Hold Fast to the Word of Life

by Mike Ratliff

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” (Acts 5:19-20 ESV)

It seems that Christian suffering is a very big topic right now. I think I have heard at least three separate teachings on Job Chapter 1 & 2 in the last few months. Then there is Matt Chandler at T4G making that impact with his message of God taking him through cancer and brain surgery. It was very interesting to watch the reaction when Ken Silva posted this article the other day. I knew there would be some who would cry foul and some did. They called what was said, “watchblogging” as if that is an evil thing. However, Ken let me read some of the email he received on this and it was very interesting to see the confusion. Yes, no one had an issue with the evils of out of control subjectivism being elevated to the level of truth, but then as what they disagreed with was laid bare, they would revert right back to analyzing everything subjectively. What ever happened to prayer and going to God’s Word for the truth? When we look for it anywhere else we will never find it. 

We are in a period of the Church in which we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ alone for if we look to men we are in danger of being deceived. We looked at this in our last post There is Death in the Pot! In any case, to counter this, we must become focused where God wants us to be focused, doing as He desires us to be doing.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

When I was a much younger Christian Bible teacher, we would hit this verse and it never failed that I was asked to explain what Paul was talking about here. What does it mean to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”? The Greek word translated here as “work out” is κατεργαζεσθε, which means, in this context, “to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion.” This cannot refer to the Christian’s salvation by works (cf. Romans 3:21-24; Ephesians 2:8,9), but it does refer to the believer’s responsibility for active pursuit of obedience in the process of sanctification (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 6:7-9; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 3:1-17; Hebrews 6:10, 11; 12:1, 2; 2 Peter 1:5-11). What about the fear and trembling part? This is the believer’s correct attitude he or she should have as they pursue their sanctification. This means that we should have a healthy fear of offending God and righteous awe and respect for Him (cf. Proverbs 1L7; 9:10; Isaiah 66:1, 2).

Digest that my brethren then understand that we are to do this because it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. What does that mean? God energizes both our desires and actions to obey Him. The Greek word translated in v13 as “to will” is θελειν, indicates not only willing something, but also pressing on to action. God is working in believers with a studied intent to fulfill a planned purpose. Notice also that it is His intent that Christians do what is His “good pleasure,” or what satisfies Him, not the other way around.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:14-18 ESV)

This passage describes what we must be about my brethren. Yes, some of those men who profess the right theology may be apostatizing. Yes, apostasy may be creeping into churches all around us. These things are happening, but we must not allow this to stop us from praying and serving and doing what we are called to do. We can still be Christlike in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. In this we shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. Yes, we can do that in the power of the Holy Spirit as God works in us for His good pleasure.

I and many of my friends are called to write the truth even when many in positions in the visible church do not like it. To be honest, when this started, I never in my wildest imagination thought I would end up doing this sort of thing. I thought I would write Christian self-help books and do seminars in Churches all across the country, speaking at conferences, et cetera. Well, what I found was that the visible church has no appetite for books on walking in repentance and living the crucified life. That is, if said books contained no references to certain mystics. I digress. In any case, God had other plans. Instead of becoming a rich Southern Baptist writer/celebrity with my picture all over every Lifeway Book Store, I get nasty emails from people who think it is just darn mean to say anything against someone like Matt Chandler since, after all, he is battling cancer ya know. However, now I have such a crystal clear picture of the developing Truth War. I have friends and friends of friends and through our network of discussion we feed each other information and it is amazing how interconnected some of these men and ministries are that become the focus of our research. It is as if there is one unseen hand behind it all.

My role and the role of my friends to be lights in the world, holding fast to the world of life, is to pursue the truth, God’s truth for there is no other. We must make sure that God’s people know what it is and ferret out that which pretends to be the truth, but is not. We do this all for the glory of God and for the edification of the Saints.

Soli Deo Gloria!

17 thoughts on “Hold Fast to the Word of Life

  1. Hi Mike – Wonderful sharing as always :-D

    I read this daily reading a few moments ago and wanted to share it with you and your readers. It both touches and opens up some of the ‘why’ of things you discuss in your article and felt it would edify the body and glorify the Lord alongside with what you have shared so lovingly.

    His title at first appears to be an oxymoron, yet as you read, it incredibly unfolds into something quite the opposite.

    Bless you today :-D
    Steph

    Oswald Chambers – My Utmost for His Highest 24 May
    THE DELIGHT OF DESPAIR

    “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” Revelation 1:17

    It may be that like the apostle John you know Jesus Christ intimately, when suddenly He appears with no familiar characteristic at all, and the only thing you can do is to fall at His feet as dead. There are times when God cannot reveal Himself in any other way than in His majesty, and it is the awfulness of the vision which brings you to the delight of despair; if you are ever to be raised up, it must be by the hand of God.

    “He laid His right hand upon me.” In the midst of the awfulness, a touch comes, and you know it is the right hand of Jesus Christ. The right hand not of restraint nor of correction nor of chastisement, but the right hand of the Everlasting Father. Whenever His hand is laid upon you, it is ineffable peace and comfort, the sense that “underneath are the everlasting arms,” full of sustaining and comfort and strength. When once His touch comes, nothing at all can cast you into fear again. In the midst of all His ascended glory the Lord Jesus comes to speak to an insignificant disciple, and to say – “Fear not.” His tenderness is ineffably sweet. Do I know Him like that?

    Watch some of the things that strike despair. There is despair in which there is no delight, no horizon, no hope of anything brighter; but the delight of despair comes when I know that “in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” I delight to know that there is that in me which must fall prostrate before God when He manifests Himself, and if I am ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God. God can do nothing for me until I get to the limit of the possible.

  2. OH! I love this! Our pastor taught us there are two great pillars of the church. God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility. You describe them so well here.

    God’s Sovereignty: The Greek word translated in v13 as “to will” is θελειν, indicates not only willing something, but also pressing on to action. God is working in believers with a studied intent to fulfill a planned purpose. Notice also that it is His intent that Christians do what is His “good pleasure,” or what satisfies Him, not the other way around.”

    Man’s Responsibility: “The Greek word translated here as “work out” is κατεργαζεσθε, which means, in this context, “to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion.”

    Praise the Lord for HIS PLAN and the power of His SPIRIT, indwelling to perform it!!!

  3. That is very astute of you Stella Marie. Yes, they are both presented very well and clearly in this passage. Yes, praise the Lord for His plan and the power of His Spirit, for without Him indwelling us, we could not do it.

  4. Hi Mike,
    This was very good, thank you. We know that His Word is truth and that is to be our focus, if we are to be lovers of the truth. His Word is sufficient and we do not go beyond what is written because of our love for Christ. If we have a love for the truth, then He will keep us living in it. Our focus is Christ and His cross and telling people of their need for Christ. Are we speaking much of Christ? Or other things.
    God bless you and keep you strong.

  5. “…the visible church has no appetite for books on walking in repentance and living the crucified life.”

    Isn’t that the truth, Mike? No appetite even if those books are modern editions of older Puritan works to make those truths a little more accessible, e.g., John Bunyan’s Christian Behavior et al.

    Blessings to you, brother.

  6. “And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

    Sometimes, it seems, that the battle is too large, the cost is too great. Standing (alone sometimes) for the truth if fraught with trials, tribulation, affliction, persecution, but also blessing, peace, comfort, rest from the precious Holy Spirit.
    But, the promise from the Word is true and rock to stand upon!

  7. Amen Jon, thanks brother! I love to read Owen and Bunyan and Edwards because they were not polluted with this dreadful plague of meism that we have in our time. Yes, they are difficult to wade through at times, but my goodness the treasure within is amazing! Thanks again brother!

  8. Hi Mike,

    First let me say thanks for posting this, because we can’t be warned enough about dangers creeping into the Church, whether they be blatant full frontal attacks or those more subtle, of the Trojan horse variety.

    I think your statement, “We are in a period of the Church in which we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ alone for if we look to men we are in danger of being deceived,” is so critical right now. Of course we should always keep our eyes focused on Christ regardless of period we are in, but throughout Church history it seems there have been “leaders” who have been our collective voice, rallying point, etc. Perhaps the desire for this has never been more evident than the period we are in now and herein lies the danger, especially so, within reformed circles because I feel we are so hungry. We so much want to awaken those who are slumbering to the truths of the Sovereignty of God and are impassioned so by the Word that we look to these “national” voices as perhaps spiritual leaders or mentors and this in essence elevates them to a status that no one apart from Jesus Christ should have.

    I’m just as guilty as holding the teachings of a John MacArthur for example, in high regard because of his faithfulness to the Word and the truths that the Lord teaches me through a ministry such as his. But these men are just men and it is become more evident daily that we must continue to distance ourselves from holding fast to any one man’s teaching, but instead rest ourselves on Jesus Christ and the Word of God. If we must look for men to quote, men to emulate in our own ministries, or men to read who have written books that point back to the God of the Bible, then we must refer to those men whose work has stood the test of time and criticism, namely the likes of Spurgeon, Owen, Edwards, or other Puritanical and reformed writers. The theology of pastors today is ever evolving, changing, and lacking in consistency (I would concur with your statement about many apostatizing) so much so that we are nearly to the point of only mentioning a theologian’s work posthumously.

    Having said that, I did include the video from T4G that Matt Chandler (though I’ve only listened to a handful (4?) of his sermons) delivered on suffering on my own site, because it does appear that the Lord is using his cancer as evidence of what a Biblical reliance upon God is all about, both in good times and in bad. Though admittedly I was somewhat taken aback and confused about his “Reformed charismatic” statement and in my mind creates more questions than answers concerning his ministry at this point.

    God bless!

  9. Mike, as always, you capture the truth that we need to hear.

    Oswald Chambers calls this being “broken bread and poured out wine.”

    This is our calling. And the example that you, Ken Silva and others set, encourages us to follow in like manner. Nothing matters than being approved workmen, waiting to see the look of pleasure on our blessed Savior’s face as He welcomes us home one day.

    Continued prayers and blessings upon your ministry, Mike.

    Heather

  10. First I just want to say thank you, Mike for your committment to Gods Word (Truth). I have been reading for awhile and always walk away refreshed. The plain Truth is getting harder to find in todays churches. There is so much compromise and I have been saying for so long why is the church moving away from Gods Word and prayer period? It makes me sad. I am writing today just to encourage you and let you know that there are many who are reading what God is saying through you. We may not respond but we are so thankful to know that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are standing for Truth and who will not waiver. Thank you for sticking to Gods word and not adding or subtracting from it.

    I have been so hungry for teachings on holiness, the crucified life, denying ourselves and following Jesus etc etc. but there is not a lot out there and its even harder to discuss with other “professed christians”. So I study Gods word for myself inductively and HE feeds me. (I do belong to a church as well). But I am glad that you hit on the tough stuff as well. Not being afraid to teach the things that may rub against the flesh. Its a hurts so good kind of thing. Hope that makes sense. I dont want to go on and on. But I was compelled to send you a quick note.

    Please know that you are a blessing and God is working through you. Thank you.
    Your Sister in Christ
    Anna

  11. Anna, I like that “it hurts so good”.

    As you grow in the Lord Jesus Christ, at least it has been my experience, you desire greatly the Refiner’s Fire everyday. Oh, how very painful it is, but the blessing it holds far outweighs the sufferings!

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