Are You Guilty Of 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 of which we must all agree that we are guilty. The last word in that definition could easily be change 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 to some level. Continue reading

Apprehended By God


by Mike Ratliff

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 (NASB) 

The Apostle Paul often used the analogy of a runner to describe our spiritual growth. Unlike a race that has an ending with one runner reaching the goal and attaining the prize of victory, our spiritual race will continue as long as we live. We will never reach the goal of Christlikeness, but like the runner in a race we must continue to pursue that goal.

Even though the current crop of evangelicals disdain discipleship, Bible study, and spiritual growth calling them unnecessary since their sole goal is numerical growth through their evangelical ministries, we must not give in to this lie. Paul tells us that God’s will for each of His children is their sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) That means His desire for each of us is that we be holy. Continue reading

Profile of an Apostate


by Mike Ratliff

20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Matthew 13:20-22 (NASB)

The Bible very clearly teaches that Christians should examine themselves quite often in order to see what their spiritual condition is. Genuine Christians are not perfect people. Neither are they always full of happiness, in perfect health while having plenty of money in the bank. No, the fact that all believers are called to be humble, poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart and many other things that are growing in their character means that they will spend much of their time in the fires of sanctification. It is during these times of pruning that believers are in the greatest danger of becoming despondent, discouraged, and even depressed if they have not learned to view their circumstances correctly.

Despite what many in the Easy-believism or Universalism camp teach, there are people who profess Christ who are not genuine. They are not regenerate nor do they have the Holy Spirit. They are not in Christ. Genuine Christians abide in Christ. They remain. They may go through the worst tribulation imaginable, yet they remain attached to the Vine. However, when tribulation descends on the disingenuous professing Christians they do not endure because they have no root in themselves. The world and the deceitfulness of riches cause others to fall away. These are not genuine believers. Continue reading

Cast Your Burden on the Lord


by Mike Ratliff

12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me,
Then I could bear it;
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me,
Then I could hide myself from him.
13 But it is you, a man my equal,
My companion and my familiar friend;
14 We who had sweet fellowship together
Walked in the house of God in the throng. Psalms 55:12-14 (NASB) 

As the great Apostasy of the Church deepens and widens it seems that even those we once looked up to as solid and faithful servants of the Most High are slipping into unbelief. It is these failures that seem to strike the hardest at our hearts. We even begin to wonder, “Who’s next?” However, we must not become consumed with discouragement because of this. Yes, it should make us sorrowful, but we must not allow the lack of faithfulness by people to affect our walk with the Lord. Our role model is Jesus Christ. We should look to Him alone as our rock and firm foundation, not other people. Men will always let us down eventually.

We are fooling ourselves if we believe that persecution is not coming upon the Western Church. In every other part of the world Christians lose status in their society when they are saved. Their lives do not automatically become better when they profess Christ. Instead, they are seen as second-class citizens because of their faith. Here in the West, we exist in a climate of spiritual bankruptcy and easy-believism that is the product of decades of man-loving semi-pelagianism that has sucked the spiritual life out of the Church.

Our Lord said that to follow Him is costly, but in the West, it requires hardly any commitment at all. Christianity is seen as an add-on to ones life instead of what actually defines it. However, those in our culture who do take a stand for truth and attempt to live as Christ directs will find that they are no longer seen as “normal.” In fact, even in their churches, they will find there is a great deal of resistance to that level of commitment. Those who stand against this will soon be excluded and shunned. Why? The Western Church acts like the world because the world is in it. The world cannot tolerate true, genuine Christianity. It has no problem with empty religion, but Christ’s disciples who live out their faith as led by the Lord, will be at odds with the worldly.

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True and False Christians


In these last days it seems that what is up is down and what is down is up. The dynamic, forward moving evangelical part of the visible Church is quickly moving into a form of Christianity that seems oh so right to people. It seeks to offend no one. Many “evangelicals” have openly embraced union with the Roman Catholic church implying that the Protestant Reformation was a mistake. The focus of this form of Christianity is never on the Gospel. Instead it is on feeding the poor or world peace and always seeking to be friends of the world. Then there is the Social Justice Movement with its roots in Marxism and is often called “WOKE.” This form of Christianity is an attempt to divide Christians up into groups of victims who are seeking justice with those in Orthodoxy as the culprits behind all their problems. However, even though what we see seems to be many different apostate movements in the Church, the fact is, there is really only two groups of people calling themselves Christians. There are True Christians and False Christians. – Mike Ratliff

The following devotional by Martin Luther is from Faith Alone.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” John 1:47

The Lord Christ does not want us to brag about being a Christian or, as in the case of Nathanael, being an Isrealite. It’s not enough to say, “I am baptized,” or even to say, “I am a bishop,” “I am a cardinal,” or “I am a preacher.” You must believe in Christ and live like a Christian. You must be righteous both on the inside and on the outside. You must not be embarrassed of the Lord Christ and the Christian faith. If you are, then you are a false Christian. If you don’t believe in your heart, your entire life is a lie and you remain in darkness. You aren’t righteous, and you only appear to be a Christian. Your actions don’t reflect your Christian faith.

