The deception and heresy of Christian Universalism

by Mike Ratliff

8 Therefore it says,
“ When HE ascended on high,
HE led captive A host of captives,
And HE gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10 NASB)

I have always taught here that the Bible very clearly refutes universalism, which denies the existence or permanence of the Lake of Fire or Hell. What prompted this study was two separate encounters with professing Christians who disagreed with our understanding of the Gospel, God, Man, and Eternity claiming that they had a better more correct ‘vision’ that was given to them by God Himself.  These visions stated that our teaching of the Gospel was wrong and contaminated by churchianity and was , therefore, not the genuine Gospel as taught by Christ and the Apostles. Continue reading

Christian character in light of God’s Sovereignty and the pressure to comply to Political Correctness

by Mike Ratliff

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.
20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:18-21 NASB)

Is the term ‘honor’ as a descriptive term for a human being out of place in our day and time? If we look up ‘honor’ in our dictionaries we will find that its chief synonym is ‘integrity.’ Before we begin to determine the lack of this characteristic in the current body of Christian believers, especially among its leadership, let us define what we mean. Integrity describes one who has an uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles. It describes one who possesses soundness of character. There are many more definitions, but this is enough for now. A honorable person is a man or woman of principle. He or she puts principle ahead of personal gain. Also, they do not compromise their principles. That would mean that once they grasp the truth they would never let go, no matter the cost. Continue reading

What is Penal Substitution and why is it so important in Justification?

by Mike Ratliff

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 NASB)

As I researched the doctrine of Penal Substitution for this article I was amazed at the lengths some people go to in order to obscure God’s truth through man-centered verbiage slanted away from Sacred Scripture towards human reasoning. Not one piece I read that decried Penal Substitution could attack it exegetically. In every case I read, the focus was on the barbarity of such a doctrine and how this shed a very negative light on the character of God. Before we go any further let us define what Penal Substitution is.

Penal Substitution is a theory of the atonement within Christian theology, especially associated with the Reformed tradition. It argues that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of sinners, thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive their sins. Penal Substitution is, therefore, a specific understanding of substitutionary atonement, where the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death is understood in the sense of a substitutionary punishment. Continue reading

Because you say, “ I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…

by Mike Ratliff

17 Because you say, “ I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. (Revelation 3:17-18 NASB)

Self-Righteousness: the attempt to meet God’s standards based upon one’s own merits.

A thorough study of our Lord’s earthly ministry reveals with certainty the following truth. Our Lord was merciful in every instance to those who were broken, humbled, and spiritually helpless before Him. On the other hand, the proud, the self-righteous, and the self-sufficient He rebuked and shunned, which is thematically summarized for us by James our Lord’s brother in his epistle.  Continue reading

Now, little children, abide in Him

By Mike Ratliff

28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:28-29 NASB)

In 1 John 2:28-3:1-10 we read of our spiritual identity as children of God and what that entails. The first thing he commands us to do is abide in Christ. What does that mean? This means that Christians must continue in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Trust, prayer, obedience, and joy characterize this relationship. In John 15:1-17, our Lord commands us to abide in Him for He is the True Vine and we are the branches. Our abiding in the True Vine is the source of our spiritual sustenance just as the grape vine feeds its branches, which bear the fruit. We cannot bear the spiritual fruit that God develops in His people unless we remain attached to our Lord in this level of relationship. If we become self-focused and indulge the flesh as a way of life then we are not abiding in our Lord as we should and we suffer spiritually for this. Continue reading

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves

by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. (Matthew 7:15-18 NASB)

Our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, told us to beware of false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. He told us how to recognize them. How? It is by their fruits. This has not changed. Therefore, when I sit at the feet of a teacher or preacher of God’s Word I look for this within what is taught and within how he lives and with whom he associates and how he conducts himself in this life. Those who are not really God’s man will be revealed in this because of their inconsistencies in godliness and their consistencies in worldliness because, “we will recognize them by their fruits.”  Continue reading

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh

by Mike Ratliff

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 NASB)

What is Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Spirituality? Are these just another term for Christian spiritual growth or “the way or method” that God has designed for His people to grow spiritually? Or are they totally different from what the Word of God teaches us? A clear-headed and Biblically-based study of Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Spirituality will actually reveal that they are being introduced into the visible church via deception. The proponents of these non-Christian spiritual systems attempt to validate that they are Christian by taking passages from God’s Word out of context and attempt to force them to support their mystical paradigm. While these people do put a lot of emphasis on Christian Authenticity and what that means as well as becoming Christlike or like Christ and while I write about those things quite a bit, it is quite amazing and a bit surprising to see them take the passages from God’s Word I use to teach believers to deny themselves, take up their crosses daily and follow Jesus to mean something quite different. Continue reading

