Counterfeit love vs. Biblical love


by Mike Ratliff

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. (Colossians 3:5-7 NASB)

In Ephesians 5:1-2 the Apostle Paul gave us exhortation to line up our lives with God’s standard of self-sacrificial love that mimics His own for His beloved Children.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NASB)

He then, in vv3-7, gives us the opposite, which is counterfeit love. This form of fleshly love always results in impurity of life. I find it amazing how I find so many professing Christians ready to call what I am teaching here “legalism” because they want to embrace the very things Paul lists in these verses which are Satan’s perversion of God’s creation. Continue reading

The transforming power of gratitude


by Mike Ratliff

17 ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NA28)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old things passed away, behold he has become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

When Christ comes into your life, your life changes. God’s Word everywhere declares that a change is automatic when someone truly believes. However, this is not entirely a passive thing. There is something called walking in repentance that is our part. I am sure all of you know someone or you may have personal testimony pertaining to struggling with sin or sins for years that seemed to cling very close and no matter what, freedom from the sin(s) seemed like chains in prison. However we are commanded to not sin like that aren’t we? Continue reading

Idolatry and the Holiness of God


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 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

What is Total Inability?


by Mike Ratliff

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
“ There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “ Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“ The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “ Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “ There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9-18 NASB)

The “T” in the Doctrines of Grace “TULIP” acronym stands for “Total Depravity.” The name for this point is unfortunate. While what it implies is true, it also lends a definition to this point that gives many people the wrong idea about what we are saying when unregenerate Man is totally depraved. That makes it sound like all outside of Christ are monsters. In a spiritual sense that is true, but in our experience in this world, some people are better than others. There are horrible criminals, such as terrorists, to be sure, but there are also very charitable people who do good works who would be insulted if you called them Christian. Continue reading

What is Preserving Grace?


by Mike Ratliff

28 κἀγὼ δίδωμι αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ οὐχ ἁρπάσει τις αὐτὰ ἐκ τῆς χειρός μου. 29 ὁ πατήρ μου ὃ δέδωκέν μοι πάντων μεῖζόν ἐστιν, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται ἁρπάζειν ἐκ τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ πατρός. 30 ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν. (John 10:28-30 NA28)

28 And I give to them eternal life and they will never perish into the age, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the hand of the Father. 30 I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

I have always been puzzled why some become so angry when we declare the doctrine of eternal security of God’s people. Of course, those who do are the very same ones whose theology is man-centered and, therefore, based on the “Free-Will” of man, which is found nowhere in the Bible. When the will of man is discussed in God’s Word it talks of it being enslaved to his sinful nature and how the washing of regeneration at the working of God in man’s salvation, his will becomes free from that bondage. In any case, when we do declare the doctrine of the eternal security of God’s people, it is perhaps clearer to speak of their preservation rather than their perseverance. Perseverance means continued adherence to a belief despite discouragement and opposition. However, the reason believers persevere in faith and obedience is not the strength of their own commitment, but that Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit preserves them through Preserving Grace. Continue reading

Amen, amen I say to you, unless one is born again, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God


by Mike Ratliff

3 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. (John 3:3 NA28)

3 Jesus answered and said to Him, “Amen, amen I say to you, unless one is born again, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

What causes corruption of the Gospel message? A careful study of John’s account of our Lord’s earthly ministry reveals what? John makes it clear that all through our Lord’s earthly ministry He  was in constant contention with the Jewish religious leaders. However, John also makes it clear that Jesus came to Israel to reveal the Father to them proving that He, the Son, was deity, to live a perfect, sinless life and then lay His life down voluntarily to purchase those who were chosen before the foundation of the world with the price of His blood. His perfect sacrifice was their propitiation. We learn these things and so much more by going to the Word and learning from the Holy Spirit as He transforms our minds as we submit to it. Studies into the Word, like this one, are sorely needed in the Body of Christ. I would hate to be a Pastor whose time has come to stand before our Lord to give an account that had sold out and ministered in a way that simply tickled itching ears.  Continue reading

John 3:16


by Mike Ratliff

16 οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. (John 3:16 NA28)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that everyone believing in Him should not perish but have life eternal. (John 3:16 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The first verse I memorized in Sunday School as a child was John 3:16 from the King James Bible. This must have been sometime around 1956-1957 since I did not learn to read until the 1st grade. My mother even had a plaque made with that verse on it and put it on the wall over my bed. I still have the little white New Testament I got for memorizing the most verses in my class that year. So what? When I look back on my life from that point to the time God had mercy on me in 1986, I am truly amazed that He did at all. Since the time I came to know Christ, I have known much of both of the tender mercies of our Lord as well as His flail of tribulation. My brethren, the school of the cross is the school of light, it discovers the world’s vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God’s mind. Out of dark affliction comes a spiritual light. With that, let us look at John 3:16-21.  Continue reading

You must first believe in order to abide


by Mike Ratliff

38 καὶ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔχετε ἐν ὑμῖν μένοντα, ὅτι ὃν ἀπέστειλεν ἐκεῖνος, τούτῳ ὑμεῖς οὐ πιστεύετε. (John 5:38 NA28)

