Take Up Your Cross And Follow Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

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)

The Church is in the midst of a Truth War. That is nothing new is it? We have been talking about this for quite some time; however, we must remain diligent while not surrendering the fight over what is Truth and what is not to the enemies of God’s Truth. The reason the visible church is being eaten alive by world right now is that it has long ago forsaken God’s Word as His infallible Truth. The result is the compromised mess we see all around us now. Why is it that Rick Warren and his followers have such a hold on the visible church? Their paper-thin, worldly theology is geared to be man-pleasing and non-offensive by being sanitized with the removal of those things like the doctrines of the Total Depravity of Man, Justification by Faith, and then there is that bloody cross of Christ and why our Lord deliberately laid down His life there. You will not hear about any of that in those compromised churches because that might offend someone. What about those people comfortable in their religiosity, we couldn’t have them suddenly come under conviction that they are filthy sinners in need of a Saviour and the only way to be Justified by Faith is through that bloody Cross, taking it up and following Jesus Christ as Lord. Oh, no we cannot have that, let us sanitize it up and make it easy so people can come to us and be comfortable in their religiosity so our churches can be large and growing.  Continue reading

Darkness


by Mike Ratliff

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10 ESV)

God is sovereign. He is Holy, Righteous, and Just. As John states in 1 John 1:5 (above), He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

Here is v5 from the NA27: Καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία.

Here is my personal translation: “And this is the message which we have heard from Him and we declare to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

The word “light” translates the Greek word φῶς, which we looked at in last night’s post, Light and Darkness, while the word “darkness” translates σκοτία or skotia, which means “darkness,” however except for John 6:17; 20:1, in the New Testament, where this word refers to the actual darkness of night or early morning, σκοτία is always used metaphorically. Jesus uses it to describe time of private teaching with the Twelve, away from the crowds (Matthew 10”27). He also warns against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, saying that everything spoken in “darkness” will be revealed (Luke 12:3). Jesus is light (John 12:35), and He invites people to walk in His light instead of their darkness (John 8:12; 12:46). Those who have hatred in their hearts may think they are in the light, but they are deceived and even blinded (1 John 2:9, 11). This lost sinful world, characterized by σκοτία, cannot understand the light that has come to illuminate it (John 1:5). Darkness is not a power that is equal to God, for God dispels it. Light and darkness are used to contrast the purity and holiness of God and the wickedness and sinfulness of this world (1 John 1:5).  Continue reading

Light and Darkness


by Mike Ratliff

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:1-34 ESV)

The New Testament book of John is profound. The thirty-four opening verses (above) set the stage for us by making sure we understand whom Jesus Christ really is. Who is He? He is God! He is the Word, the Logos, who preexisted creation. Notice also, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is an analogy. “Life” translates ζωὴ or zōē, which is speaking of spiritual life or eternal life (John 3:15; John 17:3; Ephesians 2:5) and John calls it what? It is “the light of men…” which translates the Greek phrase, “τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.” “Light” translates the word φῶς or phōs and it refers to biblical truth, therefore, what do we have? In Christ, we have eternal life that also bears the fruit within us of God’s truth, which is Biblical truth. Of course, the opposite is true as well. Outside of Christ is spiritual death and those outside of Him are in darkness, which means they are in error or falsehood. Morally, this light refers to holiness and purity (1 John 1:5) while darkness refers to sin or wrongdoing (John 3:19; John 12:35, 46; Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:8-11). Continue reading

The Righteousness that Exceeds the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees


by Mike Ratliff

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4 ESV)

I am sure when our Lord told His disciples on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 5:14-16), “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven…” that there were some who were getting the idea that the way of our Lord was some form of works righteousness that was at a higher, but better level than that of the Scribes and Pharisees who were all about legalism. Some today still have that idea. However, He followed that statement with this one in vv 17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So, what was our Lord teaching here? He wasn’t teaching us to follow legalism, that is, that our righteousness is somehow obtained by a strict adherence to the Law of Moses was He? Paul was very clear in the book of Galatians that no one ever obtained the righteousness of God that way.  Continue reading

Forgiveness


by Mike Ratliff

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV)

