Do Conversion And Regeneration Represent The Same Thing?


by Mike Ratliff

13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. ’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord? ’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:13-18 ESV)

A hypocrite is someone who implies he or she stands for one set of values, but actually lives out their life doing the opposite. Since few would disagree that the post-modern church is mired in hypocrisy, one might assume that Christianity was the problem. If Christianity really was the one and only true religion and Jesus’ disciples truly are changed by their new birth in Christ, the hypocrite label should not stick. Why? True Biblical Christianity professes that all in Christ not only have their sins forgiven them, but they are also new creations who are no longer under the power of their former sins. Something isn’t right.  Continue reading

Who Are the Poor in Spirit?


by Mike Ratliff

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV)

One the most disturbing aspects of the churches who practice Christianity “lite” is the near total abandonment of a call to personal holiness. Even more discouraging is the fact that they preach a version of the gospel that has had any mention of repentance severed from it. The reasoning behind this, of course, is that they are building bridges to the unchurched. If they preach the whole gospel they will drive away those they are attempting to draw to join their churches. The problem with that sort of reasoning is that it is based in pragmatism. It is based on fleshly reasoning and the ways of the world. It is actually unbelief in the form of ministry. The architects of Christianity “lite” do not believe that God is still building His Church, therefore, they will do it themselves using marketing techniques constructed around “cultural-relevancy.” They reason that if they build “cool churches” that it will draw people who hate “traditional church.” They may not go to the old Baptist Church on main street, but they might go to a gathering that is more of an entertainment venue than a church.

Continue reading

Our Redemption in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

21 Νυνὶ δὲ χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ πεφανέρωται μαρτυρουμένη ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν, 22 δικαιοσύνη δὲ θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν διαστολή, 23 πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ 24 δικαιούμενοι δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ· 25 ὃν προέθετο ὁ θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ [τῆς] πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων 26 ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ, πρὸς τὴν ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον καὶ δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ. (Romans 3:21-26 NA27)

21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being attested to by the Law and the Prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all those who believe for there is no distinction. 23 For all sinned and come short of the glory of God. 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed as a propitiations through faith in his blood for a display of his righteousness because of the passing by of the previous sins 26 because of the forbearance of God for the display of his righteousness in the present time for him to be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26 a personal translation from the NA27 Greek text)

I listened to part of President Obama’s 2nd Inaugural speech and I want to reiterate to all of you reading this with discernment that we should not be surprised when leaders who are not Christians do and say unchristian things. I wrote about this over a year ago in a post I called Evil Personified.  We live in an evil world in a dark time in which the visible church has become dominated by those attempting to redefine the Gospel to make it more palatable to the post-modernism while at the same time blatantly ignoring what God’s Word clearly teaches about what is evil and what he judges and what genuine Christians are really to be about. On the other hand, God has always kept a remnant within the visible church, which is the True Church, and it has remained faithful. This post and what we are teaching here is meant for those Christians. In fact, I suggest that what we are about to study will “offend” many of those who call themselves Christians, but who are really just attempting to be religious while sanctifying what they do in the flesh.  Continue reading

What it Means to be God’s People


I am sure that most of you have not heard of Scottish preacher Eric J. Alexander who is former senior pastor of St. George’s-Tron parish church in Glasgow, Scotland. He is the author of Prayer: A Biblical Perspective. 

The following 5 sermons on 1 Peter are one of the best expositions on what it means to be God’s people that I have ever heard.

1 Peter 1 & 2 part 1

1 Peter 1 & 2 part 2

1 Peter 1 & 2 part 3

1 Peter 1 & 2 part 4

1 Peter 5 postscript to 1 Peter 1 & 2

If you have trouble linking to those files go here.

Soli Deo Gloria!

