The Sermon on the Mount Part 13

by Mike Ratliff

4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it.  5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. (Proverbs 23:4,5 NASB)

Happiness is a temporal condition of ‘rightness’ based upon circumstances.  On the other hand, Christians are taught all through God’s Word to pursue the Joy of the Lord, which is not based in the temporal, therefore, it is in no way based upon our circumstances. Instead, “Joy is both an outcome of our relationship with the Lord and our source of strength for our obedience of Him.” This is a quote from my post What is Joy? from January 2006. However, in my many years as a Christian, I have known countless professing believers who sought their fulfillment completely in the temporal and, because of that, were easy prey of those false teachers of the ‘Health, Wealth, and Prosperity “Gospel”.’ As we have seen as we have dug deep into our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, there are many forms of religion that men create that they insist are ‘Christian,’ but they are another religion and their ‘Jesus’ is not Jesus Christ because they are man-made not God ordained. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 12

by Mike Ratliff

1 “But be careful of demonstrating your righteousness before men with the aim to be seen by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven.” 2 “Therefore, whenever you do give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be glorified by men. Amen I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand does, 4 so that your alms may be in secret and your Father, the one seeing in secret, will repay you. ” (Matthew 6:1- 4 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

We come now to Matthew 6:16-18, which is like the second slice of bread of a sandwich around the meat of our Lord’s teaching on prayer and forgiveness in Matthew 6:5-15 with the top slice of bread being Matthew 6:1-4 (above). Most “Study Bibles” with outline sections will correctly label Matthew 6:16-18 as “Fasting,” but if you read it in the context of what comes before, it is a continuation of our Lord’s teaching against pietistic efforts by the religious to approach God according to their own efforts and, in their hypocrisy, use their visible piety to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. As we saw in Understanding the Basics of Pietism, “There are no extraordinary Christians; but being an ordinary Christian is an extraordinary thing.Continue reading

Understanding the Basics of Pietism

Over the last several weeks we have been taking an in-depth look at genuine Christianity contrasted with man-made “Christianity,” which, no matter what it is called, is another religion. One of the most insidious forms of this is “pietism,” which all of us are susceptible to if we are not mature in our faith yet have a deep hunger to go deeper and there are false teachers available very willing to tell those who don’t know any better that there is indeed a higher form of Christianity and “higher level” of Christian that is attainable, but there is a cost. It sounds “almost” biblical, but it isn’t. Our brother Bob DeWaay went through this himself as a young Christian, as did I, but not to the extent he did. You can read about it by following the link below to his fine article. Enjoy and be blessed. – Mike Ratliff

Understanding the Basics of Pietism

The Sermon on the Mount Part 11

by Mike Ratliff

36 Τότε ἔρχεται μετ᾽ αὐτῶν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς χωρίον λεγόμενον Γεθσημανὶ καὶ λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς· καθίσατε αὐτοῦ ἕως [οὗ] ἀπελθὼν ἐκεῖ προσεύξωμαι. 37 καὶ παραλαβὼν τὸν Πέτρον καὶ τοὺς δύο υἱοὺς Ζεβεδαίου ἤρξατο λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν. 38 τότε λέγει αὐτοῖς· περίλυπός ἐστιν ἡ ψυχή μου ἕως θανάτου· μείνατε ὧδε καὶ γρηγορεῖτε μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ. 39 καὶ προελθὼν μικρὸν ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ προσευχόμενος καὶ λέγων· πάτερ μου, εἰ δυνατόν ἐστιν, παρελθάτω ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦτο· πλὴν οὐχ ὡς ἐγὼ θέλω ἀλλ᾽ ὡς σύ. (Matthew 26:36-39 NA27)

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go there to pray.” 37 And having taken Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be grieved and to be distressed. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sad to the point of death. Remain here and keep awake with me.” 39 And having gone forward a little, he fell upon his face praying and saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:36-39 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

I have been a Christian quite a long time (since January1986). Even though I began serving first as a Bible teacher then as a deacon while still teaching only a few years after God had mercy on me, I must confess to everyone that as I evaluate my walk prior to 2004 in light of my pilgrimage on the narrow path since then, I shudder. Of course we cannot go back and change our past. We can’t travel back to some specific point in time to meet ourselves in the midst of some self-focused nonsense and ask the poignant, “What are you thinking?” There were high points to be sure, but these were followed by long stretches of self-focused living with my religiosity just being part of that.  Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 10

by Mike Ratliff

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter or one stroke may pass from the law until everything is fulfilled.  19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and thus teaches men, he will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, this one will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees, you may never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17:20 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

