Our Gospel

 

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:8-12 ESV)

The churchianity that  most of us  grew up with is confused with genuine Christianity by many people. It is actually a set of beliefs or values  laid out in our minds’ decision grid. It becomes a value system in the heart that reckons salvation to be based on religious acts such as saying a certain prayer in a certain order while holding to a certain frame of mind. When doubt comes, and it always does, we are told to look back on “that day” when we said that prayer. Some even go so far as to say that they doubt if a person is really a Christian if they cannot remember the exact moment when they prayed that prayer. 

I remember in my days as a new believer reading passages such as Matthew 16:24-26 (see below) and having a huge problem reconciling the churchianity view that my salvation was based on my decision with what our Lord said here.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)

Then I would read Acts and the rest of the New Testament and become even more confused. The Christianity that was presented there bore little resemblance to what we were teaching and living. My brethren, this did not really go away for me. Even though I did grow spiritually over time, my walk, my spirituality, my maturity was just a shadow of the Christianity of the Bible. It was a poor imitation. That is not to say that I did not have a few high points, but those were preceded and followed by mostly a fleshly struggle. 

That all changed in 2004. I have shared this a few times before so I will be brief. Over the first eight months of 2004 I was drawn closer and closer to my Lord. By the middle of August 2004 I was in some form of prayer, worship, Bible study, or meditation all day every day. After one Friday night of some very deep prayer and worship I woke up early that Saturday morning rejoicing. As my feet hit the floor and I walked to the bathroom to shower, I remember suddenly becoming aware, as I worshipped my Lord, that my entire value system had been changed. I knew at that moment that my salvation was based on nothing I had done. It was all God’s work and that He was drawing me closer to Him for His purpose. I remember telling Him that whatever He desired for me to do I would do it. If I was to lay my life down then so be it. The Gospel was no longer a set of facts. It was alive to this heart because it was living in me. 

Since that day I have been aware of Christ’s character becoming more and more manifest in me. I rebel at times then find myself being self-focused or selfish or impatient. However, repentance comes swiftly now. I no longer look at my circumstances with bitterness because I’m not getting my way. No, now I am getting much better at surrendering to my Lord within my circumstances. Since I have become a writer and blogger I have found that the truth is not always a welcome commodity with most professing Christians. Also, there are some non-believers out there who hate genuine Christianity. The buffeting from these things is not pleasant. Let us look at a Biblical example of how we are supposed to live this Christian life in the midst of the fire. 

Paul was much buffeted and persecuted. However, he was sustained in the fire by faith and by a sense of personal security in Jesus Christ. 

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:8-12 ESV)

Paul tells us that the Gospel God had deposited with him was able to keep until the judgment because it is safe in the care of our Lord Jesus Christ. This gave Paul great comfort because his soul was committed to Jesus. Remember, in churchianity people are taught and are convinced that it is their own decision that has saved them and that is what holds them. That was not Paul’s understanding at all. What had Paul done? Because of our Lord drawing Paul to Himself the apostle had placed his trust, his soul, in the hands of the Lord. He understood that he could not save himself. He knew that he could not be trusted to keep his soul from destruction. No, He knew that it was safe only in the Lord’s hands. Our Lord held his soul for healing as his physician. His soul called out to the Lord in needs, which were supplied by Him as his soul’s shepherd. He soul’s course was being directed by Jesus as a pilot guided a ship. His soul’s cause was there to be pleaded by Jesus, his and our advocate. His soul’s care was there to be guarded by our Lord as his protector.  Paul had committed his soul to Jesus by an act of faith, which act he persevered in continually. 

Paul knew whom he had believed. Paul spoke not of believing “in” our Lord, but of believing Him. There is a huge difference between the two. Paul had a personal faith in a personal Saviour. He knew whom He trusted. This is no different for us my brethren. Genuine Christians know and believe the Lord. They know that it is not their religiosity that holds them. No, it is their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ in which they persevere. Paul first met our Lord on the road to Damascus. Paul was changed forever. He dug into Sacred Scripture, meditating thereon as guided by the Holy Spirit. Through this he learned the truth of our Saviour spoken of in what we call the Old Testament. He came to know Him even deeper through communion with Him. He prayed my brethren. This is open to us all. His trust in our Saviour became rooted even deeper through experiencing the trials in which his faith was proven. Through this our Lord’s love and faithfulness became even more evident to him. Paul’s Rabbinical education made him familiar with Scripture, but his practical education through tests and trials was the medium through which he was made to know his Lord by entering into the fellowship of His sufferings and death. 

