This is a repost of “What is Joy?” that was originally posted January 10, 2006. I pray that you will be edified as you read it.
by Mike Ratliff
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:21-26)
Undoubtedly, there is much confusion about that little three-letter word “joy.” Is it simply a deeper form of happiness? Is it the opposite of sadness or depression? The secular perception of joy is “lasting happiness.” However, the Bible interprets joy very differently. In fact, God commands His people to be full of joy. (Psalms 37:4; Philippians 4:4)
If joy were an emotion based upon circumstances then that command would seem rather harsh and unrealistic. However, coming from a Reformed Theological perspective, we do know that God commands many things for His people to do that they could never do within their own capabilities. Beginning with salvation itself, we see that our believing unto salvation came through God’s supernatural regenerative work in our Hearts. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Being spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:18), walking in the spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), praying unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45) are only a few commands for believers obedience to actions which they could never do within their own abilities. Continue reading
You want to be real
You want to be empty inside
You want to be someone laying down your pride
You want to be someone someday
Then lay it all down before the King
You want to be whole
You want to have purpose inside
You want to have virtue and purify your mind
You want to be set free today then lay it all down before the King
This is my desire
This is my return
This is my desire to be used by you
You want to be real
You want to be emptied inside
And I know my heart is to feel you near
And I know my life
It’s to do your will
It’s to do your will
All my life I have seen where you’ve taken me
Beyond all I have hoped and there’s more left unseen
There’s not much I can do to repay all you’ve done so I give my hands to use
Holy fire burn away
My desire for anything
That is not of you and is of me
I want more of you
And less of me
Empty me, empty me, fill me
With you, with you
by Mike Ratliff
There is a push in the United States to make it illegal to preach the truth from God’s Word where it pertains to the sin of homosexuality. Of course the emphasis of those laws or initiatives is to protect the rights of certain people based on their sexual preference, which is also called gay rights. They say that to preach what the Bible says about homosexuality is to foment hate; therefore, the laws are placed under the umbrella of hate crimes.
On the other hand, some who preach against certain sins are also guilty of trying to force morality upon the unregenerate. How can an unregenerate person stop sinning? When Christians focus on sins that are abhorrent to God that should be just as abhorrent to believers, the focus should be on cleansing those sins from the Church itself. At the same time, we must never shut our doors to the lost, no matter what sins are consuming them. God saves sinners. Continue reading
The following was posted on January 23, 2006. Enjoy and be blessed.
by Mike Ratliff
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV)
There’s something about Jesus’ parables that has always fascinated me. I have heard “stories” from others that were designed to drive home some relevant point, however, His parables are succinct and not only drive home His point, but reveal mighty truths straight from God to our hearts.
The parable of the sower is not only important and relevant, it is vital for our post-modern Church to understand. Our complacent society has infiltrated the Church. No one seems to have an attention span longer than a few seconds. If some entertainment feature isn’t before our eyes or pounding into our ears, then panic sets in because our hearts are desperate for fulfillment, yet we are lazy and addicted to media, games, or music which tie directly into our flesh bound souls. Continue reading
by Oswald Chambers
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18 KJV)
This verse is the grandest condensation of the propaganda of a disciple of Jesus Christ in the whole of the New Testament.
The first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words–“that they may receive remission of sins.” When a man fails in personal Christian experience, it is nearly always because he has never received anything. The only sign that a man is saved is that he has received something from Jesus Christ. Our part as workers for God is to open men’s eyes that they may turn themselves from darkness to light; but that is not salvation, that is conversion–the effort of a roused human being. I do not think it is too sweeping to say that the majority of nominal Christians are of this order; their eyes are opened, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not regeneration. This is one of the neglected factors in our preaching to-day. When a man is born again, he knows that is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. People register their vows, and sign their pledges, and determine to go through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, viz., remission of sins.
Then there follows the second mighty work of grace–“and inheritance among them which are sanctified.” In sanctification the regenerated soul deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s interest in other men.
by Charles Spurgeon
And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul that thou mayest live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
Here we read of the true circumcision. Note the author of it: “The Lord thy God.” He alone can deal effectually with our heart and take away its carnality and pollution. To make us love God with all our heart and soul is a miracle of grace which only the Holy Ghost can work. We must look to the Lord alone for this and never be satisfied with anything short of it.
