Being a Living Sacrifice


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.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 (NASB)

All of the things that true Christians should be doing for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Belief vs Unbelief


by Mike Ratliff

21 Therefore the LORD heard and was full of wrath;
And a fire was kindled against Jacob
And anger also mounted against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God
And did not trust in His salvation. Psalms 78:21-22 (NASB) 

There are only two groups of people in the world. There are Christians, the elect, and everyone else, the non-elect. What separates them? What is the difference? It is not different streams of faith, as new agers and the liberals” say, which are all equal and going to the same place and color people in different ways. No, that is what universalists of every variety are selling, but that is most definitely not what God’s Word explicitly says. No, the difference between those in Christ and everyone else is that the former are possessors of faith, which is the Greek word πιστις, which is transliterated as pistes. It and it’s many grammatical forms are translated as “assurance,” “faith,” ”belief,” et cetera throughout the New Testament. Before we define “unbelief,” let us define biblical faith, πιστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor. Continue reading

Saving Faith is a Gift From God by His Grace


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

Back in the late 1980’s I enlisted in our church’s Evangelism Explosion program. It required a great deal of scripture memorization, a lot more than I was actually prepared for. Those of us who were trainees were teamed up with a trainer and after learning to share the Gospel in class the day came when we were taken out to make visits to people who had checked a box on some form somewhere that they would be interested in “a visit” from someone from our church. In any case, one of the first passages I memorized in this training was the one I placed at the top of this post. In chapter 1 of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church he gives us one, long elegant sentence in Greek showing that the triune God initiated and accomplished cosmic reconciliation and redemption for the praise of his glory. He also speaks of the Church’s divine election prior to the foundation of the world in v4. In vv15-23 we Have Paul’s Prayer of thanksgiving, also one long sentence in Greek. This is a prayer that the Ephesian church will gain deep insight into the Lord’s powerful working and rich gifts in Christ. Then we come to chapter 2. We will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 in this post to keep things in context, but our focus will be vv8-9 for I want to look at three key words and what they mean to our faith. They are translated in our English Bibles as “faith,” “grace,” and “gift.”  Continue reading

Walking by Faith


by Mike Ratliff

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
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 5:1-10 (NASB) 

If we read this passage phrase by phrase, we see that Paul is telling the Corinthian Church that “we know” things. What things? We know that our bodies will die, but at that moment we have a body “made not with hands” that is eternal. Knowing this, we “walk by faith” instead of by sight. What does Paul mean by this? Continue reading

Firm in Your Faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα, 4 τὰ γὰρ ὅπλα τῆς στρατείας ἡμῶν οὐ σαρκικὰ ἀλλὰ δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ πρὸς καθαίρεσιν ὀχυρωμάτων, λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες 5 καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NA28)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not warring according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful through God to the overthrow of strongholds overthrowing reasonings 5 and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God and leading captive every thought into the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

All believers who are still in this life also live and walk in the flesh in a physical sense, but the goal must be to grow into maturity and no longer walk that way in a moral sense (Romans 8:4). Christians who are obediently doing this must actively war according to the spirit, never the flesh, in the battle to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-4). Therefore, those whose ministries are based around appealing to the flesh are actually warring according to the flesh and that does not work, at least not in an eternal sense. What is done in the flesh may look impressive to those who walk in the flesh in a moral sense, but they are impotent and powerless to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ. Why? They cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel or any of God’s truths.  Continue reading

The Holiness of the Ekklesia


by Mike Ratliff

9 But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

The Church is not a building. No, in the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, our English translations of it where we find the the word “church,” it is a translation of  a form of ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia). For example, in Acts 5:11, “καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας ταῦτα,” which the NASB translates as, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things,” contains ἐκκλησίαν (ekklēsian),  which is the accusative, singular, feminine case of ἐκκλησίαAll that means is that ἐκκλησίαν is the direct object of the main verb in that sentence. However notice that there is just one ἐκκλησία“This word literally means, “the called out ones.” It’s usage in scripture denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed in a two-fold aspect, the first referring to all those called by and to Christ in the fellowship of His salvation, which is the “Church” worldwide at all times. The second aspect, rarely used, refers to a local body of believers.

Continue reading

God Will Judge the Ungodly


by Mike Ratliff

Ayin.
121 I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good;
Do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation
And for Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness
And teach me Your statutes.
125 I am Your servant; give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.
126 It is time for the Lord to act,
For they have broken Your law.
127 Therefore I love Your commandments
Above gold, yes, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything,
I hate every false way. Psalms 119:121-128 (NASB) 

There are times I deeply desire for God to hurry up and bring judgment upon the wicked people in this world. I love the Lord. I live for His glory. When people belittle Him with their inane jokes, my blood boils. A fellow told me once that he understood the gospel just fine, but it was meaningless because he did not believe in God. The spiritual gift of prophecy God gave me at my rebirth kicked in and I told him that only a fool would say something like that. That probably was not the wisest thing to say, but I became righteously indignant since he was attempting to amuse himself with angering me by attacking my faith. Of course, my response was wrong. I did not respond with winsomeness, gentleness, or self-control. Then he told me everything was relative then attempted to say there were no absolutes and he could prove it. I responded by telling him that he used an absolute statement by saying, “There are no absolutes.” Then he stalked off. That was not very productive was it? Continue reading

Spiritual Truth comes from God not by Intellectual Reasoning


by Mike Ratliff

15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. Ruth 1:15-18 (NASB) 

