Christians’ sin problem and its mortification


by Mike Ratliff

9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:9-24 (NASB) 

If we are honest, each of us would have to confess that there are sins that have an incredible hold on us. It seems that no matter how devoted we become in our walk before our Lord, there will be some sins that trip us up, making us stumble and fall to our deep chagrin. Our self-loathing resulting from this can be quite severe. We cry out to God, we promise Him that we are done with that sin. We declare that we would rather die than do it again. We weep. We mourn. We then start to recover and become joyous in the Lord again. Then a short time later there is that sin pouncing upon us out of no where. We seem to have little or no strength or resolve to fight it off and then we stumble right back into it again. Continue reading

It is the ungodly whom God justifies


by Mike Ratliff

1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” Romans 4:1-8 (NASB) 

I was in a discussion once where the person with whom I was conversing was very upset because he felt that when we raise the standard high in our churches that it can be very discouraging to those who are not as spiritually mature as others. He believed that churches need to be more easy going and less demanding. He also believed that all we have been saying against seeker-sensitive church models, for instance, is unfair because in those churches those who may not be very mature can feel comfortable and welcome. My heart broke while reading his comments because I understood exactly what he was talking about and I began to see that there is another group of Christians out there that are drawn to churches that are not so demanding on doctrinal issues as in a typical Reformed church. They are the ones who feel that they will never measure up. They feel inadequate to the apparent “Holiness” seen in the more mature members in those churches. Continue reading

Pharisees and works-righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; 27 and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. 29 And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:24-30 (NASB) 

Many who believe they are Christians are not. They have a form of righteousness, but it is not the righteousness born from above. It is self-righteousness. One group that contended with John the Baptist, our Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples, was the Pharisees. Who hasn’t heard believers accusing other believers of being Pharisees? These accusations are usually thrown at people who are stricter than the accuser in their judgments of saved and lost. The Liberal calls a person who judges on the basis of regeneration as the only evidence of saving faith as being a Pharisee. The mainstream church-goer calls all fundamentalists Pharisees. The antinomian calls those who preach Lordship salvation Pharisees. Continue reading

Clouds without water, carried along by winds


by Mike Ratliff

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. 9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 1:4-13 (NASB) 

God is Sovereign. There is not one area of creation in which He is not Sovereign. Evil exists and men do evil things, but in that God is still Sovereign. Creation is cursed and God has not yet culminated this age when He will restore it to its proper relationship with Him. However, He has sent His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the Elect. At the cross, He redeemed them. However, in life here on planet Earth they must still live in this fallen world. Jesus warned His Apostles and us about what this life would be like for His people on this cursed planet from the birth of the Church until the culmination of the end of this age.

Continue reading

Why I am a monergist not a synergist


by Mike Ratliff

48 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ· ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι. 49 καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς· τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν; Luke 7:48-49 (NA28)

48 And he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49 And the ones reclining with him began saying among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Luke 7:48-49 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In Luke 7:36-50 there are three main characters. There is our Lord Jesus Christ, Simon the Pharisee, and an unnamed woman who is referred to in v37 and v39 simply as ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos), “sinful, sinner.” The events in this passage take place at a meal in Simon’s home and there are others reclining at the table with them. The unnamed woman is uninvited. These events take place in Galilee immediately after John the Baptist’s disciples have come to our Lord on his bequest to confirm whether Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He then shows the Pharisee’s hypocrisy in vv31-35 for rejecting John the Baptist even though he lived in rigid abstinence even though they demanded that of our Lord while the message preached by both was the same. Then in v36 one of these Pharisees, Simon, invites Jesus to eat with him. Continue reading

The natural state of the fool is unbelief


by Mike Ratliff

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 1 Corinthians 1:20 (NASB) 

I moved my writing ministry to Possessing the Treasure in 2006. Not long after that Ken Silva asked me to come on board the Christian Research Network team. It was during that period that there were some monumental battles with a group of people dedicated to shutting us down. I can remember writing posts about the Ordo Salutis or the Five Solas of the Reformation using sources from Protestant Reformers then having to deal with vicious comments from those people attacking not only my own character, but also the very character and salvation of men such as John Owen, John Calvin, or Martin Luther. These comments were designed to do one thing, to get me and my friends backed into a corner so that we would believe we had to respond to these onslaughts through emotionally based, piece-meal replies. Once they got us to that point then we had left the realm of apologetics and entered into a no-mans land, slugging it out blow for blow with people who had no ethical basis for “playing nice.” It was through many of these ugly events that I came up with the rules for commenting on Possessing the Treasure which must be adhered to by all. I enforce these rules assiduously and since their implementation, those attacks have been few and far between.  Continue reading

Unbelief is the root of Liberal Theology


by Mike Ratliff

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NASB) 

Observing unbelief in a professing Christian is a terrible thing. Unbelief, which is rooted in spiritual blindness, is deceitful. We must never forget that spiritual blindness is the product of idolatry. These nominal Christians never walk by faith. They make choices based entirely within a flesh-bound value system. This decision making process is part of self-worship. Their value system is based entirely within self-worth, self-focusedness, self-protection, et cetera. If they are religious Christians then their religion will be the same.