Note where this circumcision is wrought. It is not of the flesh but of the Spirit. It is the essential mark of the covenant of grace. Love to God is the indelible token of the chosen seed; by this secret seal the election of grace is certified to the believer. We must see to it that we trust in no outward ritual but are sealed in heart by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
Note what the result is – “that thou mayest live.” To be carnally minded is death. In the overcoming of the flesh, we find life and peace. If we mind the things of the Spirit, we shall live. Oh, that Jehovah, our God, may complete His gracious work upon our inner natures, that in the fullest and highest sense we may live unto the Lord.
by Mike Ratliff
Much of the conflict we are seeing in our time between those who are seeking a return to Biblical values in the Church and those seeking “relevance” in every aspect has resulted in a standoff over “freedom.” Those who seek to remain Biblical understand what genuine freedom is while those seeking alternative forms of church are demanding freedom that is anything but. Martin Luther addressed this in his day as well. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-8 KJV)
When God saved us He justified us by imputing Christ’s righteousness to our account. He washed us clean through the miracle of regeneration that changed us so that we now have the spiritual ability to walk through our lives and not sin. He also sanctified us, but that was only positional. He did not remove our old nature. We are still in a death struggle with it to nullify our pride and cultivate humility as God’s Holiness becomes manifest in us more and more. This body of death is still with us, but we are no longer dead in our trespasses and sins (Romans 3:10-18) because we are now alive in Christ.
Personally, I have to bless God for many good books; I thank Him for Dr. Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul; for Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted; for Alleine’s Alarm to Sinners; and for James’s Anxious Enquirer; but my gratitude most of all is due to God, not for books, but for the preached Word, — and that too addressed to me by a poor, uneducated man, a man who had never received any training for the ministry, and probably will never be heard of in this life, a man engaged in business, no doubt of a humble kind, during the week, but who had just enough of grace to say on the Sabbath, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Timothy 3:11-17 KJV)
I read John Macarthur’s account of the Great Down Grade Controversy today. This controversy was between Charles Spurgeon and a few orthodox ministers who stood against the trend towards modernism that was sweeping through England in the last years of his ministry. That conflict had many similarities with the battle we are in the midst of right now with the movement into “relevance” and “the new evangelism.” Just as in Spurgeon’s day, there seems to be only a remnant that is standing against this onslaught against the truth for the sake of being man pleasers. Continue reading
by John Piper
The little letter of Jude teaches us something about the value of learning history. This is not the main point of the letter. But it is striking. In this next-to-last book of the Bible, Jude writes to encourage the saints to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (verse 3). Continue reading
Our Bible Study leader at church is working his way through the book of Ephesians. Today, he taught on the sovereignty of God and election. He did a very good job. However, there were some in the class who became quite disturbed about it. They misunderstood him in his teaching because he did not emphasize man’s responsibility, however, that was not what the lesson was about. I sensed that so I raised my hand and asked this, “Within the context of election how do we pray for the lost?”
I was amazed at what happened next. There were about five others with their hands raised, but when the teacher answered my question (he did very well) no one else had a question. We are to pray for the lost just as we are to evangelize them. We aren’t God. We have no idea who the elect are, but God does. Therefore, we must obey our Lord and make disciples from all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit then teach them to observe all things that our Lord taught. Continue reading
by R.C. Sproul
Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this book Luther was looking back to that period of Old Testament history when Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and the elite of the people were carried off into captivity.
Luther in the sixteenth century took the image of the historic Babylonian captivity and reapplied it to his era and talked about the new Babylonian captivity of the Church. He was speaking of Rome as the modern Babylon that held the Gospel hostage with its rejection of the biblical understanding of justification. You can understand how fierce the controversy was, how polemical this title would be in that period by saying that the Church had not simply erred or strayed, but had fallen — that it’s actually now Babylonian; it is now in pagan captivity. Continue reading