Christ’s Suffering and Ours


by Mike Ratliff

3 ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις, ἐπιθυμίαις, οἰνοφλυγίαις, κώμοις, πότοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις. 4 ἐν ᾧ ξενίζονται μὴ συντρεχόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς ἀσωτίας ἀνάχυσιν βλασφημοῦντες, 1 Peter 4:3-4 (NA28)

3 For we have wasted enough time participating in the desires of the Gentiles, having proceeded in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and unlawful idolatry. 4 Wherein they think it strange you are not running with them into the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 1 Peter 4:3,4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

I got the following A.W. Tozer quote from a friend today.

The Loneliness of the Christian

“The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

“The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

“It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.”

AW Tozer

I know of what Tozer was talking about. I was amazed when this happened to me at a Deacon’s meeting one Saturday morning when I wanted to share that my walk with Christ had a great deal more to do with my time in the Word, in prayer, in worship, than it did in being a Deacon or whatever. I did indeed long for some of those men, perhaps just a few of them, would be in that same spiritual place. However, I remember the cold stares and from that day forward, I became an outsider looking in even though I was one of the senior deacons and was a Bible teacher at that church. It was only about 6 months or so later that all that Purpose Driven stuff started. My wife and I fought it, but it became apparent that those who made the decisions there were not going to listen to anyone that did not agree with them so we left. Continue reading

I Will Not Be Inquired Of By You


by Mike Ratliff

3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘Thus says Lord Yahweh, “Do you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” declares Lord Yahweh, “I will not be inquired of by you.”’ Ezekiel 20:3 (LSB) 

The Visible Church has become largely corrupt and apostate. Some are going the direction of Joel Osteen’s Word of Faith gospel that tells us that God wants to bless us, but cannot because we are not asking Him for it or we are not doing something right. Then there are those denominations that are affirming same-sex marriage, which is expressly condemned in God’s Word. There are apostasy examples all across the board and there is not room enough or time enough to address them all here. However, these things all have one thing in common. These are people seeking to be seen as “Christian,” but on their own terms rather than what the Word of God clearly teaches us.  Continue reading

Moved


by Mike Ratliff

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:21 KJV)

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21 ESV)

21 For not by will of man was borne at some or other prophecy but by spirit holy being borne spoke the holy of God men. (2 Peter 1:21 The Apostolic Bible Polyglot)

21 οὐ γὰρ θελήματι ἀνθρώπου ἠνέχθη προφητεία ποτέ, ἀλλʼ ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι. 2 Peter 1:21 (NA28)

21 Not for the will of man was brought forth prophecy at any time, but men by the Holy Spirit being brought spoke from God.  (2 Peter 1:21 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

It is vital that we “get it” that without the foundation of the inspiration of Scripture, all we have is human subjectivity as the basis for truth and that opens the door to the mindset of “anything goes.” We see this with heretics. We see this in liberal churches and denominations. As soon as they drop the Bible as the authoritative Word of God then all sorts of heresies creep in and it isn’t long before all these people stand for has about as much substance as malformed jello. Several years ago my good friend in the Lord, Chris Rosebrough, debated Emergent leader Doug Pagitt on the doctrine of Hell. I wrote this post back then as a response to that debate. I am reposting it now because it is still pertinent to what we are studying. There are still false Christian leaders who are teaching doctrinal fallacies leading people astray. As I listened to the debate what I marveled at most was the patience of our brother Chris in dealing with the absolute indefiniteness of Pagitt on all topics pertaining to how we know what is truth. It was a bit like trying to nail that malformed jello to a tree in a stiff breeze. In any case, what did we expect? I mean, Pagitt is a heretic. He isn’t a Christian. He may claim to be, but if you try to get him to line up with what really defines what a Christian is Biblically, he will refuse to do it because, to him, that is just too precise. Also, the digging we do here into the original language of the Bible, he would scoff at because, in his own words, human language is not adequate enough to know God’s truth so this is all a waste of time. Well, God is our creator and he communicates to us through the languages He gave us and He has also given those who belong to the Son the Holy Spirit so that they may know His truth through the Word of God. Doug Pagitt may deny these things, but by his own words he proves that he is an unbeliever and so he cannot know these truths unless God opens his heart to them and gives him the Holy Spirit to enable him to know. Yes, it does work that way.  Continue reading

Heresy and Apostasy


by Mike Ratliff

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11 ESV)

True Biblical discernment is crucial for the spiritual health of the Body of Christ because there has and always will be a plague of false teaching and teachers upon it until our Lord’s return. I am sure most of you have noticed the recent outrage over the increased security measures by the TSA in the USA that involve full body scans and “pat down” searches at our airports. One of the articles I read today compared what the TSA does with what is done in Israel at their airports, which is, instead of relying on “technology” based systems, passengers are interviewed by experts trained in what specifically to look for. They know their enemy and they know how to flush him or her out via their own interview process. Notice that since they have gone to this system that they have had no breakdown in their security. My point is that they know their enemy. They know their enemy’s tactics. They know this enemy’s goal. They do not waste time and resources with those who are no threat. In the Truth War that is upon us in the Church, we have many enemies trying to come in “unawares.” They try to infiltrate, appearing as “Orthodox” but their teaching is deceitful, degrading, and damnable (2 Peter 2:1). Those of us who have been gifted by God with spiritual discernment are, therefore, also given the job of flushing these people out. Part of this job is  knowing who our enemies really are. Are they apostates or are they simply holding to some heresy that doesn’t fall into the range of “deceitful, degrading, or damnable?”  Continue reading

