Christians and Apostates


by Mike Ratliff

8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For
“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
11 Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12 (NKJV) 

This era of the Church is one of extreme deception due to compromise with the standards and focus of the world. Separation between the Church and the world is not being kept. Instead, the holy barrier between the two has been breached as false prophets have welcomed in not only the world and its ways into their churches but also many have embraced the mysticism of the Eastern religions. Syncretism is the new byword. On the other hand, God is good. He keeps His promises. The Lord told Peter that He is the one building His Church and no evil will ever be able to destroy it. (Matthew 16:18) If this is true, and it is because our Lord spoke it, then how do we reconcile the rapid apostasy of so much of the visible Church with what He said? God always keeps a remnant during times of rampant apostasy. These Christians are the small group whom God has reserved who have not bowed the knee to Baal. These are also the ones in whom God is developing Christlikeness and through the fires of persecution by those in the visible Church who have succumbed to the heresies and ungodliness going on in it, He is teaching them how to stand firm and never compromise with evil. In this they learn the difference between debate and dialogue and know that the former actually clarifies the truth and why they hold to it while the latter is only a conversation which has the intent of compromising the truth. Therefore, as Christians, we must determine to debate those outside the Church, but never dialogue with them. Continue reading

Speaking the truth in love


by Mike Ratliff

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:4-16 (NKJV) 

Biblical discernment is not legalism. It is not being a know-it-all who just rains on everyone’s parade, taking all the fun away from those exploring new ways of “experiencing God” or “expanding their faith.” No, it isn’t that at all. First and foremost it is done from the context of maintaining unity within one body and one Spirit through speaking of truth in love so that all truly in Christ will grow up in every way into Him who is their head. Those who exercise this discernment from this motive may at times appear to be focusing on the shortcomings of certain “Christian leaders” to the chagrin of those who follow them. Well, when we do that it can be quite exasperating on our part I assure you. Why? Those who are deceived by these deceivers DO NOT LISTEN. Continue reading

What are the words of God?


by Mike Ratliff

34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. John 3:34 (NKJV) 

34 ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ λαλεῖ, οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσιν τὸ πνεῦμα. John 3:34 (NA28)

In John 3:1-21 our Lord spoke the words of God to “a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” In this passage our Lord clears the table and tells it like it is. He tells Nicodemus in v3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, Nicodemus doesn’t “get it” at first and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” in v4 and, “How can these things be?” in v9. In between those two perplexed questions, our Lord, the Λόγος or logos or Word, the living Christian proclamation as a whole of the New Testament proclaimed τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ or “the words of God” to Nicodemus in a way that he had never heard before. He said,“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” As we read in John 3:34 (above), He spoke or uttered the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ to this man and all who read John 3. What did he say? Only those born again are part of the Kingdom of God and to be born again is to be born of the Spirit. Notice carefully that this rebirth is not something controlled by or contained by or comprehended by people of the flesh. Everyone truly born of the Spirit are so by the work of the Holy Spirit not by the works of men. These are the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ.  Continue reading

To be light in this present darkness


by Mike Ratliff

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) 

14 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη· 15 οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, καὶ λάμπει πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ. 16 οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσιν τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. Matthew 5:14-16 (NA28)

Probably the quickest and/or easiest way for a Christian to discover the truth of the incredible depth and breadth of spiritual darkness in this present world is to stand firm on God’s Truth, and within that firm stand, tell that truth boldly to professing Christians. It will not take very long for those who hold to a version of Christianity that is apostate to make the reality of their spiritual darkness known in ways accompanied by fiery darts from our enemy. However, we are commanded by our Saviour to let our ‘light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’ The believer who cowers from this or backs away from the firm stand to be that light, φῶς, is revealing the reality that they are ashamed of the Gospel. So how are we to be this φῶς in this present σκοτίᾳ (darkness)?  Continue reading

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us


by Mike Ratliff

4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, 5 καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ , — χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι — 6 καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 7 ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Ephesians 2:4-7 (NA28)

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in the trespasses, he made us alive with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and he raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus 7 that he might display in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In this post we will focus on our wonderful God with worshipful, grateful hearts. Back several years ago when I was confronted with Reformation Theology, I was amazed that the passages that the Holy Spirit used to “nail it” firmly in my heart were not only those that best lined up with the Bible in all areas of reformed doctrine, but were also many if not all of the same passages that I had taught from, memorized in Evangelism Explosion training, and read every day during my devotions. They were all very dear to me because they spoke of the saving work of God on my behalf. Of course, I must confess, I was never a “theological Arminian,” just a default one since that is what most SBC churches teach. It was as this confrontation took place over each point of doctrine I was amazed that in every case it really came down to whether our salvation is work of cooperation between us and God (Synergism) or if it is all of God (Monergism). It was as I did some serious study on the Sovereignty of God throughout the Bible that the last thread of synergism I held on to finally broke away.  Continue reading

God is Sovereign in Salvation


by Mike Ratliff

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:14-16 (NKJV)

When those of us who came from an Arminian or Free Will background come to grips with the reality of God’s Sovereignty, it is amazing how we struggle with letting go of the responsibility to “earn” our salvation. Of course, part of that struggle is rooted in the misconception that “election” happens at salvation. Ephesians 1 makes it clear, however, that God chose His elect before the foundation of the world. An honest reading of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians  shows us that God’s people are His in completion even though many of them have not yet believed and repented. They are our Lord’s sheep. Continue reading

Is your Jesus the Jesus of the Bible or is he another Jesus?


by Mike Ratliff

3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 (NKJV) 