God’s Purpose for the Church Part 3


by Mike Ratliff

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus who are in Ephesus.  2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and  our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1) 

In these dark days there is an accompanying Biblical ignorance within the Church. This ignorance is in itself quite sad because so many genuine Christians actually have a wrong view of God. This means they also have a skewed understanding of the gospel that is doctrinally shallow. In fact, the religious structure around this is man-centered rather than God-centered. The end result is a religious system that does not satisfy the spiritual needs that God designed into all of us. This is why those church leaders behind this moving tragedy are continually attempting to derail all attempts by their people’s demands to “go deeper” into the Word or to address what the Word says about election and the Sovereignty of God after they read a book by Dr. James White or listen to a sermon by John MacArthur, for instance, that does indeed address these highly relevant spiritual topics. My brethren, man-centered religiosity is so spiritually thin because it is based on man’s traditions that came out of policies designed to offend no one. In doing this, the theologians and religious leaders behind this also produced a religious system that is based on feelings and, therefore, is temporally based rather than focused on the eternal.  Continue reading

God’s Purpose for the Church Part 1


by Mike Ratliff

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus who are in Ephesus.  2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and  our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

We are in the throes of an election year and political motives are lurking behind so much of what the “powers that be” say and do right now. I have the luxury of being quite free to simply exegete God’s Word and use the discernment and wisdom he has given me plus the spiritual gift of teaching to explain what it says while the Holy Spirit takes these truths and applies them to reader’s hearts in ways that I could never imagine. I never have to worry about compromising anything in order not to offend some group or emphasize something else beyond what is necessary in order to please another. No, I am free to simply teach the Word and so should any Pastor or church leader. Why is it that so much of the visible church is so shallow and so much like the world? Those like that long ago abandoned adherence to God’s Word as authoritative as His Word and absolute truth, which is inerrant and infallible and complete, et cetera. Instead, they took on the “wisdom” of the world and so became “liberal” and spiritually dead. They are outside of God’s purpose for his Church. Their motives for doing so may vary, but mostly it boils down to them becoming man-pleasing instead of God-fearing.  Continue reading

Holy and Blameless


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-5 NASB)

For what reason did the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose (elect) all in Christ before the foundation of world? It was that they would be holy (ἁγίους) and blameless (ἀμώμους) before him. The Puritans have always been accused of being legalistic and way too concerned about Christians living holy and blameless lives. I heard a Jeopardy clue not long ago that actually defined this aspect of them as being “harsh” and “stern.” Is it an unreasonable thing to command that believers conform their lives unto holy living and be separate from the world and its ways?  Continue reading

Chosen In Christ Before the Foundation of the World


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  (Ephesians 1:3-14 NASB)

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 NASB)

In this post we will look at Ephesians 1:3-14 and Romans 8:29-30. In these two passage are found three Greek words that have been the source of large numbers of polemic works and, in my own experience, I have been accused of holding to doctrines that I do not hold to (nor do any hold to that I know of) by Synergists constructing straw men in order to attack them in an attempt to make it look as if they are defeating the Doctrines of Grace to which I do hold dear and the Monergistic faith through which I know I am saved. Continue reading

The Religious Are Not Immune From Being Carnal


by Mike Ratliff

τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζῳοποιοῦν, ἡ σὰρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν· τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λελάληκα ὑμῖν πνεῦμά ἐστιν καὶ ζωή ἐστιν. (John 6:63 NA27)

The Spirit is who makes alive. The flesh does not profit anything. The words which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life. (a personal translation of John 6:63 from the NA27 Greek text)

Apart from my normal preparations and Bible study to put these devotions and articles together, I also do a systematic read through of the Bible every year. Today I read 2 Kings 12-16 and John 6, which, on Saturdays, I usually do from my 1560 Edition of the Geneva Bible. The rampant apostasy in both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was horrifying to read. King Ahaz of Judah actually sacrificed his own son(s) to idols. I am sure things were just as bad, if not worse, in the Northern Kingdom. It was almost with relief that I came to the end of 2 Kings 16 and went to the New Testament. However, the Apostle John is someone I can identify with very well. I have been accused by many who know me well of not being able to compromise at all. I have no grey areas. Things are either right or wrong. I agree with that assessment to a point and I see the same sort of view of non-compromising adherence to the truth with the Apostle John. However, let us not forget that what he wrote for us in God’s Word is that very thing. We are reading the inspired Word of God and in John 6, the very words of our Lord are, for the most part, in response to His critics who were in the darkness of unbelief.  Continue reading

