Why does the persecution come upon believers?


by Mike Ratliff

26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. John 15:26-27 (NASB) 

We live in a time of biblical ignorance. Much of the ignorance is intentional. There are some “so-called” Christians who seek to separate Jesus from Holy Scripture. Those who are immersed in the Word of God as they walk before the face of God in their sanctification see this movement with a great deal of incredulity. How can anyone learn about Jesus and what is expected of His disciples if all understanding of Him comes extra-biblically? Continue reading

All of the Children of God have a purifying hope in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:11-19 (NASB)

All in Christ have much in common no matter what doctrines they hold. Therefore, this post’s focus is on the marvelous outcome of our salvation that we are Children of God and because of that we have a “purifying hope” in Christ.

Continue reading

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment


by Mike Ratliff

24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24 (NASB) 

What is the definition of the English word “fact?” The following is from the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

Main Entry: fact

Pronunciation: \ˈfakt\

Function: noun

Etymology: Latin factum, from neuter of factus, past participle of facere

Date: 15th century

1 : a thing done: as a obsolete : feat b : crime <accessory after the fact> c archaic : action 2 archaic : performance, doing 3 : the quality of being actual : actuality <a question of fact hinges on evidence>
4 a : something that has actual existence <space exploration is now a fact> b : an actual occurrence <prove the fact of damage>
5 : a piece of information presented as having objective reality

in fact : in truth

The part that says, “a piece of information presented as having objective reality” is where I would like to concentrate in this post. I am a firm believer that there is something called absolute truth. Also, there exist truths that are objective. These are facts. On the other hand, there is information that is subjective in nature that is presented as if it has objective reality when actually this is not so because there is nothing objective behind the “proof.” For example, there are times when I use a form of the word “purpose” in what I write to convey a truth of God “purposing” to do something or that as Christians we should purpose in our hearts to obey the Lord, et cetera. There are some who would attempt to make the case that this is “Purpose Driven” language and this “proves” that I have become compromised and am now a disciple of Rick Warren. I contend that this type of thinking is what our Lord was referring to in John 7:24 about judging by appearances.  Continue reading

Personal holiness and inward cleanliness


by Mike Ratliff

24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24 (NASB) 

A huge trap that Christians can fall into is self-righteousness. It is a form of idolatry and that always causes spiritual blindness (Romans 1:24-25). Self-righteousness puts all effort towards godliness in the wrong place. It creates a form of piety that is all about outward appearances while putting little or no priority on matters of the heart. It is all about being concerned about appearances and what others think rather than being totally committed to abiding in Christ from within first. The self-righteous are consciously holy. However, that is not what we are called to be. Christians must be consciously repentant and unconsciously holy. The difference is huge for these are totally opposite walks. Continue reading

Genuine prayer is powerful


by Mike Ratliff

Why do we pray? Don’t we pray because we have been instructed to do so in the Bible? Sadly, most Christians probably aren’t praying in a way that honors God or builds faith. Martin Luther wrote much on prayer. In his chapter “Of Prayer” from Table Talk, we learn the Biblical concept of prayer rather than one from Man’s reason. The following lesson is numbered CCCXXVIII. Continue reading

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?


by Mike Ratliff

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NASB) 

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

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Do not be conformed to this age


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is separation from the world. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

Do genuine Christians need to confess their sins and seek forgiveness and cleansing?


by Mike Ratliff

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB)

I am a firm believer in the Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith. Within that Justification is the Doctrine of Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ to the account of the believer. The Righteousness that God sees on our account is that of our Lord Jesus Christ which means we are forever in Him and will be for eternity. That is our Justification. What many people stumble over, however, is confusing this Justification with our Sanctification. We are positionally sanctified in the eyes of God (Romans 8:30), however, in this temporal reality we are still being called by our God to walk through the sanctification process that burns away what is not of Christ in us and replaces that with the image of Christ. This process may take a lifetime. Throughout that process we stumble. We make mistakes. We sin. I have heard that some teach that since we are justified by Faith there is no reason to confess and seek forgiveness and cleansing when we sin. Is that what the Bible teaches?

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Faith and works


by Mike Ratliff

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14-18 (NASB)

The passage I placed at the beginning of this article is one the most abused and misunderstood passages that I know of because, if it is read casually, it can be easily misunderstood. If it is exposited by someone possessing a faulty hermeneutic, it can be twisted to say what no other part of the Bible teaches, that faith plus works is required for salvation. Continue reading

The sin of lying


by Mike Ratliff

Lying is the most prominent sin of mankind, and because truth is the most essential characteristic of Christianity, in Ephesians 4:22-29 which lists the remnants of the old man that are sins that are most likely to creep back into the Christian’s life, Paul mentions lying first.