38 “And His Word you do not have abiding in you because He whom He sent, this one you do not believe.” (John 5:38 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In John 5:30-47 the apostle gives us several witnesses to establish the truthfulness and genuiness of Jesus Christ and His ministry. Our Lord Jesus presented these witnesses who testified to His identity as the Son to those who opposed Him. The first witness given is John the Baptist in vv32-35. The second witness is our Lord’s own words in vv 35, 36. The third witness is the Father in vv 37, 38. The fourth witness is the Old Testament Scriptures in vv 39-47. However, as is the case from this point to the end of John, those who most vehemently opposed our Lord and His ministry, refused to believe.  Continue reading

The Gospel and Paul and Silas in Philippi


by Mike Ratliff

11 Ἀναχθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ Τρῳάδος εὐθυδρομήσαμεν εἰς Σαμοθρᾴκην, τῇ δὲ ἐπιούσῃ εἰς Νέαν πόλιν 12 κἀκεῖθεν εἰς Φιλίππους, ἥτις ἐστὶν πρώτη [ς] μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία. Ἦμεν δὲ ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ πόλει διατρίβοντες ἡμέρας τινάς. (Acts 16:11-12 NA28)

11 And having set sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a prominent city of the District of Macedonia, a colony, and we stayed in this city some days. (Acts 16:11-12  translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As you know, Paul’s friend and companion Luke wrote the book of Acts in the New Testament. In Acts 16:10, we read that after Paul had seen the vision to leave Asia and come to Europe after seeking the will of God for the next focus of his missionary journey, Luke includes himself in the narrative as an eyewitness, therefore, his account of what happened to Paul and Silas in Philippi is given as one who was there.  Continue reading

Christ the wisdom and power of God vs gospel contextualization


by Mike Ratliff

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν. 19 γέγραπται γάρ·
ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν
καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NA28)

18 For the word of the cross to those perishing is senseless, but to us being saved, it is the power of God 19 for it has been written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise ones
and the understanding of the intelligent I will set aside.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Look around at those man-focused, pragmatic, seeker-sensitive “churches” in our time. They may vary in many ways, but there is a commonality that marks them all as products of the spirit of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) rather than the spirit of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). That commonality is seen in the passage I placed at the top of this post. It is what makes them of the spirit of Laodicea. They are structured and operate according to the wisdom of men. Their very way of handling the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ depletes the cross of its power. What do I mean? When the “so-called gospel” that is “preached” is given in a way that intentionally removes its offense and an attempt is made to make it sensible to the lost and dying world by removing the blood and removing the necessity of our Lord’s death for those who owed a debt to God they could not pay, what is given is more of a sales pitch and self-help remedy. All this does is create a body of people who are neither cold nor hot. No, they believe they have everything and are right with God, but are in reality, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked who are simply ready for the next deceiver to come along.  Continue reading

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ vs the man-made gospel


by Mike Ratliff

11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον· 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (Galatians 1:11-12 NA28)

11 For I make known to you brothers, the gospel that I preached, is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The εὐαγγέλιον or euaggelion, which the word “gospel” above translates, means “good message” or “good news.” What Paul stated in Galatians 1:11,12 is vital for us to grasp. Those of us who are in Christ can proclaim this εὐαγγέλιον for it is a message of very good news about something our Lord Jesus Christ has done on our behalf, but we cannot “be the gospel” nor can we “live the gospel.” It is a message of Christ’s work of redemption that was successful. He died on that cross and in so doing, His perfect obedience was made available to be imputed to all who believe this εὐαγγέλιον and in so doing, receive Christ as Lord and Saviour in repentance being saved by God’s grace through faith. In this, the Father justifies them, imputing Christ’s perfect righteousness to their account. This is possible because, while he was on that cross, their unrighteousness was imputed to his account and through his death, he became their propitiation. This εὐαγγέλιον  is indeed good news because it means Christians do not have to work their way to God. Their salvation according to Ephesians 1,2 is actually God’s work entirely, not theirs. The preaching of the gospel is a call to repent and believe, which is how those effectually called by God do become Christians receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour. Now, is that the gospel prevalently heard in the visible church in our time?  Continue reading

Antinomianism, Christless Christianity, and Christian Authenticity


by Mike Ratliff

28 Καὶ νῦν, τεκνία, μένετε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἵνα ἐὰν φανερωθῇ σχῶμεν παρρησίαν καὶ μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ. 29 ἐὰν εἰδῆτε ὅτι δίκαιός ἐστιν, γινώσκετε ὅτι καὶ πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται. (1 John 2:28-29 NA28)

28 And now little children, abide in him that when his is manifested we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 29 Since you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone practicing righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Antinomianism is an attempt to claim to be Christian without Christ being Lord of a believer’s life. Christless Christianity is a man-made religiosity in the form of Christianity, but totally denying the power of our Saviour and Lord because those within are neither rooted nor grounded in Christ. This man-made religion offers only “feelings” and the forms of religiosity (dead works) in an attempt to assuage the consciences of those ensnared in it  just as does Antiomianism. On the other hand, genuine Christianity can be put to the test and those who are in Christ can know if they are truly saved. This is called assurance. All false religions have people looking within to find that change within the inner person to see if that “salvation has really happened.” Only genuine Christianity looks at undeniable proof.  Continue reading