Looking to Jesus

by Mike Ratliff

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)

Despite the effort of the emergents to deflect the focus of Christianity from Christ and His Gospel to a man-made Jesus and his social gospel, the Word of God is still very clear that the promise to true believers is resurrection from the dead. Eternal life in Christ is our blessed hope, not the uniting of all religious beliefs into a front that will make this world a better place. No, we must go through each day and do all we do looking unto Jesus as the object of our faith and salvation.  Continue reading

The Divine Nature

by Mike Ratliff

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!– assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)

The writers of the New Testament had no concept of a Christian whom many today would call a “Carnal Christian.” All believers still sin in this life and there will be times when they struggle with certain sins as if in a deadly battle, which they perceive as one they are losing. However, God will not leave His children this way. There will be no peace in the heart of a genuine Christian who is actively indulging his or her flesh. Instead, there will be heartache, self-loathing, and a deep desire to get the victory and draw closer to the Saviour much as David did when finally confronted about his horrible sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. There is no true peace in the heart of Christian who is hiding his or her sin. Those around them may not know what is going on, but God does  and so do those hiding their sin. It is not a spiritually healthy situation.  Continue reading

The Truth and the Deceived

By Mike Ratliff

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-19 ESV)

The prevalent lie dominating the emergent “Church” is that the Gospel is defined differently than it is clearly set down in God’s Word. Of course, this should be no surprise since Sacred Scripture tells us plainly that the genuine Gospel is folly or foolishness to those who are perishing. I know that some are saying that the emergents are genuine Christians and that they are leading the way into a “new reformation,” but if one simply dialogues with any of the emergents for very long about the Gospel it becomes very clear in a hurry that it is a different religion. Continue reading

True Patriotism

(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin–while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor–while thehouse is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, “Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Luke 12:14. “My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!” John 18:36. God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the “quiet in the land.” Psalm 35:19. Continue reading

Sanctification – Life in the Spirit

By Mike Ratliff

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)

5οι γαρ κατα σαρκα οντες τα της σαρκος φρονουσιν οι δε κατα πνευμα τα του πνευματος 6το γαρ φρονημα της σαρκος θανατος το δε φρονημα του πνευματος ζωη και ειρηνη 7διοτι το φρονημα της σαρκος εχθρα εις θεον τω γαρ νομω του θεου ουχ υποτασσεται ουδε γαρ δυναται 8οι δε εν σαρκι οντες θεω αρεσαι ου δυνανται (Romans 8:5-8 WHNU)

One thing that has become very obvious in the comment sections of the last few posts on Sanctification. There are a lot of people out there who confuse Justification and Sanctification. They are not the same thing at all. I make statements about God working in us to develop Christ’s very character in us through our Sanctification in which we obey Him, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. He takes us through fiery trials to mature us. Then the alarms go off and here come the naysayers who proclaim that I am teaching works theology. Well if I was talking about our Justification then I would agree, but that is not what Sanctification is all about. Also, there have been some, who I believe are disciples of Tim Keller, that say we are not to try to obey God, to keep His commandments, because no one can keep them. Really? I agree that no one can keep them perfectly, but we are commanded to obey our Lord, keeping His commandments and when we fail, we apply 1 John 1:9 and get back in the race. This life in the Spirit is not a life of replacing obedience with clinging to the foot of cross. Aren’t we supposed to do both?  Continue reading

Sanctification – Not Under the Law but Under Grace

by Mike Ratliff

1ουδεν αρα νυν κατακριμα τοις εν χριστω ιησου 2ο γαρ νομος του πνευματος της ζωης εν χριστω ιησου ηλευθερωσεν σε απο του νομου της αμαρτιας και του θανατου 3το γαρ αδυνατον του νομου εν ω ησθενει δια της σαρκος ο θεος τον εαυτου υιον πεμψας εν ομοιωματι σαρκος αμαρτιας και περι αμαρτιας κατεκρινεν την αμαρτιαν εν τη σαρκι 4ινα το δικαιωμα του νομου πληρωθη εν ημιν τοις μη κατα σαρκα περιπατουσιν αλλα κατα πνευμα (Romans 8:1-4 WHNU)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)

