The Mystery of Godliness


by Mike Ratliff

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:14-16 ESV)

The best place for a Christian to be is at the Cross, before the Saviour, in complete agreement with God that without His saving Grace he or she would be on their way to Hell, and without His sustaining Grace he or she would lose all ability or desire for His godliness. In fact, Christians are in a great deal of trouble when they think otherwise. Yes, we are commanded to obey God and to seek His Holiness, but we are completely unable to obey Him in the Spirit; neither are we able to seek His Holiness unless He first gives us the Grace to do these things. In fact, if we try to do either in our own abilities, we will fail miserably and find ourselves in an impossible situation of trying to attain favor with God by our own efforts in our own ability. This is a form of legalism, which leads only to frustration and disillusionment.  Continue reading

What Happens When God Leaves Us to Ourselves?


by Mike Ratliff

This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:30-31 ESV)

I doubt if any professing Christian who is a genuine child of God has not come to that sobering and often devastating realization in which God has taken His hand away just enough so that decisions are made and actions are taken apart from His wise counsel. The consequences of our going it alone are humbling to say the least. God tests us in these circumstances to show us what is really in our hearts. We are placed in circumstances in which the wise and Christian thing to do would be to seek God’s face and move only as He leads, but if we are honest we must confess that in these circumstances our self-righteousness comes to the fore or we operate from pride or instead of mortifying our sin, we indulge our flesh. These are not marks of the unregenerate my brethren, but of the children of God. I am convinced that God uses these things to show us what we are really made of and, therefore, we are humbled and become more usable in the Kingdom.  Continue reading

Looking to Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)

Despite the effort of the emergents to deflect the focus of Christianity from Christ and His Gospel to a man-made Jesus and his social gospel, the Word of God is still very clear that the promise to true believers is resurrection from the dead. Eternal life in Christ is our blessed hope, not the uniting of all religious beliefs into a front that will make this world a better place. No, we must go through each day and do all we do looking unto Jesus as the object of our faith and salvation.  Continue reading

The Divine Nature


by Mike Ratliff

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!– assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)

The writers of the New Testament had no concept of a Christian whom many today would call a “Carnal Christian.” All believers still sin in this life and there will be times when they struggle with certain sins as if in a deadly battle, which they perceive as one they are losing. However, God will not leave His children this way. There will be no peace in the heart of a genuine Christian who is actively indulging his or her flesh. Instead, there will be heartache, self-loathing, and a deep desire to get the victory and draw closer to the Saviour much as David did when finally confronted about his horrible sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. There is no true peace in the heart of Christian who is hiding his or her sin. Those around them may not know what is going on, but God does  and so do those hiding their sin. It is not a spiritually healthy situation.  Continue reading

The Truth and the Deceived


By Mike Ratliff

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-19 ESV)

The prevalent lie dominating the emergent “Church” is that the Gospel is defined differently than it is clearly set down in God’s Word. Of course, this should be no surprise since Sacred Scripture tells us plainly that the genuine Gospel is folly or foolishness to those who are perishing. I know that some are saying that the emergents are genuine Christians and that they are leading the way into a “new reformation,” but if one simply dialogues with any of the emergents for very long about the Gospel it becomes very clear in a hurry that it is a different religion. Continue reading

The Lamb of God


by Mike Ratliff

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 ESV)

In my Nave’s Topical Bible there is a subsection under “Atonement” titled “Atonement – Made by Jesus.” It covers half of page 85 and runs through half of page 88. I find it interesting that the leaders in the emergent church such as Brian McLaren focus so much of their energies on trying to deny that the Lord Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross to atone for the sins of His people was the primary mission of His incarnation. Instead, these false Christian leaders point their followers to follow a man-made Jesus whose purpose in His incarnation was to show people how best to live and make the world a better place. At the same time, so many “denominations” are rapidly apostatizing through cultural compromise and moving away from God’s moral standards. Our enemy has planted easily believable lies throughout the visible Church and has given verbiage to the lying mouths of his prophets that are designed to confuse and take away the clarity of God’s Truth. For instance, the emergent leaders cannot preach a thing without emphasizing that ultimate truth is unknowable while elevating indefiniteness as a virtue. They,  like Rob Bell for instance, teach that if solid, defined lines run between professing Christians and God in which doctrines are clearly held and proclaimed then those Christians have made-up what they believe and are no longer in communion with God. Sounds a bit like a post-modern version of Gnosticism to me. Continue reading

