Judging Correctly and Incorrectly


by Mike Ratliff

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 ESV)

It is impossible to walk through one’s day without having to make judgments. In fact our Lord Jesus who made the oft misquoted and misunderstood command found in Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37 to “Judge Not!” also made the following command.

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:14-24 ESV) Continue reading

Weaken Pride and Cultivate Humility


By Mike Ratliff

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1-10 ESV)

Over the last several days, perhaps even the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed at work and in much of my personal life with pressure. As many of you know, I have a daytime job as a Database Administrator for a Hospital Group. I have worked at this job since 2001 and all has gone quite well, but it seems that something has changed. First, we have suddenly experienced some very strange system failures, which has made for some very long days in order to bring them back online with no data loss. Just as I completed this, a very vicious virus that has kept me working around the clock over the weekend and today has attacked our entire network. We are concerned that this attack is only preliminary to an even worse one on April 1.

My reaction to these things along with seemingly ever increasing situations designed to frustrate me has caused me to wonder what is going on. In the past I would have reacted to all of this with self-protection motivated anger coupled with a bit of despair with the words, “Why me?” on my lips. However, God has been moving me over the last several months into a much more reflective mode of thinking, seeking His truth, and applying it to my walk before His face, my coram Deo. On Sunday, I had found a period in which I was “caught up” and so spent some time in Twitter and Facebook. One of the things I like to do in Facebook is to fill in the top box each time I connect with “What is on my mind”  or “What I am doing.” I typed in what I believed God was leading me to do, not just now and not just because of the pressure. In response to the prompt, “What are you doing?” I typed, “Mind renewal, crucifying the flesh, living at peace with others as God leads…” These are building blocks of a life that weakens pride and cultivates humility. Continue reading

The Love of Christ that Surpasses Knowledge


by Mike Ratliff

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)

I grew up in a Christian family. Not only was my immediate family all Christians, all of my extended family were as well. My Grandfather Ratliff was an evangelist who traveled all over Oklahoma, even before it became a state in 1907, preaching brush arbor “revivals” when there was no church building in town large enough for the crowds who came from all around to hear him. In any case, the environment in which I grew up was one in which I could not conceive of people hating the Gospel or being offended because of the Cross. Even after the Supreme Court ruled that Public Schools could no longer host “religious” things or focus on Christianity in any way, the Elementary school I attended still allowed a Gideon representative to come in every month or so to show a slide show to us that presented the Gospel. No one complained. Perhaps I grew up somewhat sheltered from the world’s hatred of God’s truth and that my concepts of these things were naïve, however, that is no longer the case. Continue reading

The Nature of the Human Will


by Mike Ratliff

Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me– not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. (John 6:43-46 ESV)

Even those who most ardently proclaim the sovereignty of man’s freewill must honestly deal with passages throughout Sacred Scripture which make it clear that the human will of the natural man is incapable of attaining such a high role. In fact, God’s Word actually makes it clear that the Human Will is simply the faculty of choice with no inherent ability to make a decision on its own. It is the Human Mind that decides while the Will is the “faculty of choice, the immediate cause of all action.”1 Therefore, it is quite incorrect to allocate the sovereignty of choice to a mechanism within each of us, created by God, which enables us to carry out the volition of the mind. Continue reading

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break


by Mike Ratliff

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21 ESV)

Pride is the natural state of man. The lost person is driven by it. After salvation, the believer is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This state of being is very different from that of the natural man. Pride still exists in the believer and its method of operation within is to utilize the flesh to seek personal fulfillment through self-focused behavior. Pride can mimic humble behavior in order for self to be seen as “humble.”

