Spiritual Poverty


by Martin Luther

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 ESV)

You may wonder, “What? Do all Christians have to live in complete poverty and not own anything? Do we have to get rid of all of our honor, prestige, and power? What are prosperous people, such as business owners and government officials, supposed to do? Should they sell their possessions and give up their authority in order to buy heaven from the poor?” The answer is no. Scripture doesn’t say that you can buy heaven from the poor. But it does say that you should be counted among the poor and also be spiritually poor. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

The little words in spirit show that self-imposed poverty won’t bring God’s blessing. It’s not intrinsically evil to have money, own possessions and land, or employ workers. These are all gifts from God and the way God has ordered our society. No one is blessed simply because he is a beggar and owns nothing. Jesus was talking about being spiritually poor, or poor in spirit.

The world can’t keep on going without money, respect for authority, land ownership, and servants. A lord or prince can’t be poor and fulfill his responsibilities in life. In order to carry out his official duties, he must have the necessary resources. So the idea that we must live in poverty in incorrect. The world couldn’t keep going if we were all beggars and owned nothing. We couldn’t support our families and servants if we didn’t have any money. To sum up, being financially poor isn’t the answer. So be satisfied with whatever God gives you, whether it’s poverty or prosperity. But be sure of this: each and every one of us must become spiritually poor in the sight of God.

from: Faith Alone – A Daily Devotional; edited by James C. Galvin.

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Sola Scriptura vs spiritual blindness


by Mike Ratliff

13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” Matthew 15:13-14 (NKJV) 

What is Sola Scriptura? This is a Latin phrase. Sola has the idea of “alone,” “ground,” or “base” while scriptura means “writings” and refers to Sacred Scripture or what we refer to in the vernacular as The Holy Bible. Sola Scriptura means that Sacred Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. That being true it must also be true that “all Scripture is ‘God breathed’ (given of inspiration of God) and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness… (2 Timothy 3:16).” Sola Scriptura was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation. One of first things the reformers did after breaking from the Roman Catholic Church was to translate the Bible into the common language of their people. This was violently resisted by the Roman Church with many translators, such as William Tyndale, paying with their lives for putting a non-Latin Bible into the hands of the common people. Continue reading

The source of Christian assurance is God Himself


by Mike Ratliff

17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”
18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”
19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:17-23 (NKJV)

The passage above takes place after Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf (Exodus 32). Moses is seeking assurance from God that He would not utterly destroy Israel but would go with the people and remain with them to continue to make them a set apart people from other nations (Exodus 33:12-16). God did assure Moses that He would not abandon them, but then Moses made this remarkable request of God–he asked to see His divine glory in vv17–18.

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Believers’ Faithfulness vs Religion


by Mike Ratliff

28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2:28-29 (NKJV) 

All who are truly in Christ must admit that this walk is fraught with doubt as well as pressure to conform to a form of godliness that has no power to conform them to the expected standards of doing church, as well as to live up to the idea that this lost and dying world has what a Christian must be. As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. While I am grateful for the deep Bible knowledge that I gained through being in Church every Sunday, I have also learned that much of the focus of organized religion is geared more to creating religious faithfulness rather than to disciple believers to abide in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Are we in the midst of God’s wrath of abandonment?


by Mike Ratliff

17 “Ephraim is joined to idols,
Let him alone. Hosea 4:17 (NKJV) 

Idolatry is the natural state of man. Left to themselves, people will worship or idolize someone or something. On the top of the list of those things we place on pedestals of idolatry is self. Professing Christians are not immune. They idolize Christian leaders, their churches, their doctrine, their liberty, their self-righteousness, their denomination, their particular translation of the Bible, and anything else they can view as something that gives them a sense of religious identity. Tragically, most see nothing wrong with this. Genuine Christianity has been supplanted by man-made religiosity and there are only a few left, a remnant,  who see the difference. We lament over the growing apostasy in the Church, but should we be surprised?

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Religiosity based in carnality is not genuine Christianity


by Mike Ratliff

63 τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζῳοποιοῦν, ἡ σὰρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν· τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λελάληκα ὑμῖν πνεῦμά ἐστιν καὶ ζωή ἐστιν. John 6:63 (NA28)

63 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. John 6:63 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The rampant apostasy in both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah is horrifying to read in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. 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.  However, during our Lord’s ministry there was rampant apostasy among the Jews as well as we shall see in this study.

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.

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The Cross is proof of God’s grace


by Mike Ratliff

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ Luke 18:13 (NKJV) 

In our day it is not unusual to hear a man-centered version of the Gospel message that has everything turned around backward and is presented in such a way that is meant to appeal emotionally to unbelievers with a statement such as, “Christ’s crucifixion is proof of our worth to God!” The appeal is meant to show that if Christ was willing to go to the Cross to save sinners like us then that proves we are of value to God. I have even heard one version of this that says that Jesus would have gone to that Cross even if it was for just one unrepentant sinner. Is that found anywhere in God’s Word? I have never found it. Instead, what I see clearly presented there is that all of us are undeserving sinners and even dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Until God regenerated us, we are spiritual corpses, that is, without spiritual life. Therefore, grace that is not all grace is no grace. Grace that saves means that God has done everything; if He does not do everything, then it is not grace.  Continue reading

Unbelief is rooted in neutralist thinking


by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; Ephesians 4:17-18 (NASB) 

Genuine Christianity is that which is within the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christians are commanded to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) within that Lordship. We are to obey our Lord as branches abiding in the True Vine (John 15). How do we practically do this? We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling presuppositionally, that is, with every thought, intent, and action taken captive to the will of God. We do this by approaching and living life with God at the center of all things instead of ourselves. In the passage above, (Ephesians 4:17-18) we see the opposite way to walk and the outcome of that. Unfortunately, that is how most professing believers approach this life, that is, in functional unbelief. Continue reading

