That Which Defiles


by Mike Ratliff

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19 ESV)

I never thought I would see the day when professing Christians and their pastors would be offended by a teaching that is a call to repentance from the use of profanity or coarse language. Their response is that we are being legalistic for teaching this because it is culture that defines what profanity or coarse language is. Since the Bible doesn’t list certain words as bad words to use then it is judgmental and hypocritical to teach that it is wrong to use that form of language by Christians, especially preachers in the pulpit.

However, the Bible most definitely teaches that Christians are called to be holy and pure. They are to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Jesus. They are to not be legalistic about following rules, but instead are to become Spirit-filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. They are to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. They have freedom from legalism, but are challenged to not take lightly the shedding of Christ’s blood. Continue reading

Genuine Repentance


by Mike Ratliff

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5 ESV)

I became involved in discussion today on a blog that was proclaiming that it is perfectly fine for Christians to use profanity and those who call them on it are being hypocritical and self-righteous. I have been teaching for quite a while that the genuine believer is regenerate, a new creation, whom God is the process of sanctifying. Our humility must come to predominate our pride. The prideful person is self-focused while the humble person is not.

What are the motives for using coarse or vulgar language? There are many, but not one of them will cause a believer to edify others or glorify God. In fact, in the Bible, in every mention of coarse language, it is cast as part of sin or sinful itself. What was Isaiah’s lament when he saw the Lord high and lifted up? Continue reading

The Undeviating Test


I have been working some very strange hours lately and also have been helping my wife paint some rooms in our house to get ready for family this Thanksgiving. I sit here at 9:50pm on Wednesday night with paint spots all over my hands. I praise the Lord and thank Him from the depths of my heart that I have just finished rolling my last wall. I am very tired.

Right at this moment my wife is retouching with a small brush and mini roller the walls I just rolled. She is doing this over spots that don’t meet her very high standards. She is judging my work to not be perfect. Of course, I’m not a professional painter nor do I claim to be very good at it at all. Also, I don’t mind one bit that she is doing that for I want it to look good too.

If we apply this sort of “judging” in our relationships what will happen? I contend that if a believer becomes highly judgmental in his or her relationships it is the fruit of pride. The humble believer will not do this to the level of trying to force others to be “perfect.” In fact, I have found that when I find myself feeling resentment against how others behave I will usually find myself doing some self-examination. Then I discover that I am just a guilty of the same behavior. I believe that The Holy Spirit imparts that realization to me through my conscience. What is vital is that we repent of this ASAP. Why? The longer that we remain in this “judgmental” mode the longer we are not Spirit-filled. Continue reading

What is Sweet as Honey yet Causes Bitterness in the Heat of the Spirit?


by Mike Ratliff

We have been looking at genuine Humility in the last few posts. We have seen within these studies that believers are called to role of reconciliation, forgiveness, loving our enemies, and turning the other cheek by being Spirit-filled. Also, the genuinely humble believer will not be timid, but bold.

Part of being bold because of the moving of the Holy Spirit within us is to proclaim the truth even if it takes the form of a rebuke. We are told to love our enemies, but we must not have unity with professing believers who are mired in heresy. On the other hand, those in apostasy must be rebuked in love with the goal of restoring them to fellowship and unity within God’s truth.

Much of the Bible is prophetic in nature. A large part of those prophecies take the form of God rebuking His people for their apostasy as well as declaring His coming judgment upon the world for their rebellion against Him and His ways.

One such prophet was Ezekiel. His book opens with him witnessing the glory of God in a magnificent vision. His account of it in Ezekiel 1 is utterly amazing. It is obvious that when he wrote it that he was struggling to describe the indescribable. In v26-28 Ezekiel describes his reaction to seeing this. Continue reading

Christ’s Example of Humility


by Mike Ratliff

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV)

If an enemy attacks we will respond one of three ways. We may choose to fight or we may choose to not react or we may choose to respond in love. My natural response is to fight, however, when I am in false humility mode where I am trying to please God in my flesh (wrong choice), I will respond by doing nothing or even ignoring the one(s) who are attacking. Since that is usually how I respond, that should tell you what a struggle it is for me in this battle with my pride.

Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them. That means that the third option is the one we must choose. How can we? Is this natural? No, it isn’t. Only the Spirit-filled or Spirit-led believer can do this consistently. Continue reading

Humility, The Mark of a Genuine Disciple


By Mike Ratliff

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:17-21 ESV)

Arrogance, boasting, retaliation, and self-protection are just a few of the fruits of Human pride. The natural mind exalts pride while demeaning humility. Timidity is often confused with humility. Timidity is actually a fruit of pride and is a form of fear. It is the method pride uses for self-protection. On the other hand, boldness is often confused with pride. Biblical boldness is actually a fruit of humility. Biblical boldness is the method humility utilizes in our obedience to God. It is an expression of self-denial as our flesh is crucified as we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When we are bold as we obey our Lord we are often accused of being full of pride. Those opposed to our message use this argument as we proclaim the truth and refuse to compromise with those insisting that Christianity must contain multiple versions of “truth.” As Elijah stood in the gap against overwhelming numbers as well as spiritual oppression, we must remain humble and bold. If we become timid then we are operating from a base of fear and will become self-protective and will not obey God nor stand for His truth. Continue reading

Do Not Grow Weary


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. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

When things appear dark and perhaps the bottom just fell out of a major part of our lives, we may fall into doubt about God’s sustaining grace. However, God is faithful. He is also Sovereign and never taken by surprise by the good and bad events in the lives of His people.

On April 19, 1995 I was at work at Bank of Oklahoma in my office at the BOk Plaza in Oklahoma City, which is just a block South of where the Murrah Federal Building used to be. I was preparing to walk outside into the elevator lobby to go up to the main plaza level to help a person who was having network problems on her PC. I had made an appointment with her for 9:00am. It was about two or three minutes before the hour so I stood up to tell my coworkers where I was headed.

My phone rang so I went back to my desk to answer it. The call lasted until just after 9:00am. I was going to be late for my appointment, so I did all I could do to get through the call, hang up, and head for the door. When I hung up I stood up then turned to tell everyone where I was going and before I could get halfway to the door the strangest sound moved through the ceiling over our heads. It was the shock wave from a massive explosion just up the street, but we didn’t know that at the time. One of my coworkers was sure an elevator had crashed into the basement. Another one said it sounded like a plane or helicopter had crashed nearby. Continue reading

Does God’s Sovereign Election of His People Make Us Mere Puppets on a String?


When I started writing about the Doctrines of Grace I noticed something that was common in all of those who have commented in opposition. That commonality is that everything they use as their evidence is predicated on preserving their Free Will. Some were gracious. Some were honestly attempting to understand the truth. However, the bulk of them were hostile and accusatory. These “battles” have left scars, but God also used them in my own sanctification and I hope He did as well for those who came along side me to help fight the good fight.

Also, I have become aware, because I have studied the history of this conflict in great detail, that this issue runs deep and is also vital to the health of the Church as well as the individual spiritual health of each believer. After all, we are battling over how Sovereign God is. The God whose glory Ezekiel saw in that magnificent vision from the first chapter of his prophetic book is not held to be high and lifted up by most of those whose theology is geared towards preserving Free Will. Instead, they demote Him and take Him casually even taking Him for granted like He is the old man upstairs. On the other hand, most of those who adhere to the Doctrines of Grace hold a high view of God who is completely Sovereign over creation. Continue reading

The Superiority of Christ and the Cost of Discipleship


by Mike Ratliff

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

The Church in the early part of the 21st Century is very sick. This sickness has not happened all at once. Instead, it is the result of centuries of compromise after compromise on the part of Christian leaders and their followers to adapt the Gospel and the Church doctrines to conform to what men want. As a result, the Church has lost its savor. It is no longer salty. The countries in Europe where the Reformers restored the Gospel at the cost of untold numbers of martyrs would not now be considered Christian at all.

