The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 2 – Back to Fundamentals

by Mike Ratliff

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder (2 Peter 1:3-13)

In the 1960s, the premier football team in the NFL was the Green Bay Packers. They won the NFL title in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. They also won the first two Super Bowls. Their coach through all of these winning seasons was Vince Lombardi. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 1 – Introduction

by Mike Ratliff

One of my favorite books outside of the Bible is John Bunyan’s allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan wrote this wonderful book while in prison for preaching without license from the Church of England. He was a 17th Century Baptist non-conformist preacher who was counted among the Puritans. The continuing appeal of this book, even into the 21st Century, is its inherent Christian authenticity. Through this authenticity we learn what real Christianity is and what it isn’t. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 29 – But that’s not fair!

by Mike Ratliff

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! (Romans 9:14)

The natural mind, plagued with selective rationalization, demands that God be fair in His dealings with all humankind. Fairness speaks of justice. One of the tenets of our republican form government in the USA is a right to a fair and speedy trial before one's peers. A person on trial for a crime may or may not truly want justice. They may be guilty so their desire is not justice, but grace. If a judge in a criminal trial declares a defendant guilty, but then defers sentencing in lieu of probation or "time served" then he has extended grace to the guilty party. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 28 – The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

by Mike Ratliff

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:16-18)

In the spring of 2004, I was in the midst of my spiritual renewal that God was taking me through. In August of that year, it culminated in a wonderful spiritual awakening that came by God circumcising my heart. However, that spring, I was still struggling mightily with self-focus and many inconsistencies in my walk. I had been nominated as a deacon candidate in our church. One Sunday in May, I had to give my testimony in both of our morning worship services, as did the other deacon candidates. I have no problem teaching or even preaching now and then, but this is different. I had to develop a very short 5-minute testimony to present quickly then get off the stage. I struggled with my message. Finally, I prayed. What a concept! God led me to simply share what He had been taking me through over the last several months as well as my commitment to learning how to walk by faith. I did it in both services and was very surprised when I was elected. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 27 – The Curse of Mediocrity

by Mike Ratliff

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-39)

Relativism has enslaved this post-modern 21st Century. The push to equalize everything continues unabated even though it has become apparent to continue down this path is bordering on insanity. Unfortunately, evangelical Christianity has succumbed to the madness as well. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 26 – Wheat and Tares

by Mike Ratliff

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:9-15 KJV Emphasis Mine)

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:24-30 KJV)

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:36-43 KJV)

Not too long ago, I had a preacher ask me what a tare was. He knew that I was from Oklahoma and he thought I would know. I am no country boy, but when I was a young man, I worked in a grain elevator. Actually, most wheat farmers I knew complained about a weed, which grew in their fields, they called “Cheat.” I may not be spelling it correctly. I have seen the weed though. Wheat looks like a thick-bladed grass when it is young and green. “Cheat” is a native rye grass whose species name is Lolium Temulentum. When it is young, it looks just like the Wheat. However, when it matures, it has a head on it as Wheat does, but you can tell them apart. Wheat has value, but “Cheat” is a nuisance. We offered a Wheat cleaning service to farmers just prior to planting. To clean Wheat seed we ran it through a screening process to remove any other seeds that were not Wheat. We would drop the grain down a chute into a cleaning machine that had several well-placed screens that allowed only the Wheat grains to make it through the process. The rest of the chaff and weed seeds were waste. Some of the farmers took that waste and fed it to their chickens. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 25 – The Counterfeit Church

by Mike Ratliff

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:4-5)

The world system, for the most part, is extremely tolerant of religion as long as it is not evangelical Christianity. However, it has no problem with that version of Christianity that is politically correct. Many countries in this world have imposed anti-hatred and anti-conversion laws specifically directed against Christianity. Liberalism, ideology, or cultural religions protecting their turf dominate those governments. Even in the United States, a preacher can get in a great deal of hot water with the FBI if someone in his audience becomes offended by the preaching of the truth from scripture about sin and depravity. It appears the deck is stacked against evangelical Christianity. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 24 – Selective Rationalization

by Mike Ratliff

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:39)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:63-65)

