Weaken Pride and Cultivate Humility

By Mike Ratliff

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1-10 ESV)

Over the last several days, perhaps even the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed at work and in much of my personal life with pressure. As many of you know, I have a daytime job as a Database Administrator for a Hospital Group. I have worked at this job since 2001 and all has gone quite well, but it seems that something has changed. First, we have suddenly experienced some very strange system failures, which has made for some very long days in order to bring them back online with no data loss. Just as I completed this, a very vicious virus that has kept me working around the clock over the weekend and today has attacked our entire network. We are concerned that this attack is only preliminary to an even worse one on April 1.

My reaction to these things along with seemingly ever increasing situations designed to frustrate me has caused me to wonder what is going on. In the past I would have reacted to all of this with self-protection motivated anger coupled with a bit of despair with the words, “Why me?” on my lips. However, God has been moving me over the last several months into a much more reflective mode of thinking, seeking His truth, and applying it to my walk before His face, my coram Deo. On Sunday, I had found a period in which I was “caught up” and so spent some time in Twitter and Facebook. One of the things I like to do in Facebook is to fill in the top box each time I connect with “What is on my mind”  or “What I am doing.” I typed in what I believed God was leading me to do, not just now and not just because of the pressure. In response to the prompt, “What are you doing?” I typed, “Mind renewal, crucifying the flesh, living at peace with others as God leads…” These are building blocks of a life that weakens pride and cultivates humility. Continue reading

The Love of Christ that Surpasses Knowledge

by Mike Ratliff

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)

I grew up in a Christian family. Not only was my immediate family all Christians, all of my extended family were as well. My Grandfather Ratliff was an evangelist who traveled all over Oklahoma, even before it became a state in 1907, preaching brush arbor “revivals” when there was no church building in town large enough for the crowds who came from all around to hear him. In any case, the environment in which I grew up was one in which I could not conceive of people hating the Gospel or being offended because of the Cross. Even after the Supreme Court ruled that Public Schools could no longer host “religious” things or focus on Christianity in any way, the Elementary school I attended still allowed a Gideon representative to come in every month or so to show a slide show to us that presented the Gospel. No one complained. Perhaps I grew up somewhat sheltered from the world’s hatred of God’s truth and that my concepts of these things were naïve, however, that is no longer the case. Continue reading

The Nature of the Human Will

by Mike Ratliff

Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me– not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. (John 6:43-46 ESV)

Even those who most ardently proclaim the sovereignty of man’s freewill must honestly deal with passages throughout Sacred Scripture which make it clear that the human will of the natural man is incapable of attaining such a high role. In fact, God’s Word actually makes it clear that the Human Will is simply the faculty of choice with no inherent ability to make a decision on its own. It is the Human Mind that decides while the Will is the “faculty of choice, the immediate cause of all action.”1 Therefore, it is quite incorrect to allocate the sovereignty of choice to a mechanism within each of us, created by God, which enables us to carry out the volition of the mind. Continue reading

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break

by Mike Ratliff

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21 ESV)

Pride is the natural state of man. The lost person is driven by it. After salvation, the believer is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This state of being is very different from that of the natural man. Pride still exists in the believer and its method of operation within is to utilize the flesh to seek personal fulfillment through self-focused behavior. Pride can mimic humble behavior in order for self to be seen as “humble.”

However, God does not simply save a person then leave them to mature unto Christlikeness on their own. No, He uses the process of personal sanctification, which is synergistic. We become more mature in Christ as we work with God in His plan to crush our pride and remake us into humble, Christlike believers. Having been involved in many “debates” and “arguments” that began as debates on this blog and others, I have come to realize that God was using those experiences to shape my character and teach me that winning these debates means little if my actions to do so were conceived of and carried out by my pride resulting in willful and stubborn behavior. Continue reading

What Really Counts

by Mike Ratliff

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:5-6 ESV)

This Christian walk is fraught with struggle against a deadly enemy. That enemy is the flesh. Our flesh is deceitful and has only one goal, which is, motivated by pride, to drive us to seek fulfillment through channels which will always result in the believer not walking in the Spirit, but according to it. It very clever and can even conjure up false humility that is really pride in disguise. It can justify all sorts of things that appear to be humble and Christlike, but which are merely screens and bluffs designed to disguise a life of self-gratification. In this walk it is vital that the believer come to terms with the fact that they will have to deal with this monster as long as he or she is in this life and that it is the victory over it which is the wonderful result of the mortification of sin. This humble pursuit is only possible for the believer as he or she learns to walk by faith motivated by God’s love working through them. Continue reading

He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions

By Mike Ratliff

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5 ESV)

I have been reading Roger Oakland’s book Faith Undone over the last several days. He does a fine job of revealing the often-subtle aspects of what has come to be called “The New Reformation.” Along with this study, I have been reading some Bible studies put together by a man who termed himself a “liberal evangelist,” William Barclay. I find it fascinating that we can look at the Christian liberalism of over a half-century ago and then witness in our day the result as the Emergents, Purpose Driven leaders, and New Evangelicals follow suit as they liberalize the truth of Sacred Scripture in order to justify their “New Reformation.” In light of this, let us look at some of the truths these liberals seem bent on ignoring or, at best, modifying for their own purpose. Continue reading

Is it Wrong to Confront Unbelievers Head on with the Word of God?