If we could separate Christians from one another and divide them into true and false Christians, how many true Christians would we find? The world is crazy, foolish, and wild. It’s filled with all kinds of evil—adultery, drunkenness, vindictiveness, and other sins. Some people no longer consider it a sin for people to cheat each other. Yet these same people want to be considered good Christians.

Believe me, you’re not fooling anyone but yourself. God isn’t fooled or mocked. He will know what you are really like in an instant, just as he knew that Nathanael was a true Israelite who believed in he prophets. He will look at you and say, “Yes, here is a true Christian!”

Soli Deo Gloria!

Repent or Perish


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5 (NASB) 

Those who were massacred at the Federal Center in Oklahoma City, the World Trade Center, in the temple by Pilate, and those killed when the tower in Siloam fell were no more evil than any other person then or now. Jesus tells those with Him and us that those who survive tragedies are not morally superior to those who do not survive. Instead, He calls everyone to repent because sudden death could happen to any of us at any time. God does not guarantee that we will have time to prepare for death, so now is the time for repentance. Continue reading

Warning Against Apostasy


by Mike Ratliff

11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NASB) 

Apostasy: [Middle English apostasie, from Old French, from Late Latin apostasia, defection, from Late Greek apostasi, from Greek apostasis, revolt, from aphistanai, aposta-, to revolt : apo-, apo- + histanai, to stand, place; see st- in Indo-European roots.]

Noun pl -sies abandonment of one’s religious faith, political party, or cause [Greek apostasis desertion] from: Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006

I am convinced that a good way to understand apostasy and what causes one to abandon his or her religious faith is to think of it in the verb form of “to forget.” In the history of civilization, the battle between intellectual honesty and intellectual barbarity is one that has cycled back a forth for millennia. When intellectual honesty is on top, truth is seen as succinct and knowable and authoritative. When intellectual barbarity is on top, truth is seen as relative and completely unknowable.  In case you weren’t sure, we are now in an intellectual barbarian stage in the 21st Century. Continue reading

God’s Wrath of Abandonment


by Mike Ratliff

7 Ephraim is joined to idols;
Let him alone. Hosea 4:17 (NASB) 

Idolatry is the natural state of man. Left to themselves, people will worship or idolize someone or something. On the top of the list of those things we place on pedestals of idolatry is self. Professing Christians are not immune. They idolize Christian leaders, their churches, their doctrine, their liberty, their self-righteousness, their denomination, their particular translation of the Bible, and anything else they can view as something that gives them a sense of religious identity. Tragically, most see nothing wrong with this. Genuine Christianity has been supplanted by religiosity and there are only a few left who see the difference. We lament over the growing apostasy in the Church, but should we be surprised?

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The Throne in Heaven, the Scroll, and the Lamb


by Mike Ratliff

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Isaiah 6:1-4 (NASB) 

Any form of Christianity that is antinomian is Gnostic in nature and because of that always leads to licentiousness within the professing believers where this is going on. The Nicolaitans taught this form of Gnosticism saying that God is Spirit and so Christians should only be concerned with the spiritual things, but it does not matter what Christians do in the flesh since it is defiled anyway. Antinomianism says that Christians don’t have to obey God’s commands. This is rebellion against clear Biblical doctrine. They say they want Jesus, but forget that obedience stuff. Jesus is truth and love and He’s all I want. Those who say these sorts of things are actually treating God as if He is unimportant. What does the Bible tell us about God and His majesty and omnipotence? Continue reading

False Prophets and Teachers


by Mike Ratliff

1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 1 Timothy 4:1-2 (NASB) 

In these last days, there appears to be a clarifying work of God going on in within the Visible Church. In the early church and in all those historic periods when it was not “comfortable” to be counted among those who named Christ as their Lord and Saviour, the genuine believers were easy to spot. They endured. They may have undergone severe persecution even unto death, but they did not fall away. Since the end of Puritanism, Christianity has taken on a role in the West that ensured religious freedom. Humanism began to encroach upon doctrine and in every aspect of how Church was done. Despite bright spots in this period such as the Great Awakening and then later the ministries of men like Charles Spurgeon, a downgrade in doctrine began to emerge into the Church. Humanism begat Liberal Theology which devastated the Church. A backlash against it called Fundamentalism was born. It was a move away from Liberal Theology, but it’s doctrines bore the stamp of legalism in many areas. This caused a backlash in the opposite direction that begat the emergent church movement and the New Evangelism.  Continue reading