Those who hold to a from of Christianity that does not honor God and His holiness by their downplaying the necessity of walking in repentance have abandoned humble obedience in favor of self-focused license. I saw a video of some of Brian McLaren’s unbiblical teachings all given one after the other. He has a problem with Penal Substitution. He wants Christians to believe Romans 8:1, but ignore Romans 8:2-4, which explains what Christ did for His people at the Cross and why this is the only way it could be done. This is the danger of ripping scripture out of context. For a proper understanding of Romans 8:1-4 we must also understand Romans 7:1-25. Continue reading

The Precious Blood

Before the cross I kneel and see
The measure of my sin
How You became a curse for me
Though You were innocent
The magnitude of Your great love
Was shown in full degree
When righteous blood, the crimson spill
Rained down from Calvary

Oh, the precious blood
That flowed from Mercy’s side
Washed away my sin
When Christ my Savior died
Oh, the precious blood
Of Christ the crucified
It speaks for me before Your throne
Where I stand justified

And who am I that I should know
This treasure of such worth
My Savior’s pure atoning blood
Shed for the wrath I’d earned
For sin has stained my every deed
My every word and thought
What wondrous love that makes me one
Your priceless blood has bought

A crown of thorns, pierced hands and feet
A body bruised, and Mercy’s plea

© 2005 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP).

Words and music by Peter Gagnon
As recorded on Valley of Vision

The Lord Our Companion

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Sweet are these words in describing a deathbed assurance. How many have repeated them in their last hours with intense delight!

But the verse is equally applicable to agonies of spirit in the midst of life. Some of us, like Paul, die daily through a tendency to gloom of soul. Bunyan puts the Valley of the Shadow of Death far earlier in the pilgrimage than the river which rolls at the foot of the celestial hills. We have some of us traversed the dark and dreadful defile of “the shadow of death” several times, and we can bear witness that the Lord alone enabled us to bear up amid its wild thought, its mysterious horrors, its terrible depressions. The Lord has sustained us and kept us above all real fear of evil, even when our spirit has been overwhelmed. We have been pressed and oppressed, but yet we have lived, for we have felt the presence of the Great Shepherd and have been confident that His crook would prevent the foe from giving us any deadly wound.

Should the present time be one darkened by the raven wings of a great sorrow, let us glorify God by a peaceful trust in Him.

From: Faith’s Checkbook by C.H. Spurgeon for June 20

Sanctification – Dead to Sin Alive to God

by Mike Ratliff

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25 ESV)

The Lord gave the Church a wonderful gift when He knocked Saul of Tarsus off his horse and effectually called Him to be His Apostle. His Epistle to the Romans is a huge piece of the doctrinal foundation of the Church. In Romans 3:20-5:21 he covered the doctrine of justification. This is God’s declaring the believing sinner righteous. In Romans 6:1-8:39 he covers the practical ramifications of this justification. This is the doctrine of sanctification, which is God’s producing actual righteousness in the believer. Many take missteps in their theology by confusing these two aspects of our salvation. Justification is a legal term referring to a judge declaring a person charged with a crime to be not guilty. When a sinner believes the Gospel by God’s grace through faith, He justifies them. This is His monergistic work, His alone. On the other hand, sanctification is the synergistic work of God and the believer in “working out the believer’s salvation with fear and trembling.” This is the work of transforming the believer into one who bears Christ’s very character. Continue reading

The Lamp of the Body

by Mike Ratliff

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23 ESV)