What causes deception?

by Mike Ratliff

10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond- servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 NASB)


What causes deception? We like to believe that people lying to those they deceive causes deception. However, if we think critically about that (yes, I know that post-modernists have lost that ability, but humor me) deception is not the direct result of the lie, but is only takes effect when the one being deceived desires something from the deceiver such as a relationship or something else that is offered. The deceived believe the lie in order to receive something else that they want. What has this to do with compromise in ministry? When theologians, preachers, or Christian leaders who once were not compromised suddenly appear to make these strange decisions, if we take the effort to dig into what is going on, invariably we will find that they are doing what they are doing in order to please someone else in a pragmatic way. The motive is that of gaining the approval of man. Yes, there will be some with discernment who will notice and make an issue of it, but these people go ahead and do what they do because they see the gain they will receive as being higher than what they will have lost by not doing so. Of course, that gain is from man not God and the heat they will take from those with discernment, well, who listens to them anymore anyway? Continue reading

Are you working to please God?

by Mike Ratliff

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28 NASB)

The flesh is still with us all, even those who have been born again unto eternal life. The flesh does not understand grace. The flesh does not understand the relationship to the Christian being born again unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, the visible church is ripe with false teaching at this time that emphasizes all the wrong things, and, coupled with rampant Biblical illiteracy, most professing Christians are like those Jesus was confronting in John 6 who could not conceive what our Lord boldly told them in vv35-40 that belief and salvation was a gift from God not something earned or deserved.  Continue reading

For we are His workmanship

by Mike Ratliff

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 2:10 NASB)

In the NASB’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.

10 αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, κτισθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεός, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν. (Ephesians 2:10 NA28)

10 For of Him we are His masterpiece having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God previously prepared that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:10 translated from the NA28 Greek text)  Continue reading

The nature of purchased grace

by Mike Ratliff

16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; (John 14:16 NASB)

As we look about us with any discernment at all in these times of spiritual deceit, it can be heart rending to see the outright lying done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are so-called men of God preaching and teaching and ministering and doing things that could best be described as either the teaching or application of damnable heresies. I know that there are some who call themselves Christians who automatically have a problem with that last statement because they are afflicted with the disease of post-modernistic thinking while others are mired in their man-made religiosity and traditions. Both forces them into the thinking that everything is relative. Sorry, to the wind with that. If you are uncomfortable with the proclamation of God’s truth as absolute then you will not be comfortable here. God’s Word is His truth, a precious gift to His Church. In it we learn theology and His doctrines. This includes the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. From that we learn that our salvation is entirely by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). We are justified by faith, not works. God’s truth is objective and absolute not subjective and relative. The grace we possess as Christians was purchased for us at the Cross of Christ. Oh, and the only ones who can and do turn to Christ are called by God effectually (John 6:44).  Continue reading

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord

by Mike Ratliff

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 NASB)

Are we to accept the profession of faith from everyone who claims to be a Christian? This is a hot button issue in our time. I know of several people who once fellowshipped here who no longer do because they are convinced that it is wrong to rebuke and contend with those who profess faith in Christ, but whose fruit show otherwise. What about this fruit? Is it an indication of the veracity of one’s faith? According to Hebrews 12:14 we see that only those who possess sanctfication (holiness) will see the Lord. This is a way of saying that those who will see the Lord, those who are truly saved, will possess some degree of personal holiness. Continue reading

This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent

by Mike Ratliff

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God? ” (John 6:28 NASB)

Genuine Christians will be very interested in getting the answer to the question posed to Jesus from John 6:28. If a professing Christian is not interested in that answer then there’s a problem. On the other hand, there are many professing Christians who have answered that question without reading Jesus’ response to it. Instead, they have jumped head foremost into “religious” work that they believe pleases God and is earning them bonus points in eternity. Their “works” may look good to most people, but are they what Jesus tells us are the genuine works of God? Let’s look at this passage in context. Continue reading

Pragmatism vs always being sober- minded, enduring suffering, doing the work of an evangelist, and fulfilling one’s ministry

by Mike Ratliff

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB)

The proponents of the seeker-sensitive church growth model may very well have had good intentions when through it was spawned the rise of contemporary mega-churches such as Willow Creek and Saddleback Valley Baptist and their clones. The focus was outreach to the unchurched. While that appears to be a proper function of the New Testament Church one of the model’s fundamental components is actually an antithesis of the clear instruction to Church leaders found in God’s Word. That component is pragmatism. Continue reading