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

Our Heavenly Dwelling


by Mike Ratliff

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:22-25 (NASB) 

As I have grown older as a Christian, and, hopefully, as the Lord has matured me, the more I want freedom from everything that is in any way tinged with The Fall. Of course that includes my own flesh that wants only to have its cravings satiated as well as the World System whose king is Satan. God does use our time here to grow us in humility while uprooting our pride, but I so want to be past this so I can be with my Saviour.

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Make your Calling and Election Sure


by Mike Ratliff

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:22-25 (NASB)

The Puritans had a term they used in their theological writings and discussions describing professing believers who fell away or were in some way not consistent in their walk. They called them “temporary believers.” This may be a little offensive to many these days, but there are untold numbers of Pastors, Deacons, Elders, Evangelists, or whatever in our churches in our time who would not even qualify for membership in a 17th Century Puritan Church. As I have stated many times, I grew up in Oklahoma as a Southern Baptist. I have seen literally hundreds (if not more) of “invitations.” In a large percentage of these invitations, people walked an aisle, prayed a sinner’s prayer, was Baptised, and made a full member of the church. All of this taking place in a just a period of days. I have also observed a staggeringly high percentage of those professing believers last only a short period of time before disappearing from church never to be seen again. Continue reading

Where then is boasting? it is excluded; by what kind of law? of works? no, but by a law of faith


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) 

As I reflect back on my personal testimony of my pilgrimage and how God drew me to Himself regardless of my unworthiness and then patiently matured me over the years I marvel at His gift of grace. However, that does not negate the fact that I, like everyone else, had a lot of growing up to do, and still do I am sure. 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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The gospel that is believed and saves


by Mike Ratliff

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:8-12 (NASB)

The churchianity that most of us  grew up with is confused with genuine Christianity by many people. It is actually a set of beliefs or values  laid out in our minds’ decision grid. It becomes a value system in the heart that reckons salvation to be based on religious acts such as saying a certain prayer in a certain order while holding to a certain frame of mind. When doubt comes, and it always does, we are told to look back on “that day” when we said that prayer. Some even go so far as to say that they doubt if a person is really a Christian if they cannot remember the exact moment when they prayed that prayer.  Continue reading

Heirs of God and fellow 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

Abide in Me, and I in you


by Mike Ratliff

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:4-10 (NASB) 

For the first 20 or so years of this walk I was in a very immature spiritual state. I was utterly convinced during that time that my worth as a disciple depended upon my performance, my learning, my obedience, et cetera. With that mind-set it was a very horrible experience at times since I was on a roller coaster ride of obedience and backsliding. What amazed me during that period was that I was looked at as one of the more mature believers at our church. I knew better. That all changed in 2004 and 2005 as God drew me into the light and drastically changed that ‘mind-set.’ It was as I learned and held to the truth that our salvation is all according to God’s will not our’s that I began to have peace and freedom. He chose us according to the good pleasure of His will, not according to our abilities or any other inherent attribute we may have. With this remaking of my mind-set came the ending of that cycle of obedience and backsliding. It was as if it had been put to death. Continue reading

What is 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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He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus


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) 

I am a Baptist at heart. I have heard the statement, “Once Saved, Always Saved.” comment more times than I could ever count. My theology has changed much in the last couple of decades, but one thing that did not change was my firm belief in the security of the believer. In Reformed Theology it is called the Perseverance of the Saints. However, I prefer the term, “Persevering Grace.” The former makes it seem as if the believer is eternally saved by his or her own merit or ability. The latter, however, states that it is God who preserves His saints by His grace. Continue reading

How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?


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

All Christians are 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, closely examining your walk before the Lord continually, 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

Growth in Christian virtue


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. 2 Peter 1:1-4 (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

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?


by Mike Ratliff

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NASB) 

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

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