Way


by Mike Ratliff

13 Εἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι διʼ αὐτῆς· 14 τί στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωὴν καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν. Matthew 7:13-14 (NA28)

13 Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way leading to destruction and many are the ones entering through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and constricted the way leading to life and few are the ones finding it. Matthew 7:13-14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The word “way” on both v13 and v14 translates ὁδός (hodos), which means “a way., road, highway, or street in their many possible forms.” To the Greeks, this could refer to “the narrow path trodden by those who have gone before, or the broad roads made for traffic, on which chariots can travel, troops can march, and processions can be held.”

Perhaps our Lord had that very contrast in mind when He declared in His sermon the Mount Matthew 7:13-14, which I posted above. So, what Jesus was saying is that the way that leads to destruction is broad and most people go that way, but the way that  leads to life is not broad at all, but is narrow and few are the ones who find it. This message is is in stark contrast to much of what makes up Western Evangelicalism today.  What do we hear from those who have big churches and work really hard to keep those churches big? They say things like, “There are many roads to heaven,” and we must be ‘broad-minded” and “all-inclusive,” but my brethren, that is to what Jesus taught. He was very narrow in His statement  about who will be saved. Many years ago I did a book review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. It was a very blunt statement that said “eventually everyone will be saved, ” but Jesus says the exact opposite, that comparatively few will be saved. Continue reading

Grieve not the Holy Spirit


C. H. Spurgeon from his Morning by Morning Devotional for November 21.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 (KJV)
ALL that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. Even if the good seed be sown in you, yet it lies dormant except He worketh in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure. Do you desire to speak for Jesus—how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas! what dull work it is unless the Spirit maketh intercession for you! Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you wanting to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardour for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit—”Without me ye can do nothing.” O branch of the vine, thou canst have no fruit without the sap! O child of God, thou hast no life within thee apart from the life which God gives thee through His Spirit! Then let us not grieve Him or provoke Him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench Him in one of His faintest motions in our soul; let us foster every suggestion, and be ready to obey every prompting. If the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us attempt nothing without Him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring His blessing. Let us do Him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from Him, and then depending alone upon Him, having this for our prayer, “Open Thou my heart and my whole being to Thine incoming, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit when I shall have received that Spirit in my inward parts.”

O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life


C. H. Spurgeon from his Morning by Morning Devotional for November 20.

58 O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. Lamentations 3:58 (KJV)
OBSERVE how positively the prophet speaks. He doth not say, “I hope, I trust, I sometimes think, that God hath pleaded the causes of my soul”; but he speaks of it as a matter of fact not to be disputed. “Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul.” Let us, by the aid of the gracious Comforter, shake off those doubts and fears which so much mar our peace and comfort. Be this our prayer, that we may have done with the harsh croaking voice of surmise and suspicion, and may be able to speak with the clear, melodious voice of full assurance. Notice how gratefully the prophet speaks, ascribing all the glory to God alone! You perceive there is not a word concerning himself or his own pleadings. He doth not ascribe his deliverance in any measure to any man, much less to his own merit; but it is “thou”—”O Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; Thou hast redeemed my life.” A grateful spirit should ever be cultivated by the Christian; and especially after deliverances we should prepare a song for our God. Earth should be a temple filled with the songs of grateful saints, and every day should be a censor smoking with the sweet incense of thanksgiving. How joyful Jeremiah seems to be while he records the Lord’s mercy. How triumphantly he lifts up the strain! He has been in the low dungeon, and is even now no other than the weeping prophet; and yet in the very book which is called “Lamentations,” clear as the song of Miriam when she dashed her fingers against the tabor, shrill as the note of Deborah when she met Barak with shouts of victory, we hear the voice of Jeremiah going up to heaven—”Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.” O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.

Longing for a heavenly body


by Mike Ratliff

13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 2 Peter 1:13-14 (NASB) 

Unlike Peter, the Lord has not made it clear to me the putting off of my body is imminent (see the passage above). However, I do not deny that my desire for the ending of this tabernacling in this earthly tent grows deeper with each skirmish or battle in the Truth War. I am not overly sad here. I am in very good shape for my age, but with each step in spiritual maturity, the natural byproduct of standing firm in the hot parts of the battle, I find that my joy is in the heavenly perspective rather than in anything in the temporal with the only exception being in my personal relationships and fellowship with family and friends and fellow warriors.  Continue reading

A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.


C. H. Spurgeon

from his Morning by Morning Devotional for November 18.

