Soft Preaching Produces Hard Hearts While Hard Preaching Shatters then Produces Soft Hearts Towards God and His Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

For being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3 a direct translation from the NA27 Greek text)

The institutional church or visible church in our time is a mess. It has lost its focus. This has come about over many decades of bad theology overtaking mediocre theology so that the focus of so much of what we see in any given church is not God and His glory, but on people with the man behind the pulpit in the spotlight as if he is either some sort of CEO or a Rock Star. In the seeker-sensitive church model, all things are geared to be inoffensive to everyone so sermons are short and pragmatic with so-called worship being all about entertainment. In those churches subscribed to that model there are no expository sermons preached about the Holiness and Righteousness of God in light of the sinfulness of man and thus his need of a Saviour. No, that would be considered “hard preaching” and offensive. Instead, the order of the day is “soft words.”  Continue reading

The Truly Humble Response to God’s Gracious Offer of Salvation


by Mike Ratliff

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 ESV)

Despite what those say who insist that the only attribute of God that ever comes into play is His Love, the only ray of hope in man’s spiritual darkness is His sovereign grace. It alone can rescue man from his propensity to lust for evil things. The passage above (James 4:6) tells us that God gives “more grace.” What does this mean? It shows that His grace is greater than the power of sin, the flesh, the world, and Satan (cf. Romans 5:20). Who obtains God’s grace? Do the proud?  Continue reading

God’s Workmanship


by Mike Ratliff

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

In the ESV’s rendering of Ephesians 2:10, the word “workmanship” translates the Greek noun ποίημα or poiēma, which refers to what is made or created. Our English word “poem” is derived from ποίημα. I have one lexicon that renders ποίημα as “masterpiece” or “work of art.” In the context of Ephesians 2:10, the creator is God and the ποίημα is who? It is the true child of God! Before we continue let’s look at the Greek text of v10 and then a word-for-word translation.

αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, κτισθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεός, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν. (Ephesians 2:10 NA27)

His for we are masterpiece having been created in Christ Jesus for Good works which previously prepared – God, that in them we should walk. (a word-for-word translation from the NA27 Greek text of Ephesians 2:10)  Continue reading

Created in Christ Jesus for Good Works


by Mike Ratliff

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. After God saved me in 1986 I was a Southern Baptist until 2006 when our former church was overtaken by the Purpose Driven paradigm. I was bitter about that for a while. I and many of you found common ground having had our churches ripped away from us and in many cases finding it nearly impossible to find a good Biblical local church remaining in our area after the Seeker-Sensitive tsunamis had moved through devastating what were once good churches, leaving behind man-centered, store fronts for Rick Warren’s brand of man-focused religiosity.  However, God is good and through this devastation and some personal fiery trials, which actually began in 2004, He has worked in me to grow me into a more mature Christian, stronger in the Word of God than ever, more knowledgeable in Biblical Greek, and deeper in the more cerebral areas of our faith that are sorely needed in our day such as presuppositional apologetics. When I was a Deacon teaching Sunday school at our local SBC church, I was extremely mediocre in most of that and hardly knowledgeable at all in the area of apologetics. Why? I was serving and operating from within a mindset that was extremely spiritually immature compared to today. My understanding of the Gospel and theology was probably deeper than most of my peers at that time, but compared to now, it was probably surface level at best.  Continue reading

God Chose What is Foolish in the World to Shame the Wise


by Mike Ratliff

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 ESV)

During His earthly ministry, as our Lord walked through Roman occupied Galilee, Samaria, and Judea and other parts of what we call the Middle East in our time, the “so-called educated experts” criticized Him with respect to His education credentials (John 7:14-15). What was His response? Did He back down? Did He buy into the authority of these men as carrying any weight that He must take into account in regards to the truth He taught and preached? No! He countered by challenging their competence. Think of the outrage today if someone like me who has no letters after his name like Doctor of Theology or whatever were to do as our Lord did and directly challenged one of these high placed religious leaders whose fruit of apostasy is continually being revealed as they refuse to follow the will of God. However, that is the very basis our Lord used to disqualify those who challenged Him (John 7:17, 19).  Continue reading

Right and Wrong Presuppositions


by Mike Ratliff

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20 ESV

Secondary separation has become a very controversial topic in the Church lately. Remember when John Piper became publicly defensive after he invited Rick Warren to be the keynote speaker at his pastor’s conference? What did he say? He tried to make the case that it was wrong for anyone to separate from him because they had a problem with the theology of Rick Warren and now he and Rick Warren were buddies. I believe I was not alone is publicly stating that the issue was not in friendship per se, but the fact that John Piper was actually validating the theology of Rick Warren and intermingling it with that of his own. So, do we separate from John Piper because he is a friend with Rick Warren or do we separate from John Piper because we disagree with his theology? Ah, now we are getting to the point. If our theology contains the presupposition that it is impossible for someone to be theologically at peace with Rick Warren and still be theologically sound then we have a starting place, but not a firm foundation for separation.  Continue reading

The Foolishness of Unbelief


by Mike Ratliff

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20 ESV)

I moved my writing ministry to Possessing the Treasure in 2006. Not long after that Ken Silva asked me to come on board the Christian Research Network team. It was during that period that there were some monumental battles with a group of people dedicated to shutting us down. I can remember writing posts about the Ordo Salutis or the Five Solas of the Reformation using sources from Protestant Reformers then having to deal with vicious comments from those people attacking not only my own character, but also the very character and salvation of men such as John Owen, John Calvin, or Martin Luther. These comments were designed to do one thing, to get me and my friends backed into a corner so that we would believe we had to respond to these onslaughts through emotionally based, piece-meal replies. Once they got us to that point then we had left the realm of apologetics and entered into a no-mans land, slugging it out blow for blow with people who had no ethical basis for “playing nice.” It was through many of these ugly events that I came up with the rules for commenting on Possessing the Treasure which must be adhered to by all. I enforce these rules assiduously and since their implementation, those attacks have been few and far between.  Continue reading