Do you see it now my brethren? This is what those mired in churchianity are missing. Those who truly know Jesus Christ as Lord gladly commit their all to Him. They do not do so to some religious acts, but to their personal Saviour. Paul knew our Lord and was sure that He was able to keep or guard what had been entrusted to him until the day of judgment, the Eschaton. His assurance was reasonable and deliberate. He was sure of the ability of Jesus to keep all souls committed to Him who belong to Him. Afterall, Jesus is God and, therefore, omnipotent to save. Our Lord confessed in His dying breath on the cross, “It is finished!” Yes, His work is done, the demands of the Law have been met in Him. Our Lord’s wisdom is perfect and is never surprised by anything. As our Advocate He is always working to preserve His own. Paul was convinced that our Lord Jesus had the ability to keep his own soul even under the heavy trials which constantly pressed upon him. 

Paul was convinced and we must be as well. Those reading this who are still holding on to the concept that you are held in Christ by your own decision please make that a matter of deep and long prayer. Ask God to show you the truth. Ask Him to reveal to your heart the depth of His hold on your soul and the ways and means in which He holds you. When these truths become apparent to our hearts it changes everything. Since we are not depending on our own ability to hold ourselves in Christ, we can become thoroughly happy and content. In this we become confident because we are being held by our omnipotent Saviour. Even when we are sorely tempted to be ashamed of our faith, we can confidently proclaim the veracity of it. We become very thankful. I know that I find myself constantly thanking my Lord throughout the day as I am reminded that my tests and trials are only preparing me for the glory of the Eschaton. 

Justyn Martyr was asked ironically by the Roman prefect if he believed that after his decapitation he would ascend to heaven. He replied: “I am so sure of the grace which Jesus Christ hath obtained for me that not a shadow of doubt can enter my mind.”

My brethren, let us turn our hearts to our Lord and away from our own dismal pursuits. If we are seeking fulfillment from any other source but our Lord then we are wasting our time. When we are mired in self-focus we will not have the confidence of Paul. In fact, we will be the opposite. I have that found some of the harshest, most belligerent people are those whose religiosity is challenged by Biblical truth. They are in a comfort zone of churchianity and their confidence is in the religiosity they are holding tightly to in their hearts. It is a mirage my brethren. It is a house of cards. It is not a confidence that is based in a trust in our Lord Jesus Christ to keep and hold, but in a misplaced faith in one’s own decision. Therefore, I adjure you to turn your hearts to our Lord and obey what He shows you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

25 thoughts on “Our Gospel

  1. Isn’t it something how much sinful behavior vexes a child of God when we are dead to the world? Even now, we may be seen as oddballs from our co workers or unsaved family members because we are new creatures in Christ. I know that part of the maturing process involves us being labeled as peculiar or different. But that is evidence that we are doing something right, by not going back to running with the world. Praise God that he grants repentance!

    Let the world and my worldly family laugh at me. I don’t care anymore about what they think, or how they jeer at me because I don’t want to enjoy sin the way the do. I have a new family which is eternal and on common ground!! We are called to live our lives as strangers here. I completely know what that means now!!

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  3. Mike, That was good, a really good explanation. You do know you described what 95% believe and are (atleast at this time). Arminianism in my book is a heresy. There are a lot out there that don’t realize what you just explained is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Most arminians we have met are ‘babies’ on milk, at best. Some are saved with out a doubt, but they are missing out on one of the most wonderful blessings they can experiance while they are here and that is the 100% sovereignty of God. I can remember very vividly when I was confronted with this and I got MAD. I thought, ‘well then why pray? He is going to do what He wants to anyway! It is like we are a bunch of brainless robots here!’ I was steaming……….until, I had someone who was very patient and loving, calmly explain each question I had screamed at him. It took a confrontation and a couple of hours of but it ‘got through’, because this sweet person knew I was really saved, but just didn’t understand. :) Now I am so thankful that I do understand Gods sovereignty in everything. I don’t want to be in charge of any of it. We ALWAYS mess things up. Understanding Gods 100% sovereignty is what my ‘hold up’ was. Very good post Mike.

  4. Amen, Paul and Luann! I remember the first time I seriously looked at Reformed Theology and thought it was just wrong. It took about 6 months of study and prayer and surrender on my part to grow past the self-dependance. It was as strong if not stronger in my heart than God awakening me in August 2004.