The key to understanding the passage above is in getting who the “us” is that Paul mentions repeatedly all through it. Whoever they are, they are indeed blessed. Of course Paul is talking about those who are called, those who believe the Gospel and are redeemed out of spiritual death unto eternal life in Christ. We looked at the marvelous truths of our Redemption in yesterday’s post. Today we will look at one of the direct results of it, which is the forgiveness of sins. It seems that the majority “opinion” of those with the loudest voices and coolest ministries in the visible church never talk about this because they never talk about sin and the doctrine of depravity. Why? They are merely a newer version of what is known as Christian Liberalism, which is a misnomer for it is not true Christianity at all for it denies the necessity of Christ as Saviour so they never preach the Cross. According to them, the Good News is about man not what God has done on man’s behalf. Fortunately, we still have God’s Word and some good solid Bible teachers, well grounded, who never waiver from preaching the whole Gospel. God still has His remnant and always will until Christ returns. Let us look at the three aspects of forgiveness that is the direct result of our redemption. Continue reading

Redemption


by Mike Ratliff

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15 ESV)

The Gospel is explained very well in the New Testament. The role of the Church in the World from the time of Christ’s Ascension until His return is very well defined for us there as well (to go and make disciples from all the earth, teaching them to observe all that He taught…) This Great Commission is not to ‘be the Gospel’ nor is it to ‘redeem the earth’ nor is it to ‘make the world a better place.’ No, it is to go and tell the Good News that we have a mediator of a new covenant and those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance that is made possible through the death of their Saviour who has redeemed through the shedding of His blood (see the passage above). You see, this is the Good News. The Gospel is to preach what Christ has done not what people have done, not what churches have done, not what religion has done or what being religious can do for anyone. It is simply to proclaim this message relying on the power and work of the Holy Spirit to draw those called to saving faith. Let’s take a closer look at this “redemption.”  Continue reading

The Mystery


by Mike Ratliff

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:28-32 ESV)

In our 21st Century languages, the word “mystery” is used as a series of clues to be figured out. However, the Apostle Paul used the Greek word μυστήριον or mustērion six times in the book of Ephesians, twice in Romans, once in 1 Corinthians, four times in Colossians, and once in 1 Timothy. It is found nowhere else in the New Testament. His usage was not as a series of clues to be figured out, but of a grand word that points to mystery as a heretofore-unrevealed truth that has been made clear. Its usage in the Greek text preserves the sense that the revealed truth has such awesome implications that it continues to amaze and humble those who accept it. Many of you are familiar with the term describing the current day Evangelical Church as being a million miles wide and one inch deep. That sad fact is due to its losing its grasp of this Mystery and its implications all tied to the Sovereignty of God, the Deity of Christ, and the fact that Salvation is the result of Justification by Faith alone by the Grace of God alone not by the efforts of man. This loss has resulted in a focus on self rather than God. In return, God has caused His judgment to fall on these people so that they no longer hunger for God’s truth, but only hunger for what is new, cool, and culturally relevant. They seek it, but are never fulfilled by it while the very thing that would fulfill their hunger, God’s truth according to His grace, is available, but they look everywhere but there.  Continue reading

Christ Is the Exclusive Saviour


by Mike Ratliff

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7 ESV)

I received a very nice email today from a very well known Bible teacher who is a fellow victim of slash and burn heretic who attempted to shut me down several years ago. The email stated that this heretic had listed him and his ministry right along side mine as examples of “heathen reprobates” who are leading God’s people astray. Why? Because we hold to the doctrine of justification by faith by God’s grace alone. I remember the several day encounter with this heretic’s cult and many of you may as well for if you dared to comment on what I posted then you received emails from them as well. In any case, what is noticeably missing in all cults is the correct emphasis on the necessity of the Cross of Christ and, therefore, a total misapplication of Him as our Exclusive Saviour.  Continue reading

Watch Therefore


by Mike Ratliff

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:13 ESV)

