What commandment is the foremost of all?


by Mike Ratliff

28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34 (NASB) 

The rabbis of Jesus’ day engaged in an ongoing debate to determine which commandments of the Law were “light” and which were “weighty” (Matthew 23:23). It reminds me of the debate in certain circles of the visible Church today in which some are concerned with how far they can push their “Christian Liberty.” This concept is no more biblical than that of the rabbis attempting to compartmentalize their religion. Does our Lord’s answer to the Pharisee in Mark 12, Matthew 22, and Luke 10 have any significance to the Christian? Continue reading

What is death?


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. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NASB) 

The fallen nature of man does not understand death. Depending on culture, some fight to stay alive with their all. The correct understanding of death comes to us from God’s Word. The word death is used in three different ways in Sacred Scripture. The first is spiritual death, which is separation from God (Ephesians 2:1,1). Then, of course, there is physical death (Hebrews 9:27). Then there is eternal death, which is referred to as “the second death” in Revelation 20:11-15). While many would consider the topic of death to be a subject to be avoided, it is vital for us to have a clear understanding of all three manifestations in biblical terminology so that we will have a better foundation for sharing the Good News.  Continue reading

What are destructive heresies?


by Mike Ratliff

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Peter 2:1 (NASB) 

False professors and false prophets have one thing in common. They are convinced that the ‘religious paradigm’ they love, cherish, follow, and proclaim is true. Of course, they come to this conclusion through what some of them refer to as their ‘thinkology.’ In other words, what makes it true in their hearts is their own acceptance of it. The deciding or defining standard, which is used by these people, is their own value system. They oppose clear Biblical truth because “they just don’t believe it” while they embrace humanistic forms of Christianity simply because their ‘thinkology ‘ gives them a green light. Continue reading

My brethren, do not be surprised if the world hates you


by Mike Ratliff

13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. (1 John 3:13 NASB)

There are many ministries in our time that are run by people who have either forgotten that friendship with the world is a sin or they are deliberately overlooking it. If a ministry operates in such a way that the world loves it then there is at least one missing component in it. That of course is obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture is clear that Christians cannot be friends of the world. Why? Satan is the one who dominates the evil world system, which is in rebellion against God (John 14:30). Therefore, the world not only hates Jesus, but also those who follow Him. This hatred is also focused toward the Father because He sent Jesus to testify against it. Now, since this is true and clearly taught in Sacred Scripture, what does this say about those ministries who work overtime to accommodate the secular and to appeal to temporal ways and means? Continue reading

Separating the sheep from the goats


By Mike Ratliff

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB) 

12 So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 13 And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. Luke 19:12-15 (NASB) 

26 I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” Luke 19:26-27 (NASB) 

There is an element in Man’s heart that refuses to bow the knee to any god except one with whom it is comfortable. If God the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ are honestly portrayed as we read in Sacred Scripture, the vast majority, those whose hearts are overrun by relativism, will stiffen their necks in rejection. However, when a smiling, culturally “relevant” preacher repackages the Holy Trinity and Christianity into a ‘product’ that sells then that ministry will become huge. Book deals and speaking engagements deluge this new superstar of a religion that seems to exist only to speak what people want to hear. Continue reading

The post-modern golden calf


by Mike Ratliff

1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” John 14:1-4 (NASB) 

1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:1-4 (NASB)

Those familiar with the Exodus of Israel from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan know that the journey was long and arduous. Only two men from those who left Egypt made it through the journey. The rest died on the way including Moses. Their children were those whom Joshua led to conquer and claim the land flowing with milk and honey. God tested them in the wilderness. They were put in circumstance after circumstance by God to see if they would repent of their stiff-necked resistance to His Lordship, and time after time they proved that they were temporal, fleshly people who did not trust Him. In this post we will look at a parallel between one of those circumstances and the condition of the Church in the early 21st Century. Continue reading

Repent!


by Mike Ratliff

8 He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:8-10 (NASB) 

If we study God’s Word from cover to cover we will find that only God is perfect. God is Sovereign. God is Holy. God is complete and perfectly righteous. On the other hand, people are none of the above. We are a fallen race who, even after God’s gracious regeneration of our hearts, must continually work out our salvation with fear and trembling. That implies that we still sin. We still fall into temptation and become entangled. Even when God graciously allows us to walk in victory for awhile, we get our eyes off of Him and on ourselves and begin to believe that we are invulnerable to the worst our flesh can throw at us. That, of course, sets us up for a next stumble.

Continue reading

Subjectivism is the great danger of private interpretation of the Bible


by Mike Ratliff

13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:13-14 (NASB) 

Even though it is discounted by many today, the Protestant Reformation was a wonderful work by God in that the Gospel was freed from the captivity of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Over the centuries the Gospel had become obscured as the Bishop of Rome was declared perfect with authority over Scripture. Any resistance to his authority was dealt with through excommunication followed by being burned at the stake. The Reformation not only recovered the Gospel and Justification by Faith, the Bible became available to the common people whereas before this, no one was allowed to read it by the edicts of the Pope.

At Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms when pressed to recant of His teachings he proclaimed, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Continue reading

Christian authenticity


by Mike Ratliff

21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21 (NASB) 

The message of salvation that is normally preached or taught in the vast majority of churches these days has been contaminated with Humanism. The focus is on becoming a Christian for some great benefit or reward from God. Masses of people respond to that false gospel as well. The genuine gospel that our Saviour preached during His earthly ministry may have mentioned the benefits of being saved, but He emphasized the cost of becoming His disciple in such a way that it caused many of His hearers to not follow Him anymore. In fact, whenever He saw that the people were flocking to Him to have their felt needs met, He would speak a message to them that expressed that those who are His disciples are the ones who have counted the cost and seen that the eternal is all that truly matters. Continue reading

What does the Bible tell us about God’s righteous judgment?


by Mike Ratliff

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20 (NASB) 

It seems that the default theology of Man is “Justification by Death.” Justification is a legal term where a person is declared “not guilty” by a judge. No one seems to have a problem with the concept of all people being sinners. However, our culture says that all people will be sent to Heaven when they die regardless of how they lived their lives. Once there, they will receive rewards or lose rewards based on the quality of their character. This is why the Doctrine of Hell is seen as “judgmental” and “Pharisaical” by those of the “New Evangelism” or any form of postmodern “christianity.”  Continue reading

Be encouraged!


by Mike Ratliff

6 And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:6-7 (NASB) 

Here is v7 in Greek:

7 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ. μακάριος ὁ τηρῶν τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου. Revelation 22:7 (NA28)

The words “behold, I am coming soon” in Greek are ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, which literally says, “Behold, I come quickly.” The word ταχύ, quickly, can also mean “without delay” or “by surprise” or “suddenly.” If we look at the context, we see that this part of Revelation follows the central visionary section of the book. From v6 on, we see promise, exhortation, and confirmation all with the goal of stirring up hope for the coming of the Lord Jesus. However we translate ταχύ, we must remember that our Lord spoke these words and He meant them to be an encouragement to us. Therefore, as we look at the hostile takeover of the visible church by the wicked, instead of being discouraged, we should look to the soon return of our Lord, who will settle all accounts. Therefore, our part must be to remain faithful regardless of what these evil people are doing. Even if every church in our town goes hard after these new “missional” and “spiritual formation” teachings, we do not have to be part of that nor can we. We must not follow after these things even if we become quite lonely and separate from the crowd. God knows all about this and will sustain us. Continue reading

How to know who the false prophets are


by Mike Ratliff

4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:4-14 (NASB) 

When I encounter those whose theology and eschatology has been colored by presuppositions, philosophies, and the teachings of some theologians that the Church’s main function is to establish and prepare God’s Kingdom here on this Earth so the Lord will return and to claim it, I wonder how seriously these people take Scripture passages such as Matthew 24:4-14 (above). These same people are all about making all secular culture conform to Christianity. I find it very difficult to line that up with what our Lord said in Matthew 24 about what things would be like before he actually did return. What is the reality? Will the Church totally take over the world in this age? From what I have studied in the New Testament, the Church is a called out “congregation” of people that are despised, persecuted, and put to death for their faith as they live for the glory of their Lord in this life. The point of that is to attain a greater resurrection in the next age. Let’s see what our Lord said about the reality of what we have to deal with in this age as the Church. Continue reading

Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:6-10 (NASB) 

Since God drew me into spiritual boot camp in 2004 I have read many of the Reformers.  I have also read as much as I can of what are referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers such as Polycarp and Irenaeus. The Reformers were used by God to recover the Gospel which had become hidden and corrupted by the apostate Roman Catholic Church. The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin were good theologians, but also former Catholics. Their form of “religiosity” was highly effected by their years in the R.C.C. On the other hand, Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John while Irenaeus was his disciple. Reading them gives us a very different view of “church structure.”  Nowhere in their writings do we see state churches or massive cathedrals or Christian leaders becoming national leaders, etc. No, they served the Lord during a time when Christians were persecuted, that is, during the time of the Roman Empire. Bishops had been appointed by the Apostles and these Bishops would appoint Bishops in other churches they planted and select their successors. Irenaeus said that way of doing things kept the church from pursuing false teachers and false doctrines because they had the Word from Apostles themselves (the New Testament) and their teachings passed down directly from them to their Bishops who passed it down and so forth. As I read about their focus during that time in Church History they talked a great deal about “The Resurrection.” Polycarp was martyred when he was in his late 80’s  because he would not worship Caesar as lord. He told the Romans who were going to burn him that he was excited about his “better resurrection” because he was going to share in the sufferings of Christ. I’m sorry, but I don’t see or hear much preaching or teaching about the resurrection in our time that we should be excited about it like Polycarp was. Instead, we hear about Heaven.

Continue reading

The High Priestly Prayer


by Mike Ratliff

1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. John 17:1-2 (NASB) 

In John 17, we have the transition marking the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the beginning of His intercessory ministry for all believers (Hebrews 7:25). This has been called “The High Priestly Prayer,” however; it does summarize John’s entire Gospel. For instance, its principal themes include Jesus’ obedience to His Father, the glorification of His Father through His death and exaltation, the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the choosing of the disciples out of the world, their unity modeled on the unity of the Father and the Son, and the believers final destiny in the presence of the Father and Son. There are three main sections to this prayer. In vv1-5, we have Jesus’ prayer for Himself. In vv 6-19, we have Jesus’ prayer for the apostles. In vv20-26 we have Jesus’ prayer for all New Testament believers who will form the Church.  Continue reading