Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ λέγοντες· τίς ἄρα μείζων ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν; 2 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος παιδίον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν 3 καὶ εἶπεν· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε καὶ γένησθε ὡς τὰ παιδία, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. 4 ὅστις οὖν ταπεινώσει ἑαυτὸν ὡς τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ μείζων ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν. 5 καὶ ὃς ἐὰν δέξηται ἓν παιδίον τοιοῦτο ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐμὲ δέχεται.
6 Ὃς δʼ ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ, συμφέρει αὐτῷ ἵνα κρεμασθῇ μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ καταποντισθῇ ἐν τῷ πελάγει τῆς θαλάσσης. Matthew 18:1-6 (NA28)

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:1-6 (NASB) 

The Bible is the Word of God. It is inerrant, inspired, and our final authority for faith and life. The Bibles we have in our day are translations of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. These translations are rendered into most languages of the earth in our time. When we study the Bible, dig into God’s Word to know Him and His ways then He will bless us with knowledge as He gives us wisdom, discernment, and direction. As our minds are renewed through this as well as through the hearing of godly preaching, teaching, and coming to terms with the extent of God’s grace permeating our lives, we do not become prideful, arrogant, or self-focused for very long. Why? As we become more mature in Christ, we also acquire more and more of His character. That means we will have the proper perspective of our place in God’s Kingdom. This place is not at the head. Instead, it is in total submission to the will of God. It is a humble place to be. Continue reading

Treasure in earthen vessels


by Mike Ratliff

2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ Judges 7:2 (NASB) 

This walk before the face of God is fraught with difficulty and pain. No one who is His will pass through this life unscathed by affliction, perplexity, persecution, and even being struck down. That may fly in the face of much of the teaching in the Church in our time, but the reality is that Genuine Christians walk through this life being molded and conformed unto the image of Christ. That process is quite painful because much of what is the Christian is chiseled and burned away via the fires of sanctification. As the image of Christ is burned into us, we must remember that whatever is afflicting us will not crush us. What is perplexing us will not result in God forsaking us. Whatever has struck us down will not destroy us. Continue reading

The inner war


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NASB)

False prophets have infiltrated the Church since the very beginning. Also, disingenuous professors have always plagued churches. There has not been a time when the church has been free from enemies within. However, in our time the church is the sickest it has ever been. False prophets beget false doctrine, the doctrine of demons, for the false believers that flock to them. Sound Doctrine is no longer tolerated. Expository preaching and teaching is ignored or shouted down. This is happening not between Christians and non-Christians, but between professing Christians in the “name” of Christ. As a result of the “visible church” becoming more and more like the world, it has also begun to take on the insanity of “Political Correctness” and “Cultural Marxism”.  As a result of this pollution, those in the “visible church” who are contaminated by these things also demand, “No Offense to Anyone,” that is, except those who hold solid doctrine. Continue reading

The Christian’s peace with God and the battle with the enemy within


by Mike Ratliff

13 “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is greedy for gain,
And from the prophet even to the priest
Everyone deals falsely.
14 “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace.
15 “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done?
They were not even ashamed at all;
They did not even know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time that I punish them,
They shall be cast down,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 6:13-15 (NASB) 

Genuine Christians are regenerate. They are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means a great deal, but what it does not mean is that Christians have instantaneous and complete victory over our enemy within, which is the flesh. The Puritans understood this very well. John Owen’s masterpieces The Mortification of Sin and Indwelling Sin in Believers are all about the Christian’s struggles with the sin(s) which clings so close. In our day there is a great deal of false teaching going around to the effect that God doesn’t really care about the sin in professing Christians. After all it was all paid for at the Cross, right? The problem is that that argument is totally unbiblical. Repentance is part of the true Christian walk. The other extreme is the false teaching that it is possible for Christians to become perfect in this life even to the point of never sinning. That too is a totally unbiblical teaching. The truth is in the middle. All true Christians are forgiven and are viewed by God as righteous in His eyes. This is possible because He has imputed Christ’s righteousness to their account. All in Christ have been reconciled to the Father. However, as John makes very clear in 1 John 1:9-10, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.Continue reading

Reconciled


by  Mike Ratliff

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. Ephesians 2:13-16 (NASB) 

