Why it is vital that Christians become mature and discerning


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 not 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

What is effectual fervent prayer?


by Mike Ratliff

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16 (NASB) 

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

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

I have received many requests through many different channels from brethren who desire to know how to stand firm in these last, dark, and evil days. My reply is that we must pray for ourselves and each other for God to mature us, to give us the ability to stand, to give us wisdom, discernment, personal holiness, Christlikness and as He does this that he gives us boldness to stand in obedience. The issue is that many are confused about prayer. The “Name it and Claim it” heresy has corrupted the view of prayer for many. While that is in no-way Biblical and Satan has used it to keep many of us from praying as we should, we are given all sorts of examples in scripture of how to pray and why to pray. In this post we will look at James’ encouragement to us to pray and why. Continue reading

Christian maturity and discernment


by Mike Ratliff

12 Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον ἢ ἤδη τετελείωμαι, διώκω δὲ εἰ καὶ καταλάβω, ἐφʼ ᾧ καὶ κατελήμφθην ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ]. Philippians 3:12 (NA28)

12 Not that I have already obtained  or have already been perfected, but I press on that, if indeed, I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Discernment is not a dirty word. I saw read a statement by friend the other day which stated that if a Christian leader demands to be shielded from those with discernment then that is a sure sign that he (or she) has some sort of theology problem or worse and that very thing calls for those with discernment to take an even closer look at that person’s ministry. When I read that I thought immediately of Paul’s preaching in Berea in which the Jews there closely examined the teaching of Paul comparing it with the Word of God to make sure that what he was teaching was the truth. Yes, that is what discernment is all about. Now, I know that many reading this agree with that and want to be true Bereans and I applaud that, but the second part of being one is becoming a mature Christian in order to be able to stand firm in the fire no matter how rough things get in power of the Holy Spirit for that is how it goes sometimes.  Let’s look at a short passage from the book of Philippians not usually associated with “discernment,” but more with growing in Christian maturity.  Continue reading

Love of the world


by Mike Ratliff

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

One of the markers of Christian genuineness 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 a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. 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

Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints


by Mike Ratliff

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. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.Jude 1:3-4 (NASB) 

When I first started this ministry it was for the intent to address two threats that were very invasive back at that time (2006-2010) in the visible church. My method of doing that was to tell the truth of what certain so-called Christian leaders were doing in either the Seeker Sensitive/Church Growth movement or the Emergent movement. Both of these aberrant movements were presenting a deviant gospel and neither of them were focused on what our Lord Jesus Christ commanded the Church to be about. The focus was backward. Both of these movements began with what people wanted and attempted to build their ministries around that. As I said, I first countered what they were saying and teaching with the truth from God’s Word. At the same time I posted more on discipleship during that period than discernment. After all, if God’s people know the Lord and follow Him and have their minds and hearts where He wants them to be will they follow a false leader?

Continue reading

For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth


by Mike Ratliff

33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?”
And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and *said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. John 18:33-38 (NASB) 

In the passage I placed a the top of this post, we see where Jesus, as He was being questioned by Pilate, made the statement that He came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Then He made the following statement, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Of course Pilate made the following sarcastic response, “What is truth?Continue reading

I decided to not know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified


by Mike Ratliff

2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον. 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NA28)

2 I decided to not know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

When I started this writing ministry I had completely different goals (i.e. motives) than what I have now. I was doing this as a career move. I approached it from that perspective, but it did not take very long at all for God to force the issue and take away all of that as most in what we know of as the ‘visible church’ would consider what we do here as borderline reprehensible. However, I find it interesting that many of these same people do not hesitate to come to us for prayer and counsel when they hit rock bottom and God leaves them without an escape from the fiery trial that has come upon them.  Continue reading