By Mike Ratliff

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:36-38 ESV)

The Emergent Conversation appears to be nebulous, that is, not rigidly constructed. Its defenders even proclaim that this is so. However, it does hold to one standard, which if it did not it would be back on the path of orthodoxy. That standard consists of the following belief, “It is wrong to confront the unchurched (the politically correct name for unbelievers) with the Word of God.” We see this plainly in how they “do church.” The New Testament model of confronting sin head on with God’s truth, which is the law, followed by the solution for reconcilement to Him, obeying the Gospel, is seen as divisive, legalistic, narrow minded, and unloving. Continue reading

“Solas” of the Protestant Reformation


Sola Scriptura
The Bible is the sole written divine revelation and alone can bind the conscience of believers absolutely.
Sola Fide
Justification is by faith alone. The merit of Christ imputed to us by faith is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are remitted.
Solus Christus
Christ is the only mediator through whose work we are redeemed.
Sola Gratia
Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace for us and in us.
Soli Deo Gloria
To God alone belongs the glory.

Light in the Darkness

by Mike Ratliff

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, or sola fide, was the key of the Protestant Reformation. Its recovery was from the darkness created by the dominance of man-made religiosity, which held that justification was accomplished through faith plus good works. This grew into people being required to do religious acts in order to be considered righteous. The driving force of the Reformation was captured by the Latin phrase Post tenbras lux (After darkness, light). Continue reading

Pure in Heart Peacemakers

by Mike Ratliff

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:8-10 ESV)

The most peace I have in this life is as I meditate on passages like Matthew 5:2-12, which is The Beatitudes. On the other hand, one thing that causes me to take on a countenance of righteous indignation occurs as I observe Christian preachers, teachers, and writers functioning in the role of “prophet” leading their followers to discount personal holiness. The seeker-sensitive paradigm deliberately does this in order to be more inclusive. This form of ministry makes a very huge error, however, in that it has as one of its major foundational points that people can be reconciled to God, to be a genuine Christian, without true discipleship, which includes active repentance. Continue reading

Warning Against Apostasy

by Mike Ratliff

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV)

Apostasy: [Middle English apostasie, from Old French, from Late Latin apostasia, defection, from Late Greekapostasi, from Greek apostasis, revolt, from aphistanai, aposta-, to revolt : apo-, apo- + histanai, to stand, place; see st- in Indo-European roots.]

Noun pl -sies abandonment of one’s religious faith, political party, or cause [Greek apostasis desertion] from:Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006

I heard another definition today for the word “apostasy.” This definition says that a good way to understand apostasy and what causes one to abandon his or her religious faith is “to forget.” In the history of civilization, the battle between intellectual honesty and intellectual barbarity is one that has cycled back a forth for millennia. When intellectual honesty is on top, truth is seen as succinct and knowable and authoritative. When intellectual barbarity is on top, truth is seen as relative and completely unknowable.  In case you weren’t sure, we are now in an intellectual barbarian stage in the early 21st Century. Continue reading

No Other Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 ESV)

To many professing Christians the Gospel is something that is open to interpretation, but according to the Apostle Paul, that is not the case at all. There is only one Gospel and it is very well defined for us in God’s Word. What is the reason Man needs the Gospel? According to many so-called Christians today it does not matter what your religion or understanding of the Gospel is for God will eventually redeem all people at the end of all things. I pray that you have the discernment to see that this is only another lie from our enemy designed to spiritually blind people and separate them from the truth. So, what is the true essence of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? One of the best places to look for this is an epistle written by the Apostle Paul to deal with the churches in Galatia who had fallen for the lie that the Gospel was not complete unless it also includes obedience to the Jewish Law. As Paul deals with this issue he defines for all who read this Epistle, the book of Galatians, what the genuine Gospel is and what it is not. Continue reading

Shall the Sword Devour Forever?

by Mike Ratliff

Then Abner called to Joab, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” (2 Samuel 2:26 ESV)

When King Saul died along with his son Jonathan, the tribe of Judah made David King. His military and security people during this time consisted of the three sons of David’s sister Zeruiah. The eldest was Joab. Abner was Saul’s cousin, the son of his uncle Ner. After Saul died, Abner made Saul’s son Ish-bosheth king of Israel. There was conflict between these two kingdoms continually. David’s kingdom, because God blessed him, became stronger and stronger while the kingdom of Ish-bosheth became weaker and weaker. The power behind his throne was Abner whom David considered to be a noble and fine man. On the other hand David, a man after God’s won heart, considered the three sons of Zeruiah to be harsh and virulent. He could not trust that they would keep a peace that he had made with others. Joab actually deceives Abner and murders him after David had made peace with him  (2 Samuel 3).

Over the past several weeks, we have all witnessed shameful behavior in the Internet between professing Christians intent on character assassination. Debates have devolved into ugly battles replete with straw man attacks, continual  ad hominem barrages, and actual secret plots by some to destroy others. This should not be so. As I witnessed much of this, the phrase that I used to title this post kept coming into my mind. I remember in the past when I have participated in some of these types of debates that it is a very ugly thing that never accomplishes anything except bitterness and entrenched hatred by some against others. Continue reading