Those Who Love God


by Mike Ratliff

Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν. (Romans 8:28 NA27)

And we know that to the ones who love God, He works all things together for their good according to His purpose. (a direct translation of Romans 8:28 from the NA27 Greek text)

As I shared with some of you in private conversations over the last several days and weeks, the place God has taken this ministry over the last few years is remarkable, but the way He has done it in and through me has been quite painful. Through these lessons of submission to His will and obedience through fiery trials and tests, I have let go of many things I used to think were important while submitting more and more to His will in simply having no goals or ambitions for me or this ministry in this world at all. When I first began, I thought that God was going to eventually grow this ministry into something and use me and who knows how far He would take us? However, that has not been the case at all.  Continue reading

Chosen in Love


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. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

Just as I prepared to come down to my basement office to put together a post for my blog, I got a phone call from work. A server had a problem and they needed my help. Here it is nearly three hours later and I am just now getting to ready to post. I don’t have much time and am very tired. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post my brethren. In love, God predestined believers for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. Our Creator’s great love for us moved Him to call us out of the passion we had for Satan and the kingdom of darkness.  Continue reading

Rest Offered to the Weary


by Mike Ratliff

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:3 ESV)

Part of being discerning is having to listen to or read certain preachers and teachers in order to compare what they are saying to what God’s Word clearly says. Some of my friends and fellow team members at CRN are exceptional at this. I, on the other hand, become weary of it very quickly. I know that we must do it, but it just wears me out especially since much of what I am hearing from these people is exactly what I was immersed in from the time I was a new Christian until God shoved me out of our old church when it went Purpose Driven back in 2006. Since then, it is as if shields have been removed from my eyes. I listened to Chris Rosebrough break down a sermon titled “How to hear the voice of God” over the last couple of days (it was a long show) of Jamey Stuart of Believers Church in Chesapeake, Va. Chris did a fine job, but Jamey wore me out. His sermon amounted to “make yourself uncomfortable, get busy, and then you can hear from God” as he misapplied his teaching from the book of Jonah. This is exactly the message I used to hear continually from a couple of the churches we used to belong to. It brought back a lot of bad memories. I even remembered the guilt trips the pastors used to try to get us “busy.” Chris is right when he called this pure Law, not Gospel. Our Lord has some good news for refuges from this sort of bondage.  Continue reading

A Must Hear Sermon on Election


by Mike Ratliff 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:1-14 ESV) 

Most of us who call ourselves “Reformed” in our theology did not start out that way. I did not. However, in my case I actually had no theology. I was a typical Southern Baptist. I had never heard the term Arminianism until I studied theology for the first time back in 2005-2006. I had heard of Calvinism in World History classes in High School and College, but all I remembered about it was the emphasis on Predestination.  Continue reading

Accepted in the Beloved – Part 1


by Mike Ratliff 

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:6 KJV) 

Our salvation, our redemption if you will, is God’s handiwork. In all my many years as a believer, I have run across multitudes of professing Christians in spiritual bondage because they believe that it is up to them and their performance in walking in repentance to remain in God’s good graces. It is as if they have the offer of salvation, which they have accepted, but they are in deadly fear that the offer will be revoked if they sin. This is a form of unbelief because God’s Word does not teach that. In fact, it teaches the opposite. I wonder if those in this bondage have every considered the fact that since none of us could do one thing to save ourselves, therefore, the teaching we will be held eternally accountable to a standard of perfection that is impossible for us to be conformed to in this life is not biblical. Continue reading