Are You Bearing the Marks of Jesus or the Mark of the Beast?


by Mike Ratliff

14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. Galatians 6:14-17 (NASB) 

The Apostle Paul did indeed bear the marks of persecution on his body. He had been found to be worthy to suffer shame for the name as had Peter and John (Acts 5:17-42). Paul had been stoned, beaten, imprisoned, run out of town, and would die as a martyr. Why were the Apostles persecuted so? They preached the truth. They preached against sin and works theology. They preached the Cross. They preached the exclusivity of the Gospel and against pluralism. They held that God’s truth was absolute. This is the message the natural, unregenerate person hates. This is the message the pseudo-Christians hate as well because the clear bright light of God’s truth reveals their compromises and false doctrines. Continue reading

Spiritual growth comes through humility under the lash


by Mike Ratliff

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10 (NASB) 

There is a form of Christianity prevalent in post-modern America that has an incredible hold on some people to the point their conception of God is that He is little more than a vending machine or a kindly grandfather who would never hurt anyone. I speak, of course, of all forms of Christianity that are man-based. Man-based “Christianity” that looks at God this way is held by people who have no patience for theology. Instead, they rely on their own conception of God based within the limits of their ability to reason. For instance, their conception of God is that He is too good to be unfair. Then, of course, their conception of what is fair and unfair enters into their reasoning. The end result is that, since God does not seem to come through the same for all people, then the problem must be with the people themselves. If one person is not healed while some are then those who are not healed must not have enough faith because God is fair and would not leave anyone in sickness while healing others. Continue reading

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us


by Mike Ratliff

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37 (NASB) 

How often have you heard Romans 8:37 in support of the concept of a “higher Christian life?” I have heard it in that context, but I have also heard it in its proper context, which is found in the entire chapter of Romans 8. In this context we learn that it is only in the context of suffering that Christians can learn what it means overwhelmingly conquer.

“It does not refer to a superior brand of Christianity that triumphantly lives above nasty little things like doubt or discouragement or defeat or depression. Rather it comes in a context where Christians are attacked.” – From How Long O Lord? by D. A Carson p78

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Our Blessed Hope is worth suffering for


by Mike Ratliff

1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:1-4 (NASB) 

33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NASB) 

33 ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ εἰρήνην ἔχητε. ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ θλῖψιν ἔχετε· ἀλλὰ θαρσεῖτε, ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον. John 16:33 (NA28)

While all forms of relativistic Christianity attempt to refocus Christians to this present age, we are clearly taught throughout the New Testament that what awaits us after we leave this life is that for which we should really be preparing. In the world, we will have tribulation, which translates the Greek noun θλιψιν (thlipsis). Θλιψιν symbolically means grievous affliction or distress that applies pressure or burden upon the spirit. Θλιψιν is used to give the picture of one being crushed. At the same time we are given these warnings about our life here as resident aliens, we are also given encouragement beyond measure.  Continue reading

Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness you are blessed


by Mike Ratliff

12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB)

What is Christian suffering? I doubt if most Christians in the United States have a clear understanding of real persecution for their faith that is going on daily in other parts of the world. There are dear saints dying for their faith daily in parts of the world and those of us in the U.S. believe we are being persecuted if someone passes a law or ordinance restricting their religious liberties. Well, one of the reasons Christianity is not persecuted to the extent is in other parts of the world is that the ‘visible church’ here has been compromised to a great extent. What does that mean? It means that leaders within it have made friends with the world and have invited it in. There is little separation. However, this writer contends that if anyone reading this, including myself, would actually become separate from the world and its values in their daily lives and withdraw from institutions that are ungodly and not participate in any activities that are blasphemous then that persecution that is talked about in 2 Timothy 3:12 would become a reality just as it has in China, North Korea, Pakistan, and all Muslim countries.

