The Good Shepherd


by Mike Ratliff

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:1-2 ESV)

In John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian encounters two interesting men shortly after his own salvation. These two men are named Formalist and Hypocrisy. He saw them enter the Narrow Way by climbing over the wall which bordered the Left Hand of the path. Christian asks them what they are doing and where they are going. They reply that they were born in the land of Vain-Glory and that they are going for Praise to Mount Sion. Christian asks, “Why came you not in at the Gate which standeth at the beginning of of the Way? Know you not that it is written, That he that cometh not in by the Door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a Thief and a Robber?” They replied, “…to go to the Gate for entrance, was by all their countrymen counted too far about; and that therefore their usual way was to make a short cut of it, and to climb over the wall, as they had done.” Christian asked, “But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the City, whither we are bound, thus to violate his revealed Will?” They replied, “That as for that, he needed not to trouble his head thereabout; for what they did, they had Custom for, and could produce, if need were, Testimony that would witness it, for more than a thousand years.” Bunyan wrote this in the 17th Century from a prison cell, He was imprisoned for preaching and pastoring a Church, but he was not licensed by the Church of England since he was a Baptist. God had allowed Bunyan to suffer over 12 years of prison for the crime of preaching without a license.  Continue reading

False Prophets


by Mike Ratliff

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)

The attack on Sola Scriptura is nothing new nor should we be surprised by the shrill and accusing voices of those whom seem bent on leading their adoring followers into greater and greater error and apostasy. This attack on the Word of God is first seen in Genesis 3 when our enemy asked of Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” This enemy has raised up his own false prophets and teachers since the fall who are bent on creating “alternate truths” and creating paradigms which are structured as counterfeits of the genuine Christian religion. These “alternates” come in a very large variety of forms and flavors. Each is designed to draw a group of people into error and cause their irreparable separation from God. This isn’t a very hard job since the natural man is born spiritually dead and has no ability to know God or His truth. Those our enemy targets with his most virulent lies, however, are the religious. He works continually to use his charlatan prophets and teachers to keep in darkness the religious who follow them.  Continue reading

A Rest for the People of God


by Mike Ratliff

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalms 95:7-11 ESV)

Those who insist that we are in a ‘post-evangelical era’ and must, therefore, radically alter not only how we do church in order to reach unbelieving people in our time, also insist that this must be accompanied by a toning down of one’s Christian convictions about the truth. We are told that the culture we are in now will not respond to those who are militant, aggressive, preachy, and extremely sure of their convictions. I ask, since when has pragmatism become how the Gospel works? Did Jesus preach and teach pragmatically or did what He taught cause a huge division between those who believed and those who didn’t? You know the answer to that. He pulled no punches. The reality of His ministry was the epitome of God’s ways not being man’s ways. All we are told to do until our Lord returns is make disciples, teaching them all that He has taught us. In the meantime we are to abide in Christ, love one another, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. We are to be the antithesis of world and its ways, not conforming to it in how we minister. Continue reading

Test the Spirits


by Mike Ratliff

For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:8-9 ESV)

I read with amazement the claim by Jay Bakker that he heard directly from God in a dream that homosexuals were a persecuted people and that homosexuality is not a sin. Either he is lying or he really did hear from an entity whom he claims to be God. The Word of God gives us a very clear test for this sort of thing. The “message” being uttered, if it is truly from God, will not contradict His Word at all. It will not be contrary to the clear doctrines of our faith that have been given to us via Sacred Scripture. We are commanded to test the spirits of all who claim to be speaking for God. I have been criticized by many over the past several years whose points of contention with me are never from the Word of God, but from their false doctrines or human philosophy. On the other hand, when we do have an issue with someone who is obviously a false prophet, we must rebuke them in obedience to God’s Word and that means we cannot do so from the same platform that is used by the detractors of God’s truth. No, we must use the Word of God only.  Continue reading

The Cost of Following Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22 ESV)

For the Christian, this life is a test as well as a proving ground in which God grows and matures those who belong to Him through pruning and removing what is not of Him in order that the believer will be humbled and, therefore, enter deeper into the process of becoming more Christlike. There is a cost of following Jesus, but if you listen to certain preachers and teachers in our time, this is not true at all. Instead, what they teach is that repentance is not a part of one’s salvation at all. However, repentance is a marker of Christian authentication. On the other hand, in the visible Church in our time there are many voices which seek to normalize homosexuality. However, to make this claim they must ignore what the Bible clearly teaches about what constitutes marriage (Genesis 2:24;1 Corinthians 7:8-9). Those who truly follow Jesus must do so on His terms, not the terms of this lost and dying world.  Continue reading

No One Comes to the Father Except Through Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 ESV)

We live in an age of compromise. Liberal theology compromises the truth from Sacred Scripture in order to have peace with the world. These same liberals are also the first to object when one of their own is rebuked for their error. Their stance is that each person’s beliefs are between them and God and are nobody else’s business. This mindset has muddied the waters in some churches so badly that they are even seeking peace with Eastern religions such as Buddhism as we see in this article. In that article, a poll us quoted that shows that of religious Americans, 7 in 10 believe there is more than one path to salvation. On the other hand, Orthodox Christianity holds to the clear Biblical teaching that salvation is defined as a person’s reconcilement to God. This reconcilement is through the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who atoned for their sin on the Cross. John 3:18 tells us that everyone is condemned already, but those who do believe in the name of Jesus as Lord and Saviour are no longer condemned. Orthodox Christianity teaches an exclusive gospel. Continue reading

I Believe Help My Unbelief!


by Mike Ratliff

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:5-6 ESV)

This Christian walk is actually a pilgrimage through life. It begins at salvation and continues to the Celestial City where the believer will be with the Lord eternally. However, the journey itself is the means through which God sanctifies His children. Satan hinders God’s people at every turn. The more they are devoted to the Lord and obey Him, the more He hinders. God allows this in order to peel away the layers of pride and self-sufficiency in each believer. These things are bound to this world and flesh and, therefore, are impotent to bring joy to the believer and glory to God. Even in our “devotion” we can fall into the trap of self-focus and self-righteousness. Therefore, God allows Satan to hinder us that we will see clearly that our joy and fulfillment are only in humbly submitting to the Lord in all things instead of always getting our way about our circumstances, which are ordained by God. This is also true for those whom God has ordained to stand firm and use His discernment and wisdom to withstand the enemy’s attacks on the church through heresies and growing apostasy. As we uncover and expose what is really going on in the visible church we must do so in light of the spiritual warfare going on all around us. As God uses us we must be even more alert and prepared for Satan’s hindering attacks. His goal is to destroy our faith and drive a wedge between us and our Lord. He will use other people and our circumstances to do this. We must, therefore, ask God to increase our faith and help our unbelief each day in order to do what we do for the Lord in prayerful humility with the fortitude He gives us. It must be for His glory alone.  Continue reading

Kept by God


Jehovah God,

Thou Creator, Upholder, Proprietor of all things, I cannot escape from thy presence or control, nor do I desire to do so. My privilege is to be under the agency of omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy, grace. Thou art love with more than parental affection; I admire thy heart, adore thy wisdom, stand in awe of thy power, abase myself before thy purity. It is the discovery of thy goodness alone that can banish my fear, allure me into thy presence, help me to bewail and confess my sins. When I review my past guilt and am conscious of my present unworthiness I tremble to come to thee, I whose foundation is in the dust, I who have condemned thy goodness, defied thy power, trampled upon thy love, rendered myself worthy of eternal death.

But my recovery cannot spring from any cause in me, I can destroy but cannot save myself. Yet thou hast laid help on One that is mighty, for there is mercy with thee, and exceeding riches in thy kindness through Jesus. May I always feel my need of him. Let thy restored joy be my strength; May it keep me from lusting after the world, bear up heart and mind in loss of comforts, enliven me in the valley of death, work in me the image of the heavenly, and give me to enjoy the first fruits of spirituality, such as angels and departed saints know. – from The Valley of Vision A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett


Satan Hinders Us


“Satan hindered us.”-1 Thessalonians 2:18

Since the first hour in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has never ceased to be true in spiritual experience, that Satan hinders us. From all points of the compass, all along the line of battle, in the vanguard and in the rear, at the dawn of day and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders us. If we toil in the field, he seeks to break the ploughshare; if we build the wall, he labours to cast down the stones; if we would serve God in suffering or in conflict-everywhere Satan hinders us. He hinders us when we are first coming to Jesus Christ. Fierce conflicts we had with Satan when we first looked to the cross and lived. Now that we are saved, he endeavours to hinder the completeness of our personal character. You may be congratulating yourself, “I have hitherto walked consistently; no man can challenge my integrity.” Beware of boasting, for your virtue will yet be tried; Satan will direct his engines against that very virtue for which you are the most famous. If you have been hitherto a firm believer, your faith will ere long be attacked; if you have been meek as Moses, expect to be tempted to speak unadvisedly with your lips. The birds will peck at your ripest fruit, and the wild boar will dash his tusks at your choicest vines. Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. He checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss the blessing. Nor is Satan less vigilant in obstructing Christian effort. There was never a revival of religion without a revival of his opposition. As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labour, Sanballat and Tobiah are stirred up to hinder them. What then? We are not alarmed because Satan hindereth us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord’s side, and are doing the Lord’s work, and in His strength we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary. – C.H. Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening devotional.

Belonging to Jesus and Life in the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

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. (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)

Liberal theology makes an idol of God’s grace. It claims that God’s grace trumps His wrath, His judgment, His holiness, and His righteousness. Some of its proponents go so far as to separate our Lord Jesus Christ from God as He is revealed in the Old Testament. The New Evangelism and the emergents have bought into these errors in a big way. Combine this with very “cool” preachers, such as Rob Bell, who are somewhat intellectual in how they write and preach and you have a combination of sorts that is particularly attractive to the younger generation. Of course, those who believe like this are most certainly not limited to just the young. In any case, of what does the genuine Christian life in the Spirit consist? What does it mean that Christians belong to the Lord Jesus?  Continue reading

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13 (NASB) 

The Christian has been called by God to serve the Lord Jesus as His bondservant or slave (δοῦλος). This role of bondservant also includes being His obedient disciple and valiant warrior. I grew up in an era in which there just was not much turmoil in the churches I was part of. The Pastor was considered the one who should take moral stands on issues and proclaim the truth to those in darkness, but the rest of the folks in the church did not consider themselves soldiers of Christ Jesus except when they sang songs such as Onward Christian Soldiers. However, times have changed. There are some preachers these days that deserve a proclamation of “woe” such as this one from the Prophet Isaiah.

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 (NASB)

Yes, God has called some to be elders and pastors and deacons. However, all Christians should consider themselves soldiers for Christ on the front lines. I know that He has called some of us with the speaking and teaching gifts to fight it out with the enemy in specialized ways, but all genuine believers should enter into the battle with prayer and encouragement for those in the thickest part of the fight day in and day out.  Continue reading

Preaching Error With Assurance


by Mike Ratliff

Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV)

God is not the author of confusion. His truth is clear and discernable by the regenerate heart. On the other hand, our enemy, being the source of lies and deception, must create a climate in which what his false teachers expound is disguised as the truth and there will be attempts by those defending these false teachings to demand tolerance so that their error will not be open to detailed scrutiny. It is all a paradigm of smoke and mirrors. For instance, in this post, we see that Rob Bell teaches that it is wrong to use the Bible as our plumb line, our standard of truth. Whenever any of us address these things he says, out come his defenders with their smoke and mirrors attempting to redirect the focus from Bell to those demanding that he be held to account as a false teacher. They call us divisive and all sorts of other things in their attempt to deflect our scrutiny. Then in this post, we see what this sort of error causes. The Church must withstand false teachers. Just because they preach with assurance does not mean they are right and that the source of what they are teaching is from God.  Continue reading

The Coming of the Kingdom of God


by Mike Ratliff

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:3-14 ESV)

When I was a youth back in the 1960’s I remember hearing many sermons in our church about how the signs of the end of the age were upon us and that it would only be a short time until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1970 Hal Lindsey published his book The Late Great Planet Earth. I read it while I was in the Navy. I bought it at the bookstore of a church in Washington, D.C. that I was attending at that time. The focus of that book was to get the reader to buy into the fact that the signs of the times were indicating that the Great Tribulation was very near. One of the points they used during that time to show that we were in the birth pangs was how horrible things were throughout the world morally, politically, militarily, and how the “gospel” was being preached around the world. Here we are over 30 years later and I defy anyone to say that things have improved in any of those categories since then. In Matthew 24:3-14, which I placed at the top of this post, our Lord tells us what the world would be like leading up to the end of this age. This age began at the Cross and will continue until the cup of God’s Wrath is filled.  Continue reading

Church Coolness Circa 1975


by Mike Ratliff

In light of this article by my dear friend Ken Silva, I looked back at my own religious journey. I was saved in 1986, but that was by no means the beginning of the history of my Churchianity and religiosity. No, I grew up going to church. When I was in the U.S. Navy (June 1973-July 1976) I was stationed in Washington D.C. I was in a period of rebellion at that time in which I wanted nothing to do with “church” in any form. My family was all Southern Baptists, which is the dominant denomination in Oklahoma where I grew up. However, in 1975 I moved to a new apartment just off of Columbia Pike in Arlington, Virginia. There was a married couple on my floor that I became acquainted with over the next several weeks. They invited me to their church. It was in the District. I resisted for quite awhile, but finally agreed to go. It was nothing like “church” that I was used to. The focus was not on singing hymns nor were there long dry sermons making me feel guilty about my sins. Instead, the messages were “cool” and there was an actual band that performed on stage rather than a choir. The place was full of guys with long hair wearing jeans and sandals. The women dressed very casually. The place was packed. It also had something I had never seen in a church before. There was a bookstore right inside the entrance full of books that I had never heard of before written by men and women who were definitely not “mainstream.” Continue reading