However, God does not simply save a person then leave them to mature unto Christlikeness on their own. No, He uses the process of personal sanctification, which is synergistic. We become more mature in Christ as we work with God in His plan to crush our pride and remake us into humble, Christlike believers. Having been involved in many “debates” and “arguments” that began as debates on this blog and others, I have come to realize that God was using those experiences to shape my character and teach me that winning these debates means little if my actions to do so were conceived of and carried out by my pride resulting in willful and stubborn behavior. Continue reading

What Really Counts


by Mike Ratliff

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:5-6 ESV)

This Christian walk is fraught with struggle against a deadly enemy. That enemy is the flesh. Our flesh is deceitful and has only one goal, which is, motivated by pride, to drive us to seek fulfillment through channels which will always result in the believer not walking in the Spirit, but according to it. It very clever and can even conjure up false humility that is really pride in disguise. It can justify all sorts of things that appear to be humble and Christlike, but which are merely screens and bluffs designed to disguise a life of self-gratification. In this walk it is vital that the believer come to terms with the fact that they will have to deal with this monster as long as he or she is in this life and that it is the victory over it which is the wonderful result of the mortification of sin. This humble pursuit is only possible for the believer as he or she learns to walk by faith motivated by God’s love working through them. Continue reading

He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions


By Mike Ratliff

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5 ESV)

I have been reading Roger Oakland’s book Faith Undone over the last several days. He does a fine job of revealing the often-subtle aspects of what has come to be called “The New Reformation.” Along with this study, I have been reading some Bible studies put together by a man who termed himself a “liberal evangelist,” William Barclay. I find it fascinating that we can look at the Christian liberalism of over a half-century ago and then witness in our day the result as the Emergents, Purpose Driven leaders, and New Evangelicals follow suit as they liberalize the truth of Sacred Scripture in order to justify their “New Reformation.” In light of this, let us look at some of the truths these liberals seem bent on ignoring or, at best, modifying for their own purpose. Continue reading

The Anger of Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (John 2:12-16 ESV)

Some today have made a caricature of our Lord Jesus Christ. This man-made image is far from the truth we see in Sacred Scripture. There have been some who have even portrayed the Bible as revealing two separate “Gods,” the mean, angry God of the Old Testament, and the kind, gentle Jesus of the New Testament. The former is an image contrived by those who resent God’s commands for holiness and righteousness while the latter is vastly incomplete and derived by those who are either ignorant of what the New Testament teaches about our Lord or they are deliberately ignoring what it says. Continue reading

Is it Wrong to Confront Unbelievers Head on with the Word of God?


By Mike Ratliff

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:36-38 ESV)

The Emergent Conversation appears to be nebulous, that is, not rigidly constructed. Its defenders even proclaim that this is so. However, it does hold to one standard, which if it did not it would be back on the path of orthodoxy. That standard consists of the following belief, “It is wrong to confront the unchurched (the politically correct name for unbelievers) with the Word of God.” We see this plainly in how they “do church.” The New Testament model of confronting sin head on with God’s truth, which is the law, followed by the solution for reconcilement to Him, obeying the Gospel, is seen as divisive, legalistic, narrow minded, and unloving. Continue reading

“Solas” of the Protestant Reformation


 

 
Sola Scriptura
The Bible is the sole written divine revelation and alone can bind the conscience of believers absolutely.
 
Sola Fide
Justification is by faith alone. The merit of Christ imputed to us by faith is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are remitted.
 
Solus Christus
Christ is the only mediator through whose work we are redeemed.
 
Sola Gratia
Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace for us and in us.
 
Soli Deo Gloria
To God alone belongs the glory.

Light in the Darkness


by Mike Ratliff

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, or sola fide, was the key of the Protestant Reformation. Its recovery was from the darkness created by the dominance of man-made religiosity, which held that justification was accomplished through faith plus good works. This grew into people being required to do religious acts in order to be considered righteous. The driving force of the Reformation was captured by the Latin phrase Post tenbras lux (After darkness, light). Continue reading

Authority: Christ and the Bible


by Mike Ratliff

The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority. Continue reading

Pure in Heart Peacemakers


by Mike Ratliff

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:8-10 ESV)

The most peace I have in this life is as I meditate on passages like Matthew 5:2-12, which is The Beatitudes. On the other hand, one thing that causes me to take on a countenance of righteous indignation occurs as I observe Christian preachers, teachers, and writers functioning in the role of “prophet” leading their followers to discount personal holiness. The seeker-sensitive paradigm deliberately does this in order to be more inclusive. This form of ministry makes a very huge error, however, in that it has as one of its major foundational points that people can be reconciled to God, to be a genuine Christian, without true discipleship, which includes active repentance. Continue reading