13 νυνὶ δὲ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ὑμεῖς οἵ ποτε ὄντες μακρὰν ἐγενήθητε ἐγγὺς ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 14 Αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν, ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας, τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ, 15 τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν καταργήσας, ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ποιῶν εἰρήνην 16 καὶ ἀποκαταλλάξῃ τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι τῷ θεῷ διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ, ἀποκτείνας τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν αὐτῷ. Ephesians 2:13-16 (NA28)

The term “reconciled’ is a wonderful word. the Greek is ἀποκαταλλάσσω (apokatallassō). In Ephesians 2:16 (above) the word “reconcile” translates ἀποκαταλλάξῃ (apokatallaxē) the third singular, aorist active subjunctive case of ἀποκαταλλάσσω. The usage of this word in the New Testament is to exchange hostility for friendship. We find this word in the passage I shared above and in Colossians 1:20,21. This Greek preposition adds the idea of “back.” Therefore, ἀποκαταλλάσσω means “to bring back to a former state of harmony.” Continue reading

Pure


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) 

1 Ἴδετε ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ πατήρ, ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶμεν, καὶ ἐσμέν. διὰ τοῦτο ὁ κόσμος οὐ γινώσκει ἡμᾶς, ὅτι οὐκ ἔγνω αὐτόν. 2 ἀγαπητοί, νῦν τέκνα θεοῦ ἐσμεν, καὶ οὔπω ἐφανερώθη τί ἐσόμεθα. οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἐὰν φανερωθῇ, ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα, ὅτι ὀψόμεθα αὐτὸν καθώς ἐστιν. 3 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἔχων τὴν ἐλπίδα ταύτην ἐπʼ αὐτῷ ἁγνίζει ἑαυτόν, καθὼς ἐκεῖνος ἁγνός ἐστιν. 1 John 3:1-3 (NA28)

In ancient Greek ἁγνός or hagnos, which is translated as “pure” in v3 in the NASB (above), originally carried a religious meaning that spoke of ritual cleanness, chastity, and even virginity. The same basic concept was also true in the Septuagint. However, in the New Testament, the idea of ritual purity was no longer the point, and rightly so. The New Testament deals with reality, not ritual. Being a Christian is not just about how we act, but who we are. It all started, of course, with the Lord Jesus. As 1 John 3:3 declares, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Because Christ was pure (without sin), we also are pure and, therefore are to live pure. Continue reading

The Church’s firm foundation


by Mike Ratliff

18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:18 (NASB)

There are times as we observe the carnage in the visible church and it feels very much as if we are in a fight to the death battle with men falling all around us. I know this because I see it myself and I get your emails. The evil forces of apostasy seem to be winning on every side. If we claim to hold to God’s Word as absolute truth then we are very close to coming to that point of being laughed to scorn as Josiah’s men were who attempted to get the survivor’s of the Northern Kingdom’s capture to come to Jerusalem in repentance for Passover. Truth, it seems, has become relative to most people, that is, to those who think within what has come to be known as post-modernism. This disease seems to claim a major Christian leader nearly every week or so. Church after church is found to be consumed with pragmatism or perhaps the leadership has decided to move the focus of the church to become missional. The problem is that these are fuzzily defined words. To some, the word “missional” is not offensive at all and in the context of “missions” decades ago it certainly was not, but now, it has taken on an entirely new focus that includes global Dominionism. Continue reading

Intentional godliness is the product of a spirit-filled walk


by Mike Ratliff

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; Ephesians 5:6-11 (NASB) 

Intentional godliness is the product of a spirit-filled walk. No Christian becomes godly by simply wanting it. Neither do they become godly through self-righteousness. Instead, the walk that is truly godly is one that is not self-focused at all. It is one that is totally wrapped up and empowered by a consistent, deliberate attempt to discover or discern what is pleasing to the Lord, then doing it. If we analyze this, and we should, we will see that the intentional walk in the light of God is one that separates the Christian from both non-Christians and professing Christians who bear no eternal fruit.