Just a few days before his crucifixion, our Lord spent some very valuable time with His disciples, pouring Himself into them, preparing them for the time when He would no longer be physically with them. In Matthew 25 we have some of what He gave them. Much of the apostasy we are witnessing in our time in the visible church is a direct result of its mishandling of or forgetting of these things. In fact, any form of what is referring to as “progressive” or “liberal” “Christianity” proves that it is not valid because it does not adhere to the truths found here and the rest of God’s Word. You see, there is no wiggle room. There is no gray area. Why? It is because when we get into these human “rights of choice” forms of “so-called christianity” they are all based on what people do and choose, but when we get to God’s truth and what the real Gospel is and what the nature of the real kingdom of heaven is like, we find our Sovereign God at the center of all things with the elect worshiping Him.  Continue reading

Might the Evangelical Church be on the Verge of a Gay Awakening?


by Mike Ratliff

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:18-27 ESV)

This ministry exists solely by the grace of God. I do not depend on donations or advertisers to keep things going. I work for a living and this site is maintained on WordPress.com so it is free. I spend time and prayer and effort in it of course, but I do not depend upon the financial support of others to keep things going. However, I have friends who minister full time and those who depend upon advertisers to keep their radio shows on the air, et cetera always have that threat of having that money pulled away as pressure comes to bear for various reasons. I heard from a friend today who lost two advertisers who told him they had received numerous complaints about his stance on homosexuality in the church and so they were pulling their advertising dollars from his ministry. Of course, those very same people who were calling in the complaints also hacked into his web site and did major damage to it. All of this was done by certain people who claim to be Christians that insist on the unconditional love of Jesus for all. I guess that love only goes to those who support their agenda of gay affirmation in the visible church. Continue reading

Not All of You Are Clean


by Mike Ratliff

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (John 13:1-11 ESV)

The following is a note from the ESV Study Bible pertaining to the passage above:

With his crucifixion imminent, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet as a final proof of his love for them, setting an example of humility and servant-hood and signifying the washing away of sins through his death. In a striking demonstration of love for his enemies, Jesus washes all his disciples’ feet including those of Judas. Jesus’ act is all the more remarkable, as washing people’s feet was considered to be a task reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In a culture where people walked long distances on dusty roads in sandals, it was customary for the host to arrange for water to be available for the washing of feet. Normally, this was done upon arrival, not during the meal.

My brethren, the next time we even begin to think we have become mature believers who have passed all the tests and have totally crucified the flesh, et cetera, we need to reread passages like this one. Do we go and ‘wash the feet’ of our enemies? Do we cling to our animosity against those who have wronged us as if it is “our right” or do we humble ourselves, forgive them and serve them as our Lord would? Notice carefully my brethren that even though our Lord did all of this for Judas Iscariot, it changed nothing. He still betrayed our Lord. Continue reading

Taken Captive


by Mike Ratliff

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

When we do word studies in the Greek New Testament it is vital that we pay very close attention the verb tenses. From these we learn that some statements are commands (imperatives) while others, which some Bible translations render as if they are commands, are actually statements of fact (indicatives or aorists). Confusing these has caused a very large amount of confusion and bad doctrine to pollute the church. For instance, when Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” the verb structure here is not imperative (a command to be born again), but aorist tense, subjunctive mood, passive voice. In other words, this is action that is most definitely not a command by our Lord to Nicodemus to be born again, but a statement of fact that if a person is to see the kingdom of God he or she must be born again. The action is passive so it is the result of some other action. So what? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. This is an example of an imperative. Let us put it into context.  Continue reading

Preach the Gospel or Be the Gospel?


by Mike Ratliff

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

The passage above (Matthew 28:16-20) is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention not very long ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself. This started me thinking…  Continue reading

Do Not Give Up


by Mike Ratliff

in whom we have the boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him. Therefore, I ask you not to give up over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory (a personal translation of Ephesians 3:12,13 from the Greek text)

In January 5, 2011 we looked at The Right Attitudes Concerning Prayer using Ephesians 3:12 as our primary focus. Now let us look at another important word from v13 which many Bible translations render as ‘faint,’ ‘discouraged, ‘ or ‘lose heart.’ Here is v13 from the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament.

διο αιτουμαι μη εγκακειν εν ταις θλιψεσιν μου υπερ υμων ητις εστιν δοξα υμων  Continue reading