Christian maturity and discernment


by Mike Ratliff

12 Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον ἢ ἤδη τετελείωμαι, διώκω δὲ εἰ καὶ καταλάβω, ἐφʼ ᾧ καὶ κατελήμφθην ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ]. Philippians 3:12 (NA28)

12 Not that I have already obtained  or have already been perfected, but I press on that, if indeed, I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Discernment is not a dirty word. I saw read a statement by friend the other day which stated that if a Christian leader demands to be shielded from those with discernment then that is a sure sign that he (or she) has some sort of theology problem or worse and that very thing calls for those with discernment to take an even closer look at that person’s ministry. When I read that I thought immediately of Paul’s preaching in Berea in which the Jews there closely examined the teaching of Paul comparing it with the Word of God to make sure that what he was teaching was the truth. Yes, that is what discernment is all about. Now, I know that many reading this agree with that and want to be true Bereans and I applaud that, but the second part of being one is becoming a mature Christian in order to be able to stand firm in the fire no matter how rough things get in power of the Holy Spirit for that is how it goes sometimes.  Let’s look at a short passage from the book of Philippians not usually associated with “discernment,” but more with growing in Christian maturity.  Continue reading

Do you really know my Lord?


by Mike Ratliff

6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NASB) 

Isaiah 9:6 is part of a magnificent prophecy given to the prophet Isaiah about 800 years prior to the advent of our Lord being born of a virgin according to the will of God the Father in order to fulfill his eternal will and plan of redemption of his people. Of course there are those who scoff at this prophecy being about the Messiah or that the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that prophecy. However, those who make those assertions, even if they call themselves Christians, are not of us and never have been of us (1 John 2:19). Some who do believe this prophecy is true, however, do not believe that it in any way is in effect at this time, but is for some time in the distant future. I counter that with Matthew 28:16-20…[But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”] Continue reading

If we confess our sins


by Mike Ratliff

9 ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος, ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας. 1 John 1:9 (NA28)

9 If we confess our sins , He is faithful and just, that he may forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

When the focus of “Christianity” is moved from being God-focused to Man-focused confusion is the ultimate consequence. We see this with so-called Christian leaders like N.T. Wright who is nothing more than an intellectual “Christian” liberal who is attempting to redefine the Gospel or “Good News” along the lines of those who follow Jesus asserting Christ’s kingdom here on earth. On the other hand, there are multitudes of other aberrations of Christian doctrine in which so-called Christian leaders with no understanding of the Sovereignty of God and His Grace who attempt to dismantle Christian doctrine and redefine it along the lines of Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Arminianism.  Continue reading

El-Shaddai and His people


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now when Abram was ninety- nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly.” (Genesis 17:1-2 NASB)

In these last days it is imperative that God’s people have a more complete knowledge of God. So, in light of this, let us look at one of the names of God that speaks much about His power and provision. God keeps His part of the covenants He makes and it is this name, El-Shaddai, that God used for Himself that gives us much comfort as we come to understand that He helps and blesses His people. El-Shaddai (   אל שׁדּי  ) – We must never forget that in Hebrew we read from right to left and this name of God is two separate words,  Ēl ( אל), meaning, “might,”  and Shaddai  (שׁדּי ) , meaning , “the Almighty, the Powerful One, or the Mighty One.” As a combined name of God, El Shaddai, which occurs seven times in Sacred Scripture, was the covenant name for God to the Patriarchs until the time of Moses. The Jewish rabbis believed  that the term meant the “One who is self-sufficient.” God’s covenant was moral and ethical in character, not ritualistic or orgiastic.

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What’s Wrong with Pragmatism?


by Mike Ratliff

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober- minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

The proponents of the seeker-sensitive church growth model may very well have had good intentions when through it was spawned the rise of contemporary mega-churches such as Willow Creek and Saddleback Valley Baptist and their clones. The focus was outreach to the unchurched. While that appears to be a proper function of the New Testament Church one of the model’s fundamental components is actually an antithesis of the clear instruction to Church leaders found in God’s Word. That component is pragmatism.  Continue reading

Give attention to


by Mike Ratliff

13 ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ. 1 Timothy 4:13 (NA28)

13 Until I come give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 1 Timothy 4:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek Text)

This ministry began as a polemic response to the preaching and ministry downgrade that was taking place in the visible church during the early years of the attempted Purpose Driven takeover of the evangelical churches throughout the United States and in other parts of the world. There were other things going at that time as well such as the rise of the Emergent Village, and other forms of “Christian Liberalism” such as the ministry of Rob Bell. My response and the response of all those who stood against this attack on the Gospel and every part of Christian orthodox soteriology was to stand firmly on what the Word of God says, never straying from the fact that it is God’s absolute truth. This has enabled us to endure. The enemies of the truth are still out there, but we know who they are and until God takes us home we will continue to shine the light of God’s truth into the darkness of their false doctrines. Continue reading

No pardon, no salvation!