In the United States, the visible Church still has some influence in politics and society, but is that what the Church is supposed to be about? The segment of the American Church that would consider itself evangelical has become so doctrinally shallow that most of the members as well as their leadership have no idea what they really believe. If they are confronted with the Arminain/Semi-Pelagian vs. Calvinism debate they would be clueless about what each side believes and does not believe. In fact, they are so spiritually shallow, they don’t understand why it is important to know what you believe and why you believe it. Continue reading

2 Peter 2:1 and Universal Redemption


Last night I had a late start to getting my post written and placed on my blog and CRN. Therefore, I decided to write a short piece to intro a great article by John Piper that I had wanted to use for some time about the Sovereignty of God and Prayer. My focus was on the importance of praying for the lost. However, there were some who complained about the obvious links that John Piper made to the doctrines of Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace. Continue reading

The Sovereignty of God and Prayer


Several weeks ago at Bible Study on a Sunday morning, our teacher was teaching on election. While I agreed with what he was teaching I could also sense some resistance coming from some of the people in the class. There was some questions asked by a few of them, but they were bouncing all around the main point without really hitting it.

Since everything the teacher taught was directly from scripture, there was really no way for them to refute it, but they were bringing things up that bothered them such as what about lost loved ones or doesn’t this teaching lead to fatalism, etc. Fortunately, no one brought up the “robot” accusation. I took this in silence for about 15 minutes or so then I raised my hand. To my great surprise, the teacher called on me. Continue reading

God’s Strength is Made Perfect in Our Weakness


By Mike Ratliff

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Hebrews 11:31 ESV)

and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, (Matthew 1:5-6 ESV)

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:24-26 ESV)

How would you like it if your name was forever associated with the profession of prostitution? Rahab lived on the wall in the city of Jericho. When the two spies sent by Joshua entered the city, they stayed at her house. When the city officials knew of their presence, Rahab hid them then helped them escape. In return the spies promised to save her and her family when Jericho was attacked by the Israelites. Later, she was wed to Salmon of the tribe of Judah. Their son Boaz was the kinsman redeemer who married Ruth. Their son Obed became the father of Jesse who became the father of David the King.

This put Rahab in the genealogical line of Jesus Christ. However, she is still called Rahab the Harlot or Rahab the prostitute in scripture. Why? Rahab is a trophy of God’s grace. She is an example to us all that the good we do that is eternal is always by and through God’s grace. When we are weak, yet obedient, God is strong through us. That is why James can say that good works will always accompany genuine saving faith. As regenerate believers, we must learn this. Any works we do in our own abilities are not eternal. All of the work God does through us is eternal. Continue reading

Make Your Calling and Election Sure


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. (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

We have spent a large amount of time lately looking at forms of “Christianity” that are forms of apostasy or heresy such as the Word-Faith movement. We have also compared their false beliefs with those of other aberrant forms of our faith such as the Emergent movement, the ReThinking of Christianity, and Oneness Pentecostalism. There are others to be sure, but what has been amazing is how they all do the same thing. They elevate Man and demote God. They teach salvation by works instead of by grace through faith as a gift from God. Continue reading

Dried-up Branches


by Mike Ratliff

Bill Hybels and his Willowcreek “organization” have recently made quite a confession. It started when they did a survey of the members of their congregation. The survey was an attempt to evaluate how effective their ministries were. From the beginning they have always used numbers to determine how effective they were. After all, that is how marketing is done. Right?

What have those of us outside of the seeker sensitive paradigm been saying from the beginning about what is wrong with it? Isn’t it that their Soteriology is flawed? They have a man-focused concept of how people are saved. They assume that salvation is simply a decision and, therefore, they try to be as friendly with the world as possible so they can ease huge numbers of people into their church. Continue reading