Dead to sin, alive to God – Sanctification


by Mike Ratliff

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25 NASB)

The Lord gave the Church a wonderful gift when He knocked Saul of Tarsus off his horse and effectually called Him to be His Apostle. His Epistle to the Romans is a huge piece of the doctrinal foundation of the Church. In Romans 3:20-5:21 he covered the doctrine of justification. This is God’s declaring the believing sinner righteous. In Romans 6:1-8:39 he covers the practical ramifications of this justification. This is the doctrine of sanctification, which is God’s producing actual righteousness in the believer. Many take missteps in their theology by confusing these two aspects of our salvation. Justification is a legal term referring to a judge declaring a person charged with a crime to be not guilty. When a sinner believes the Gospel by God’s grace through faith, He justifies them. This is His monergistic work, His alone. On the other hand, sanctification is the synergistic work of God and the believer in “working out the believer’s salvation with fear and trembling.” This is the work of transforming the believer into one who bears Christ’s very character. Continue reading

Some mistaken notions about repentance


by Mike Ratliff

30 I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, so that you will not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. (Ezekiel 36:30-31 NASB)

The following is the full text of a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon titled “Mistaken Notions About Repentance.”

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What is the source of true joy?


by Mike Ratliff

21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? ’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness. ’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:21-27 NASB)

One of my first posts, What is Joy?, which I wrote on January 10, 2006, has a read rate of 5 per day. This is obviously because it is returned in search engines to people seeking some truth about Biblical Joy, which is a constant theme throughout God’s Word. This tells us that most Christians are seeking joy and are, perhaps, perplexed because their circumstances are anything but joyful. Our Lord gave us the example through the way He walked throughout His earthly ministry in which we are given what true joy is and how we must live in order to obtain it. The following passage is right in the middle of that part of John’s Gospel dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Continue reading

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses


by Mike Ratliff

38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
40 They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:38-41 NASB)

A good friend informed me of an incident in his life in which he had suffered some extreme personal costliness by standing firm and not giving in to the lies about God and our faith. I could tell he was in a great deal of anxiety and pain. He was also perplexed about many things. I asked God what I should do. Should I try to comfort him? Should I try to encourage him.? How was I to do either? All through this there was a nagging voice attempting to blame me and what I teach here as being the cause of my friend’s pain. This voice also attempted to warn me not to try to encourage him with the passage from Acts 5 (above) that was being laid on my heart as I prayed because then that would open me up to criticism. Continue reading

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves


by Mike Ratliff

21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? ’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)

The best test of everything is not how it appears here and now. Unlike those preachers who draw throngs of people to hear their, “Have your best life now!” sermons, those with real godly wisdom know that the best tests of everything is how it will appear in the moment of death, in the morning of resurrection, and at the day of judgment. Thankfully, the Word of God does give us the truth about these things. Let’s take a long slow look at Matthew 7:21-23 where our Lord lays it out very clearly about people who will find that what they believed to be true about their eternal state is nothing more than the product of self-deception.

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I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints


by Mike Ratliff

3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4 NASB)

Carefully read the passage above my brethren. The writer of the Epistle of Jude is the brother of James, the well-known leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21;18; Galatians 2:9) and, therefore, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In v3 we read that Jude had intended to write a letter on salvation as the common blessing enjoyed by all true believers. This intent was probably to emphasize unity and fellowship among believers as he reminded them that God is no respecter of persons, however, his plans were changed. He doesn’t say why he “found it necessary” to write something else, but what we have in this letter is actually a call to battle for the truth in light of the appearance and infiltration into the Church of apostate teachers.  Continue reading

Our Lord’s example of being angry but not sinning


by Mike Ratliff

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” (John 2:12-16 NASB)

Some today have made a caricature of our Lord Jesus Christ. This man-made image is far from the truth we see in Sacred Scripture. There have been some who have even portrayed the Bible as revealing two separate “Gods,” the mean, angry God of the Old Testament, and the kind, gentle Jesus of the New Testament. The former is an image contrived by those who resent God’s commands for holiness and righteousness while the latter is vastly incomplete and derived by those who are either ignorant of what the New Testament teaches about our Lord or they are deliberately ignoring what it says.