Who is the antichrist?


by Mike Ratliff

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. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 1 John 2:18-20 (NASB) 

The doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church says that it is the only true church while all others are false. At the same time most solid evangelical Christians I know hold to the truth that the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is an “antichrist.” The word that is translated from the Greek that is rendered as “antichrist” in the New Testament is ἀντίχριστος (antichristos). It is made up of two words, ἀντί(anti), which means “instead of or against,” and χριστος(christos), which means “anointed one.” The ἀντί prefix may be reference to “substitution or opposition.” The word ἀντίχριστος is found only in 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3, and 2 John 1:7. Paul refers to a man whom he calls “the man of sin, the son of perdition, and wicked one” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8. He refers to “the one opposing” in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Most believe that John’s ἀντίχριστος is the same man that Paul is referring to. This man will attempt to assert the fulfillment of God’s Word in himself and will attempt to set up his own throne.

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Unbelief, Disobedience, and Hatred


by Mike Ratliff

24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ John 15:24-25 (NASB) 

Let us never forget that those of us who stand for God’s Truth not only being knowable, but binding on all, are in a serious war. This is not a skirmish or a battle. It is a war as per John MacArthur’s book The Truth War. In it, he exposes the tremendous battle that is being fought over what is truth and what isn’t. The Church is wounded and compromised to an extent greater than most of us can imagine. The liberals who are part of those attacking the absolute truth we love and defend have said that the primary purpose of Jesus’ incarnation was not to provide a way for His people to be saved from their sins, but to show people how to be Kingdom people or to have a better life right now. They make the message sound so right and our flesh loves that message, but it isn’t Biblical. This statement is nothing more than unbelief packaged as an alternative truth designed to deceive people into discounting the truth from God’s Word thereby keeping them in darkness. It should be clear that this is a direct attack on the Gospel.

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The Enemy Within


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NASB) 

False prophets have infiltrated the Church since the very beginning. Also, disingenuous professors have always plagued churches. There has not been a time when the church has been free from enemies within. However, in our time the church is the sickest it has ever been. False prophets beget false doctrine, the doctrine of demons, for the false believers that flock to them. Sound Doctrine is no longer tolerated. Expository preaching and teaching is ignored or shouted down. This is happening not between Christians and non-Christians, but between professing Christians in the “name” of Christ. The Church has become polluted with the ways of the world, which demands no offense to anyone. If doctrinal disagreements happen, the resultant “debate” soon resembles some sort of all out gang war. Those holding sound doctrine will often be condemned and threatened and pressured to abjure to their opponents view using every imaginable tactic. When he or she refuses to give in to the onslaught then those on attack will escalate it to something like this, “either you ‘repent’ and apologize publicly for this (not giving in) or I will ruin you. I will warn everyone about you.” Of course those other ravenous wolves demanding that he or she give in are chiming in with all sorts of threats such as, “either you … or I will pull my support for your ministry” Again, what was their crime? They held a doctrine and presented it as the truth. Those in disagreement did all they could to silence the offender for good. They did not try to understand the point of the accused even when it was given plainly. The fact that he or she would not cave in to the pressure made them a target. Interestingly, the only and best way to end this is to simply do the Christlike thing, end the discussion and walk away. Of course, then they will be accused of being spiritually proud, etc. However, didn’t our Lord get accused of much worse than that? Continue reading

What is Sweet as Honey yet Causes Bitterness in the Heat of the Spirit?


by Mike Ratliff

Believers are called to role of reconciliation, forgiveness, loving our enemies, and turning the other cheek by being humble and Spirit-filled. Also, the genuinely humble believer will not be timid, but bold.

Part of being bold because of the moving of the Holy Spirit within us is to proclaim the truth even if it takes the form of a rebuke. We are told to love our enemies, but we must not have unity with professing believers who are mired in heresy. On the other hand, those in apostasy must be rebuked in love with the goal of restoring them to fellowship and unity within God’s truth.

Much of the Bible is prophetic in nature. A large part of those prophecies take the form of God rebuking His people for their apostasy as well as declaring His coming judgment upon the world for their rebellion against Him and His ways.

One such prophet was Ezekiel. His book opens with him witnessing the glory of God in a magnificent vision. His account of it in Ezekiel 1 is utterly amazing. It is obvious that when he wrote it that he was struggling to describe the indescribable. In v26-28 Ezekiel describes his reaction to seeing this. Continue reading