What Is That to You?


by Mike Ratliff

20 Peter, turning around, *saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” John 21:20-22 (NASB)

Part of my makeup that God molded into my character is the ability to observe, take note, and analyze as part of Him directing what I study and pray about in order to obediently minister in my writing and teaching. What do I observe? Everything! I take note of my fellow Christians when they interact on this blog and others. I see the patterns of what is hot and what is not. I have seen people come at me or one of my friends with vehement viciousness over doctrinal differences. What have I learned? I have learned that humans have a huge problem in wanting to control other people.

Those of us who write for CRN are often called “Watchbloggers” by those who believe that we go too far in comparing what is really going on doctrinally in the church in our time to what should be going on. Much of what is “wrong” in the Church in our time is a drive to reform it into “man-centered” relevancy. When we reveal the very words of those leaders doing this then out come those accusing us of being “over the top” or “arrogant” or “backward” or “legalistic” even “heretical” because we obediently reveal what is said in comparison with what the Bible says.

Since the adherents of “relevancy” are mired in their man-centered worldview, they insist that Biblical truth to that level is unknowable. For instance, they say that the Doctrines of Grace are heretical. For us to say that God is Sovereign in election and saves His people whom He chose before the foundation of the world, then we are heretics even though we teach exactly what the Bible says. Continue reading

Why Saints Persevere


by Mike Ratliff

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NASB) 

Several years ago during some research for a piece I was working on, I found myself on a blog that was most definitely not a friendly place for anyone who holds that God’s Truth is absolute and we can know it by studying His Word. The search that landed me there had to do with Penal Substitution. I never did find out why Google linked to that site, however, as I read the comments in the discussion of the post in question, one seemed to sear itself into my memory. The person who wrote came across as young and angry. He had a huge problem with Paul Washer of Heart Cry Missionary Society. Why? He did not like the fact that when he heard him he felt like Paul was simply manipulating his emotions to make him believe that he was not really saved. He then began ranting about Reformation Theology, calling it “works theology.” Why? Because we teach that proof of the veracity of one’s salvation is proven when the believer perseveres to the end. I asked myself, “How that could possibly be seen as works because we do not teach that the believer’s perseverance is accomplished by self-effort.” Continue reading

What is Joy?


by Mike Ratliff

21 When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced within,
22 Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
24 With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalms 73:21-26 (NASB) 

Undoubtedly, there is much confusion about that little three-letter word “joy.” Is it simply a deeper form of happiness? Is it the opposite of sadness or depression? The secular perception of joy is “lasting happiness.” However, the Bible interprets joy very differently. In fact, God commands His people to be full of joy. (Psalms 37:4; Philippians 4:4) If joy were an emotion based upon circumstances then that command would seem rather harsh and unrealistic. However, coming from a Reformed Theological perspective, we do know that God commands many things for His people to do that they could never do within their own capabilities. Beginning with salvation itself, we see that our believing unto salvation came through God’s supernatural regenerative work in our Hearts. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Being spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:18), walking in the spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), praying unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45) are only a few commands for believers obedience to actions which they could never do within their own abilities. Continue reading

Supply


by Mike Ratliff

19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Philippians 1:19-20 (KJV)

The NASB translates the passage above as:

19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:19-20 (NASB) 

What is this “provision” or “supply” Paul is talking about and how can we “tap” into it ourselves as we stand firm in these Laodicean days? Let’s see… Continue reading

Following Jesus is costly


by Mike Ratliff

37 For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:37-39 (NASB) 

Nearly every day I receive contact from a dear soul or a couple or a family who have ‘lost their church.’ They were part of a vibrant, obedient, Bible preaching church then something changed. The leadership changed for some reason and there was some sort of hostile takeover by those who are consumed by Rick Warren’s ungodly Purpose Driven deception. Gone are in-depth Bible studies. Gone are expository sermons. Gone is ministry to the Body of Christ. Instead, the whole “enterprise” is all wrapped up in ministering to the “unchurched.” It becomes church for the world. Some of the contact I have received is couched in deep, hot anger or raw hurt. These people feel betrayed. What happens in most cases is that in certain areas, these take-overs wipe out all good churches there and leave nowhere for these people to go to be fed or to minister. Continue reading

The Spirit of the Antichrist


by Mike Ratliff

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:15-19 (NASB) 

If you are at all familiar with Eschatology and the many different views on the end times then you have undoubtedly read or heard of a man who is referred to as the antichrist. However, you may be surprised to learn that the word “antichrist” is found in the Bible only in John’s epistles of 1st John and 2nd John. The study of this person or persons is not the intent of this article. I have no doubt that in God’s timing the final antichrist will be revealed, but for now I would like to look at the attributes that we should understand are of the spirit of the antichrist.
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Redemption


by Mike Ratliff

15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15 (NASB) 