Spiritual blindness is truly amazing to witness. As our Lord said, “how great is the darkness!” Those in this darkness have been deceived and have been given over to their idolatry. Another tragic aspect of it is seen when they absolutely reject the clear truth from God’s Word while affirming the lies from deceitful spirits and wicked men. They also see legitimate debate on moral issues such as same-sex marriage and viewing homosexuality as acceptable in the Church as divisive and bigoted because real debate is not the same thing as dialogue. Debate confirms solid points of contention while dialogue causes them to crumble by having the sides come to a consensus. When it comes to what God has said in His Word, there is no room for dialogue. What He calls sin is sin. Continue reading

Our Field of Battle

by C.H. Spurgeon – from Faith’s Checkbook for June 17

For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. (Deuteronomy 20:4)

We have no enemies but the enemies of God. Our fights are not against men but against spiritual wickednesses. We war with the devil and the blasphemy and error and despair which he brings into the field of battle. We fight with all the armies of sin–impurity, drunkenness, oppression, infidelity, and ungodliness. With these we contend earnestly, but not with sword or spear; the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.

Jehovah, our God, abhors everything which is evil, and, therefore, He goeth with us to fight for us in this crusade. He will save us, and He will give us grace to war a good warfare and win the victory. We may depend upon it that if we are on God’s side God is on our side. With such an august ally the conflict is never in the least degree doubtful. It is not that truth is mighty and must prevail but that might lies with the Father who is almighty, with Jesus who has all power in heaven and in earth, and with the Holy Spirit who worketh His will among men.

Soldiers of Christ, gird on your armor. Strike home in the name of the God of holiness, and by faith grasp His salvation. Let not this day pass without striking a blow for Jesus and holiness.

Fight the Good Fight of Faith

by Mike Ratliff

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:5-8 ESV)

There is much terribly wrong going on right now in the visible Church. The main leaders of the emergent movement such as Brian McLaren are teaching rehashed heresies that deny the doctrines of Hell and Penal Substitution. The tragedy is how popular these teachings are with so many in the visible Church. These “fellows” deny all of the essential elements of the Gospel and then decry any teaching that proclaims its exclusivity. They proclaim that all of the world religions lead to God. Let us be honest my brethren. Isn’t there a drive or pull within us that proclaims all of the positive aspects of these false teachings? That “voice” tries to make us see how standing firm is so unpopular and all of this self-denial is sure excluding us from the majority. Those who finish the race by fighting the good fight and keeping the faith were never part of the “majority” or the “popular.” If that is so, then why do we even listen to that “voice?” Continue reading

Straining Toward the Goal

by Mike Ratliff 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV) 

With both parents seemingly nearing the end of their journeys to the Celestial City, I have reflected much on my own priorities lately. Have I been wasting much of the valuable time and energy given to me by our Lord in building on His foundation with wood, hay, and straw? Have I been focusing on the things of this world, seeking the pleasures of this world to the exclusion of walking close with my Lord, living in His Word and prayer? Have I been putting self ahead of the needs of others? You see, what marks a true Christian over a false Christian is whether Christ’s character is being developed in theirs or not. This character development results in the believer’s perseverance.  Continue reading

Spiritual Blindness and Hardened Hearts

by Mike Ratliff 

And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:15-21 ESV) 

Last week my mother was hospitalized again. The diagnosis now is congestive heart failure. We traveled down there the weekend before this and tried to get the medical people at the skilled nursing center where she is staying to contact her doctor since her ankles were very swollen. Nothing happened. Thursday last week her lungs nearly filled up with fluid and she was having very bad chest pains. She tried to get help, but since her stroke, she is very hard to understand. Somehow, she had the staff there place a call to my sister. She talked to the nurse taking care of her, but he said her vitals looked okay. However, when the day people came in on Friday they panicked because she could barely breathe and was in a great deal of pain. They rushed her to the hospital. She got very good medical care there and now her lungs are much better and she is not having chest pains. We rushed down to OKC from KC on Friday and spent the weekend with her.  Continue reading