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Do not be afraid of those killing the body, but are unable to kill the soul


by Mike Ratliff

 8 καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ. Matthew 10:28 (NA28)

8 And do not be afraid of those killing the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but fear instead the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In this post we will look at Matthew 10:16-33 which is part of our Lord’s instructions to His disciples as He prepared them for what was coming when they were eventually sent on their worldwide mission to the Gentiles. They had to understand that persecution would inevitably accompany their mission wherever God sent them. Continue reading

Christian suffering in divine perspective


by Mike Ratliff

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB) 

On Facebook I have dropped out of nearly all of the discussion groups of which I have been a member for last several years. I am still a member of some, but those are tightly controlled by admins who do not tolerate troll behavior. On the other hand, those which I have left are loosely run and certain people have entered in with destructive agendas meant to divide us and cause much angst. I have witnessed outright attacks on people’s character and abandonment of the very purpose of these groups to pursue topics that bear no resemblance at all to why have come together for fellowship and discussion. Things have become so bad in some of these groups that I have obeyed the Spirit that is within me and simply left. To willingly remain in that environment is not spiritually healthy.  Continue reading

True Christian suffering


by Mike Ratliff

12 Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ ξενίζεσθε τῇ ἐν ὑμῖν πυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένῃ ὡς ξένου ὑμῖν συμβαίνοντος, 13 ἀλλὰ καθὸ κοινωνεῖτε τοῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθήμασιν χαίρετε, ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ χαρῆτε ἀγαλλιώμενοι. 14 εἰ ὀνειδίζεσθε ἐν ὀνόματι Χριστοῦ, μακάριοι, ὅτι τὸ τῆς δόξης καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πνεῦμα ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἀναπαύεται. 15 μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς ἢ κλέπτης ἢ κακοποιὸς ἢ ὡς ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος· 16 εἰ δὲ ὡς Χριστιανός, μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω, δοξαζέτω δὲ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ μέρει τούτῳ. 17 ὅτι [ὁ] καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα ἀπὸ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ θεοῦ· εἰ δὲ πρῶτον ἀφʼ ἡμῶν, τί τὸ τέλος τῶν ἀπειθούντων τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίῳ; 18 καὶ εἰ ὁ δίκαιος μόλις σῴζεται, ὁ ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται; 19 ὥστε καὶ οἱ πάσχοντες κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ πιστῷ κτίστῃ παρατιθέσθωσαν τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν ἐν ἀγαθοποιΐᾳ. 1 Peter 4:12-19 (NA28)

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes among you as a test, as if a strange thing is happening to you, 13 but in so far as you share in the suffering of Christ, rejoice, that in the glory of his revelation you may also rejoice and be glad. 14 If you are reproached in the name of Christ, you are blessed ones because the Spirit of Glory and The Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 Do not let any of you suffer as a murderer or thief or an evildoer or as a meddler, 16 but if any suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time to begin the judgment at the house of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those disobeying the good news of God? 18 And if the righteous man with difficulty is saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear? 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God let them commit their souls to a trustworthy creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:12-19 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Peter wrote this as very real Christian persecution was taking place against the Church. This persecution was sponsored by the Roman government for the most part because Christians would not worship Caesar as their god. From this passage, we learn that when Christian persecution becomes a reality there are some imperatives that become necessary in order for us to become triumphant in and through it. In v12 he tell us to not be surprised when it happens. In other words, we must expect it. I think that is what is causing so much stress in the Church in our time with the rampant apostasy at every level. These judgments, allowed by God, to come upon His Church are meant to purge, purify, and cleanse His Church. Therefore, many former leaders who looked solid before, go apostate. Those who are not genuine believers follow them, but genuine believers, the Sheep, are confused, hurt, struggle, and are even attacked by these wolves in sheep’s clothing as being divisive, et cetera because they will not support the unbiblical things going on in their old church. Been there, done that. Continue reading

The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal


 

by Mike Ratliff

15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (NASB) 

Religion, if it is worth anything, is worth everything; but it is worth little if it is not worth suffering for. – Matthew Henry

There has been such a long drought of the Word of God being rightly divided by true shepherds of the flock in so much of the visible Church that the spiritually weak and immature believers make up the vast majority. Their understanding of God is not well developed. When suffering comes upon them they react in a complete misinterpretation of what is going on. It is as if they expect everyone to love them and their problems will be over simply because they are now Christians. The Bible is very clear, genuine believers are the ones who endure to the end and they will suffer for Jesus’ sake.  Continue reading

Enduring suffering for doing what is right finds favor with God


by Mike Ratliff

2 My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Psalms 84:2 (NASB)

I try to reread John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners from time to time. I need the perspective change found there at times so that I quit listening to the wrangling nature of my flesh and, instead, crucify it, take up my own cross and follow my Lord. That means, I follow His example instead.