Every professing Christian, whether he or she is a trained theologian or not, has constructed some kind of Christology in their mind, in their heart. Sadly, with the dearth of clear and correct doctrine being taught in our churches, most seem to believe that whatever their own concept of Christ is it is okay. After all, to have correct doctrine isn’t that important…right? Some think that Jesus came to give His followers a “better life” here and now. This would include becoming prosperous and influential. Others see Jesus as mostly concerned about the environment and that He is the ultimate tree hugger. Still others see Jesus as primarily a teacher of ethics. This same Jesus is concerned with accepting all into His kingdom regardless of whether they have repented of their sins or not. Are any of these examples representative of the Jesus we meet in God’s Word? Continue reading

Where is the Lord God of Elijah?


by Mike Ratliff

13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over.
15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him. 2 Kings 2:13-15 (NKJV) 

As we stand in the thick of the battle, not falling or retreating, it is because we are wearing and using the armor of God. Our God is not a product of man-made religion. He is not created by man in the form of the creature. No, He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, righteous, and just. The great object to be desired is God, YHWH, Elijah’s God. With YHWH all things flourish. His absence is our decline and death.

Before genuine believers can enter into any good work they should seek for the God who was with their predecessors. What a mercy that the Lord God of Elijah is also the Lord God of Elisha! He will also be with us. He will be our guide even unto death. (Psalm 48:14)

The Spirit-filled believer does not need antiquities from the past, nor novelties of the present, nor marvels for the future; he or she only wants the Triune God, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and they shall then see with them wonders equal to those of Elijah’s age. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” The old mantle, used with faith in the same God, parted the waters to the one side and to the other. The power is where it used to be. Continue reading

The Whole Armor of God


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. 2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 (NKJV) 

Satan opposes the believer in many ways. No matter how he attempts to subvert our faith, the method he uses is a fiery missile. With these fiery darts he attempts to attack or question or deny God’s character and credibility. We see this as he works through those who hate Christianity and the God of the Bible. Their attacks will always be to try to bring doubt into our hearts about God’s faithfulness and our faith. If we are successful in our service to God he will try to undermine our victories by generating trouble that makes life difficult, thereby temping us to forsake obedience to God’s standards and calling. Continue reading

Fruit bearing


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV) 

The fruit of a ministry in God’s economy is not the number of people “converted” under it. No, the fruit, which will be what God will use to judge, refers to the effectiveness that ministry has in leading and developing within those who are ministered to by it unto a Christ-like life produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). What is it that those God uses in these ministries do that achieves this? They teach their flock sound doctrine from God’s Word. The Holy Spirit takes these truths and applies them to the hearts of the flock. It is not the latest ministerial fads, emotions, or feelings. It is being transformed by the renewal of their minds because they are being living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12:1,2).  Continue reading

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV) 

A friend once, a few years ago, sent me a link to a webpage that contained Purpose Driven devotionals. He wanted me to read one specifically and address it at that time, which I did. The devotion was titled, “Faith: Doing Exactly What Jesus Says to Do.” Let that title sink in for a bit. The devotion never wavered from that theme. My brethren, that is not a biblical definition of faith. On the other hand it is a description of one who is faithful and obedient. In fact, the focus of that devotion led one to believe that our faith is “works based.” This is rampant in our time my brethren. There is a huge push in our churches for people to have the right world view, the right value system, the right diet and workout plan, the right way to raise their kids, their right way to manage their finances and the right way to be faithful in church and that makes them right with God. Again, wait a moment and let all that sink in for a bit and do a self check. Are you attempting to become righteous in God’s eyes by producing your own faith by doing those things because that is what I just described. Doing those things makes a person right in one’s own eyes and, therefore, dependant upon one’s own righteousness not the righteousness of Christ. All of that is stuff any of us can do, but I assure you that the salvation that those truly in Christ have is something bought at a price that none of us could pay because the debt was far more than most of us realize. What is true faith if isn’t what the Purpose Driven folks say it is?  Continue reading

Does your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:1-4 (NKJV) 

I am sure when our Lord told His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven…” that there were some who were getting the idea that the way of our Lord was some form of works righteousness that was at a higher, but better level than that of the Scribes and Pharisees who were all about legalism. Some today still have that idea. However, He followed that statement with this one in vv 17-20, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” So, what was our Lord teaching here? He wasn’t teaching us to follow legalism, that is, that our righteousness is somehow obtained by a strict adherence to the Law of Moses was He? Paul was very clear in the book of Galatians that no one ever obtained the righteousness of God that way.  Continue reading

Godly thinking


by Mike Ratliff

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) 

Philippians 4:8 is one of the most profound statements in the New Testament. This is part of the Apostle Paul’s closing statements to the church at Philippi. His epistle to the Philippians is a wonderful letter, full of encouragement and deep spiritual truth about how to live this Christian life no matter what fiery trials we are going through. In chapter 4 v8 we come upon this profound statement and we stop. We ask if this is even possible for us. How can we do this since we must live in this life in which we are pulled in every direction and so must find the time for such things. Perhaps a deeper look at the underlying Greek would help. Continue reading

Real Salvation


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 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 (NKJV) 

Our salvation is far more than simply justification by faith, which in and of itself is incredible, but also includes the imputation of the actual active righteousness of Christ, His good works or keeping of the Law, which is required for our complete acceptation by God into His Kingdom. I know that many reading this may not see the point of this or have no idea what I am talking about. However, please understand, I am praying that you will understand the truth of this because this is a huge missing piece from the gospel in the church in our time. Without this teaching, the church is plagued with professing Christians who are in a form of self-salvation. They did the religious thing “to get saved” at church. They were sincere, but there is no real change in their lives. However, the Bible is very clear as in the passage above that we are saved “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Therefore, there is a huge problem with a lack of assurance in these people. The issue is not their lack of sincerity or their lack of obedience since their religious experience, but that they have believed a false, man-made gospel that has no spiritual power to really save or regenerate anyone.  Continue reading