The Mind of the New Man Rooted in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

All forms of Liberal (so-called) Christianity are another religion, not True Christianity. Why? They are rooted in worldly, humanistic, and non-Christian presuppositions.  On the other hand, the Word of God clearly directs believers to avoid these philosophies and, instead, their presuppositions must be the precepts and doctrines of Christ, not the futile traditions of men (Colossians 2:3, 4, 22; 3:1-2). Based upon this clear division, believers are precluded from any form of neutrality or even seeking after it. Why? As we have seen in earlier posts, neutrality is in actuality veiled agnosticism or unbelief—a failure to walk in Christ, an obscuring of Christian commitment and distinctives, and a suppression of truth (cf. Romans 1:21, 25).  Continue reading

The Robbery of Neutrality


by Mike Ratliff

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

The title of this blog article “The Robbery of Neutrality” is the title of chapter 1 of Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen’s book on Presuppositional Apologetics, Always Ready, which I just received and am working my way through now. By trade, I am an I.T. guy, specifically a Database Administrator. However, my boss has made it clear to me and the rest of our staff that he values me mostly as a key problem solver. I have been in I.T. since 1973 and I have learned over the years that it is far better to get to the root of a problem and even if quite painful, solve it there, rather than go after just surface level solutions to try to fix issues. Therefore, when the uproar of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins began even before it was available, I waited until those I trusted and respected had a chance to review it before I started looking at it. What is Rob Bell’s motive? What is he attempting to accomplish in writing this small “puff piece” book that says nothing new? If you listened to the man talk in any of his interviews then you probably got a glimpse of what is really going on when he encountered an interviewer not willing to let him off the hook with his over generalizations. You see, that is exactly the point. Rob Bell seeks to be “truth neutral” when it comes to all those things he sees in God’s Word as being “exclusive” and “divisive.”  Continue reading

Downtime


I am taking a few days off from writing and posting for two things beyond my control. My cable provider is preparing to rewire my network tomorrow and I have to spend this evening prepping my office for that and then on Thursday we are leaving town to visit family and recuperate from my fight with the stomach virus I had a few days ago. I will be out of town until late Sunday April 10th. Please pray for my wife and I to have a safe trip.

Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. (John 11:32-35 ESV)

As we stand firm against the onslaught of false teachers and heretics attacking the modern church, we can wear ourselves out at times seeking every nuance of what they are saying and doing. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. However, most of the time, the very best way to stand against what is false is to teach God’s Truth clearly to all who will hear. When Rob Bell attacks the veracity of the Gospel from every angle or Rick Warren, dummies it down so that it is no longer recognizable, they do these things from a point of motivation. There is a reason or goal in mind. Mostly, it is to simply appear to be non-offensive to people, to be man-pleasers, to attract as many people as possible come under their Big Tent where all forms of theology are welcome, that is, all forms except the one we hold to here. No Exclusivity is allowed. No Five Solas are allowed. No Sovereignty of God! No Justification ALONE! No, there can be none of that for then others would be offended and there would go their artificial unity. Of course, in the make-believe-Christendom they have created, they have a made-up Jesus. He is not Jesus Christ of the Bible, the Son of God. No, because He is the one who said that No One comes to the Father except through Him, and that would be offensive so they have their own Jesus who just loves everyone and died on the Cross either to save everyone or just to show everyone a better way.  Continue reading

God


by Mike Ratliff

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).  (Matthew 1:22-23 ESV)

After posting Stephen Furtick’s video in yesterday’s post Fool Part 2, I was struck by one part of his complaint against those he calls “haters.” I’ will not quote directly because I am very tired of listening to him. There is part of it in which he mocks those of us who say we are drawing a line and standing firm, but then he leers into the camera and says, “But nothing really changes!” There was an echo of a passage from Peters 2nd Epistle so I looked it up.

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1-4 ESV)

Isn’t what we witnessed in that video the same scoffing Peter is talking about here? Isn’t this from a person who has rejected all authority except his own?  Continue reading

Fool Part 2


by Mike Ratliff

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3 ESV)

In yesterday’s post, Fool, we looked at the Greek word ἄφρων or aphrōn, which in noun form means ‘fool’ or in adjective form describes one who is not necessarily lacking in knowledge, but acts without wisdom or sense. In this post we will look at another New Testament Greek word that is translated as fool or foolish, which is ἀνόητος or anoētos. This is the word used twice in the passage I placed at the top of this post (Galatians 3:1-3), however, it is often translated (in various Bible translations) as inconsiderate, unintelligent, unwise (Luke 24:25; Romans 1:14; Titus 3:3), or even brutish in 1 Timothy 6:9). Just as ἄφρων has a very direct meaning for what is going on in the Church in our time, so does ἀνόητος. Continue reading

Fool


by Mike Ratliff

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21 ESV)

Over this last week I have been battling some sort of stomach ailment and right now I don’t feel so hot, but at least I can sit up and type now. Also during this time I have listened to Dr. James White do a short analysis of Rob Bell and his book Love Wins. Dr. White did his analysis from the perspective of an interview done by someone else and then analyzed how Rob Bell responded to those direct questions. He promised to do a full review after reading the book. In any case, one of the comments he made about Bell that, I believe, is definitive of the man and his ministry is that he is very smart and well educated, but those things do not make one a true Biblical scholar nor do they even make one a Christian. No, no matter how much knowledge one has of Hebrew and Greek and Theology, if there is no true knowledge of Christ via the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ then all you have is what Dr. White refers to a just another Mainline Protestant Liberal.  Continue reading