Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

28 “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28-30 (NASB) 

I am sure most of those reading this have at one time or another become concerned to some degree that they had committed the unpardonable sin. Several people who I have witnessed to have told me that they couldn’t be saved because they had blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Let’s look at the passage from the book of Matthew that parallels the one I placed at the top of this post.

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The Disowned


by Mike Ratliff

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB) 

The best test of everything is not how it appears here and now. Unlike those preachers who draw throngs of people to hear their, “Have your best life now!” sermons, those with real godly wisdom know that the best tests of everything is how it will appear in the moment of death, in the morning of resurrection, and at the day of judgment. Thankfully, the Word of God does give us the truth about these things. Let’s take a long slow look at Matthew 7:21-23 where our Lord lays it out very clearly about people who will find that what they believed to be true about their eternal state is nothing more than the product of self-deception.

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Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

As one who adheres to the Doctrines of Grace, I believe firmly in the what is referred to as “the security of the believer.” Our confessions refer to it as the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. R.C. Sproul liked to use the term “Persevering Grace” instead because he believed it put the emphasis on God and His grace preserving His saints rather than His saints working to be preserved.

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The Resurrection Body


by Mike Ratliff

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 1 Corinthians 15:35 (NASB)

Eternity is the true reality, not this physical life in the temporal. At the heart of our Christian faith is our blessed hope of a bodily resurrection. Many mistakenly believe that all Christians who die are given their eternal body right then, but the Bible is clear that our eternal bodies are resurrected by God from our physical bodies that we have now. There will be an interim between our death and the resurrection before we are given our Resurrection Bodies, but this post is about what will be after our Lord returns in victory and glory. Continue reading

The Beatitudes, the Essence of a Genuine Disciple


by Mike Ratliff

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:3-13 (NASB) 

Back in the mid-1980’s, about 18 months after God saved me, I heard a wonderful lesson at a men’s retreat on Matthew 5:1-12. My Bible knowledge at that time was spotty. I had heard of The Beatitudes, but really hadn’t studied them. I had actually heard others teach that these statements are not possible for Christians until Jesus comes in His glory. I also heard that this is what Christians will be like during the Millennium. Both of these teachings came out of another teaching that said that there were two types of Christians, Disciples and Carnal Christians. At that time, being such a new believer, I thought that was Biblical. I look back on that period of time now and can see clearly why God moved me away from that church. Continue reading

How Can We know if we are Elect?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB) 

After God dragged me from my former Arminian doctrinal beliefs into the truth of Reformed Theology, my assurance of my salvation did not suffer at all. In fact, it deepened as the profundity of our salvation by grace and justification by faith became apparent to me. I no longer had a fractured picture of God’s eternal plan. It all came into focus as I studied the “Ordo Solutis” from Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-12. However, some I have attempted to teach these truths to have virulently resisted. One of the questions these “resistors of the truth” always ask is, “How could you ever have assurance believing that?” That question puzzles me.  Continue reading

Heirs with Christ


by Mike Ratliff

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:12-14 (NASB) 

If you are anything like me, looking closely at your walk before the Lord, the concept that sinful believers who vacillate between godliness and carnality with deliverance from those sins not in any way certain, then the concept that we are heirs with Christ is hard to grasp. I have no trouble with God’s absolute sovereignty, holiness, righteousness, justice, immutablility, omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence. He is perfect. He is the most High. The problem is that I know that I am not in any way worthy enough to even be in His presence. Continue reading

Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure


by Mike Ratliff

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB) 

Is it possible to know whether we are genuine partakers of the divine nature and not simply religious converts? Let us look at the Apostle Peter’s understanding of this. If anyone would understand that our own efforts to please God are a total waste of time, Peter would be the man. He declared to our Lord on the night of His arrest that he would rather die with Him than desert Him. However, we all know that Peter not only deserted our Lord that night, he denied Him three times. From that failure and his later restoration by our Lord after He was resurrected, we know that we cannot please God with our own efforts. Any work that we do that is outside of His Grace is just works of the flesh and totally worthless. Continue reading

Assurance of Salvation


by Mike Ratliff

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 2 Peter 1:10 (NASB) 

How can we know if we are truly in Christ? Or you may ask, “What is the fruit which genuine believers bear?” If true salvation is as impacting on a believer’s life as we contend then there should be verifiable evidence or fruit manifested in that life. The problem is in knowing what evidences really prove the presence of God in a person’s life and those that do not. I have noticed most of us look at the wrong things in our self-evaluations to determine if we are in Christ. Real evidence of the presence of God in a person’s life will be the fruits of salvation. These fruits will in turn lead to outward manifestations of “goodness” or “religiosity” which, unfortunately, can be counterfeited. These outward manifestations are often what we look at to determine if we are a “good Christian” or not. That is a fallacy. Any activity or attitude that can be counterfeited by a false believer cannot be used to verify one’s salvation. 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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Let us make our calling and election sure


by Mike Ratliff

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB) 

Is it possible to know whether we are genuine partakers of the divine nature and not simply religious converts? Let us look at the Apostle Peter’s understanding of this. If anyone would understand that our own efforts to please God are a total waste of time, Peter would be the man. He declared to our Lord on the night of His arrest that he would rather die with Him than desert Him. However, we all know that Peter not only deserted our Lord that night, he denied Him three times. From that failure and his later restoration by our Lord after He was resurrected, we know that we cannot please God with our own efforts. Any work that we do that is outside of His Grace is just works of the flesh and totally worthless. Continue reading

Boasting is Excluded


by Mike Ratliff

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:21-28 (NASB) 

Our pastor has been preaching through the first several chapters of Acts. In our small groups we have been taking a deeper look at the passages from which he gets his sermons. Last night was interesting because we talked a great deal about how each of us came to faith. Some of us had false starts, that is, we made a profession of faith as a child or teenager that was emotional not based on faith. Others were members of churches that did not preach the gospel, but they were baptized there. Since then we all have come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ at various ages, but, interestingly, none of them were the same, not even close. In my own case I sat there and listened to everyone sharing while God took me through the labyrinth of time and circumstances in my life which culminated in me repenting and believing on my Lord Jesus Christ. But, it didn’t stop there. I also reflected on my journey since then. For many years, even as a Bible teacher and Deacon, I confess to you all that my understanding of salvation and the doctrines that have been developed, which explain it, was very fuzzy compared to my understanding now. During those years of doctrinal “confusion” I based my salvation on something I had done. I based my assurance on things I did. When I witnessed to others during that time the emphasis was on bringing people to make a decision followed by them reciting a sinner’s prayer. As well meaning as all of that was, I see it now as the fruit of utter spiritual immaturity.

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Fiery Darts


by Mike Ratliff

11 Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” Revelation 22:11 (NASB) 

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is an allegory of the journey of one man, Christian, who is saved and makes the journey to escape his home town, The City of Destruction. The journey takes him to the cross by him entering the narrow way by way of the narrow gate that few find. After the burden of sin is taken away at the cross he journeys until he reaches the Celestial City.

One of the most interesting places he must travel through is called The Valley of Humiliation. It is the place where all Christians must travel through in order to reach Heaven. In the Valley their pride is attacked while their humility is cultivated. They are taught to rely solely on the Lord instead of their own wits or reason or abilities. In the book, Christian finds Apollyon there who is enraged that he had lost one of his subjects, who of course is Christian. A battle ensues. Apollyon does Christian much damage, but Christian uses his armor, sword and shield to fight to save his life. One of the main weapons of our enemy is his fiery darts. What are they?

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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