Christian authenticity


by Mike Ratliff

21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21 (NASB) 

The message of salvation that is normally preached or taught in the vast majority of churches these days has been contaminated with Humanism. The focus is on becoming a Christian for some great benefit or reward from God. Masses of people respond to that false gospel as well. The genuine gospel that our Saviour preached during His earthly ministry may have mentioned the benefits of being saved, but He emphasized the cost of becoming His disciple in such a way that it caused many of His hearers to not follow Him anymore. In fact, whenever He saw that the people were flocking to Him to have their felt needs met, He would speak a message to them that expressed that those who are His disciples are the ones who have counted the cost and seen that the eternal is all that truly matters. Continue reading

What does the Bible tell us about God’s righteous judgment?


by Mike Ratliff

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20 (NASB) 

It seems that the default theology of Man is “Justification by Death.” Justification is a legal term where a person is declared “not guilty” by a judge. No one seems to have a problem with the concept of all people being sinners. However, our culture says that all people will be sent to Heaven when they die regardless of how they lived their lives. Once there, they will receive rewards or lose rewards based on the quality of their character. This is why the Doctrine of Hell is seen as “judgmental” and “Pharisaical” by those of the “New Evangelism” or any form of postmodern “christianity.”  Continue reading

Be encouraged!


by Mike Ratliff

6 And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:6-7 (NASB) 

Here is v7 in Greek:

7 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ. μακάριος ὁ τηρῶν τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου. Revelation 22:7 (NA28)

The words “behold, I am coming soon” in Greek are ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, which literally says, “Behold, I come quickly.” The word ταχύ, quickly, can also mean “without delay” or “by surprise” or “suddenly.” If we look at the context, we see that this part of Revelation follows the central visionary section of the book. From v6 on, we see promise, exhortation, and confirmation all with the goal of stirring up hope for the coming of the Lord Jesus. However we translate ταχύ, we must remember that our Lord spoke these words and He meant them to be an encouragement to us. Therefore, as we look at the hostile takeover of the visible church by the wicked, instead of being discouraged, we should look to the soon return of our Lord, who will settle all accounts. Therefore, our part must be to remain faithful regardless of what these evil people are doing. Even if every church in our town goes hard after these new “missional” and “spiritual formation” teachings, we do not have to be part of that nor can we. We must not follow after these things even if we become quite lonely and separate from the crowd. God knows all about this and will sustain us. Continue reading

How to know who the false prophets are


by Mike Ratliff

4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:4-14 (NASB) 

When I encounter those whose theology and eschatology has been colored by presuppositions, philosophies, and the teachings of some theologians that the Church’s main function is to establish and prepare God’s Kingdom here on this Earth so the Lord will return and to claim it, I wonder how seriously these people take Scripture passages such as Matthew 24:4-14 (above). These same people are all about making all secular culture conform to Christianity. I find it very difficult to line that up with what our Lord said in Matthew 24 about what things would be like before he actually did return. What is the reality? Will the Church totally take over the world in this age? From what I have studied in the New Testament, the Church is a called out “congregation” of people that are despised, persecuted, and put to death for their faith as they live for the glory of their Lord in this life. The point of that is to attain a greater resurrection in the next age. Let’s see what our Lord said about the reality of what we have to deal with in this age as the Church. Continue reading

Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus


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) 

Since God drew me into spiritual boot camp in 2004 I have read many of the Reformers.  I have also read as much as I can of what are referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers such as Polycarp and Irenaeus. The Reformers were used by God to recover the Gospel which had become hidden and corrupted by the apostate Roman Catholic Church. The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin were good theologians, but also former Catholics. Their form of “religiosity” was highly effected by their years in the R.C.C. On the other hand, Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John while Irenaeus was his disciple. Reading them gives us a very different view of “church structure.”  Nowhere in their writings do we see state churches or massive cathedrals or Christian leaders becoming national leaders, etc. No, they served the Lord during a time when Christians were persecuted, that is, during the time of the Roman Empire. Bishops had been appointed by the Apostles and these Bishops would appoint Bishops in other churches they planted and select their successors. Irenaeus said that way of doing things kept the church from pursuing false teachers and false doctrines because they had the Word from Apostles themselves (the New Testament) and their teachings passed down directly from them to their Bishops who passed it down and so forth. As I read about their focus during that time in Church History they talked a great deal about “The Resurrection.” Polycarp was martyred when he was in his late 80’s  because he would not worship Caesar as lord. He told the Romans who were going to burn him that he was excited about his “better resurrection” because he was going to share in the sufferings of Christ. I’m sorry, but I don’t see or hear much preaching or teaching about the resurrection in our time that we should be excited about it like Polycarp was. Instead, we hear about Heaven.

Continue reading

The High Priestly Prayer


by Mike Ratliff

1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. John 17:1-2 (NASB) 

In John 17, we have the transition marking the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the beginning of His intercessory ministry for all believers (Hebrews 7:25). This has been called “The High Priestly Prayer,” however; it does summarize John’s entire Gospel. For instance, its principal themes include Jesus’ obedience to His Father, the glorification of His Father through His death and exaltation, the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the choosing of the disciples out of the world, their unity modeled on the unity of the Father and the Son, and the believers final destiny in the presence of the Father and Son. There are three main sections to this prayer. In vv1-5, we have Jesus’ prayer for Himself. In vv 6-19, we have Jesus’ prayer for the apostles. In vv20-26 we have Jesus’ prayer for all New Testament believers who will form the Church.  Continue reading

Reproving the works of darkness


by Mike Ratliff

 9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NASB)

It has been put forth that the apologists for the Seeker-Sensitive movement in the visible church insist that they are justified in what they do because God is blessing their ministries with explosive growth and so it is wrong for us to oppose them. They cite Acts 5:33-39 to support this thesis. Carefully read the following passage. The bold section contains Gamaliel’s advice, which the Purpose Driven, Missional, Seeker Sensitive, and/or Emergent folks cite.

