The fruit of proper Christian ministry devotion


by Mike Ratliff

13 ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ. 1 Timothy 4:13 (NA28)

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 1 Timothy 4:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As the passage above (1 Timothy 4:13) makes clear, to the Apostle Paul the centrality of preaching in Christian ministry was critical. He knew that the fruit of that was the working of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ producing godliness. However, its neglect produces its own fruit. I am not exaggerating when I state that most ministries today are built on entertainment, personality, crowd-gathering events, gimmicks, programs, and anything entrepreneurs can come up with to draw people together that simply appeals to the flesh. However, that was not nor has it ever been the Biblical model of a Christian ministry.  Continue reading

Discernment is vital but it only comes to those who are mature in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

11 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, 12 πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 14 ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι, κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης, Ephesians 4:11-14 (NA28)

11 And He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some shepherds and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints to the work of ministry to the building up of the Body of Christ 13 until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the fuller knowledge of the Son of God, to complete maturity, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ 14 that we should no longer be infants tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. Ephesians 4:11-14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In 1887, Robert Shindler, a fellow pastor and close friend of Charles Spurgeon, wrote in Spurgeon’s publication, The Sword and the Trowel: “It is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.” If we think deeply and honestly on those searing words with all humility and willingness to repent of what God shows us about ourselves, I am certain that each of us must repent of falling for the fallacy of seeking that which is new or different in our theology. If we are honestly seeking the will of God that is both good and right, but if we are looking to have itching ears tickled or are pursuing the subjective or experiential as the means of fulfillment then all we are really doing is falling for some lie and are revealing that we are indeed just infants in the Lord who are being tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. I doubt if any one reading this really wants that.  Continue reading

Discernment and slander


by Mike Ratliff

8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12 (NASB) 

This discernment ministry stuff is not for everyone. I often wonder if I am cut out for it at all. I do not like conflict. On the other hand, God gifted me with the makeup that loves the truth and seeks justice because it is His truth and I am compelled, quite often, to speak out when false prophets besmirch His truth and the Gospel is treated as optional by certain “evangelicals.” However, there is a fine line between exposing that which is false and slander. That fine line has to do with intent and evidence. Continue reading

Truely abiding in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:1-6 (NASB) 

The total lack of discernment in the mainstream of the visible church right now is truly amazing. As I have stated many times, I never thought I would see the day come when we would have to actually explain the gospel to Christians. Biblical ignorance is rampant. People are so afraid of offending anyone that no one will take a stand on anything so there are no clear borders any more on what is right and what is wrong. The truth is whatever people want it to be hence everything is relative. That may be what people want to believe, but in fact it is only a tragic fantasy. God’s truth is still absolute and His judgment is coming. In the meantime, what are we to do? We are to obey our Lord and that means abide in Him, obeying Him and keeping His commandments as per 1 John 2:1-6 (above). 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

The Great Mystery


by Mike Ratliff

19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19 (NASB)

As many of you know, I took these last two weeks off in order to spend time with family and friends and that “taking time off” included staying out of theological discussion online as much as possible, etc. However, the last few days have been utterly amazing, at least to me. About 3 years ago or so I became part of a discussion group on Facebook in which I tagged team with some friends who stood up and defended the truths of Reformation Theology against those who hate it. It was not a pleasant experience and I soon tired of it and dropped out.  Why? The moderator of the group allowed people in who were obviously abject heretics who had absolutely no ability to debate. After one really long ugly discussion with one fellow who finally called me some horrible names and went away I was contacted by a pastor who ran a very well-known ministry who suggested that what we were doing was a total waste of time.  Why? All we were doing was arguing with goats who had absolutely no inkling of God’s truth. No, they were spiritually dead people who believed they knew the truth better than we did because it was their own truth while all we had was that exegetical interpretation of the Scripture to go by. In any case, just yesterday I got drawn into a discussion with that very same fellow I mentioned above. Nothing has changed. He still won’t listen to the truth. He still has “his own truth,” which is found nowhere in scripture. At the same time, I started receiving email from a fellow who I had not heard from since August 2016. He is a Rick Warren fan and had been demanding from me a detailed explanation of why I have so many posts on my blog against the Purpose Driven Paradigm, Seeker Sensitive church models in general, and Rick Warren’s approach to ministry. I gave him a short history back in August and forgot about it.  Yesterday right in middle of that little debate I got an email from him. He accused me of hypocrisy and picking on his favorite two pastors, Rick Warren and John Piper. He accused those of us who do discernment work of placing ourselves above them. I told him in a return email that none of what he was saying was true, I was not wasting any more time on him, and that I was sorry that he was blinded by his idols.  I sent the email then blocked his email from by blog and my email provider. Continue reading

Three letters to three churches


by Mike Ratliff

1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Revelation 3:1-2 (NASB) 

