What does it mean biblically to draw near to God?


by Mike Ratliff

7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9 (NASB) 

What does it mean biblically to draw near to God? Obviously, the Jews our Lord confronted as Matthew recorded in the passage above were not doing so. However Hebrews 10:22 says to those who are truly born again:

22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (NASB)

22 προσερχώμεθα μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ· Hebrews 10:22 (NA28)

The words “let us draw near” translates the verb προσερχώμεθα, which is the Present tense, Subjunctive mood, Middle voice, 1st person, plural of προσέρχομαι or proserchomai, “to approach, accede to.” This verb structure refers to continuous or repeated action, regardless of when the action took place. The subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject so some condition and the present subjunctive can be used to give exhortation, which is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is doing here.  Continue reading

But many who are first will be last; and the last, first


by Mike Ratliff

27 Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” 28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. Matthew 19:27-30 (NASB) 

God awoke this believer from a spiritual stupor in 2004. From my rebirth in January 1986 through the end of 2003 I rode a roller coaster of faithfulness and backsliding to the point that I despaired of ever being able to be consistent in my walk. What always amazed me during that period is how God still used the spiritual gifts He had given me despite my own sorry spiritual state. It did not help that I was also suffering from depression after the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing in 1995. I confess that from April 19, 1995 through 2003 I was a very angry, resentful person. Then God drew me to Himself in January 2004 in such a way that ‘reversed it all and changed it all.’ It took 8 months of drawing closer and closer to Him, but He did a wonderful work in this heart. Continue reading

Who or What is the Scarlet Woman?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” Revelation 17:1-2 (NASB)

John the Baptist was the one who was sent to make the way straight, to prepare the way for the one was to come. Of course the one who was to come is our Lord Jesus Christ the long awaited Messiah of the Jews. Gabriel told Zechariah, the father of John, “he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb, and will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Of course he did that very thing and our Lord was born of a virgin soon after John. Continue reading

Godly Discernment vs Hypocritical Judging


by Mike Ratliff

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12 (NASB) 

Christian apologetics and discernment are very serious things. It is very easy to incorporate the ways of the world into method and focus in this. When this happens then attacks on professing Christians come from an impure motive. This then causes the ones making the accusations to use slander, speaking evil against their target falsely. They revile the Christian, persecuting him and his ministry using innuendo. They have no real evidence that their accusations are true. Guilt by association is their bludgeon and their usage is meant to deceive many into believing their false report. How are we to balance this? We must continue to stand firm and, using the discernment given to us by God, expose false shepherds. It must begin with godliness.  Continue reading

The keys to the mortification of sin


by Mike Ratliff

9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
The Conflict of Two Natures
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:9-24 (NASB) 

If we are honest, each of us would have to confess that there are sins that have an incredible hold on us. It seems that no matter how devoted we become in our walk before our Lord, there will be some sins that trip us up, making us stumble and fall to our deep chagrin. Our self-loathing resulting from this can be quite severe. We cry out to God, we promise Him that we are done with that sin. We declare that we would rather die than do it again. We weep. We mourn. We then start to recover and become joyous in the Lord again. Then a short time later there is that sin pouncing upon us out of no where. We seem to have little or no strength or resolve to fight it off and then we stumble right back into it again. Continue reading

The wonderful gift from God


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 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 2:8-10 (NASB) 

It wasn’t that long ago that I received a warning email from a friend that a firestorm had been started within the internet discernment blogs about what some were calling the “damnable heresy of Lordship Salvation.” I and many of my good friends responded with sound Biblical doctrine to the assault and I don’t think the enemy’s attack accomplished much of anything other than getting some of us to dig deeper into God’s Word then prayerfully respond in the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s people were edified and, as always, His truth blew massive holes in the lies of the enemy. After all, what we are talking about is saving faith. Of course, there are still a large number of people making noise about it, but after spending much time in discussion with them, reasoning with them, I am convinced they are fighting against something that really doesn’t exist. Is it something within natural man that everyone is born with and so can bring to life through self will or self effort or is it, as the Bible clearly says, that man is dead in trespasses and sins and, therefore, this saving faith is a gift from God and our salvation is His work from beginning to end? I know of no one who teaches that who tries to combine “making Jesus Christ Lord” an “addition to” or “a work” that is necessary for salvation. Instead, what I hear and what I understand myself is that those who are truly saved by the work of God alone will fulfill Ephesians 2:10 by the will of God alone by His grace.

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Redemption and depravity


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. We are to preach the Gospel, that is, we are 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

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome


by Mike Ratliff

1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:1-4 (NASB) 

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16 I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word. Psalms 119:9-16 (NASB) 
 The concept that God would somehow be satisfied with those who call themselves Christians, but who live their lives totally apart from Him, should be very strange to believers. The idea that the Lord is only after converts who say a quick sinner’s prayer, but never really change must really insult Him. Look at the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us on the cross. How could anyone really think He went through all that to accomplish only the possibility of salvation for all people or, even worse, automatically save all people including those who continue to live reprobate lives after hearing the gospel? Those who believe either of those are deluding themselves. Of course, their hearts are not being led by the Spirit and they are suffering from a severe case of hardheartedness. God’s values are not apparent to their hearts so they live the way they want. Many of them compartmentalize their lives to the point they give God those couple of hours on some Sunday mornings, but the rest of their time belongs to them.

