The true nature of unbelief


by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; Ephesians 4:17-18 (NASB) 

Genuine Christianity is that which is within the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christians are commanded to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) within that Lordship. We are to obey our Lord as branches abiding in the True Vine (John 15). How do we practically do this? We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling presuppositionally, that is, with every thought, intent, and action taken captive to the will of God. We do this by approaching and living life with God at the center of all things instead of ourselves. In the passage above, (Ephesians 4:17-18) we see the opposite way to walk and the outcome of that. Unfortunately, that is how most professing believers approach this life, that is, in functional unbelief. Continue reading

Post tenbras lux


by Mike Ratliff

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, or sola fide, was the key of the Protestant Reformation. Its recovery was from the darkness created by the dominance of man-made religiosity, which held that justification was accomplished through faith plus good works and/or religiosity. This grew into people being required to do religious acts in order to be considered righteous. The driving force of the Reformation was captured by the Latin phrase Post tenbras lux (After darkness, light). Continue reading

The real Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They *said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. John 11:32-35 (NASB) 

As we stand firm against the onslaught of false teachers and heretics attacking the modern church, we can wear ourselves out at times seeking every nuance of what they are saying and doing. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. However, most of the time, the very best way to stand against what is false is to teach God’s Truth clearly to all who will hear. When Rob Bell attacks the veracity of the Gospel from every angle or Rick Warren, dummies it down so that it is no longer recognizable, they do these things from a point of motivation. There is a reason or goal in mind. Mostly, it is to simply appear to be non-offensive to people, to be man-pleasers, to attract as many people as possible to come under their Big Tent where all forms of theology are welcome, that is, all forms except the one we hold to here. No Exclusivity is allowed. No Five Solas are allowed. No Sovereignty of God! No Justification ALONE! No, there can be none of that for then others would be offended and there would go their artificial unity. Of course, in the make-believe-Christendom they have created, they have a made-up Jesus. He is not Jesus Christ of the Bible, the Son of God. No, because He is the one who said that No One comes to the Father except through Him, and that would be offensive so they have their own Jesus who just loves everyone and died on the Cross either to save everyone or just to show everyone a better way.  Continue reading

To be firm in your faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα, 4 τὰ γὰρ ὅπλα τῆς στρατείας ἡμῶν οὐ σαρκικὰ ἀλλὰ δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ πρὸς καθαίρεσιν ὀχυρωμάτων, λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες 5 καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NA28)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not warring according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful through God to the overthrow of strongholds overthrowing reasonings 5 and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God and leading captive every thought into the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

All believers who are still in this life also live and walk in the flesh in a physical sense, but the goal must be to grow into maturity and no longer walk that way in a moral sense (Romans 8:4). Christians who are obediently doing this must actively war according to the spirit, never the flesh, in the battle to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-4). Therefore, those whose ministries are based around appealing to the flesh are actually warring according to the flesh and that does not work, at least not in an eternal sense. What is done in the flesh may look impressive to those who walk in the flesh in a moral sense, but they are impotent and powerless to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ. Why? They cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel or any of God’s truths.  Continue reading

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword


by Mike Ratliff

34 Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν. Matthew 10:34 (NA28)

34 Do not think that I cam to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. Matthew 10:34 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The peace that Christians have because they are in Christ is between them and God and because of that, with each other. However, that does not mean that there will be peace between them and those not in Christ. In fact, these words of our Lord in Matthew 10:34-38 make it clear that those truly in Christ will be so changed by the Gospel, the presence of the Holy Spirit in them, and their new nature that there will be inevitable separation between them and those who are not in Christ. This holds true even within families. This is true because the genuine believer is so changed that no matter what sort of pressure comes to bear on them, they simply cannot be at peace with the ways of the world or the ways of the flesh. Their conscience is bound to Christ and His Word while those not in Christ have consciences bound to the flesh no matter how religious they are.  Continue reading

Discernment is vital but it only comes to those who are mature in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

11 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, 12 πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 14 ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι, κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης, Ephesians 4:11-14 (NA28)

11 And He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some shepherds and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints to the work of ministry to the building up of the Body of Christ 13 until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the fuller knowledge of the Son of God, to complete maturity, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ 14 that we should no longer be infants tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. Ephesians 4:11-14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In 1887, Robert Shindler, a fellow pastor and close friend of Charles Spurgeon, wrote in Spurgeon’s publication, The Sword and the Trowel: “It is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.” If we think deeply and honestly on those searing words with all humility and willingness to repent of what God shows us about ourselves, I am certain that each of us must repent of falling for the fallacy of seeking that which is new or different in our theology. If we are honestly seeking the will of God that is both good and right, but if we are looking to have itching ears tickled or are pursuing the subjective or experiential as the means of fulfillment then all we are really doing is falling for some lie and are revealing that we are indeed just infants in the Lord who are being tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. I doubt if any one reading this really wants that.  Continue reading

What is genuine Christian behavior?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ἡ φιλαδελφία μενέτω. Hebrews 13:1 (NA28)

1 Let brotherly love continue. Hebrews 13:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

We cannot read the New Testament without seeing that believers are the ἐκκλησία or ekklēsia, “the called-out ones of God.” In the New Testament, the noun ἐκκλησία is found only in the Gospels in Matthew 16:18 and 18:17. Luke uses it in Acts several times, but Paul uses it throughout his epistles. More than half of its usage in the New Testament is in Paul’s epistles. In them, we see that he never thinks of the ἐκκλησία as a physical structure or man-made organization but as a dedicated group of disciples of Jesus Christ whom He has purchased with His blood. In light of these truths, we must seek to line ourselves up with God’s will in our obedience under the spiritual authority He has set over us.  Continue reading