In our time it is very unusual for Christians to discuss apostasy. In fact, it makes some very uncomfortable to point out certain so-called “christian” leaders as being “heretics” or “apostates.” Why? The insidious poision called “Political Correctness” which has been implanted into our society by our enemy has taken a horrendous toll on our ability to be discerning as we are called to be in by our Lord in His Word. In this man-centered society, which has invaded deeply into our churches, the worst crime we can commit is to cause offense yet that very thing is a major mechanism within the preaching of the Law and Gospel that God uses to bring people to Christ. What has been the result? Apostasy springing up from all forms of “liberal christianity” has infected vast numbers of preachers and church leaders so that we are left with a wasteland of “Christian Evangelicalism” that is as spiritually dead as the “Christian Liberalism” that J. Gresham Machen contended with in his day calling it “another religion” from genuine Christianity.  Continue reading

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood


by Mike Ratliff

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB) 

As we study the Greek underlying our translations of Ephesians 6:10-20 pertaining to the “whole armor of God” we learn that Christians are commanded to ἐνδύσασθε or to put on the whole armor of God once-for-all and never take it off because it is to our benefit especially when we find ourselves in circumstances where we are in the minority standing firm as our Lord commanded. Why? The Church and God’s truth are continually under attack by our enemy. We ἐνδύσασθε this whole armor in order to stand firm in the evil day. Well, this is most definitely an evil day when truth is seen as something to be bargained away or shunned while lies and that which only appears to be the truth is elevated as if it is the truth, therefore, we must become discerning and wise and that means we must consistently wear this armor.  Continue reading

Do not love the world nor the things in the world because If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is Separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in “process” of being transformed unto Christlikeness as Paul stated above. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

Evidence of Christian authenticity and proper use of discernment


by Mike Ratliff

8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. James 3:8-12 (NASB) 

Is the following statement true or false? Good works authenticate true faith. I know that for a growing segment of the church visible this is, for them, a loaded question that they will refuse to either address or answer, but if you pin them down, they will say “false.” However, if you are Biblically centered, that is, if you are centered on the fact that God’s Word is His Truth and it is the gift He has given to His people to be the source of His Truth for their time in this life, then the only answer you can give is “yes” because that is what the Bible clearly teaches. Let’s look at a passage (James 3:1-12) that clearly reveals this principle.  Continue reading

Discernment, heresy, and apostasy


by Mike Ratliff

10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11 (NASB) 

True Biblical discernment is crucial for the spiritual health of the Body of Christ because there has and always will be a plague of false teaching and teachers upon it until our Lord’s return. If you have ever flown on public transportation and had to go through the entire TSA screening process then you know how unpleasant that is. Also, and I am sure many of you probably already know this, the TSA has never caught or stopped one terrorist from boarding a plane. The TSA relies on “technology” based systems and force 100% of passengers who have not been prescreened into that funnel of stripping down, full body scans and “pat down” searches.  Many are furious about it. I read a study that compared the TSA’s system with that used by Israel at their airports, which is, instead of relying on “technology” based systems, passengers are interviewed by experts trained in what specifically to look for. They know their enemy and they know how to flush him or her out via their own interview process. Notice that since they have gone to this system that they have had no breakdown in their security. My point is that they know their enemy. They know their enemy’s tactics. They know their enemy’s goal. They do not waste time and resources with those who are no threat. Continue reading

Being Light in the Darkness revisited


I have been in discussion with a dear sister in Christ about discernment matters. One of the things that has been bothering me is why God has placed my wife and I back in our old Church that we were in back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. When we moved back home last year I really did not want to visit this Church because I knew it had gone seeker-sensitive. However, we met several old and dear friends in town from this Church and were invited back and so here we are. The Church has no pastor. It is elder led, but when I go there I am struck by a sense of spiritual confusion. On the one hand there is an interim pastor who preaches everything from a SBC perspective. On the other hand, I sense a deep hunger in the body for two things, to be used by God, but also to know Him. Since the seeker-sensitive model by its very nature messes all that up and changes the focus from God to man, this does not surprise me. However, what I expressed to my friend was that I could not discern what I am doing there. I know that if, given the chance, I will speak the truth. After all, what we do in Christ is for God’s glory alone. Right?   In any case, below is a post from 2011 that my friend suggested I redo a bit and repost.  I have decided to leave it intact. Just remember it references things as they were happening in May of 2011. Continue reading

The prayers that are effectual and fervent


by Mike Ratliff

16 ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων ὅπως ἰαθῆτε. Πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη. (James 5:16 NA28)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray on behalf of one another so that you may be cured. The petition of the righteous, being effective, has great power. (James 5:16 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

My ability to serve God in this ministry is now, and has always been, within a very specific framework. Whether I am working on apologetics or discernment or a Bible Study, or anything else, it must be for God’s glory alone and for the edification of the Body of Christ. I can only do these things if it is God’s will for me to them and as my will to do them is lined up with His in this regard. Out side of this framework, it would be like chasing after the wind. It would be me motivated according to the ways of the world with the flesh in view, would not bring glory to God, and would only cause confusion and who needs that? Therefore, before I write these posts, what must I do? Continue reading