Dead to Sin but Alive to God


by Mike Ratliff

6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:6-10 (NASB) 

We are still in January, but Easter is coming. Of all the markers we celebrate as Christians, Easter was the one I had the hardest time understanding when I was a small child. It seemed so wrapped up in chocolate bunnies and Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts, dressing up in new clothes for church, et cetera. My mother tried to help me see the Biblical connection with our Lord’s Resurrection, but I failed to make sense of it until I was older. I saw it as a teen and young adult, but did not really  “get it” until God had mercy on me, a sinner, and resurrected me unto new life as a Christian.  Continue reading

Unable to See the Forest For the Trees


by Mike Ratliff

6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
7 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:6-8 (NASB) 

About 15 years ago before my old church in Kansas was taken over by the PDC madness, it became a haven for several families and single adults from a Fundamental Baptist church in our area that had forced them to leave. They were disciplined and expelled from membership because they refused to sever relationships with others in their families who the leadership in that church determined “were in sin.” I became close to several of the couples and taught them in my Bible Study class and what I discovered was that they were actually starved for the Word of God. They were not being fed the truth regularly as they should have been, but, instead, were fed the commandments of men.  Continue reading

The Eyes of the Heart


by Mike Ratliff

15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:15-23 (NASB) 

I have used the term “Spiritual Blindness” quite a bit here in my posts and I have done so assuming that you all know what I am talking about. There are times, however, when I am utterly amazed at the depth of spiritual blindness in some professing Christians. I am not God. I am not omniscient so I do not know if some of these people are false believers or if they are simply very immature. If I knew them more personally perhaps I would know, but, in any case, when someone professes to be a Christian, but holds the view, “we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14), therefore, we need not bother with the law at all. We may do whatever we please even if it is condemned in Scripture.” This is the error of antinomianism. That term, antinomianism, means lawlessness – being against law. Those who are afflicted with this disease are so because God has not enlightened the eyes of their hearts with His truth.  Continue reading

The Conflict of Two Natures


by Mike Ratliff

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:24 (NASB) 

This is written to Christians, that is, those who were dead in their trespasses and sins in which they formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them they too all formerly lived in the lusts of their flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loved them, even when they were dead in their transgressions, made them alive together with Christ (by grace they have been saved), and raised them up with him, and seated them with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the ages to come he might show in the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward them in Christ Jesus. For by grace they have been saved through faith; and not of themselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For they are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that they would walk in them.  Continue reading

Chosen In Christ Before the Foundation of the World


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:3-14 (NASB)

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 (NASB)

In this post we will look at Ephesians 1:3-14 and Romans 8:29-30. In these two passage are found three Greek words that have been the source of large numbers of polemic works and, in my own experience, I have been accused of holding to doctrines that I do not hold to (nor do any hold to that I know of) by Synergists constructing straw men in order to attack them in an attempt to make it look as if they are defeating the Doctrines of Grace to which I do hold dear and the Monergistic faith through which I know I am saved. Continue reading

Losing Your Life for the Sake of Christ


by Mike Ratliff

34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 (NASB) 

Jesus is coming back soon. Are you ready? Are you trusting in man-made or self-made religion to be what God will recognize as sufficient so that Christ will be your Advocate before the Father when you are judged? Without Christ as your Advocate, you will have no defense. How does Christ become our Advocate? How do we know if He is our Advocate? Let us examine Christ’s own words about this. Continue reading

Are you in God’s Light or the World’s Darkness?


by Mike Ratliff

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:1-34 (NASB)

The New Testament book of John is profound. The thirty-four opening verses (above) set the stage for us by making sure we understand whom Jesus Christ really is. Who is He? He is God! He is the Word, the Logos, who preexisted creation. Notice also, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” This is an analogy. “Life” translates ζωὴ (zōē), which is speaking of spiritual life or eternal life (John 3:15; John 17:3; Ephesians 2:5) and John calls it what? It is “the light of men…” which translates the Greek phrase, “τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.” “Light” translates the word φῶς (phōs) and it refers to biblical truth, therefore, what do we have? In Christ, we have eternal life that also bears the fruit within us of God’s truth, which is Biblical truth. Of course, the opposite is true as well. Outside of Christ is spiritual death and those outside of Him are in darkness, which means they are in error or falsehood. Morally, this light refers to holiness and purity (1 John 1:5) while darkness refers to sin or wrongdoing (John 3:19; John 12:35, 46; Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:8-11). Continue reading

Taken Captive


by Mike Ratliff

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 (NASB) 

When we do word studies in the Greek New Testament it is vital that we pay very close attention the verb tenses. From these we learn that some statements are commands (imperatives) while others, which some Bible translations render as if they are commands, are actually statements of fact (indicatives or aorists). Confusing these has caused a very large amount of confusion and bad doctrine to pollute the church. For instance, when Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” the verb structure here is not imperative (a command to be born again), but aorist tense, subjunctive mood, passive voice. In other words, this is action that is most definitely not a command by our Lord to Nicodemus to be born again, but a statement of fact that if a person is to see the kingdom of God he or she must be born again. The action is passive so it is the result of some other action. So what? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. This is an example of an imperative. Let us put it into context.  Continue reading