Humankind is plagued with selective rationalization. It seems we are all suffering under varying levels of self-deception. The Bible clearly shows that the fall of Man into the original sin corrupted our race resulting in all descendants of Adam being born with a depraved nature. This nature is completely self-oriented. All decisions made by an unregenerate heart are for self-gratification. Each person is a god. That means each person is an autonomous judge of what is right and wrong in every circumstance that touches him or her. There is no inclination to seek salvation from God. (Romans 3) There is no interest in seeking His grace. However, being desperate for fulfillment, each person must worship someone or something in a vain attempt to attain fulfillment from glory. Since the glory of anyone or anything other than God is next to nothing this pursuit does not really fulfill. Therefore, people have to pursue more and more attempts at fulfillment that do not really fulfill at all. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 23 – We must Work Out Our Salvation

by Mike Ratliff

Taw. Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word. My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. (Psalms 119:169-176)

When I was a teen in our church's youth group I heard time after time the following phrase, "Once saved, always saved." The implication from that was once a person decided for Christ their troubles were over because no matter what happened in his or her life they could never lose their salvation. I suppose that is the Southern Baptist non-Reformed view of eternal security. I believe this shadow of the truth is a residual holdover from the SBC's Calvinistic roots. Most SBC churches hold a doctrine that, in some areas, resembles Calvinism, but in others, is Arminian. Thankfully, there is a growing movement within our denomination to rediscover our original foundational Reformed doctrines. There is backlash to be sure, but most Southern Baptist's consciences are bound to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. When we prayerfully expound God's truth from scripture, there may be resistance from some, but the Holy Spirit does His work in their hearts just as He did mine. Those who refuse to listen are Soul-led. They are practicing selective rationalization. We will look at that self-delusional method of reasoning in the next chapter. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 22 – God Glorifies All whom He Matures

by Mike Ratliff

Sin and Shin. Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules. Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments. My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you. (Psalms 119:161-168)

History is my forte. I love it. God gave me an insatiable appetite for it. When I watch the TV game show "Jeopardy," I can usually answer all of the questions that relate to history. This hunger helps when I read books written centuries ago in a form of English that many modern readers refuse to read. I love it. I am learning how to pattern my reading to match the way they wrote. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 21 – God Matures All whom He Adopts

by Mike Ratliff

Resh. Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise! Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes. Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies. I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands. Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (Psalms 119:153-160)

Even though the most hated and despised form of evangelical Christianity is Historic Calvinism we should not shy away from living it, breathing it and telling any who will listen all about it. The mature in Christ are those who live entirely for the glory of God. God has upgraded their value system to match His. These beloved of God understand that the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. God's children, all true believers, have no vote in what doctrines are valid and which are not. We err when we measure the veracity of a doctrine by the number of adherents it does or does not have. The Bible clearly teaches the opposite. Throughout the Bible, we see case after case where the makeup of the Kingdom of God is the few when compared to those outside. Some prophets, such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel stood virtually alone against the masses of apostate Israel and Judah. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 20 – God Adopts All whom He Justifies

by Mike Ratliff

Qoph. With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life. They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law. But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true. Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever. (Psalms 119:145-152)

One of the precious facts about adoption is the endearing act of choosing or selecting the child who is brought into a family and given the same rights and inheritance as a natural offspring. As this adopted son or daughter matures the adopting parents should share this with them because it speaks of an act of choosing them as an object of their love. Good parents love their natural offspring, but the act of adoption adds the element of specifically choosing the child. God's election of His chosen is also an act of adoption. He foreknew those whom He chose by setting His heart upon them as He set into motion the processes of their adoption into His family. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 19 – God Justifies all whom He Calls and Saves

by Mike Ratliff

Tsadhe. Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules. You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness. My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live. (Psalms 119:137-144)

It was 1998 or 1999. Ina and I were at church on Wednesday night in Yukon, Oklahoma participating in a Q&A class lead by our pastor. He was a very brave man. He would field questions from anyone in the class and attempt to answer them. Over time, it came to be a challenge for one or more of us to come up with questions that perhaps could stump him. We were never able to do it. That Wednesday night in the late 1990s stands out vividly in my memory because someone (not me) asked him to explain the doctrine of justification. I had heard from several of our church leaders, as they taught, say something like, "The best way to understand justification is to say, 'Just as if I had never sinned.'" That night I expected him to reply in like manner, but he surprised me. He gave a very detailed answer that satisfied everyone. Continue reading