it, and then build massive doctrines around their misinformation. Have they no fear of God?
God is Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. He knows all, is everywhere at once, and is all-powerful. Those who play games with Christianity must have no understanding of this for if they did, they would not dare trifle with God Almighty!
by Mike Ratliff
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 KJV)
The Apostle Paul often used the analogy of a runner to describe our spiritual growth. Unlike a race that has an ending with one runner reaching the goal and attaining the prize of victory, our spiritual race will continue as long as we live. We will never reach the goal of Christlikeness, but like the runner in a race we must continue to pursue that goal.
Even though the current crop of evangelicals disdain discipleship, Bible study, and spiritual growth calling them unnecessary since their sole goal is numerical growth through their evangelical ministries, we must not give in to this lie. Paul tells us that God’s will for each of His children is their sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) That means His desire for each of us is that we be holy. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:20-22 ESV)
Part of my makeup that God molded into my character is the ability to observe, take note, and analyze as part of Him directing what I study and pray about in order to obediently minister in my writing and teaching. What do I observe? Everything! I take note of my fellow Christians when they interact on this blog and others. I see the patterns of what is hot and what is not. I have seen people come at me or one of my friends with vehement viciousness over doctrinal differences. What have I learned? I have learned that humans have a huge problem in wanting to control other people.
Those of us who write for CRN are often called “Watch doggies” by those who believe that we go too far in comparing what is really going on doctrinally in the church in our time to what should be going on. Much of what is “wrong” in the Church in our time is a drive to reform it into “man-centered” relevancy. When we reveal the very words of those leaders doing this then out come those accusing us of being “over the top” or “arrogant” or “backward” or “legalistic” even “heretical” because we obediently reveal what is said in comparison with what the Bible says.
Since the adherents of “relevancy” are mired in their man-centered worldview, they insist that Biblical truth to that level is unknowable. For instance, they say that the Doctrines of Grace are heretical. For us to say that God is Sovereign in election and saves His people whom He chose before the foundation of the world, then we are heretics even though we teach exactly what the Bible says. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24 ESV)
All genuine Christians have one thing in common—they are imperfect people who, no matter how much they desire to be Christlike, will struggle with the paradox of being new creations slowly becoming conformed to the image of their Saviour while being mired in a body of death that wants to be ruled by their old sin nature. How often do we cry out to God to release us from this prison? What good can it do for us to struggle so with the demands of the flesh?
“After our Lord’s death was over, the blood of animals was not the type, but the blood of the grape. That which was terrible in prospect is joyous in remembrance. That which was blood in the shedding is wine in the receiving. It came from him with a wound, but it comes to us with a blessing.”
“A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ. The new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself–body, soul, and spirit–to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service.”
I will be in a training class August 13-17. I will be unable to monitor email and comments during the day during this time. I will try to catch up in the evening. Also, from August 17th through August 26th I will be in Oklahoma visiting family. I will not be able to post during that time. I will try to cover email and comments, but it will be sporadic at best. Please pray that I will return rested and usable by God. – Mike Ratliff
by Mike Ratliff
So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV)
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)
I believe that what ails the Church the most at this time in the early 21st Century is actually the root of most, if not all, of the growing apostasy we are witnessing. This ailment is the product of decades of poor doctrine and man-serving preaching and teaching. God has given the Church, except for His Remnant, a spirit of stupor that has blinded them so that they have believed the lie that the center of all things is not Christ, but themselves. Their felt needs are far more important to them than God’s glory. They view God as being good when their circumstances are ok, but not good when they aren’t. They have bought their goods at Vanity Fair and they have become their idols. Let us look at a wonderful Biblical example of a man who did not devalue his relationship with God in order to have temporal pleasure.
by Charles Spurgeon
“Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from Him cometh my salvation” (Psalm 62:1).
Blessed posture! Waiting truly and only upon the LORD. Be this our condition all this day and every day. Waiting His leisure, waiting in His service, waiting in joyful expectation, waiting in prayer, and content. When the very soul thus waits, it is in the best and truest condition of a creature before his Creator, a servant before his Master, a child before his Father. We allow no dictation to God, nor complaining of Him; we will permit no petulance and no distrust. At the same time, we practice no running before the cloud and no seeking to others for aid: neither of these would be waiting upon God. God, and God alone, is the expectation of our hearts.