20 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν, 21 εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ ἐδιδάχθητε, καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, 22 ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν φθειρόμενον κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης, 23 ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν 24 καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.
25 Διὸ ἀποθέμενοι τὸ ψεῦδος λαλεῖτε ἀλήθειαν ἕκαστος μετὰ τοῦ πλησίον αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσμὲν ἀλλήλων μέλη. 26 ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε· ὁ ἥλιος μὴ ἐπιδυέτω ἐπὶ [τῷ] παροργισμῷ ὑμῶν, 27 μηδὲ δίδοτε τόπον τῷ διαβόλῳ. 28 ὁ κλέπτων μηκέτι κλεπτέτω, μᾶλλον δὲ κοπιάτω ἐργαζόμενος ταῖς [ἰδίαις] χερσὶν τὸ ἀγαθόν, ἵνα ἔχῃ μεταδιδόναι τῷ χρείαν ἔχοντι. 29 πᾶς λόγος σαπρὸς ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ὑμῶν μὴ ἐκπορευέσθω, ἀλλʼ εἴ τις ἀγαθὸς πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν τῆς χρείας, ἵνα δῷ χάριν τοῖς ἀκούουσιν. Ephesians 4:20-29 (NA28)

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you heard Him and were taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off the old man, which pertains to your former manner of life, the one being corrupted according to the lusts of deceit, 23 and to be renewed by the Spirit controlling your mind, 24 and putting on the new man, the one according to God having been created in righteousness and sanctity of the truth.
25 Wherefore, having put off falsehood let each of us speak truth with our neighbor because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Let not the sun set on you anger. 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 The one stealing, let him no longer steal, but rather let him labor working with his own hands at something good that he may have something to share with the in need. 29 Let no corrupt work proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:20-29 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In v25 the word “falsehood” translates ψεῦδος (pseudos), “lie, falsehood.” It is from this word that we get our English pseudo (as in pseudonym, a false name). It means “the antithesis of the truth.” In 1 John 2:21, the Apostle John wrote to the churches in Asia that they knew “the truth” and “that no lie is of the truth. Think about it. I know that in our relativistic culture that that may a bold statement, but there is not even the slightest bit of truth in a lie, no “gray area” as is commonly believed. There is no such thing as a small lie.

A lie is “a statement that is contrary to fact offered with the intent to deceive.” There are two parts to that definition. A statement that is contrary to fact is not necessarily a lie. People can make appointments, but circumstances can prevent them from showing up on time or even being there at all. That is not a lie because the one delayed was not trying to deceive anyone. However, if the attempt is being made to make people believe that you will do something that you have no intention of doing or vice versa, then that is a lie because that is intentional deception.

Such things as kidding, fictional stories, figurative language, and not saying something out of politeness are not lying. However, there are many things that are lying: blatant falsehoods, exaggerating or embellishing a story, cheating (because you are saying you did something on your own when you didn’t), betraying a confidence, making excuses for wrong conduct, telling a half-truth, plagiarism, boasting, flattery, false humility, hypocrisy, false promises, and obfuscation in order to deceive, no matter the motive.

Lying is a universal vice as it at the core of man’s fallen nature. Christians are not immune, but God does give the victory to those who confess and repent.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Judgment


by Mike Ratliff

9 “I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
His vesture was like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne was ablaze with flames,
Its wheels were a burning fire.
10 “A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat,
And the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10 (NASB) 

Before we look at Revelation 20:11-15, take a moment to reflect on the carnage being wrought upon the visible church in our time by the very men who, by their own positions, should be shepherding the sheep. Instead, they are actually doing the very things to bring about the famine of hearing the Word of God and, hence, spiritual darkness seems to be all around us right in the midst of the “Church.” Mysticism in the guise of Spiritual Formation is being flim-flamed off on the unsuspecting as if it is another form of Christian prayer. We have rock-star pastors who measure their success by how many books they sell and how many branch churches they have who watch them preach via satellite. Of course, if you measure the content of their sermons by the Word of God, what you have is simply man-centered propaganda meant to appease, tease, and keep people coming through the front door instead of confronting them with their sin and need of a Savior. Now, as you reflect on that, consider what awaits those whose names are not found written in the book of life.  Continue reading

Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?


by Mike Ratliff

8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. Romans 3:8 (NASB) 

The debate in the visible Church in our time concerning the need for Christians to walk in Repentance is actually quite perplexing to those of us whose hearts and consciences are bound to the Word of God. It clearly exhorts us all to repent and walk in righteousness. I had a conversation with a Pastor several years ago at lunch following his sermon that Sunday morning. We discussed the dreadful condition in the visible Church today in which most professing Christians appeared to be very immature and in bondage to their flesh. I asked for his opinion of why that was so. His response was that it was the result of the Church not being the Church as God designed. There was little or no Church discipline. There was little preaching of the Law and the Gospel together. There was hardly ever a mention of walking in repentance before our Holy God. I agreed completely with his analysis. He also shared that he did not believe that a very large percentage of the professing Christians were genuine.  Continue reading

Foreign gods and idolatry


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3 and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:1-3 (NASB) 

idolatry 1: the worship of a physical object as a god 2: immoderate attachment or devotion to something (from Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary)

I’m sure that most Christians’ conception of idolatry is one in which people fall down and worship some statue or image or a facsimile of something that appears to resemble a god. While that is an example of idolatry there is a more subtle form of idolatry that all people are neck deep in outside of the grace of God. If we look closely at the dictionary definition I placed near the top of this post, we will see that the first definition is our conception while the second is the reality that we must all agree that we are guilty of. The last word in that definition could easily be changed from “something” to “someone.” Then all we have to do is look in a mirror to see who that someone is. We are all guilty of idolatry to some degree. Continue reading

Godliness and transformation


by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB) 

What is this godliness that Peter referred to in v3 (above)? The word godliness in v3 translates the Greek noun εὐσέβειαν (eusebeian) which is the accusative, singular, feminine case of εὐσέβεια (eusebeia). This word is used in the N.T. To refer to a particular manner of life in which the believer is devoted to God. In 1 Timothy 4:7, for instance, Paul exhorts believers to train themselves for “godliness” even to the extent that it requires a strenuous pursuit (6:11). Of course, the goal of such training is far more valuable than physical training (4:8).  Continue reading