The Gospel is explained very well in the New Testament. The role of the Church in the World from the time of Christ’s Ascension until His return is very well defined for us there as well (to go and make disciples from all the earth, teaching them to observe all that He taught…) This Great Commission is not to ‘be the Gospel’ nor is it to ‘redeem the earth’ nor is it to ‘make the world a better place.’ No, it is to go and tell the Good News that we have a mediator of a new covenant and those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance that is made possible through the death of their Saviour who has redeemed through the shedding of His blood (see the passage above). You see, this is the Good News. The Gospel is to preach what Christ has done not what people have done, not what churches have done, not what religion has done or what being religious can do for anyone. It is simply to proclaim this message relying on the power and work of the Holy Spirit to draw those called to saving faith. Let’s take a closer look at this “redemption.”  Continue reading

The Best Place to be is Right Where God has You


by Mike Ratliff

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB) 

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13 (NASB) 

I believe that what ails the Church the most at this time in the early 21st Century is actually the root of most, if not all, of the growing apostasy we are witnessing. This ailment is the product of decades of poor doctrine and man-serving preaching and teaching. God has given the Church, except for His Remnant, a spirit of stupor that has blinded them so that they have believed the lie that the center of all things is not Christ, but themselves. Their felt needs are far more important to them than God’s glory. They view God as being good when their circumstances are ok, but not good when they aren’t. They have bought their goods at Vanity Fair and they have become their idols. Let us look at a wonderful Biblical example of a man who did not devalue his relationship with God in order to have temporal pleasure.

Continue reading

The Relationship of Believers to Christ


by Mike Ratliff

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27 (NASB) 

There are really only two groups of people in the world. There are those who are branches bearing fruit in the True Vine who is Christ and then there are those who either are totally separate from the vine in their rejection of the Gospel or they are branches in in the True Vine who bear no fruit. Those branches which bear fruit have been cleansed by the washing of water with the word by Christ. Their sins are forgiven. The other group has not been cleansed so are in their sins whether they are in the True Vine or not.  Continue reading

Fear of Man Destroyed by Trust in God


by Mike Ratliff

25 The fear of man brings a snare,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25 (NASB) 

Our enemy is pretty smart. He has been around long enough that he believes he knows us. He knows that lost people are enslaved to him via their sin nature. He knows that the little flock, our Lord’s sheep, may be new creations via the washing of regeneration, but they still have their flesh and a deep, overwhelming need to be fulfilled. Their salvation has changed them so they now have the ability to be fulfilled in God the more they take on Christ’s character. Our enemy, on the other hand, does all he can to neutralize those sheep by attacking them in innumerable ways so that they walk according their flesh instead of according to the Spirit.

Satan has always wanted to be God. He caused a war in Heaven by attempting to usurp God’s throne for himself. Ever since, he has been hard at work attempting to fool people into believing that he is God or at least driving a wedge between people and the Living God by enticing them to be gods unto themselves through their self-will. Continue reading

Private Interpretation


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

Idolatry


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3 and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:1-3 (NASB) 

idolatry 1: the worship of a physical object as a god 2: immoderate attachment or devotion to something (from Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary)

I’m sure that most Christians’ conception of idolatry is one in which people fall down and worship some statue or image or a facsimile of something that appears to resemble a god. While that is an example of idolatry there is a more subtle form of idolatry that all people are neck deep in outside of the grace of God. If we look closely at the dictionary definition I placed near the top of this post, we will see that the first definition is our conception while the second is the reality that we must all agree that we are guilty of. The last word in that definition could easily be changed from “something” to “someone.” Then all we have to do is look in a mirror to see who that someone is. We are all guilty of idolatry at some level. Continue reading

Do Not Love the World


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

Why It is Vital that We Become Mature in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

11 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, 12 πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 14 ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι, κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης, Ephesians 4:11-14 (NA28)

11 And He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some shepherds and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints to the work of ministry to the building up of the Body of Christ 13 until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the fuller knowledge of the Son of God, to complete maturity, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ 14 that we should not longer be infants tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. Ephesians 4:11-14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In 1887, Robert Shindler, a fellow pastor and close friend of Charles Spurgeon, wrote in Spurgeon’s publication, The Sword and the Trowel: “It is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.” If we think deeply and honestly on those searing words with all humility and willingness to repent of what God shows us about ourselves, I am certain that each of us must repent of falling for the fallacy of seeking that which is new or different in our theology. If we are honestly seeking the will of God that is both good and right, but if we are looking to have itching ears tickled or are pursuing the subjective or experiential as the means of fulfillment then all we are really doing is falling for some lie and are revealing that we are indeed just infants in the Lord who are being tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. I doubt if any one reading this really wants that.  Continue reading