Discernment, divisiveness, unity, and proof of salvation


by Mike Ratliff

1 Εἴ τις οὖν παράκλησις ἐν Χριστῷ, εἴ τι παραμύθιον ἀγάπης, εἴ τις κοινωνία πνεύματος, εἴ τις σπλάγχνα καὶ οἰκτιρμοί, 2 πληρώσατέ μου τὴν χαρὰν ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ φρονῆτε, τὴν αὐτὴν ἀγάπην ἔχοντες, σύμψυχοι, τὸ ἓν φρονοῦντες, (Philippians 2:1-2 NA28)

1 Therefore, since there is encouragement in Christ, consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection, and compassions, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, the same love, as ones joined in soul and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The exercise of true discernment is not divisiveness regardless of that very charge by those who like to throw around the label “hater” against those who obey God by revealing the truth about their ministries to the Body of Christ. In fact, those who are being divisive are the very ones who are corrupting the truth through their false teachings, leading people astray and by not leading people to become God-focused in their life and worship rather than self-focused. Yes, that is truly divisive and their exposure to the discerning by those being obedient to God is both painful and necessary. Continue reading

We are commanded to 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

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

Let us devote ourselves to running the race God has set before us


by Mike Ratliff

1 To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He is gracious to us.
3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us,
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud. Psalms 123 (NASB) 

The vast majority of people on planet Earth want nothing to do with the real Jesus. Many love and hold dear another Jesus, but he is one made up by people who don’t know the one who is real. Tragically, the numbers of professing Christians are growing continually who are also following another Jesus who does not resemble in the least the one found in Sacred Scripture. Those who hold dear the real Jesus are those who are entirely reliant upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly there are baby Christians who are not spiritually mature and whose faith is not strong. However, there are also huge numbers of “religious” Christians who live as if their “decision for Christ” many years ago is their fire insurance. Some of these are quite religious while others are simply calling themselves Christian as if it is some sort of family trait. Those who are completely reliant upon God, whose focus is His glory in all things are those who know the real Jesus and are known by Him. These are the believers whose eyes look to the Lord our God. They look unto God because this brings them knowledge of His countenance. Christians know God by interacting with Him in prayer, Bible Study, obedience and repentance. They are able to do these things with Him as they look unto Him, fully trusting Him to work out the details for His glory. Continue reading

Do not be conformed to this age


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. 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

What must we do to fight the good fight?


by Mike Ratliff

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NASB) 

This coming Monday I am leading the Bible study in our Small Group. We have been working our way through Hosea. If you have studied Hosea then you know what a mess Israel and Judah had made of their obedience to their covenant with God. They resembled in many ways that description written by Paul in the passage above. In my own experience on this blog and on others where we have dealt with obvious heretics and very “liberal christians” who considered everything we taught and stood for as nothing more than legalism. However, their behavior matched that list above as well even though they insisted that they were the “real christians.” Continue reading

There is no such thing as a new kind of Christianity!


by Mike Ratliff

3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-5 (NASB) 

This blog has been online since 2006 and over the years I have tried to address all of the forms of “Christianity” that were in fact “Strange Fire.” How did we know they were “Strange Fire?” They did not line up with what God’s Word says His people will do as they serve Him. It is amazing how no matter how “new” the attacks on God’s truth are, the more they consist of the very same rebellion that is exposed throughout both the Old and New Testaments of Sacred Scripture. The arguments of those who propose “different doctrines” rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith expose hearts that are spiritually blind. They may indeed have very different religions or doctrines from each other, but their opposition to the truth of God will all be according the very same rebellion found in the temptation from the serpent in Genesis 3:1, “Yea, hath God said,…?” Those who dwell and minister in this area of rebellion do so with a sense of self-confidence that they are “right” and “cutting-edge” and “not mired in the past” are actually guilty of casting doubt on God’s good doctrines given to the Church while constructing man-made theologies whose foundations are no better than wet sand and, even worse, they attempt to gain as many followers as possible to reject the truth and enter with them into the ‘New Kind of Christianity’ that is their version of the church founded on their different doctrines.

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