12 A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse;
a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Song of Songs 4:12 (KJV) 

IN this metaphor, which has reference to the inner life of a believer, we have very plainly the idea of secrecy. It is a spring shut up: just as there were springs in the East, over which an edifice was built, so that none could reach them save those who knew the secret entrance; so is the heart of a believer when it is renewed by grace: there is a mysterious life within which no human skill can touch. It is a secret which no other man knoweth; nay, which the very man who is the possessor of it cannot tell to his neighbour. The text includes not only secrecy, but separation. It is not the common spring, of which every passer-by may drink, it is one kept and preserved from all others; it is a fountain bearing a particular mark—a king’s royal seal, so that all can perceive that it is not a common fountain, but a fountain owned by a proprietor, and placed specially by itself alone. So is it with the spiritual life. The chosen of God were separated in the eternal decree; they were separated by God in the day of redemption; and they are separated by the possession of a life which others have not; and it is impossible for them to feel at home with the world, or to delight in its pleasures. There is also the idea of sacredness. The spring shut up is preserved for the use of some special person: and such is the Christian’s heart. It is a spring kept for Jesus. Every Christian should feel that he has God’s seal upon him—and he should be able to say with Paul, “From henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Another idea is prominent—it is that of security. Oh! how sure and safe is the inner life of the believer! If all the powers of earth and hell could combine against it, that immortal principle must still exist, for He who gave it pledged His life for its preservation. And who “is He that shall harm you,” when God is your protector?

 


To whom be glory for ever


C. H. Spurgeon from his Morning by Morning devotional for November 17.

36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Romans 11:36 (KJV)

O whom be glory for ever.” This should be the single desire of the Christian. All other wishes must be subservient and tributary to this one. The Christian may wish for prosperity in his business, but only so far as it may help him to promote this—”To Him be glory for ever.” He may desire to attain more gifts and more graces, but it should only be that “To Him may be glory for ever.” You are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than a single eye to your Lord’s glory. As a Christian, you are “of God, and through God,” then live “to God.” Let nothing ever set your heart beating so mightily as love to Him. Let this ambition fire your soul; be this the foundation of every enterprise upon which you enter, and this your sustaining motive whenever your zeal would grow chill; make God your only object. Depend upon it, where self begins sorrow begins; but if God be my supreme delight and only object,

“To me ’tis equal whether love ordain
My life or death—appoint me ease or pain.”

Let your desire for God’s glory be a growing desire. You blessed Him in your youth, do not be content with such praises as you gave Him then. Has God prospered you in business? Give Him more as He has given you more. Has God given you experience? Praise Him by stronger faith than you exercised at first. Does your knowledge grow? Then sing more sweetly. Do you enjoy happier times than you once had? Have you been restored from sickness, and has your sorrow been turned into peace and joy? Then give Him more music; put more coals and more sweet frankincense into the censer of your praise. Practically in your life give Him honour, putting the “Amen” to this doxology to your great and gracious Lord, by your own individual service and increasing holiness.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Christ The Cause of Division


by Mike Ratliff

19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:19 (LSB) 

One of the first accusations that comes forth from the apologists for the Purpose Driven paradigm in response to any attempt to show the unbiblical nature of it is that we are being divisive. They insist on unity at all costs regardless of the fact that the doctrinal stances held within the Church Growth movement do not line up with biblical orthodoxy. If we are to be obedient to the commands from scripture to be in the world, but not part of it, we cannot attempt to be unified with those who are not obedient to them. 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

The Prayer of Faith


by Mike Ratliff

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:7-11 (LSB) 

Despite what the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity preachers say or those who preach nothing but positive messages to all who are Christians, the Word of God promises something very different. Like what? How about trials of various kinds? How about fiery trials? How about thorns in the flesh? These are used by God to produce in His children a stronger faith and a deeper steadfastness. Why is this necessary?  Continue reading

What are the roots of bitterness and cynicism? 


by Mike Ratliff

29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:29-32 (NASB) 

Steel is made through the smelting of iron ore. Iron becomes steel as carbon is added while the iron is very hot. What makes steel much harder than iron was not really understood by the ancients who created it. All they knew was that at a certain point in the shaping of a sword they would lay the red hot blade into the coals for a few minutes then resume the process of hammering, cooling in water, re-heating, hammering, cooling in water, et cetera. The finished product was a sword that would not bend in battle and could be sharpened over and over. The blade was actually made up of many pieces of iron rods that were heated, flattened, and folded upon itself over and over. It was hard work, but that was what it took to create a fine, usable steel sword.

17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) 

When we are born of the Spirit at regeneration we are new creations. However, that does not mean that we become instantly sinless. Nor does it mean that we are instantly mature and able to know the will of God in walking before Him for His glory alone. No, these attributes come over time and after much “smelting, hammering, cooling, re-heating of us in the fires of sanctification. When I was a young Christian I remember many times being on the verge of walking away from my faith. Why? It seemed that I was “in the fire” all the time. I am very glad that God preserved me, but I want to share with all of you reading this that God has not stopped this process in me. I have been a believer since 1986, but I am no where near complete and this is obvious as God has not relented in showing me how much I must suffer for the name of Christ. Continue reading