    You are right about those folks missing out on the Lord’s blessing as well. I know because I was there for nearly 20 years. God is sovereign and the more we surrender to that the more God’s grace and love become more apparent to us. I remember when all this thudded home into my heart that God’s presence in my heart grew to enormous proportions. :-) I just can’t find the words to explain it. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Mike:

    All I can say is, “WOW!”. I went through the same kind of transformation in the Spring of 2005. After being a Christian for almost 20 years, I was brought low through the study God’s soveriegnty in election. Studying to debate a Calvinist, in turn, drove me to my face in humility! I was literally in tears!

    Your post is very well written and says it all! Amen brother!

    Steve

  6. Thank you Steve and I rejoice that God drew you close to Him and opened your heart. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to know that we rest in the omnipotent arms of our sovereign Lord?

  7. There are not many people that have tried to read both sides of the Arminian and Calvinist side as if both can be true. I am one of those people that have done that. I still tend to be angle reformed but I tend to have more of a Luther-centric reformed than the systematic calvin reformed.

    The only difference is it allows some mysteries and some scripture to stand as is — as opposed to forcing it to form to to much human reason. Long involved story and not for a BLOG topic. 8-).

    One of my personal favorite verses that I have decided needs to be always re-read and re-reminded to us

    Matthew 9:13
    But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

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  9. Our gospel will not work. It is His Gospel. No flash, no fancy anything. The way the Lord saves is by the gospel. If people hear His gospel (not ours with a bunch of fancy ta-do added to it) and He is calling a certain person, THAT is how He will save them! The plain gospel. People find it hard to believe that the same thing they have heard a million times and there is nothing flashy about it, it how He saves them. Thats why its such a mystery. We want to ADD to what He has already done and it WON’T work!! He said to preach the plain simple gospel, because that is how He chose to do it. Its not us adding all of our man made ideas to ‘help’. Its His plain gospel that does it. Sounds strange to us, but thats how He does it!!!

  10. No doubt Paul and Luann. It shows that the old rugged cross is not being preached. The olds paths are rejected, since the emergents want to put their own spin on it. To emergents, it’s about numbers and ‘making the gospel relevant.’ I don’t know why they don’t just come out and say, “I am just not happy with the offensiveness of the gospel, perhaps we should alter it a bit so that we can come to worship on our own terms.” ………At least then it would be more easier to rebuke them for their idolatry.

    I have heard Marc Driscoll and read a book he wrote. He should have been in advertising and marketing in the secular world. He is just another panantheist who wears a cross, embracing mysticism. His view of salvation is blasphemous as well as how he defines sin. I recently watched a video of him on You tube where he said that masturbation is not sin because it is not mentioned in the Bible. He missed that one completely as well. He acts as if people who strive to be holy and rebuke sin are weird. He just doesn’t see the command to be holy as a command, but an extra curricular activity…..not very relevant.

    Today’s emergents emphasize relevance with the world by being non confrontational. I am sorry, but whenever the Bible talks about contending for the faith, it says to strive to be perfect and to be shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves. This requires us to stand firm and face the ugly music that the world will throw at us for contending. The verse does not say, “Be as compromising as lemmings, and unite with corruption.” These emergents are an abomination. They are ashamed of the true gospel, which calls men to repent.

  11. Jon,

    That passage is much abused and misunderstood. Who are sinners? That is everyone. However, do all people believe? Nope. Jesus was actually telling us that we cannot be saved by our religiosity. Those who think otherwise are also the self-righteous. Those who DO believe and are saved are those who come to Jesus as they are called. They are the regenerate, therefore, they are able to believe. (Ephesians 2:1-10). They were called while in their sins. Also, after they are called and regenerate, they are no longer called sinners, but the righteous. God is not calling them to be saved because they already are saved.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  12. Jon,

    I think that you are misunderstanding the difference between legalism and contending for the faith. I have read your blogs from your own website as well as this one. It looks like you confuse legalism with contending. Legalism is when a person believes in works based salvation, where they must earn God’s favor.

    Contending for the faith means that after we are saved, we strive to be holy. Striving or contending does not mean that we strive to keep it, but we strive to please the Lord and be holy because we desire to be that way. The desire to be holy is impossible to the unregenerate. The carnally minded person is not nor cannot be under grace because God has not granted them repentance. Grace is the desire and ability to do the will of God. Unrepentant sinners do not have grace because they do not nor cannot have the desire to please the Lord. Regeneration occurs when men are dead to the world and alive in Christ. It is impossible to belong to the world and Christ. Righteousness and corruption have no fellowship together. This is why the call to be holy is a command instead of an option. The Holy Spirit changes a person’s heart’s desires because of sorrow for sin which leads to repentance. God does not always have an open ear to the unrepentant sinner, because the unrepentant sinner does not have the desire nor the ability to obey God. The unrepentant sinner is still carnally minded.

