by Mike Ratliff
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:35-41 ESV)
Just four years ago there was no way I could write about what God is having me write about these days. In fact, writing books or papers or teachings or blogs never entered my mind. Writing about theology or anything Christian was even further away than that. I was walking in the flesh. I was active in my church, but I was living in defeat most of the time. I was not praying much. I read or studied my Bible only in church or to get ready to teach. I was miserable. I was addicted to TV and Sports because I was seeking fulfillment from them since I was receiving no fulfillment from my walk before the Lord since I wasn’t running the race very well. I was spiritually blind. However everything changed in late 2003 and early 2004.
I was asked to start a new class for young adults. This terrified me because it meant starting it from scratch. At that time I was only comfortable building on the works of others. I knew I was in big trouble. I knew that the only one who could help was God and I was fully aware that I was in a very sad spiritual state. This drove me to my knees. I started having a morning devotional again for the first time in nearly 10 years. My time in prayer went up dramatically. As a result, things that I was using to feed my flesh became less and less used over several months. By May of 2004 I was reading books on discipleship and spirituality. Over the summer this continued until I was spending nearly all day every day listening to worship music as I read or researched theological issues. But the thing that really improved over that time was the time I spent in prayer.
In August I started having an evening devotional time as well as continuing my morning devotion. I quit watching TV. Sports meant nothing to me. Possessions meant nothing. I’m sure I was a pain to be around during that time because all I wanted to do was talk about what God was showing me from His word. One Saturday I was in a local Christian Book store and noticed the beautiful display of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. I sorta knew who he was, but I didn’t know anything about his ministry. Some of my friends at church were telling me how great a study it was for them. I thumbed through the book and saw that it was a 40 day devotional study. I decided to supplement my evening devotion with that book. Part of the instructions for that book was to start a prayer journal. I had a blank journal that had been given to me as a gift several years earlier so I decided to use that.
That evening I started my 40 Days of Purpose. After the first week I pretty much had had enough of the book, but I had really gotten into using my prayer journal. I continued until I completed the 40 days, but as I said, I could have quit after Day 6 because it was so repetitive. Also, I was starting to become a little disturbed by how Rick Warren used scripture out of context to make the Bible seem to support what he was trying to say. After the 40 days I put the book away and forgot it. I simply used my prayer journal each evening for hours and hours sometime as I listened to praise and worship music. That was a special time. God used that time to do a lot of work in my heart. I started doing something called Walking in Repentance with Joy. That means I started seeking to walk through each day actively repenting. All that means is that as I would start to find my focus going to the flesh I would repent of that by praying to God asking for forgiveness and seeking the right way to deny myself and take those thoughts capture. I learned a great deal about how wicked my flesh really is during this time.
In October I became convinced that God wanted me to help other believers break out of their bondage to their flesh. I started praying a great deal about that as I worked on an outline. That took nearly a month to get a working outline. At that time I was listening to my 3 CDs by Jeremy Camp a great deal. His song, “Walk by Faith” was one of my favorites. I decided to title my first book, Walking the Walk by Faith. I had a lot of Christian books and the authors quoted other Christian writers throughout their books. I decided to see if I could go back to the books that I had been reading to find great quotes to use in my book. One of those books was The Purpose Driven Life. I dug it out and started trying to match up some quotes from it with my outline. Dead end! There was not one thing in that book that had been instrumental in my restoration and revival. That surprised me a great deal. The only thing from that time that I was still doing (and am still doing today) is using my prayer journal. I put that book away for the last time. I have not used it or taken it off of my bookshelf since. However, there were plenty of quotes I wanted to use from John Piper and John MacArthur. I put those in my manuscript.
In January 2005 I had finished writing my manuscript. I tried to find a publisher. That is little difficult folks. If you have not been published or are close to someone who has been published then no one wants to look at your manuscript. I decided to send it to PublishAmerica. About two weeks into February I got a notice from them that they wanted to publish my book. They then told me that I needed to get permission to use all those quotes I put in my manuscript. I started working on that and found that some publishers want part of your royalties to give permission to quote. I prayed about it and took them all out then resubmitted my manuscipt. They edited it and sent it back to me for approval. In October 2005 it finally went to press. During that stretch I wrote my second book, Possessing the Treasure. I sent it to PublishAmerica as well. They wanted to publish it about six months after my first book so I went through all of the editing and rewrites again. However, in early summer 2005 I started researching a possible third book. The more I researched the more I kept running into doctrinal disagreements between two groups called Calvinists and Arminians. I had a vague idea what Calvinism was, but had no idea what Arminianism was. I am a good researcher so I dug in.
It was this research that led me to a point of contention between me and God. I came to the realization that my own personal theology was a little Calvinist and mostly Arminian. This intrigued me. I read everything I could get my hands on about this. It was during this study that God revealed to my heart that I had been spiritually blind about the inconsistencies in my theology and that I was guilty of taking His Sovereignty for granted. This new reformation took place in the Summer of 2005 through the end of the year. By November I was Reformed in my Theology, but I was also in a state of contrition all that time. I was amazed at the compromises that having a mixed bag of theology causes. Back in August 2004 I was convinced that I had found what it takes to remove those blinders and see spiritual things that fleshly people cannot see. As I surrendered to the Sovereignty of God throughout all parts of my walk in 2005 I found that I had been blind to many things having to do with following the teachings of certain Christian leaders such as Rick Warren. God cleaned house in my heart. Tolerance for things that are called Christian, but are theologically unsound went away. My discernment about these things deepened. I pleaded for Wisdom from my Lord and He gave it to me liberally as I researched and repented.
Is there another Reformation awaiting this Christian? Well, one thing I have learned through this is that to assume that we know everything about God and this walk that we will ever need to know is a form of spiritual pride. Pride always leads to spiritual blindness. Right now I can rejoice with my Saviour and agree with Him that I was blind, but now I see!
One of the biggest changes God has wrought in my heart as my writing has become more and more read causing more and more interaction with Christians all over this world is that He is cultivating humility in my heart. A year or so ago, I would go after anyone who disagreed with my theology. Now, I pray that I have more patience to respond as Jesus would to everyone. It isn’t important that everyone thinks that I’m right and they are wrong. Instead, it’s important for me to point everyone to Christ and for them to submit to His Lordship in all parts of their walk. If we do this, God will work in our hearts so that one day we can say, “I was blind, now I see!”
addendum: This morning, during my devotional time, I became very concerned that people might misunderstand what I meant by me “having enough” of The Purpose Driven Life book. What I should have said was that it wasn’t really teaching me anything. God had already moved me into a level of spiritual understanding that resulted in me walking much closer to him. What God was already taking me through was much more advanced than anything found in that book. God had me in His Word and I saw the PDL book as a spiritually diluted, very shallow book. Why not go to the source instead? – Mike Ratliff
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