The Test of Shame


by Mike Ratliff

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Matthew 11:2-6 (NASB) 

Do you remember the first time that someone ridiculed you for your faith? How did it feel? The Test of Shame is one that comes upon all professing Christians. This test is designed to separate the genuine from the disingenuous. Many may fail this test and still be genuine, but in their hearts they will bear a shame that is worse than the ridicule and persecution they sought to avoid. The beauty of God’s ways is that the path of forgiveness is there for those who repent. Peter’s denial of Christ during Jesus’ trial is a perfect example of this. There are also many during the reign of Queen Mary of England, Bloody Mary, who initially failed this test as they were persecuted or their families were threatened with persecution unless they abjured. However, as the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts they would go public with their faith and endure the fires of martyrdom in the joy of the Lord. Continue reading

God is Holy and His Purpose For Us is that We Walk in Holiness


By Mike Ratliff

8 A highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it.
9 No lion will be there,
Nor will any vicious beast go up on it;
These will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk there,
10 And the ransomed of the Lord will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 35:8-10 (NASB) 

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5 (NASB) 

God is holy and immutable. There is not now nor has there ever been nor will there ever be any darkness in Him. He is eternally holy. In James 1:17 we read that with God, there is no variation or shadow due to change. The Puritans referred to God as the “Thrice Holy God!” Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:14-19 that the redeemed of the Lord are commanded to be holy as He is holy then he tells us why and how we are to do so. Continue reading

Invitation to Come to Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:35-37 (NASB) 

In the last post, Clip the Wings of Wisdom, we looked at how Human reason, which is worldly wisdom, is useless for anyone to rely on in order to be saved. We saw where our salvation is a work by all three persons in the Holy Trinity. God the Father chose his people before the foundation of the world. He set into motion all of the circumstances that would result in all of them becoming part of the Family of God. The Son, Jesus Christ, became the God-Man. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He lived a perfect, sinless life then was murdered by wicked men, dying a horrible death by crucifixion. While dying on the cross, the Father poured out His wrath upon the Son. This wrath was against the sin of those whom He elected. Jesus became sin on their behalf. He knew no sin, but He became separate from the Father because of their sin. His death paid the price for their sin. Jesus was three days and nights in His tomb, but rose from the dead. His resurrection paved the way for all who believe on Him as Lord and Saviour for their future resurrection. Continue reading

Clip the Wings of Wisdom


by Mike Ratliff

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3 (NASB) 

I worked for many years as a computer programmer. There are many developers who are team guys who are not very creative, but their proficiency at coding makes them very useful in working on very large applications where the work is divided up along functional lines. Then there are the very creative developers who are confined by a highly structured programming environment, which seems, to them, to stifle their creativity. I must confess that I am of the second type. If I can’t be creative, I lose interest. The creative process is what I thrive on. Continue reading

Good Works vs. Works Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38 (NASB) 

When I was a young man and even prior to that when I was a teenager, I was quite religious. I went to church with my family and tried to emulate what I saw my parents do in their devotion. I tried to reach a point in my own devotion where I could be fulfilled, wanting to serve God with the joy and fervor I saw in other believers. However, I just could not do it. I found myself bored in church. I found no inner drive to read my Bible. I had no desire to have a consistent devotion to God because there were so many other things in my life that were more important to me than that. I was tormented by the fact that I could not behave consistently “Christian.” I had no self-control in certain situations. Then I would visit my family and attend church with them on Sunday full of remorse and guilt. I would exit the service determined to do good works and not sin anymore. I look back on that time now and almost laugh except it was a horrible conflict in my life at that time. I was convinced that being a Christian consisted of doing Christian things. In that unregenerate mind, a Christian was a Christian because they did those things. That, of course, is what works righteousness is. Continue reading

Christ is the Foundation Stone


by Mike Ratliff

42 Jesus *said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” Matthew 21:42-44 (NASB) 

The message to the Christian throughout the New Testament is to deny self, to view with contempt the temporal or world system, to understand that love of the temporal and genuine discipleship are mutually exclusive because it is from the former which all genuine believers are being delivered. This deliverance is progressive mortification of all carnal affections and impediments. This must be so in order for the Christian to attain more speedily the heavenly Kingdom of Christ. It is to Christ’s Kingdom that all believers are called by the grace of God and it is revealed to them in His Son. All believers have received this by faith, possessed it by hope, and are therein confirmed it by Holiness of life. Continue reading

Koinōnia


by Mike Ratliff

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (NASB) 

42 Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ, τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς. Acts 2:42 (NA28)