  13. Jon,

    Striving to be holy or contending for the faith are not the same as legalism.
    Legalism is the belief that man can do a bunch of ‘religiosity’ or outwardly works to earn God’s favor.
    Some forms of legalism exist in the form of Old Testament law keeping, whereby men are justified by religious acts or ceremonies in the form of law keeping. There are 613 commandments in the Old Testament law. Jesus fulfilled the law which means to satisfy the requirements. Jesus did not copy the OT law because he fulfilled it. Fulfill means to satisfy. It does not mean to copy. Their are several commandments in regard to temple worship that Jesus did not copy because his body is perfect and holy. The requirements of the priestly garments under the man made temple in the OT are quite confusing and lengthy. The new garment (Holy Spirit) is the only acceptable option to satisfy these requirements. The OT commandments and regulations regarding the priestly garments are not the same, if you study the law.

    Jesus said, “One jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, ’til all be fulfilled.” Legalists often ignore the ’til all be fulfilled part. The fulfillment came in Acts 3:18. That one word, ” ……’TIL……..” Gets ignored by the legalists. Jesus did change the law. Grace does not require men to ‘copy’ the OT law, because Jesus satisfied the requirement. Yes the law is a mirror which shows us that our face is dirty, but nobody takes the mirror off of the wall and washes his face with it. He uses soap. The law is a mirror, not soap.

  14. Josh, I like your analogy of not washing your face with the mirror but with soap. Very good. Christ handed me the “soap” by using the mirror of Spurgeon’s “A Defense of Calvinism”. The first time I began to read it I had to stop, I was quite angry. But praise be to God, He crucified me, and now the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God.

    P.S. I had nothing to do with any of it, it was done to and for me, for His glory.

  15. Mike,

    I have the same exact interpretation, However, Paul also spent a lot ot time preaching to already save Christians about how they could not earn their way into heaven because as you know we can and do de-emphasize Christ and put our works on the throne belonging to Christ.

    Legalism is the default mode of the human heart and we ALL fight against it in our sanctification. I believe that many Christians may never recognize it in their own hearts since it does come off as looking religious. Its very subtle and most people are blind to it.

    Also, I dont see striving as Holy as the same as legalism. Thats an inaccurate statement. However, at the same time I see legaism as one of the most unrecognized sins in the lives of saved Christians. Its also the #1 damaging activity the Church engages in far exceeding other issues. Once again Paul talking taking loads of time talking to saved people proves this in the Pauline books.

    I think the people on this BLOG have seperated legalism as predominantly an issue for unsaved people and I find that a highly inaccurate interpretation.

    In my opinion this legalism is the most subtle, damaging thing the Church enages in… far exceeding the damage “marketeers” and people that want to grow Church numbers engage in. We just pass it off as being decent churchy people that are basically ok. However, the idea if total depravity says basically ok is a bad thought process for a Christian. It means we dont need to change (or repent) since we just have to turn the cranks on whatever process we prefer to engage in to become Holy. At the end of this religious process we receive the product of ‘Heaven’ — Definitely bad thinking.

    The only ok stamp of approval we can have as Christians is the stamp of Jesus Christ.

    JS

  16. Romans 3

    19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

    Righteousness Through Faith
    21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    Here it is. Many people live their entire lives on Romans 3:19-20 without moving on to Romans 3:21. Living under the overly simplified religious umbrella of ‘mortifying sin’.

    To be honest, Christian maturity should be how deeply a person understands and applies Romans 21.

    We all may intellectually understand Romans 21, but how deeply do we apply it. Thats what keep us from engaging in the attitude of pharisees.

    My .02c worth

  17. There is a big difference between legalism and very greasy-grace. Some people want to obey the Lord and grow in Him and they mistake that for legalism. Then there are others who are so into greasy grace it stinks. They want to ‘correct’ anybody they ‘think’ is being legalistic but don’t see their own problem because they are to busy looking at everyone elses!!! Wanting to grow closer to our Lord is not legalism.

  18. Dying to the flesh is really hard, and it is painful. It is something you have to repeatedly do, since new situations come up all the time.

    But as you “die” each time, once it is over, and you look back, you can see that where you were was not right, and that what you went through was spiritually necessary. What a humbling experience….

    May God bless you on your spiritual journey.

    marianne
    http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/

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