Blessed assurance! From Him salvation is coming; it is on the road. It will come from Him and from no one else. He shall have all the glory of it, for He alone can and will perform it. And He will perform it most surely in His own time and manner. He will save from doubt, and suffering, and slander, and distress. Though we see no sign of it as yet, we are satisfied to bide the LORD’s will, for we have no suspicion of His love and faithfulness. He will make sure work of it before long, and we will praise Him at once for the coming mercy.
“I believe that Sunday should be spent in recreation. You are dreadfully shocked, and well you may be. But what do I mean by ‘recreation’? It means creating us new. Oh, that everybody who talks about spending Sunday in recreation would come to be recreated, regenerated, renewed, refreshed, revived, and made to rejoice in God.”
by Mike Ratliff
Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” (Revelation 22:11 ESV)
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is a allegory of the journey of one man, Christian, who is saved and makes the journey to escape his home town, The City of Destruction. The journey takes him to the cross by him entering the narrow way by way of the narrow gate that few find. After the burden of sin is taken away at the cross he journeys until he reaches the Celestial City.
One of the most interesting places he must travel through is called The Valley of Humiliation. It is the place where all Christians must travel through in order to reach Heaven. In the Valley their pride is attacked while their humility is cultivated. They are taught to rely solely on the Lord instead of their own wits or reason or abilities. In the book, Christian finds Apollyon there who is enraged that he had lost one of his subjects, who of course is Christian. A battle ensues. Apollyon does Christian much damage, but Christian uses his armor, sword and shield to fight to save his life. One of the main weapons of our enemy is his fiery darts. What are they?
There is a new movie based on John Bunyan’s great allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, that is nearing the end of post production. It is called “Pilgrim’s Progress – The Journey to Heaven.” Here is a link to the movie website. Watch the trailer. I don’t know how well it will portray our spiritual journey, but I intend to see it when it is released and will post a review.
Addendum: I have been contacted by Danny R. Carrales of DRC Films, LLC. They are shooting to have the film ready for the Christian Film Festival in Orlando, Fl. in mid-October. I will be able to review the film after that.
Update: I have written a review of this movie which can be read here.
by Mike Ratliff
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’” (1 Chronicles 17:13-14 ESV)
God is Sovereign. He is at no one’s beck and call. He is not subject to anyone. Men may indeed insist that God must follow their ideas of who He is and what He will or won’t do, but these things come from flawed Human reason. Men are arrogant creatures who have been trying to usurp God’s place on His throne since the fall in Genesis 3. Most people do not correctly understand God’s revelation of Himself that we find in the Bible, therefore, their doctrines are more man based than God centered.
One of the most important teachings about our Lord Jesus Christ that is missed by so many professing Christians and their leaders is that all of creation is really all about Him. He created it for Himself, that He would be glorified in it. After His resurrection just prior to His ascension He told His disciples and us something we would best not forget.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18 ESV)
“Many preachers have had to confess the uselessness of mere moral preaching. There is no instance, I believe, on record, where the mere preaching of the law made a man love God, or where the heart ever was, or ever could be, renewed by inculcating good works.”
by Mike Ratliff
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV)
Christians who have stumbled and fallen into sin have done so because they have taken their eyes off of their Saviour as they were running the race the Father has set before them. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Often what distracted them from leaning on Jesus or clinging to Him in utter dependence was a desire to do something that appeared to be a good work. However, as they tried to do that work they had to step away from their abiding in the Lord and, instead, depended on their own abilities. This removed them for the Lord’s protection from deception. Before long, they found themselves entangled or mired in something they never thought would happen to them. However, the fact that they realize this is a very good thing. Unfortunately, there are scores of Christian leaders and their followers who are clueless that they are walking in darkness.
Chip Brogden at the School of Christ now offer’s his teachings via Video Webcast. The first one, The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation” is online now.