These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling


by Mike Ratliff

1 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. John 16:1 (NASB) 

In John 15 our Lord spoke of  “things” in order that believers “not be caused to stumble,” He was referring to John 15:18-25, which is the fact that those who are truly in Christ will be hated by the world just as our Lord was. Our Lord made it an imperative that we understand that this is true, but also that we do not have to contend with this alone. In John 15:26-27, the promise of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, is given again. Those who have the Holy Spirit are genuine believers and they bear witness about Christ because that is what the Holy Spirit does.  Continue reading

Jesus washes the Disciples’ feet


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 *got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.
5 Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” John 13:1-11 (NASB) 

Jesus knew that He was going to the Cross. He knew He was going to be betrayed and who was going to do it. However, He washes His disciples’ feet as a final proof of His love for them, setting an example of humility and servant-hood and signifying the washing away of sins through his death. John makes it clear in his account that Jesus demonstrated his love for his enemies by including Judas Iscariot in the foot washing. This act by our Lord is all the more remarkable, as washing people’s feet was considered to be a task reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In a culture where people walked long distances on dusty roads in sandals, it was customary for the host to arrange for water to be available for the washing of feet. Normally, this was done upon arrival, not during the meal.

My brethren, the next time we even begin to think we have become mature believers who have passed all the tests and have totally crucified the flesh, et cetera, we need to reread passages like this one. Do we go and ‘wash the feet’ of our enemies? Do we cling to our animosity against those who have wronged us as if it is “our right” or do we humble ourselves, forgive them and serve them as our Lord would? Notice carefully my brethren that even though our Lord did all of this for Judas Iscariot, it changed nothing. He still betrayed our Lord. Continue reading

Sardis, a dead church


by Mike Ratliff

1 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Σάρδεσιν ἐκκλησίας γράψον·
Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας· οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ὄνομα ἔχεις ὅτι ζῇς, καὶ νεκρὸς εἶ. Revelation 3:1 (NA28)

1 And to the angel of the Sardis Church write,’ These things says the one having the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. “I know your works that you have a name that you live, and are dead.”’ Revelation 3:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

My brethren, the message from Revelation 3:1-6 goes contrary to most of what is taught in Evangelicalism today. The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive yet our Lord bluntly said that even so, they were spiritually dead. Some would argue that that was not what our Lord really meant. Let’s take a close look and see, comparing what was going on there with what we see in the visible church in our time. Continue reading

Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry


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) 

It is one thing to compare the Biblical teaching of our Sanctification with the man-oriented false teaching that is prevalent seemingly everywhere, but then easily overlook the fact that so many believers are desperate to know how to obey the command in the passage I placed at the top of this post (Colossians 3:5-7) to consider the members of your earthly body as dead to sin. Christian living is frustrating for the truly regenerate when they forget that we are actually commanded in Sacred Scripture to “be what we already are.” That takes us aback because we do not “feel” Holy or Christlike. Why? Our repeated sins lead us to believe that we are anything but. Then we hear false teachers like Rick Warren and his followers tell us that what we need is his program of behavior modification to fix us right up. When I was a youth, the big thing was “let go and let God.” Well, that didn’t work either. Both trying hard to not sin through some program and simply “letting go” to have God take over leads to the inevitable breeding of discouragement, apathy, and the lowering of God’s standards.

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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


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

Deception is our enemy’s most powerful weapon. When a person is deceived into believing a lie they are not intending to participate in something that is wrong. No, they believe they have the truth and all those who oppose what they believe are just wrong. When the lie leads people to believe that their form of ‘religion’ is true Christianity, regardless of how unbiblical it is, they are not actually intending to be evil following an evil system. They are ‘sure’ they have the truth. They are sincere. I am sure the priests of Baal whom Elijah defeated at Mount Carmel were sincere as well.

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Christ is our Saviour, Advocate, Propitiation and Redeemer


by Mike Ratliff

33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Romans 8:33-34 (NASB) 

The “Emergent” gospel is one that claims that the sound doctrines of orthodoxy which teach us about the atonement, advocacy, and propitiation of Christ for the sake of His sheep are unnecessary “add-ons“ to Christ Jesus and, in fact, simply get in the way of truly knowing and emulating Him. If that is so then why did the God-inspired writers of the New Testament give these sound doctrines to us in such great and clear detail? These are not “doctrines” of demons. These are not “doctrines” made up by men. No, these are the doctrines given to us by God Himself that reveals God to us, gives us the truth about our own sinfulness and spiritual bankruptcy outside of His grace, and the superiority of Christ our Saviour, our Advocate, Our propitiation, our Redeemer.

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Just doing church is nothing but the fruit of blind hypocrisy


by Mike Ratliff

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB) 

To be honest, I never thought that I would ever end up in the part of the battle that I have found myself. For the first 19 or so years after my salvation, I was just your typical church member who “occasionally” found my faith peeking through into my work week. As I matured, I became a Bible teacher and a Deacon. I did participate in Evangelism Explosion training and used that training as a counselor on Sunday mornings at the altar. However, the rest of the time I was not exactly giving God much of my time. That changed in 2004. Continue reading