This separate walk does not include promises from God that all will be easy. There is no fine print that states that the obedient Christian will be excluded from becoming ill or losing their job or finding themselves having to part with the world’s goods or even having a spouse walk out on them. No, we find examples in Sacred Scripture of God taking His saints through very heavy trials even though they were exemplary in their walk in the God’s light. Think of Joseph and Job. It is during these times that we discover who the real Christians are as well as those who either have a long way to go in their sanctification or are not genuine at all. The more mature believers are the ones who will come along side the suffering saint to help bear the burden while the others say insipid things like, “You must have committed some horrible sin and God has struck you down for it.” Continue reading

Right belief is exhibited in right living


by Mike Ratliff

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. James 1:16-18 (NASB) 

The test of true faith is that which is revealed in how one lives and walks through this life. Right belief, that is, a faith that lives in a regenerate heart born from above, is exhibited in right living as James, the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, wrote in the passage above. Notice also that he began that passage in v16 with, “Do not be deceived,” or “Μὴ πλανᾶσθε” from the Greek. This literally says, “not be deceived.” The verb πλανᾶσθε here is the present imperative active form of the Greek verb πλανάω, which means “to lead astray, deceive.” So, in the form used here, James and the Holy Spirit are both  commanding and warning believers to actively work to not be lead to believe the lie that which is the opposite of the truth that he is about to share concerning the nature of how true Christian faith produces a true Christian walk. The good gift of faith comes from God and all the gifts that follow concerning this Christian walk do as well. This is God’s plan for His people that they should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Continue reading

Objective (true) Christianity vs subjective religiosity


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NASB) 

There is a form of religion in the world today that calls itself by many names and in each of those forms it is seen as a type of Christianity, but is, in fact, nothing more than a man-made facsimile of true Christianity. However, its foundation is not the same. True Christianity is built upon the foundations of Christ, Him Crucified, God’s Eternal Word, The Holy Trinity, and the Sovereignty of God. On the other hand, the man-made, subjective form of it has an entirely different foundation. Its foundation is accommodation, fairness, equality, the nobility of man, the rights of man, the free will of man and experientialism. Even though both true Christianity and the subjectivism reference many of the same things, the focus will be entirely different with the former being primarily being on the glory of God through the exposition of His truth from His Word with the latter being on the accommodation of man with the inclusion of people’s experiences as the primary focus and means of knowing God and His truth.

Continue reading

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds


by Mike Ratliff

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NASB) 

Proof that these are Laodicean times, that is, lukewarm, man-centered, not fervently God-centered times in the “visible church” is always found in points of contention. One such point presents itself in which a “mega-church” pastor has gone public that he is “gay,” which took place several years ago. How something like that is “handled” by the “visible” church reveals it’s spiritual health. I see the division between genuine Christianity and man-centered, Laodicean “christianity” becoming even more defined through this. I believe there will probably be even more well-known so-called “christian leaders” come out of the closet soon. However, if we focus too much on the apostasy all around us my brethren we can become very discouraged, therefore, as the writer of Hebrews says in the passage above, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Continue reading

Christ’s work of redemption is finished!


by Mike Ratliff

10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:10-11 (NASB) 

The easy-believism “gospel” as well as any version of it that either calls for more works (i.e. piety) on the part of the believer over and above believing the Gospel and receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour or suggests that the saving work of Christ on the Cross was not “sufficient enough” to cover the sins of the those He came to save, therefore they must somehow achieve perfection on their own or enter into some form of purgatory after death to make up for that, are perversions of what is clearly taught in God’s Word. They are based on the presupposition that God has created salvation in a man-centered, law-based, works-righteousness oriented way that is found nowhere in Sacred Scripture. The correct presupposition, being Biblically based, we will explore in this post and will focus primarily on Hebrews 10:1-18.  Continue reading

The Genuine Christ of God


by Mike Ratliff

 

1 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. 3 And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. 5 And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Luke 9:1-6 (NASB)

The New Testament Church was begun by God working through Jesus’ Apostles. They had a divine commission to preach the Gospel accompanied by miraculous works. These men obeyed God and, after Jesus ascended to the Father, they planted churches. When they began these ministries they appointed pastors and elders to shepherd their flocks. These pastors and elders were not given the same commission that the Apostles received. From the time of the first pastors and elders to the end of the age, the Church is supposed to operate in this model. Continue reading