33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Acts 5:33-39 (NASB) 

If we blindly follow this reasoning then it would appear that it was wrong for Jesus to oppose the Pharisees, Paul to oppose the Judiazers, the early Church to oppose Gnosticism, Athanasius to stand firm against Arianism, and Augustine to oppose Pelagianism. We are not being told in Acts 5:33-39 that the right way for the Church to deal with apostasy within the Church is to tolerate it hoping God will stop it as we silently observe. No, we are given plenty of commands in the New Testament on how to deal with judging those inside the Church who are guilty of things that are not to be named amongst the Brethren.  Continue reading

Mammon


by Mike Ratliff

4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of it.
5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. Proverbs 23:4-5 (NASB) 

Happiness is a temporal condition of ‘rightness’ based upon circumstances.  On the other hand, Christians are taught all through God’s Word to pursue the Joy of the Lord, which is not based in the temporal, therefore, it is in no way based upon our circumstances. Instead, “Joy is both an outcome of our relationship with the Lord and our source of strength for our obedience of Him.” This is a quote from my post What is Joy? from January 2006. However, in my many years as a Christian, I have known countless professing believers who sought their fulfillment completely in the temporal and, because of that, were easy prey of those false teachers of the ‘Health, Wealth, and Prosperity “Gospel”.’ As we have seen as we have dug deep into our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, there are many forms of religion that men create that they insist are ‘Christian,’ but they are another religion and their ‘Jesus’ is not Jesus Christ because they are man-made not God ordained. Continue reading

Doctrine


by Mike Ratliff

3 Ἀγαπητοί, πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει. Jude 1:3 (NA28)

3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude 1:3 (NASB) 

1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. 2 Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Timothy 6:1-5 (NASB) 

Over this weekend I’ve been in a conversation with my editor at CRN, Marsha West. It was about a couple of people who were monopolizing one of her posts on her Facebook Page which dealt with two things, doctrine itself and the Doctrine of Unity and Separation. These two people were insistent that the only valid doctrines are God’s doctrine found in his Word spoken to us clearly.  Well, what about the Doctrine of the Trinity? What about the Doctrine of Baptism and the Doctrine of Regeneration.  Are they one and the same? Some people claim they are while many of us call that a false doctrine called “Baptismal Regeneration.” You get the idea. In any case, Marsha ended up blocking one of them and asking me to define for her where these people were coming from. The best I could come up with was they were “cage stage pharisees” and that they were very close to what I have seen in the Hebrew Roots movement.  For us to be wise and discerning according to God’s will we must know His Word, that is, His truth and, therefore, His doctrines. We must know the difference between what God says and what men say in their man-made religiosity. Yes, Doctrine is important regardless what these post-modern pharisees say.
Continue reading

God has called us in sanctification


by Mike Ratliff

1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NASB) 

Holiness is commanded by God. He wills it. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires it and the Word of God calls for it. The goal of our redemption is that we become Holy as God is Holy. Our Lord died on the cross in order that all of His people would be justified. This justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous having Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account. This had to come first in order that we be sanctified, that is, made Holy. Continue reading

Because we have been justified by faith we exult in hope of the glory of God


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB) 

What is the difference between faith and hope? Are they the same thing? They are not the same, but they are two sides of the same coin. If I want my old College to win in football against our biggest rival that is hope. On the other hand, if I believe it will happen then it is faith. With this faith, my hope is enhanced. It becomes active. On the other hand, if I have little faith that it will happen then my hope becomes simply wishful thinking. What about our faith through which we are saved by grace? Is this faith simply working up enough belief so that our hope becomes strong, or is there more to it than that?
Continue reading

What is the Doctrine of Unity and Separation?


by Mike Ratliff

5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Titus 1:5-9 (NASB) 

It doesn’t take very long for me to discern whether the person I am dealing with is truly God’s man or woman or is a pretender. That personal interaction is necessary for me to see the true nature and focus of the person. As we debate or discuss doctrinal or church issues or even secular issues it soon becomes very clear whether I am dealing someone who is walking according to the Lordship of Christ or is their own man or woman. Their values soon become apparent. All of us are in various stages of spiritual growth and repentance to be sure, but the mark of the washing of regeneration is there to be seen in all of God’s people that cannot be counterfeited. Of course, this is only discernable by those who are looking for it and then only through God’s testing fires.  Continue reading

Are Christians supposed to preach the Gospel or be the Gospel?


by Mike Ratliff

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) 

The passage above (Matthew 28:16-20) is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention not very long ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself.  Continue reading

Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable


by Mike Ratliff

4 We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. Psalms 78:4 (NASB) 

God is good. He is beyond our comprehension in His magnificence and the depths of His mercy. He is Holy, Righteous, and Just. He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Immutable. Oh, let us praise Him from grateful hearts.  Continue reading