Most of the churches I attended in my life had something called “fellowship” and some even had  space dedicated to it called “fellowship hall” or something similar. We had time after “church” that was called “fellowship time” that always seemed to be a relaxed time of visiting together and just being friendly with each other outside of normal “church stuff.” In the New Testament the word that is translated as “fellowship” as in Acts 2:42 (above) is κοινωνίᾳ (koinōnia), which Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest defined as, “joint participation in a common interest or activity.” Instead of simply a friendly time of visiting together or a coming together for relaxation, κοινωνίᾳ, then, is a partnership, a sharing of something in common. Continue reading

Antichrists


by Mike Ratliff

1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1 (NASB) 

According to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 15 the mark of Christian authenticity is abiding or remaining in Him. This is not simply a continual profession of faith, but a remaining faithful to Christ in our orthodox Christian faith. According to Paul, this falling away is a two-fold action of departing from the faith and giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. The Apostle John called the Christian leaders who do this antichrists. Continue reading

The Beatitudes, the Essence of a Genuine Disciple


by Mike Ratliff

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:3-13 (NASB) 

Back in the mid-1980’s, about 18 months after God saved me, I heard a wonderful lesson at a men’s retreat on Matthew 5:1-12. My Bible knowledge at that time was spotty. I had heard of The Beatitudes, but really hadn’t studied them. I had actually heard others teach that these statements are not possible for Christians until Jesus comes in His glory. I also heard that this is what Christians will be like during the Millennium. Both of these teachings came out of another teaching that said that there were two types of Christians, Disciples and Carnal Christians. At that time, being such a new believer, I thought that was Biblical. I look back on that period of time now and can see clearly why God moved me away from that church. Continue reading

Obedience


by Mike Ratliff

22 Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (NASB) 

When my son was about 5 years old we had a Revival team visit our church in Tulsa for about three weeks. Each evening the adults would go to the auditorium while all of the children were in the gym or class rooms. The team had two or three teenagers who took care of the children by age group. Over those three weeks my soon started singing a new song almost constantly. It was a song called “O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E.” He would sing this song over and over. It was during this time that we bought him his own tape player and several “Psalty” tapes. However, no matter how much he loved Psalty and those songs, he would default to the “Obedience” song most of the time. Continue reading

The Children of God


by Mike Ratliff

11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:11-19 (NASB) 

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) 

We will focus on in 1 John 2:28-29 through 1 John 3:1-3. This section of 1 John follows a section of chapter 2, v24-27, that is focused on a call for Christians to let truth abide in them in order to discern what is truth and what is false and deceiving in this world. Then John moves into a call to not only let the truth abide in them, but for them to abide in Christ Himself. The word abide is translated from a Greek word that means to “dwell in” or “remain with.” This is the same word Jesus used in John 15 when He spoke of Himself as the Vine and His disciples as the branches. He said that those who abide in Him prove their genuineness by doing so and are enabled to serve Him in His power because His strengthening Joy becomes manifest in their hearts. In fact, Christians can do nothing good unless Christ empowers them to do so. Continue reading

The Unfruitful Works of Darkness vs the Fruit of Light


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; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. Ephesians 5:6-12 (NASB) 

In the passage above is the the word “fruit.” It is a translation of the Greek word καρπὸς (karpos). This word appears some sixty-six times in the New Testament. In most cases, it is used in reference to the the fruit of plants as in Matthew 21:19 or the produce of the earth (James 5:7, 18). However, its extended meaning in the New Testament is one in which we should pay special attention as well as to its opposite, ἀκάρποις (akarpois), which is translated in this passage as “unfruitful.” In this form, ἀκάρποις is the dative, plural of ἄκαρπος (akarpos). The dative plural simply means that this part of the phrase is an indirect object of the action of the sentence. In any case, this may be more significant than it first appears. Continue reading

How Can We know if we are Elect?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB) 

After God dragged me from my former Arminian doctrinal beliefs into the truth of Reformed Theology, my assurance of my salvation did not suffer at all. In fact, it deepened as the profundity of our salvation by grace and justification by faith became apparent to me. I no longer had a fractured picture of God’s eternal plan. It all came into focus as I studied the “Ordo Solutis” from Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-12. However, some I have attempted to teach these truths to have virulently resisted. One of the questions these “resistors of the truth” always ask is, “How could you ever have assurance believing that?” That question puzzles me.  Continue reading

Heirs with Christ


by Mike Ratliff

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:12-14 (NASB) 

If you are anything like me, looking closely at your walk before the Lord, the concept that sinful believers who vacillate between godliness and carnality with deliverance from those sins not in any way certain, then the concept that we are heirs with Christ is hard to grasp. I have no trouble with God’s absolute sovereignty, holiness, righteousness, justice, immutablility, omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence. He is perfect. He is the most High. The problem is that I know that I am not in any way worthy enough to even be in His presence. Continue reading