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 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

Let Us Reason Together Part 18 – God Sanctifies all whom He Justifies

by Mike Ratliff

Pe. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man's oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law. (Psalms 119:129-136)

Many "evangelists" in our Western culture preach a gospel of Easy-Believism. Their "gospel" is one of temporal focus. This "Easy-Believism gospel" draws those who want to claim salvation, but do not intend to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ except in lip service only. This "cheap grace gospel" does not preach the need to repent because sin is never an issue. The pastors and teachers of this "cheap grace gospel" advise those who suffer from a guilty conscience to ignore it because guilt is nothing more than a holdover from listening to too many hell-fire and brimstone preachers. Since sin is not a problem, there is little, if any, emphasis on sanctification. Why bother since all who believe in Jesus are going to Heaven? The message coming from the pulpit is God loves us just the way we are so enjoy life. Do not worry about that repentance stuff. That will just make you feel guilty again. All that justification and sanctification stuff is for theologians. Just remember to tithe as God makes you rich. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 17 – God Will Judge the Ungodly

by Mike Ratliff

Ayin. I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me. My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken. Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way. (Psalms 119:121-128)

There are times I deeply desire for God to hurry up and bring judgment upon the wicked people in this world. I love the Lord. I live for His glory. When people belittle Him with their inane jokes, my blood boils. A fellow told me the other day that he understood the gospel just fine, but it was meaningless because he did not believe in God. The spiritual gift of prophecy God gave me at my rebirth kicked in and I told him that only a fool would say something like that. That probably was not the wisest thing to say, but I became righteously indignant since he was attempting to amuse himself with angering me by attacking my faith. Of course, my response was wrong. I did not respond with winsomeness, gentleness, or self-control. Then he told me everything was relative then attempted to say there were no absolutes and he could prove it. I responded by telling him that he used an absolute statement by saying, "There are no absolutes." Then he stalked off. That was not very productive was it? Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 16 – God Accepts the Humble but Shuns the Proud

by Mike Ratliff

Samekh. I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God. Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually! You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies. My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. (Psalms 119:113-120)

As we saw in the lesson "Let Us Reason Together Part 7 – God Saves Us", there are really only two religions in the world. The first is God-based Christianity. The other includes all other religions in the world including all forms of Man-based Christianity. Man-based Christianity is heretical. What is the difference? All religions except God-based Christianity are false. The false religions' focus is on Man's performance in an attempt to do good works to attain salvation. Continue reading

Let Us Reason Together Part 15 – God Establishes Our Paths

by Mike Ratliff

Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word! Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. (Psalms 119:105-112)

When I was an immature Christian, I was continually baffled by commands in scripture to do things I knew I could not do. No matter how hard I tried, I could not obey those commands consistently. I became greatly discouraged. I wanted to become mature, but I could not make myself do it because I did not know how. I would read Psalms 119:105 and become perplexed because I did not know what that really meant. The problem was I would read the Word and not see any way I could apply what was there to my life without my will power becoming a great deal stronger. I looked in scripture for the method or way I could apply to myself so I could finally mature my will power to the point my righteousness would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Of course, I never found it because it does not exist. Our will power is corrupt and hopelessly inadequate for obedience to our Lord. Continue reading