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Who is the knower of hearts?


by Mike Ratliff

8 καὶ ὁ καρδιογνώστης θεὸς ἐμαρτύρησεν αὐτοῖς δοὺς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον καθὼς καὶ ἡμῖν 9 καὶ οὐθὲν διέκρινεν μεταξὺ ἡμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν τῇ πίστει καθαρίσας τὰς καρδίας αὐτῶν. (Acts 15:8-9 NA28)

8 And the knower of hearts, God, bore witness to them having given to them the Holy Spirit just as to us, 9 and He differentiated nothing between them, and us having cleansed their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8-9 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

God is omniscient, which means that He knows all things. What is puzzling to me at times is that so many who profess to be Christians either do not understand what this really means or, their hearts are so hard in their unbelief that the “god” of their “faith” is one of their own making, hence, they live and “do their religion” in ways that are “of the world” and in no way could be called Biblical Christianity. Within that paradigm are all forms of man-focused religiosity that came into being, at least in the U.S., about the time of the Second Great Awakening. It was at that time that preaching the Gospel, coming together as a local body of believers to worship, pray together, and hear the Word of God opened and rightly divided was hijacked and made to be seen as something “old fashioned” or “boring.” Instead, so-called Christian leaders sought the tent revivals and continual crusade atmosphere that was much more conducive to large numbers of “conversions.” Forget the fact that very few of those “conversions” actually “stuck.”  Continue reading

The one who practices sin is of the devil


by Mike Ratliff

7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:7-8 NASB)

Relativism is the fatal disease of the unregenerate heart. Of course, it is a self-focused relativism. Everyone is unique, of course, but we have this built-in sense of ‘fairness’ that is antithetical to God’s Sovereignty. Several years ago, before our brother Ken Silva died, he came under attack from some “emergence boyz” in a satirical article portraying him killing a beast on the beach. The creature was called an EvanJellyFish. Ken killed it even though every now and then the beast said something that might be considered edifying. Ah, now we are back in that comfortable realm of relativism. It goes something like this, “Hey man, why are you attacking this brother in Christ? Look, he may practice Yoga and Contemplative Prayer and lead his congregation to pray to Mother God, but hey, look at all the edifying and nice thing he says in this book he just wrote!” Is this ancient history? Just a few days ago I was on Facebook and was reading a post about Rick Warren. I was reading some of the comments then, BOOM, out of nowhere there was a very angry commenter descending from a cloud of self-righteousness condemning everyone who dared saying anything negative about Rick Warren. Oh sure he had issues and said some heretical things here and there and was buddying up with the Pope, but hey, look at his terrific Daniel Plan… That my brothers and sisters in Christ are the words of someone who thinks that the truth is truth because they think it is, but they do not know the words of God, the truth, because they do not hear them (John 8:46).

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Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him


by Mike Ratliff

5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:5-7 NASB)

Several years ago Rick Warren made the follow statements in a tweet that he claimed were from his sermon that day:

To change ask: WHERE am I now? WHAT do I want? WHY do I want it? WHY don’t I have it already? WHAT’s my plan? Is it worth it?

Every time I come across this it is like my spirit is startled and I ask, “really?” What or who is the focus of these questions? It is self isn’t it? I have another question for you. Do you see any need for Christ and the Cross or repentance with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit in any of that? Again, this is just another example of the natural outflow from one whose theology is Pelagian. Rick Warren and his disciples discount the Cross of Christ and the Gospel and put the person at the center of all things. This is why they continually insist that their disciples look within to find their true self while covenanting with them to keep certain values and obey their commitments. In other words, this is a form of law keeping and has nothing to do with grace nor the Gospel. Let’s look at what the Bible says about our true nature and what we can and cannot do as Christians.

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Godliness and Biblical transformation


by Mike Ratliff

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 1:3-11 NASB)

In the visible church in our time one of the key terms that we are hearing and seeing everywhere is rooted in the word “transform.” Rick Warren likes to say that his church is responsible for thousands of transformed lives for instance. In the incarnation/missional/dominionistic push right now we are seeing some call their particular flavor of that “transformational.” This word is a good biblical word. For instance, in Romans 12:2 we have Paul saying, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The words “be transformed” are translated from the Greek word μεταμορφοῦσθε. Paul used this word to describe God’s process of the Christian being transformed by the renewing of their minds. That is, Christ has come to give us a new way of thinking, which is not legalistically following a fixed set of rules and regulations, but desiring to serve Jesus with all our heart and mind. It is this transformation that produces true godliness that cannot be faked and is a mystery to those outside of God’s grace. Is this the same thing that is being described by Rick Warren and the Dominionists? Continue reading