We now enter the next section of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 where Jesus expands upon Matthew 5:17-20 showing how the Pharisees’ righteousness was deficient, as is all who are self-righteous, by exposing their hypocrisy in the matter of giving to the poor (vv1-4); prayer (vv5-15); and fasting (vv16-18). God’s people are to do these things as acts of worship rendered to God, but the self-righteous use them as displays to gain the admiration of others. In this post we will look Matthew 6:1-4.  Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 9

by Mike Ratliff

18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 NASB)

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21,22 NASB) 

I listened to part of a presentation today via podcast from AOMIN.ORG’s “The Dividing Line” broadcast from May 3, 2012 by a young man claiming to be a “Christian Gay.” The definition of terms this young man used for “love,” for instance, was not Biblical, but was based in the same self-focused, narcissistic bent that all have who have not first become regenerate, that is, saved by grace through faith according to the mercy of God, and then learned to deny self under the sanctifying hand of God. His version of love was self-centered and all about self-fulfillment. That is not Christian love nor is it how any who are truly in Christ will operate in this world on a consistent basis. How did our Lord define it?  Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 8

by Mike Ratliff

23 “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:12-25 NASB) 

19 ‘If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. 21 ‘Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24:19-21 NASB) 

16 “If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, 17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. 18 “The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. 20 “The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. 21 “Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy (19:16-21 NASB)

In the passages above, Moses was giving the Law of God to the Israelites in their dealing with injuries done by one person on one or more people in a way that would limit retribution to that which was just. Its design was to insure that the punishment in civil cases fit the crime, but were never intended to sanction acts of personal retaliation. Therefore in Matthew 5:38-42 (below) the Lord Jesus made no alteration to the true meaning of the law, but was merely explaining and affirming its true meaning.  Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 6

by Mike Ratliff

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NASB)

One marker missing from “Liberal Christianity” that is one of the major elements that disqualifies it from being genuine Christianity is its abandonment of Sola Scriptura. Because of that, all of those characteristics that makes Christianity Christian are gone such as believer’s living lives of repentance such as that “living sacrifice” analogy given to us in Romans 12:1 along with how from that flows genuine Spiritual growth into Christian maturity in Romans 12:2. With little to no emphasis on genuine Biblical repentance, “Liberal Christianity” simply tries to emphasize unity, political correctness, feelings, with a spiritual hit by using spiritual formation into all sorts of mysticism, but mostly these “churches” do everything they can to appeal to the world so the leaders in those “organizations” would never preach a sermon like our Lord preached in Matthew 5, 6, & 7. Why? Because it brings people face-to-face with their sinfulness. This is offensive and since these men refuse to proclaim the real gospel message of the good news of what God has done on their behalf that they could never do for themselves, they will never preach anything to offend anyone so the descent into darkness of Liberalism just speeds up with each compromise.  Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 5

by Mike Ratliff

14 “You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14 NASB)

I am firmly in line with J. Gresham Machen’s assessment that “Liberal Christianity” is a different religion from Christianity. We see this in what it has abandoned in what it abhors in “Orthodoxy” that is exactly what makes Christianity “Christian.” Genuine Christianity is Christian because it is based upon the facts about our Lord Jesus and the message from him. True Christians love and respect and hold dear the same things he loved, respected and held dear, that is, God’s truth, which is called doctrine. In our day, as it was in Machen’s day, the liberals attempt to do away with what they call “dead orthodoxy” and get back to the primitive form of Christianity that the Church missed and has messed up with all its “Orthodoxy” for these last several millennia. In fact, they insist on totally “reforming” the church top to bottom without all this emphasis on the Bible as the infallible Word of God, which we call Sola Scriptura. The move towards that are seen in the teachings and sermons of men who keep moving their churches closer and closer to things such as tolerance for the “gay agenda” or “unmarried couples” or even looking the other way while their members and leaders have adulterous affair after adulterous affair. Continue reading

Christianity and Liberalism

by Mike Ratliff

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NASB)

I spent the last several days away from email, the Internet, work, et cetera, and simply rested and spent time with family with the intent of taking up right where I left off on our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount when I returned. However, before we get back to that, I would like to share some insights from some time I spent in the solitude of study and quiet I had during my “downtime.” Part of that time was spent in reading J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, which was published in 1923. I have not quite finished it yet, but I made good progress. Some of you I know have read it because you recommended the book to me. For those who don’t know, Machen’s thesis in the book was to address the encroachment of Liberal theology in his day, which was taking over the Northern Presbyterian Church in the United States to the point that the Seminary at Princeton was preparing to “liberalize.” His thesis for this magnificent book is that “Liberal Christianity” and Christianity are two different religions. Continue reading