Three Kinds of Death


by Mike Ratliff

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

The fallen nature of man does not understand death. Depending on culture, some fight to stay alive with their all. The correct understanding of death comes to us from God’s Word. The word death is used in three different ways in Sacred Scripture. The first is spiritual death, which is separation from God (Ephesians 2:1,1). Then, of course, there is physical death (Hebrews 9:27). Then there is eternal death, which is referred to as “the second death” in Revelation 20:11-15). While many would consider the topic of death to be a subject to be avoided, it is vital for us to have a clear understanding of all three manifestations in biblical terminology so that we will have a better foundation for sharing the Good News.  Continue reading

True Patriotism


(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin–while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor–while thehouse is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, “Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Luke 12:14. “My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!” John 18:36. God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the “quiet in the land.” Psalm 35:19. Continue reading

Sanctification – Life in the Spirit


By Mike Ratliff

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)

5οι γαρ κατα σαρκα οντες τα της σαρκος φρονουσιν οι δε κατα πνευμα τα του πνευματος 6το γαρ φρονημα της σαρκος θανατος το δε φρονημα του πνευματος ζωη και ειρηνη 7διοτι το φρονημα της σαρκος εχθρα εις θεον τω γαρ νομω του θεου ουχ υποτασσεται ουδε γαρ δυναται 8οι δε εν σαρκι οντες θεω αρεσαι ου δυνανται (Romans 8:5-8 WHNU)

One thing that has become very obvious in the comment sections of the last few posts on Sanctification. There are a lot of people out there who confuse Justification and Sanctification. They are not the same thing at all. I make statements about God working in us to develop Christ’s very character in us through our Sanctification in which we obey Him, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. He takes us through fiery trials to mature us. Then the alarms go off and here come the naysayers who proclaim that I am teaching works theology. Well if I was talking about our Justification then I would agree, but that is not what Sanctification is all about. Also, there have been some, who I believe are disciples of Tim Keller, that say we are not to try to obey God, to keep His commandments, because no one can keep them. Really? I agree that no one can keep them perfectly, but we are commanded to obey our Lord, keeping His commandments and when we fail, we apply 1 John 1:9 and get back in the race. This life in the Spirit is not a life of replacing obedience with clinging to the foot of cross. Aren’t we supposed to do both?  Continue reading

Sanctification – Not Under the Law but Under Grace


by Mike Ratliff

1ουδεν αρα νυν κατακριμα τοις εν χριστω ιησου 2ο γαρ νομος του πνευματος της ζωης εν χριστω ιησου ηλευθερωσεν σε απο του νομου της αμαρτιας και του θανατου 3το γαρ αδυνατον του νομου εν ω ησθενει δια της σαρκος ο θεος τον εαυτου υιον πεμψας εν ομοιωματι σαρκος αμαρτιας και περι αμαρτιας κατεκρινεν την αμαρτιαν εν τη σαρκι 4ινα το δικαιωμα του νομου πληρωθη εν ημιν τοις μη κατα σαρκα περιπατουσιν αλλα κατα πνευμα (Romans 8:1-4 WHNU)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)

Those who hold to a from of Christianity that does not honor God and His holiness by their downplaying the necessity of walking in repentance have abandoned humble obedience in favor of self-focused license. I saw a video of some of Brian McLaren’s unbiblical teachings all given one after the other. He has a problem with Penal Substitution. He wants Christians to believe Romans 8:1, but ignore Romans 8:2-4, which explains what Christ did for His people at the Cross and why this is the only way it could be done. This is the danger of ripping scripture out of context. For a proper understanding of Romans 8:1-4 we must also understand Romans 7:1-25. Continue reading