Discernment and man-made religiosity


by Mike Ratliff

10 When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” 12 Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me. 14 Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me. Nehemiah 6:10-14 (NASB) 

16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. Colossians 2:16-19 (NASB) 

Carefully read both passages I placed at the top of this post. In both passages false prophets have proclaimed to know something or have a message from God or have received a vision from God that is not true. In Nehemiah’s case, he perceived that the person was not from God, but from his enemies and so he refused to go. In the passage from Colossians, the Apostle Paul is giving us an example of how false prophets attempt to manipulate their followers using man-made religiosity and also by claiming to have received visions from God, but, of course, that is not true. Nowhere in God’s Word are we commanded to have fellowship with those who teach and preach heresy. No, we are to separate from them and warn the flock. In Nehemiah’s case the person attempting to cause fear was easy to discern because this attempt would stop the work God had commanded Nehemiah to do. In the second case, we discern what is wrong when we notice that the focus is never on the the glory and magnification of our Lord Jesus Christ, but on some fleshly religiosity. When we think on these things, using the discernment God has given us grounded in the Christian maturity God has grown in us, we can clearly see what is going on.

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Godly discernment is rooted in Christian maturity


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 received or have been completed, I press on that, if possible, to apprehend it because Christ Jesus has apprehended me. Philippians 3:12 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

I and those who do what I do often take a lot of heat that most of you know nothing about. There are some who claim to be operating “discernment” ministries or claim that they have “discernment”, but when they go after men of God simply because they are wounded warriors who are under heavy assault by the likes a Brannon Howse and his Worldview Weekend, then you must at least take a few steps back, shut off the noise, get with God, examine the evidence through His truth and wisdom and react, or not, accordingly.  However, those who simply follow the example of the noisemakers trying to gain an audience so they can get more donations from those they suck in to support their “ministries” are the ones that I have found attempting to sneak into the comment section on this blog as trolls to be used by our enemy to torpedo the truth.

On the other hand, I have seen some who claim to do what we do who really shouldn’t. Why? They are not very mature and, therefore, do not have discernment. Because of this they are no different than those apostates whom we expose almost daily by comparing what they do, say, write, preach, and teach against the only standard that counts, the Word of God. You see, that is why not everyone should attempt to do this. I have seen so many with good intentions get gobbled up as soon as they have gone head to head with some determined apostate who knew how to manipulate the English language and intimidate people. Sigh… In any case, I digress… 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

The necessity and nature of the Atonement


by John A. Broadus

The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin. I John 1:7

My hearers, what is the most wonderful event that ever occurred on earth, that ever happened in the universe? The history of our race is so full of wonderful events-you might well pause for your answer. My answer would be this: by far the most wonderful thing that has ever happened in the universe, is the atoning death of Jesus Christ the Lord. If without philosophizing, if in simplicity you will take what God’s Word declares concerning it, you will not only see this to be so, perhaps you will feel it to be so. If you will remember who he was-the thought would startle us if we were not so used to it-if you will remember how he died, how the Lord of life and glory, the sinless one, how he died in suffering and shame, and above all if you will remember what he died for, what his death is declared in the Scriptures to mean for the universe and for us, then you will believe that this is the great wonder of all wonders. And yet, God be thanked, it may be the simplest matter of each individual human heart’s everyday experience to rest upon that wonderful thought. There are many things we can never comprehend as to their nature, which are yet unquestionable as facts and essential to our existence. To declare before heaven and earth that all our hopes are turned upon the atoning death of Jesus Christ, a man may do that, may live on that atoning death, although it be a mystery he cannot solve. Continue reading

That which can keep believers from stumbling


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε. John 16:1 (NA28)

1 “These things I have spoken to you that you not be caused to stumble.” John 16:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In John 15 our Lord spoke of certain “things” in great detail in order that believers “not be caused to stumble.” He was referring to John 15:18-25, which is the fact that those who are truly in Christ will be hated by the world just as our Lord was. Our Lord made it an imperative that we understand that this is true, but also that we do not have to contend with this alone. In John 15:26-27, the promise of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, is given again. Those who have the Holy Spirit are genuine believers and they bear witness about Christ because that is what the Holy Spirit does.  Continue reading

Sin


by Mike Ratliff

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:18-21 (NASB) 

18 Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν. μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρίας τῷ Ἰωσήφ, πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου. 19 Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν. 20 ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου κατʼ ὄναρ ἐφάνη αὐτῷ λέγων· Ἰωσὴφ υἱὸς Δαυίδ, μὴ φοβηθῇς παραλαβεῖν Μαρίαν τὴν γυναῖκά σου· τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν ἐκ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἁγίου. 21 τέξεται δὲ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν· αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν. Matthew 1:18-21 (NA28)

In the passage above, the word “sins” in v21 translates the noun ἁμαρτιῶν, which is the Genitive, Plural of ἁμαρτία or hamartia, from the verb ἁμαρτάνω or hamartanō, which means, “to miss the mark.” The word group from which these two words belong gives the sense of missing the mark, losing, or falling short of a goal (particularly a spiritual one), as in Romans 3:23, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” The noun form, ἁμαρτία, typically refers to the transgression of the law, for example, 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” Therefore, ἁμαρτία is used to denote our sin against God. Apart from the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, ἁμαρτία results in death, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). Continue reading

For this reason they could not believe


by Mike Ratliff

35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” John 12:35-40 (NASB) 

God does control all things. If you doubt it, read the following passage from Isaiah.

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