by Mike Ratliff

4 “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
A leader and commander for the peoples.
5 “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know,
And a nation which knows you not will run to you,
Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:4-8 (NASB)

For quite some time now we have been looking long and hard at the narrowness of the Gospel and how it it is not editable. It is not open to change. No matter how much a person wants it to be otherwise, it is unchangeable. It is God’s Good News to fallen man. This good news is the proclamation that there is a way, only one way, for sinful people to be reconciled to God. It is good news because all people suffer from the same condition. They are born dead in trespasses and sins and are not morally able to do anything about it. This separates all of us from God because He is Holy and must judge all sin. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ went to the cross and became sin on our behalf. God judged our sin in Him. This “atoned” for our sins. Now let us look at the pardon available to all who believe. Continue reading

Sanctity of Life


Passages to instruct us as we reach out, pray, vote and respond. Take time this week to pray for our nation’s leaders that their hearts would be turned to govern in the light and clarity of Holy Scripture.
God is the Creator of Life
Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Job 33:4 – The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
God creates and fashions life within the womb
Job 31:15 – Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

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God’s providence and His inheritance


by Mike Ratliff

11 Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ 12 εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης αὐτοῦ τοὺς προηλπικότας ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. Ephesians 1:11-12 (NA28)

11 In whom also we were made an inheritance, having been predestined according to the plan of the one working all things according to the counsel of His will,12 for us to be to the praise of His glory, the ones having previously hoped in Christ. Ephesians 1:11-12 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Most modern Bible translations undoubtedly render v11 a bit differently than I did above. The words “we were made an inheritance” translates one verb, ἐκληρώθημεν, which is the Aorist tense, Indicative mood, Passive voice of κληρόω (klēroō), “obtain an inheritance. The passive voice is the key. Paul is saying that Christians are made an inheritance by God for God. One of the great misconceptions of our salvation, which is made by so many, is that it is the result of something we do, but how anyone could believe that after reading Ephesians 1 and 2 is beyond me.  Continue reading

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!


by Mike Ratliff

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! Romans 9:14 (NASB)

The natural mind, plagued with selective rationalization, demands that God be fair in His dealings with all humankind. Fairness speaks of justice. One of the tenets of our republican form government in the USA is a right to a fair and speedy trial before one’s peers. A person on trial for a crime may or may not truly want justice. They may be guilty so their desire is not justice, but grace. If a judge in a criminal trial declares a defendant guilty, but then defers sentencing in lieu of probation or “time served” then he has extended grace to the guilty party. Continue reading

The gospel that is believed and saves


by Mike Ratliff

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:8-12 (NASB)

The churchianity that most of us  grew up with is confused with genuine Christianity by many people. It is actually a set of beliefs or values  laid out in our minds’ decision grid. It becomes a value system in the heart that reckons salvation to be based on religious acts such as saying a certain prayer in a certain order while holding to a certain frame of mind. When doubt comes, and it always does, we are told to look back on “that day” when we said that prayer. Some even go so far as to say that they doubt if a person is really a Christian if they cannot remember the exact moment when they prayed that prayer.  Continue reading

We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren just as our Lord laid His life down for us


by Mike Ratliff

16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 (NASB) 

What differentiates a genuine Christian from one whose religion is only skin-deep? Jesus said that He knows those who are His. He calls them His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. (John 10:27) He also called them His disciples. He gave us the requirements for being His disciple in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 where he said that if anyone desires to follow Him they must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. If we combine these two views then we learn that our Lord’s sheep, His disciples, are those who hear His voice, deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. This is telling us that genuine Christians are those who humble themselves before their Lord, die to self, submit to His Lordship, obey Him, and emulate Him as He leads. Continue reading

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him


by Mike Ratliff

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:41-44 (NASB) 

One of the aspects of our Christian faith that we lose sight of sometimes, and it gets us in trouble when we do, is how vital it is that we remain totally amazed that we ever got saved at all. We make a huge error when we forget this because that path leads to self-righteousness, self-absorption, and an ungrateful heart towards God. Even though we may not be fully aware that we are in that place of self-focus, we cannot be Spirit-led when we are full of self. Continue reading

The superiority of Christ, the cost of discipleship, and the genuine Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:1-4 (NASB) 

The Church in the early part of the 21st Century is very sick. This sickness has not happened all at once. Instead, it is the result of centuries of compromise after compromise on the part of Christian leaders and their followers to adapt the Gospel and the Church doctrines to conform to what men want. As a result, the Church has lost its savor. It is no longer salty. The countries in Europe where the Reformers restored the Gospel at the cost of untold numbers of martyrs would not now be considered Christian at all.

In the United States, the visible Church still has some influence in politics and society, but is that what the Church is supposed to be about? The segment of the American Church that would consider itself evangelical has become so doctrinally shallow that most of the members as well as their leadership have no idea what they really believe. If they are confronted with the Arminain/Semi-Pelagian vs. Calvinism debate they would be clueless about what each side believes and does not believe. In fact, they are so spiritually shallow, they don’t understand why it is important to know what you believe and why you believe it. Continue reading