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These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life


by Mike Ratliff

1 Πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς, ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν γεννήσαντα ἀγαπᾷ [καὶ] τὸν γεγεννημένον ἐξ αὐτοῦ. 2 ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἀγαπῶμεν τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅταν τὸν θεὸν ἀγαπῶμεν καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ ποιῶμεν. 3 αὕτη γάρ ἐστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν, καὶ αἱ ἐντολαὶ αὐτοῦ βαρεῖαι οὐκ εἰσίν. 4 ὅτι πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ νικᾷ τὸν κόσμον· καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ νίκη ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον, ἡ πίστις ἡμῶν. 1 John 5:1-4 (NA28)

1 All who believe that Jesus is the Christ, born of God, and all who love the Father loves the one born of him. 2 In this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and we obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For all that has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:1-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Satan’s worldwide system of deception and wickedness, at times, seems to be overcoming the Church not the Church overcoming it. However, through Christ and his provision of salvation, believers are victorious over the invisible system of demonic and human evil that our enemy operates to capture men’s souls for hell. Currently, the visible church seems split with divisive conflicts that those with any rational sense of reason can only attribute to demonic attacks our enemy is using to divide Christians to get them away from our primary mission, the Gospel and the Great Commission and, instead, focusing on issues that simply cause these conflicts and strife keeping us from what we should really be about. Continue reading

Who are heirs with Christ?


by Mike Ratliff

16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8:16-17 (NASB) 

Even through as Christians we are justified and are under no condemnation (Romans 8:1) it is also clearly taught in God’s Word that Christians are to live lives of repentance from the works of the flesh. However, there are some who take the Doctrines of Grace and separate them from the great teachings of the Puritans such as John Owen, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, et cetera that made it clear that in this life Christians are required to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Those who are doing this are antinomians in that they teach those who follow them that if they are in Christ, what they do in the flesh is merely for their enjoyment and has no eternal consequences. Really? Is that what God’s Word says?  Continue reading

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NASB) 

1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Romans 8:1 (NA28)

Therefore there is no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In the English translations of the text above, the “therefore” translates ἄρα (ara), “as a result, then, so, therefore, possible.” Normally a “therefore” marks the conclusion of the verses immediately preceding it, but here it introduces the staggering results of the Apostle’s teaching in the first seven chapters (of Romans), which states that justification is by faith alone on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace. For those in Christ, there is “no condemnation.” What does that mean?  Continue reading

Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?


by Mike Ratliff

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:1-6 (NKJV) 

The Bible is the Word of God. It is inerrant, inspired, and our final authority for faith and life. The Bibles we have in our day are translations of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. These translations are rendered into most languages of the earth in our time. When we study the Bible, dig into God’s Word to know Him and His ways then He will bless us with knowledge as He gives us wisdom, discernment, and direction. As our minds are renewed through this as well as through the hearing of godly preaching, teaching, and coming to terms with the extent of God’s grace permeating our lives, we do not become prideful, arrogant, or self-focused for very long. Why? As we become more mature in Christ, we also acquire more and more of His character. That means we will have the proper perspective of our place in God’s Kingdom. This place is not at the head. Instead, it is in total submission to the will of God. It is a humble place to be. Continue reading

Racialism vs Christian Unity


by Mike Ratliff

Several months ago I was in a discussion group on Facebook that I am fond of when I ran head-on into a “minister/pastor” who claimed to be an authority on something I confess I knew very a little about at that time. That subject was the Social Justice Gospel. He proclaimed that he and all those in his “church” were “Social Justice Warriors.” I tried very hard to rebuke much of what he and his friends were saying by using what the Word of God says the Gospel is and what it isn’t. Most of his friends disappeared from the discussion, but he was stubborn. He tried to tell me that my interpretation of the Gospel was a misunderstanding.  I needed to be “awoken” to “wake up” to be “educated” and realize that as a white person I was inherently guilty of all the crimes suffered by his race, et cetera. I never told him that I was a mixed race person who actually viewed people as either Christian or not. When I wouldn’t budge, he got tired and left. I was baffled by the whole thing. What is going on?

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Who or what is an antichrist?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) 

According to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 15 the mark of Christian authenticity is abiding or remaining in Him. This is not simply a continual profession of faith, but a remaining faithful to Christ in our orthodox Christian faith. According to Paul, apostasy is a two-fold action of departing from the faith and giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. The Apostle John called the Christian leaders who do this antichrists. Continue reading