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 1 Peter 2:18-20 (NASB)

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Apostates, tares, fiery trials, and tests


by Mike Ratliff

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Matthew 10:24-25 (NASB) 

When God saves a person, it is a resurrection from spiritual death to spiritual life. No matter how many years that person lives in this life after that, that condition will not change. However, all those whom God saves are left to deal with their flesh in a demon infested temporal place that He uses to purify and mold them unto the image of their Saviour. This process is dealt with all through the New Testament and is referred to as fiery trials or tests. The journey from that moment of spiritual rebirth to the Celestial City is a pilgrimage along a narrow way through these tests and trials. The way is not bereft of problems, false brethren, false teachers, false prophets, pressure to conform to this Vanity Fair, pressure to dilute the pure truth from God’s Word, pressure to fit in with this lost and dying world, et cetera. It can seem at times that we are about to be destroyed by the very things God is using to perfect us and ready us for our eternity with our Saviour forever.  Continue reading

Tribulation


by Mike Ratliff

20 ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη σπαρείς, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ εὐθὺς μετὰ χαρᾶς λαμβάνων αὐτόν, 21 οὐκ ἔχει δὲ ῥίζαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ ἀλλὰ πρόσκαιρός ἐστιν, γενομένης δὲ θλίψεως ἢ διωγμοῦ διὰ τὸν λόγον εὐθὺς σκανδαλίζεται. Matthew 13:20-21 (NA28)

20 And the seed upon the rocky places being sown, this one is like the one listening to the Word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but is only transitory, and when tribulation or persecution comes on account of the Word, immediately he falls away. Matthew 13:20-21 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In the passage above, tribulation translates θλίψεως (thlipseōs) the genitive singular feminine case of θλίψις (thlipsis). This is a graphic word that literally means “to crush, press, compress, squeeze” and “is from thlaō, “to break.” We see θλίψις again in Matthew 24:21.

21 ἔσται γὰρ τότε θλῖψις μεγάλη οἵα οὐ γέγονεν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κόσμου ἕως τοῦ νῦν οὐδʼ οὐ μὴ γένηται. Matthew 24:21 (NA28)

21 For then there will great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now nor will it by any means happen again. Matthew 24:21 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Here we have the Nominative, Singular, Feminine form of θλῖψις.  Continue reading

Treasure in earthen vessels


by Mike Ratliff

2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ Judges 7:2 (NASB) 

This walk before the face of God is fraught with difficulty and pain. No one who is His will pass through this life unscathed by affliction, perplexity, persecution, and even being struck down. That may fly in the face of much of the teaching in the Church in our time, but the reality is that Genuine Christians walk through this life being molded and conformed unto the image of Christ. That process is quite painful because much of what is the Christian is chiseled and burned away via the fires of sanctification. As the image of Christ is burned into us, we must remember that whatever is afflicting us will not crush us. What is perplexing us will not result in God forsaking us. Whatever has struck us down will not destroy us. Continue reading

The Christian perspective on suffering in the flesh


by Mike Ratliff

17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3:17-22 (NKJV) 

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered unjustly on behalf of those He came to save because it was God’s will. He perfectly accomplished God’s purposes in this. Even though those in Emergence Christianity are attempting to hijack our Lord’s Crucifixion for their own purposes, let us never forget that His violent, physical execution did terminate His earthly life when He was “put to death in the flesh”, nevertheless, He was “made alive in the spirit” on the third day. This is not referring to the Holy Spirit, but to Jesus’ true inner life, His own spirit, which is contrasted with His humanness, His flesh, which was crucified and lay dead for three days in the tomb. His deity, His Spirit, remained alive, literally “in spirit” (Luke 23:46). In light of our Lord’s suffering for righteousness, Christians should have a “Christian” perspective on suffering in the flesh as well.  Continue reading