This is idolatry. It is worship of self. As a result, God blinds their hearts. They are given over to their idol. Genuine Christianity is of faith. God’s grace accords with His people’s faith thereby washing them clean in their regeneration. Their faith was dead, but now it it is alive. They are new creations. God justifies them by this faith and begins their sanctification. This sanctification is the process of removing them from sin. This process takes time and will result in their spiritual blindness coming under attack. This means that their self-worship must go. They are called to humility and to be God’s servants forever. Continue reading

We are commanded to test the spirits


by Mike Ratliff

19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NASB) 

God has called His people to discernment. If you listen to many so-called Christians in our time, you would think the very opposite. In fact, to question the veracity of someone’s teaching is considered the ultimate case of uncouthness in these so-called postmodern times. I find it very interesting that this concept works only in one direction. These who hold to this sort of “ministry” are very quick to point fingers at those of us who do proclaim that God’s Word is The Truth and we are all called to obey Him. We are seen as being immersed in legalism when we draw lines that are precise and unyielding based entirely from clear biblical teaching. However, those of us who do this are anything but that. Instead, we are being obedient to what God tells us to do in His Word. We must test every spirit.  Continue reading

Christian 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 above, we will see that the first definition is our conception while the second is the reality of which we must all agree that we are guilty. The last word in that definition could easily be change 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 level. Continue reading

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight


by Mike Ratliff

1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NASB) 

It is imperative that Christians have a correct and viable theology of suffering. These health, wealth, and prosperity preachers in our time will disagree of course, but let them. We have God’s Truth, His Word, held in objective context held up against their subjective, ear-tickling smoke and mirrors false religion. Oh, there may indeed be some “spirituality” going on in there, but to proclaim, “God is here!” or “God is in this!” or “We are having a Revival, come and join us!” is the very act of man elevating himself above God, telling Him what to do and when. However, I digress. God has always used suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them, to draw them to prayer, to purify them, to grow them spiritually, and to direct their paths. Paul called some of his suffering a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan (2 Corinthians 12), but allowed by God to keep him from exalting himself because of his great knowledge. When we learn to view the seriousness of our sin as Paul did and God’s glory as imperative then we will begin to understand that sin in the life of a Christian is an anathema in a realistic, daily sense rather than in some sort of abstract give and take.

Continue reading

Is the spirit of the antichrist upon us?


by Mike Ratliff

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:15-19 (NASB) 

If you are at all familiar with Eschatology and the many different views on the end times then you have undoubtedly read or heard of a man who is referred to as the antichrist. However, you may be surprised to learn that the word “antichrist” is found in the Bible only in John’s epistles of 1st John and 2nd John. The study of this person or persons is not the intent of this article. I have no doubt that in God’s timing the final Antichrist will be revealed, but for now I would like to look at the attributes that we should understand are of the spirit of the antichrist. Continue reading

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep


by Mike Ratliff

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. John 10:1-2 (NASB) 

Just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean that person is regenerate, justified, sanctified, or adopted into God’s family. Many base their standing as a Christian on religious acts they have done. Others claim salvation based upon their good words plus their religion. Tragically, there are also many, and more each day it seems, “Christian leaders” who preach and teach things that they portray as the Good News, but are, instead, only the result of marketing techniques. Continue reading

The great harlot/scarlet woman


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” Revelation 17:1-2 (NASB)

John the Baptist was the one who was sent to make the way straight, to prepare the way for the one was to come. Of course the one who was to come is our Lord Jesus Christ the long awaited Messiah of the Jews. Gabriel told Zechariah, the father of John, “he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb, and will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Of course he did that very thing and our Lord was born of a virgin soon after John. Continue reading

Abiding in Christ vs Religion


by Mike Ratliff

28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2:28-29 (NASB) 

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 be faithful at doing church as the indication of our genuineness, as well as to live up to the idea that lost people have of 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 by the power of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading