Ashamed Of The Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

I completed reading John MacArthur’s book Ashamed Of The Gospel over the weekend. This fine book has the following subtitle, “When The Church Becomes Like The World.” There are several editions of this book. The one I have was marketed in 1993 as the Expanded Edition for it contains several Appendix sections. While this is not a “new” book, I still found it very up-to-date for MacArthur paralleled the trend in our time of “church marketing,” “seeker-sensitivity,” and “soft-selling the Gospel” with the Down-Grade Controversy that consumed the last several years of the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon in the 19th Century. Our enemy may enlist his followers because of their supposed innovations in ministry, but honestly, there is nothing new under the Sun. The very same error being made by seeker-sensitive ministers such as Rick Warren and emergents like Doug Pagitt is simply a repeat of the very same errors made by the liberals in Spurgeon’s day, which is to attempt to minister pragmatically rather than by faith.





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A Short Sabbatical

My wife and I will be leaving this afternoon to drive from the KC area to OKC to spend a few days with family. I know that while we are there there will probably be a major ice/snow storm. We plan on returning Sunday.  I plan on finishing my reading of John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel while traveling and resting.Please pray us to have a safe and restful trip.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Are We Picking Fruit or Pulling Roots

by Mike Ratliff

During the latest escalation in the Truth War, it has been noticed by many of my good friends who watch these things that as we have brought into focus many of the things pertaining to outright heresy and the blending of pagan with Christian practices within the Emergents’ “ministries” as well as all those who are attempting to minister pragmatically, certain incriminating book references and articles on their blogs and websites have been taken down. Also, in discussion with other comrades in arms in the trenches it has come to the fore that even though it is good that we shine the truth from God’s Word in the dark corners of this movement, there are still hidden things that are actually the roots of all of the apostasy and heresy against which we contend. As we deal with the present evil, the even deeper evil behind it remains.  Continue reading

Pragmatism and Proclaiming Christ Crucified

by Mike Ratliff

But God forbid that I should reioyce, but in ye crosse of our Lord Iesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified vnto me, & I vnto ye world. (Galatians 6:14 Geneva)

My original plan was to read and review three of John MacArthur’s books over a three or four week span. Those three books are The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (done), The Truth War (done), and Ashamed of the Gospel. However, two things have transpired which have delayed the third review. The first is that it took a bit longer to get my hands on a copy of Ashamed of the Gospel than I had anticipated.  I did not begin reading it until late last week. The second is, I believe according to an intervention by the hand of God, an escalation in the truth war. The writing of the last several articles on Pragmatism as it relates to the biblical Gospel were in response to some increased “activity” by certain Emergents, which I believed God commanded me to “counter.” These types of articles or “apologies” take a lot of time and work on my part to put together. This took time away from the reading of Ashamed of the Gospel. However, interestingly, today I have arrived in the section of the book dealing with “contextualization” as it relates to the pragmatists’ handling of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I will be taking a short Sabbatical from the 27th through the 31st of January so I should complete the book during that time and have the review ready shortly after that. Continue reading

Pragmatism and the Wisdom of God

By Mike Ratliff

Thus sayeth the Lord thy redeemer and he that formed thee from the wombe, I am the Lord, that made all things, that spred out the heauens alone, and stretched out the earth by my selfe. I destroy the tokens of ye southsayers, and make them that coniecture, fooles, and turne the wise men backwarde, and make their knowledge foolishnesse. (Isaiah 44:24-25 Geneva)

In the exchange between Emergent leader Doug Pagitt and myself and several of you who commented on this post, I found myself, again, utterly amazed at the work of God in the hearts of His people. Those who are truly in Christ, have a kernel of faith that listens to and obeys God. It learns His truth and, according to His will, causes the believer to stand firm against all attempts of those in unbelief to “reeducate” and draw them into the same darkness of a wavering faith that they uphold as virtuous. This unbelief is based in wisdom for sure, but it is not the wisdom of God, which is true wisdom, but a false wisdom. Of course, some do fall into the trap and apostatize. That is a shame, but I firmly believe that anyone who does possess the Wisdom God in his or her heart will not do so.  Continue reading

Pragmatism and Mustard Seed Faith

by Mike Ratliff

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 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 17:1-6 ESV)

There are many parallels between what is going on the visible church at this time with what Charles Spurgeon called “the Down-Grade Controversy” in his time. In the latter part of the 19th Century, he began addressing the growing apostasy in the Baptist Union in Great Britain. This apostasy was fueled by those leaders who wished to move Christianity from its historical focus, i.e. preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with emphasis on sin and the need of a Saviour, to one that was more in line with “Modernism.” He compared Biblical truth to the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain. The margin for error is very precise because one step away, and you find yourself on the downgrade. The following excerpt is from one of his sermons preached at the height of this controversy.

Doth that man love his Lord who would be willing to see Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, while for himself he craves a chaplet of laurel? Shall Jesus ascend to his throne by the cross, and do we expect to be carried there on the shoulders of applauding crowds? Be not so vain in your imagination. Count you the cost, and if you are not willing to bear Christ’s cross, go away to your farm and to your merchandise, and make the most of them; only let me whisper this in your ear; “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? 1

Spurgeon preached the sermon from which this excerpt is taken just after he was censured by the Baptist Union for his stance against the majority’s efforts to “modernize” their churches with de-emphasis of the biblical gospel in favor of being more open to those who would be offended by the cross and the insistence that they were sinners in need of a Saviour.  Continue reading

Pragmatism and the Purpose of the Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

pragmatic  adj. dealing with matters with regard to their practical requirements or consequences.1

pragmatism n. 1 pragmatic attitude or procedure. 2 philosophy that evaluates assertions solely by their practical consequences and bearing on human interests. 2

Over the last several days I have been struggling with how I should address, or even if I should, the growing influence of the Acts 29 Network. This push to plant churches across the globe has as its primary proponent Mark Driscoll. I must admit that Driscoll has been somewhat of an enigma for me. There are times that he says, preaches, and teaches all the right things from a Soteriological (doctrinal) basis, but then I will read of him being part of the birth of the Emergent Church movement. Then I see where he promotes Spiritual Formation. Sigh…  Continue reading

A Better Rest

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)

In last night’s post, Belief and Unbelief, we looked at Hebrews 3:7-19, which is the first part of the writer of Hebrews’ exposition of Psalms 95:7-11. This part of Psalms 95, a song of praise, is a call for professors of faith to not harden their hearts like the Israelites in the Exodus, but to believe and obey God and, therefore, enter into His rest. In last night’s post I used Hebrews 3:7-11 to contrast those who have faith from those who do not. Those with the faith that saves, πιστις, believe God and obey Him. These will enter into God’s rest. On the other hand, those in unbelief, απιστιας, do not believe God and, therefore, disobey Him. I used this contrast in an attempt to show how the Emergent form of “Christianity” is not Christianity at all because it is based entirely in απιστιας. This is true because its leaders attack God’s Truth as absolute truth. In fact, they elevate uncertainty about everything as a virtue and attempt to say that certainty about anything is arrogance in action.  Continue reading

Belief and Unbelief

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power. (Psalms 78:21-22 ESV)

Dealing with Emergents and others who insist that they are Christians while what they say and do is marked as distinctly the fruit of unbelief, can be a very trying experience. I suppose that is why our enemy will never stop his attacks on those who are called by the name of Christ to discourage and confuse them. I read part of an article today written by Doug Pagitt, an Emergent, about a dialogue or conversation he had had with Chris Rosebrough, a fellow blogger of mine in the Christian Research Network. The consensus Pagitt and his fellow Emergents came up with that they felt described those of us who would be considered Orthodox Christians was that we are so because we are driven by fear. However, the one thing that struck a chord with me in this was Pagitt’s description of the differences in our faith and his was that they are nothing more than different “streams of faith.” In case you are interested in that “article,” here is the linkContinue reading

Great Is The Lord

by Mike Ratliff

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. (Psalms 78:4 ESV)

God is good. He is beyond our comprehension in His magnificence and the depths of His mercy. He is Holy, Righteous, and Just. He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Immutable. Oh, let us praise Him from grateful hearts.  Continue reading

Test the Spirits

by Mike Ratliff

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 ESV)

God has called His people to discernment. If you listen to many so-called Christians in our time, you would think the very opposite. In fact, to question the veracity of someone’s teaching is considered the ultimate case of uncouthness in these so-called postmodern times. I find it very interesting that this concept works only in one direction. These who hold to this sort of “ministry” are very quick to point fingers at those of us who do proclaim that God’s Word is The Truth and we are all called to obey Him. We are seen as being immersed in legalism when we draw lines that are precise and unyielding based entirely from clear biblical teaching. However, those of us who do this are anything but that. Instead, we are being obedient to what God tells us to do in His Word. We must test every spirit.  Continue reading

The Truth War

by Mike Ratliff

I have had John MacArthur’s book The Truth War on my reading list ever since it was first published a couple of years ago. In fact, I bought it as soon as it was available. However, I have only recently had the opportunity to actually read it. I am very glad I did. While I was reading The Jesus You Can’t Ignore a couple of weeks ago, I kept berating myself for putting it ahead of The Truth War. Of course, I had it in my head that there would be a great deal of continuity between the two books. I envisioned that they would be bookends to the issue of the growing apostasy in the visible church. In a way, that assumption was correct.

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Warning Concerning Antichrists and Apostates

by Mike Ratliff

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. (Acts 20:28-31 ESV)

True Christianity is exclusive. It is not a smorgasbord or buffet of options from which men may take what they like while rejecting the rest and still call themselves Christians. While a statement like that may not be popular in this post-modern 21st Century culture which advocates tolerance that is sort of a give and take “conversation” in which people with opposing views find a middle ground, it is still the truth. True Christianity is quite the opposite. That is not to say that many who call themselves Christians have not adopted this modus operandi, but these are what we call apostates. What is that?  Continue reading

The Narrow Path and Walking by Faith

by Mike Ratliff

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:4-10 ESV)

If you have read very much of what God has had me post here then you know how much I admire John Bunyan and his fantastic allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan understood what real Christianity was all about. He was surrounded by the empty religiosity of the state church of his time and its leaders tried to silence him through intimidation and imprisonment for refusing to stop preaching the Gospel. The real Church has always had to contend with false prophets and false forms. One of the things that Bunyan taught in his allegory was that the true form of Christianity was lived out by those who walked daily down a very narrow path sealed by God’s absolute truth. There are many ways off the path. Many believe they can make their own path. There are many detours and intersections requiring godly wisdom by the pilgrim in order to remain on the narrow path. Only the genuine Christian is alive in Christ and they are the only ones who complete the journey, the pilgrimage, to meet their Saviour in glory at the end. All other paths lead only to death and destruction.  Continue reading