Right Now Counts Forever


by Mike Ratliff

6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (NASB) 

Pragmatism is an ugly, profane word. Oh, I know that to some professing Christians that it is their modus operandi in how they approach and do ministry, but I assure you that it is the tool our enemy uses to attack and discourage Christians from standing for the truth of God and all of His underlying principles that we are commanded to hold dear and obey. God’s ways are not Man’s ways. No, His ways are higher, but that does not excuse Christians from obeying Him in standing for truth and never compromising with the ways of the world and the flesh. Continue reading

We must test the spirits


by Mike Ratliff

19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NASB) 

God has called His people to discernment. If you listen to many so-called Christians in our time, you would think the very opposite. In fact, to question the veracity of someone’s teaching is considered the ultimate case of uncouthness in these so-called postmodern times. I find it very interesting that this concept works only in one direction. These who hold to this sort of “ministry” are very quick to point fingers at those of us who do proclaim that God’s Word is The Truth and we are all called to obey Him. We are seen as being immersed in legalism when we draw lines that are precise and unyielding based entirely from clear biblical teaching. However, those of us who do this are anything but that. Instead, we are being obedient to what God tells us to do in His Word. We must test every spirit.  Continue reading

There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NASB) 

In the passage above some may say that Paul’s crown of righteousness would be based upon how well he fought the good fight and finished the course while keeping the faith. However if you read down to end of v8 it is clear that the same award will be for all who have loved His appearing. Is that you? I know what my life was like before God had mercy on me. I know what it was like to be blind to His truth and see Christianity as just another religion. However, I remember clearly that day when the Spirit took over and regenerated me and I saw the truth with a heart that was alive instead of one that was stone cold dead. That was 36 years ago this month, but I can remember the details of how things happened that day just a vividly as it if was just a few days ago. As I have grown and matured as a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ since then I have learned that we are accepted by our dear heavenly Father because of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, not because of our religiosity or good works. We are saints because of His work not ours as we saw in last night’s post Saints. Since this is true then how should we look at what awaits us in Heaven? Continue reading

Saints


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, 2 ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις 3 περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, 4 τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, 5 διʼ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ, 6 ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς κλητοὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 7 πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς θεοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Romans 1:1-7 (NA28)

1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7 (NASB) 

What is a saint? I grew up as a Southern Baptist with a lot of Roman Catholic friends just down the street from a Catholic school and large Catholic Church. I am retired now, but for the last 20 years I have worked for a corporation that was owned by a Roman Catholic Hospital not-for-profit corporation. So, with that being said, I know what the RCC’s concept of a “saint” is, but what is the Biblical definition? I believe the passage I placed at the top of this post is a good starting place, but we will look at the Greek word that is translated as “saint” and what it means Biblically. Continue reading

Holy to the LORD!


by Mike Ratliff

36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37 You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. Exodus 28:36-38 (NASB) 

I have written much over the years about our battle with pride pretending to be humility especially when it comes to service and worship. I struggle with this as much as any of you. When I was a new Christian I had the mistaken concept that the more I served the Lord and better the quality of that service was, the more I would acceptable to Him. It took many years and many trials and a personal revival to cleanse me of that. A huge part of being cleansed of that is to understand that God is Sovereign and we are saved by Grace alone through Faith alone. We are acceptable to God because of the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, not our works. Yes, we are given works to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), but that is also by and through God’s Grace. Continue reading

Take Up Your Cross


by Mike Ratliff

23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 (NASB) 

Many years ago when I was much younger I made a commitment to become fit enough to run one mile in under 5 minutes, run 5 Kilometers in under 18 minutes, run 5 miles in under 30 minutes, run 10 Kilometers in under 37 minutes, and run 10 miles in under an hour. By the time I was 33 years old I had accomplished the first three. I had missed my goal for the 10K by less than a minute, however, my best time for a 10 mile race was 1 hour and 4 minutes. These times are no where near competitive at the highest level, but in the Oklahoma City Running Club it was. It took a great deal of commitment. I had to train by doing miles and miles of road work and then compliment that with speed work. I had to work on my upper body strength and had to eat right. Some of my friends and relatives accused me of becoming obsessive. I couldn’t have done any of this without commitment. When God saved me in 1986 I remember my mother saying, “Watch out! Michael will get into the Bible just like he did running…” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but I have found that commitment to the Word of God is just part of becoming the Christian God wants all of us to be. It also takes commitment to obedience to our Lord’s commandments, God’s glory, denying self, dying to self, submitting to others, and loving our Lord foremost.  Continue reading