Sanctification – Slaves to Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

17χαρις δε τω θεω οτι ητε δουλοι της αμαρτιας υπηκουσατε δε εκ καρδιας εις ον παρεδοθητε τυπον διδαχης 18ελευθερωθεντες δε απο της αμαρτιας εδουλωθητε τη δικαιοσυνη (Romans 6:17-18 WHNU)

17Thanks but to God that you were slaves of sin, you obeyed and from the heart to which you were delivered a form of teaching; 18 having been freed and from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 word for word translation from the Greek to English)

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 ESV)

What does it mean that genuine Christians have been enslaved (εδουλωθητε) to righteousness (δικαιοσυνη)? So many professing Christians today have absolutely no concept of this. It would be safe to say that those professing Christians who are ignorant of this are the vast majority. Some of those ignorant of this have never been properly discipled so their concept of the correct way to walk before the face of God in this life, their Coram Deo, is based in some sentimental or “culturally relevant” standard instead of what God’s Word says. On the other hand, there are also some in this group who are not genuine Christians. They are not regenerate so they would be those who are still δουλοι της αμαρτιας. Continue reading

The Precious Blood


Before the cross I kneel and see
The measure of my sin
How You became a curse for me
Though You were innocent
The magnitude of Your great love
Was shown in full degree
When righteous blood, the crimson spill
Rained down from Calvary

Oh, the precious blood
That flowed from Mercy’s side
Washed away my sin
When Christ my Savior died
Oh, the precious blood
Of Christ the crucified
It speaks for me before Your throne
Where I stand justified

And who am I that I should know
This treasure of such worth
My Savior’s pure atoning blood
Shed for the wrath I’d earned
For sin has stained my every deed
My every word and thought
What wondrous love that makes me one
Your priceless blood has bought

A crown of thorns, pierced hands and feet
A body bruised, and Mercy’s plea

© 2005 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP).

Words and music by Peter Gagnon
As recorded on Valley of Vision

The Lord Our Companion


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Sweet are these words in describing a deathbed assurance. How many have repeated them in their last hours with intense delight!

But the verse is equally applicable to agonies of spirit in the midst of life. Some of us, like Paul, die daily through a tendency to gloom of soul. Bunyan puts the Valley of the Shadow of Death far earlier in the pilgrimage than the river which rolls at the foot of the celestial hills. We have some of us traversed the dark and dreadful defile of “the shadow of death” several times, and we can bear witness that the Lord alone enabled us to bear up amid its wild thought, its mysterious horrors, its terrible depressions. The Lord has sustained us and kept us above all real fear of evil, even when our spirit has been overwhelmed. We have been pressed and oppressed, but yet we have lived, for we have felt the presence of the Great Shepherd and have been confident that His crook would prevent the foe from giving us any deadly wound.

Should the present time be one darkened by the raven wings of a great sorrow, let us glorify God by a peaceful trust in Him.

From: Faith’s Checkbook by C.H. Spurgeon for June 20

Sanctification – Dead to Sin Alive to God


by Mike Ratliff

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25 ESV)

The Lord gave the Church a wonderful gift when He knocked Saul of Tarsus off his horse and effectually called Him to be His Apostle. His Epistle to the Romans is a huge piece of the doctrinal foundation of the Church. In Romans 3:20-5:21 he covered the doctrine of justification. This is God’s declaring the believing sinner righteous. In Romans 6:1-8:39 he covers the practical ramifications of this justification. This is the doctrine of sanctification, which is God’s producing actual righteousness in the believer. Many take missteps in their theology by confusing these two aspects of our salvation. Justification is a legal term referring to a judge declaring a person charged with a crime to be not guilty. When a sinner believes the Gospel by God’s grace through faith, He justifies them. This is His monergistic work, His alone. On the other hand, sanctification is the synergistic work of God and the believer in “working out the believer’s salvation with fear and trembling.” This is the work of transforming the believer into one who bears Christ’s very character. Continue reading