God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are higher than ours. Those who have moved on into God’s stride have learned to view their circumstances in light of who God is. On the other hand, all of us have made the huge mistake of viewing God in light of our circumstances. This is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. When we view God in light of our circumstances we are self-focused and see God as either impotent to help us or aloof and not caring that we suffer. However, when we become focused on God and His glory we step away from the realm of intellectual reasoning into that of faith. It is as we draw near unto God that He draws near unto us. If we surrender to His will in our lives fully believing that His will is always right then we have turned around and are viewing our circumstances in light of who God is. For us to reach this level of spiritual maturity requires for God to work in our hearts. It is not something that we can do ourselves, it is a gift from God. Continue reading

Living Holy in the World


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2 (NASB) 

Even though genuine Christians are new creations and have been purchased out of the world through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross, as they attempt to live godly lives in the temporal, they will come under tremendous pressure to compromise by reverting back to the fleshly way of dealing with life. This way of reacting to circumstances, both good and bad, has emotions as its catalyst motivated by a form of self-righteousness that is manifested through self-exaltation and self-protection. Here we witness ourselves reacting to the good and bad in a way that is little different than we did prior to our salvation. We may even attempt to justify our actions by proclaiming that we are only seeking justice. Pride is the culprit behind this and when we stumble into these sins it is because we are not spirit-filled and, therefore, not humble. Continue reading

He Must Increase But I Must Decrease


by Mike Ratliff

30 ἐκεῖνον δεῖ αὐξάνειν, ἐμὲ δὲ ἐλαττοῦσθαι. John 3:30 (NA28)

30 It is necessary for Him to increase, but for me to decrease. John 3:30 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

We often think that false doctrine concerning the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will begin with denials of His deity or the fall of man et cetera. Consider this my brethren. All it takes to get the gospel wrong is to make the focus of it man rather than the glory of the Father through the glorification of the Son as He lived that sinless life and through that perfect obedience became the propitiation for those He came to save. Then he deliberately laid down His life to be that perfect sacrifice on their behalf. He went to that cross so that those chosen before the foundation of the world, given to the Son by the Father, are given eternal life when they believe the Gospel in repentance turning to Christ as Lord as Saviour. At that moment, the Father imputes Christ’s perfect obedience and perfect righteousness to their account. However, during our Lord’s earthly ministry, those who followed Him as well as those who opposed Him did not see this at all. Jesus came to reveal the Father to the lost sheep of Israel, but most of them rejected the message. It was not until our Lord rose from the dead three days after dying on that Cross that He opened the minds of His disciples so that they could understand Sacred Scripture and then know the truth of His true mission and what the gospel is all about. Yes, when the gospel is handled correctly, people are saved and brought into the Kingdom, but the purpose is the glory of God. John the Baptist understood that perfectly.  Continue reading

The Cross is Not Proof of Our Worth But of God’s Grace


by Mike Ratliff

13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ Luke 18:13 (NASB) 

In our day it is not unusual to hear a man-centered version of the Gospel message that has everything turned around backward and is presented in such a way that is meant to appeal emotionally to unbelievers with a statement such as, “Christ’s crucifixion is proof of our worth to God!” The appeal is meant to show that if Christ was willing to go to Cross to save sinners like us then that proves we are of value to God. I have even heard one version of this that says that Jesus would have gone to that Cross even if it was for just one unrepentant sinner. Is that found anywhere in God’s Word? I have never found it. Instead, what I see clearly presented there is that all of us are undeserving sinners and even dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Until God regenerated us, we are spiritual corpses, that is, without spiritual life. Therefore, grace that is not all grace is no grace. Grace that saves means that God has done everything; if He does not do everything, then it is not grace.  Continue reading

Joy in Trials


by Mike Ratliff

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι. James 1:2-4 (NA28)

2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance; 4 let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The word joy in my translation is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά (chara), “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω (peripiptō), which is a compound of περί (peri), “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω (piptō), “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός (peirasmos), “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” Continue reading

Drawing Near Unto God


by Mike Ratliff

7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9 (NASB)

What does it mean biblically to draw near to God? Obviously, the Jews our Lord confronted as Matthew recorded in the passage above were not doing so. However Hebrews 10:22 says to those who are truly born again:

22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (NASB) 

Here is Hebrews 10:22 from the NA28 Greek text, “προσερχώμεθα μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ·”

The words “let us draw near” translates the verb προσερχώμεθα, which is the Present tense, Subjunctive mood, Middle voice, 1st person, plural of προσέρχομαι (proserchomai), “to approach, accede to.” This verb structure refers to continuous or repeated action, regardless of when the action took place. The subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject so some condition and the present subjunctive can be used to give exhortation, which is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is doing here.  Continue reading

It is Finished!


by Mike Ratliff

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John 19:28-30 (NASB) 

Sometimes God brings things into our lives that seem devastating. Others may also see these things in our lives and question that God even exists. They cannot conceive of a loving God who would cause or allow debilitating diseases that are always fatal into the fragile bodies of those who profess faith in the Saviour. However, I am always amazed at the deep, rock hard faith displayed by those in the center of these things, whether it is the one suffering or a close family member. As I attempt to minister to these folks, feeling 100% inadequate to do so, I am the one who is encouraged by their attitude and Christlike spirit that seeks to build me up in our Lord. It is then that I view my own walk and am ashamed.  Continue reading